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.
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.
Our family has been going to the pumpkin patch for years. We love it! Pumpkins everywhere! The shades of orange! The shapes and sizes!
Pick any pumpkin you want, guys! Except this year, there weren’t any pumpkins. Um. It’s a pumpkin patch. Where are all the pumpkins?
Usually, there’s a huge spread of pumpkins right when you enter. Orange wherever you look. This time, there was just a sprinkling of pumpkins. Usually, pumpkins line the path to the corn maze. Nary a pumpkin lining the path this year. Usually, there’s a hidden pumpkin patch if you dare to walk through the corn. This time, it was just a muddy field.
“I was robbed!” Just as Sally utters in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
That is why our pumpkin patch picture this year was Children of the Corn.
But we found the bright side. There were corn stalks galore. Ample mud to squish around in. And, my youngest found me a prized heart rock!
When life gives you an empty pumpkin patch, head to the grocery store! We bailed.
Fortunately, Safeway had a wide selection of pumpkins in many shades of orange, in all shapes and sizes! We picked out our six (including one for Otis) and had so much money leftover that we bought three kinds of ice cream.
You could say that we made sundaes out of empty patches.
I can’t think of a better way to kick off Mother’s Day weekend than to run a 5K Survivor Run with my daughter, navigating obstacles, slipping and sloshing through the mud, having a blast, and learning a thing or two about life lessons.
This race–complete with obstacles, mud, exertion, and fun–is a perfect metaphor for life.
You put yourself out there. You try your best. You face obstacles and overcome them. You find support. You laugh. You get dirty. You find your strength. You fall and you get back up. You learn independence. You are reminded that you can do it. You have fun. You are empowered.
What better lessons for a mother to bestow upon her young teenager?
It was not the medal at the end that made me so happy. It was the journey through the race, together. Through the ups and downs. (Up dirt hills and down into mud puddles!)
That Saturday, we were Mud Girls. In my heart, we are forever Mud Girls. Also known as Survivors.
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.
We have always had a “junk drawer” in the kitchen. It’s the place where we toss things that don’t really have a place to call their own.
I can rummage through that drawer and find something I need: a tape measure, an eraser, Sharpie pens, bobby pins, rubber bands, a Phillips screwdriver, a hair brush.
I can also find something I don’t need but might want: a zsu zsu pet, a Barbie with her legs askew, playing cards, silly bandz, the monkey-wearing-a-fez pencil topper.
Sometimes, I will find something that triggers a fond memory: the plastic comb the hospital sent home when my daughter was born, flash cards to quiz basic math skills, a spare key to my first car, a plastic eyeball that we always put on Halloween cupcakes.
When in doubt, check the junk drawer!
Over time, the junk drawer gets layered with new items.
It’s not a junk drawer, really. It’s a time capsule filled with the randomness of our lives.
What smells like ass? Asks my teenager son, as he walked into the kitchen.
Um, that would be dinner.
It had been weeks since I had prepared a “proper” dinner for my family.
After watching a few episodes of Cooked on Netflix, I felt nostalgic about cooking and preparing a wholesome meal for my family. The show documents various cultures around the world about food preparation and how, in our busier-and-busier lives, many of us have lost touch with taking the time and the steps to prepare a meal. Made with good ingredients and made with love. The narrator and author, Michael Pollan, says that we all have good memories of being “cooked for” and how that makes us feel cared for and loved.
When I have the time and make the time, I do enjoy cooking for my family. It’s just that they don’t always like what I cook.
That night, I baked potatoes. I broiled some cod with fresh parmesan. I roasted broccoli drizzled with olive oil. (Fish + parmesan + broccoli = stink.)
My intentions were to invite and welcome my family to the table. Yet, the smells turned people away. Except for Otis.