Thursday, December 27, 2012

House Baking

Sometimes, I catch my brain before it engages my mouth and says something I know I am going to be paying for in droves.  Other times, I don't.  This was one of them.
Now, that is one pretty stellar gingerbread house, if I do say so myself.  It was even edible.  But, I really, really didn't intend to make it.
See, I was innocently putting away dishes from the weekend Christmas lunch we held for Mike's side of the family and it seemed to me that this was a good opportunity to rearrange some of the serving platters and plates that weren't going back into storage as easily as they were previously stored.
That led me to rearrange some baking goodies, pans, molds, decorating tips, etc., which caused me to  rediscover that, sometime in the 1990s, I bought this little gingerbread mold at a Pampered Chef party.  A mold I completely forgot I bought.  A mold I had never used.  A mold that, for all I knew, was now a collector's piece.
I took one look at it and exclaimed, aloud, "I should make one of these some time." 
If Mike had been within earshot, there would have been silence (because he didn't hear me) or "Make what?" (because he was partially listening to me) or "Sounds good" (because he wanted it to seem like he was listening, even though he really wasn't).  But, I was within a few feet of the Babe at the time, and he thought making a gingerbread house was exactly what a snowy, after-gifts-are-opened-and-I'm-bored, lazy Christmas afternoon needed.  
I often go kicking and screaming into projects that start as a few misspoken words voiced in front of an enthusiastic, pre-pubescent, short-attentioned person.  These adventures always seem to start as "ours" and end as "mine" and about 2/3 of the way through I'm cursing up a blue streak that I just couldn't remember silence is golden.  So, generally, after speaking too quickly I come up with so many excuses reasons why my prematurely spoken idea was stupid beyond belief that the entire project ends up not just being something we shelve for later but that we'll never, ever, again speak of in this lifetime because it might scar Momma to even think on it for one more second.
Yes, I have the capacity to kill fun ideas with great skill and cunning, in a few short sentences.  It is a gift.  Please don't be jealous.
For some reason, call it the Christmas Spirit, I decided a gingerbread house baked and built and decorated in 2012 was exactly what we needed.
We baked.  And cooled.  And made the wrong kind of frosting.  And discovered gingerbread houses can be held together with four strategically-placed toothpicks (which we also discovered should be removed before eating).  And we decorated with old Halloween candy mixed with leftovers from holiday parties and one new bag of day-after Christmas M&Ms.  And decided that decorating one side of the house for a picture was better than decorating all the sides, which wouldn't even show, thank you very much.
And, less than 24 hours later after making the piece-de-resistance, the boys demolished the whole thing into a pile of molasses, candy, and butter cream frosting rubble and began nibbling on it in earnest.

I think I decided this is a post-Christmas tradition we may have to carry forward to next year.  Even though I did most of the work, I actually found it quite relaxing and fun.  And, look at that proud smile on the Babe's face!  Could you resist him asking you to make a gingerbread house?  I think not.

But, hear me loud and clear on this:  I am NOT going to announce this as an annual tradition just yet.  We'll see what happens next year and maybe even the year after that before I pronounce that I will go to this much trouble for a cute picture and a sugar-high again.
So, for now, happy post-Christmas tradition-making baking!  And, remember:  sometimes silence ISN'T better than words, especially if your fat mouth ends up making your kid's holiday brighter.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012

Christmas 2012 will go down in the history books for two very important reasons:
1.  It was the year Santa was "outed"
2.  It was the first year I can remember, in my 25 years in Dallas, that we had snow in Dallas on Christmas Day

Somewhere last night, long about 10:30pm, when I was starting to wilt and little eyes hadn't completely shut for the evening, I unpacked a large box containing one of the "big" Santa gifts.  I deposited that box amongst several others, at the foot of our bed, figuring I would break them down for the recycle bin in the morning.

What I didn't factor into the equation is that the boys would be woken by an after midnight thunderstorm and toss and turn until they popped out of bed at 3:40a.m.;  they proceeded to wake me and Mike up and, for some stupid reason, we decided it was the better part of valor to actually acquiese.  A return to bed about 25 minutes later meant about four more hours sleep and a completely blurry morning, including amnesia about the box.

And when The Babe returned to our room to watch the Disney Parade in bed with us, he eventually made his way to the edge of the mountain of boxes and observed that the scooter brother was riding around the house* was from a box that came from the pile.  That's when he declared "WHY IS THAT BOX IN YOUR ROOM IF SANTA BROUGHT IT?!"

My mindset has always been to keep my kids in la-la land regarding the truth behind Santa until I was good and ready for them to know the truth.  I've been known to answer questions about Santa with "What do you think?" and weigh the answer with a "HMMMM" and a "I understand that you will always receive gifts from Santa as long as you believe."  Generally, that has bought me little backtalk and even less resistance and a knowing smile, as wide as the Grand Canyon.

Since this was my last "unaware" child, and he had caught me red-handed, and I already managed to get eight pictures of him, ignorant, on Santa's lap, I asked him if he REALLY wanted to know.  He simply shook his head "yes".

So, I started with the real history of the real Saint Nick, explaining that there was a generous person, back in the day, who took pity on those less fortunate than him.  A man, I continued, who we should all try to imitate, whose memory and legacy is worth repeating.

I fast forwarded to the fact that reindeer really DO live at the North Pole and that, in 1822 when a little poem named "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" was penned, that reindeers and sleighs became magical.

And then I dropped the bomb, asking who HE thought Santa Claus was.  He pointed at me, smiling, and I shook my head in confirmation.  His eyes kind of lit up and he said "That's what I thought!", almost proud of the fact that he had connected the dots and figured out the mystery.

The next few minutes were kind of a blur because I realized that my days of hoofing it to NorthPark for the sole purpose of standing in a much-too-long-line for much-too-much-time in the late December crowds were probably over.  I fast forwarded to the next time I could reasonably expect to have a little body in the family who was excited for Santa to come and thought about how long it would be before I'd be a Grandmother.

And I told The Babe, through tear-filled eyes, that I still believe in Santa, because Santa is all about giving from the heart to people, especially people you love.  That, for me, there is no better feeling than the look on some one's face when I hit the mark and made their year complete with what I gave just to them.  That, to me, is the spirit of Santa.

And, like a gift from above, the snow arrived after that.  It reminded me that I might not have Santa in years to come, but there will always be the chance of the unexpected.  It served to move me on to the next thing and to realize that the wonder of Christmas will always be with us, Santa or no.

The real reason for celebrating Christmas lies behind all this.  Strip away all the extras and it is a simple manger and the biggest offering ever made to mankind.  Take away the magical poem and the historical meaning of St. Nick and the beautiful snow and it comes back to the Christ child, quite possibly the most unexpected gift of all. 

Later in the day, Babe returned to me and said "You know, Mom.  Santa will never die because Moms and Dads will always be around." True that fact buddy.  True that.  Even when they are at home in Heaven, they never truly leave us.

Thanks to God for orchestrating one of the best Christmas Days in recent memory.

*Yes, I'm that kind of Mother when the weather isn't pleasant and this is your 'big' gift.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Budding Artists

I am guilty of chucking art projects after staring at them for about 20 seconds.  Think Clark Griswold in the movie "Vacation" staring at the Grand Canyon.  Yup.  A couple of quick knee bends and I'm outta there.  I guess you could say I don't put forth much effort to encourage the inner Rembrandt in my boys.

It's not that I don't appreciate art.  It's just that there seems to be, especially in those early years.  So, the easiest thing for me has been to appreciate the work in the moment, encourage discussion (so I know what the heck I'm looking at), then set the piece lovingly to the side, where it will be forgotten in a couple of days and I can bury it at the bottom of the trash can where no one, especially the creative genius, will discover it.

Sure, call me a bad Mom, if you like.  But I bet I'm not the only one who a) does this or b) wishes she had thought of doing it or c) wishes she had the ovaries to do it.

So, imagine my complete delight in finding the website, a site designed to allow you to share artwork online, save it, and make memory books.

Literally, you snap a picture of the project, store it, then download the pictures, at your leisure, to create a book.  Easy peasy.  Add to that absolutely, positively, no guilt that you are getting rid of the original.  SWEET!  (Pretty soon you'll even be able to create mugs and other items featuring your budding artist's designs.)

If you are inclined, check them out.  Who knows?  Maybe even yours truly will become less of an art Scrooge as a result of this app. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Fear is not of God. 
Period. End of statement.

Yet, posts and forwarded emails and radio commentators remind me that so many people are living in fear.  Are you?

If you answered "yes", reread the first statement and then rejoin me below.

God sends peace.  He spreads joy.  He teaches love.  He encourages forgiveness.

He isn't a God of fear and hatred and anxiety and anger.

Turn off your TV, your Internet browser, your Facebook, your newspaper, your magazines.  The media is making this a circus for their own, sick benefit.

Start praying.  Pray while you cry out your anger and fear and anxieties and even your survivor's guilt. 

Use this tragedy to hug your kids more tightly and read to them at bedtime and never miss an "I love you" before you send them off into the world.

Only you can allow the world to paralyze you with fear.  The power to say "I will not fear" lies within you.  Remember the words of Isaiah 41:10 "...So do not fear, for I am with you;  do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you;  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Pass along your love everyday.  Tell your kids you love them every chance you get.  When you screw up as a parent, tell your kids how you erred and ask for forgiveness.  Tell them of the grace of salvation for all believers.  Tell them you are glad they are yours.  Remind them of the good still going on in this world. 

Go look at Christmas lights and give to the Salvation Army and bake cookies and share times of laughter.  Read the Christmas story and talk about the hope we have because of a little baby born in a manger. 

Reread Ecclesiastes 3.  "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot, 
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance..."

There IS a place for grieving.  There is a place for sorrow.  There is a even a place for forgiveness.

But that fear thing?  Time to dump that out of our lives like yesterday's smelly trash.

Walk it to the curb.  Throw it in the can.  Nail down the lid if you have to.  But, for Pete's sake, get rid of it!
Fear is not of God.
Believe on that.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Jesus Loves Me

During a time of incredible stress, I remember hearing of a woman singing "Jesus Loves Me" aloud and stopping the incident dead in its tracks.  Though I don't purport that this simple song could have stopped the tragedy in Connecticut, I do believe that it is a great "go to" that all our children can use when they feel stressed.

When we find ourselves in a "fight or flight" situation, our brains shift into survival mode and all higher level thinking is curtailed.  This is when we rely on what we believe will best help keep us alive.  That is why, in times of extreme duress, people who don't even believe in God call upon his name...they believe he can keep them alive, even in the face of insurmountable odds.

Teaching "Jesus Loves Me" as a "prayer" for our youngest children is one way they can connect with God when they are frightened, stressed, anxious, or nervous.  As they grow and mature into praying adults they can add The Lord's Prayer and Psalm 23 and free-form prayer to their arsenal.  But, I guarantee, once you know "Jesus Loves Me", you never forget the tune or the words and it is easy to recall.

Just my two cents on another way we can arm ourselves against the evil of this world....

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Party Planning

"We chunk some glue down, throw on some glitter, and call it a masterpiece.  We be boys."--Hooman

Christmas party season in the classroom is in full swing.  This is the season that separates the girly-girls from the tomboys.  Clearly, I fall into the latter catagory.

If I had my druthers, we'd serve a dessert, chug down some cider, and play a rousing game of "throw the snowball until you are hit and must sit out".  Nothing Martha Stewart about it.  About the only memory:  whether or not you had a bruise after the game.  But that's how I roll:  no muss, no fuss.

I guess I am waxing nostalgic coming into Christmas season.  With The Babe being in an all-boy class this year, Halloween party planning went like this:

Mom #1:  I have games.  Mom #2, you've got food.  Mom #3, you've got paper products.  See you at the party.  That was the it for planning, about three days prior to the party.  And you know what?  That party rocked.

And did I mention that I have a girl crush on the organizer for her complete faith that three women who never met face-to-face, exchanged only one email, and met in the classroom five minutes before party time could organize a really fun, no-stress party?  Yup.  She's my superhero.

So, I'm a bit overwhelmed by the thought that we have to have food, a craft and a game, all Christmas-themed and cute, especially given that I am highly allergic to glitter and glue sticks. 

Did I mention I don't do perfect?  I fly by the seat of my pants?  I like my parties like me:  full of ADD and lack of organization? 

So, if I come out of the other side of next Wednesday spitting glitter and twitching, you'll know why. 

Just set me in the corner and give me a couple of rum balls.  I'll recover by the 25th.  Pinkie promise.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Well Done

This is for all of you who believe the glass IS half full, that good guys finish first, and that hard work is rewarded....YOU WERE RIGHT!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ten Great Ideas for the season

I realized, as I looked back at the previous three posts, that every one of them included crying.  I can almost hear Tom Hanks in the background screaming "There's no crying during the holidays!"

Now, mind you, some of that crying was good stuff.  Some of it was not so good.  In general, though, I think a good happy or sad cry does a world of good.

But, in an effort to get back to happy without tear production, I am going to post a few ideas to make your Advent (Happy Advent, by the way!)/Christmas Season extra special.  Who knows?  Maybe you'll create some family traditions along the way.

Now, don't go all nuts, print this out, and try to do all ten this year!  Do what you feel you are moved to do and don't fret what you can't do.

Strap in;  here we go:

1.  Carry small change or a roll of quarters for the Salvation Army bell ringers.  When your kids are with you, make sure they see you contribute and help them contribute, too.  Talk to them about what an important job the Salvation Army has and why you think it is important to support them (in current news, you can also use this as a good way to explain how those affected by Hurricane Sandy receive support.)

2.  Smile at the cashier in every store you visit, even if s/he is grumpy, and look them in the eye.  Ask how their day is going.  If it is going well, express your gladness.  If it isn't, tell them you will say a prayer that it will get better.

3.  Buy a couple of $5 gift cards to Starbucks or Target or Walmart and keep them in your wallet.  The next time you receive outstanding customer service from an employee in a store you are patronizing, give them the gift card, wish them a Merry Christmas, and thank them for being such an outstanding, cheerful part of your day.

4.  Plan a family night to look at Christmas lights.  Before you leave, buy/make a dozen cookies.  When you run across the best set of lights of the night, deliver the cookies and tell the homeowners how much you appreciate their effort to make your Christmas season brighter.

5.  Have a wrapping party with your family for all the gifts that will be delivered to extended family, teachers, coaches, etc.  Brew up some hot cocoa and play Christmas carols while you finish the chore.

6.  Turn on your Christmas tree lights first thing when you arrive home and only turn them off when the last person goes to bed.  Instant cheer!

7.  Buy one cord of wood or a ready-made fire log and have a fire.  Pull out a folding table and chairs and have dinner in front of the fire with Christmas music in the background.  Ask each guest at the table to share their favorite Christmas memory.

8.  Donate something that your family picks out to a local charity.  Maybe you volunteer to serve Christmas meals at a homeless shelter or buy a present for an elderly person in a nursing home or play with the dogs at the city shelter for an hour.  The possibilities, and the needs, are endless!

9.  Send a surprise package to someone you know is hurting this season.  Let them know, anonymously, that you are thinking of them.  Include scripture verses to help them through, or copy words to a meaningful hymn, or include a child's drawing with the package.  The receiver will feel honored and blessed beyond words.

10.  Participate in sending gifts/cards to the military men/women who will be serving this season.  (But, hurry!  The deadline for sending a card is 12/7!)  The American Red Cross has an entire page dedicated to this purpose.  This is another wonderful opportunity to involve the entire family.