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  • Giftmas or Christmas or Both

    December 27, 2010

    I got the following comment from Lil on my previous post and it really got me to thinking:

    “My grown sister and I were talking a few days ago about Christmases past and she was saying that thinking back on our childhood Christmases, she never got THE thing she really wanted, she always got a variation or knock off of the desired object and that she never had a WOW Christmas because of it. I said that my poor mom was trying to make four kids happy on a limited budget and had done pretty darned well. But her lingering disappointment in those Christmases past made me think that maybe for my kid, the memory of getting what he really wants on Christmas, at least with one toy, is worth the expense.

    On the other hand, I have a friend and in her family of five kids, they each got one item of clothing on Christmas morning and then all went out sledding and she had wonderful memories of that!

    I guess with Christmas, we’re really just trying to make happy memories for our kids, however that is possible, with the realization of a dream come true gift, or/and a great happy time with family.”

    And I thought, you know that is a very interesting discussion point and one that is probably worthy of an entire post.

    I’m torn.

    The philosophical side of me sniffs and dismisses toys and gifts, the side that tries to ponder upon loftier things.  The six-year-old poor girl in me wants the Hollywood stage set Christmas and the IT doll wrapped in shiny foil paper and a sparkly bow.  And a pretty red velvet dress. And those sides are like two siblings in the backseat of a car on a trip to eternity, slap fighting the whole way.

    My parents never had money for the IT toy or even the knock-off IT toy and while I had a wonderful childhood, I had the impression that everyone else except us was having a Norman Rockwell Christmas and getting IT toys and new pajamas and spending money from grandma and were delirious with joy on Christmas morning.  And because of that, for me, Christmas always came with a feeling of disappointment.  And that disappointment seems to have nestled deep within me and feeds my desire to give Sean at least one IT toy.

    One the other hand….

    If you (meaning me) are focused inward then it’s easy to believe in the false-Christmas that retailers sell, the one that can never be had, and you deny yourself the joy of the season.   But if you (meaning me) adjust your expectations and focus out, then you (meaning me) can tap into the joy of Christmas and anesthetize the disappointment. To some degree.  I’m pretty sure that makes no sense to you (meaning you) because it barely makes sense to me.

    So while I do indulge my inner poor girl and buy Sean at least one thing he really wants, AD and I go to considerable efforts to counter that by playing down the gifts and focusing on the traditions that we are creating as a family and on the story of the birth of Christ as told in Luke.

    When Sean is a grown man, I want him to remember Christmas in our house as a time of joy more so than whether or not he got a Bakugan when he was seven.  I guess he can let you know in another 15 years or so.

    I would love to hear your thoughts and stories.

    Carry On Santa

    December 23, 2010

    So that y’all may go on with your holidays, I shall reveal to you the secrets of the House of Antique as it relates to obscure toy requests:

    1) A machine gun.  Sean wants the Nerf machine gun but it is $40 and we already have three other Nerf guns.  He will get the $15 Walmart no-name obnoxious noise making variety which I will deeply regret two minutes seconds after it is loosed from its packaging.

    After purchasing a number of Tonka obnoxious-noise-making Trucks and an Alvin the Chipmunk who sings Up On The Rooftop every time you walk past, you’d think I’d learn. But no.  I get visions of his eyes lighting up and his grubby little hands clapping with joy and I lose my mind and buy stuff I hate.  Apparently I’m nuts.  Or just nutty about that boy.

    2)  A Bakugan Kit.   This “kit” is the exorbitantly over-priced Tupperware container for his growing collection of Bakugans, and by growing collection I mean we have two that we got in Happy Meals (one of which is lost at the moment).  Last week I had never heard of a Bakugan and I still don’t really know what they are.  Were it not for kids at school, Sean would still not know what they are.  &!@# school kids.

    3) A microscope. This he is also not getting, although I really want to get him one.  I want to wait until I can buy a good sturdy one.  Anyone who has any microscope buying insider info, I’d love to hear from you.

    4) A lie detector kit — as seen in Sky Mall magazine.  Also not getting this as it would surely be used against me.

    What he is getting are Zoobs and a blocks and marbles super set and a new soccer ball.  Oh yeah, and the stupid machine gun.

    Merry Giftmas to all and to all a good night!

    The Mushinggun

    December 22, 2010

    One year it was the Chicken Wipes. The next year it was the Peemo Boat.

    This year, as you can see from the letter he typed up on his computer, Sean wants a mushinggun and a liykit, among other things.


    One point for each correct answer.

    The $1500 M&M

    December 21, 2010

    This is the story of how one M&M cost $1500 and wrecked an entire day.

    Several weeks ago, Sean had the day off of school (reason unknown) and it was a beautiful fall day so we got together with a friend for a play date in the park.

    Before we left to go to the park, he asked if he could have something from his Halloween candy stash.  I said yes and let him pick out something.

    He chose a little package of M&M’s.  I noticed that the package was red, but I figured that someone had pawned off their leftover Valentine candy on unsuspecting little trick-or-treater’s and I did not think much of it.

    Sean bit into one of the M&Ms and immediately ran to the sink and began spitting it out.

    It was a peanut butter M&M.

    Sean is allergic to peanuts.

    I was baffled because as soon as he got home from trick-or-treating, I immediately culled through his candy and pulled out all the known peanut products like Snickers, Butterfingers, Reese’s and the blindingly obvious yellow packages of Peanut M&Ms, all of which I set aside for me who is quite happily not allergic to peanuts.

    Unbeknownst to me, they now make peanut butter M&Ms and they are in a red package and they look exactly like the regular M&M’s. Except they are not.  This you should know.

    I got out my magnifying glass and took a closer look at the package and sure enough “peanut butter” is stamped on the front of the package in itsy bitsy teeny tiny print nearly invisible to 50-year-old eyes.

    If we watched TV which advertises the latest in candy packaging fashion, we might have known better.  But we do not.

    Sidebar: It would be nice if all peanut-containing candies were packaged in the same blindingly obvious YELLOW (or some other universally agreed upon bright color).

    Heretofore when Sean has ingested a peanut bearing product, his reaction has been fairly brief and mild.  Since he hadn’t actually swallowed the M&M I figured that we could rinse his mouth out really well and be on our merry way.  He seemed to be okay so we went on to our play date.

    Thirty minutes later I noticed that he wasn’t himself.  He was lethargic and would stop running to lay down on the ground, but not in a playful way.   When he said he felt really tired and queasy, we ended the play date and went home.  By the time I got him home, five minutes later, he was wheezing badly and seemed a little loopy, so we drove straight to the local children’s hospital ER.

    They admitted him immediately and gave him an Epi-Pen shot in the thigh. Within seconds, the wheezing stopped and his lungs were clear and he felt better.  It was really just that fast.  It is astonishing how quickly that works.  They put him on an IV drip and administered some other antidotal meds and he spent the next four or five hours drifting in and out of sleep.

    The doctor told us that these kinds of allergic reactions can spontaneously reoccur anytime with the next 6-8 hours so we would have to stay in the ER for rest of the day for observation.  And let me tell you this, you have not had a fantastic day until you’ve spent an entire day behind the curtain in a children’s ER room sitting in a hard straight-back chair, listening to the other patients wail and puke while you keep busy mentally flogging yourself for being the worst and most irresponsible parent ever.

    The first time we suspected Sean was allergic to peanuts was when he was about two. After I had eaten some peanut butter I kissed him on the cheek and the place where I kissed him turned crimson red, like he had a rash or had been scalded.  And then when he was about three, unbeknownst to me, he had helped himself to a peanut butter cookie at a family get-together.  He came to me very distraught, clawing at his tongue, trying to indicate to me that his mouth and throat were itchy and on fire.

    In both cases, after a short time the symptoms subsided, so while it was a little scary, these incidents never seemed life threatening and we wondered if he might eventually outgrow it.  So far, his allergy is mild comparatively — he is fine on airplanes that serve peanuts, he can sit at a table with others who are eating peanut butter, although he doesn’t like it because he hates the smell, and he can eat chicken strips that have been fried in peanut oil.  He just can’t eat peanut products, and luckily, he has no desire.

    So I was surprised that this time, the reaction was much much worse.  I knew that I had to get him to the ER.  I’ve since learned that typically, each subsequent exposure will increase in severity.  It will only get worse from here on out.

    Before they would allow us to check out of the ER, I had to go to the pharmacy and buy two sets of Epi-Pens, one for home and one for school, which thanks to our cruddy insurance was $300.  And then in Saturday’s mail I saw that the ER had sent me a $1200 “thank you for stopping by” note.  If the geologic law of uniformitarianism is really true, and that which has happened in the past will happen again in the future, I know I have another big fat juicy bill coming in from some invisible medical professional whose face I never saw.

    And that is how one M&M cost $1500 and ruined an entire day.

    When I put my little boy to bed that night, in his own bed, and I sat beside him in the rocker I’ve sat in for seven years, none of that mattered.  Not one bit.

    As I sat there and rocked and watched him drift off to sleep, safe and well, I thought about how I would have sat in a hard straight back chair in the ER for seven days and spent seven times seven times seven times $1500 to have him safe and well.

    But I’d rather not.

    Pajama Day

    December 20, 2010

    The thing about elementary school is that nearly every day is a “special day” of some sort and I can’t keep up.  I find calendars to be sort of a complicated device to begin with, but school calendars are incredibly complicated.

    Every week there is at least one “special” day.  It’s Team Day! Wear your favorite football team jersey!  It’s Spirit Day! Wear your school mascot t-shirt!  It’s Story Book Character Day! Dress as your favorite storybook character!  It’s Camouflage Day!  Wear Camo!  (That could just be Texas.)  It’s Baseball Cap Day!  It’s Stuffed Animal Day!  It’s Pajama Day!  We have had Pajama Day at least three times this year.

    I don’t get all these special days because I am old.  We did not have special days when I was growing up.  I wore an ugly uniform to school every day and it was a special day if you made it home from school without getting whacked upside the head by Sister Mary Clyde.  Special days are a new invention.

    But I go along.  When I remember.  Which is almost never.

    So then, the other day I walked Sean to school and when we got there, I noticed that everyone was wearing pajamas.  Except for Sean.  Sean stopped dead in his tracks. “Mom!” he cried in despair looking down at himself as though he were naked, “It’s Pajama Day!”

    He heaved a mighty groan.  “I’m supposed to be wearing my pajamas!”  He made the saddest of sad faces and cast his eyes downward in sorrow. He huffed.  That he was not properly attired was my fault.  I am the George Bush of motherhood —  everything is my fault.

    “Just tell’em we sleep in our clothes,” I said.  I am a problem solver.

    “Mom, you need to bring me my pajamas!”

    I shook my head. Nope. No. No way.

    I might have gone home for a library book or a forgotten lunch, but not PJ’s.  The fact of the matter is, I’m trying to raise Sean to be the kind of person who does not wear pajamas in public.

    He groaned and schlepped into school, making the best of an unbearable situation. It is these kinds of life challenges that will make him into a strong and confident man with coping skills.  Or an insecure teenage girl with fashion issues.

    After I dropped off Sean, I made my daily trip to Wal-Mart where I saw a number of adult humans wearing their pajamas.

    Everyday is Pajama Day at Wal-Mart.


    He Speaks

    December 9, 2010

    AD and I think it is important for Sean to learn how to stand up and speak in front of others with confidence so that he might grow into a man who can influence others for good, so that he will have the tools to articulate his ideas, dreams and visions with clarity and confidence.  No matter where his life’s journey leads, we think this is a valuable life skill that requires practice more than anything else, and that it’s never too soon to start.

    Since Sean was about three, we have had what we call Family Fun Night or what non-geek families would likely term as misery.  We start off by reading a Bible story, then we talk about it a little bit and then we take about 15 minutes for each person to draw a picture of what they got out of the story, what they thought the story was about or whatever they found in the story that inspired their artistic spirit in some way.  Then each person has to present their work to the others.  And by presenting, I mean you are required to stand up in front of the group, identify yourself and then talk about your work.  (You should know, being a guest in our home requires you to participate in FFN.)  I have gathered these tiny works of art into a collection and it has been fun to look back upon them and see Sean’s artistic and conceptual growth.  And I have to say, when I look at his art, I am awed; I have a glimmer of clarity about what Jesus meant when he said that we are to be like little children.

    Having said all that, we are always looking for opportunities for Sean to practice speaking in front of groups larger than our small tribe or other friendly folk who might be at our house.  So the other day I arranged for him to read Snowmen at Night to the kindergarten class at his former school.  We had him practice a few times, coached him to make eye contact and to speak slowly, loudly and with expression.  And he did a great job. So if you are looking for a speaker, contact me and I’ll put you in touch with his agent.

    As we were driving to take him back to his school, we passed a nursing home.  On a whim, AD whipped into the parking lot.  “Let’s go in here and see if they need a reader!” he said.  “I’ll bet they would love to have a little boy read to them!”  So we did and they did and Sean did.  The activities director was delighted to see us and gathered up a few of the residents in the dining hall to hear Sean read.  He stood in front of the small group, told them his name, the book he was going to read and who wrote it.  Then he sat down and began reading the book with joyful expression, taking care to show the pictures.  And those who were not borderline comatose were thrilled.  And those who were comatose, well, I know they were thrilled in their hearts even though they could not express it.

    At one point, one gentleman got into a coughing fit and I became slightly alarmed and concerned that he was going to code out right there in the dining room and what a bummer it would be if on your first public speaking engagement someone DIED.  But Sean did not miss a beat and kept reading.  When he finished he thanked them for their attention.  They clapped and said what a good boy he was and my heart swelled with humility that God would bless stupid old me with such a marvelous little boy.  Grace is the only explanation for that.

    When we left the nursing home, Sean was enjoying the speaker’s high.  He had done well and people liked him and he was energized by the experience. “I’d like to do that again!” he said.

    We returned Sean to school about two hours beyond tardy so I checked him into the office.  The office lady asked me if he had a doctor’s appointment and for a split second I was tempted to lie and say yes so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the impending disapproval, but Sean was standing right there, so I told her the truth:  He had a speaking engagement.  “Well, you know he’ll be marked tardy, don’t you?” she said.  And I said, “Oh. I see. You think I care.”  No I didn’t say that because how snotty would that be?  No, I said I did not really care about tardy marks, I only care that he is learning and that we felt what he was doing today in the community was important.  In retrospect, ‘yes ma’am’ would have been sufficient.

    I understand the school’s view that punctual attendance is important, but important things are also learned outside of the classroom.


    So Big, So Small

    December 3, 2010

    As I was getting ready to walk Sean to school today, I looked in the bathroom mirror to see him standing behind me, dressed and ready to go.  I was surprised to see that he had on the clothes that I had laid out for him.  Usually, he will wear anything BUT the clothes I lay out.  We are in that stage.

    I noticed that he had his shirt on backwards, as usual.  It’s not his fault.  He is genetically predisposed.  Nine times out of ten I’ll put my shirt on backwards too, which in and of itself is amazing given the 50/50 odds.  Wearing a shirt backwards is not too bothersome, unless you are coming out of a dressing room and you don’t notice it until you are in the food court in the mall.  Not that that’s ever happened to me. No, I’m just saying it could.  I also noticed that his hair was a crazy mess, also genetic, and he looked a little bit like a cross between an elf and Howdy Doody.  The sum of those parts made me smile.

    Along with the backwards shirt, the pants he had on were ridiculously small — so small, that he couldn’t fasten the snap.  I am pretty sure that it was just earlier in the week that I had cinched up the adjustable waist band in these pants as far as it would go and rolled up the cuffs.  Apparently children really DO grow overnight.

    I would have liked for him to change into pants that fit, but once you have your shoes on, changing pants is a terrific chore, and he could not be persuaded.  So I let out the adjustable waistband as far as it would go and through the force of will and magic, I managed to snap his pants.  If worse comes to worse today and the pants won’t stay snapped, he’ll just have to wear his shirt out.  Which I freely admit, I’ve done myself a time or two in recent years.

    Maybe it was the pants, or maybe it was my own uneven hormones, but as we trotted to school, something about him just seemed bigger today than yesterday.  Or it could be that since he makes me run the whole half mile to school carrying his backpack, I was a little light headed and my perception was skewed.

    Usually I walk him into the school and to his classroom but today I decided that I would stop at the edge of the school yard and let him take it from there.  I handed off his backpack and told him I’d see him later.  He took off running towards the school, stopped abruptly and turned to blow me a kiss and then ran the rest of the way into the building without looking back.

    I stood there at the top of the hill, watching him run towards the school, taking note of the too-small pants, the too-big backpack, his copper hair bouncing and sparkling in the morning sun.  I watched him as he disappeared into the sea of children flowing into the school and suddenly he didn’t look so big anymore.  He looked small, really small, three-year-old small. And three-year-old’s have no business walking into a big school by themselves.

    How did he go from being so big to so small on the half-mile walk to school?  How does that happen?

    I sighed and shook my head in disbelief.  Or maybe I was shaking off something else.

    I turned and headed home so that I wouldn’t act on the urge to go get him and take him home with me.