December 15, 2014

Getting into the Spirit of Things

Holiday fun does not come naturally to me.  As a pre-teen and teen, festivity was not encouraged in my family.  Christmas was something to "get through".  Don't get me wrong, there were always presents but few traditions and definitely no joy.  Like many other areas of family life, I'm starting from scratch when it comes to the holidays.  In all honesty, it takes a lot of effort to get started and keep the momentum going.  I mean, it's just me orchestrating all this and I have no schema for it.  I know better than to try to duplicate magazine spreads and compete with the Pinterest paparazzi but at the same time, I can't just sit back and hope my children will enjoy Christmas.  If I didn't plan a few things, arrange some outings, set up some crafts, my boys would spend the entire month of December playing Angry Birds.  They'd be perfectly happy doing so but one day, not today, but someday, they'd regret not having a few special Christmas memories.

My boys are good in the kitchen, so we start there.

This no-bake recipe includes graham crackers, caramel, pretzels, dark chocolate and marshmallows.  It may not be beautiful, but it's delicious!

We continue to unwrap a Christmas book each night and read together.  It's not much different from our usual bed time ritual except that when it is over, there's wrapping paper and ribbon to clean up.  Still, my children think of this as a family tradition we do during the holidays.  I count it as a tiny success towards the goal of inventing our collective Christmas memories.  

This year, the boys helped me choose names from the mitten tree at church.  They went with me to buy the gifts for these children we will never meet.  They never once asked to play with the toys before I wrapped them.  I can tell they understand, at least a little, the importance of giving over receiving.

A few days ago, Liam came home from school with this drawing of the Nativity. It was so well done that at first, I assumed that his seven year old brother did it.   Nope.  This is the work of my five year old. The animals from left to right are cow, sheep and donkey. I love the colors and details.

Not to be outdone in the "stun Mommy with your talent" category--Henry created a stable, star and manger scene from K'nex.  I had no idea what he was making until he called me into the dining room.  When I was growing up, putting Scotch tape on the wall was a cardinal sin but I can't bear to take this down.  If I have to repaint the wall in January, so be it.

The holidays are hard work for moms.  All moms.  It takes effort and stamina, patience and planning.  You know, like the rest of the year.  What I know for certain is that I'll get out of this season what I put into it.  You know, like the rest of the year.

December 8, 2014

Kids & Kairos

What gets me through the hard times?  This Momastery post, for one, explaining why it's okay to not to carpe diem.  Here's the video.  There are some weeks when I need to play the first three minutes of this clip in the morning and the evening to get through the tough times.  

Speaking of tough times, as so often happens in my parenting experience the valley that was Thanksgiving weekend has been followed by higher ground and better times.  Thank goodness.

My kairos moment this week?  It came on a school night, late in the evening....  

Since his younger brother protested so strongly, I thought Henry must surely be too old for this bedtime story.  I was wrong.  As I read the second to last page, he said sleepily, "It's like you're reading poetry, Mom.  Just not the rhyming kind."

There were other moments, too.

To show me how sorry he was for his atrocious behavior, Liam made me dozens of cards with hearts and then spelled my name using K'nex pieces.  
 Henry brought home this fun drawing:

We had a civilized meal with no french fries in sight. 

Our breakfast with Santa tradition remains happily intact.

The darker it gets, the brighter the stars shine.  I was able to appreciate these kairos moments so much more having gone through the mess that was last week.   Finally--something to be truly thankful for.

December 1, 2014

A Tale of Two Holidays

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  Well, actually just the worst BUT you would never know it from the photos I took.  You can thank Flat Stanley for them.  If it weren't for Henry's 2nd grade assignment, believe me, I'd have deleted all evidence of this weekend.

Here we have a nice photo of what I had hoped would become a day before Thanksgiving tradition:  a family movie in the afternoon.  It is only the second movie I've taken the boys to see; I thought it would be fun.  What you can't tell from the photo, is that Liam had been having a six hour meltdown, complete with shoe throwing (at Henry's head) and name calling (at me for forgetting his water bottle earlier in the day).  By the time we arrived at the theater, I was exhausted and out of consequences.  (I had paid for the tickets the day before--otherwise, we would not have left the house that afternoon.)  Henry spent the entire movie with his head on my shoulder.  Liam spent it scouring the floor for popcorn and candy.  He considered it a bonus when he found a wad of gum.

Thanksgiving morning did not dawn well.  The boys were already fighting before I left my bed.  I decided to ignore them and carry on with my culinary plans.  

They refused to touch these.  Except for the candy corn of course.  The rest, they said was "gross".  How can they be gross?  They were pinned over 900 times!  Never mind--isn't this a great picture of Liam coloring the Thanksgiving tablecloth?  

We didn't actually eat at home. That was never the plan this year.  We were supposed to go to a restaurant.  I made reservations four weeks ago.  During the hour long drive to pick up Grandma, she called to say she wanted to stay home.  So as you can see from Stanley's happy countenance, we spent this holiday in a tiny senior apartment.  All four of us.  There really was only room for Stanley.

No worries.   Tomorrow is another day.  In fact, the next day I planned to cook traditional Thanksgiving fare while the boys set up the tree with Grandpa.  The meal turned out okay but the boys wouldn't touch any of it because it wasn't served in paper cartons with ketchup packets.  They also tried to take out the seven foot tree by lobbing various articles of clothing at it from the upstairs landing.  Then they broke two nutcrackers, three ornaments and a string of lights.

While waiting for the four course dinner they had no intention of eating, the boys indulged in healthy finger food.  They were so excited, in fact, that they hid olives under the sofa cushions.

There are no photos of the worst thing that happened Friday.  After clearly and concisely being told NOT to touch a birthday gift for one of Henry's friends, Liam waited until I was outside, then brought a stool over to the cabinet, climbed up and grabbed the gift.  He tore into the package and lost some pieces.  I found the evidence just two minutes after tucking him in for the night with hugs and kisses.  I don't think I've ever been so mad at him.  Never.  Ever.

I was up until midnight, washing dishes, sweeping up ornaments and fishing crudité from under the couch.  I cried myself to sleep.

I woke up with red eyes just in time to take Henry to his swim lesson.  Finally, some good news!  Henry completed his fourth level and is moving up to the "Dolphin" lane.  It's a wonderful accomplishment.  I was so proud.

Seconds after I took this photo of him reading his award badge, he informed me that he doesn't want to go back to lessons next week. Or ever.

It was around this time that I decided we had plenty of Stanley photos.  There really wasn't any point documenting the rest of the weekend.  Besides, I had a professional portrait appointment for the boys on Sunday.  I was looking forward seeing them dressed in their best with big smiles on their faces.  At least for fifteen minutes.

It was with that thought that I put on a happy face Saturday afternoon.  It was warm enough to work outside on the house decorations.  As I was stringing lights and tying bows, Liam played in the garage.  He didn't play catch though.  No.  There was no catching involved when the tennis ball he bounced on the wall hit him in the left eye. 

So much for our holiday portrait.  I know purple is a festive color but it doesn't work with the background I picked out.

Besides, I don't need a $259 package of professional prints to remember this weekend.  I'm trying hard to forget it ever happened.

November 25, 2014

November days like these

make me to worry that it's going to be a very long winter around here.

Despite what the media says, we are nowhere near Christmas break (the traditional midpoint of the school year) and yikes!   We've had snow storms and sickness, already.  Liam had his third cold/fever since kindergarten started in August.  Luckily it did not settle in his ears and antibiotics weren't necessary.  Unfortunately, Henry also came down with it.  His fever lasted days longer and he is still complaining of a headache.  I missed so much work and have fallen behind, so very far behind in just about everything.

Tomorrow, the boys have 1/2 day of school.  I planned to rush home after dropping them off and spend two hours wrapping as many of their Christmas presents as possible before going to collect them.  I can't risk wrapping presents after they go to bed.  Although I tuck them in before 8, they have been known to creep down the stairs multiple times.  If I wait until I'm sure they are completely asleep before I start wrapping, it will be near my bedtime!  I need to get these toys wrapped now so I can take an inventory of what I've purchased for each.  All summer and fall, I simply bought things here and there as I happened upon a good deal when I was alone in a store (a rare occurrence indeed). Other times I added something from my Amazon wishlist to my cart in order to qualify for free shipping on that parenting your tantrumming tyke book I just had to have.  Now I have a bag full of gifts hidden and I have no idea if I've purchased equal amounts or who is lacking what.

So tomorrow morning would be ideal to start getting organized for Santa.  But it would also be a great chance to catch up at work.  I could spend three uninterrupted hours in my classroom.  Heaven.  I imagine that afterwards, I'd feel like a professional again.

There are also about ten thousand things I need to do around the house:  make that advent calendar that I promised would be ready by Sunday, preserve Liam's art work (two meaningful pieces that will yellow if I don't get to them soon), make that table grace cube that I said would be ready for (yikes!) Thursday, cook up all that wilting produce in the fridge so it doesn't go to waste (again), get in the garage and stage all the boxes of tree decorations so they are in a helpful order for the boys and Grandpa on Friday, upload and print Henry's Flat Stanley photos for his project due next week, remember the photography appointment on Sunday and find coordinating shirts...the list doesn't end.  Really, it doesn't.

I suppose I'll tackle each project as I can and hope for the best.  I also have several outings planned for the boys over the long weekend (movie, museums, etc).  I'm looking forward to those because I can't multitask during those activities.  Well, unless you count those Flat Stanley photos...