My grandmother used to read me the story of Angus and the Ducks. Angus, the curious Scottish Terrier, got into mischief. One day, he was off-leash and ventured on the other side of the hedge, encountering two ducks. They stared him down and proceeded to hissssss at poor Angus. This hissing scared the crap out of Angus and he ran back to the safety of underneath the sofa in his living room. He never ventured to the other side of the hedge again.
The thing was, my grandmother made the most amazing hisssssssing noise when she read that part. During my childhood, I made her read that page over and over. We both would get the giggles.
Fast forward 30 + years.
While on a run, Otis, the curious Yellow Labrador, and I encountered two hundred Canadian Snow Geese. We stopped for a moment to take it all in, with Otis nearly ripping my arm off. He was raring to go get into mischief.
The pause in our run made me reflect upon the wondrous moments reading about Angus with my grandmother. When I visited her–even until I was pushing 16–we would snuggle up to read Angus and the Ducks and we would giggle at the hisssssss. Every time.
I have read that book over and over to my children. But it never had the same effect.
I guess some things are best kept tucked away in the memory vault. Best kept as my own magical moments.
You know the well-intentioned sentiment from The Nightmare Before Christmas, where Jack Skellington and the Halloween Town folks “make Christmas” as best they can? That’s what it’s like around here during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Full of preparation and excitement and good intentions. It is my job as a parent to make a nice, fun, and memorable Christmas for my family.
Time to give them something fun
They’ll talk about for years to come
Let’s have a cheer from everyone
It’s time to party
My husband and I have made Christmas for our children over the years. A combination of family traditions: cutting down the tree, baking cookies, Christmas movies and music, setting up the nativity scene, putting up lights, donating presents and time, counting down with an advent calendar, decorating the tree with ornaments from childhood, and visiting the mountain where there’s guaranteed snow.
This year, our Christmas tree was cut down, brought home, and dressed in lights. Then it sat for a week. Nearly naked. With no ornaments. Maybe this will be the year that lights will do. Why bother with ornaments this year?
Then. Guilt hit.
What about the hundreds of sweet ornaments collected over the years and so carefully wrapped in Chipotle napkins? Stuck in a bin for another year? I simply could not let this happen. The ornaments needed to do their part to make Christmas special.
What about the homemade ornaments our children have made over the years? The beaded candy cane. The teddy bear with the googly eyes displaying a photo of my son taken in Kindergarten (he is now 17). The Star of David made with popsicle sticks. The snowman made from a cinnamon stick. The Snoopy with the googly eyes made by my husband when he was in Kindergarten. What??!!
What about the special gifted ornaments? The starfish with pearls, gifted to me by my mother-in-law when we were in San Diego. The little drummer boy gifted to my husband at his birth. The glass icicle gifted to me by my husband. The painted horse my mother gifted my daughter while visiting Phoenix. The coyote “couple” singing hymns we were gifted when we got married. The glass frog ornament with a tutu I gifted my daughter in 2003. The set of three yellow Labradors my daughter made for me from clay. Angels. Owls. Mittens.
What about the prized purchased ornaments? The pea pod with the three smiling pea faces representing each of my children. The dozens of tin ornaments my mother and I bought in Mexico. The pickle my daughter and I bought at the mountain general store. Mermaids. Frogs. Poinsettias. A dolphin. A tomato.
Each ornament has a story. They are filled with memories that reemerge every Christmas season.
On Saturday night around 11:00 p.m., we had an impromptu family celebration. Let’s have a cheer from everyone. It’s time to party. We ate Skittles and hung our ornament–both by the handful.
Not really. Actually, I did. I would flip my Big Wheel upside down and move the pedals ’round and ’round until the wheel was moving so fast that I could sharpen sticks with it. Then I would poke my sister. Giggle.
Adults are always complaining about “kids these days.” How technology is corrupting them. Kids these days don’t even know how to tell time or write in cursive.
Actually, that is a fact. Some of the “basics” I grew up with aren’t taught in elementary schools anymore because the Common Core State Standards curriculum has replaced those skills with others. Once, the third grade teacher sent home the how-to-tell-time packet. Years later, I’m not so sure if my fourteen-year-old daughter can properly tell analog time. A quarter past two. Half past four. A quarter ’til three. But. She can program a video game because she took a coding class. And she knows all of the bones from head-to-toe.
Cursive is no longer taught in most U.S. elementary schools. My eleven-year-old doesn’t know how to properly sign his name. But. He has crazy keyboarding and video-editing skills. He makes hilarious-and-clever movies and uploads them to YouTube. And he knows how to add and multiply and reduce fractions. I didn’t learn how to do that until high school.
Parents will always find something to complain about. But look at all that is right with kids and their education these days.
If we stop complaining long enough to listen, we would learn a thing or two from our children. Because kids these days are so smart! Between my three, they can add negative numbers, analyze Catcher in the Rye and other literature, debate the pros and cons of each Presidential candidate’s platform, solve for x, y, and z, write a persuasive essay, read music and play the clarinet, explain the significance of the Bill of Rights, program a video game, cite the periodic table of elements, define each part of a cell, explain carbohydrates vs. proteins, and type a thesis without looking at the keyboard, then upload it to Google Drive.
Between school, peers, and their devices, kids are learning to analyze, rationalize, debate, articulate, appreciate, and communicate. There will be time to practice signatures at home. On their iPads. With a stylus. 🙂
Around here, it’s the big things in life that matter…to me.
My husband. He is 6’3″ and his heart is equally as big. He is always up for a hike, buys me my favorite movies like Love Actually on Blu-Ray, and scrubs down the inside of the splattered microwave without me asking.
My oldest son. He is 6’4″ and tells me he loves me every time he walks out the door. At 17, he’s gone more than he’s home. School, work, friends, gym. So, I hear it a lot.
My daughter. She’s 5’9″, now taller than me. She is as fun as she is sweet. Kind as she is talented. Lovely as she is loving. All that and more.
My youngest son. He now reaches my chin, having grown three inches since summer. He is a joy to be around. The twinkle in his eyes indicates that he is up for an adventure. Or that he ate the last four Oreos.
My dog. At 115 lbs., he pulls me up the steep hills when we run together (whew!), takes up 3/4 of the bed when he stretches out, and is the best popcorn-catcher I know.
Big grocery bills. Big piles of laundry. Big smiles. Big laughs. Big hugs. Big love.
Who buys her daughter baby chicks, baby ducks, and a bunny…in the middle of the city?
My mother…that’s who!
Imagine the squeals of delight one Easter morning! The joy! I was the happiest of happy!
We didn’t live in the country. Nor did we have the proper pens and enclosures yet built. We housed our extended family in our laundry room off the kitchen. Added some heat lamps. Purchased feed. Received a donated rabbit hutch for the backyard.
Our farm was set!
Like Fern from Charlotte’s Web, I fed, watered, nurtured, and talked to my animal friends every day. Their peeps and nibbles and sweetness made me overjoyed. My friends thought I was so lucky…indeed, I was!
One baby duck, Quincy, didn’t make it and died after a week. It was a tough life lesson. The other duck, Abraham, thrived.
When the chicks and duck outgrew their soft downy feathers and grew into their adult feathers, it was time to move them from the laundry room to the backyard, into coops and hutches.
One chick grew into–gasp!–a rooster and became the 5:00 a.m. alarm clock for the neighborhood, with his loud cock-a-doodle-dooing. Abraham was so well mannered, that you could leash him and take him for a walk. The rabbit was simply happy with carrots and came out for snuggles.
Our menagerie of animals represented my childhood: colorful, joyful, interesting, and full of life, love, and experiences. My mother was the ring leader, with her big heart and personality, always unconventionally fun and cool. I am so lucky to be her daughter.
I donned my saloon-dancer dress, put on my feather boa, and grabbed my gun. My son put on his best pinstripe suit, his newsboy cap, and grabbed his gun. His Tommy gun.
We grabbed bagfuls of cash and sped away.
To think I almost passed on doing an “old time photo.” With a price of $19.95, I was like, no way, that’s highway robbery!
It took a little convincing from Clyde.
I will never forget that highway robbery…the fun of getting into character, selecting the perfect gun, and striking a pose. It was the perfect mother-son adventure. And we each have a photo in our room to remember that historic moment.
I have been actively watching the Olympics each night. Actively, I say, because I yell on the sidelines sofalines. I cheer and yell loudly. My enthusiasm makes the swimmers stroke longer and the sprinters run faster.
YOU CAN DOOOOOO IT!
They can. They do. And they win.
My eleven-year-old had a track meet this spring, where all fifth graders from all five elementary schools in our town gathered and competed. It’s a ritual that’s been going on for decades. They perform all of the traditional track and field events. Except pole vaulting. Oh, and the discus is a frisbee. But whatever.
But the sprints? Sheer speed. It’s a nail-biter to see who the fastest fifth grader is in town.
My son competed in the 75-meter sprint. The gun went off and he flew. I couldn’t contain my cheering: GO! YOU’VE GOT THIS!
He went. And he got it. A blue ribbon. And a huge smile.
He is the best in the my world.
When it comes to sports, do we love our children more when they win? Or do we love that our children are healthy? Or do we love that our children are becoming independent and confident?
Healthy. Independent. Confident. As a mother, I want my children to be winners on the inside. But a blue ribbon from time to time doesn’t hurt. 🙂
On a recent vacation to Branson, Missouri, we heard there was a Santa Claus convention, bringing in jolly old fellas from across the country and around the world. In fact, many of them stayed at our hotel! Even without their red and white suits, they were easy to spot with their friendly smiles, white beards, and twinkly eyes. We proceeded to be on the lookout for the real Santa Claus.
One winked at us in the lobby. Maybe he was the one? One argued with the front desk clerk about his pillows. Definitely not him.
The next morning, one thousand Santa Clauses were to be in a special parade at 8:00 a.m.
You know how the early bird catches the worm? In our case, the early riser catches the Santa Claus. My eleven-year-old son and I practically ran, hand-in-hand, with giddiness. (My oldest son and daughter opted to sleep in instead…their loss!)
Seeing so many Santa Clauses, Mrs. Clauses, and elves was quite a magical sight! But which one was the one? It was like Where’s Waldo.
Smitten and with a bit of boldness, we greeted the nice gentlemen one by one and asked to pose for a photo. How could they so no to my sweet boy? They could not.
My son wished them Merry Christmas and many said see you on Christmas Eve. One showed my son a special Hawaiian signal. One showed my son his compass hidden in his sock. One let my son hold the special sleigh bells. One gifted him a magic candy cane.
After our encounters, we narrowed it down to three Santa Claus possibilities.
We left with happy hearts, curious minds, and shit-eating grins.
I love socks. Probably because my feet are usually cold.
When my children were little, I bought them the cutest socks. As an infant, my oldest had a pair with rattles built in and he’d bicycle kick his feet, with the biggest grin. I had read that black-and-white patterns make infants’ brains develop better, so of course they had their patterned socks. My daughter had adorable watermelon socks and ladybug socks. My youngest son had tie-dye socks I bought in Berkeley. I probably paid more for that “artisan” pair of socks than a whole pack of running socks for me!
I have a pair of yellow, smiley face socks that make me happy when I’m down. My daughter has polka-dot mushroom socks, unicorn-and-rainbow socks, and sloth socks. Sloth socks? I think they are supposed to make you feel relaxed. 🙂
Then of course there are the very expensive athletic socks the guys wear these days. The socks that hit mid calf. I’m not sure what’s up with that style, but I’ll go with it. I mean, I remember being in middle school when no one wore socks. They were so uncool. You wore your Vans or Keds or Sperry Topsiders with no socks. Puberty + sweaty, unsocked feet = very stinky shoes.
My youngest son, who is now eleven years old, recently asked if he could have a pair of those guy socks. One pair, that’s it. Ah, peer pressure socks. My son is super sweet and doesn’t ask for much. So of course I bought him not one but six pairs of theses guy socks. The hugs and smile? Totally worth it! Hey, and at least they help to cut down on the stinky shoes.