Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Santa Dilemma

I know most of you have probably been following this breaking story, but apparently, Justin Beiber grew up with his mom telling him there was no Santa Claus. (*Shock*Gasp*) She didn't want him to one day realize he'd been lied to his entire childhood, then consequently not believe her when she told him about God.

I don't know, it kind of makes sense. So how do I handle the whole Santa thing? Well, I don't shoot Sammy down when she asks about Santa, ("He's not real, okay! Just don't tell your preschool buddies...") but I do preface everything I tell her with: "Legend has it..." or, "The story goes that...." For example, "Tradition has it...that Santa will bring you presents in your stocking!" I don't think she knows what a legend or tradition is, but someday she will and realize that I have not in fact lied to her about Santa, but have carried on a fun tradition of our forefathers.

Aside from focusing on semantics while talking about Santa, I have also been trying to teach Sammy what Christmas is all about. We add a magnet to our magnetic nativity every morning and read a scripture and sing a song about Jesus. Every night, we cut a link off our chain that has something about Jesus written on it and we tape it to our window. We've watched videos, read books, etc. about Jesus. So a couple days ago, we had a little conversation about Christmas--I was mostly curious what Sammy had absorbed about Christmas this year.

Me: Sammy, do you know what Christmas is?
Sammy: It's when Santa comes and brings us presents and stockings!
Me: And when we celebrate Jesus' birthday!
Sammy: And when Santa comes!
Me: And when we celebrate Jesus coming to earth as a little baby!
Sammy: And I get presents from Santa!
Me: He's not real, okay! I'm the one that shells out for those presents! It's Jesus' day. It's about Jesus!

Okay, so I didn't really say that last part. I wanted to, but I didn't. I think she just might be too young to really get the reason for Christmas. But you know what? At least I'm not Jewish. Have you ever tried to explain Hanukkah to a 3-year-old? I have. Let me tell you, those Jewish mothers have it even worse than I do.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

That's Just the Way the Cookie Crumbles

I've had a couple of embarassing incidents this Christmas season--there was that time I walked around church a while before I noticed the french fry sticker on my ankle, and then Sammy shouting out "Mom, I need to go pee!" during the middle of her preschool Christmas program. However, the Cookie Incident tops everything.

I spent hours last week baking and icing and decorating 4 dozen star cookies for a recipe exchange group. (I was going for the first time and wanted to impress people with how tasty and beautiful my Christmas cookies were. Normally I don't spend that much time on cookies.) The idea is that a bunch of women go to someone's house, trade cookies and recipes, and go home with a nice variety to give to the neighbors for Christmas. I think it's a great idea.

Anyway, the night of the exchange, we were running late getting home from seeing Christmas lights, but I figured I would go anyway. I glanced at the address on Google Maps and jumped into the car. The only problem was, when I got to the subdivision where the house was located, no one had their lights on and I couldn't see anyone's address. Fortunately, it was a small subdivision, and there was only one house with all the lights on and 15 cars parked in front of it. Bingo! There was a little sign taped to the door, "Come in,"  so I trotted on in with my dozens of beautiful and tasty cookies. 

As I stopped in the entry and tried to figure out how to take my boots off while holding 4 dozen cookies, I started looking around me. Strange...there were a lot of little kids running around. I thought this was a girls' night out sort of thing. I took a few steps toward the kitchen to set my cookies down and started looking at the grown ups sitting around talking. Also strange...quite a few men were there mingling with the women and I didn't recognize anyone...Oh no. Oh crap. Wrong house. RUN FOR THE DOOR! I was inches away from freedom when a nice man holding a baby came around the corner and smiled cheerily at me. "Hi, how are you doing?" He seemed a little confused as I detoured around him and reached for the doorknob, still holding my umpteen beautiful and tasty cookies.  "Great!" I squeaked. "I, um, forgot my cellphone--um, I have to run out to the car to grab it." I made a hasty exit.

Epilogue: Highly confused, I drove around the subdivision one more time and actually found the right address. Strangely, even though I was only 30 minutes late, the house was dark and everyone was gone. I gave up on my attempts to be social and drove home slowly in the dark, my dejected tears dropping one by one onto my perfectly iced cookies. Each lovingly placed sprinkle melted softly into...okay, okay, so it wasn't that big of a deal. Our neighbors just got tins of star cookies, no variety added. I went home and looked up my invitation to the recipe exchange group and saw that they had actually met two days earlier. Am I discouraged that I made all that effort to go the recipe group only to get the date wrong? No. Sometimes mistakes happen. Sometimes you go to total strangers' Christmas parties. Sometimes, that's just the way the cookie crumbles.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Sob Stories

Christmas time is here! It's nice to be home. Inside, the house is festooned with Christmas lights and garlands and bursting with joyful activities like gingerbread house making,

while outside, our welcome bear shivers in the cold.

I'm thinking of writing a Christmas story. It's about a sad, lonely little orphan bear who is shivering in the snow on Christmas Eve, when suddenly a nice family pulls up and gives him warm clothes to wear and 15 large boxes full of toys and goodies to take back to the orphanage. If this is sounding familiar, it's because it is. Most Christmas stories tend to fall into formulaic and somewhat maudlin patterns. You can quote me as an expert on that, because today I read around 90 short Christmas stories online to find some worthy of putting in a binder and reading as a family at Christmas time. I would say about 86 percent of them started with someone dying, someone missing a loved one who has died, or a mention of the Great Depression. The other 14 percent were about orphans.

Yes, as a writer I turn up my nose at Christmas stories. And yet, as I read story after story, I would start sobbing as poor little Billy bought those Christmas shoes for his dying mother, or the lonely old man gave the beautiful doll to the deserving girl who was only thinking about her crippled brother, or the single mom of three kids who didn't know how she was going to provide Christmas for her family was given gifts by kind strangers. The pile of Kleenex grew and my kids looked at me like I was crazy, but I kept reading and sobbing my way through all 90 stories. I think my heart grew 3 sizes today. Or I'm turning into my emotional father. Both medical impossibilities, yet I know something changed today. Despite the predictable cast and the sentimental writing, I'm starting to like Christmas stories.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Perilous Yoga

At Thanksgiving time I was chatting with my sister-in-law, who told me she was taking a yoga class in addition to her super running. It piqued my interest--we've established that I'm not motivated enough to run but I've been wanting to do something in the mornings at home to get the day jumpstarted. I figured I could just check out some yoga videos from the library for some free exercise. Plus, Sammy would probably like to do it with me.

Now, my sister-in-law did say that she was taking her yoga class at a gym with babysitting, and that her kids were a little underfoot when she did yoga at home, but I brushed that aside. My kids are pretty mellow; Sammy doesn't like to over-exert herself and Cici usually just follows Sammy around.

 They look so peaceful, don't they?

Unfortunately, something about the sight of me stretching to soothing New Age music mysteriously whips them up into a frenetic swirl of activity. Mom is standing on one foot? Let's grab onto her leg and try to make her fall over. Mom is doing any stretch that remotely resembles a tunnel? We must crawl under her and run around her. Mom is lying on her back with her eyes closed doing relaxation exercises? We should drop books on her face!

This morning during the latest yoga movie, I was lying on my back listening to someone chant Relax! Breathe! Heal! over and over in a soothing voice when I heard a familiar voice exclaim, "Mom! You're a boat!" followed by the painful whump! of a three-year-old plunking herself onto my relaxed stomach. My eyes shot open and I gave Sammy The Look while Cici giggled in the background. Yogi-like, I calmly went back to Relax! Breathe! Heal! while unbeknownst to me, Sammy circled around for round two. "Mom! You're a bed!" I snapped into defensive mode. Sammy likes to jump on the bed. "Alright," I sighed in defeat. "Yoga time is over." Who would have thought that such a peaceful looking activity could be so dangerous?

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Happiest Place on Earth

As many of you may know, "The Happiest Place on Earth" is...Disneyworld!!! Is this true? No. But should I use this phrase to describe, for example, my ridiculously comfy bed with a good book and some chocolate sitting next to it, I have no doubt that I would be quickly set upon by Disney's trademark infringement lawyers. Setting the misleading advertising aside, (Florida was cold, I don't like being cold, ergo Disneyworld, being in Florida, is not the happiest place on earth) let me tell you about our trip.

We went to St. Augustine, billed as the oldest city in North America. It was very historical--the city includes the oldest fort, oldest house, oldest schoolhouse, etc. But did we visit any of these? No. We went to a chocolate factory instead. Our guide burst in singing "Come with me, and you'll be, in a world of pure imagination," etc., a la Willy Wonka, which is always a good sign that the chocolate tour will be good.

Chocolate Pretzel Machine

Also we got to wear hair nets.

We forgot to take them off after the tour and wandered around the gift shop for a little while with them on. Well, we are a good-looking family--we can pull off any look, right?

After St. Augustine, we went to Orlando. Austin landed us in the Waldorf Astoria, so it was a luxurious vacation.

This is the only picture we have of the room, but trust me, it was really fancy. I loved getting room service and made sure to get--wait for it--the Waldorf salad. We went swimming in the huge pool/lazy river, even though it was hovering around 50 outside (Austin made us!), and the breakfast buffet included an elaborately carved watermelon, so as you can tell, we were living in the lap of luxury.

As far as Disneyworld went, I made us get there before the park actually opened in the morning, so we were first in line to get in on our first day (Yes, I was a little excited). The crowds were slim because it was a chilly morning so we ended up completing most of my intensive 2 day touring plan in about 3 hours. We then went back to the Waldorf and took naps. It was awesome.

This is a picture of us after we sneaked into the park before it opened the second day. There was a line for people with breakfast reservations to go in early, and we had breakfast reservations (in Cinderella's Castle!) but they weren't for until a couple hours after the park opened. Should we have gone in? Well they didn't ask us what time our reservations were for and we breezed through the line. We wandered the empty streets of Disneyworld and gazed at the Saturday holiday crowds massing outside the ropes  until a uniformed man came up to us and asked if we had breakfast reservations. When we said yes, he asked what time they were for. Ummm....

It turns out, he was just checking to see if we had enough time to go meet the princesses! Since it was one thing I hadn't yet checked off my touring plan, we of course agreed and Sammy got to spend 10 minutes with Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Belle by herself, twirling around and soaking up the princess overload.

I feel that the moral of this story isn't what it could be, (Sneak into Disneyworld, get invited to do cool things!) but we all lived happily ever after, so it's still a good story. We probably won't go back to Disneyworld for a while, but it was definitely a magical vacation.