Monday, December 29, 2008

Tradition: Tree

I wouldn't dream of boring you with my thoughts concerning heritage. But suffice it to say I've actually thought about it many times and in great details. Like I said before, I will spare you that, for now. But what I will not spare you is the idea that occasionally I feel more Swedish than others. Every year I vow that I will try to stay in the Christmas spirit until January 14--Knut's Day--the day in Sweden appointed to discard the Christmas tree and devour all the edible decorations.

While I dream that this is quite an occasion, I wake up Dec. 29 with an overwhelming desire to take down that damn tree... and the garlands... and the lights... and the hurricanes filled with glass ornaments... and the miniature trees... and the numerous creches... and...

So despite that fact that my heart palpitates every time I see an IKEA, I might not be as Swedish as I wish. But I am still toying with the idea of dressing as "Old Knut" and playing practical jokes on my kids. Because seriously, how fun is that?!?!!? And like a good Swede, I do make a promise to my big 'ol artificial tree that we will be reunited in one year -- for better, or for worse. Now, give me the vacuum and get out of my way.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Letters to Santa

Dear Santa,
It is with full hearts that we open this -- our final correspondence for the year. We appreciate that you overlooked some of our shortcomings and visited our house anyway. We were already feeling like our lives were abundant, and were completely thrilled to wake up Christmas morning to a house full of screams, squeals, and peals of laughter.

I guess you heard that mom was pretty broken hearted to discover we found and then promptly broke the pickles ornament. Two little boys have a way of shattering traditions. So also wanted to follow up and see how you liked our new tradition. After finding a perfectly droll tin tube with the words LETTERS TO SANTA stamped across it, we thought we'd start leaving you messages this way on Christmas Eve. As a family we enjoyed thinking about what we had done in the past year, listing those accomplishments and then listing a few goals for the coming year. Consider it back up for when your Naughty n Nice software crashes.

Thanks and see ya next year.

PS -- We're going to leave those letters in there until Christmas Eve of next year when we write new ones. That way we'll be able to check up on ourselves.

Enclosed: Copies of Letters to Santa

Cooper's Accomplishments of 2008
-Count to 100
-Earn 2 ribbons in swimming
-Make lots of new friends
-Started printing
-Played soccer
-Started using a chore chart
-Learning to save money
-Can write my own name
-Riding a bike (with training wheels)

Cooper's Goals for 2009
-Earn 2 more ribbons in swimming
-Start school
-Learn phone number
-Learn address
-Count to 200

Mason's Accomplishments of 2008
-Started walking
-Started talking
-Fell in love with Star Wars
-Fan of all superheroes
-Recognized the letter "M"
-Fantastic artist
-Started preschool at Ann's
-Learned how to put things away

Mason's Goals for 2009
-Get potty trained
-Count to 25
-Learn ABCs
-Start learning letter sounds
-Start going to gym class

Monday, December 22, 2008

Shoes Off

You know how when some people come to your house they walk in and immediately ask if they should take off their shoes? This is such a kind gesture and one I rarely think of when I go to other people's houses. The answer to this question is tricky for me. I always want people to feel comfortable in my home. If that means they want to leave shoes on, then they can leave shoes on. If they want to take shoes off, then they can take shoes off. I honestly DO NOT care. But, I always hesitate before I answer.

The problem lies in the fact that I think it's a liability to be in my home without your shoes on. Seriously. From the LEGOS that feel like shards of glass to the actual shards of glass, it's really taking on a lot of risk to run around my house sans shoes. There you have it, the general disclaimer for hanging out in my house. Take off your shoes and you might cut your feet on something. So, it is with little shame that I reveal to you yet another hazard of our humble household.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tweet Treat

The personalities that come standard issue on my boys are as different as Lightening McQueen and Tow Mater from cars. While Cooper empathizes with the freezing birds outside, Mason will chase them away. As Mason gobbles the mixings for our pine cone bird feeders, Coop rolls his eyes and says things like, "Mom! Make him stop, that's really gross." The bird feeder that Cooper made was painstakingly pressed together, each raisin and pine nut precariously positioned for optimum feeding. Mason's bird feeder was really just a collection of what was left on his plate after he finished off the snacks himself.

I'm not sure the birds have taken notice of the pine cones hanging in our yard. But every day we check.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tradition: Christmas Books

I think on some level we grow up thinking the traditions we carry on and develop in our families are unique. So it is a rude awakening to join another family through marriage and discover that everyone basically does the same thing. Nonetheless, I carry on and I'm teaching my kids traditions that I tell them are long-standing family traditions that are special to our family. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

One tradition that we follow is that my mother and father give the boys a new Christmas themed children's book every year. I've made a little stack of them in the back of the closet and we don't bring them out until December. (Ironically enough -- and you didn't see this coming, I'm sure -- my husband's family follows the same tradition so we usually get a Christmas-themed Children's book from them, too.)

Each night I permit the kids to pick out a Christmas book and we read about snowflakes, gingerbread, reindeer, and Santa. It's really starting to get me in the Christmas spirit. But while I've been slow to shake my Bah-humbugness this year, the boys' cups of steaming Christmas cocoa spirit is overflowing and has been for about five days. The next eight should be interesting.

What's the use of waiting for Christmas? Is it really a tortuous scheme to teach children patience? Hmmmm. Noodle that over when you literally see an "I can't wait for Christmas" aneurism brewing in their brains.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


As many people across the country loose their jobs the tornado of news and reports is grim. Even for our family, I think it scares us that our friends, our neighbors, or even we could loose our incomes. Perhaps to feel better, to feel more informed or more prepared I've been listening to NPR day and night. And one story has me so worked up.

Of course it outlined the current job market in the United States and ended with an expert literally saying, "There is not enough work to do." I guess he doesn't live at my house. One thing is for sure, in the coming year people living in the U.S. will learn what that really means. But I believe there is plenty of work to be done. There may not be enough compensation, but there is always enough work to go around.

Our inability to work for the sake of working is one of the reasons we're in the situation we're in now. Households have stopped doing for themselves. How many people do you know who raise their own vegetables, bake their own bread, can their own food, sew their own clothes, clean their own houses, cut their own grass. There is an art to domesticity and it has been lost in this country. There are a few pockets remaining, here and there, and these individuals are to be admired for the value they place in doing for themselves -- even when they can afford to pay someone else to do it.

There is no shame in doing the simple, menial tasks of running your home. There is enough work. Do it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

You Know You've Grown When...

Sometimes it's best to listen to the zipper. Somehow Cooper wedged himself into this little space guy suit. (I think he'd surprised even himself by how much he's grown in the past few months.) Then when he'd had about enough and had actually started to complain of tingling in some of his body parts I tried to get him out of it. The zipper was stuck! I had a few sweaty moments of "omg how do I get him out of this!?!??!" We really must make it to the museum more frequently.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tucked In

I have many times tucked my boys into bed. On the eves of their birthdays is always a special night. The routine is always the same. I kiss and hug them and bid farewell. In the case of Cooper this year I said, "Good bye 3 year old Cooper." Then when they wake up the next morning they are another year older. It's just that simple. We put our babies to bed and they wake up a little bigger every morning.

Tonight, however, I slipped into Cooper's room after he had fallen asleep. He has had a huge day as a 4 year old. Next to him in bed I found a storm trooper (thanks Isernhagens), an I SPY book (thanks go-go), a lego guy and motorcycle (thanks Kirks), and a new Leapster. I found it amusing that he tried to squeeze every last minute of play into today -- his first day of 4.

I do not remember turning 4, I doubt he will. But I so wish he could. Today he scampered into our bedroom and woke us up with an excited, "It's my birthday." Then he crawled atop the covers and asked to watch cartoons. While we readied the kitchen for our traditional family birthday breakfast he waited patiently in our bed, not wanting to spoil his own surprise (how conscientious).

The next few hours were a whirlwind of wrapping paper, German pancakes, and toys -- all the while Mason humming a running soundtrack of the music of Star Wars. Then it was off to swimming school where Cooper jumped off the dock toward the teacher for the first time. By this I mean she asked him to swim toward her -- rather than holding him up while he tries to swim. He promptly sank to the bottom like a rock but he gave it a great 4 year old effort with the type of bravery that wasn't there yesterday.

With only an hour to spare between swim school and party time we all dressed up as pirates to fulfill Cooper's wish to have a pirate party. The house was bedecked in skull and crossbones and the first guest to arrive was Captain Hook (his grandma go-go). As the children arrived we asked them to wear some pirate props. Admittedly the party was pretty low key and ended with a grand finale of Cooper and two of his friends jumping on packing bubbles.

The evening was spent opening -- of all things -- some Christmas presents. I know he enjoyed this first day of 4. During the party when asked if he was having a good time he said, "Let's just start over." It was that good. He was ready to just hit rewind and begin, again. And it was on this high that Cooper was asked to go to bed and wait for day two of his fourth year to begin. He's wonderful, confident, and growing bigger and brighter with each new day.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Vacation is friendship. Your vacation may include just you and your husband and a time to get reacquainted. Perhaps you're on vacation with the gals from your old dorm. You are old friends and you are finding new reasons to continue being friends. And maybe you're on vacation with people you don't know at all and you find something in common. Something that links you. Cooper found a friend on vacation.Thanks Joel.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Playing Games

Poker. Wii. Risk. Guesstures. Sorry. Scene It. Hungry, Hungry HIppos.

Break 'em out, because vacations are for playing games. When my husband tells stories of his childhood they always revolve around one thing -- games. I know that playing games with your friends and family build amazing memories. On our recent vacation with a group of friends who had all been together and played games together many times, it was obvious that the fun they had while playing games had binded them together.

Let's say I were to shout, "Hurdles!" in a crowd. People would turn, look at me and assume I have Turret's Syndrome. When "Hurdles!" was shouted amongst this group, one of the more collected, brilliant -- and for all intents and purposes -- mild mannered men, jumped up and pantomimed an athlete running hurdles. We yelped in laughter. This, is why games are important.

Well, we played games. The kids played games. The grown ups played games. I even dealt a hand of poker -- a first for me.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Time to Reflect

Vacations are ultimately about being alone with your own thoughts. Ideally you'll have a moment when you are truly off the grid -- no cell phones, no T.V., no computers -- and you can think, read, sew, stare into space. Even with technology at hand, if you can just give yourself a break from talking and sit in silence it is good for the soul -- my soul, anyway.

Turns out my kids found a little solace on the trip, as well.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


The practice of trying new traditions is like opening a gift. At first you're worried it won't fit, only to find out it's perfect. Our family has never had a Thanksgiving pinata. Never. We've broken a few in our day -- at random birthday parties and one other time on the 4th of July -- but we never thought to extend the joy of exploding balls of candy to November for a post feast diversion.

Vacation is new.

Ironically enough the vacation we just had was spent with a large group of people who have been spending Thanksgiving in the mountains TOGETHER for the past 11 years. So basically, I'm pretty sure the only thing new for them, was us. I was so impressed that these families had stayed together, played games together, and enriched their friendships with the tradition of going to the mountains for Thanksgiving for that many years.

Everything they planned was old to them and new to us. We'd never vacationed in our beautiful Colorado mountains during the winter. We'd never gone on a vacation that didn't include our extended family on Thanksgiving. In essence the entire experience was new. We felt like freshmen at orientation. Remember how fun that day is?

On orientation day you feel like you've just stepped out into the sunshine of good fortune. You've arrived with your pencils sharpened, your textbooks neatly covered in Broulim's brown paper grocery bags, no less than 13 spiral notebooks in your backpack, and a kitten TrapperKeeper left over from 8th grade that you're hoping is cool enough. It's a big day.

It was with this same enthusiasm that we packed for our adventure in the mountains. And when on the first night we were introduced to the tradition of breaking open a pinata after Thanksgiving dinner, it was fantastic. (Note to self, pinatas are perfect at any time of year.)
While all these things were new to us I was absolutely transfixed to discover that some of these folks have known each other since freshmen orientation day! I couldn't tell you where any of the people are who I sat next to at freshman orientation day. Actually, thanks to facebook I can, and let me tell you, it ain't pretty. (Note to facebook weirdos, I don't think "status" is about details, I think it's intended for broader announcements. Think BIG picture. Because seriously, I don't care that you ate peanut butter and jelly for a midnight snack and are now thinking about chocolate cake.)