My mom adventures in Fort Collins

Merry Christmas to all!
December 24, 2012, 12:33 am
Filed under: Family, Just making conversation | Tags: , , , , , ,

It is nearly officially Christmas Eve as I write this, and my beloved family is fast asleep. My husband has had some version of the flu, so we decided to cancel most of our plans these past few days.

Can I be perfectly honest? I really didn’t mind. I don’t mean that I didn’t regret my poor husband’s crummy departure into virus-land (that stinks). I mean that the purposeful slowing down and staying in the house didn’t bother me. Christmas, and all of it’s lovely, joyful meaning can be lost in the busyness, don’t you think?

I try to be intentional with my life. My days are filled (often overflowing), but I hope that they are filled with the “good stuff.” We make cookies, we go to dance class, we play at the park, we call the grandmas, we fold the laundry, we run to the grocery store, we play, we rest, we stop and smell the roses (or the pine trees, as the case may be this time of year). But we can all fall victim to the hustle and bustle, and count me as a very big victim this year.

Sure, I still managed to wrap a few presents. I watched a few of my favorite holiday movies. I sent macaroons to my neighbor (but really, this was a boomerang move since she had dropped by to gift us some yummies). But any attempt at making the effort fell between caring for my sick kids and maintaining our regularly scheduled programming. I felt harried and silly and completely disorganized.

So, today I collect my thoughts and write my Christmas manifesto.

A Christmas Manifesto, by Jayme

This Christmas I will not feel Less Than, but I will take comfort in the Light that continually makes everyone and everything More Than.

This Christmas I will welcome the stranger and create hospitality and fellowship wherever I can.

This Christmas I will share and not hoard; I will give and not covet;  I will love generously and not keep track of the score.

This Christmas I will receive every gift given to me with graciousness and gratitude, but I will especially savor the gifts of the Present–the smiles of my children, the home cooked meal that my in-laws will prepare, the snow that may fall (there’s a 60% chance ! Eek!) and create a White Christmas.

This Christmas I will sing my favorite carols, eat the most delectable treats, and be awed by the youthful energy because it is a Celebration. This is a Celebration of the hope that entered the world some 2000 years ago. This is a Celebration of love, joy, kindness, justice, truth and forgiveness. There is a cause for celebration, and I will try to keep that at the forefront of my mind.

Best wishes to you and yours for your Christmas celebration! Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a reason to pause and savor some joy “just because” in the near future (and always, right?).

My new muffin tin from my mom--she so "gets" me

My new muffin tin from my mom. I look grateful and joyful, do I not? I can bake a DOZEN muffins in one pan now, what’s not to love?

Sometimes Bad Guys are real

We’ve spent a lot of time this past month watching the classic animated tale, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” It is not entirely pleasurable for my children. The Grinch scares them, but they cannot look away. They are mesmerized by him.

When my older daughter claims she sees a pair of red eyes outside the window, we say, “No, honey, grinches aren’t real.”

When she says she can’t go upstairs alone because a grinch might “get her,” we remind her again that grinches aren’t real.

On Friday afternoon, as I sat listening to the radio in the car, hearing the President’s reaction to the mass murders at an elementary school in a small town in Connecticut, my children asked, “What happened, Mom?”

And I told them, “A bad guy walked into a school and hurt some people.” And immediately, Scout said, “But bad guys aren’t real, mommy.”

And I thought to myself, Yes, they are.


I am grateful for my Grinch-loving girls. Their youthful innocence helped me get through that day. But I did tell them last Friday that sometimes Bad Guys are real. They didn’t seem shocked by that revelation. I tried to use the simplest version of the truth, but in time I know these conversations will become more difficult as inch by inch the underbelly of the world is revealed.

Prayers to Newtown, prayers of love, comfort and peace. Answers may never come, and even if they do, what good are they to a parent who lost his or her child? To the daughter who lost her mother? To the husband who lost his wife? They don’t care if it was gun control, mental health or a poorly-settled conflict to blame–they want their loved ones back. No answer to the question “Why did this happen?” can give them that. If you are interested in reading more on the reaction to the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary and the loss of so many innocent people, here are a few posts that gave me support. I hope they can help you, too, if you seek that. (If you know of others, please add  them to the comments.)

From  Virginia, Psalm 23

From Kenneth Todd, (at Virginia’s suggestion) Tiny Angels

From Mostly Bright Ideas, New Town

From Maria, Sandyhook Requiem

From the Anarchist Soccermom, Thinking the Unthinkable (you may have seen this one circulating)

A list of the victims names, if you wish to pray for them by name, and this piece with a short bio of  some of the victims

From Julie at George. Jessie. Love,  What I Want & What I Cannot

For those of you sending your children to school Monday morning, or going to work at a school Monday morning, I wish you strength.

Why you might think my kids are little derelicts, but I don’t

I think we can all commiserate about the number of awesome blogs out there and the sheer lack of time to read them all. I frequently read  and I occasionally comment. Infrequently, I’ll return to see if there was any further discussion.

Today, I did just that with the blog Mommy Man.  The post was regarding “Time Outs” and how they’re perfectly okay to use. The comments went like this: “We do/do not use time outs. Do what works for you, and I love your blog. The End.”

But one person commented something like this (I paraphrased, but if you’re curious about the post and the comment, check here):

I love your blog. I don’t have kids yet, but I plan on using the parenting methods you talk about and I’m glad to see that they work.

I don’t understand why more parents don’t discipline their kids. I work in a business and I often see parents come in with wild, unruly kids. I would be absolutely appalled to let my kids do this! As a child, when I was in public I waited silently by the side of my mother. At home, I was allowed the freedom to be loud and rambunctious. My parents employed time outs and spankings as discipline. I’m now 24 and consider myself successful. I’m married and we are homeowners. I credit my responsible lifestyle to the discipline that I received at home. My parents tell me stories about how corporal punishment was used quite liberally in their homes, and they, too, turned out to be successful people and raise productive kids. (Not that I’m saying physical punishment is optimal, but you understand my point.) Allowing your children to run freely in public and giving in to their every desire is a good way to turn them into selfish people that will never be able to contribute to the community in any meaningful way…..all this being said in my humble opinion, of course.

That last line is a direct quote. Everything else was toned down for the purposes of my paraphrase. Before I begin to respond to this comment (or ones like it, since I think we’ve all been there), I would like to confess the following:

  1. I take my children on errands frequently.
  2. I do not believe in spanking. I don’t believe the “I was hit and I turned out fine”-argument is a case for continuing to promote physical punishment.
  3. I don’t do time outs. I mainly don’t do them because I have not found them to be helpful. They are an awful lot of effort for me (screaming, kicking, repeatedly returning the child to the chair/room, etc.) and they are horribly anxiety-provoking for my children.
  4. I believe that my children are children, not little adults. For more on that, see this post. I treat my children (I hope, at least on good days) as people who are deserving of the same dignity and respect that I would give you or your grandmother. I don’t consider them banned from public viewing simply because they are still learning how to control and regulate their emotions, in the same way that I don’t consider myself banned from Zumba class simply because the Latin dance gods have not yet blessed me with rhythm.

And now, my response to this commenter, despite the obvious fact that she commented on someone else’s blog.

Dear childless sir or madam,

I was once like you. I once held the keys to the castle. Before I had children, I knew exactly what to do and what not to do. I was never going to let my children watch TV, eat McDonald’s or pick their noses.
My dear, they’ve done it all. And more. Way more.
I am a stay-at-home mom, which is a complete oxymoron since no one that I know with that title actually stays at home all day. I am constantly on the go, trying to run the household but also trying to enjoy our lives. As a result of my being their sole caretaker most days, my children do nearly everything that I do (which is why it takes me freaking forever to do anything because I have to also shlepp two kids in and out of every store, bank, doctor’s office, library, school, business, etc.). My kids have been places and seen things that I could have only dreamed about at their ages (3 and 5). They ride in the car for hours at a time, and have flown (though not recently) many miles. My three-year-old has been to the Georgia O’Keefe museum, and I don’t even think my mother knows who Georgia O’Keefe is. My five-year-old has visited at least 12 states, more if you count driving through and spending the night in a hotel. This is to say, to my kids the store you work in is their world. We do not have a different definition for behavior on an airplane, in church, at home, or in the sandbox. We are kind, polite and respectful whatever our environment. In theory.
When I was a kid, I was 7 or 8 before I’d ever left the state. I was not exactly worldly, but then again, nearly every relative I had on the planet lived less than 60 miles from me. My parents had the help of extended family members if they needed it.  I live 1000 miles from my parents and 300 miles from my in-laws, and anytime I get the chance to see them it is essentially as though we move in with one another for a few days. Thus, my kids’ grandparents, unlike my grandparents, have seen my children at every emotional stage possible. They can tell you, as I will, that my kids are no angels. They hit each other, they throw fits because they cannot have cookies for breakfast, they slam doors, they forget to flush, they are sore losers, and they call me such names as “meanie poopie butt.” All this, and I still think that it’s worth defending them.
First off, why do my kids act out in public? That’s a good question. I’m always reminding them to use polite words, calm their bodies, respect others, refrain from taking off their pants, etc. Yet, they will not listen!  Perhaps it is because they are hungry, tired, or simply bored. I don’t know the answer, but if you asked them, you might get a response. I don’t see how your concern over her behavior would prohibit you from giving my child the benefit of the doubt. If you saw an adult who was exhausted and cranky, you wouldn’t assume that this person was void of discipline and bereft of manners. You might just think to yourself, “Golly gee, looks like that guy is having an off day.”
Why don’t more parents use discipline? That’s a good question, too. What you’ve addressed in your comment is commonly referred to as punishment. Time outs and spankings are not discipline. I don’t use punishments frequently, but I try to use discipline. We discipline our kids by setting clear expectations, by speaking with respect to them, by giving them choices and by allowing them the freedom to make mistakes. Trust me, if they are hooligans in your store today, they won’t be coming back with me tomorrow, and they’ll know why.
How will my kids ever be “successful” in life? That’s the million-dollar question. Being a productive member of society takes on a different appearance for different people. Maybe my daughter will be jumping from a plane fighting forest fires or singing in an opera. Maybe she’ll be traveling to Finland or working hard at an automotive plant. The point is, I don’t think their behavior today at your store is a predictor of their success in life.
I can tell you what success is not. Success is not impressing a perfect stranger with my child’s behavior. I have been complimented, and I have been the recipient of looks that could kill. It is all the same. This is my journey as a parent and it is my children’s journey as children, and we will encounter many people along the way. Whether or not you choose to be supportive of families is your choice to make. Afterall, my children are “normal,” whatever that means. They do not suffer from a severe illness, they don’t take multiple medications, and they do not have a diagnosis that requires four different therapy providers. Despite their “normalcy,” it is still very challenging to discipline them with love and to model good behaviors. Doubly so in public when you are trying to accomplish something. Please don’t judge the families that you encounter based on your limited definition of how a child should behave because you simply may not have all the facts.
Good day to you, source of pre-children parenting wisdom.
Just a couple of kids, reading on a chair

Just a couple of kids, reading on a chair

Can you feel the Holiday Spirit?

I have had a blogging problem in that I haven’t been writing. Or reading! (Gasp!) November was a very problematic month for us because the germs seemed so prolific, and they would jump from household member to household member taking us down one by one. They even took hold of me in the form of Strep. Seriously, I hadn’t had Strep since college, and I’d like to go at least another 15 years without it because that is one nasty, horrible, awful bacteria that is not at all welcome in my throat. The damn Strep bacteria even caught up with my brother back in Minnesota after he’d spent 10 days visiting with us for Thanksgiving. Blasted germs!

But it is December now, and we’re moving on. With an aerosol spray of Lysol in hand if necessary.

With December comes an awful lot of Christmas cheer. I can’t explain why, but my kids think that Christmas comes immediately after Thanksgiving despite being informed of the facts time and time again. We have our Elf on the Shelf out, we have the stockings hung, the decor arranged strategically about the house, etc. And most importantly, we have our tree.

Getting our tree, now that is a fun story. Perhaps I could tell it in pictures?

This is a photo of my family tromping off into the forest in search of the perfect Christmas tree.

This is a photo of my family tromping off into the forest in search of the perfect Christmas tree.

This is my five-year-old holding a bow saw. She doesn't often hold a bow saw, but when the situation calls for it, she's willing.

This is my five-year-old holding a bow saw. She doesn’t often hold a bow saw, but when the situation calls for it, she’s willing.

There is a scenic vista here and there, but we can't waste our time because we have to hunt for the perfect tree.

There is a scenic vista here and there, but we can’t waste our time because we have to hunt for the perfect tree.

And we see a lot of trees. Not many (or any) perfect trees, but many trees that would rival Charlie Brown's.

And we see a lot of trees. Not many (or any) perfect trees, but many trees that would rival Charlie Brown’s.

But somehow, you get lucky (or rather, my husband gets lucky because by then I'm feeding the kids their snacks in the truck), and we bring home a tree that looks better than perfect. It's real, carried out of the woods on our shoulders (well, his shoulders), and still retains a number of pine cones. Oh, and the smell... Mmm.

But somehow, you get lucky (or rather, my husband gets lucky because by then I’m feeding the kids their snacks in the truck), and we bring home a tree that looks better than perfect. It’s real, carried out of the woods on our shoulders (well, his shoulders), and still retains a number of pine cones. Oh, and the smell… Mmm.

This has become a family tradition for us. I was not the one who instigated this deal, but I’m delighted that it’s here to stay and I’ve even come to embrace this tradition, pine needles sucked up in my vacuum cleaner and all. There are several different places where you can cut a tree, but one of the closest and least expensive options is on National Forest property at the Canyon Lakes Ranger Station near Red Feather Lakes. You can read more about that here, if you’re interested.

Personally, I do very little tree hunting. I like to let Cory determine our tree. I find that the forest full of (mainly) Lodgepole pines can create a distorted reality. Much like shopping at Costco, where buying a 5 lb. package of grape tomatoes suddenly seems like a good idea because everything in the store is of colossal proportions, I find that glancing at tree after scrawny tree can actually make you look at a half-way symmetrical 5 ft. tree with limp branches that wouldn’t hold an ornament weighing more than a coffee filter and say: “Yes, we’ll take it! That’s it! That’s the one!” My tree-cutting trips always prompt outlandish fantasies where we emerge from the forest victorious after a short walk into the woods of 20 minutes or less, with the kids never once complaining. Truthfully, when we exit every year, we bear witness to countless “better” trees tied tightly to the roofs of various Jeep Grand Cherokees. We’ve even seen Blue Spruces that I’m convinced are trekked in from a tree lot by the Subaru-owners simply to elicit envy from those of us who slaved for hours only to hunt down the exact same Lodgepole Pine that we passed six times and sat less than 20 feet from our parking spot. My expectations are skewed, and it now seems perfectly reasonable to cut down an 18 foot tree only to lop off parts of the top and a good 11 feet of the base to create a decent-looking tree out of the original tree’s mid-section. (That’s actually exactly what Cory did this year, and I think it’s our best tree yet.) And the kids, well, they do okay. Ritz crackers and clementines helped a lot this year.

But it does feel great to get this season started, doesn’t it? If you celebrate Christmas, what are some of your favorite traditions? And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, tell me something fun that I should be celebrating in addition to Christmas.