Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Wishes

I had planned to write a pithy, clever post about New Year's Eve and all the jazz that goes along with it.  However, instead, I feel the need to share my sincere wishes with you.

I wish comfort for those who are lonely.
I wish joy for those who are sad.
I wish peace for those who are at a crossroads.
I wish a clear path for those who are lost.
I wish forgiveness for those who have made mistakes.
I wish solace for those who have been hurt.
I wish safety for those who are in danger.
I wish that all of your wishes come true in 2012.

Happy New Year to you all.  Here's to a fantastic 2012.

A New Year

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas on the big screen

For the first time in a few years, one of my Christmas traditions has been broken.  Trevor and I usually make a date to go to the Kentucky Theater to see White Christmas.   We tried this year, but for some reason, the movie was only being shown Friday night and Saturday afternoon which didn't fit with our Saturday night babysitter.  I'm a little sad that we didn't get to continue this tradition because there is something so magical about seeing a classic film on the big screen.  We'll still watch it at home if we get a chance, but that's not the only Christmas movie I love.  Here's my go-to guide for the holiday season:

1.  White Christmas
It just doesn't get any better than this.  Wacky hijinks, silly misunderstandings, music and dance numbers, romance, beautiful scenery, and the clothes.  Oh, the clothes.  I myself live in jeans, but I love the days of old when people would dress up just to go to the grocery store or to travel.  No one wore heinous pajama pants on an airplane back then.  Part of the appeal is seeing the clothes on Vera-Ellen's teeny, tiny waist, though it's sad that she had that waist due to anorexia.  With a cast like Vera-Ellen, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye, and Bing Crosby, you just can't go wrong.

2.  Christmas in Connecticut
More wacky hijinks, silly misunderstandings, deliberate deceptions, comedy, and an amazing house in the country at Christmastime make this movie worthwhile.  Be sure to watch the original version with Barbara Stanwyck: don't bother with the 1992 remake.  Stinker.  Anyway, this is about a woman who pretends to be an amazing homemaker who lives in the country with her amazing family.  In reality, she is a single gal in an apartment who finds herself in a bind when her editor invites a soldier to spend Christmas at her farm.  See how this could all go wrong?  It's a very sweet and innocent story with a lot of fun thrown it.

3.  Love Actually
This isn't a classic movie per se, but I can see that it might be a classic some day.  Love Actually is a British film set at Christmastime with a spectacular ensemble cast.  The basic theme is love, but it isn't just romantic love.  It's love between friends, business partners, spouses, siblings, and even unrequited love.  The relationships are so realistic, sometimes awkwardly so, but it always makes me care more for the characters.  I also love movies that link all the characters together by interweaving their stories, especially when it's done so seamlessly.

4.  Elf
I am not normally a fan of ridiculous humor.  My brother and I weren't allowed to watch the Three Stooges when we were kids because my mom thought they were too stupid, so I don't think my physical humor bone really ever developed.  I was surprised to find that I really loved Elf the first time I saw it because it's not really refined humor.  The thing I like about it is how innocent it all is: Buddy is sweet, enthusiastic, joyous, and full of faith.  How can you not love a giant human/elf like that??  Plus, one of my most favorite celebs in the world is in Elf, Ms.  Zooey Deschanel.  She is beyond brilliant.  Toats.

5.  A Christmas Story
Growing up near Hammond, IN, which was the model for the fictitious town of Hohman, IN, in the movie, there is something soothing about watching Ralphie, Randy, and the Bumpuses' hounds.  There really isn't anything like growing up in a small town and enjoying a small town Christmas.  And Ralphie is sort of the every-kid: we have all dealt with clueless parents, bullies like Scut Farkus, and triple-dog dares.  We root for him to get his Red-Ryder-carbine-action-two-hundred-shot-Range-Model-air-rifle-with-a-compass-and-this-thing-which-tells-time-built-right-in-to-the-stock because he's so likeable and earnest and real.  We all had something we wished for as a kid, no matter how ridiculous it was.  My most serious dream gifts ranged from a dollhouse to a puppy to a gold, shiny, metal belt with a lion's head on the buckle.  So weird, I know, but it makes Raphie and his quest so much more honest to me.

Wishing you all a happy holiday season!
And please don't shoot your eye out.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Best laid plans

I had a plan to write tonight about how busy and crazy life has been here lately with birthday parties, nights out, holiday happenings, visits to the doctor and ER, and the usual insanity.  That's what I planned, but you know what they say about best laid plans.

I found out this morning that I boy (M.) I knew from high school - a man now, of course - died.  I'm no spring chicken, but I'm also not at the point where my contemporaries should be dying.  We're still pretty young with kids and dreams and futures.  Only M. doesn't have a future now, and that's surreal.  It's surreal, and it's wrong.  He left behind a family who loves him, a career, the years ahead of him...

Maybe living each day like it's your last isn't so silly.  Maybe Tim McGraw was onto something with "Live Like You Were Dying." Every time I looked at my kids today, I thought about M.'s kids.  When I kissed Trevor after he came home from work, I thought about M.'s wife and how she would never get to kiss M. again.  His mom won't get to make him another birthday cake; his siblings won't hear his voice on the phone; the public won't get to see his new art; his daughters won't lean on his shoulder after their first heartbreaks.  It's wrong and it's sad and it's just damned unfair.

Someone I know posted a status update on Facebook today that said, "What if we all said, 'I'm going to make 2012 the best year of my life', then we all did it?"  (By the way, I think it's brilliant, Alex.)  What if we tried to do that every day?  We could be nicer to each other.  We could judge less. We could say what we mean and mean what we say.  We could live up to our responsibilities.  We could perform random acts of kindness.  We could accept others for who they are instead of who we want them to be.  We could live openly and honestly.  We could live simply.

We could smile more.  We could laugh more.  We could love more.  We could live more.  We could.


Monday, December 5, 2011

You better watch out

I recently read a post on about a mother who chooses not to tell her kids about Santa.  I think the older I have become, the less judgmental I am;  and while I don't judge this mother for her choice, I'm not sure I agree with her reasoning.

Lottie and Dallas both know about and believe in Santa; I suppose that was a conscious choice that Trevor and I made, to teach them about Santa.  Then again, the whole Santa thing is also difficult to get around.  There are books, TV shows, dolls, inflatables, and songs about Santa starting as early as Halloween anymore.  Even if I wanted to avoid Santa, I'm not sure I could.  The Big Guy is everywhere. And I don't necessarily think that Santa is a terrible idea: he's a guy who brings gifts to kids once a year.  I don't see a lot of harm in that.  He's not stalking them on the playground, after all, or asking them to help him find a lost puppy.  We have had the talk about not taking anything from strangers and not ever, EVER going anywhere with a stranger, but Santa isn't the same thing.  Look, childhood nowadays seems to be getting shorter and shorter with less and less fun involved.  Toys have to be educational, and books have to teach morals.  Kids are expected to read and write before they get to Kindergarten, they're expected to be computer whizzes by first grade, and they're expected to grow up WAY too fast.  What's wrong with giving them a little magic in their lives?  I was a late-believer in Santa.  As a matter of fact, my family had to tell my younger cousin not to tell me about Santa because I still believed when he didn't.  There's something to be said for childhood innocence.  (And, by the way, I'm a fully functional adult even after finding out the truth.  There's no emotional scarring least, not from that.)

A lot of people squawk that telling kids about Santa is lying to them, and these parents claim to never lie to their kids.  I call shenanigans on that.  We all lie to our kids from time to time; let's not pretend we're perfect.  When the time comes, I'll perpetuate the tooth fairy myth with no moral issues.  Sometimes I'll claim that we're out of ice cream when the kids beg for a treat simply because I don't want them to have it and I'm sick of saying no.  I have oohed and aahed over various art projects that look more like pieces of paper that have just been spit out of a trash compactor.  Will this harm my children?  Nope.  Will it tear down their sense of self?  Doubt it.  My kids are both deep into the world of fantasy, as well they should be at the ages of 4 and 3.  They love to dress up and play weird games like "Fire Baby" (don't ask) and "Apron Bachoodie." Why would I want to discourage their rich and imaginative fantasy worlds now?  Discouraging them from playing and pretending and believing would take away the very essence of who they are now and who they may become later.

Occasionally, around the holidays, I'll pull out the old "Santa is watching" threat just to get everyone back on track, but it's not a line I trot out every day.  As with other admonishments, it gets stale if used too often.  In reality, I spend every single day trying to teach my kids to be good all the time, not just at Christmas.  I try to teach them the importance of kindness and giving back in their everyday lives just for the sake of being kind and appreciating all they have.  I don't feel that teaching my kids about Santa and teaching them how to be generous people are mutually exclusive: can't I do both?  Can't I give them magic while teaching them important lessons about life?  I think I can, and I will.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The sorrow of giving

One of the things I love most about holidays is picking out just the right gift for someone; something that will make that person smile or gasp or tear up with joy.  We're told from an early age that giving is better than receiving, but apparently it takes quite a while for that lesson to sink in.

I got to experience some serious preschool rage today that all stemmed from one wrapped gift.  Lottie was invited to a birthday party, and I had the birthday boy's gift gaily wrapped and ready to go.  I did that while the kids were at school, and I distinctly remember thinking that I should put the gift away so that neither Lottie nor Dallas was tempted to open it.  I forgot, and that's when things got ugly.

As soon as Dallas saw that package, he was all over it.  He dragged a stool halfway across the kitchen so he could get his face closer to the gift.  As his hand reached out to touch it, I told him that the gift was for Lottie's friend Loren for his birthday.  With a scowl on his face, Dallas said, "No, it's my birthday."  I gently reminded him that he had already had his birthday and had gotten a lot of nice gifts then.  Mistake, Mama.  Big mistake.  He knocked over the wooden stool, threw himself on the ground and yelled that he had NOT had his birthday and he wanted that gift RIGHT. NOW.  I told him that I understood that he was frustrated, and he yelled at me to stop talking.  After warning him that he couldn't speak to me that way, I left the room.  He followed.

He threw himself down on the living room floor and repeated over and over, "You can't tell me.  It's my birthday, too.  You can't talk to me about that."  I ignored him until he came over and stared at me from six inches away.  When I smiled at him, he yelled at me again.  Time out, buddy.  Three minutes of lusty crying and yelling ensued.  The whole time, he was saying that he wanted me to stop talking and not look at him.  So when I left the room again, naturally, he followed me.  Because that's what you do when you want someone to leave you alone, right?  <Insert eye roll,>

The drama continued for a while longer upstairs, and I let him get it all out.  Finally, he came to me and said, "Mama, I'm sorry I yelled at you.  I'm so sorry."  We had a really sweet hug, and he said, "Can we talk about it?"  When I asked what he wanted to talk about, he said he wanted to talk about how he yelled at me.  I told him that it hurt my feelings, and then he cried again.  It's hard to be three.  I told him that I understood his frustration; it's difficult to watch someone else get gifts and not get any of your own.  He was pretty confused by his response to not getting the gift, and I'm sure he didn't fully understand why he was so sad and angry.  Parenting is hard all the time, but it's really difficult when things can't be explained in a logical way.  Three year olds aren't too keen on logic.  Then again, I'm not either half the time, so I feel his pain.  I didn't mind the tantrum so much because I know he needs a way to express his frustration, but I also want him to understand that other people are allowed to have special days and be feted.  We all deserve to feel special without someone else taking over our celebration.  But he's three, and we'll get to that point little by little.

The day ended well with Dallas and I snuggled up in our bed reading books together.  He kept leaning over and giving me kisses and zorberts on my arm.  I know that was his way of showing how sorry he was that he had acted out this afternoon.  Lottie breathes drama in and out just like air, so emotions aren't especially scary to her: my boy is more sensitive, and emotions are intimidating to him sometimes.    But I knew all was well when he came into my room before bedtime to look in the mirror: he was wearing his Spiderman mask and wanted to admire himself.  He stood in front of the full-length mirror for a moment, then turned and said, "I look pretty awesome, Mama.  Good night."

Christmas morning ought to be frightening crazy chaotic dramatic insane loud pretty awesome chez Wells, but I'll think about that another day.