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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Our Best Family Traditions

As we wrap up a weekend of traditions, I'm reminded of an article I wrote last year in Because I'm feeling a bit lazy, and it still reflects how I feel, I'm re-publishing it on blogger...

Family game night. Sunday afternoon drives. Saturday morning scrapbooking. Anytime I contrived a new family tradition, it fell flat against a wall of disdained faces. The more thought I put behind a family tradition, the worse it was received. After a few well-intentioned failures, it struck me. Our best family traditions are those that aren’t planned.

Like piling in the car on Thanksgiving night, wearing pajamas (as a comfort to our bellies from the gluttonous day), to drive through the country viewing Christmas lights hung by the ambitious holiday fanaticals, who we vow to become someday.

Or, strolling to a decrepit bridge, overlooking a small creek on any warm day to skip stones and make up stories about the special rocks we find on the way.

Or, popping open a bottle of “bubbly” on Christmas morning to make toasts with our best wine classes. It didn’t occur to me the spontaneous purchase of sparkling grape juice would turn into a tradition until the following year when my daughter asked a few days before Christmas, “Mom, aren’t you going to buy the sparkling grape juice again?”

But the best tradition in our household comes every night, about fifteen minutes before bedtime. “Mom, can we lay in your bed for a little while? And will you read us a book?” My son never forgets to ask. And, of course, I rarely turn down a chance to read. Even my daughter, who has read the entire Harry Potter series, crawls into our bed with excitement to share in reading time. Sometimes I embellish a story to achieve a laugh. Sometimes my husband starts a tickle fight and reading becomes a moot point. No matter, the nightly tradition, as simple as it sounds, is the most successful tradition to evolve in our household. How do I determine if a tradition is successful? Mostly by the expressions on my family’s face. Joy is easy to see.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Mommy? I don't feel good."

I'm looking forward to a weekend that won't involve the clean-up of vomit. Two weekends ago, the flu hit Cole. Last weekend was Alex's turn. Remember when you were little and got sick? And the only person in the world you needed was your mother? While I like to think my husband is fairly adept at handling any situtations, and with his own ability to completely gross me out, I'm baffled at his inability to care for a sick child. If something happened to me and he had to take care of a sick child, here's how I think it would go:

His immediate response would be denial. "It's in your head. Take a tums and lay back down."

Then he'd attempt to pass the buck. "Alex, wake up and help clean up your brother's puke. I can't do it, because it'll make me sick."

If that doesn't work, he'd revisit his soapbox on self-reliance. "Cole, it's your puke. You need to learn to clean that up yourself."

But the real dilemna would happen when a little voice would ask, "Daddy? Can you hold me?" Knowing how Doug cares for his children, he would delicately have to explain. "Geez. I'd like to, but I don't want to get sick. You understand, don't you?"

While it's heartbreaking and tiring to care for a sick child, would any of you disagree there's a certain rekindling that occurs, reminding you how much you love the little people in your life? That's what happens to me, anyway. It's one of those times when you can easily find the 'good' in a bad situation.

And on a completely different note, I saw a quote the other day the really resonated with me. Hopefully, you will all find it as motivational as I did:

"Cinderella is proof that shoes really do make a difference."

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Puffy Coat

There's a controversy brewing in the Kramer household as the temperature begins to plunge outside.

"It's gonna be a cold one Kids! Get your winter coats on."

Alex was excited about the news so she could sport her new coat. (She wore a hand-me-down from me last year. In her book, that's admission into martyrdom.) Cole wasn't so excited. As a matter of fact, he was downright pouty. I somewhat expected the reaction since he grimaced a few weeks ago when I made him try on his $80 Spiderman parka (from last year). It still fit him fine.

"But Mom! It's so puffy! It makes me look fat!"

This kid weighs 50 pounds soaking wet at the age of seven. He must be

a) anorexic,
b) delusional,
c) stubborn or
d) spoiled

I think it's a combination of b,c and d.

Since the clock was ticking and I was trying, once again, to make it to work by a decent time, I compromised. He had to wear a hooded sweatshirt under another fall jacket WITH his stocking hat and gloves. So far, the 2-jacket system hasn't gotten me a call from the school, but we're only about ten degrees away from a complete confrontation about old puffy coat.

I'll have to put on my tough Mom act, since Doug is very well-aware of the situation and refuses to buy him another coat. (Our kids are already spoiled enough...) Dad's right, I know.

But I feel this weakness arising in me. Something is calling me to shop for a boy's winter coat. I know I shouldn't. But what if I can't get him to wear Spiderman again? What if he freezes to death in his two jackets? Could my maternal instinct cause me to be irrational about his ability to keep warm. (Can you relate?)

I need to be strong. Throw away the Lands End catelog. Hide my eyes as I walk by the Children's Place.

And let Doug handle the battle of the puffy coat.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Cranberry Wreath

I was watching a Martha Stewart Thanksgiving Special the other night. The segment on making a cranberry wreath was particularly mesmerizing. In case you missed the episode, I'll do a quick recap of the steps:

1) Harvest your cranberries. Martha prefers to use an antique hand-held harvester. It adds a certain element of nostalgia.
2) Put your bushel of cranberries aside for later.
3) Find a styrofoam wreath (in any craft store, or perhaps in your craft supplies)and paint it dark red. No, the styrofoam won't show, but you'll have the inner satisfaction of knowing that under those berries is something more than an ugly piece of white styrofoam.
4) Break 100-200 toothpicks in half.
5) Take a berry and insert the 1/2 toothpick into the 'butt' of the cranberry. Stick the toothpick into the styrofoam, allowing the beautiful stem side to be sunny-side up.
6) Repeat step #5 a few hundred times until the wreath is completely covered. Martha suggested arranging the cranberries in a diagonal swag. I'm not sure if it makes much difference since the entire wreath will be covered, but she seemed to know what she was doing. If you made it this far, I wouldn't deviate from the plan.
7) Voila! Enjoy the wreath! Martha mentioned that it will only last a couple of weeks, so I'd take it everywhere you go for awhile.

Oh, Martha. I so wish I had an ounce of your domestic skills. One single ounce.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What do you want to be?

I love asking the kids that question. Of course, all parents secretly hope their kids aspire to be doctors. Alex will most certainly become doctor, if they grant PhD's in fashion design. As for Cole...well, he'll need to develop a much greater love for school curricula. A biology lab may intrigue him, but he's got to get through grade school first. And according to him, it's hell.

Nonetheless, it's entertaining to hear about the futures they've carved out for themselves. Alex has dabbled in many professions. (Medical doctor was nixed when she learned how much gore she might deal with.) Doctor, vet (also ruled out with the blood thing), Dairy Queen worker, artist, actress, fashion designer...With her Catholic school education, I thought maybe she would want to devote her life to something with a greater social cause. Apparently not. Dairy Queen was as close as it ever got. On the way home from dance one night, her friends were declaring very worthy vocations. "Veterinarian." "Teacher!" Not my girl. It's Paris or bust.

Cole, of course, has had his heart set on becoming Batman or Spiderman. But guess what he told me last weekend? He wants to be a farmer! Isn't that sweet? He wants to follow in his daddy's footsteps. Within the conversation about his future farming endeavors, he informed me that he'd need to be excused from school in the future to help on the farm, just like Dad did when he was in school. Aha. The farming fantasy might be short-lived once he finds out that there's real work involved. And no school-skipping.

So, what do YOU want to be? I think we all should continue to ask this question to ourselves. Lord knows, I've considered many, many careers. Believe it or not, I still dream about becoming something other than a banker. (I know that's hard to believe!) Sometimes it's a writer. Sometimes it's a business-owner. Sometimes it's something CRAZY like an actress. But, then I think back to my twenties and recall the aspects that drew me to my current career.

I go back to work, and enjoy those very same aspects. But I never quit dreaming.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

When I Grow Up...

I've made it perfectly clear that I do not want Alex and Cole to grow up. So, with every new day disclosing blatant indications of their physical and and emotional development, I've been wallowing a little deeper in self-pity.

Enough already! My kids are definitely still kids. Isn't that picture cute? And, today I started thinking about the joys I'm finding in their growth.

1. The day after Halloween, Cole retires from super-heroism. "Mom, next year, I'm not going to be a super-hero. I'm going to be something really scary." That is a major paradigm shift for the little guy. Perhaps Cole noticed a few too many other superheros on Beggar's Night and felt like just another face in the crowd. Well, it's too early to tell whether his new resolution will stick, but I'm looking forward to a conversation that doesn't involve The Dark Knight. (Dang, did I hear that Spiderman 4 is coming out next spring?)

2. Today Alex and I have completely savored two classics -- Breakfast at Tiffany's and Chocolat. (I know it's was way too nice to be inside, but at least the windows are open.) I warned Alex that she might find Breakfast at Tiffany's boring, but she LOVED IT! We even watched all the 'extras' on the DVDs. She absolutely idolizes Audrey Hepburn and can't figure out why Marilyn Monroe is such a big deal. We now have Roman Holiday, Funny Face, Sabrina and Paris When It Sizzles on our Netflix queue. And I have strict instructions to buy my daughter something from Tiffany's when we traverse to NYC. Ahem!! Anyone have a Cracker Jack ring to engrave??

Okay, so they're growing up and I'm getting older. It's not all's actually all good! And really quite fun.