An Exploration of Parenting by the Vowel

Camp Christmas: Real or Fake? December 6, 2010

Filed under: Activities,Outings — edamomie @ 10:40 pm
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O: Outings and A: Activities

I grew up with fake, my husband with real. Thus the ongoing family conversations about what’s better and why. For the record in this household, real wins out. And yes, as you might have guessed since it’s December, I’m talking about O Christmas Tree and her lovely branches.


It was the much anticipated day when Tannenbaum was to be chosen.  But first, the kids had enough of their decorating wits about them to insist that the Halloween bats and scarecrows must come down. With the living room prepped and ready, we set out to select the tree from the Richfield Farmer’s Market.  The grandparents have been with on this occasion before. Although they have always enjoyed it, they are never really able to lend any direction to tree selection (although Dad likes to endlessly speculate on the height of each tree – and he’s pretty accurate). They were and always will be, fake tree owners.


The Family Locates our Tree

The Family Locates our Tree

I’ll admit I switched over to camp real after a few holidays with my husband. Growing up, I remember sorting the branches by letter and inserting them into the tree accordingly. And while the end result produces similar results the process differs. Possibly the important part.


To this day, I don’t quite yet have the most critical eye for picking out the best tree in the lot. I leave that up to the husband.  The kids run around the tree lot. We discuss different branches and tree-types, always coming back to the tried and true Frasier Fir. To make matters more challenging, some trees have been on the truck or in storage for days. Their branches are all folded in like a collapsed umbrella. One year, we ended up with a tree growing out of the side of a tree we purchased. A bit odd, but we still loved it.


Tannenbaum Comes Home

Tannenbaum Comes Home

Upon agreeing on the final selection, the base is cut off and its netted for the short journey home. Ava loves this tree already. I think she really wants a pet. Or at least to show me how much she can love something that we pick up, pay for and bring home to care for as our own.


Turns out – it’s a beautiful tree when the branches are all settled. No one is jumping at the task of daily maintenance, however. “I am not your Tree Waterer,” Ava defiantly states. Luckily, it’s just an act. She’s watered it everyday since we got it home without complaints. A right of passage I tell her. And just like that, after 9 years, I’m no longer the waterer.  But I’m still the light stringer.


No matter how carefully I put away the lights last year and pre-tested days ago for this season, by the time I’m ready to put the lights on, at least one strand doesn’t work. I consider doing only popcorn strings and cranberries, but way too real for this city girl. I make due with what we have, promising to fill in any missing spots with more lights later on.  Decorating must not be delayed.


Final Decor

Final Decor

I don’t take decorating lightly. There must be Christmas music, a real fire in the fireplace and hot chocolate with marshmallows. By day two of Tannebaum’s stay, the antsy children override my wishes and they begin without the circumstance I envisioned. I’ve got an ornament for every occasion. In recent years, we’ve upped our game with personalized ornaments for every family / friend combination possible. The kids even recently presented uncle Pauly and his girlfriend with two bashful blushing reindeer swooning over each other. Really, consider it for everyone on your list. It’s like Hallmark with a card for every occasion.


We play I-Spy when the ornaments are all up, quizzing each other on where stuff came from and if the kids were alive when the ornament first landed on the tree. A few nights later, we actually have a fire and enjoy the realness of that and the tree. The relaxation of the evergreen, joy the kids have had throughout this process and smell of a real fire just reaffirm which camp I’m in. For real.


Fun in a Box: Thing 1 and Thing 2 November 30, 2010

Filed under: Activities — edamomie @ 8:59 am
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A: Activities

The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day.


In the popular Dr. Seuss story of The Cat and the Hat, the mother actually leaves the kids behind. We never find out exactly what she’s been up to. Only the hint of a sassy red dress and black high-heeled pump are shown as everyone scrambles to put the house back in order before her return. She is blissfully oblivious to the cat’s enlistment of Thing 1 and Thing 2 to entertain the children who are nearly bored to death.


Children: Thing 1 and Thing 2: circa 2007

Children: Thing 1 and Thing 2: circa 2007

The modern day mom needs to be all that – find time for herself, maintain a happy household and ensure the kids are well-looked after and engaged in productive, not destructive, activities.  I can relate to the balancing act of the cat in the book, “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me now! It is fun to have fun but you have to know how. I can hold up the cup and the milk and the cake! I can hold up these books! and the fish on the rake!”


Enter last Sunday afternoon. With one child recovering from pneumonia, it was essential to keep the quiet-time activities going all day long. Not an easy feat with comments like, “This is the most baddest day ever!” and “Mommy, you don’t have time for us!” After having family in town for three days, there were plenty neglected household duties to take care of. Would I be able to read each of the 33-page manuals for our new washer and dryer to do eight impending loads of laundry? What about some yoga? Would I have energy to make a nice dinner (later in the story, we find out not really)?


While keeping kids busy may not be rocket science, it does take an initial investment of time in small increments throughout the day to keep them on a happy track. I have to constantly remind myself of this. It turns out that the solution to my daughter’s melt-down early in the day was teaching her how to wrap presents. Really? This we can do.  Five different sized boxes later and remnants of wrapping paper from ten Christmases ago, we measured, cut, taped, creased and attached bows. This skill will come in very handy in a few weeks.


Present Practice

Present Practice

After this activity, I began to disallow my high-bar for crafts to set in and just went with it.  I challenged them to make a snowman mommy-style. Never outside in the cold, rather the indoor type that never melts. To set the tone for the care they were to take with its construction, we determined that the finished paper snowman would be taped to each of their doors. They spent some time in the kitchen deciding which pots and pans would work as tracers for the three snowman circles.


With tracing and cutting complete, they colored and designed while I got in 17 minutes of uninterrupted yoga.  When they joined me at the 17 minute mark, it threw off my namaste. I insisted  they get out their mat and join in. Basically they just wanted to perfect child pose and give me the occasional helpful spot for positions like Ardha Chandrasana.


All in much better moods at this point, we admired the snowmen and taped them to each kids’ bedroom door. We made a simple dinner of reheated corn casserole and little smokies with a fresh green salad topped with radishes. We talked about how we didn’t even need to leave the house to have fun. “Then he got up on top with a tip of his hat. ‘I call this game Fun-In-A-Box,’ said the cat. ‘In this box are two things I will show to you now. You will like these two things,’ said the cat with a bow.”


Xmas Tree Lantern

Xmas Tree Lantern

And I do. I really like these creative children who actually can just delight and surprise themselves with the things they can do.


As a side note: while mommy was out on Saturday, husband and son did find their own time to create. Aluminum foil, a box and a string of lights, was a welcome Christmas tree outdoor lantern to come home to.


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