How my childhood has changed

As a 45-year-old parent of four, looking back upon my early childhood, I have noticed that some things have changed and some things have stayed the same since I was an infant.

We start our lives out as wobbly little infants that need everything from our parents.  In the beginning its good, some may event say great!  We are fed three meals a day, given all the love and adoration we can handle.  We are pooping, peeing, burping, vomiting, naked little gods!  All of these things are considered cute when we are infants, but try it as an adult and you will be thrown in jail faster than To Catch A Predator’s Chris Hansen can say “hi there, no, no have seat, lets talk a minute”.  As infants we are truly the center of our parents worlds! 

If  born a boy, dad was the hero and admired by all his friends.  The infant boy held high over dads head as if he was Rifiki from the Lion King.  There for the world to see!  A son has been born to this pride, show your admiration as there will be no other like him!  Pats on the back, cigars strewn about, friends who don’t even smoke or like cigars are seen toking away as a gesture of approval towards his fathers amazing virility! His football jersey has already been picked out, a bat and glove lay near the foot of the crib, a racecar stroller is parked waiting in the corner for the pit crew to tune it up after each time mom brings him back from the supermarket 500.  He will grow up to be the handsomest of men, Cary Grant, Tom Selleck, Brad Pitt will pale in his shadow!  Women will fall to their feet by his presence (some men too)! Mom is always there at the littlest cry or snivel to feed him! (hmmmmm sounds like the ground work is being laid for some serious gender expectation retraining as you get older) And eat he will..  and eat… and eeeaaaattttt…..

If  born a girl, mom is aglow, all her friends sigh the heavy relief that it wasnt one of those dreaded devil maker boys!  While dad is happy she is healthy, he knows that in time he will be wrapped around her little finger and before long he will be wearing girly hats and having tea parties.  Mom on the other hand can’t wait, to show her off to all of the family!  Adorned in the cutest little pink outfits, with pretty little bows and “hair pretty’s”, life couldn’t get much better! Unless mom was 8 and had just received a brand new Cabbage Patch Doll!  (I know it’s another stereotype take a deep breath and relax) Mom also has her daughters life laid out, she will go to college, Mills, Simmons, Wellesley, she will be the class valedictorian, and she wont need any boy to succeed in life. She will be stunning and all boys will want her (some girls too) but she wont wander from her chosen path.  To cure-all of the worlds diseases and win the Nobel Peace Prize.  Yeah no high expectations here!

Now all of this sounds very stereotypical and it is, but you have to remember that no matter how we were raised or what you  may believe today, all bets are off when the first child is born!  Generational habits die-hard and really, as new parents, your brain cells have deteriorated immensely.  The deterioration of your parents minds only continues as you and your siblings get older.  Also all of this is only if you are the first-born of either sex, if you are lucky enough to be the runner-up things go significantly down hill from here!  You are just another exemplary silhouette of your parents genes.  Sorry if you are the third or fourth child, but unfortunately its true.  The effort put into the first two significantly wains as others are thrown into the mix.  Now don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean you were loved any more or less than the others, noooooo quite the contrary, the others or “firsties” have it harder than you ever will.. 

You see they have an image to live up too.  They have all of their parents goals and dreams to shatter or make come true.  If you fail its easy for the parents to just say “oh after the second one we were just tired of trying” or if you are successful you will hear “ha  ha I don’t know how the hell that one succeeded”!  The first and second child are relied upon to do all the baby sitting, to help with the child rearing, to set the “example”  of appropriate behavior.  Because as more children come into the family, more responsibilities are delegated, which keeps the parents from losing their minds completely. It also frees up more time to start drinking after the littlest ones are in bed!  None of this will make any sense to the “firsties” either, until after they too have children, then the process repeats itself. 

So where does that leave me in this posting?  Well its like this, I have noticed while looking into my own family model that indeed some things are still the same while some things have definitely changed!  I love all my children equally (same), I don’t look upon the “firsties” as any better than the last two (different), I have high expectations for all of them equally (different), The older ones do help the younger ones, with homework, cleaning their rooms, and developing their manners (same), But I look at that as a privilege to completing my expectations of good mannerisms.  And we all know if you do well at something its natural to want to pass that knowledge onto others.  I don’t expect my children to attend Wellesley or be race car drivers, baseball stars, rodeo cowboys, Nobel Peace prize winners, astronauts, or even President of the United States. (different) If that happens I will be as proud of them, as they are of themselves.  I do expect them to be viable, happy,  well-rounded contributing members of society who love what ever it is they choose to do and live their lives to the fullest. 

Maybe one day my children will look back at childhood and ask themselves; what has changed?  What has stayed the same? Why are parents so goofy? And when they are done they will smile as big as I am smiling right now.

Childhood Epidemic

The clock is ticking and its only a matter of time.  Its an epidemic of such great proportion that I think its high time it was recognized.  This “sickness” comes on while they are young and once it attaches itself to the host body, recovery can be long an arduous.  Recognizing  the “sickness” at a young age is most important if you wish to cure it!  It starts over the simplest of tasks and fighting it takes nerves of steel. Although there seems to be many theories about how to treat this “virus”, once it has set in, it is pure hell to eradicate. When it infects one, it usually infects all.. 

The day starts out like any other, kids get up, coffee is made, breakfast is had, kitchen is cleaned.  Through conversation with the kids the days activities are planned out, excitment is in the air.   The little ones are jumping up and down, “to the park” they exclaim with glee!  The middle son is quietly pestering the oldest one to hang out with him today!  Maybe do a little bike riding and bouncing on the trampoline?  Oh yeah the day is looking stellar!  MAN VACATION ROCKS!  Can be heard echoing up and down the hallway!  No school, oh yeah, no school for us fools!!!  Whooo Hooooo!  

While this is happening my wife is slowly waking up to the glorious smell of the coffee that fills her favorite mug.  Ahh yes the hearty smell of French Roast wafts through the air bringing the senses alive!  The brain kick starts after just one sinful sip.  MMMMmmmm  so good.  And then it happens, she asks herself; Self what needs to be accomplished today?  The answers come flooding in like watching the great Niagra falls pour into its basin.  And without haste she writes them down on a piece of paper which subsequently gets transferred to the dreaded “chore board”! 

Now the Chore board is this wonderful thing my wife and I have placed on the wall just outside our childrens bedrooms.  Its a white, dry erase board that has the daily chores written upon its glowing white face.  There are no excuses as to why their chores arent done once the chores have adorned the “chore board”.  Its right there in front of them for all too see!  My children booo the chore board and have a very strong 6th sense about its existence.  It seems that all is tranquill and happy until my wife or I start to write on a piece of paper, then before we can transfer the contents of said paper to the board amazingly all forms of life have disappeared from our home. 

Which brings me full circle to the “sickness, the epidemic, the virus” if you will…  Its called LAZINESS!  Yep thats right, good ole fashioned laziness!  The same kids that would build a bridge with the exuberance, skill  and expertise to rival the one crossing the river Kwai if it meant no adults and playtime till dark on the other side.  Suddenly have come down with the strangest of afflictions when it comes to completing their assigned chores. 

The smallest one inevitably lays on the floor and cries that he cant complete the cleaning of his room because he didnt make the mess!  After a half hour of crying and sniveling he miraculously comes down sick. Now here’s where the littlest shines above the rest! He has the ability to throw up on cue! Oh yeah! Put that in your pipe and smoke it! Think of all the jambs we could have gotten out of with that talent! Part of me is jealous, its like watching one of those goats that faints out of fear! Sometimes he is so good at it you are not sure whether or not its part of the act!

Next up! My daughter, who also cries at the mere thought of picking up anything in her room, she sits on her bed screaming, chanting, its not fair!  To which the reply is “you’re right honey its not fair” maybe your room will like you more if you keep it cleaner.  I am not sure which is worse, her screaming or the fact we have her believing that her room lives and has feelings! After a half an hour she has miraculously come down sick.

My  middle child will march upstairs and decide that he is going to “take charge” and tighten this ship up by running a perfect operation.  R. Lee Ermy would be proud of the charged up insults flying around the room as he treats his little brother (also his bunkmate) like a scumbag private! Of course his little brother will eventually have enough of his barrage and do one of two things. He will cry some more or vomit!  (think fainting goat) This never works out well for him yet he does it every single time!  Within a half hour and no signs of progress on the horizion, amazingly he is also sick.  “My tummy hurts, my arm hurts, is my hand swollen and I have a headache” are the ususal cries. Bad soldier…

The older child of course just lets out a heavy teenager sigh, wanders into his room, shuts the door and within a half hour comes out done and ready to move on with his day.   No sickness, aparently his immunity system is strong!  I wish we could harvest the anti-venom flowing in his veins to use on the others.  I suppose it means there is hope after all?

Of course as a parent you cannot waiver, you cannot let them see that you are actually thinking about checking their little temperatures even though you know this “sickness” is a sham to get out of chores.  You cannot let them off the hook, oh no! These little chores add up to bigger chores which add up to earned responsibilities.  Those responsibilities allow them future freedoms, and future freedoms prepare them for life which of course leads to the dreaded day you can sit back, pat yourself on the back as they prepare to walk out the door and say; job well done, (slowly now) job well done.. 

Yet there it is, the sickness, the epidemic that is sweeping across the country enveloping our youth.  Stay strong fellow parents, know your limitations, dont waiver even for a second.  For if you do the epidemic will grow, the youth will suffer and we will be left as senior citiznes to change our own diapers because our kids are to lazy to do it for us.  And really no one wants that! Do you???


So watching television today I came across a commercial that really “chapped” my hide.  It was a commercial for laundry detergent, now if you have read any of my postings or the bio portion of my blog, you know that; one I am fireman therefore I have the ability to be home to take part in the raising of my children along with my equal share of the housework and two; I have a particular sore spot for advertising being completly sexist and some may even say downright ignorant when it comes to selling household products.  (in gutteral caveman tone)Tools for men and dishwashing soap for women! Hey look theres mom fixing the banged up knee with no daddy in sight! Now throw in a couple commercials that show dad being berated as a moron by his wife with all the kids laughing in agreement while he passivly smiles and you can see how disheartening it can become.

Where was I?  Oh yes the commercial today.  It was as I stated a laundry commercial, where our actor is happily doing laundry and with a smile on his face proclaims himself as a “DADMOM” !  A dadmom are you freaking kidding me!!  Hey buddy not only is there no such thing!  You just disrespected every mother in America by proclaiming yourself as a mom!  By being a DADMOM are you trying to throw some masculenity in to the job?  No wait I know you are superior because you are a man therfore by declaring yourself as a DAMOM you strip away any importance the title MOM gives your wife!  Heres an idea why not just state the simple fact, you are a DAD!  Oh yeah thats right a DAD, come on you can say it D*A*D* daaaaaaaaaddddddd!    You know the other half of the parental equation?  The it takes two to make a baby, but no where does it say that only a MOM has to raise the child!  Why not show that you are a real man (a DAD) and own up to your responsibilities around the house?  MOM is not the sole provider, MOM is not the only one that should be cleaning up the house! MOM is not the only one who should know how to do laundry!  OH OH here is my favorite double standard!  You know that really fancy mini van that YOU just had to have?  You had no intentions on driving it, noooooo you have your super cool dad mobile, no you bought it for mom right?  Do you think she doesnt deserve a nice car as well?  Heres a thought MOM isnt the only one who has to drive it!  That fancy mini van with all the bells and whistles will get you sorry ass down to the school to pick up or drop off your children just a well with you behind the wheel!!!!

DADMOM oh yeah thats great!  I so want someone to call me that the next time I am dropping the kids off for swim, or when I have all four of them at the playground.  Yep a DADMOM the epitome of disrespect to parenting and child raising. 

I wonder, as a society did I miss something?  my mom raised me to take care of myself.  To do my own laundry, to clean my own dishes, to wipe my own butt!  Where have we gone so horribly wrong that those needs are not being met anymore.  A woman shouldnt need a man to survive in this world and a man shouldnt need a woman to make sure his kids are raised and his laundry is done.  But what I do know is this, with the exception of single parents, who are struggling with shattered relationships along with handling every component of life by themselves.  If you are in a committed realtionship, taking care of your children, taking care of your house, even at times taking care of the finances is a 50-50 proposition.  I dont care who stays home to raise kids, but someone needs to be there, I dont care who the breadwinner is, someone needs to be there, I dont care if you both work, one of you needs to be there for your kids!  Its what society is lacking in the raising of our future! 

So advertising idiots, and men (I use that term loosley) who think watching their own children is called “babysitting” your missing the boat and one day I hope you both realize it!  And to all the parents out their who are proud of the roles they have in their relationships and thier lives.  I beg of you, put an end to this campaign of destructive advertising! Be proud of your titles and what you do in your home, know that the ends justifys the means.  You will grow as a person, your children will grow to be respectful, self reliant adults.  Some day they may even thank you!  But one things for certain, none of them will come home for the holidays and great you at the door with a smile and a “hello DADMOM”.


The Morning After

The morning after Christmas has found me standing in the living room looking down upon my children as they stare off into the distance. Minds blanked out and traveling to places unknown. Some are wide eyed and lost in the unreal, reality world of television while others are still mezmorized by the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree. I wander in and ask each one individually whats happening, only to get the obligatory “nothing”. Followed with a heavy sigh and them returning to the “lost boys” stare. What is this delema they are in mentally, why have they completely tuned out and are on another planet? I mean come on, this is the day after Christmas, arent there toys to be played with, games to be won, new clothes to wear, friends to deliberate with over their new found fortunes?
I sit down and travel back in time to when I was there ages. The days before Christmas always felt like an eternity. We were constantly staring at the calender, counting down the days until the “big guy” was due to arrive. To make matters worse my mother was always fond of putting the tree up as soon as possible to help instil the “Christmas Spirit” in us all. We loved the tree a true symbol of Christmas staring at us in all its luminous glory, every morning when we awoke and every evening as we went to bed. I can remember getting up several times a night to stare in wonder at all its colors, blinking,twinkling and shining throughout the house. It was speaking to me, echoing in my head that I needed to be patient, Christmas day would come soon enough.

My sister and I on the other hand had a different plan. We treated Christmas day like an upcoming battle. We were warriors, soldiers on the western front, we had work to do, only 18 days left and a battle plan had yet to be formed. Everyday we would go out and count the number of presents under the tree, this helped to gauge the excrutiating amount of time we had left till “D” day. 18 days, 4 presents, 15 days, 8 presents, 9 days 15 presents and so on. The more presents we had under the tree, the closer we were to battle. Our battle plan revolved around my parents inability to tell time. You see the rules were very simple, no one could get out of bed until 8 am or as my father put it “there will be no Christmas”! Yet my mother would follow that up with a stern, “no getting up until 8 when the sun comes up” wether this was a slip of the tongue or done on purpose we didnt care. We were shrewd enough to know that was the loophole we were looking for! The faintest crack of dawn and the presents were ours. We divided the room accordingly, I would come in from the north, she from the south. I would handle quieting the noisey birds, she would sooth the dog. Then like Navy Seals we would descend upon our prey and make haste with the civility. Treasure was ours!!

My parents would join us eventually and we would get the obligatory butt chewing from father for not following the rules. But it was worth it, by 7:15 we had our first round of candy devoured, by 8 presents were demolished and more candy was fueling our rage! By 9 breakfast was just the foundation for more sugary bliss! By 11 we are headed to our relatives house where our wild eyed obsessions (candy and more gifts) would be fulfilled. Most kids would crumble under the pressure, but we were strong, we knew the stakes and we had trained for battle. We would prevail.

By 10 at night the carnage was complete, the candy was gone (my parents feeble attempt to keep the candy in moderation was always a failure) food had been devoured, and all gifts had been opened, played with and reboxed for transport. Sure a few good men perished on the battle field that day (our cousins who couldnt handle the pressure) but we were still alive. We would sleep like a rock that night, like angels, the campaign finished, its warriors triumphant.

So as I look upon my own brood I realize that they are suffering from a condition. A condition that we never recognized in the old days. Post Traumatic Christmas Syndrome. As adults we forget how much work Getting to Christmas day really was for us. We have forgotten about staring into the belly of the beast and winning the battle. We forget about the ones lost on the battlefield of elves, Santa and reindeer. Why because we are adults. We have sadly turned that part of brain off for the trappings of the real world.

So let them stay in their vegatative state. Recognize the battle hardend thousand mile stare, and have sympathy, for after a couple days of re-hab they will be back. And they will start planning again, for next year the battle will always be bigger and better in their little minds. And you will be left once again staring at them on “The Morning After”.

Another Christmas Eve

As I am in the process of tying up any loose ends this Christmas eve, I find myself thinking about Christmas eve last year, and the year before, and the year before that, to the point that I have now whipped out the photo album and I am looking at photo memories from Christmas past. I notice the obvious right away with the expected “holy crap” the kids have grown, and the obligatory “I cant possibly have looked that young”, but what has really amazed me while gazing upon these frozen moments in time is the fact that they are coming to an end. Now I don’t mean Christmas is coming to an end, or my life is coming to an end I mean quite simply, the days of Santa are fleeting, the days of all my kids still living at home are winding down. My job as a parent is coming closer to full circle with my oldest. Then in the blink of an eye it will be the next child and so on and so on..
Parenting has its privileges!
One of the biggest privileges known to every mom and dad is the role of Santa Claus! The first year is really scary as you hope and pray they don’t catch you in the act. The next year is a little less stressful as you slowly develop your own style and develop certain techniques. Every year after that just gets better and better until you feel as though with the wink of an eye and the twitch of a nose you could rain presents upon the tree and be gone in a flash with nothing more than a cookie crumb left swirling on the floor.
But life is always changing. Before you know it, one heads off to college, then two, then four, and the house is empty. There is no one left to play Santa for(yes even though the older ones know the truth they still love to play along). What the heck! You are at the top of your game, in the big leagues, and now the coach cant even call you up. Its back to riding the pine for you big boy! Skills or not this has all accumulated to you not being needed anymore. The house is empty, no more giggling, no more running off to bed because Santa Tracker says Santa is in Chicago! No sneaking, prying little eyes laying in the shadows of the hallway. Its all over. Done! You find yourself all alone watching “A Christmas Story” sulking. Suddenly all the struggling and frustration that often accompanied the holidays doesn’t seem like it was that big of a deal after all.. All the times the kids got on your last nerve, pestering and bugging you, fighting over really stupid stuff, makes you realize you would give anything to have that time back. Yeah that moment in time. Just once more…
Like I said parenting is a true privilege! Christmas Eve is a fantastic moment in the life of any parent. One that we hold in our minds and relive over and over again. Its pure, its true love for your kids, its joy, its one of the few times you get to be a super hero, and when your kids faces light up on Christmas morning at the sight that beholds them you wink your eye, and twitch you nose, then lock away another memory. You are only Santa for a little while and I thank god for every chance I get to be him, for someday my kids will experience the same emotions, the same feelings, they will accept this fantastic gift that has been given them and hopefully they will sit back and remember all the fun they had and smile at the thought of their father playing Santa on just another Christmas Eve….

Christmas Cookies

I love Christmas cookies!  Love them!  So much I think I would cross a street of broken glass barefoot to get too them!  I like chocolate ones, I like shortbread ones, I like almond ones, I like peanut butter ones, heck I even like coconut ones!  I love Christmas cookies!

Today I took it upon myself to make some Christmas cookies from scratch to give to a few friends for the holidays!  I went to the store and bought the ingrediants I didnt already have in the kitchen.  I patiently took all the hardware out I needed.  I even put on a Christmas movie so there would be a little ambiance in the background. 

I set the temp on the oven.

greased up the tins.

spread out the chocolate.

fired up the double boiler.

I then spent the next two hours mixing, dropping (a term for putting the dough on the cookie sheet) and baking.  It was heaven!  Just me and some of the best ingriediants known to the baking world.  Making some of the most deliscious cookies ever! 

But something was missing….  You see I was doing all of this fun stuff at work.  (I am a firefighter).  There were no little kids helping me lick the bowls, no one to sneak chocolate chips while I was folding the butter.  No one to help melt white chocolate in the double boiler for the icing.  Yep it was all perfect untill I realized it was too perfect.  Perfectly quiet. 

I needed a little person there to impart my cooking wisdom upon.  Years my father spent in the bakery of his restruant with me as a teenager/young adult acting like I didnt care because it wasnt cool to cook.  But in reality I was watching listening and learning from a man who got up every morning at 3am to make sure bread was baked for the days meals.  I want my children to know that REAL men cook.  REAL men bake and provide for their families in a multitude of ways!  REAL men take great pride in giving the gift of baked goods at Christmas.  Because to me nothing comes “more from the heart” than when I take the time to bake (I mean bake, not prepackaged crap, but from scratch)something sweet for you, my friend.  So there I was alone…..  Or so I thought.

Looking over my shoulder was one of our new guys.  He is young, in his early twenties, a good kid full of heart.  I was going to ask what he needed but a light came on in my head instead.  I leaned over and said; Lets make some cookies, you get some eggs and Ill start mixing the flour.  He smiled and jumped right to it!  Within seconds one of the other new guys also jumped in and the three of us were chuckling and dropping dough. 

After the first round came out and we all had a taster, the vote was unanimous.  Make some more!  And more we did!  I slowly backed away leaving the young guys to do it on their own.  They had watched carefully, studied the methods used and applied them perfectly.  They are both now filled with Christmas spirit as am I.  As I write this the two of them are carefully working on the next batch. 

I had a great Pre Christmas day! Filled with good laughs, good food and yes I can say it.  In a way I had my “kids” with me as I baked for people I care about. 

Did I mention “I love cookies”….

The Christmas I was 8

Today I found myself daydreaming about the past.  I was 8 years old and Christmas was only a few days away.  I had searched the house high and low for any presents that may be in hiding from my prying eyes to no avail.  I had taken the time some two months earlier to carefully craft my Christmas list and although there appeared to be a few presents under the tree with my name on them I still was having trouble locating a box that fit the size or shape of the main present that I had requested. 

How could this be? I mean I was pretty clear about my wishes, I know I hadnt always been good during the year, but I surely hadnt warranted the number one gift to be crossed from the list.  Had I?  My parents were shrewd, crafty, some may even say sinister in the ability to hide presents during the holidays.  But at 8 I knew I was smarter than them, I always found my dads stash of chocolate chip cookies, I knew where my mom hid her candy, and there wasnt a day that went by I didnt know the exact moment when anything that had been hidden was moved.  I was stealthy and crafty and honing my skills.  So how, how could it be, that it seemed as though no one had even thought to obtain the number one gift I had so desired?  It was mind boggling!

My family never had much money and for me to be so self centered as to believe that what ever gift I wished for I would recieve was also ludicris.  But in the mind of an 8 year old only two things can happen at Christmastime.  Either mom and dad purchased the item or Santa Claus was in on the action.  Now being of sound mind I had eventually come to the conclusion that ole St. Nick was my main man!  I knew for sure he had my six.  On Christmas morning there it would be, glowing like the northern star from the heavens above.  But wait! Had I blown my chance with all my stealthy snooping?  I mean the cat is good but can he really see all of us when we are “naughty”?  I remember thinking about this in depth, so much so I didnt even take the time to ridicule my sister that evening even once, which of course brought unwanted attention to me from my mother.  But I played it cool, helped with dishes, pondered some more, picked up clothes and pondered some more, went and laid on my bed, wondering if Santa could see me now?  What was he thinking?  Why was I being tortured this way?  My day would have, no should have gone so much better, if only I had found my present!  But there lays the contridiction it all….  If I found it I was definetly on the naughty list, because I looked for it and didnt find it or any presents I may have been in a “grey” area.  What to do, What to do? 

It was definetly a long two days.  Kissing parental ass, being extra nice to my sister, like an employee who knows hes about to get fired and is trying extra hard to save his already lost job.  But in the end it was one of the best Christmasses ever.  I awoke that morning, it was still dark outside, I went to wake my sister, but then I thought no, I want this moment all to myself.  I carefull strolled the outskirts of the tree, wringing my hands and licking my lips.  There was so much stuff and all of it gleamed like a new penny.  As I was ready to give up, with shoulders slouched and head hung low, I looked towards the angel on top of the tree to ask why.  There it was, in a box, stuck in the tree.  What I had waited for all year, the item I had lost sleep over tossing and turning wondering, had I made the grade.  Well I had!  The big man in red came through! I knew he would! Knew it all along! Yep!

The Christmas I turned 8 was the year I got my first G.I. Joe!  It was the year I became a soldier, a man!  It was the year of many adventure between me and Joe! we conquered all foes, foriegn and domestic.  We slept many night is the bush under the stars, listening for the sounds of approaching enimies.  We killed many soldiers and showed them a soldiers respect upon thier demise! No video games only Joe and I and our imaginations!

One more thing, it was also the year I quit looking for presents in hidden places.  The risks, the loss of sleep and being nice to my sister were just more than I could bear in the year that I was 8.

Christmas Caroling

I love Christmas caroling! The hot chocolate, the camaraderie, seeing the shocked and happy faces of the unknowing victims that happen to be home. I especially like the smiles we put on the faces of the elderly! As we are singing you can see them travel back to a day when they were younger and surrounded by family.
My kids run from house to house with their friends arguing (playfully) over who is going to ring the doorbell, who is going to knock the loudest, who is going to start the singing. They love this time of year and I love giving them this gift. A gift they don’t even know is being given them because they wont have the ability to unwrap it until they too are parents.
We arrive at our last house and as we had done so many times before we encroached upon a lawn, knocked upon a door, huddled together and with our absolute best voices sang three glorious songs. The look upon this elderly mans face as he gazed down upon me from his front porch gave me chills. He wasn’t dreaming of days gone by as some would do at such a moment, no he was wishing for just one moment he could throw away his walker, push his in home care nurse aside, stand up straight and trade places with me. With me? I think he was seeing me as a 45 year old version of himself. He gazed as though he longed to be young, surrounded by his kids, sharing the joys of heartwarming song given so freely this time of year.
After we finished we smiled, said Merry Christmas, and we all headed to the street where our cars were parked. We gathered one last time saying our thank you’s and good nights! The kids piled in the car and laughed all the way home. Another year of caroling in the books, another year of memories they won’t forget, another year till the tradition is passed on to their kids, and another year till I am that old man wishing for a moment that I too could trade places with the 45 year old dad singing to me on my front porch right before Christmas…

Christmas Shopping with your kids

Christmas shopping is always a memorable experience, I used to go solely by myself, engrossed in the mash of humanity, panic, greed, and disdain. (that’s just dealing with the holiday sales people). But life is not lived unless you grow as a person, giving of yourself to others, sharing traditions like some would share a sandwich or a cold.
I am now Christmas shopping with my kids! It sounds like a great idea, Christmas lists in hand we all load up in the truck and head off to retail land, stopping and lavishing ourselves with a mocha or hot chocolate to get us in the mood. Our heads will soon be swimming in a sea of holiday spirit as Christmas music floods the confines of our vehicle en-route to the retail orgy! Singing, smiling, laughing, guessing who is going to get what for Christmas, it all has the harmonious ring of perfection.
And yet….
When arriving at a retail shopping hub (the mall) one must first learn the art of distraction, for it takes the cunning of a Survivor contestant to not only locate but manipulate their surroundings to acquire a parking spot before another shopping contestant does, there bye forcing you to be voted off the isle!
Soon we were kicked to redemption island parking facility, after several jarring and stealthy attempts we made it back around and found a spot on the backside of the East entrance, just West of one store, South of another that we planned to visit and of course North of the trolley that would drop us no where near where we really needed to be.
Entering the Mega structure, we planned our attack, first shop for mom, then for the grandparents, ending with being split into teams of two that would alternate upon completion of each mission. All this is happening while I am shuttling gifts under cover to the car so no one can see or guess what the other purchased.
None of this happened. Not one person could agree on anything. The budget I had set for them was in danger of being busted on just mom alone! Apparently the corporate machine that is the retail system had infiltrated my little angels and warped their already deranged minds. You see unless it cost a fortune or was recommended by Jared my kids would turn their noses at it! Are you kidding me, we live a modest lifestyle, a majority of our everyday clothes come from thrift shopping, we drive well used cars, nothing in our family wreaks of this materialistic coma my shopping zombies are in! After an hour of arguing and feeling my Christmas buzz burn off I made an executive decision. Without haste I loaded up the 4 elves into my red sleigh. I willingly gave up my hard fought position in the parking lot, and drove to the other side of town. My children were in shock! Dad had cancelled Christmas, or so it seemed. How could he do this to us, was the longing look on their faces.
I pulled into the parking lot and found a space right away. We walked in the door and Christmas music was playing, there were no lines, and people seemed happy. We split into two groups, no hiding here, the cap was set at $10 dollars a piece. They grumbled at first but within a few minutes I could hear the teams giggling and laughing as they worked their way through the massive isles of Chinese crap! You see it wasn’t just any store, it wasn’t a retail giant or box store selling items in quantities no one really needs. Oh no, our Christmas shopping may have started in snobby, I’m better than you retail Hell! But it finished at the 99 cent store. My kids were happy, their presents represented what they felt about each other and at the end of the day they were relishing in the fact that not one of them spent that ten dollar limit, but came home with a boatload of stuff. Sure it’s cheap crap! Sure I caught one of them bragging they bought 14 things for 8 bucks. But at the end of the day, when Christmas is over and family has gone home. How much of that over priced stuff gets returned? How much is re-gifted? This way everyone is a winner, everyone is happy and really it’s hard not to learn the value of a dollar at the .99 cent store…..

Wine for the whine!

Ringing in my ears. What is that ringing in my ears? I sit quietly in my office chair, feet up staring blankly at the computer screen. The kids are in bed, the arguing and sniveling has ceased. I caress my glass of wine and sip it’s golden nectar. Peace, quiet it should be mine! Yet there it is….. Ringing in my ears. It’s not loud mind you and it really isn’t terribly annoying. It’s slow and steady and it drones on like a snail making its way across the walkway. Hhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Rrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnngggggggggg
What have I done to deserve this meaningless torture. Who did I step on today? Is this karma? Was I hit in the head or should I have been and this is Gods cruel little hoax? I am pretty sure after today I deserve these few moments of piece and quiet without this droning going on in my head! Maybe if I focus on it I can force it from my ears.
Nope, it’s no good I am stuck with it! Could it be the lost whining tones of my own childhood coming back to haunt me? Retribution for all the whining pain my father endured? He handled
It the same way I do, a shot, a beer and a glass of wine. There is some form of poetic justice in the choice of wine to help make the whine go away. But alas I sit here pondering my evenings future and thinking somehow there is something terribly wrong with this world when after a long day of child rearing a man can’t have drink without something still whining at him..