Cards

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I don’t require the kids to make Christmas cards for anyone, although I do invite them to do so. This year Mica and Nathan took me up on that and Ryan abstained. If I recall correctly, Nathan made two cards, and Mica pretty much stamped any piece of paper I put in front of her, and then, feeling herself under-challenged, took to smearing the ink directly on her face. Maybe she isn’t quite ready for stamps.

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I do, however, require the kids to write (or dictate) thank-you notes. This may seem draconian of me, but once they get past their initial reluctance they actually rather enjoy it. I think it’s good not only because it’s always a good thing to thank people for their generosity, but because it forces them to reflect on that generosity in the first place, and in some small way consider the blessings they have in their lives.

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I doubt they share my point of view. Maybe they’ll come around in thirty years or so. Right now it is a measure of the autonomy they enjoy in most of their lives that my declaration of a “mandatory” activity was met with voluble protests from Ryan, about how it isn’t right to force people to do things. We had quite a conversation along those lines. In the end I’m not sure I convinced him, but I did wear him down.

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Christmas

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We have entered that gentle post-Christmas lull, the one can last (if one guards it carefully) until the new year. As uaual, our celebration of Christmas was a bit haphazard; we are still not using breakable ornaments, and although we tried having the presents under the tree, Mica proved to us pretty quickly that no, she still has the self-control of a two-year-old. She utterly adored the concept of Christmas presents. We followed our usual pattern of opening one gift (for each kid) each day until Christmas Eve, so that each one gets a chance to be savored. Mica liked this idea but really needed about three presents per day to meet her internal gift-opening needs. There were some rough moments.

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But overall it was a very exciting week, culminating in stockings on Christmas morning. That was a moment in which I was glad that I normally try to limit our kids’ candy intake. I’d put some candy in each of their stockings, but to me it seemed a rather meager amount (I’m saving some to dole out in lunches when we go back to school). But Ryan immediately declared it “a whole ton of candy,” reassuring me that sometimes the best way to appreciate a bit of chocolate is not to indulge too often.

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My normal temptation, now that Christmas is over, is to immediately look forward to disposing of the tree on New Year’s Eve and get started with the new year. But this year, inspired by memories of long, lazy winter holidays when I was a kid, I’m trying to savor this lull. This quiet time is a bit of a tradition too.

Mom’s Art Night Out

There’s a parent’s group that I’m peripherally part of — only peripherally, because I live pretty far from most of the other families in it. But recently they scheduled a Mom’s Art Night Out at Young At Art, a drop-in arts and crafts studio in Salem. This was an adult-only night; we potlucked some finger food and wine, donned aprons, and sat down at easels for a painting lesson.

Just before I left our former neighbor called (her daughter still comes over sometimes to visit when they’re in the neighborhood) and said excitedly that she’d picked up a gingerbread house kit, and would the kids like to make it tonight? So when I walked out the door I was leaving Dave with one extra kid and an evening project that involved frosting. There was a time, back when we had fewer kids, that I would have felt guilty about that. Nowadays I’m better at placing a Somebody-Else’s-Problem field over the top of things and walking away.

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Or in this case driving away, to grab an apron and pour myself some wine. I had initially been a bit disappointed that we’d be led through painting a specific scene, but I decided to look at it as an opportunity to learn something and just have fun with the group. And it was fun — there’s nothing like getting together with other parents of young children and just laughing about the insanity of it all. Having a brush in hand at the same time is a nice bonus.

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After the painting, most of the group headed to an all-night restaurant for a snack, but my Somebody-Else’s-Problem field wasn’t that big. Besides, it was late, and I was sort of curious to see what had happened.

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What had happened was pretty much what I’d expected: half-built gingerbread houses, drips of frosting, and a sticky toddler. The only part that surprised me was that Dave had apparently gotten down my container of sprinkles for the kids to use, which had pretty much decimated that collection. (I was not upset. I had already learned about how kids treat sprinkles, but I think it’s one of those things you just have to experience to believe. Besides, now I can buy more sprinkles!)

Just A Taste

On a recent morning it snowed. Not a lot; perhaps half an inch stuck to the ground, which was not quite enough to cover things. But it still snowed, and that’s the important thing. There were big white flakes drifting down for hours, and there was enough snow to warrant coats and hats and boots.

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It lasted just long enough for a little play, and to inspire a fire in our fireplace and some roasted marshmallows. And then, as is so often the way of things here, it melted.