Each of us has a little Mr. Burns in us

Have you ever had your child make an observation that was both insightful and hilarious?

My boys have recently been exposed to The Simpsons. I’ve watched The Simpsons most of my adult life and attempted not to expose them to it for as long as possible. I remember my mom,  who was an elementary teacher, wasn’t a fan — she didn’t like the show and what it was ‘teaching‘ the kids (particularly Bart being rude to his father, principal Skinner, teachers, etc.). As a younger person, I thought my mom was overreacting to the show, but as a parent and seeing how influenced kids are by what they see (my boys included), I got it. I’ve always enjoyed the show, but felt my boys needed to be a little older so they would understand right from wrong and appreciate that this is a cartoon, not an acceptable way to act in real life.

After many conversations about it with their father and I, we finally allowed our kids to watch an episode. They were instantly hooked. My oldest in particular. He loves the situations the characters get themselves into and out of, the relationships between the characters and the humorous way they take on topics (political or otherwise). Side note: did you know there was an episode that predicted Donald Trump would be President (Bart to the Future, which first aired in 2000)? Yikes! I’m sure I thought that idea was hilarious in 2000 — not so much anymore.  Regardless, I didn’t remember that episode until my son watched it.

My family and I were in the car together coming home. My oldest asked why people do mean things to each other? After my husband and I attempted to explain why this happens — one person feels hurt or doesn’t like what the other person is doing, or they are feeling bad about something (maybe themselves) and take that out on someone else, or sometimes they do mean things because they can (get away with it) — my son interrupted us with a keen observation. “We all have a little Mr. Burns in us, don’t we?” He continued, “Mr. Burns only thinks about himself and what he wants. He doesn’t think or care about how his actions will effect others.” When he finished, I asked my younger son, “What do you think about what your brother just said?” He replied, “Excellent” in his best C. Montgomery Burns voice. Oh my goodness, did that make all of us laugh.

As we enter the holiday season, we can feel rushed, hurried, and frazzled, but this time of year is supposed to be joyous, festive, and a time of kindness. I thought my son’s insights were spot on when he enlightened me that we all have a little Mr. Burns in us. We do. Especially when times are stressful (particularly this time of year), or we just want things to go a certain way (our way?).  It’s up to us what we do with it.

How do are you handling the busyness of the season? How do you handle stress (and perhaps your inner-Mr. Burns) during this time of year?

 

Fall Inspired

Did you know you can order a frappucino with no coffee in it? Now you might be thinking what’s the point, and I would agree, except my oldest son is hooked on Pumpkin Spice frappucinos. 

It started innocently enough over the summer when we were with family and someone ordered an extra s’mores frappucino and had no one to take it. The drink looks enough like a shake that my son said,  “I’ll try it.” After one gulp he was a fan. 

Since the Fall-Inspired drinks have come out he’s been eager to make a pilgrimage, at least once a week, to get one (Starbucks will substitute cream for the espresso — that was my son and my’s compromise). My boys started talking in the car on a recent evening about the drink and the inspiration for it. My youngest hasn’t had one and isn’t interested. Instead he shared he likes Halloween-Inspired drinks. “Like what?” his older brother asked. “I don’t know,” he pondered for a moment, “like cider, I guess.” “That’s not Halloween-Inspired,” said his brother, “it’s Fall-Inspired too!” I have to admit it was amusing to listen to them argue the merits of Fall-Inspired vs. Halloween-Inspired for a few minutes. Their conversation reminded me of the smells, looks, tastes and experience we associate with each season. Fall, in particular. What’s not to like?

I like that my boys are picking up on the senses of the season too. Regardless if it’s Fall or Halloween-Inspired.

What do you and your child like most about the season?

Oh Christmas Lights…

What is your favorite tradition of the holiday season?

As a family, my husband and I have worked to create new traditions with our family. Pacing ourselves based on our kids age and what we’ve thought they could handle. A visit to Santa when they were younger with mixed results — when they were very young they had no idea who he was and took pictures without issue, then they became scared of him (but not at the same age — there was a good three year period where one child was terrified of him and the other was completely okay with him), then finally they were okay with Santa, almost tolerant of him — they thought seeing Santa was an insurance policy — I need to visit with him just in case he’s real. As they grew, we added making gingerbread houses, advent calendars, and seeing some of the Christmas decorations around town. Our traditions now include some of the above, though there was no Santa visit this year (sigh…why do kids have to grow up so fast?), added in working a Christmas tree lot (a fundraiser for their school), and seeing the Pathway of Lights (house decorated with lights and the walking path adorned with candles around a local lake). We’ve attempted the Pathway of Lights in the past with mixed results — as babies in a stroller, non-stop crying forced us to abandon the walk early; as toddlers the cold or length of the walk wore them out–they clearly weren’t having fun; as 9 and 11 year olds, my husband and I thought this year they were ready for it.

We headed down to the lake with our plan — we’d walk around the lake for as long as we were all enjoying it (it’s about 3 miles around, and the weather this time of year can be a little dicey — cold, windy, sometimes rainy), and have dinner nearby with friends. We parked the car and headed toward the lake. It was a clear night (yes, I thought, we’re off to a good start). We walked a few blocks and my oldest proclaimed, “Mom, it’s freezing out here!” While bustling to get out of the house, I failed to realize he had grabbed his lightweight coat instead of his heavy one. We walked a few more blocks and my younger chimed in, “Mom, it’s windy out here!” I felt like I was an observation away from being the big bad wolf in the Three Little Pigs story…and then after a brief reprieve (there were a couple of oohs and ahs as we neared the lake and could see all the decorations and lights) it hit, my husband said, “Let’s walk the lake and then get dinner.” My husband knew our friends couldn’t meet us until later and didn’t want us to eat before they could even join us. My kids had other ideas. “Later? But I’m hungry now!,” one said. The other chimed in, “This is so stupid, I didn’t even want to do this.” I went into force-family-fun mode. “We don’t do many things as a family like this. We’re walking the lake and you’re going to enjoy it!” My kids stopped the outward complaining, but their non-verbal signals showed they didn’t plan to enjoy one minute of it. We walked for a few minutes. It was very windy and cold. Then we heard music. Oh, Christmas music, this will get everyone in the mood. Then I heard the lyrics. I can’t get no….no satisfaction. What? I thought, there is a Rolling Stones cover band playing at the lake? This makes no sense. Then my husband confirmed it wasn’t just me, “what in the world are they playing, and why is it so loud?” He was right, they were blasting the music across the lake. In years past I’ve heard carolers and musicians, never a cover band. It detracted from the festive mood. We started feeling like our grand plans of making this holiday tradition we would all look back on fondly were doomed. We proceeded to try to make it work anyways. We walked. The kids complained. It was crowded, there were people everywhere. My kids complaining got louder. I had had it. I stopped everyone, a laugh of defeat escaped from my body and I said in an all too loud voice, “this is no fun. This is something I look forward to every year and you’re making this so unenjoyable. Can’t we just enjoy this? It’s beautiful out here. Yes, it’s cold. Yes, it’s windy. Yes, you might be hungry. Yes, there is music that is confusing playing. But we’re together and we don’t get to do these kinds of things very often. Can you please, please, please, try to enjoy this for a few minutes?” My kids were silent, my husband was silent and a few people around us were silent. After a few moments my youngest took my hand and said, “Mom, can you keep my hand warm?” I noticed he hadn’t brought his gloves after I had given them to him before he left the house. “Of course,” I said. “Mom, can you hold my hand too,” my other piped in. They were trying. I was grateful. Holding hands with each of my kids, we proceeded to finally walk. No more complaining (even though I knew they were cold and would rather be inside a warm restaurant), no more talking for a while. “Oh, look” I pointed to a group of kayakers who had decorated their boats with lights and were on the water. “That’s so cool!” We all agreed. We walked further. The kids started pointing out neat decorations on house, pets and people. Anytime one of us saw something that we liked we pointed it out. It started to become enjoyable.

The wind and cold forced us to turn around after about 30 minutes. While it would have been nice to be outside longer, it felt like we might be pushing our luck, and we’d gotten to see many of the beautiful decorations around. When we got to the restaurant, we were grateful to sit, rest and warm up. Food did us all good and our friends joining us made for an even more special evening.

The tradition isn’t as I envisioned, but it was a special night, and my hope is that as my children age, this will become a more meaningful tradition (and we’ll laugh at times like this — I still think about the Rolling Stones cover band…really? The Rolling Stones?).

Have you ever had a tradition you were hoping your child would take to and didn’t? What new traditions are you and your child experiencing?

I will be off for the next few weeks enjoying time with friends and family, and will be back in January.

Happy Holidays!

Holiday Giving

What is your favorite part of the holiday season?

With my kids, my favorite part of the season has been something slightly different each year. When they were younger, it was the simplicity of the holiday — they didn’t really know what was going on, so we didn’t really have to do much to get them into the holiday spirit. 🙂  As they became more aware of Christmas, going to see Santa or doing something festive like driving to see holiday lights and hearing their oohs and ahs was special. As they matured, having them help us pick out and decorate a tree brought us all joy. And this year, our sons are getting into giving presents to others. Don’t get me wrong, they are still very much into receiving–we have their lists–but they are starting to think beyond themselves.

At their school aftercare program there is a tree decorated with paper mittens. On each mitten is written something a family needs. All the gifts are very simple: a dish set, gloves, socks, etc. It breaks my heart to know people only want these simple things, yet good to know we can do something about it.

My husband and I have a tradition of buying gifts for others in need each year through our church and where we work.  Nothing feels better to me than putting a smile on someone’s face, whether you get to see it or not. When my youngest saw the Giving Tree with the mittens in his aftercare program’s lobby he insisted we pick a family. “Well, we can get the family this!” he said as he handed me the mitten. I looked at it and agreed. “You’re right, we can.” He is very pleased that we are going to be helping someone else out. It warmed my heart to see that my son is interested in giving and understands helping others feels great.

We experience the joy of the season in many ways. This year, giving is going to be an even bigger part of our joy.

How are you and your child experiencing the season? What is bringing you the most joy?

 

The Magic of Santa

Do you remember when you learned Santa wasn’t real? How did you take the news?

Our oldest learned last year that Santa wasn’t real from his classmates. We knew he would find out sooner or later, but realizing that he understood this news was hard to take–for him and us.

He was not happy when he learned the news. He was clearly disappointed that Santa wasn’t real, and he was ticked that we had let him believe he was. After calming down, he and I talked. I needed him to understand why we let him believe in Santa. I told him, “When you are young, there is an opportunity for you to experience something magical–that someone knows and cares about you so much that they go to great lengths to get to your house to bring you something they think you’ll like. Experiencing that magic and understanding what it feels like is important. It’s one of the few times you get to feel that outside of your mom and dad, or your family, that someone really cares about you and wants you to be happy, without wanting anything in return. You don’t get to experience this often in life, and we felt you would miss out on something really special if we didn’t let you believe.”

I’m not sure our son really understood what I was saying, but our hope is that he will as he grows older.

Believing in Santa is magical. And oh, how I wish he were real. I’ve experienced Santa as I’ve grown in glimpses–through a thoughtful friend who called or brought flowers or soup unexpectedly in hopes it would lift my spirit, or an foot or shoulder rub from my husband after noticing I looked tired from my day. My kids making me a picture because they thought it would make me smile. Small moments, that’s don’t have the build-up of Santa arriving, more like an expected arrival that I’m grateful for.

What magic has Santa brought to you and your family?

Happy Holidays! I will be taking this much needed time off and will be back in January.

The Best (real) Christmas Pageant Ever

I agreed to take the lead in putting on our church’s annual Christmas Pageant. What was I thinking?

Now, you might be wondering, why didn’t she just say, “no” to leading the production? Believe it or not, I’m actually pretty good at saying “no” — I learned to get better at it once my kids were born, but this situation was different. There have been several women who have graciously led the play year in and year out and finally one of them asked for a reprieve. She deserved a break, and at the time, I thought I can handle this, no problem.

The holidays are a busy time of year, and this year it seems to have kicked-up a notch. I thought I was doing good getting through Thanksgiving, then visit family, then back home, getting the Christmas tree, not forgetting about that play we had tickets for, traveling for work, getting back home, getting Christmas cards out, volunteering at school, hosting a holiday tea, and then it was time to direct the Christmas Pageant. Phew! Making it to Pageant seemed like a miracle. I was going to need one to pull this off.

What I thought my job as Play Director would include was some simple coordination and making sure we had enough kids to fill the various roles. What I found out was that it was much more. It started to occur to me that I may have bitten off more than I can chew, when I was asked when the script was coming. I have to come up with the script? What? Nobody told me that!  Before completely freaking out a thought occurred to me…Amazon. I figured they’d have to have books with sample scripts, and they did…hallelujah! Then came the coordination, and then came the props. When I picked the play we’d be doing, I figured the props would be easy. And they weren’t that hard, except I had to go get all the materials and make the props. Now you might be wondering why I didn’t have someone help me.  I didn’t have anyone helping me, because I hadn’t had the time to really think about what help I would need and time was running out. I powered through making the props and then I had to tackle the logistics — making sure everyone knew where they were supposed to be, transitions between scenes, who would have the microphone, etc. Needless to say, it was a swirl of activity that culminated in the play, which I have to say came off pretty well.

The pageant wasn’t the greatest one ever to the rest of the world. but it was pretty darn great for me. The kids did a great job. Many, who are known to be shy, showed great courage and were really brave and went for it in the play (I actually heard one girl speak loud and clear for the first time. She normally is very quiet and shy). I was impressed with the kids, and impressed that I was able to pull it off.

Now it’s time to relax. The flurry of holiday activities are starting to wind down, and having some downtime and quiet time is much needed. I need to be with my family, alone, unplugged without a care in the world. I look forward to these last few quieter weeks of the year. Cause I know we’ll be starting all over again come the New Year.

How are you getting through this busy time of year? How are you resting and recharging during this busy time?

 

Need a little Christmas…

Is there anyone else out there that is already exhausted? Anyone who needs a little holiday cheer to help boost their spirit and energy level?

This year has been one of the most busy and stressful years of my professional career. I feel like I’ve done pretty good getting through this year, but have to admit I am nearing full burn-out. I’m in need of an energy boost. I need rest. I need….a vacation.

The holidays could easily create additional stress for me, but not this year. I’m really looking forward to them. I look forward to seeing my children’s anticipation grow as they anxiously await the arrival of Christmas Day, I look forward to spending time with friends at holiday gatherings, and having that much needed time off just to rest and relax. Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face.

How are you preparing yourself for the holidays? What about the holidays puts a smile on your face?

So Very Thankful

As Thanksgiving day arrives, and you reflect on the good things in your life, what comes to mind?

We have a practice in our home where at dinner, we say grace. It mainly consists of saying what we’re thankful for. It’s a daily tradition we all enjoy. For my boys, it’s an opportunity for them to share with us what’s top of mind (sometimes they are most thankful for what is in their field of vision — a napkin on the table, a food on their plate they are grateful is being served for dinner, or a toy or book left on the table. Other times its memories from the day — things like doing well on a math test, playing well in a game or playing with a friend), or what’s in their heart (sometimes they surprise us with the most amazing comments — thankful for people in their lives, or for nature, or acts of kindness they witnessed from others). For my husband and I, it’s an opportunity for us to share what we’re grateful for, and keeps what we consider blessings–healthy kids, our own health, good friends and family who care about us, jobs and a safe, warm place to rest our heads each night–front and center.  There is much to be thankful for, and it feels really good acknowledging it every day.

Thanksgiving isn’t the only time of year we remember what we are thankful for. It’s a day with friends and family, where you appreciate all the good things in your life. It’s special and I’m thankful for it.

What practices of gratitude do you and your family practice? What makes your Thanksgiving special?

I’ll be spending time with family and will return in December. Happy Thanksgiving.

Spring Breakin’

How are you recharging your batteries during Spring Break?

I look forward to Spring each year. Not only do we exit the cold weather months, and have all the lovely Spring colors, but it’s the entry point for many of us into vacation time. After many months of working hard, we finally start to think about taking a break; doing something out of the ordinary; maybe even going someplace different or new. There’s something about planning a vacation that’s so much fun–having something to look forward to can do wonders when you are tired or in need of a change from the daily grind.

Camping trips, visits with family, fun with the kids are all on the horizon. I anxiously await when our next trip will be: whether it’s a long weekend or more time away.

How are you and your family breaking away from the ordinary to enjoy yourself?

Spring Chicken

What are your favorite Easter traditions?

I love everything about Easter: the time of year, the colors and blooms; Easter Egg hunts; family time and all that goes with the holiday. What’s funny is that Easter really did spring (or should I say sneak?) up on me this year. With a work schedule that has been abnormally busy, plus traveling, plus working through a bad cold, I noticed I almost let Easter get away from me. Half the joy, in my opinion, is the planning and getting ready for the day.

I may no longer be a Spring chicken, but I feel like a kid at heart. And while I won’t actually hunt the eggs myself on Easter, I sure will enjoy hiding them and watching the kids find them. It’s joy and happiness that comes from being together–I don’t think that gets old at any age.

How are you taping into your inner-child this Easter season? What helps keep you a Spring chicken?