Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year's Resolution

Mid-morning on Christmas, Richie threw a fit, telling Johnny to get out of the room they share.

"Richie, you are being naughty," Johnny said.

"Who cares," Richie said. "Santa's already been here."

Ah, the spirit of Christmas in a young child's conniving brain. It's enough to bring a tear to my eye.

Luckily, Johnny knew the danger of that kind of thinking.

"He's watching us for next year!" he said. Thank goodness for Santa Claus.

This was the first year that Johnny asked me if I believed in Santa Claus.

"So does he work for Jesus?" he asked.

"Yeah, pretty much," I said.

"And he's a million years old?"

"I don't think he's that old."

"But he had to bring presents to the dinosaurs--oh wait," Johnny said remembering that humans didn't exist back then.

"He's about a thousand years old," I said.

"Then he must be a spirit--a ghost," Johnny said. "And he drives a ghost sleigh and has ghost reindeer."

That's what I love about Christmas. The spookiness.

This is actually my favorite age in terms of Santa. It's the time that kids divide into two camps: the believers and the non-believers. I love that, faced with the two options, most kids choose the most outlandish possibility.

I remember cafeteria table debates about the matter. It was like Democrats and Republicans--you never knew which side kids would come down on. You could ask the coolest, most grown-up kid in the glass if she believed.

"Yeah, I believe in Santa," she'd say.

But the kid who didn't appear to have a clue about anything suddenly knew everything from who really eats the cookies to where babies come from.

One year, a girl in our class flat out told us: "My mom and dad told me there was no Santa. I watched them put out the presents this year."

"Oh, really," another kid would counter to arguments like these. "Because I looked out my window and saw Santa fly by with eight tiny reindeer, so..."

We wound up feeling sorry for the nonbeliever. Anyone whose parents have to play Santa, well, let's just say, the family can cross charcoal off the grocery list.

But Christmas is behind us now. The boys are whiling away their school-free hours making snow ice-cream and playing gameboys--gifts from their aunts. Richie has a Transformers game. For him, the object of the game is to wipe all palm trees off the face of the earth. He figured out that the Transformer can even swing a palm tree round and round--a feat that Richie watches with a mixture of awe and uncontrollable laughter.

"Aren't you supposed to get the yellow things?" I ask.

"What? Oh yeah." He runs in the vicinity of the yellow thing, but gets sidetracked by his transformer's Singin' in the Rain on Steroids routine.

My policy on video games is: I don't even understand the question.

Johnny asks me, "Mom, how do I get the Chimchar to level 17 so I can capture Tortwig from the mystic forest and get the Piplup to the Kricketot?"

He lost me at Chimchar.

If he needs help winning the gold medal in downhill skiing on Atari, call me. Or Pitfall. I can offer pointers on both of these circa 1980 games.

Not that anybody held my hand as the alligator ate me time and again in Pitfall. It was just one of the "pitfalls" of running through the pretend jungle that I had to cope with.

But these new videogames are tough. The fact that kids learn them, as we did, by trial and error, gives me hope that children really are the future. Especially if, in the future, Decepticons invade planet Earth.

But enough about Christmas. Like many of you I'm plotting my New Year plan of attack. My resolutions are old standards: Triple my income. Start a new business. Write three novels. Not have 25 tardies on my kid's report card.

They are, for the most part, impossible. Except for the tardies, it's like I took all the crazy promises from the spam e-mails I received in 2007, multiplied them by three, and wrote "New Year's Resolutions" at the top.

But after Christmas, the luster of possibility hangs in the air--like Santa's sleigh. Maybe it's the sparkly snow still on the ground. Or the dying tree in our living room that is still so very green. Or the new toys that have occupied my children enough to keep them from fighting. Whatever it is, the New Year makes me a believer in things I can't see.

Most of all, I wish everybody health, happiness and that an anonymous person gives you $3 million and that all you have to do is send your social security and bank account numbers and break a few antiquated U.S. laws that most people don't even care about. No, that's the spam talking again. Let's just go with health and happiness.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas

The Christmas season, like November, comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion. After Thanksgiving, it's twinkling lights and Perry Como songs. By Dec. 20, it's busted budgets and your children tripping over each other at the top of the mall elevator.

Usually, I come to hate Christmas by this time. Not like Scrooge, who had no reason to be grumpy. Honestly who did he have to shop for? His nephew and Bob. Big frickin' deal. But I hated it more like a chicken running around with its head cut off. I challenge any headless chicken to be happy. Or the chicks, seeing their mother that way. Or anyone in the barnyard, for that matter.

So this year, I have a new strategy. If something becomes stressful, I just don't do it. I seriously don't think anybody notices. Take visiting Santa--something we always try to work in. Well, my kids visiting Santa fall into two categories: babies, who basically hate his guts for reasons I'll never understand, and big kids, who take the opportunity to grill Santa:

"Did you get my letter? What did it say? Are you getting me Pokemon cards? Does it have a Pikachu? Which kind--50 point or 70 point? Do the elves know that 70 is better than 50?"

Santa starts to feel like he's giving a deposition, you know?

It's a nice photo opportunity, but my kids look basically the same as last year, so I crossed it off the list.

Moving on to Christmas cards; this is a wonderful tradition for people who have address books. Others, not so much. One year, I just gave up. However, this doesn't seem like a great solution, since I love getting Christmas cards and would like to reciprocate. So next year, I'm going to play defense on the holiday correspondence. All my cards will be ready to go. When one comes in, I'll copy the return address and send a card right back to them.

Baking cookies with the children is a tradition I always thought I would cherish with my children. Little did I know that, in the hands of my sons, the angel and Santa Claus cookie cutters would declare war against the tree and star. This year, instead, we made Christmas calzones, and the boys each "helped me" with exactly one. Then they watched T.V.

Also off the list--homemade gifts by the boys. They've already given them in years past, and honestly, how many mosaic boxes does a person need?

This strategy has worked. My kids have everything their hearts desire: that being eggnog and presents, my gifts are in the mail on time, and I haven't felt like a Scrooge at all this year. Have I felt lazy? A little, while watching "Holiday in Handcuffs," an ABC Family movie, for the second time.

But rest assured that J.J. is filling in the blanks on my saved time. He can now crawl out of his bed. So he doesn't take a nap or go to bed on time. Or at all, it seems!

Of course, the first thing he does when he gets out of bed is takes the lid off the aquarium and splashes around in there. The poor snails: they must be so worried about their youngens.

I told you they were having babies, didn't I? Well, no big surprise there. They'd been "spending a lot of time together." Not to mention, they are sex fanatics. But I didn't know they were the same species--so I was a little shocked to find the clutch of eggs.

Our fish also had a baby. And the grownups are definitely not the same species. One is orange and round and the other is silver and black and very streamlined. But I saw a fry in there a week ago. Just one.

The snails, on the other hand, laid a billion eggs. It's like the 1950s in there. They are having children on a wing and a prayer. I think several will survive. We might have to give them away outside a grocery store, like people do with kittens.

None of this has much to do about Christmas. Except that we'll soon be hearing not only the pitter patter of little feet belonging to a two year old who should be sleeping, but also the gliding of big slimy feet/stomachs. Maybe even on Christmas day. Which is a very nice day for babies to be born.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. Please imagine, here, a beautiful snowy scene in which my children--with fresh haircuts and clean faces--are dressed in green and red sweaters that are not stained. They are smiling. No one is giving anybody bunny ears or pinching each other. Voila. Our Christmas card.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sick Mom Advice: Don't Change out of Your P.J.s

I don't remember sore throats ever hurting as badly before I had children. It must be because, this weekend, I had so much to say to my children, but couldn't.

I was down with what seemed like strep throat. You know you're in trouble when your doctor tells you that you don't have strep throat and you cry.

It's just that Justin assured me that there was this magical medicine that the doctor would give me for strep throat and I'd be fine in 1.5 days. Instead the doctor told me to wait it out. It was a virus. It felt like people were having a bonfire in my throat, but, no it was a virus.

So, during the weekend I wanted to tell J.J. things like, "Stop hitting the Christmas tree with your pillow," or Johnny, "Are you Hansel and Gretal of lego land? Stop leaving a trail of legos wherever you go!" or Richie...well, Richie is actually a very nice person to have around when you're sick.

He kept patting my back and saying, "Do you feel better now?"

When we left the doctor, he said, "That went well. Don't you think?"

I think that, for kids, anytime you leave a doctor's office without somebody sticking you with a needle, it's a success.

Before leaving, the doctor said, "I'm sorry you feel bad. It's not easy being a mom when you're sick."

I agree wholeheartedly. Some moms might go so far as to let their toddlers eat half a jar of jelly with their bare hands in exchange for 15 minutes of sleep. Or even smear jam all over the countertops and in their hair and ears. Or let their five year olds watch T.V. for seven hours straight just so that they could lie down.

But the main thing to remember when you're sick: do not change out of your pajamas. Not even to an old sweatsuit. To your husband, if you're wearing sweats, you're on the roster. In fact, you're the quarterback. Sweeping floors. Loading the dishwasher. Telling the kids to stop running around. Did I say quarterback? I guess more like the janitor.

This is a good rule of thumb after you have a baby, too. A wise woman once told me to wear a nightgown for at least four weeks post partum. Otherwise, you'll have to go places and everything.

Like today, I was supposed to go to the grocery store. Because, seriously, Justin did everything around here this weekend. So it was going to be my way of pitching in. But I'm going to go tomorrow during the ice storm instead. I'd rather lace up my skates than chance having this thing come back because I didn't rest one last day.