"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Monday, December 22, 2014

now or never

"What'll it be for lunch, cutie?" I asked her a few weeks ago.

Now that Molly is on the downslope to three [gulp.] she has opinions about things that she never had before. I can no longer choose her clothes for her (or shoes! My god do NOT suggest which shoes she wear, if you know what's good for you!), and I should not, if I want her to eat, prepare her lunch without her prior consent.

She tapped her chin thoughtfully as she furrowed her brows in concentration. "Um. Lemme see....peanut butter sandwich, if you say so!"

"If I say so? Well, I don't say so, I'm asking you what you would like."

"Peanut butter sandwich, and I say so!" she decided.

One of my favorite things; one that sings with the adorableness of a burgeoning vocabulary and smiles at how confusing the development of the English language can be, is when little kids practice using grown up phrases and idioms in their speech.

I'm not sure I've ever said, "if you say so" to Molly, but she's clearly heard it somewhere and was looking forward to trying it out for herself.

Several days ago, after she finished her breakfast of waffles and syrup, she asked me to wash off her hands. "Mommy! I sticky! Wash off my hands please, now or never!"

"Now or never? Well, how about never? If I never wash your hands, you'll have to wash your own hands," I reasoned.

"No, Mommy, you do it. Not never. Now, please."

And today, at naptime, I tucked her in and read her a story. As she twirled a strand of my hair around her fingers she yawned, her eyes drowsy. "I take a nappy, Mommy?"

"Yes, baby. It's time to take a nap."

"Now or never?"

"Now, baby."

"Okay, Mommy."

And with that, she was out.

Lesson Learned:
No, no...this is my favorite stage.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Dangers of Doorbells

Let me give you a little thought exercise for the evening:

My mom and dad have eight children.

No, no...that's not all. It gets crazier: So they have eight kids. That's eight Christmas lists; eight piles of presents hidden throughout their modest split-level. My parents provided a magical, Santa-fueled Christmas for EIGHT kids.

And there's more: When they were in the thick of it, with eight little believers (or "believers"...my older sister and I were the queens of pretending for the sake of the littles...) to shop for...there was no such thing as online shopping.

Seriously. I can not even begin to wrap my brain around how it was even possible to pull off Christmas without Amazon.

...until the day online shopping nearly ruined the Magic of Christmas.

Let me set the scene:

Evan is at school and Max, Molly, and I are taking advantage of Max's no-school Monday morning. They're still in jammies and we're up to our elbows in sugar cookie dough. Once the dough is mixed and chilling in the fridge, they decide to pull out the wooden train set while I try to knock out a stationery order. (For you new readers--welcome! Thanks for reading! In addition to being a mom and spilling my guts on this blog, I also make personalized stationery for kids.)

So, I'm in the office, which looks out onto our front porch. I'm printing out some notecards when I see a man in a familiar brown uniform standing at my front door. He has clearly just delivered a package and is about to ring the doorbell to announce it's arrival. I quickly meet him at the door and, through the window in the door, make the universal gesture to Shhhhhhh! OHMYGOD! Do NOT ring that doorbell! That is probably a CHRISTMAS PRESENT you just delivered and if you ring the bell, two small children will come running to greet you! They will demand to see who the package is for and will insist that we open the box Now! Mommy! Right now! Mommy!

I then wave him away with a smile and because he's probably a dad, he smiles knowingly back and quietly retreats off the porch.

[I have had a lot of practice with the white lies this year. Every time the kids notice a package on the porch (which is, like, every day because Hello, Christmas and Hello, online shopping), I tell them that it's a delivery either for my stationery business (which makes a bit of sense) or for Uncle Mike's juice company (which doesn't make any sense at all).]

So, as soon as I wave the UPS man away, I open the door to bring in, what I assume to be a smallish, nondescript Amazon box, which I would then tuck away in the office until after bedtime.

But on this morning, with two little ones who are constructing their own wooden version of the Polar Express just ten feet behind me...I open the door to see a huge box: five-and-a half feet in length and four feet tall...with a full-size drawing of the contents within: Our Family Gift...a tabletop air hockey table.

There was no explaining this one away with a casual "it's probably just boring stuff for Sara Kate Kids!"

I slammed that door so fast and near-screamed "I think the cookie dough is ready!"


Three hours later, as I was tucking Max into his bed with some books for Quiet Time, he looked at me square in the face and asked, "So who was that at the door this morning?" Refusing to meet his eye, I replied, with a kiss to the forehead, "Hmm? Not sure. I never even heard the doorbell ring..."

Lesson Learned:
Thank you, Mr. UPS Man, for not ringing the doorbell. I've learned my lesson: Never again will I open that door in the month of December...unless the kids are asleep.

And, for the billionth time: Oh, my god, Mom and Dad. HOW did you do it?! I literally can't even...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bear Ticklish does it again

As we were getting into the car after preschool this morning, Max said, "And I think there's one more thing I want to add to my wish list. Cecelia brought the Cootie Bug game to school and it's so fun. So I think I'll ask for it so I can play with it whenever I want."

Now, here's the thing about Christmas wish lists in this house: They would be added to and amended repeatedly, right up until the moment these children's eyes close on Christmas Eve if we didn't have a Wish List Close Date. And so, our good little elf takes those wish lists up to the North Pole and delivers them to Santa sometime during the second week of December. Santa needs time to make all those gifts, you know....and not every one of Santa's helpers has Amazon Prime two-day shipping.

"Well, buddy," I said as I put the car into drive and headed towards home, "I'm pretty sure Bear Ticklish already brought your wish list to Santa, but maybe you could save your money for Cootie Bugs and buy it for yourself."


Then a sniff.

A glance in my rearview mirror showed me the saddest face I've seen in a long time. Big pouty lips, huge tears in his eyes, and the threat of an imminent meltdown.

Now, here's the other thing about those Christmas wish lists in this house: Not all wishes are fulfilled, but some wishes that don't make it on to the Official Lists, have been known to magically come true on Christmas morning. The Cootie Bug game? That's like five bucks at Target, which I'm sure I'll swing by sometime next week anyway. Wish Granted! Christmas Magic FTW!

But, even knowing that I could make this magic happen, I couldn't just let him melt down on me on the way home from preschool. We still had to make it through lunch before Quiet Time and Molly was starting to whimper, assuming that if Max was upset, she probably should be, too.

So, we came up with a plan:

"Listen, even if your wish list is already up at the North Pole, Bear Ticklish is still here! Maybe...just maybe!...if you're extra sweet and ask him very nicely, Bear Ticklish can add one more thing to your wish list. But make sure it's something you're really sure about! You don't want to ask him for more than one extra thing or he might think you're acting greedy."

"Do you think he will?"

"Well, you never know. But it doesn't hurt to ask, right?"

"I guess," he sighed, wiping his tears away.

After we took off shoes and coats and hats and mittens and washed our hands, I started to get lunch ready. For about five full minutes, Max stood at the counter talking quietly to Bear Ticklish. I couldn't hear everything he said, but I watched as he used hand motions to help him explain what the game is and how it's played.

As he turned back toward me, I asked, "Feel better, bud?"

"Yup," he said, "And I think Bear Ticklish is really going to tell Santa. I think I saw him smile at me a little bigger which means he will."

Lesson Learned:

You're the best, Bear Ticklish. And I'd better jot that one down on my Target list...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

the magic is alive...for now

He had been playing with his Legos in the playroom before he met me in the kitchen with a keen observation:

"After we go to bed, you and Daddy stay up later," Evan announced.

"We do," I agreed, distracted by the safety pins and ribbons I was counting on to solve Max's costume crisis of the moment.

"But I mean you guys stay up later. Downstairs," he persisted.

"Yeah, we're downstairs for awhile after you guys go to sleep. But not for too long," I assured him, thinking he was campaigning for a later bedtime. Max's Belle gown was properly pinned and tucked and tied, yet he stayed by my side, paying more attention to the conversation than I was.

"When you're downstairs," Evan started carefully...deliberately, "you have the perfect chance to secretly move the Elf without us knowing."

Aaaaaaannnnd here we go.

I won't lie to my kids.

I'll keep the Magic alive until they're ready, until they want to know the Truth.

And then, when they're Ready, I'll tell them.

I took a breath to survey the scene:

It was the week before Thanksgiving; our Elf, Bear Ticklish, hadn't even returned to us yet. Clearly, Evan's wheels have been turning. But Max was right there, his attention rapt. The next words out of my mouth were Important.

But, instead of taking my time...instead of thinking it through...instead of making a plan, I made a snap decision and spoke the words before they even made a quick pass through my brain:

"Yeah, we could move Bear Ticklish," I said with a sideways grin, "but can you really imagine me and Daddy playing with an Elf after you guys go to bed?!"

Max giggled.

Evan smiled. Then skipped back to the playroom...back to this Legos and to his deep thoughts.

He still wants to believe.

Maybe I'm just telling myself that to justify my response to his observation...but I think it's true. I think if he had really wanted to know, he would have phrased it as a question: "Do you and Daddy move the Elf after we go to bed?" Instead, subconsciously, he gave me an out. I didn't lie. But I didn't tell him the Truth. I don't think he's Ready.

I know I'm not.

I think his rational brain is working hard to connect the irrational dots, but I think his heart is still in it. And I want his heart to win for as long as possible. I want him to Believe.

But the end is near, I know.

As we were pulling into our driveway after our Thanksgiving weekend away, Evan was undoing the straps of his car seat (my string bean still uses a 5-point harness...see! Still so little!) before the car was even in Park. He ran into the house before the rest of us had unbuckled.

I knew what he was up to:
She can move the Elf at night, but how could she set up the Elf when we were out of town all weekend?!

It was a Test.

And Christmas Magic won.

I walked in to find him standing, motionless, staring at Bear Ticklish...who was right there in our foyer, sitting on a shelf, smiling that creepy smile.

Bear Ticklish, who I had quickly and secretly placed on that shelf while the kids were getting strapped into their car seats on Wednesday morning...

Bear Ticklish, who, for now, will keep the Magic alive....

Lesson Learned:

Do I wait until he asks me, point blank, if Santa is real...and risk anger and resentment over us "tricking" him?
Do I preempt the situation and gently tell him the truth...and risk ruining the Magic before he was really ready?
Do I keep the Magic "alive" forever...and risk my kids going blind of excessive eye-rolling as tweens and teens as they write their "Santa letters?"

Parents who have walked this path before us: