Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Take a Moment...

In this fast-paced, technology-driven, economically flat-lined world, it is reassuring to know that one thing remains constant: Christmas. I know, I know, many of you are reading that line thinking, what could be more stressful and economically crippling than Christmas?? I am very aware of the distress this holiday can put on many of us but I am asking that for five minutes, take a moment to reflect on the wonder of it all.

Our world is governed by that next best thing...the next best PC, the next best Mp3 player, the next best relationship....whatever it may be, we are all looking toward something instead of directly at what is within our reach. Christmas, as crazy as the shopping and preparing can be, brings us all back a peg. For the 25 days in December leading up to this day, we are all either in the moment or brought back to a magical past. We may be purchasing those "next best things" to place beneath our trees, but when it comes to the spirit of the season, we are surrounded by sounds, images and feelings that have been with many of us for most of our lives.

The day after Thanksgiving, two local radio stations began their Christmas marathons. They played Christmas music all day long. You don't get too many new Christmas songs. The songs are classics, sung by some of the greatest singers of our time. I sing these songs with my children in the car and we never tire of them. Although I did hear a new one the other day, I believe by Jack Johnson, that was quite good. Even new however, it still had the same central themes: peace, love, joy, magic.

Stringing the lights...we all hate to do it, but we all do it, don't we? Lights have jazzed up a bit in recent years but they are basically the same. And we all still enjoy seeing them through the streets. You would think, after all of these years, that would get old. But those lights still stir some emotions for many of us, especially children. My children LOVE the lights...the gaudier the better.

If you do have children, what did you read to them tonight? I pulled out our copy of The Night Before Christmas and my own personal childhood favorite, The Santa Claus Book (I think it was the little puppy that got me.). How far do these stories date back? I looked at the inside cover of The Santa Claus Book to find it is 3 years older than I and Clement C. Moore's beloved poem was published in 1882. When I rifle through our baskets of holiday books, many of the stories are classics. Sure we have a couple of Maisys and some Little Critters but all of them revolve around the magic of this special night.

Christmas season is also a huge cartoon time. We have been watching a Christmas movie just about each night (thanks to my wonderful father who has taped so many for our enjoyment). Every Christmas movie we have watched is one of the classic Rankin/Bass productions of my childhood. My children are transfixed by them, just like my husband and I were as kids. I savor these moments together. I am surrounded by my youngest and oldest, each on one side, as close as they can get. Their blankets and stuffed animals in their arms. My middle guy isn't one for cuddling during a movie, he needs to be on his feet to make a quick exit in case of anything remotely frightful. And my husband provides the occasional meant for me humorous quip. These movies couldn't be more different from the wacky, ADHD inducing cartoons my son watches on Saturday mornings. They are gentle, calm, and full of song. And yet they still speak to this generation. This generation which is so used to battling with cards and creatures and technology-led entertainment. This generation still believes.

Santa. They still believe in Santa. He is as real to them as he was to me. We left him cake, milk and carrots for his reindeer (9 carrots to be exact--Alex was very fastidious about how many there were--of course one of the carrots was bitten and then spit back out on the plate by Sam, but they're reindeer, I am sure they won't mind.). Alex wrote a very well mannered note for Mr. and Mrs. C. explaining these snacks (even the bite) and giving his thanks. Santa Claus has endured IPods and IPhones, PCs and satellite radio. I expect he will endure TVs transformation to digital (as long as he gets a cable converter box that the networks are peddling continuously). In fact he even brings these things to our older children. Wow. He must have one hell of a PR team.

So, Christmas has prevailed. It's survived the good, bad and ugly in our world. And even though it can be stressful, I would like to think that it brings a kind of innocence to us all. It helps us remember what we have and what we came from. That said, I am going to watch It's a Wonderful Life (circa 1946) while my husband and I fill stockings and stack presents under the tree. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Baby Boycott

My recently turned three year old has decided to boycott everything baby. "I am NOT a baby. I'm a wegular tid." (translation: regular kid) Today, after stopping in at my mom and dad's house to rescue Emma's "Boo-Boo" from his night away from his Emmy (Truth be told, I think I missed that little blue monkey more than she did.), my mom sent me off with "Bye, baby! See you tomorrow!" I wave and start to pull away when from the backseat I hear, "NANA! My mom is NOT a baby!! She's a dirl!" (translation: girl) So indignant for such a little bab--sorry--kid. I laughed out loud and tried to explain to him that I will always be Nana's baby, no matter how old or big I get. I looked in the rearview mirror, caught the crossed arms, furrowed brow. He wasn't buying it. Take two..."Sam, just like no matter how big you get, you will always be my baby in my heart." Obviously, those child psych classes I took in college didn't have a syllabus bullet on toddler negotiations, either that or I had skipped that class. "MOM! I am donna drow up and be a big fireman, NOT a baby!" (You may be getting that many of Sam's consonants are not mastered...for instance g's usually sound like d's. That noted, translations are no longer necessary.) Glutton for punishment, I went in for take three: "Sam, even when you are a big, brave fireman, saving people from their burning homes and rescuing cats from trees, you will still be my baby because I will always remember." The conversation came to an abrupt end with "I'm donna punish you, mom. That's it--do in time out!" Welcome to life with a three year old.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Humbling Holidays

Here comes yet another holiday season. Here at the Gracia house we are actually getting festive earlier than usual. Tree's up, lights are on. Even drove through towns looking at lights and listening to Christmas music this evening (while fleeing one more uninterested realtor and buyer). The boys and I baked enough sugar cookies to feed Glen's office, a friend's family of 7, and our own brood. Glen and I have everything ready to go on Amazon. Just one click and Santa's parcels are on their way. Thank God for internet shopping. Honestly, what do people get out of the hustle bustle, lack of parking, and crying, tired children at the mall?? I am looking forward to going out to pick up a couple of things and truly enjoying the decorations, mall Santas, and music without the plethora of bags and lines--everything in moderation as they say.

My holiday accomplish it with as little stress and as much joy as possible. I want to sit back with cups of cocoa, look at the tree and read Christmas stories to our three darlings without our minds running. Everyday is taken up with so many responsibilities. Laundry to fold when my 3 year old looks at me with his serious blue eyes to ask, "Mommy, can you play with me?" Or a dishwasher to empty when my 6 year old wants one more hug. And then the little princess of the house parks herself on my lap, book in hand, fully understanding that yes, she does get attention pretty easily. (She doesn't leave many opportunities available to eschew her advances.) Our little ones are growing too fast and I just want to take this holiday season slowly, bask in the glow of the multi-colored lights and watch them enjoy each magical moment. I want to find myself more often than not, saying yes to their requests. Not for the toys but for the time. Twenty years from now, the gifts will be long forgotten, but the time spent cuddling, reading, playing castle, transformers, or kitchen dancing will live on in my adult children's minds. That is my gift to them this year.