Here we are, awaiting the end of 2011 at my in-law's lakehouse somewhere in southern Virginia. Calvin has only fallen into the freezing cold lake once today. Brian somehow lost a metal wedge while cutting firewood. Clark had an epic booger experience that I hope I never see the likes of again. I went "running," which is a misrepresentation of the way I was moving my body along the hilly terrain, but at least I did something. The best part was when I ran by a deserted old house with a tiny fenced-in graveyard and ancient lace curtains in the windows. I could practically hear the Confederate (or would it have been Union?) soldiers hiding under the planks on the deck.
I thought I'd take this peaceful time, as the sun sets on the glass-smooth lake and the boys nap, to share with you my favorite and the most popular posts from this past year. Here they are in the order in which they appeared. Enjoy and Happy New Year!
first one on epilepsy
inappropriate old man
Terrible Shark Twos
the boys meet the ocean!
more ceiling fans
goat milk and canning and Costco
Mommy, you had a seizure
walking off the pounds
ceiling fan costumes
how I eat scraps
the Santa question
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
I don’t know what to do about Santa. Who knew that the fat guy in red would ever pose a problem for me? I grew up not believing for a moment that Santa was real. My parents didn’t want to lie to my siblings and me, or to substitute the man in the red suit for the baby in the manger. I don't feel scarred by never believing. Brian grew up believing in Santa for awhile, but eventually caught on. He doesn’t even remember when he realized that Santa was his parents, so he clearly was not traumatized by the revelation like some kids are. He remembers that the magic of it was exciting for awhile, but is inclined, as I am, not to lie to our boys about Santa. A friendly man in line at the coffee shop the other day asked the boys who was coming soon (they didn't answer, just kept counting the chocolate milks) and then asked me slyly, "Well Mom, is Santa coming?" I didn't mean to, but I basically unloaded on him what Brian and I have been talking about when it comes to Santa. He had no idea the answer to his question would take so long.
Things to consider:
Enchantment: The magic of it does seem like it could be fun. Looking into the sky and searching for a sleigh and a really nice old man using flying reindeer to bring you what you want must be amazing. I don't want to cheat my kids of childhood fantasies, but on the other hand, I remember being completely enchanted by books I read as a child even though I knew they were fiction. I mean, knowing that Gilbert Blythe wasn't real didn't stop me from wanting to kiss him. I simply can’t bear the thought of having 10 year-olds who still believe in Santa and to whom we will have to one day admit we’ve been lying their entire lives. I’ve read what other parents have written about being in that exact position and how paralyzing it is. What else might we be lying about to them?
Cookies and Carrots and Elves: I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t tell my boys to leave cookies for Santa and carrots for his reindeer. I couldn’t tell them that an elf is watching to see if they are good and report to Santa. It would eat at my conscience. No way. It was nothing that my parents told me and so it seems so unnatural and silly to me. For me, it would be like telling them with a straight face that Curious George is sitting on the toilet taking a poop in front of them even though they can’t see him. Which would probably make them want to beat me up, by the way.
It’s Still Magical: I loved Christmas growing up. For my family though, the magic and mystery of the season did not come from Santa and his elves, but from the gifts that we bought each other in secret and whispered about together, the kind things we did and made for others around us, the baking we did together, and of course celebrating the miracle of Christ’s birth all those years ago. We always got boxes of gifts and baked goods from my grandparents in Minnesota, and gifts from other distant family members. My grandparents who lived near us always gave us great gifts and came over for dinner. I remember lying underneath our thin, probably crooked Christmas trees (cut from the woods behind our house) every year looking up at the lights and ornaments and wondering about the gifts under the tree. Wondering who had given me what. Wondering how my brother would react when he saw what I bought him. Wondering what it might have been like all those years ago for the shepherds keeping watch over their sheep and that little couple in the stable. My sister and I hung snowflakes from our ceiling with fishing line and put lights up in our room. We fell asleep every night for a month listening to Christmas carols and plotting how we were going to pull off surprising Mom and Dad with something nice. Christmas Eve was always exciting. After our extended family left, we tried to fall asleep. We would hear Mom and Dad whispering and giggling as they filled our stockings, and we would squeeze our eyes tight as we willed ourselves to sleep, wondering what little things Mom had been hiding all year (and where?!) would appear in our stockings. It was a magical season, just not elf and reindeer powered.
Please Don’t Hate Us: I know that this decision would have social repercussions. How many of our friends and relatives will Cal or Clark offend if they blurt out to their children that Santa is not real? I don’t remember that my siblings or I ever did that. We knew Santa was pretend, but we didn’t shout it from the rooftops. I just don’t quite know how to delicately handle the situation.
Finding Middle Ground: The boys just a few weeks ago discovered Santa. “Who is that silly man?” Clark asked me. I told him it was Santa and he didn’t ask any questions. I don’t think we will actively tell them Santa isn’t real, but we aren’t going to make a big deal of it. As for now, they know that people give each other Christmas gifts—we’ve had a few gift exchanges with friends and with my brother. They have helped make Christmas gifts for friends and relatives. They know that the gifts under the tree are from us and Grandma and Papa and Gammy and Poppy. They know that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. Why complicate things and create what could be a problem down the road? Instead I guess we’re basically ignoring the jolly old fellow for now and hoping that other elements of Christmas prove more memorable for the boys.
As the man at the coffee shop said, while grasping for his double cappuccino on the way out the door and undoubtedly regretting having engaged me in conversation, "It's a big decision."
Thoughts? I would love any input and/or advice you might have. Leave a comment! What is your experience as a child and/or parent? What have you told your kids? What do you plan to tell your kids? Why? Will you disown us if our boys tell your kids that Santa is pretend? I’d really love to know.
|Talk about seasonal magic: The boys eat their first-ever candy canes.|
This is me one toothless Christmas before we moved to the woods
and cut our own trees.
I seem pretty well-adjusted, right?
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
I want to provide some pictures of our gingerbread extravaganza this year. First of all, I baked all the gingerbread for the party a week in advance, which was an unprecedented display of maturity and organization that I have not shown for quite some time. This meant that I did not stay up late every night of the week with Delilah and my rolling pin, covering the house in a fine layer of flour, the spicy smell of gingerbread, and stacks of gingerbread house pieces. I just did normal people things and some Christmasy projects. It was odd. I kind of missed Delilah.
Instead I stood on my feet for what felt like 48 hours the weekend before at my in-laws' house baking. The picture below shows what I baked. You can't exactly tell, but those gingerbread men are huge. I put the (regular-sized) toothpaste tube in for scale, because it's more impressive that way.
The7th annual gingerbready party was another smashing success. Here are some pictures.
If that gingerbread explosion doesn't put you in the Christmas spirit, I don't know what will, people. Now if only Virginia could get a white Christmas this year instead of a white Valentine's Day...
The7th annual gingerbready party was another smashing success. Here are some pictures.
|A weekend's work (toothpaste tube for scale)|
|Margo made a ceiling fan with her gingerbread couple.|
|Calvin ate Margo's gingerbread ceiling fan.|
|Ava and Ethan showed their parents how to build a house.|
|The Korins completed their annual masterpiece.|
|Andrew expertly decorated his gingerbread man and tree.|
|The Cupolo family's townhouse|
|The boys put blue pajamas on their gingerbread boys...and candy in their mouths.|
|Aunt Julie and John fashioned the first-ever Crosson gingerbread grand piano.|
|Masterpiece of the year, I'd say.|
|National's minor gingerbread league ballpark which I constructed days after the party.|
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
I took my annual Christmas non-shopping trip last night. Ever since my brother moved close to me six years ago, we have been taking an annual Christmas shopping trip together. It’s a unique trip because both of us hate to shop and love to procrastinate. Shopping is right up there on my list of hates with fingernails on chalkboards and road kill. The fact should be obvious by the fashion-less (I prefer timeless, or classic) way I dress and how I’m perpetually out of socks. It isn’t actually fair to call our trip a shopping trip, so we call it our non-shopping trip.
It began the first year he lived here because we both had put off our Christmas shopping until very late—I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it was the 23rd, possibly even the 24th of December. So we went not only for moral support, but also for the practicality of being able to pick out our own gifts from each other. I picked out some slippers and a wallet and he bought them for me and I bought him a book he wanted. Makes perfect sense. I’m guessing we didn’t wrap them, but maybe we did.
Here’s how the trip usually goes: We arrive at a loud Christmas-y mall with a mammoth fake tree and its gaudy ornaments, passageways full of unsupervised adolescents, toy-crazed children tugging on their parents, and single coeds browsing for expensive cutlery or fine jewelry or lacy unmentionables for their significant other(s). The music is blaring. A sweaty Santa is propped in front of the camera with a zillion kids squirming in line. It is all we can do not to turn around and leave. We discuss where we want to go first, and if neither of us has a good idea we either head straight to a candle store to smell interesting smells, or to a restaurant to grab a beer. After an hour or so of exploring scents and their laughable names or sharing some good sibling conversation over a seasonal lager, we venture back out to the inevitable. If we make it another hour or so, we will need another break so we’ll hit up an ice cream shop in the food court and have some more heart-to-heart conversation. When all is said and done we usually come away with maybe a gift or two, or maybe none, but the point has become that we spend time together. We usually don’t make lists, for how can you fail if you have no standard? Everything is a bonus!
I am nearly ashamed to say that last night I not only made a list but I also bought a few things on it. It was almost a little too productive to be recognized as a Dawn and Aaron Annual Christmas Non-Shopping Trip. Aaron did not make a list and so he considered his purchases pleasant surprises. I think we may have broken records for productivity right off the bat since we started at Wal-Mart to pick up Calvin’s new glasses. Right away we had an acquisition. Once we picked those up we were a little overwhelmed at the size and bustle around us. Aaron lives in DC and there aren’t many big stores around him—mostly corner groceries and underground pharmacies. And since I don’t drive I don’t do much shopping besides the grocery store down the street or the bagel place nearby. I had to fight to keep walking.
We moseyed around, looking at the board games and reminiscing about games we played growing up, wondering what kind of people buy a trivia game for the TV show Jersey Shore, things like that. Aaron took way too much time picking out deodorant, mostly because of how peculiar the smells were. He settled on three sticks with names like wilderness, open air, and freedom, (If you wonder what any of those smells like, you can stick your nose under his arms and find out.) while I successfully convinced myself that the boys in fact do not need a Spongebob pretend razor, shaving cream, and mirror for the bath. Aaron realized he needed a bike light or two since he recently almost got run over while biking, so he picked those up. We ran into Brian’s aunt. I bought a bra. Aaron found some new pillows for his bed. Some double-sided mounting tape. Clearly not a lot of Christmas shopping action going on. I bought some Play-doh to put in the boys’ stockings, because it seems like they should try Play-doh at some point, plus it came in neon colors. Suddenly we very much needed a cart (something we really did not want to need) and so Aaron put down his loot on a tie display to go find one. We left with altogether much more than we had envisioned getting. I felt like I should be done. Stocking stuffers for the boys was an item on my list and I had bought a bonus pack of Play-doh. Four exciting new colors!
Next we checked out some other stores by Wal-Mart, just looking around mostly. We settled into the comfort of World Market where Aaron texted me at one point, “save me from myself.” He had fallen prey to the olive oil section and found the labels riveting, so he read all of them. I was feeling the same way among the little kitchen accessories. How delightful! I found some stocking stuffers and gifts and tried to figure out how I could rationalize buying Russian nesting doll plates for myself, but alas, I could not. In the end I was happy to come away with a good lot, including some Christmas cards that I have since decided to return. Aaron settled on some sort of Greek, pressed, oober-double-super-extra virgin olive oil, whose rich history he could no doubt still dazzle you with, along with some bar accessories for his blossoming home bar, and candles for himself. (Indian Sandalwood and Indonesian Teak)
We had outdone ourselves with all our productivity and our stomachs were rumbling. We hadn’t even made it to the mall yet! So we found the mall nearby and walked into a restaurant and spent the next hour doing what the essence of our non-shopping trip is: good old fashioned sibling talk. This time it was over some greasy burgers, cold beers, and a sub-par server named Carly. We never made it to any stores in the mall. Aaron brought me home when we finished eating. Since Aaron had no list, he felt that his cache of items was a nice surprise and I was happy that I covered parts of my list. When Aaron got home he saw that he had left his new pillows at Wal-Mart on the tie display. Oh well! Another successfully unsuccessful Dawn and Aaron Annual Christmas Non-Shopping Trip.
|Aaron and me hanging out a few years ago...notice we aren't shopping.|
|First year of our Non-Shopping trip|
ADDENDUM: After reading this again, I thought I may have come off as a bit of a Scrooge/Grinch. Rest assured; I am not. I love Christmas and I love giving gifts to people. I love giving them gifts I have thought out and worked at, but our non-shopping trip is usually for those gifts that we realize we need a little too late to do anything awesome for. So. I am not Scrooge-y. The end.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Sometime about a year and a half ago, I morphed from a normal person who politely excuses herself from social exchanges in order to use the restroom, to a person who unabashedly and flippantly proclaims to everyone within earshot that “I’M GONNA GO POTTY.” It’s normal in my mom groups. You tell your kid, “Hey sweetie, I’m gonna go potty, I’ll be right back. You play here with your friends. See you soon.” Obviously this negates the need to turn to your mom friend and tell her that you are going to use the restroom or bathroom. What is she, stupid? No. Gradually, the terms restroom and bathroom fade from your vocabulary except for when you have to clean one. There are good reasons for announcing your intent to go potty.
Modeling: Your kid needs to know that everyone goes potty and they do it in the toilet. Soon enough (or not soon enough) they will be in full-blown potty training mode. Simply saying I’m going to the bathroom or restroom might just be mysterious at first and they won’t know what you’re actually doing in there.
Comfort: If you just disappear from the room with no announcement, especially if you are somewhere unfamiliar, your kid (Calvin) might (will) begin screaming maniacally, thinking he has been heartlessly left behind while I leave the house. Or, he might work himself up to panic mode by repeating "Where did Mommy go?" over and over, faster and faster. Explaining your absence as going potty makes perfect sense. Mom will be back in about a minute. She's doing something she often does. Nothing unusual about it. It comforts.
Yesterday while the boys were napping and Brian and I were talking in the living room, I left, absent-mindedly announcing, “Be right back. I’m gonna go potty.” The awesome thing about it is that he didn’t even notice and I didn’t draw his attention to it. I instead mulled this potty phenomenon over in my head and decided to write about it.
The potty policy is actually an example of language shifts that parents make (or should make) based on their audience. Around the boys we try not to use certain words or talk badly about people. Of course that’s not always the way things go down. I was disappointed the other day when Cal started thundering, “STUPID TUNA!” at the tuna he couldn’t get onto his spoon. Oops. I’m sure there will be more exciting first words, but I’d like to put them off as long as I can.
I change the way I talk when I’m exclusively around adults, and since that is not often, I find myself wincing when I say things I used to always say, like “that sucks” or “frickin” or various other soft swear(ish) words. (Call it potty talk… boo-ya!) Who wants a two year-old yelling that he wants his frickin’ train at a playdate? Talk about wilting in embarrassment. The alternative to this is pausing and silently mouthing, when appropriate, a swear word while talking to a mommy friend and slicing hot dogs and serving mac and cheese to the wee ones. If you don’t, mark my words, they will hear whatever word it is and repeat it, as they do with most new words they hear. Should this happen, whatever you do, don’t freak out and tell your kid to never say that word, it is not a nice word, blah, blah, blah. If your kid is anything like mine, they will enjoy the reaction and try the word out over and over and you’ll feel you’ve paid your penance and then some. Not that I know from experience.
I am going to try to tone down the “going potty” and try out the “going to the bathroom” approach to see what happens now that my boys have no doubt in their minds what happens in a bathroom, and continue to keep the potty talk on hold. What’s the opposite of a potty-mouth? Flower-mouth? I’ll keep trying to be that.