Don't Let The Grinch Steal Your Christmas!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I grew up in a home with dysfunctional mother that made holidays well, stressful. Add a retail career managing bookstores during my young adult years and well, I hated the holidays. It’s so great that in our grown up years we get to live out own life. We get to pick and choose our own traditions. Pick the people you want to invest time in and surround yourself with people you want to be around.

Remember How The Grinch Stole Christmas? Oh yeah, that's right, he didn't... because even when the Grinch took it all away...

It came without ribbons, It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!

Every who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any present at all!

He had not stopped Christmas from coming!
It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And he thought...

Maybe Christmas,doesn't come from a store.
Maybe Christmas... perhaps...
means a little bit more!

So this Holiday season don’t stress out about all events you feel obligated to go to. You don’t have to attend anything you don’t want to. Don’t freak out over the shopping and gift lists... Give the gift of yourself and simply spend some time with your friends and family.

Here are some ideas...

Are there friends and neighbors you would like to get together with, but who usually spend Thanksgiving with their own family? Host a Black PIE Day and invite your friends over for pie and games. You'll need to refuel if you got sucked into the retail madness of the day anyway!

Later in the weekend you will start to get sick of leftovers... So host a Thanksgiving leftover potluck Sunday afternoon or a Monday lunch with the ladies from church! (If you live near me and your reading this, your invited Monday at noon –Bring something you made out of thanksgiving leftovers! Don’t forget your recipe!)

How about skip exchanging gifts with your children’s friends and plan a fun activity instead. Last year we went roller skating with some friends. We weren’t able to pick a day we were both available until January, but if you count the Holidays as Thanksgiving to Valentines it counts! I had not been on skates in 15 years and it was a ton of fun!

Have a homeless Christmas. Yes, just like on a sitcom Christmas special... you know, when they invite some random homeless person to dinner and by the end of the hour their problems are all solved. Ok, so not really homeless… but having the neighbors over because we are all snowed in is a lot of fun! We did this last year. Totally unplanned, I served them the best Mormon dinner they ever had (ham and funeral potatoes) and we made some lifelong friends. So invite someone random to your holiday dinner.

Buy your children less gifts and let them go with you to buy gifts for an angel tree. We do this every year and it’s a tradition we all look forward to.

Invite your child’s friends over to make gingerbread houses. Ask everyone to bring a bag of candy (red hots, M&M’s, etc.) all you provide is the icing and gingerbread (or cheat and use graham crackers). We have done this for years and I didn’t realize how much Awsumb loved it. I figured it might be something we could skip this year, but just yesterday he was begging to do it again.

Whenever a friend drops by during the holidays invite them in and share short story. A friend of mine does this and we loved being part of her tradition! She even had some of those great break apart oranges on hand and sent one home with us to share.

Invite friends over to work on your Christmas cards together. And don’t forget the soldiers… A few years ago Awsumb colored an entire coloring book of super hero pictures and we made Christmas cards out of them for the soldiers.

And finally, don’t forget the board games! There’s nothing better than an evening of board game fun with good friends!

What do you enjoy doing during the holidays that breaks away from the usual hustle and bustle?

Turn Up the Volume!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Volume is a torment I deal with on a daily basis. The thing is that all volume knobs must be set to an even setting. Sometimes volume dislplays are just lines... other times numbers.. but if it isn't even it bugs me. And I swear I can tell if it isn't set evenly!

In the car the volume is bars and half bars... I MUST turn the knob until the volume is even. I can't just have a half bar just hanging there. The unevenness (I know that isn't a word) is just too much for me to take and I can't stop thinking about it. Even from the backseat I will ask for it to be fixed.

After the purchase of a new TV a few months ago, I realized I have been obsessing over this more than usual lately. First off the volume display is a circle, 1-100 seems easy right? But should it be set in 10's, 5's... 25 isn't an even number and normally goes against my volume setting rules.. but 25 is an even 1/4 of the little cirle display and I like that.

And those volume dials on things without displays... how am I supposed ot tell if they are even?!

I just can't seem to stop thinking about it. And the whole thing goes round around in my head!

This also translates to other things. The furnace is at 66 or 68. Why would anyone want it to be set at 67? Why do they even having odd numbers as a choice. Doesn't everyone use and even number anyway?

Yeah, I like even numbers... unless you ask me to pick a number between 1 and 10 or my lucky number. Then it would be 3. Always has been, always will be.

Just another torment you never knew someone with OCD might have!

I also updated a previous post about Spike and Angel the main love interests of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" check it out...

Close Encounters

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Recent talk about a meteor shower that lit up the sky in Utah reminded me of this story... My very own Close Encounter! Brought to you from... June 3, 2004

We sure had an interesting night. So pictures this... it's pitch black outside and I up up late folding laundry and watching a movie... When all of a sudden there was this bright light shining through the windows. Now, we do live at the bottom of a circle, so cars are always turning around and we are very used to what those lights look like as they shine through the front windows. But this light was more like daylight… Like someone had a spotlight shining it into our family room. And the light was just streaming through the blinds and all the windows on different sides of the house.

At this point I no longer have an accurate sense of time, but there was a pause, long enough for me to think, “that is very strange” and start feeling a little suspicious… Then all of a sudden – BOOM! It was if something had slammed into the front door, but not just the front door, the entire front wall of the house. At this point I jump up and fly up the stairs…

I woke Kenneth up telling him, “Something just hit the front of house. GET UP!” Because I had no explanation for what had just happened I begin to think there must be someone outside, who shined lights into the family room and are trying to get in the house. I told Kenneth to call the police. We were told that a transformer had just blown up over in Redmond, (our neighborhood opens up to downtown Redmond, as we are on a little bit of a hill.) Could that be what it was? No, an entire building would have had to explode to send that kind of a shock wave to our house.

The police are on their way. We are all huddled up in Awsumb’s room looking out the front window trying to see if we can see anything. The dispatcher starts asking me if we have any weapons in the house... I begin to stutter as she says, "M'am, do you have a gun?" She explaing that the officers that have been sent out will make a soft approach to the house... walking down from up the street so they can see if anyone is still out there... And we may see them snooping around and don't shoot them! All we had was little souvineer bat, but about thta point I start wishing we had a gun! Then I remember, the coyotes had been out earlier in the back ravine “crying” and talking to each other (they sound like a pack of hyena's when the really get going). Could a few of them have slammed themselves into the front of the house? Why would they do that? And what about the flash of light?

So, we are all hiding out up Awsumb's bedroom with our little bat. By the time to police arrived we felt very silly, but it was just so unusual. And when we finally talk to them at the front door, did I actually say it was like and "alien encounter?!" Great, now we are on their crazy list. But they did say they recieved a few odd calls at the exact time I did and admited it was odd.

Finally we all just go to bed. Awsumb was wearing his Spiderman PJ’s and kept saying how he “saved the day” and how he helped the police. It was funny. This morning on the radio I heard the tail end of a news report… something about, “If you saw a flash and felt a BOOM, then that’s what it was.” What? I really wish talk radio had a “replay” button like our TV! I called Kenneth and we found out what happened. There was a meteorite that entered the atmosphere at 2:40 am. Reports say, “The sky lit up like day time” and many people felt a sharp boom. Scientists suggest everyone go outside on a meteor hunt! I am sure Awsumb will love that! I will let you know if we find anything. (We didn't, but had a fun hunt!)

Do you have any stories about your own close encounters?

Nurture Shock

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Don't you think it's funny that as mothers we buy books written by men to tell us how to raise our babies?! I truly believe two books saved my life as a new mother: Dr. Sears Birth to Age Two and The Continuum Concept. Reading these books helped me realize that I already knew everything I needed to know about my baby and that I alone could provide anything my baby needed from nourishment to love. They gave me great confidence in my parenting abilities. I believe that by using my natural instincts, or following the attachment parenting 'list' such as breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing, etc. that I avoided post partum depression. These methods fall more in line with how mothers have parented throughout time across the world. As I used these methods I began to realize this is the way our Heavenly Father would parent. And as my child grew I saw the benefits come from my choices and determination. By reading my baby's cues and providing for him before he even knew what he needed I avoided having a fussy baby, sleeping problems, attachment issues, etc.

I just finished reading the book Nurture Shock and would now add this to the list to recommend to all parents. Check this one out to find the fascinating answers to questions...

Do we praise our children too much?

Could arguing in front of your child be good for them?

Is lying a developmental milestone?

Could grown -up TV be better than baby DVD's?

Why do some children talk earlier than others?

Some of the answers and specifics might surprise you. Others confirmed my beliefs from previous books and real life experience. For instance, Studies showed the number of times toddler initiated talk was responded to the more words they learned and the more they spoke. A great lesson we learned from the same family that introduced me to Dr. Sears is to simply TALK to your baby. Their example taught me to talk to my baby constantly, to narrate our day, the world around us, what we were seeing, doing and experiencing. This was different from many peers I had who sometimes acted bored or annoyed by the task of caring for an infant or toddler all day. And because I carried or held my baby for most of the day, it was natural to talk to my baby and play with my baby. When the 'in arms" phase was over I then played with my baby. Not only was my baby verbal at an early age has always been very articulate.

Every so many years new books come out to say, "do this or do that" often following the new "politically correct" topic of the day. This book debunks a few of those things. What I have learned is that as mothers we should trust our own instincts more. What instincts did you follow that went against popular belief?

Lies My Teacher Told Me

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I have talked about one of my favorite history authors before, James W. Lowen. I first discovered his book,
Lies My Teacher Told Me
. I told you a little about Lies Across America, which talks about historic sites across America in a previous post about our summer daycations.

Why should we learn about our past? We have all heard George Santayana's famous quote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." But he also said something more complicated, "History is always written wrong, and so always needs to be rewritten."

When I was in college I wrote a paper about history really just being a myth. A history from one point of view is not a complete history. James Lowen tells about a war museum, full of memorabilia, but that chooses to ignore telling the stories behind the war, why we were at war in the first place, or promoting discussion about tactics used by either side and them being ethical or not.

Compare this to the visitor's center at MT. St. Helens, which clearly shows what, why, how and what if it happens again. Think about these two types of museums and ones that you have been to… Which one do you think we learn more from? Which one helps us learn from our mistakes and avoid them in the future? Which one calms fears?

The bottom line is, "War is hell and the United States conducts it, just like any other nation, we too become the devil" (pg. 180) John F. Kennedy said, "The great enemy of truth is not often the lie… but the myth"
Hiding from our past doesn't make it go away. Just like a child who hides from a parent knowing he is in big trouble, punishment eventually comes. "How can we expect our children to develop their own convictions when we ignore those of historical figures?" – Helen Keller

When I was in school, "history" was names and dates. But as an adult I find that history is something we are continually discovering and is best taught as a discussion. As I share history with my child I find myself sorting through myths and legends and hokey stories glorifying historic leaders, searching the truth.

One of the first historical lies we tell our children is about Thanksgiving. Throughout the world people have historically celebrated abundant harvests and I think the idea of celebrating our abundance with family and friends is one of the last holidays that has been relatively untouched by commercialism.

However, I was determined to avoid passing on "the myth of peaceful settlers, inviting some wild Indians over for dinner." 1621 A New Look at Thanksgiving is a children's book that tells the complicated history English settlers and their impact on the Native people that were already here. As the book says, "There was neither cranberry sauce nor pumpkin pie at the 1621 harvest celebration. There were no Indians with woven blankets down their backs. There were no Pilgrims in somber black clothes and tall hats with silver buckles, either. The English didn't even call themselves pilgrims at the time. That's the myth."

The book continues on to tell about the days leading up to that "First Thanksgiving…. The settlers were preparing to have a celebration to give thanks… Four men went out hunting and in doing so began shooting their guns and marching in unison. It was likely that Native people heard the noise, maybe thinking they were preparing for war. A few investigated and called for Massosoit, who then sent a few men out to hunt for deer to contribute to the feast." Years later, painters memorialize this event, romanticizing the facts and hundreds of years later we dress our school children up in tall Pilgrim hats, drab clothes and big buckles made out of construction paper!

Mayflower 1621 A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage reminds us that, "the Mayflower colonists were not the first Europeans in the Wampanoag territory. Early explores brought trade… they also brought diseases, including plague… killing so many that by the time the Mayflower arrived in Plymouth no Wampanoag were left there. To the colonists, finding tilled fields was a sign of God's favor. They gave little thought to those whose land they were taking over.

Both of these books were a great way to promote discussion about the history of European settlers in America. Check them out! You may also want to check out … The Truth About Columbus and American Exceptionalism

I am thankful to live in a country that lets me freely celebrate and worship how I wish. What are you thankful for?

Give us some flourescent cheese product!

Hallmark features two loud characters, Hoops and Yoyo, on many of their Ecards. Awsumb of course quickly fell in love with these two. Our favorite was a Mother's Day card that features the desperate pair incessantly yelling, "Mom, mom, mom, mom... Give us some fluorescent cheese product!"

While your little rats are enjoying their fluorescent cheese product you may want to check out Chateau Roquefort! Awsumb choose this game with some of his birthday spending money. By Rio Games, this game is for 2-4 players age 6 and up.

Bedsides the ever so important 'cool bits' that make up this game such as little mice and a cool multi layer castle structure this game is easy to play and plays great with 2 players.

Discover the castle by removing roof pieces to view rooms and their contents; the cheese! Use memory and strategy to position your mice on matching pieces of cheese. Beware the labyrinth of moving pieces that reveal dungeons or mouse traps! The first player to collect 4 different kinds of cheese wins!

Awsumb quoted Jimmy Neutron saying, "Now, you gotta admit... THAT is pretty neat!"

While I don't care much for cheese of the fluorescent variety I do love a good brie! What's your favorite kind of cheese?

What's the deal with Halloween?

In the style of Jerry Seinfeld, "What's the deal with Halloween?"

It seems like during the month of October at least once a day I read a post online from someone saying, "Don't you know it's Pagan holiday?" I say, "So What!" Halloween as we know it in America no longer resembles pagan rituals. Like everything else it's been commercialized to death and has become the night (or week) of "get candy, get candy, get candy!"

Then there's the whole trick or tricking paranoia. My generation has been totally convinced that we are going to be poisoned by Halloween candy... or worse, the dreaded razor blade in the apple myth. Remember when you could take your candy to the ER to have it X-rayed! LOL! Did you know there had NEVER been a reported case of razor blades in apples anywhere in the U.S. And the only poisoning scenerios involved family members!

It's like the whole kidnapping thing. Your child is more likely to be struck by lightening than kidnapped! So send your kids out to ride bikes people and let them play until dusk! They need to get some exercise after all that Halloween candy they've been eating!

In the end, our fear of traditional door-to-door trick or treating has lead to a week long of alternative halloween fun such as, Trunk or Treats, trick or treating at the mall or office, and of course halloween parties at every children's activity that week, including dance and soccer practice! The whole mess leads to an over load of candy. Half the parents I knew threw most of it out. Why are we buying so much to pass out, only to throw it out? This is such a waste and is a perfect example of our affluence in America. What about providing other things during the week and saving the candy for Halloween night?

This year we planned to spend Halloween with my parents in Utah. Because we live in a neighborhood with only a handful of children, we were looking forward to a real old fashioned night of trick or treating. We were lucky enough to experience this in 2003 when we visited my Aunt's in California... so we were pretty excited!

After all the cousins arrived we started out under a clear sky and a bright new moon. In just a couple of blocks we were offered, doughnuts and hot cocoa, cider, the sherrif grilled hot dogs and a few families offered bowls of soups and stews. Awsumb collected the least amount of candy hae ever has, but the thrill of real trick or treating, running in the dark from house to house was what this experience was all about.

And my final rant.. what's the deal with teenagers trick or treating anyway? I hear so many people complain about teens trick or treating. They brag about only giving them pixey sticks or just slamming the door in their face. What's the big deal?! I will happily give candy to anyone who comes to my door dressed in a costume! Better than having your pumpkins smashed? Who says Halloween is only for 10 and under.

Click here to see Awsumb perform Halloween by Jerry Seinfeld...

Check back for more about the history of harvest celebrations and the real history of Thanksgiving and my search to find a book about Thanksgiving that doesn't include a fake Pilgrim and Indian Thanksgiving dinner...