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Friday, December 23, 2011

This is your brain on Christmas

This is your brain, any given day,
When the sun shines bright or the sky is gray,
January, November, July, June, or May,
But this is your brain on Christmas…

You wake up in the morning, at half past two,
And make lists of all you have to do.
Shopping, baking, and caroling, too.
This is your brain on Christmas.

Off to the market, something feels strange,
List will do no good left on the home range.
Can’t pass the red kettle without dropping some change,
This is your brain on Christmas.

You think of the people that make your life sing,
And rush to the store to buy last minute things,
Carols are blasted, who doesn’t love Bing?
This is your brain on Christmas.

At home there are so many memories to make,
Sewing and wrapping makes any back ache.
At times you feel as fruity as cake.
This is your brain on Christmas.

There are halls to be decked, no if’s, and’s or but’s,
Stuffed reindeer antlers to be tied on our mutts,
We all pray for snow, are we really nuts?
This is your brain on Christmas.

You dig out Grandma’s recipe
These certainly aren’t low calorie!
Kids don’t like them?  More for me.
This is your brain on Christmas.

Wrapping presents in the wee hours of night,
Better hide them!  Kids peek?  They might!
Lock that basement door up tight.
This is your brain on Christmas.

Stockings hung waiting for when Santa drops in,
Cookies set out, each pulled from a tin,
Put out carrots, too, for Rudolph and kin,
This is your brain on Christmas.

Waking up early the big day is expected,
Look at the pile of paper collected!
Installing batteries is more than perfected.
This is your brain on Christmas.

In-laws, out-laws, all that are able,
Gather closely like folks in a Bethlehem stable.
Kids eat dinner on a folding card table.
This is your brain on Christmas.

We sing louder in church without caring,
We speak kindly to strangers, how daring.
We reach out to others by giving and sharing.
This is your brain on Christmas.

We bundle in cold, we snuggle near fire,
We look at fellow man, and admire,
We send praises to beings so very much higher,
This is your brain on Christmas.

Whether belief in Christmas you share,
Or if Chanukah, Kwanza, or nothing’s your flair,
You have to admit there’s something in the air,
This is your brain on, well, something.

I wish from the bottom of my heart so dear,
For all to bottle this feeling of love and cheer,
And spread it around throughout the year,
(but maybe without the snow?)
This is, thankfully, my brain on Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holly growly to holly jolly

There’s something funny about the holiday season.  While there’s plenty that is “haha-funny” and plenty that is “weird-funny,” mostly it’s just that unexplainable phenomenon of love that transcends us all no matter how we fight it.
Take me, for example.  I had this week’s column mostly written and complete.  It was a long tale about how my husband had to buy the world’s largest pumpkins for our front porch and then decided to leave them there.  To rot.  And be illuminated by the Christmas lights.  I have since donned the sagging, orange orbs with festive Santa hats, and I can only hope that the temperature gets low enough to prolong the life of the biggest one, which has started to ooze itself all over the front steps.
I have also fallen into the horrible trap that is the stress of the holiday season.  I feel like I have so much to do—presents to buy, crafts to make, meals to plan—that there’s no time to focus on the now.  My poor daughter has a December birthday.  She wanted a doll cake, where the skirt of the doll is made of cake and the torso, arms, and head sticks out of the frosting.  With moments to spare before the guests arrived I found myself with Barbie in the vice grips in the garage while I sawed off her legs just above the knee because she was too tall for the cake I had already baked.  (Nevermind that the dog chewed off one of her hands.  I hid that in frosting.)
Not only that, but I found myself maniacal at the stores, weight-forward in my cart and moving at such rapid speeds I should have probably buckled my kid in the little seat.  And I’m not even going to mention the parking lot, the school drop-off line, or how every other family in the world has Rockwell-esque trips to the tree farm with hot cocoa and sleigh rides and chances our we will be in the parking lot of a grocery store a few days before Christmas, pointing at which one has the most needles so they can quickly strap it on the top of the car before they close for the night.  
Yes, my holly jolly was getting pretty growly.
But then something happened.  
I opened my mailbox today and saw a Christmas card from someone I didn’t know.  Turns out it was a reader of this column who was kind enough to share a holiday greeting knowing that cards are, I sadly find, a dying tradition.  Opening the card and reading it, it was as if my Grinch heart that was three sizes too small started to grow and grow and grow.  What a kind reminder of the spirit of the season, that it’s a most wonderful time to just let others know you are thinking of them.  (Drop-off line included.)  
It was with a newly warmed smile on my face that I loaded up my children and whisked off to purchase supplies.  “We need a new tradition!  For no good reason other than that it’s Christmas and I love you guys and someday you’ll thank me for this!”  I spoke in exclamation points for the majority of the night as we stayed up late on a school night to make our first ever batches of hard tack candy, singing songs and remarking how beautiful each colorful piece was.  
Someone asked if they could give their teacher one little piece of each flavor.  “Of course,” I said.  “It’s not for us to eat, mostly, it’s for giving.”  And I thought of the woman who sent the card and how I hope to find the time to write her back.
With that their Grinch hearts started to grow too and they listed off all of the people they want to share their candy with, and right there, standing in the kitchen, we had our very own Rockwell-esque moment.  
Without a Christmas tree, hot cocoa, or a sleigh ride in sight.

Stay tuned for the hacked-up Barbie cake.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pay no attention to the man with the long, white, beard. He doesn't belong to us.

And there we stood, all five of us, in line for our photo with Santa.  My dear husband who is not privy to the ins and outs of ordering Santa pictures, went ahead and ordered two without my knowing.  According to the way our Santa’s photo shoots work, we had paid for two pictures each of two different shots.
Which is two more than we really needed.
But still, when life presents you with an opportunity, you take it, and for us that meant piling in around dear old St. Nick and posing for a family photo. 
It was practically a Christmas miracle in and of itself. 
“Hurry up and tell him what you want,” I told the kids.  “We’ve got an important picture to take here.”
And as we stood there, cheesing it up while my kids sat semi-petrified of the man in red, my first thought was one of complete practicality and selfishness.  “Finally,” I said to myself, “a full family photo.  Now I won’t have to feel like such a bad parent at preschool anymore.” 
This excitement comes off of the heels of an embarrassing mom-moment when my daughter was asked to bring a family picture into her preschool class.  Apparently they were going to count family members or do something super cute like that, which was kept secret.  All I knew was that I needed to send one in.  It didn’t help that I remembered very last minute, but as I scurried around I sadly realized that we have not one single family picture with our entire family in it taken in recent times.  Not even hanging on the wall in a frame.  We have plenty of pictures of my husband and the children (taken by myself) and plenty of pictures of the kids and I (taken by my husband,) but none of us all together. It seems that life just hasn’t allowed us the courtesy to pose for one, mostly because there’s no self-timer on our cell phones which is the way we now take 99% of all photographs.
Besides the hardware issues, there’s also the fact that with five people in a family, there are substantial odds against everyone looking decent at any one given millisecond of an open shutter.  Chances are someone never brushed their hair or someone else dressed themselves without mom’s approval.  (Captain Camouflage Never Looks Dirty But Really Is and Princess It’s Backwards Day, I’m talking to you.)  And then there’s always the way that I end up turning my head to yell at someone to not stick out his tongue and the print reveals me and my bad hair with eyes closed, mouth open, and a wrinkled forehead aiming at one of the smallish people in our family.
But the lady behind the camera said it was a good enough shot and moved us right along while dozens of children waited to tell Santa what they want for Christmas and to get their own treasured keepsake.  Not only that, but they also stood there with their parents, a group largely composed of our peers and neighbors, who all saw us amble up and position ourselves poetically in front of the fireplace background with our surprisingly color coordinated outfits, as if we planned it.
But we didn’t plan it.  Instead I’m just chalking it up to being one of the little bits of magic of the Christmas season that reminds you that something in the air is just a tad different and a tad more joyfully mysterious.  We certainly felt the joy, holding our smiles and waiting until the man in red himself passed out fun-sized candy treats. 
Believers?  Yes.  And anyone who isn’t will see photo proof on our Christmas cards, in my daughter’s preschool, and potentially even framed and hanging on the wall.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fed up with drop-off (Adventures in the car lane)

With the weather starting to change for the worse and this being the season of giving and caring about our fellow man, woman, and child, I feel it may finally be time to discuss something that plagues so many of us on a daily basis.  And by “plague,” I really mean irritate, annoy, and drive us to frustration so much that our preschool aged passengers are picking up less-than-pleasant phrases for other drivers. 
And it’s not just me.  I know for a fact that this problem is one that happens around the county, as well as the state, the country and probably all over the world.  I’m speaking of the car lane at school.
If you have ever met me for longer than thirty seconds, you’re probably laughing now because the drop-off lane has been my nemesis for years.  I have been known to purposely park my car a block away and walk to pick them up because that’s how long it took me to cool myself down.  Even after years of trudging through snow and rain, I still park and walk instead of going through the drive-through lane.  I can’t handle how adults are teaching their children, who are obviously in the car with them, to have little respect for other drivers and that following rules are absolutely optional.  Does there happen to be a blazing sign meant to direct traffic?  Just ignore it, Junior. 
As I see it, school parking lots and pick up lanes are the unspoken traffic jams of our time.  When I’m up early slapping together some PBJ’s for school lunches, my local news keeps me company and they have entire segments dedicated to the flow of traffic to and from downtown areas, where lots of people are trying to get to or from, mostly at all the same time.
Our elementary school is really not much different.  Lots of kids, minimal time, and parents who sit right in front of the door and sign permission slips and check homework while forty five other cars sit at a standstill, unable to even honk because, my goodness, how embarrassing would that be??
If only those morning news casters could give traffic reports about some of the small scale traffic jams that raise the blood pressure of parents everywhere…
“Let’s look at the school traffic report this morning.  It seems there’s a blue minivan that has blocked up a good line of cars by stopping and getting out of the car to open Junior’s door and tie his shoes, fix his hair, and clean the oatmeal off of his face.  Traffic has backed up all the way to the playground.  And at another school, traffic has come to a deadlock because apparently the directions given to parents a zillion times have not been enough and a dark red SUV is attempting to enter from the back alley.  A game of bumper cars may ensue, which will surely result in tardiness and detention slips.  And finally, road rage has erupted in the elementary school lot, completely blocking off traffic.  Women in sweats and slippers are duking it out while their children slink down in the backseat, praying that no one sees them.  Words are flying and an on scene reporter says that bologna sandwiches are being used as weapons. Wait—there’s now report that cheese doodles are being rapidly fired at the women by cars that are staring to drive over the curbs just to escape.  Mass chaos is breaking out and, wow, someone’s got a saxophone!  This area should be avoided at all costs according to the parking lot patrol.  And now, on to the weather…”
If you didn’t chuckle at the aforementioned spoof, you’ve never had the pleasure of dealing with these things on a daily basis.  Either that, or you’re driving the blue minivan, the dark red SUV, or have been seen in your sweats with a saxophone over your head.
Me?  I’ll just take that extra block to cool down and eat my cheese doodles.

Crunch, crunch.

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