December 27, 2011

On the Third Day of Christmas

my true love gave to meeee...
a bucket 'cause we have the stomach fluuuu!!!

Everybody sing!



Well, there are still nine days left. I shall just have to hold out hope for those.

Merry Christmas Anyway

It's not as if I spent no time WHAT-SO-EVER pondering the holy mystery of the Incarnation of Christ. I did, in fact, have some beautiful reflections on this sacred feast of the Birth of Our Lord. I even considered sharing a couple of them. But, you see, I live in a zoo. Amidst the incense and greenery, the beautiful hymns and candle-lit Nativity scenes, dwells my nutty little family.

Tonight around the dining room table, smack in the middle of our Second-Day-of-Christmas/Feast of St. Stephen dinner, there occurred a moment that will be recounted in our family circle for years to come.

I happened to mention to my husband, just in passing, mind you, that the Harlem Globetrotters would be visiting a nearby city, and I wondered aloud if the kids would enjoy their show. When one of the boys asked who the Globetrotters were, another child spoke up to remind him of an old 70's cartoon they had watched which featured the entertaining basketball team.

"Of course we wouldn't get to see the same players shown in the cartoon," their Daddy interjected. "I'm not sure any of them are still alive."

"You mean the Globetrotters are dead?" David wanted to know. He sounded upset.

Matt thought for a moment. "I know at least one of them has died. I'm not sure, but in any case they have new players now."

"Yeah," Brendan chimed in. "That cartoon was kind of old - like The Three Stooges."

"The Three Stooges are dead!?!" Alex asked, distressed. He and David looked to be on the verge of tears. What was going on in their little heads?

"Honey, it's a really old show..." I tried to reason with him. David pulled his shirt over his eyes. I looked at my husband. "Oh my goodness. Do something."

Brendan decided to try again. "Guys, you know those shows were made a long time ago. Just because they're still on TV doesn't mean the people are still around. Remember when I told you about the man who did the voice of Bugs Bunny?"

"BUGS BUNNY'S DEAD!?!" Mary wailed, bursting into tears.

That was it. I lost it. I couldn't help it. The harder I tried not to laugh the worse it got. I put my hands over my mouth while tears streamed down my cheeks. Mary thought I was crying about poor Bugs Bunny and cried even harder. I put my head down on the table, my shoulders shaking as Matt did his best to comfort the children in mourning. Oh, yeah. I've got that Mother of the Year award nailed.

Excuse me, can I have a do-over?

It's a good thing we have twelve full days to celebrate Christmas. That gives me ten more chances to refocus our family on Jesus' birthday and all that that means.

Until then: Merry Christmas, Bugs Bunny. May you rest in peace.

December 23, 2011

The Christmas Story

Reading Between The Lines

I tried to reason with him. I tried explaining things to him using small words and lots of hand gestures, but, oddly, he didn't seem to understand.

"Joey," I said. "Mommy has so many things to do right now. I would like nothing better than to hold you in my arms all day long, but I simply can't. We have guests coming. Rooms need to be cleaned, food prepared, gifts wrapped. Don't you think you can be content playing with your toys for a little while so I can get some work done?"

As I looked into his little eyes staring up at me I could see understanding and compassion for his weary mama dawn on his face.

"Why yes, Mother," I could almost hear him say. "I could sit and play quietly, leaving you to your Christmas preparations, but you see, I'm teething. I simply cannot be out of your arms at all today. I do so truly appreciate the sacrifice you are making, forgoing all else you need to accomplish. The fact that you are here, nursing me, instead of cooking and cleaning makes me love you even more."

Okay, so he was nursing with a big scowl on his brow, whacking my face with his hands, and making grumpy noises at me, but sometimes a mother has to read between the lines. I knew what he meant. It will give me comfort when my guests arrive and discover we are eating Christmas dinner out on the front porch, 'cause the dining room is still a mess.

December 21, 2011

Papa, It's Cold Outside

The telephone call went something like this:

Papa: Is it very cold, yet?

Alex: Really cold.

Papa: Do you like the cold?

Alex: No!

Papa: I knew you were the smart one.

My warm-weather-dwelling-can't-stand-being-cold Papa is still amazed his daughter (That's me!), son-in-law, and grandchildren have chosen such a cold place to to live. "You really like it, huh?" he asks, puzzled.

Perhaps I should clarify something for my Papa. It's not the cold that keeps us here. None of us like being cold. We do not like cold fingers and toes... and arms... and legs... and faces... We do not enjoy scraping ice off frozen windshields or driving on icy roads. We aren't happy about the need to pull on snow boots and several layers of clothing just to retrieve mail from the mailbox out front. It's not the cold we love, rather we love this place in spite of it.

When I was growing up winter meant fog so thick at times you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. Now it means bright white that shimmers and shines as though someone has sprinkled sparkly glitter over the whole outdoors. Oooo! And icicles. It's just so pretty! Especially when viewed from the window - while wrapped in a blanket, sipping hot tea, and yelling for someone to please turn the heater up.

Because of snow, the kids cannot ride their bikes, but sledding wears them out faster anyway. In fact, after a good while of sledding I call them in, give them cups of hot chocolate, and watch them pass out on the floor. Makes me happy.

We may still have snow on the ground here while my mother begins planting flowers there, but we are busy with other outdoor activities. We can sit in a little shack on upturned buckets, drinking coffee from a thermos, and stare at a hole in the ice for hours on end. Locals call it ice fishing. But since fishing implies actually catching something, I prefer to call it ice watching.

And then, there are bragging rights. I haven't lost them. I used to speak of summers where temperatures soared well over one hundred for weeks on end. I can now brag of enduring winter temperatures that sink so low we have to warm up to get to zero.

And the best part of living here on the frozen tundra? Seemingly, as a counterpoint to all that cold weather the people here are extra warm and friendly.

So, yes. We really do like it, Papa. Hopefully you will be able to visit us at least once during the winter. We don't have as much fog here, but we can still take you ice watching. And I promise to save you a seat by the heater.

December 19, 2011

He's So Understanding

Feeling slightly distracted in my sorry attempt to multi-task, I found myself apologizing once again for calling one of my twin sons by the wrong name.

"Oh, David, I'm sorry. I don't know why I  keep doing that."

David was quick to furnish an answer.


I just looked at him. He quietly got up and left the room.

I am so moving in with him when I'm old.

December 16, 2011

You'll Have To Do Better Than That

Mary and a little boy were playing together when he started bragging about his family's trip to view a Christmas display at a local museum - Christmas at the Castle.

He finished his description with, "It was a castle and it had giant nutcrackers!"

Mary's not very impressed response made me laugh. "But, did it have hot chocolate?"

She may have a point. After all, what good is a castle if there's no chocolate?

December 15, 2011

A Hunting We Will Go!

No, not deer hunting - though Matt did wear blaze orange under his jacket. We were on the hunt for the bestest Christmas tree... EVER. God willing, this will be the first Christmas of many, many, many we will celebrate at Cold Anchor Farm. Our tree must be worthy of the occasion!

Matt and I herded the young ones into the family van, with the exception of Brendan who had been up waaay too late the night before and begged to be left at home to nap on the couch. If I had known what our friends' tree farm was like I would have insisted he come too. I expected a simple, boring lot filled with trees planted all in a row. Instead, to our surprise and delight we discovered an enchanting wonderland!

We were warmly greeted by our friends and given a brief tour. The children patted the dogs, snuggled a sweet cat, and fed the sheep and fuzzy donkeys. The llama cautiously watched while keeping his distance. He wanted to know where Brendan was.

Then, it was over the river and through the woods to search for our tree. The over-the-river part took longer than expected.

It looks easy enough, doesn't it? For all of it's crooked appearance, the bridge was solid under our feet. All we had to do was walk across it. All we had to do was cross from one side to the other. We tried. Really, we did. But, we hadn't counted on this:

It was just too pretty! We felt like we were entering a fairytale land. The children began to speak in hushed tones. Hold on. Did I just write that? I don't usually put those words together in the same sentence. My children actually spoke in whispers! Truly! That alone was a Christmas miracle and well worth the time spent lingering on the bridge.

Once on the other side the spell broke and the kids were off and running to find the tree that called to them.

 David, was the first to suggest one. This tree, he argued, would be easy to carry back to the van.

Yes. Well. Umm... Let's keep looking, shall we?

Joey liked this one, though I suspect he just wanted to taste it.

Annie was next to offer her choice.

It was a beautiful tree; however, fitting this tree into our living room might require extensive renovations and probably mean moving our our couch out onto the lawn.  Okay for the summer - winter, not so much.

Getting closer, Alex. We'd only have to cut a small hole in the ceiling to fit this one inside.

Mary was next. She had the right idea. I knew she was a smart little girl!

At last, we all agreed on a tree. Matt cut it down and hefted it to his shoulder for the walk back to the van. I worried he would hurt his knee still healing from surgery. The ground was slippery, but we walked nice and slow, getting to van without incident. See? There he is, under those pine branches. At least I think that's him. 

Joey thought it was pretty funny.

The hunt was a success! Our friends were so very kind. They made the tree a house warming gift.

 And warm the house it certainly did!

December 13, 2011

Exit, Stage Right

Surprised, I watched an expression of utter dismay cross Alex's face.

"But, Mom, I'm supposed to be the good guy!"

The twins and I were reading their assigned parts in a play they would perform in a few short months. They had just discovered the plot would reveal their good guy characters were actually the "bad guys".

David and Alex exchanged shocked glances. This couldn't be true! Boyish hearts long to be heroes - not villains. Hadn't they always dreamed of being the rescuer who arrived in time to save the day? Didn't they hope to be the cop, the firefighter, the noble knight who braves dragon fire in order to save the villagers? They had been betrayed.

I tried to console them.

"Someone has to be the bad guy in the story. Perhaps, you two will find playing these characters is kind of fun. Maybe they are the goofy, bumbling, silly kind of bad guys."

"Oh, sure," David retorted. "If the director wants us to be funny, maybe we can do something. But, what if she wants us to be serious? I just don't think we know how to be serious bad guys..."

His voice drifted off as he and Alex left the room muttering to each other and shaking their heads.

I envisioned the lights dimming and the curtains drawing closed behind them. I can't wait to see how the next scene plays out. I'll be on the edge of my seat.

December 5, 2011

What's For Dinner?

The phone rang. I eagerly picked it up, knowing it would be my husband's voice on the other end.

"How would you like alligator for dinner? One of my guys went hunting in Louisiana and caught a twelve foot gator. He brought me a couple pounds."

When I was growing up, my family enjoyed yummy meals - lots of Mexican food. My mom is a good cook and there is not a Christmas that goes by when I don't crave her enchiladas. Special occasions called for special foods, but our daily fare was more what one might expect from a large family on a modest income - plenty of hearty foods, designed to fill lots of bellies, not too much variety. I thought people who ate things like sushi and escargot were a bit odd.

Then I met my husband's family. I still remember my soon-to-be father-in-law introducing me to sushi (I love it!) and octopus (Gross!). I tried couscous. I ate lime-glazed chicken. I learned I like okra and despise liver and onions. I didn't always like what I tasted, but I was learning to taste before making up my mind. Even when offered rattlesnake.

It was a lesson well learned and it served me well each time we moved to a different region of our country. Matt, the kids, and I experienced the local culture through the foods we ate. Shellfish, barbecued brisket, and Czech onion and fish soups in one state; Polish pierogi, tandoori chicken, and pizzas in another; frozen custard, bratwurst, deer sausage and broasted chicken here...

"Of course! We'd love to try alligator. Please, thank your friend for us."

So, what does alligator taste like? No, not like chicken. More like pork, a veeery chewy pork. Interesting. Not bad.

In many ways, my family eats much as I did while growing up. We are, after all, a large family with a slightly-less-than-modest income. The difference is that when an opportunity presents itself to try something new and unusual, we jump at it. No longer do I think people who eat differently are odd. Well, with the exception of those who eat escargot. They're just weird.

December 2, 2011

On The List

My kids are so weird.

Like many children, as Christmas draws near they dream of what they might find under the tree on Christmas morning. If I ask them they are full of suggestions. They have lists and they are only too happy to share those lists with me. Scraps of paper, often fully and colorfully illustrated, are waved under my nose, requiring immediate inspection. Gift receiving occasions are few and far between in this house. I always expect my children to make the most of the opportunity and have yet to be disappointed.

Topping this year's lists?

A cactus, an alarm clock, and a pomegranate.

Oh yeah. I would have guessed those very things. Don't all kids deep down in their hearts wish for a cactus? No? Huh...

That darn cactus has shown up on the twins' lists for a few years now. I'm still not entirely sure just what they find so appealing about cacti, but there it is. Maybe it's because they were born in Texas? Perhaps love of spiky desert plants was infused into them  by the Texas air I breathed while they were in utero? I have yet to fulfill this wish. You see, my children touch things. I'd rather not spend all my time trying to remove almost invisible spines from their tender fingers.

I do understand Brendan's desire for an alarm clock. He likes to get up before everyone else and have a little time to himself. So do I. That is the reason he will most likely not find an alarm clock under the tree this year.

Pomegranates are tasty. They are pretty. They are fun to eat. They also fit nicely into my budget. I think I can manage this one.

Such funny wishes. They do like toys, music, and books as much as any other kid does, but those things are lower on their lists. I must admit, they come by it naturally. I once told a Christmas party Santa I wanted a pillow for Christmas. I have no idea why I said it. My poor mother. Santa just looked at her. Pitiful.

I wonder what that Christmas party Santa would think of my children's Christmas lists.