Archives for December 2015

Holidays and Sick Days

I had grand plans this holiday season. Grand plans. With my daughter now almost 11 years old, we were going to bake together. Oh yes, we were! Or perhaps I was going to get her to bake for me, which sounded even better. And then we would enjoy holiday movies together and it would be very warm and fuzzy and all that stuff.

As I wrote recently, though, those holiday lists often go sideways. And that happened for me when my kids took turns being sick over the holidays. For Hannah it was December 17 to December 20 or so. For Jacob it was December 21 to December 24 or so. And hence, there wasn’t any baking. There weren’t any holiday movie marathons. There was just a lot of sick kids on the couch while I hovered nearby and worried.

When my daughter Hannah had to stay home from school on December 17, which was gingerbread house day, a decision had to be made. That decision ended up being that I would pick up her gingerbread house supplies from her teacher and bring them home. Because I couldn’t send her to school, and she was super, duper, extremely sad at the thought of not getting to make the house.

sick day gingerbread houseIn the end, it all worked out. She built the house. And then while she recovered she watched almost the entire first season of Once Upon a Time on Netflix. She’s been asking to watch the show with me for ages (I am an avid viewer), but since I am well into Season 5 now and since I don’t want to have to wait for a time that’s convenient for my daughter to catch new episodes that hasn’t happened. Luckily, thanks to the wonder of technology she can watch it all on her own.

When my seven year olds Jacob got sick he also turned to Netflix. We got Apple TV not that long ago and he loves that he can talk to the remote (or, as he says, marote). He is his father’s son, and is therefore naturally much better at technology than me, my engineering degree notwithstanding. For a couple of days he binge-watched Batman: The Brave and the Bold. And once again, I hovered nearby.

It is Murphy’s Law that both of my children were sick over the holidays, but I am sure I am not the only one. And I am happy to report that they are both all better now. The fevers are gone, the lethargy is gone and the tissue station on the couch in front of the TV is gone. For the time that they were sick, though, I was really thanking my lucky stars that we have things like PVRs and Netflix and DVDs and 24 hour children’s channels. Because while family togetherness as we all watch movies together is fun, being able to keep a sick kid more or less happy is worth its weight in gold.

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

Light and Hope

This is a dark time of year … the darkest, in fact. And so, since time immemorial, long before stories were written down or babies were laid to sleep in mangers humans have craved light. The promise that the darkness will not last. That the sun will return, and bring with it spring and a new season of plenty. Our ancient ancestors tracked the movement of celestial bodies and the rhythm of the seasons and in the midst of it all, they found hope.

Today, in the here and now, when I write down everything and carry around a little computer in my pocket that beeps at me constantly, I need hope. Some things never change. The cold and the dark still feel like too much. The world around us still affects us. We are not immune to feeling hopeless or sad or scared.

I seek out the light, because in the light there is hope. I bring a tree into my house and string it with lights. There are lights on my house. Lights in my rooms. Candles on bookshelves. A (gas) fire in my fireplace. Stories of a baby who was the light of the world and brought hope to nations. Stories of the rebirth of the light, the return of the sun. Stories of oil that lasted longer that it should have, its sacred flame illuminating the darkness.

candle light christmas

My children are naturally hopeful and optimistic, as most children are. They seem to carry light within and that brings me hope. But never does it shine more brightly than today. The presents, the food, the time with family, the decorations, the twinkling bulbs that festoon almost every house, these things all speak to children with a special voice.

Now that they are 10 and 7 my children don’t just enjoy these things, they drink them up like they are dying of thirst and they have found water. They look forward to this all year, and when it is here they are so fully immersed in it that it lights me up, too. It brings me hope. It reminds me of what it is like to be wholly in the moment, filled with joy, surrounded by love.

As they say on Game of Thrones, the night is dark and full of terrors. And I would add, the winter is cold and merciless, and of course winter is (always) coming. But here, as I celebrate Christmas surrounded by my family, there is hope. There is peace. There is an ancient story, as timeless as the world itself, reminding us that there is something to look forward to. The cold and dark are not all there is.

Let there be light. Let there be hope. Let there be Christmas.

Making a List, Checking it Twice

Sometimes it feels as if Christmas is all about lists.

  • Gift buying lists.
  • Grocery shopping lists.
  • Baking lists.
  • Decorating lists.
  • Gift wrapping lists.
  • Lists of errands to run.
  • Lists of tasks to perform.
  • Lists of parties to attend.
  • Lists of Christmas light displays to see.
  • Christmas card lists.

And, even:

  • Holiday playlists to compile so you have the perfect soundtrack.

Santa Claus is not the only one who’s making a list and checking it twice. We’re all doing it – especially those of us who have children. The feeling is not exactly festive.

Sometimes, though, you have that moment. That bright spot that makes all the running around, spending money, coordinating schedules and so on worthwhile. It’s the moment that reminds you that traditions matter. That you’re making memories. That you’re doing it all in service of something much bigger, older and wiser than you. Ritual is powerful and it calls to us all. And few rituals are as deeply ingrained in my psyche and identity than the rituals of Christmas.

This afternoon I was decorating the tree with my children. There it is … I am a Christmas slacker. My Instagram feed has been filled with photos of other people’s fully-decorated trees since late November and I am just doing it now. And to make matters worse we still aren’t finished with the tree. I find that it’s easier and more fun to do it in fits and spurts, rather than pushing myself to get it done in one go. Those lists? I am better at making them than completing them, and sometimes it just doesn’t all get done.

christmas joyAnyways, I bought new Christmas lights for our tree this year. They are small multi-coloured LED globes that flicker and blink and change colour. My children were delighted. And then I turned on the Christmas music, and we strung the garlands and got out the boxes of ornaments. My daughter sniffled because she has a cold, and clung to me like a kid who is much younger than almost 11 years old. Then my son, who is seven, placed his third ornament on the same branch of the tree and stopped to admire his handiwork before saying, “Mom, when you play Christmas music and we decorate the tree I feel the joy.”

And then Christmas happened for me.

Because this is what Christmas is. It is a tree that is haphazardly decorated with mismatched ornaments acquired over a lifetime. It is children who are excited and embrace the moment and don’t agonize over perfection. It is letting yourself step away when it’s all a bit much. And it is being present with your family in the mess. Those amazing holiday moments don’t come when you look at a list completed list. They come in spite of the lists.

I am trying to cut myself some slack and reducing what’s on my lists. Because someone will get sick. Some beautiful ornament or dish or brand new gift will break. Some family member will disagree with some other family member. And at some point the weather will get in the way of carefully laid plans. Accepting it is better than feeling bad that things didn’t go to plan. I don’t believe Christmas is meant to be an exercise in making yourself feel guilty for not being Martha Stewart.

In fact, I bet even Martha Stewart finds the pressure overwhelming sometimes.

So here’s to the holiday season. May it be joyous, and loving, and festive in spite of the lists.

Poem of the Month: The Glue Stick

Recently I re-embraced my adolescent love of writing poetry. Many of them are written just for me, but I have written enough that are not as personal and I’d like to share some of them. And so, a blog series is born. These aren’t necessarily my deepest poems, but I do enjoy each of them.

And now, here is this month’s poem, which I wrote last week on the last day of my short practicum. I am now finished in the grade 4/5 class I was placed in, and I will be starting in a grade 6/7 class in January.

poem poetry glue stick student teacher

The Glue Stick

It was my last day
The class gave me a book
Everyone had signed it
Except for one student
I chased him down not
For well wishes but for the record
We were both here

Another rough and
Tumble 10 year old
Presented me a special
Gift: his glue stick
Only slightly used
Probably the first thing
He found in his desk

“Thank you so much!
But don’t you need this?”

“It’s okay I have three
Every time you look at
It I want you to think of
Me I am giving it to you
So you’ll always remember me”

Funny little gifts and
Mundanely precious exchanges
Office supplies and gum
Breath mints and the time
We bump up against
Each other almost, not really
Glimpsing the divinity within

And we all want to be remembered

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