Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Year In Review

I started this blog just under a year ago and took a walk down memory lane today, reviewing some of the thoughts and experiences that I decided to share here.  It's been strange to watch which posts become popular or resonate with "you" and which ones seem to fall flat.  The one that started it all, Little Men was a reflection on my son, on parenting, and a chance to feel wise about the hazy grind of raising toddlers.  The picture in this post will always be etched in my brain, my own Tom Sawyer painting the fence post image.

One that didn't actually get noticed much but that I found hilarious was Emergency , a humorous look at my younger son's trip to the ER and the constant struggles to discern when an emergency is actually an emergency and when I'm just being an irresponsible parent.

I dabbled for awhile with a writing prompt on other parents' questions/issues called "Asking the Village".  The one about when to leave our kids home alone was typical of my effort - a mix of what I had actually done and a recognition that there were lots of other approaches that could work too.  The title of the blog, This Will Be On the (Parenting) Test, was always meant as a poke.  None of us get to fully prepare or practice for parenting and yet we frequently assume that we are failing the tests that come every day.

Some of my posts became less and less about parenting and more about living in a very general sense.  A Season for Everything, Secure Your Airmask First, and Found Treasure were moments where I shared out loud some of my own emotional churnings, not specific to being a mom.

As I look back, I realize that some of my posts are time capsules for my sons. Minotaurs and Werebunnies, Dollar Store Wealth, or #!?&*%! Moments are pieces that I want to save for my kids to read when I am no longer a daily presence.  They are little snippets of my voice inserted in specific events of their childhood.  It isn't all cookie dough and kisses but a real life sample of my good and not so good days.

And some of my posts were leaps of faith where I shared some of my political or social perspectives.  These were always harder for me because I didn't want to alienate anyone. I wanted to create a space where the different approaches and perspectives could be honored.  ISAT Testing , Let's Talk Anyway , and If This Is Wrong, I Don't Want To Be Right were attempts at being both honest about my own opinions while still respectful of very different ones.

I'm not sure what 2013 will bring to my writing.  I've toyed with the idea of changing the title since my focus seems to be less focused on parenting, specifically. It's clear that I don't have the amount of time and commitment that's required to become a notable blogger. For that reason, I am grateful for the encouragement that does come.  I can't fully explain it, but just knowing that you are reading, pushes me to stay engaged and the writing definitely helps me to be more present. 

Wishing you abundance and the awareness to see when it is present!

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Yes, Levi there is a Santa Claus - and he's you

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...
English: Santa Claus with a little girl Esperanto: Patro Kristnasko kaj malgranda knabino Suomi: Joulupukki ja pieni tyttö (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the days leading up to Christmas I have found myself in 4 separate conversations about how to tell children about Santa Claus. One friend shared with a touch of shock that another friend continued to tell her 11yr old that Santa was real.  The woman insisted that her child told her everything and that if he had stopped believing, she would know. "We have a very good relationship.", was the closing remark.

At a neighborhood holiday party, a couple of new parents with a babe in arms struggled with whether or not to start the Santa story with their child. The question came immediately, "How do you stop the lie once you start?

And there it is. Creating a magical, childhood fantasy feels like a parental dream, until the day that the question comes. "Is Santa Claus real?" or "Which one is the real Santa?"  The dream really collapses when the child skips the question and moves straight to the assertion, "I know you're the one who gives the Santa presents." Do you counter?  Do you create an elaborate description about why they are wrong or do you enlist them in the conspiracy to protect the secret from their younger siblings?

These were the stories that I kept hearing this week.  The tales of the big reveal.  Grown adults still clearly remembering the night they saw their mom stuffing the stocking, sans beard and reindeer.  Some of the stories were more about the icky feelings that came from being privy to elaborate charades. Like the time when they heard their neighbors' plans to throw dog poop on the porch roof and chastise "Santa's reindeers" for the indiscretion.

In the same month that our children our hearing about kindergartners being slaughtered, it makes sense that we would want to create some type of figurehead for goodness, generosity, and selflessness.  What has never made sense to me is why we would create that figurehead as a stranger outside of our own homes, cities, and outside of our own selves.  We never wrote "Santa" on a gift tag.  When my 4 or 5 year old hit school and asked about Santa, I told the truth - as I understood it and as I wanted it to be for our family.  Santa was a real person. People call him different things depending on where they live but for us he's based on the man, St. Nicholas.  He gave gifts in secret, without any acknowledgement.  He was kind and wanted to make people feel special.  People liked what he did so much that even after he died they wanted to keep that special feeling alive.  Now, lots of people try to be like St. Nicholas.  They give gifts in secret, not using their real name, so that the attention is not on them and the person doesn't feel like they have to give a gift back.

I wasn't sure how my little speech was going to go over. The next year I got my answer on St. Nicholas day. I saw the traditional chocolate candy, orange and small gift(from my husband) and next to that, another piece of candy -not given by my husband but by "St. Nicholas".  That year good ol' St. Nick came in the form of a very small kindergartner. It felt special indeed, mysterious, and magical.  In the midst of all my concerns about how fragile my son's childhood would be, I had instead created a way for him to hang on to innocence, magic, and wonder.  It isn't outside of him or something that I need to wrap him in like a blanket of protection.  All of that goodness is inside him waiting to be offered up to the world. Yes, Levi, there is a Santa Claus - and he's you.
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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cookie Day=Sanity

Napoleon Creams, Russian Teacakes, Cherry Blossoms, Nutmeg Logs, Maple Nutty Bars, Cranberry Pistachio Bark, 3 Shortbreads, Lemon Iced, and the still illusive-perfect-spice-cookie, these are the bits of the holidays that surround me today.  I just finished my annual cookie day(s), baking the Christmas treats that will highlight our gatherings and care packages. (The picture here doesn't do them justice.  I clearly don't have a career in food photography.)

My husband and sons, brothers and sisters, various neighbors and kids' classmates are always anxious to see if their favorite sweet treat will make the cut and be included in the lineup for that year's cookie day. Many people have questioned my sanity, my patience, and my commitment to 8-9 different varieties.  What about just making the perfect shortbread and calling it a day?  The answer is that cookie day IS my sanity and helps restore my patience with the small difficulties in my life. You see, cookie day is a labor of love and it is a labor that I share with my best friend.

Cookie day has evolved into an overnight and now this year, two nights and two days of baking mania.  13 pounds of butter and 12 pounds of powdered sugar later and my friend and I divvy up the "fruits" of our labor and return to our normal mom, family, and work demands. We return to a schedule of short phone calls, squeezed in during train commutes or waiting spells in the parking lot during school pick ups. I always think that we will delve into some heartfelt, Hallmark movie type dialogue during our baking intensive.  Maybe it's the effect of inhaling so much butter or tasting so much dough but what we really do, is just hang out with a dash of goofy.  It's such a gift, my favorite holiday gift, to spend time with her and just relax.

So, for the person on your list who you can never find the "right" gift, I suggest a day of hang time.  It's amazing to me to be with my friend and not have to watch the clock.  It's a sad commentary on our over scheduled lives but I know I'm not alone.  The more we work so that we can afford stuff, the more we wish we could just be with each other and relax a little.  Let that be your gift.  And if the family or coworkers in your life get frustrated with you being unavailable for a day or two, do what I do.  Feed them cookies.