Re-thinking Christmas

December 16, 2012

I'm not rethinking ALL of Christmas. Just the tree.  Though it could be argued that the tree is the symbol of Christmas in your home, so maybe rethinking the tree will sort of ripple out and effect all the other parts of my Christmas too.  That would be ok.

For your viewing enjoyment here are some pictures of Christmas trees we have had over the years.





Those trees were fine.  But I always wanted something GRAND.  Beautiful and sophisticated and Glamorous and Breathtaking.  And I couldn't ever do it.  My favorite trees at the Festival of Trees were always the ones with huge ornaments and beauty and grace and a touch of whimsy.  And I bought a few huge ornaments, but it was never good enough.  I just couldn't accomplish what I envisioned.   And it seemed to be made worse by my unfinished Family Room, which made me very angry at the room for not being done yet. Stupid Room!  It was ruining Christmas!

Richard has long preferred colored lights on a tree.  And as inflexible as I am, I finally gave in, even though they are neither sophisticated nor grand.  We have adopted this new method of compromise when it comes to our tastes and opinions, since we both have them.  We take turns.  This year we’ll decorate the tree the way HE likes it, and next year it is my turn again, etc., etc.

So we put colored lights on the tree.  And then started hanging some of our many Christmas balls, but after just one bag full Richard said that was enough.  Really?  I've got a giant box full of these things.  That is all you want?  Yeah, he said.  They are all just too fancy for him.   

So then we pulled out the little box of ornaments from down at the bottom of the Christmas tub, the ones that never get used.  The ones that didn't fit into any style or color theme I ever had going on.  The ones I got from people on my mission.  The ones Harrison made in school and in church.  The ones that have been given to us as gifts in Christmas past.  And as we hung them I realized how sad it is that I've never used them before.  I've never even hung my own son’s handmade ornaments on the tree because they didn't match.  My dumb stuck-up tree was always too full of itself to let those who were different into its little clique.  What an arrogant, elitist tree!  

Then I started thinking how fun it would be to finally make some of those great handmade ornaments I've seen on pinterest.  And how cool it would be to give the boys an ornament each Christmas as a memento of the year.  And with all these personalized, unique ornaments, our tree could grow with our family and act as a cone-shaped scrapbook of our life together.  Maybe, just maybe, my tree shouldn't be a symbol of style and sophistication, but of our family.

This feels very right to me.  And was probably obvious to everyone else, but it has taken me 10 years to get here.  And I like it.   It sits warm deep in my belly and makes the coming holiday feel simple and exciting.  So now I’m thinking the colored lights might stay. 

But now I’m also stuck with Richard having the ultimate say of what goes on the tree for the rest of the year.  Do you think I could talk him into letting us put a paper chain on it?  Maybe a string of popcorn?

Colored lights are pretty homey, aren't they? 

And sometimes they make your house look like a Sci-Fi Disco Party. 



A Single Act of Kindess

December 11, 2012

I want to say 2 things.

1. SNOW.

Right?  Do you ever think, “Oh, its snowing.  I guess I'm not going anywhere till Spring.”  Yeah.  Me too.  Snow should be enjoyed from inside the house sitting in front of a fire holding a mug of hot cocoa.  If that means I am turning into an old lady then fine by me. 

2. Sundays are rough.  I was gonna make a joke about how maybe that is just me and all of you probably find it very easy and relaxing, but what is the point?  Sundays are rough sometimes and everybody knows it.

My husband is in meetings all morning so I’m getting the kids ready by myself.  Which is fine.  Except that I’m still not that good at it.  And even with church starting at 11:00, and even if I give myself plenty of time to get ready, just getting my boys dressed and out the door is harrowing, at best.  

This particular snowy morning as I tried to get my boys clothed in a timely fashion my 2-year-old was furious with me because I insisted on putting his socks on his feet, instead of on his hands where he wanted them.  How can they be Batman gloves if they are on his feet?  And THEN I had to go and put his belt on his pants, of all the horrendous places, instead of around his head like a Batman mask.  How could I be so cruel? 

Fighting with him is exhausting, and all the while I was still trying to get the 5 year old to put his own clothes on which was only made difficult by the fact that he wouldn't stop jumping on the couch.  YOU try to get dressed while jumping on a trampoline sometime.  It isn't easy.  When they were finally dressed and it was time to put my own shoes on I was ready to crawl into bed. 

Knowing that I've first got to scrape the snow off my car so that I can head to church to wrestle with my boys for over an hour isn't a really strong motivator, so I was just trying to bear myself up for the battle ahead as I grabbed my bag and keys.  Then I heard Harrison shout from outside, “Mommy!  Someone’s helping us!”

I stepped outside to see the man who lives across the street cleaning the snow off my car.  He had been out shoveling his driveway, had seen that we were getting ready to leave and had simply helped. 

I was very touched, and thanked him and he said, “Aw, you shouldn't have to do this in your church clothes.”   He finished cleaning off the car while I loaded the kids into their seats.  And then I thanked him several times again and we were off. 

Obviously I had not been in the best mood.  Obviously I was going to be horrible company and was not going to get anything out of church and everyone was going to end the day miserable.  But my friendly neighbor changed everything when he decided to do something nice for me, just for the heck of it.  

The power of a single act of kindness.  It is huge.  More far reaching than we are capable of seeing.  I could say lots of other things now about its hugeness and far-reachingness, but I want you all to go home and think of your own things to say, and then find someone to say them to, cuz I have to go to bed.

Thanks again nice neighbor!  I'm still in a good mood.  I think you brightened my whole winter.  


Spelling and Singing

December 02, 2012

The kids and I were just standing out on the porch talking to a neighbor and Harrison got all chatty.
"I am in Kindergarten now."
"I am 5 years old."
"My mom named me Harrison.  H-A-R-R. . . I-S. . .O-N."

I started to cry.  I didn't know he could do that.  I guess somebody is teaching him something.

Colin likes to sing in the car.  It is the cutest sweetest thing.  Of course I can't catch it on video, because if he has the slightest clue there is a camera around, he stops singing.    Yestereday the song went something like this, "Daddy candy meoooow!  Grandma  caaaat!  Me Batmaaan!"

Today in the car Colin was singing again, "Me sing Christmas Song.  Mee siing Christmaas Sooong!"


Halloween 2012

November 07, 2012

This year we had 2 Batmen.  One just wasn't going to be enough for our crime fighting needs.

Colin has been telling me he was batman for months.  Harrison changed his mind about what he wanted to be nearly every day.

For a while Harrison was pretty determined to be Captain America, but eventually he settled on Batman, which I was glad for, cuz Captain America would have been so much harder to make.  

Don't listen to what the naysayers tell you.  Two Batmen are better than one!



November 05, 2012

Harrison's usual prayer is: "Thank you for bless Mommy and Daddy and Harrison and Colin.  Name of Jesus Christ, Amen."  He always wants to say it because he knows if he does it will be a short one.  So we encourage him to think about what he is going to say and add some more things from time to time.  Sometimes he does.  Sometimes he doesn't.

The other night his prayer was more like this, "Thank you for bless Mommy, and thank you for bless Daddy, and thank you for bless Harrison and thank you for bless Colin.  And thank you I saying this great prayer."

So clearly we are getting through to him.

Senor Harrison!


More Knock Knock Jokes

November 01, 2012

Here is the current knock knock joke:

H: Knock Knock
C:  Who dere?
H: Nana poo poo
C: Nana poo poo who?
H: Nana poo poo batman!
C: Nana poo poo batman who?
H: Nana poo poo batman that silly!

Today Colin was telling me this one:

C: Knock knock
Me:Who's There?
C: Nana (I don't know why they all start with Nana, but they do.)
Me: Nana Who?
C: Nana Mommy (or Daddy, or Train.)

which he thought was hilarious.


Oh what do we do in the Autumn Time?

October 05, 2012

Each day Colin picks a few little toys or other odds and ends that he carries around with him all day.  he has to set everything down to be able to do anything, but he'll always pick them up again as soon as his hands are free.  Yesterday it was a little wooden hammer and a rock.  The day before that was a little Batman, a domino and an old key.    Earlier this week he carried around with him a big plastic toy chainsaw that was Richard's when he was a kid.  He calls it his knife.  Today it is a penny, an old calculator of Richards, a little toy plane that makes noises and a magnetic R.  It is more than his little hands will hold, so he's been carrying them around in a Bob the Builder hard hat.

Harrison has started telling jokes.  Here are a few of the best:
"What did the Cow say to the Chicken?  How you doing on the eggs?"
"What did the dog say to the chicken?  Want to play Hide and Go Chicken seek?"

Lately he's been telling knock knock jokes, which are mostly just nonsense
"Knock, knock."
"Who's there?"
"Me who?"
"Me you are who?"

Colin has gotten in on the knock knock joke action too.  They will sit around telling knock knock jokes to each other.

Harrison:  "Knock Knock"
Colin "Bear?" (or something like that)
Harrison: "Me"
Colin: "Ohh."

Colin:"knock knock"
Harrison "Who's there?"
Harrison "nana who?"
Colin: "ha ha hah ha ha!"

On Monday we went out for our Annual Halloween Farm Night.  Here are the pics:

 That picture was supposed to be cute like the one of Richard and Colin.


The no toys follow up.

September 29, 2012

Did you notice in the post about my boys room that there was no toy organizer? No giant shelf to put all the crappy toys in?  Because after the Great Toy Confiscation of 2012, I never went back.

I took all their toys away and put them in plastic bags and they just didn't seem to care.  And I realized that they just don't need that many toys.   So did I get rid of them all?  Nope.  They stayed tied up in their huge black garbage bags for about a month.  It took that long for me to be prepared to really face getting rid of them.

So I took those garbage bags and sorted.  Without my kids around, cuz you know every broken toy they've never shown the least interest in is suddenly their favorite if you want to get rid of it.  I sorted out the stuff they never play with or the toys that drive me crazy.  It was hard, cuz I have the toys I like, you know, which they may not care that much about.  I weeded out about half of the toys.  Then I had to run them by my husband, because he really hates getting rid of stuff, and he wanted to verify that I wasn't throwing too many memories away.  Even so, I know he thinks I am cold-hearted because I don't get sentimental about stuff the way he does.

I got rid of the throw aways and put the rest in tubs and left those in my room for another month.

The beauty of this process is that getting rid of toys doesn't have to mean Getting Rid of ALL Your Kid's Toys.  You don't have to get rid of anything.  Just take them out of the picture for a little while.  Or a long while.  As long as you want.  If  you can't bring yourself to get rid of your kid's toys, then don't.  Just hide them in the garage for a couple of months and then see how you feel about it.

I finally paired it all down to two tubs.  One tub with toys that they just don't play with much, but I couldn't quite bring myself to get rid of, and I stuck them in the attic.  The other tub would be their very favorites, but after a couple months of no toys, with them never asking for one of them, it was a little hard to decide.   That tub gets shut away somewhere they can't get to, but is really easy to pull out whenever we want.  Most of the time it just stays in their closet.

So now it is several months later, and I haven't looked back.  I LOVE not picking up toys.  My house is cleaner, there is more peace.  A few toys have managed to surface over time and they are just kept in a drawer in the living room where they can get to whenever they want.  And they still pull those out and leave them on the floor, but there just aren't that many, so it isn't a big deal.

I wish I could tell you that my children have a greater appreciation for what they have, and are more grateful for what I give them, and more respectful of our things, but none of those things is true.  I think that all required more wisdom and skill as a mother than I possess.  There really is no discernible difference in my children now, and my children when they were wading through toys up to their ankles.   So if there is no difference, what the heck did I buy all those toys for?

The real difference is me.  There are no more toys to make me crazy.  The messes are always manageable so telling my kids to pick up their toys doesn't overwhelm them.

And THAT makes all the difference in the world.


Sleeping Dogs Lie

September 22, 2012

Sometimes what they show on TV or in the movies isn't real.  Did you know that?  Sorry to drop a bomb on you like that, but it's better that you knew.  Things just don't always work out like they do in the movies.  You know, like when the CSI lab gets their results back in just a few hours because a hot field agent asked for it.  Or when they show hot field agents working in a CSI lab.   Or when girls who have been stranded on a desert island, or who are traveling through the wilderness always seem to have beautiful hair no matter what they have to go through.

Or when they show people sleeping like this:

Just pretend like her hair is cascading beautifully down the pillow and she isn't suffering from balloon head and see how peacefully they are sleeping mere inches from each other faces?


That sleeping position is a lie perpetrated by the media!

Maybe it is just me, but in my relationship, that DOES NOT HAPPEN.  I don't like breathing reconstituted air.  I don't like hot air blowing in my face.

And mostly, my husband and I don't want to smell each other's face wind.

They show couples sleeping that way, so sweetly all night long, waking up in that position to smile lovingly at each other, and then maybe kiss oh so chastely (that is the kind of shows I watch, ok) but in reality, even if a couple managed to stay in that position all night (not in a million years), that little pocket of air between them would be like a cloud of toxic fumes.

It seems like the older I get, the worse my morning breath gets.  These days my breath in the morning is like a weapon.  I could incapacitate an enemy at 10 paces just by blowing them a kiss.  Which I guess could come in handy sometimes.  Maybe that is my super power.  A blessing and a curse.

Remember when you were a kid and your breath and your armpits always smelled sweet?  (not to mention the way your body DIDN'T hurt all the time) I knew getting older was going to be rough, but I just never bargained for this.  If my breath is this bad NOW, what is it going to be like when I am 80?  I'm only 34.  That is like 50 more years of stink collecting in the back of my throat!

And once again I feel it necessary to remind you that I really am quite a lovely person, despite the breath threat.  Just don't sleep in my face.  Something bad might happen to you.


The Living Room

September 20, 2012

I'm supposed to be cleaning my kitchen.  But I sat down in front of my computer and I can't get up again.  It is just as well though, because I'm sure you are all dying to know what is up with my living room floor.  So I'm gonna tell you.  But let's start at the beginning, shall we?  Come with me on a Journey in Pictures, while we watch this room grow from a tiny bud into the great big ol' blossom of a room that it is now.  You should maybe turn on some Kenny G. or something.

Here is the living room before we bought the house.  And that is my husband checking for a body, or very large rodents:

Then after buying the house the living room was filled with lots of junk for a while:

and one very depressed plant.

Then we cleared it out.  And I got lots of dust in my camera.

We tore out the ceiling so we could run the wiring:

and then removed the wallpaper, the chimney and then the carpet.

 After putting drywall up and patching all the plaster

we painted the walls and finished the floor.

And then we filled it up with furniture.

That picture was taken in 2005.  And besides a few minor changes, that is how the room stayed until labor day weekend, 2012

when the floor came flying right out of the room!

And at this point you may be asking Why?  Why did you tear out your floor?  Was it really on the whim of a deranged lazy woman who just didn't want to clean it?  Or was it something more?

Well folks, I'll tell you, since you asked.  But please don't call me deranged again.  1) the floor that we spent so much time sanding down, staining and finishing, while pretty, was only ever meant to be a subfloor, and the wood was just too soft.  It dinged and scratched like nobody's business.  2) the joists holding the floor up were rotting and falling apart.  A Minor detail maybe, but my husband was concerned, so I humored him.    3) to more easily insulate the heat ducts (as seen above) and install the very fancy new piece my husband built out of sheet metal for the air return.  This is the best picture I got of it

Which doesn't even show you that it bends backwards under the floor in a tricky L shape and we never could have gotten it in with the floor there.  This picture just doesn't do it justice.  My husband is a flipping genius.

4) As a bonus, after tearing up the floor we found this joist that had secretly quit its job as floor-holder-upper  and was just hanging out in arcades and stuff.  I think the duct work was the only thing holding it up at this point:

 Can you see?  See how it is just floating there?  Fun Stuff.

Finally, we got the new floor down.  And by new floor I don't mean flooring, I just mean floor, that we can walk on and stand on and not fall through.

And here is how the room looks today:

Ah.  Breath taking.  There is something about pink flowers paired with orange stripes that just resonates with me, you know?  Wait.  I don't think resonates is the right word.  More like. . . nauseates.  yeah.  That is more like it.  This room is the perfect example of how certain pieces combined with other certain peices just don't work.

I have a very clear picture in my mind of how I want this room to look.  But I find I have no idea how to make it happen.  Even with different furniture, I can't figure out how to use the stuff I have that I like and create the room I want.  Do I have to throw everything out and start over?  That sounds pretty expensive.  What is a cheapskate to do?