The Holiday Shop

If there was one thing I thought I knew about my child it is this:  He cannot keep a secret.

Early in December, Sean brought home a flyer from school announcing the annual Holiday Shop!  I put the exclamation point there so you might know just how thrilled I was with this news.

The flyer reported which classes would visit the Holiday Shop on which days and at what time.  The flyer also stated with vehemence (probably inferred on my part) that there would be NO preview this year and that the vendor was the same as last year and that it was NOT a school fundraiser.  It was totally for-profit crunk selling.

As it turns out, we were not at the school last year, so that information, vehement or otherwise, was not useful to me.

What information I did require was the following:  What in the heck is a Holiday Shop? What kind of holiday crunk is stocked in Ye Olde Holiday Shoppe, and most importantly how much does this crunk cost?  Oh, and hey, what about the kiddos who have no Holiday Shop spending money?  And then the question I always have when it comes to these kinds of extra-curricular events:  Can’t we just do math or phonics instead?

So as usual when faced with a conundrum, I called my friend Jennifer who knows stuff.  She gave me the low-down on the Holiday Shop and a suggested a budget of about $5 to $10.

When I talked to Sean later, I asked him about how much he thought he needed for this shopping spree.  He said about $30.  So I said, how about $5?  He said how about $10?  I said how about I give you $5 and you take $5 out of your bank.  He said, “Deal!” and we shook on it and signed the papers.

Then we had a little chat about how this was Christmas, not Seanmas, and that the purpose of the Holiday Shop was so that he might buy presents for others, and by others I meant People Who Are Not Sean.  Then we had a discussion about fractions and percentages as we negotiated about how much he could spend on himself.

The next day I sent him off to school with his $5 and my $5 expecting the same winning results you might get in Las Vegas.  When he came home from school I asked to see his purchases.  With much pride he showed me the Cowboys pennant he bought for his father and the camouflage-motif pencil he bought for Papa George.  And then he showed me the dog-tag style necklace with a soccer pendant he bought for himself.

“Did you get anything else?” I asked coyly, “Anything for anyone else?”

“Nope,” he said definitively and handed me the $7.25 he did not spend.

I chuckled to myself as I turned his backpack inside out looking for the other gifts. Surely there were other gifts, surely.  But no….

We wrapped the pennant and the pencil and put them under the tree and I thought no more of it because I knew my broken and wounded heart would someday mend.

On Christmas Eve I unwrapped the gifts from my big boyfriend and my little boyfriend — an ornament from Target which I had purchased myself and handed off to big boyfriend for wrapping, and a pair of much-needed slippers which I requested.  No surprises there but much delight all the same.

“Oh, one more thing Mom!” Sean said as he dove under the tree.  He returned with a tiny package, merrily wrapped with a ribbon and secured with a lot of tape.  He handed it to me, glowing, as though it were a jewel he had just plucked from its slumber in the earth.

I couldn’t imagine what it could be but suspected it was something that he had made at school, something with glitter and glue and probably macaroni.

Inside was a pretty little ring with a blue stone that he had purchased at the Holiday Shop.

“Are you surprised Mom? Are you? You thought I forgot you, didn’t you!” he laughed.

“It cost a dollar!” he enthused, then  quickly added, “I’m sorry it’s not a real diamond.”

“I love it,” I said with all honestly.

I slipped it on my finger, adjusted the band for a custom-fit and then held out my hand to admire it.

It was a complete surprise.

It was beautiful.

It pinched my finger.

And my heart.

Giftmas or Christmas or Both

I got the following comment from Lil on my previous post and it really got me to thinking:

“My grown sister and I were talking a few days ago about Christmases past and she was saying that thinking back on our childhood Christmases, she never got THE thing she really wanted, she always got a variation or knock off of the desired object and that she never had a WOW Christmas because of it. I said that my poor mom was trying to make four kids happy on a limited budget and had done pretty darned well. But her lingering disappointment in those Christmases past made me think that maybe for my kid, the memory of getting what he really wants on Christmas, at least with one toy, is worth the expense.

On the other hand, I have a friend and in her family of five kids, they each got one item of clothing on Christmas morning and then all went out sledding and she had wonderful memories of that!

I guess with Christmas, we’re really just trying to make happy memories for our kids, however that is possible, with the realization of a dream come true gift, or/and a great happy time with family.”

And I thought, you know that is a very interesting discussion point and one that is probably worthy of an entire post.

I’m torn.

The philosophical side of me sniffs and dismisses toys and gifts, the side that tries to ponder upon loftier things.  The six-year-old poor girl in me wants the Hollywood stage set Christmas and the IT doll wrapped in shiny foil paper and a sparkly bow.  And a pretty red velvet dress. And those sides are like two siblings in the backseat of a car on a trip to eternity, slap fighting the whole way.

My parents never had money for the IT toy or even the knock-off IT toy and while I had a wonderful childhood, I had the impression that everyone else except us was having a Norman Rockwell Christmas and getting IT toys and new pajamas and spending money from grandma and were delirious with joy on Christmas morning.  And because of that, for me, Christmas always came with a feeling of disappointment.  And that disappointment seems to have nestled deep within me and feeds my desire to give Sean at least one IT toy.

One the other hand….

If you (meaning me) are focused inward then it’s easy to believe in the false-Christmas that retailers sell, the one that can never be had, and you deny yourself the joy of the season.   But if you (meaning me) adjust your expectations and focus out, then you (meaning me) can tap into the joy of Christmas and anesthetize the disappointment. To some degree.  I’m pretty sure that makes no sense to you (meaning you) because it barely makes sense to me.

So while I do indulge my inner poor girl and buy Sean at least one thing he really wants, AD and I go to considerable efforts to counter that by playing down the gifts and focusing on the traditions that we are creating as a family and on the story of the birth of Christ as told in Luke.

When Sean is a grown man, I want him to remember Christmas in our house as a time of joy more so than whether or not he got a Bakugan when he was seven.  I guess he can let you know in another 15 years or so.

I would love to hear your thoughts and stories.

Carry On Santa

So that y’all may go on with your holidays, I shall reveal to you the secrets of the House of Antique as it relates to obscure toy requests:

1) A machine gun.  Sean wants the Nerf machine gun but it is $40 and we already have three other Nerf guns.  He will get the $15 Walmart no-name obnoxious noise making variety which I will deeply regret two minutes seconds after it is loosed from its packaging.

After purchasing a number of Tonka obnoxious-noise-making Trucks and an Alvin the Chipmunk who sings Up On The Rooftop every time you walk past, you’d think I’d learn. But no.  I get visions of his eyes lighting up and his grubby little hands clapping with joy and I lose my mind and buy stuff I hate.  Apparently I’m nuts.  Or just nutty about that boy.

2)  A Bakugan Kit.   This “kit” is the exorbitantly over-priced Tupperware container for his growing collection of Bakugans, and by growing collection I mean we have two that we got in Happy Meals (one of which is lost at the moment).  Last week I had never heard of a Bakugan and I still don’t really know what they are.  Were it not for kids at school, Sean would still not know what they are.  &!@# school kids.

3) A microscope. This he is also not getting, although I really want to get him one.  I want to wait until I can buy a good sturdy one.  Anyone who has any microscope buying insider info, I’d love to hear from you.

4) A lie detector kit — as seen in Sky Mall magazine.  Also not getting this as it would surely be used against me.

What he is getting are Zoobs and a blocks and marbles super set and a new soccer ball.  Oh yeah, and the stupid machine gun.

Merry Giftmas to all and to all a good night!

The Christmas Bonus

One of the things I miss the most about having a toddler around the house is the spontaneous and exuberant affection.

As a toddler, Sean was given to fits of passion.  Without warning, his teeny tiny heart would seemingly erupt with unrestrained and irrational love.  All that slobbery affection had to go somewhere and I was his favorite target.

I miss the days when he would stand in my lap, giggling and bouncing on fat little legs.  I miss how he would wrap his ams around my head and gnaw on my face.  I miss the leg hugs.

It seems the days of unfettered expressions of love are gone forever, but every once in a while one will come out of no where.  And it’s like getting a bonus — a little end of the year reward for all the hard work of motherhood.

Last night Sean and I were sitting side by side on the sofa reading through a stack of Christmas books. He had already had his bath and was in his robe and jammies and was extra warm and snuggly and smelled of lavender shampoo.  Y’all, that is like catnip to a mommy.

The book we were reading, Santa’s Stuck, always sends him into fits of snorting giggles.  I started laughing at him laughing.  And then we were just laughing and had no idea why.

When I closed the book and set it aside, he threw himself into my lap in a fit of passion.  He wrapped his arms around my neck and chicken pecked my face with kisses while making chomping noises.

He was two again.

Then he stopped and pulled back. He looked into my face, his eyes still sparkling.

Then his expression changed.  The moment was over as quickly as it had begun.  My six-year-old was back.

“Stop goofing off mom,” he said seriously as he rolled out of my lap. “Let’s read another book.”

Maybe if I keep up the good work, I’ll get to stay on.  And maybe I’ll get another bonus next year.

Brown Paper

About 20 years ago, someone gave me a big roll of brown paper.  I lugged it home thinking I could do something artsy with it, although I had no idea what.

So I stuck it in the back of the closet until such time as an idea came to me.  And there it stayed for about 10 years until I moved and stashed it in the back of yet another closet for another ten years.  Then I had a child.  And an idea.  And the brown paper was finally put to use.

About once a week, Sean and I will get out the big roll of brown paper and stretch out six or eight feet on the floor and make something. Because that’s what we do. We make stuff.  We’ve got crayons and markers and we are not afraid to use them.

Last year, he was really interested in the rain forest, so we read a book on the rain forest and we learned about the various animals that inhabit each layer. Then we rolled out about 8 feet of our trusty brown paper and drew a ginormous tree and worked together to create a vertical mural of the rain forest from the river to the canopy.  It was fun and educational and a great way to kill a rainy afternoon.

The year he was four,  around Christmas time, we rolled out the brown paper and I had him lay down on it so that I could trace his outline.  Then he painted and drew himself as a Santa and we cut it out and displayed it on the wall.  You deck your halls with boughs of holly, we deck ours with dwarf-sized brown paper Santas.  We made another brown paper “Seanta” last year and again this year and it’s been fun to see how he has grown, physically and artistically.

Twenty years ago, I had no idea what I would do with that roll of brown paper.   The roll is almost gone and I still don’t know what I’ll do with it from day to day, but I know it will be something.

On Being Brave

Sunday night, the church we attend held its annual Christmas get-together where the children sing Christmas songs and have their picture taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus.  So we donned our gay apparel and off we went.

Sean had been looking forward to going because he knew that Santa would be there and he wanted to make sure Santa knows that he wants a bow and arrow for Christmas.  He doesn’t really believe in Santa, but Sean is the kind of guy who likes to cover his bases.

At the same time, he was not looking forward to going because he knew that he, along with his Sunday school class, was expected to get up and sing in front of everybody and he would rather eat broccoli with spinach sauce than do that.

When they called Sean’s class up to the front to perform, he did not want to go.  Like a mule, he sat back on his heels and refused to go.

Had it been just me, I would have said fine, no biggie and let it go at that. It didn’t seem very important to me and I know I hate being forced into doing something that makes me uncomfortable.  And if there is one thing that makes me uncomfortable it’s the thought of being forced to sing in front of a roomful of people.  And just below that is the thought that I should have to wrestle my child to the ground and then drag him by his ankles up front to sing for a room full of people.   Then there would be two terrified, not to mention angry, people up front which would put a damper on the whole tidings of comfort and joy theme. So then, my vote was to not make it an issue.

But Antique Daddy saw it differently.  He felt it was important that Sean push through the fear and get up and sing with his group.  So he coaxed and cajoled and encouraged.  Sean looked to me for a rescue, but also high on the list of things that make me squirm is the thought of having a spousal argument in front of the entire church body, so I shrugged my shoulders to indicate to Sean that I was staying out of it and that this was between him and his daddy.

Finally AD grabbed him by the hand and drug him up front offered to go with him.  So off they went to the front hand and hand.  Sean made his way to the stage while AD stood off to one side.

As he stood among his peers, lip-syncing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, I thought about how parenting is this constant challenge of trying to decide when to push and when to back off.  And how often no matter which way you go it feels like you’re getting it wrong.

When he got back to his seat, I pulled him into my lap and told him I thought he did a great job and that I was really proud of how brave he was.

“I wasn’t brave!” he said in a huff, “I was really really scared!”  And then he nestled into me like a bird in a nest.

“I know,” I whispered in his ear, “Being brave means being really really scared and doing it anyway.”