Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Lights and Why the Floors are Sticky

Its the Holiday Season in Seattle.  This means that parking lots are always full, websites and calendars are buzzing with listings of  Craft Fairs, Winter Festivals, theater, dance, Meaningful Moments with Santa at the mall and Family Traditions (Trademark, TM, TM).  There's the Nutcracker (which seems to be some kind of obligatory cult to which you drag your kids), Christmas train rides, a carousel, ice-skating and many opportunities to buy Christmas gifts and treat yourself along the way.

When you call your friends, people preface any attempt to make plans with "I know its the busy season but..." as if it is understood that we are all overstressed and scheduled with our Holiday Spirit (TM) and yet, my secret is that we are not that busy. 

Sure, there are many Memorable things to do which exemplify the winter season.  There are things that are fun to do.  However,  Fun and Memorable do not always coincide.  At times I feel the sheer abundance on offer tempts us to pay or participate in experiences just because they are there.  So, I try to remember to leave time to do the things I like, like running, pilates, drinking lattes, spending time with friends and ....

 baking cookies :)

Eating our way to Christmas
Today I hosted a "Cookie Exchange" in which 6 of us baked cookies and brought them to my house to swap.  We each ended up with a mixed box (or rather boxes) of cookies.

As a result, my kitchen is a wreck - the floor is sticky - the dishwasher is on its third load and I cannot eat dinner tonight because of all the sampling I have been doing all day.

The cookies await division (and sampling)

Wren digs his hand into a tub of marshmallow cream.

Anna and Meghan work out an algorithm to allocate cookies equitably.

These large frosted cookies were Wren's favorites. 
He ate TWO immediately I had my portion allocated.

But it was a lot of genuine fun and Wren had his best playdate ever (4 friends for a total of 4 hours!)

And did I mention that the cookies are Utterly Fabulously Varied and Delicious (TM).

Lighting the Path to Goodness
We also enjoy Christmas Lights and have recently decorated the house with colored strands of lights and draped other white ones over the bushes.  We have yet to install the illuminated deer which raises and lowers its head (seriously, folks abroad.  It does!).  A few weeks ago, we visited a display of Christmas Lights at the Bellevue Botanical Garden.  It was very intensely pretty.  I would be one of those outsider artists if my house looked anything like the garden but it was a fun thing to do together and an excuse for a hot chocolate [during the holiday season kids take to asking for hot chocolate instead of wearing sweaters and coats].

Wren sips cocoa by the shining lake of lights.

A glowing moon by the Japanese pavilion.

The Garden Vista

Wren looks out over the lake made of lights.
The spider lights were a favorite.
Wren was interested in the fly that was caught in the web.

Frost is enjoying the holiday season.  He says that to him it means "Fun, getting presents, celebration also family times and presents and Compassion To Others."

I notice that he has been well indoctrinated.

Wren says that birthday and Christmas mean that he will get Lego Lavatraz.

The Fight as Family Tradition
Wren is enjoying being a Warrior and spends much of the day hauling around weapons (bows, arrows, guns, wooden swords).  He likes to parry and wrestle with Frost but occasionally over-reaches and hurts Frost (and visa versa).

Wren says "Take a picture of my bad guy face."

Yesterday, Wren and Frost were on the couch.  Frost was watching Tower Prep on TV.  Wren waved his rifle at Frost and said "I am going to hit you in the eye" and then proceeded to swing at Frost and hit him across the nose.  Frost had an egg on his nose in a place that I have never seen swell - he was crying and Wren received the ultimate punishment - all the weapons went away for 24 hours. 

He kept checking if it was "the next day yet?"  Thankfully, he has been a bit more circumspect with his artillery today and didn't overexpose his 3 and 4 year old playmates with his fighting moves.  More than a few times our friends mentioned how their children (two are eldest boys) are not exposed to as many concepts as Wren because "they don't have older siblings."

I didn't choose to complete the sentence as I would usually:  "They don't have older siblings who play video games and a father who likes fantasy battles."

The Geek Tradition -  Penny Arcade Charity Auction
Speaking of Joshua's fantasy battles, his Christmas tradition is to attend the Penny Arcade Child's Play Charity Auction.  This year I went with him.

Josh and I actually do go out sometimes.
It was a lot of fun with people dressed in period costume, tattooed ladies and men in coat tails.  There was also a stray Zombie wandering around (from Plants Versus Zombies - PVZ), apparently looking for his creators at Pop Cap Games.

The Portal Gun $15K.  Apparently you do not run around
the house playing Paintball with it.

The most eye-opening part of the night was the auction of high-ticket items like a Portal Gun known to geeks and officianados as a masterful replica of a significant element of gamer lore but as a Toy Gun to the rest of us.  It sold for over $15,000, buoyed by goodwill towards Children's Hospital and a certain amount of 'Festive Cheer'.

I hope you are enjoying your Holiday Season and are just the right amount of busy to have fun.

Wren turns FOUR in a few days.  Keep and eye out for a birthday party post.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Overheard in the back seat

I feel I could start a column called "overheard in the back seat".  It would feature those odd conversations you overhear your kids having while you are driving them places.  Family dinner eat-your-heart-out!  Lets face it, with all the connected devices at home, the real quality time for a pre-texting family is when you have them strapped in the car.

This afternoon Wren asked Frost "what is Christmas?"
Then I asked him too.

Frost said "Its either a celebration of Jesus's birthday, the day he was born or the day he died.   Wait, the day he was born is his birthday.  So, its either a celebration of Jesus's birthday or the day he died."

Me:  Which one do you think?

Frost: I don't know.  I can't remember.

Me [hinting heavily]:  Which do you think is more likely with the gifts we give each other?

Frost:  Oh, I don't know. 

Me:  Really?

Frost:  Well, I guess a birthday?

Me:  Why would we celebrate Jesus being killed?

Frost:  I don't know.

Sometimes I wonder what those advanced placement tests measure.  It is surely not religious intelligence or common sense.

How do you dispose of a friend aka The Death of the Christmas Card

Who sends Christmas cards?   Anyone?  Not virtual cards that sing Jingle Bells with an animated reindeer but real paper from trees type of Christmas Cards?

Okay, the first thing you want to do is correct me.  "We don't send Christmas Cards" you say, "we send Holiday cards."  They must be non-denominational.  They need to include Kawaanza, Hannukah, Waldorf fairies and Christmas.

Still, who sends Holiday cards?

Perhaps its just me becoming unpopular.  In the old days [aka the 1980s] when I was a kid, by now the mailbox would be full of cards.  I would collect the stamps from England, from Swaziland, from Australia and open the cards from everyone who had even the most tangential relationship to my family.  We would hang up a string in the living room and hang the cards on it.  Sometimes they would have treats like bookmarks or letters in them.  After Christmas we would cut them up and make scrapbooks out of them, or collect them in old chocolate boxes.

The cards were lovely.  They had embossed angels and silver foil inlays and shiny stars.  Some had pictures of old English villages with carol singers.  They had peace doves spouting words in many languages.  They had illuminated letters and bold wishes for peace and love and joy.  They were happy and generous and just plain pretty.

So far, this year we have received ONE CARD [thankyou Corlie].   And next year I probably won't get that card either because of what I am going to write next.

The few remaining people who send cards, send pictures of their family printed into cards.  Its like a kind of photographic swap meet.   I am sitting at my desk right now doing it too.  I send out photo-cards of my family and you send me photo cards of your family and then we all hope we remember each other until next year.

These photo cards of your family are pretty but they are not something I am going to store for posterity but I can't throw them away either.   In Indonesia I was taught that it is very bad luck to throw away a photograph of someone.  Its quite dangerous.  Its like throwing away your relationship or casting them into peril.  So what do I do with the Holiday cards with all our loved friends kids on them, our family nieces and nephews?

Surely you've felt it?  You try and throw away a photo and the smiling faces stare reproachfully out from the recycling.  You wonder if its okay to recycle them - isn't that like Shredding them?   I end up stacking them someplace for long enough that I forget and later dispose of them suddenly, like the pickled plums you really didn't like but never throw out of the fridge until, finally, you are allowed because they have grown mold and are entering another phase of their lives which is obviously better performed in the yard waste.

The only people who send me real cards are our real estate agent, our financial adviser, our insurance company and the guy down the road who keeps trying to get me to make a financial plan (with him).

Anyway, if you get one of my Holiday Cards I hope you enjoy it for a little while.  I will survive if you recycle me.  I will still send you one next year.  And if you send me one I shall string it over the fireplace and appreciate it because it is one of very few.  But I will dispose of your card eventually and hope you forgive me.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wren worries about death

You probably know that Wren is an anxious type.  As Teacher Jennifer puts it "he goes to that Worried place" when things happen.

A few nights ago Wren told me that he was worried about being dead.  He didn't want to die.   "What do they do to people when they are dead?"

Not wanting to dwell on burial versus cremation, I told him that there are many different opinions about what happens when you are dead but its not worth worrying about right now.

I was starting to panic wondering why Wren was worried about death!  He told me:

"Because you played that game with me with the pigs in the forest and the one pig was EATEN by the monster.  He was DEAD and the other pigs were sad."

So, it was all my fault playing M rated games with him.

Pigs in the Forest is Wren's favorite game.  In it
a family of Pigs face various perils in a forest full of wolves and monsters
but are usually victorious.

Today, on the way home from Fred Meyer, Wren asked me where all the babies come from when there were no grown-ups.  I told him that was a mystery.

"I did not like being inside your tummy," he announced.  "I was there a very long time."

I said that it was not such a long time and we were very happy to have him as our baby.   I said he was only there about 10 months.

Wren:  Oh, that is a short time.
Me:  Well, its not SHORT but it wasn't a long time.
Wren:  Have you run out of babies now?
Me:  [Suddenly realizing that he believed the babies were all waiting in the tummy all the years of our lives and in a kind of queue to come out]
Yes, they are all come out now.

After a moment of silence he asked me how babies get into the tummy so I explained that Daddies and Mommies have things like little tiny seeds which mix to make a baby.

Then he started to cry.

Me:  What's wrong Wren?
Wren:  I don't want to make a baby!
Me:  You don't have to!
Wren: How do you STOP making a baby?
Me:   Well... ah... there are lots of ways, you don't need to worry about that now.
Wren:  HOW!!!!
Me:  You won't make a baby now, you don't need to worry.

Advent Calendar
A more normal incident from this morning.

[Wren has just woken up early.   He is still disoriented and yawning, but driven by the desire for the Advent Calendar.]

Wren:  Where is my advent calendar?
Me:  It is under the desk.
Wren:  Oh no, but this hand is weaker and this hand is stronger so if I pick it up with two hands it will go WEEAOO to the floor.
Frost:  I will get it for him.
Wren:   Is it the Lego or the Playmobil?
Frost:  Today, you can do both of them and tomorrow I will do the Lego one.
Wren:  What is it?
Frost:  Hey, where did the tiny piece go?
Wren:  It is round and roly so maybe it fell on the floor.
Frost:  Help me look for it!
Wren:  No, I am opening the other one.  I am opening the Wrong One!
Frost:  Mum, later in the day will you look for the one cylinder lego?
Me:  I guess so.  It is a common piece.
Frost:  Wren got lots of birds!
Wren:  Lets try and find the little piece.

Its 7.30am and we are crawling around on the floor looking for a dot of Lego.