Making Christmas

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Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Children, Christmas, Family, Parenting, Traditions | Posted on 05-12-2016

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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.

Making Christmas
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.

All the while, making Christmas. Together.

A photo posted by PeskyPippi (@peskypippi) on

A photo posted by PeskyPippi (@peskypippi) on

The Patch

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Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Fall, Family, Life Lessons, Pumpkin, Traditions | Posted on 26-10-2016

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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.

Happy Halloween, y’all!

A photo posted by PeskyPippi (@peskypippi) on

A photo posted by PeskyPippi (@peskypippi) on

A photo posted by PeskyPippi (@peskypippi) on

A photo posted by PeskyPippi (@peskypippi) on

Magic Pie

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Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Baking, Celebrations, Connections, Cooking, Family, Memories, Traditions | Posted on 24-06-2015

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We made a magic Key lime pie. Magic because it disappeared in one day.

The making of this magic pie was a family affair.

I sent my oldest son to the grocery store with a list of ingredients. And he nailed it! (Oh, by the way, sweetened, condensed milk is located in the baking aisle.)

My daughter helped squeeze the limes and grate the zest. And formed the graham cracker crust into the pan.

My youngest son? He helped all right. In fact, he helped eat two slices.

We all enjoyed a freshly made Key lime pie, a gift to my husband on Father’s Day–a tradition of ours. Except this was the first year that everyone had a role in the pie’s creation. Perhaps that’s what made it so magical.

We made a Key lime pie. It was magic. It disappeared in one day.

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The Carpet of Many Colors

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Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Celebrations, Easter, Holidays, Memories, Traditions, Travel | Posted on 03-04-2015

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My mother and I once traveled to Antigua, Guatemala to take in all of the ceremony, spiritualness, history, and beauty of Easter Holy Week, or Semana Santa.

For me, that trip was life changing.

We witnessed the making of alfombras, “carpets” made from tiny flower petals placed in the streets. These ornate, detailed carpets were found throughout the streets of this historical town, readied for throngs of processions of the devout. Hundreds of purple-robed men would carry a statue of Jesus on the cross, high above their heads, with marching bands playing mournful music. More information about Semana Santa in Guatemela can be found here.

That was the most colorful and powerful Easter I have ever spent. Although we took this trip 25 years ago, the memories are still as vibrant as the amazing alfombras.

Today, I reflect on that holy trip and how I am so thankful for my mother and her continuous support, love, and teachings.

Happy Easter.

alfombraPhoto by Marina K. Villatoro.

 

 

The Champagne Celebration

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Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Celebrations, Children, Family, Memories, Ritual, School, Traditions | Posted on 02-09-2013

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We were gifted a fine bottle of champagne. Actually it was a fine bottle of sparkling wine. It was from Germany. Woo, fancy!

We saved it for awhile. For a special occasion. Turns out that the special occasion was this weekend. We knew our children needed a celebration. Celebrating a fun-filled summer and toasting a great school year ahead.

Pop! I think the cork dented our kitchen ceiling.

For us, like many other families, Labor Day weekend marks a transition weekend. From summer to school-sports-activities-and-crazy-family-life. We knew the kids would be sorta bumming. What was ahead? Waking up early. Homework. And algebra.

The sparkling wine was poured in five glasses; a toast was made; and we all partook. My eight-year-old tasted it–grimaced–was like, “Is this alcohol? I don’t like alcohol.”

His big brother, “James Bond drinks alcohol.”

Yeah, so does Mommy, pass it over here! Swig! My husband and I guzzled the rest. We needed a little calm before the storm.

Well, whaddya know. Turns out that the fine bottle of sparkling wine was a fine steal at $4.99 at World Market. Better stock up on a case to handle the school year ahead!

Hiccup.champagne

The Girl Who Saw Fire

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Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Celebrations, Holidays, Kids, Memories, Traditions | Posted on 03-07-2013

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If you know me, you know I love the 4th of July. I wrote about that here. If you don’t me, now you know!

The 4th of July is the pure bliss that Summer is finally here. To me, it’s celebration. It’s family. It’s food. It’s fun. It’s fireworks.

To my surprise, my three children don’t all share my love of the holiday. My two boys are little pyros. But my daughter, not so much. A few years ago, with our children in tow, we went to a park to get a 360-degree view of the town’s fireworks display. Fountains glittering and sparkling. The sky was alight–it was awesome! But my daughter kept fidgeting and worrying, “Something is going to catch on fire. I just know it.”

No way! Don’t worry! Nothing is going to catch fire! I promise!

And then. About 20 minutes into the fireworks show, a ball of fire erupted down the road. We witnessed a mature fir tree suddenly ablaze and spreading. Firetrucks immediately came rushing to the scene. We sat there, safe, but with mouths agape.

That girl of mine. She saw fire coming. And she proved me wrong. It was a memorable 4th. Years later…remember when you knew that something was going to catch on fire?

However you celebrate this 4th of July, enjoy! And be safe, OK?

fireworks

 

We’re the Winkleberries

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Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Childhood, Childrearing, Children, Family, Humor, Imagination, Parenting, Traditions | Posted on 23-04-2013

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One recent Saturday morning, our two youngest children greeted us for some snuggling and giggling. This is one of my favorite weekend rituals.

Enjoy some of our silliness:

I’ve watched these over and over and can’t help but giggle and smile.

Are We There Yet?

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Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Childhood, Children, Family, Fathers, Memories, Traditions, Travel, Vacation | Posted on 04-11-2012

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If the journey is half the fun, then childhood road trips sitting alongside my sister were a hoot.

Every Summer, we would journey in the family wagon hundreds of miles to see America at its finest: Niagara Falls, Mount Rushmore, Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, Yellowstone National Park. If it had anything to do with water falls, red rocks, forests, suspension bridges, I’ve been there.

My Dad at the wheel. My Stepmother navigating. My sister and me in the back seat, with no seat belts. No seat belts meant freedom to sprawl. Only an imaginary line down the middle to “separate” us.

Do. Not. Cross. The. Line.

This was decades before iPods and Nintendo DSs. Dude. This was before the Sony Walkman. Dude! My Dad’s car had an 8-track tape. We’d listen to Ray Conniff’s Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. We’d even sing along. Because that sucker would loop.

There was nothing to do. For hours. Or was there?

We’d play the alphabet license plate game. But when there are no cars for one hundred miles, the game goes a little slow.

Are we there yet? No.

When will we get there? We’ll get there when we get there.

I would look into the rearview mirror and check out my face. Any new pimples?

Dang. What to do now?

Rock, paper, scissors. We’d play it over and over and over. Being seven years older than my sister meant I knew how to change my rock to a scissors at the last minute, for the win.

Are we there yet? No.

When will we get there? We’ll get there when we get there.

Then finally, time for lunch. We’d pull over at a rest stop and my Stepmother would spread out a feast on a picnic table. Vienna sausages! Pringles! Spray cheese! Wafer cookies with icing! Fruit cocktail! The kind with the awesome cherries pieces and heavy syrup.

Then it would be time to distribute the HANDI WIPES.

You know those wipes that come in little packets? The kind that are folded in a little square, that smell like alcohol? The kind you get after eating fried chicken?

Our fun was unfolding those suckers into a big square. And check this out. Rolling down the window and letting the hot Summer air dry them out. I mean, this could stretch out five minutes. At least. Then when the handy wipes were all dry, you could stick out your hand and “hand surf” through the air current until our Dad yelled, “The air conditioner is on! Roll up the windows. You’re letting the cold air out.”

We’d get excited when my Dad would stop at a gas station to fill up. We’d beg for a quarter. I’d buy a Hershey bar. My sister would buy something fruity and sour and hard. Something that she knew would last a long time. Like Gobstoppers.

I’d gobble mine up in five seconds. And her candy outlasted mine. Always. Dang her.

Then she would nap. And I’d have no one to chat with and bicker with and play with for a few hours. Silence. Except for Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown.

I’d stare out the window. How many more miles until the next rest stop? I had to pee. How many until Mesa Verde?

Are we there yet? No.

When will we get there? We’ll get there when we get there.

By evening, after driving all day, we’d arrive at our Best Western. Always with crisp white sheets. Tiny, rectangular soaps. And a swimming pool. A glorious pool! Finally, something to DO!

The funny thing is, I don’t really remember the monuments, the sights, or the National parks that much. Faded pictures in a musty old photo album remind me that I’ve been to all the places.

Instead, what I remember is the endless driving, sitting alongside my sister. The idleness and how we’d try to pass the time. Ah, the simplicity of childhood.

And I kinda wish I could sit in the backseat with my sister now, to talk. Laugh. Bicker. And play rock, paper, scissors. But she lives an ocean away.

Being an adult is busy and complicated. I haven’t sat idly in the backseat of a car with nothing to do except air out our handy wipes….well, since childhood.

Full Circle at the Ferris Wheel

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Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Adolescence, Aging, Animals, Boys, Childhood, Childrearing, Children, Family, Fun, Life Lessons, Memories, Parenting, Traditions | Posted on 13-08-2012

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I go to the county fair every summer. It’s been a tradition since I was a kid. The fair is EXACTLY the same today as it was those many years ago. Just the way I like it.

Except I’m different now. I’m not the kid begging for cotton candy. I’m not the teenager flirting with boys. I don’t tuck money into my shoe anymore. I’m the Mom, with the ginormous backpack carrying all of the kids’ crap, sunscreen, and water bottles. I am the one in the dorky, floppy sun hat, protecting her face from the sun.

But I’m still a kid inside. I still get that giddiness and excitement in my tummy as we drive into the fairgrounds and park in the straw and walk through the turnstiles and get unlimited ride wristbands attached to our left wrists.

The sights are still the same. Leathered-skin carnies operating the rides. A little gruff. A little leery. A little toothless.

The rides are the same. Ferris wheel with the glowing lights. Bumper cars with their stop-and-go jerkiness and electricity popping. Creaky roller coaster that tic-tic-tics up the ramp and then whooshes you downward propelling screams. I can’t ride the spinning rides anymore (old age) but I watch my kids ride and I encourage them with a big grin on my face.

There are still the teenagers preening and flaunting. Girls wearing their tightest shorts, flipping hair, chomping on gum, checking out the boys in line who are also looking and smelling their finest, checking out the girls. I am no longer the teen, flipping my hair and checking out the boys. My shorts are tight (for other reasons).

Unwinnable games. Darts and balloons. Climb the ladder to ring a bell. Shoot the basketball. Knock over old-fashioned milk bottles. Giant pandas, red dogs, monkeys…a girl’s dream to win one and walk around with a stuffed animal under her arm, boasting. I never won one. Now, I’m like “we don’t need a giant stuffed banana with Jamaican hair.” Or DO we?

The world’s smallest horse. “Step right up and pay a dollar.” The horse is merely a small Shetland pony, appearing miniscule, in a pen built well below the stairs you climb. Every year, I am fooled again. But I have hope.

The piglets, the velvety cows, the endearing goats, the sheep with attitude. The smells of the barns are comforting, with their fresh straw and fresh poop. 4-H kids with their impressive pride, grooming their animals and answering your dumb questions. “What is the difference between a llama and an alpaca?” I ask.

The smells and tastes of the fair food. The same. Pink and blue fluffy cotton candy, deep-fried corn dogs, greasy funnel cakes sprinkled with powdered sugar, salty popcorn.

This year, I returned to the fair again with my three kids. Just as we do every year, where we pack in fun, exiting exhausted and a little bit green-faced at midnight. I take my youngest two kids by the hands and we practically skip to say hello to the goats, let the cotton candy dissolve on our tongues, and board the Ferris wheel to watch the “ants” down below.

I wave goodbye to my oldest teen son, who runs off with a friend–as they quickly ditch our goofball trio–and they do what teen boys do, with their hair gelled, just so.

And so, the cycle continues, round and round, like the Ferris wheel. Some things never change.

 

Singing Cumbaya

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Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Connections, Family, Summer, Traditions, Travel | Posted on 18-07-2012

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I returned home from a camping trip with my family. To the same old campsite we go every year. The same old trees. The same old lake. The same old dock. The same old hiking trails. The same old s’mores, spray cheese, hot dogs, and bean dip.

That’s what makes this trip so special to me. It’s one of our annual traditions. And it brings us back to connecting as a family. And to nature.

No, we don’t sing Cumbaya around the campfire (yeah…have you HEARD me sing? #frightful).

Besides the pure, natural beauty of camping in the Pacific Northwest, there’s the beauty of simplicity. Face it, we don’t have to make difficult decisions while camping:

  • hike or swim?
  • play Monopoly or Sorry?
  • explore or bike?
  • Oreos or Chips Ahoy?
  • balance on the logs or skip rocks?
  • sit in the sun or sit in the shade?

We met up with a forest ranger named Jennifer at a “campfire talk” on ecosystems. She distributed neon rubber wristbands that say “Smokey’s Friend.” I am still wearing mine. And I probably won’t take it off for awhile.

This simple bracelet is a reminder of the quality time I spent with my family…connecting and enjoying the simpler things in life.