Monday, December 25, 2006

P.S. Sharing the love

I realized earlier that I shared the whole "No screaming, no whining, no crying, Santa bring a car" thing in two consecutive blog posts, albeit nearly two weeks apart. That may be a crime or something in the blogosphere, but trust me, if I had a dollar for every time we've gone through that in the past month, I could probably pay for both our flights to New Jersey with the proceeds.

And you have my permission to try this at home with your own toddler or preschooler. Free of charge.

Merry Christmas!!!

Not that I forgot in my other post . . . I just wanted to make sure this message got all the special attention it deserves.

My readership may, for all I know, consist of many faiths, and some who subscribe to no faith at all. As you may or may not know, I am a Christian. Today, along with Easter, is one of the most important holidays in the Christian faith. The life of Christ on Earth began with His humble birth (which we celebrate today but which actually took place at some other time of year, about four years off from when the calendars got the old jump start) and "ended" with His suffering and crucifixion at Easter.

For me, these holidays are not simply an excuse to send cards or give and receive presents. This is a good thing, too, as I am too lazy and cheap to do Christmas cards, and my kids are lucky to get a few gifts at Christmas. We don't DO Easter presents. Finances simply don't permit, and if I didn't get them as a kid, why should MY kids, right?

Enough of that. I sincerely hope that all who look to Him find peace and joy this holiday season. And of course, many will go without today and tomorrow, and all of next week. Or perhaps they received a coat or a toy for their child for Christmas, but don't feel that kindness from strangers the rest of the year. Many live right here among us who wonder where their next meal or resting place will come from, and they rely only on charity for their sustenance. And this in what is fabled to be the richest country in the world.

If you believe in Him, if you look to Him as your source of strength, courage, and hope, please do more than just celebrate His birth to the fullest your bank accounts will allow. Instead of maxing out your credit cards on gifts and turning up the holiday lights all over your house and yard, see if you can't find a way to instead tuck away a little bit each month to donate to a needy family, charity, or even a relative or friend you know to be struggling. As an educator, I can promise you that your kids are better off receiving a few modest gifts each year while bearing witness to your kindness to those in need. Spoiled kids become adults who don't know how to leave the nest and don't know how to fend for themselves in the real world.

But children who grow up understanding what it is to wish for something, and to have that wish delayed or perhaps even worked toward, become adults who appreciate the little things in life.

My parents worked all year to set aside fifty dollars per child (there were four of us) to spend on Christmas presents. We knew the limit, and we were involved in choosing our gifts. Knowing we could not have it all made us appreciate what we had. And then, when I went through some very lean times as an adult, I was not too proud or spoiled to work weekends at a second job after teaching all week so that I could pay the rent AND buy food.

But this is not about me. So many are so much worse off than I am, in our country alone, nevermind the rest of the planet. Please do all you can to honor Christ's message and purpose every day, not just on the holiday we use to celebrate His birth.

Good night and God Bless,
D.M. (the O.G.)

Don't Spill the Beans . . .

Among other things, my son got this game, from the small line of “Cootie Games,” for Christmas. This is the one from that series I do not remember from my childhood. Here are some things that I now, as the parent of a toddler, appreciate about this game:

5. It teaches him that plastic beans are not food. (Though his sister caught him going for a taste after I was out of the room.)

4. It encourages him to develop fine motor skills by having to pick out a “bean” from a Ziploc bag and place it on top of the “pot.”

3. It also causes him to have to be “gentle” in placing the beans, so further motor skill development occurs.

2. He learns how to take turns. Theoretically.

1. It’s fun.

Squishy C. and I just came back from a week-long trip to New Jersey where we visited family and friends. This means that he and I flew all the way there and back. I have learned a lot about parenting, and about myself, in the past week. And my son has grown immeasurably in that time as well. We live in California, where we have NO family on either side. My husband is from Scotland, where his two sisters live, and where we don’t get to visit very often. His parents are both deceased. I am from Northern New Jersey, where my parents and two of my three siblings still live. All my family (in this country, at least) is in that general region, except my brother in Oregon. Needless to say, my son is growing up almost not knowing his relatives.

So, what have we learned from our journey?

10. A toddler can vomit in his sleep on an airplane.

9. Six and a half hours is a long time to wear one diaper.

8. There’s really no point in bringing an iPod on a flight if you also bring a toddler and no other adults to help out.

7. Single parents are never given enough credit for what they deal with.

6. Even a toddler instinctively knows family from strangers, and a shy kid can be very loving when he senses unconditional love coming his way.

5. The power of Santa knows no bounds.
Our mantra for this trip . . .
ME: What is a good boy? No . . .
C: Tweaming (Screaming)
ME: No . . .
C: Whining
ME: and No . . .
C: Twying (Crying)
ME: And Santa . . .
C: Bwing a CAH! (Brings a car)

Not sure what I will do for the next eleven months.

4. When you’re visiting the cousin’s second grade classroom, all the crayons in the world don’t mean a thing if the toddler can see the “shwingpahk” (swingpark) out the window.

3. Irrational fears will develop out of nowhere. Live with it. (We are currently on leaves. Yes, the ones on the ground during the colder months of the year. Here in California, this has extended to palm tree berries on the ground. If you know where I live, then you know that this is a VERY bad thing.)

2. A toddler will always pick a favorite among the cousins. The key is to not letting the others know. They will usually develop some kind of catch phrase or secret handshake. In our case, when he and the pre-teen do high-fives, they each tell the other, “Solid.” I don’t get it either.

1. Family is wonderful. Family is stressful. I love my parents. I like living far away from them. I miss them (and the food in New Jersey) often, but my life is here, and I love it. Someday, I will be the parent to a grown-up son. And I hope he never moves as far away from me as I have from my folks. If he does, he gets to make the pilgrimage I just made. And I will not be making such a trip again until he is at least a few years older.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pardon me, have you seen my last two weeks?

Whoa, what was THAT? Oh, that. It was just time shooting past in the blink of an eye.

Actually, there were some seriously lazy interludes in there, for which I have no excuse. But there were also some seriously good work times and stuff too.

December 3rd I went geocaching with a crew from 'round here. Almaden Quicksilver and man did my legs hurt for a week after that. But those caches put my count up to 40 finds. (Now up to 43 after a few quick ones near work last week.)

Last night, we took the kids down to see the Christmas in the Park displays in downtown San Jose. Same stuff as last year, but there is something to be said for that holiday magic. My husband and I, both being from places where snow was a reality, both remarked on how realistic the "crushed-down snow carpet mixed with dirt and pine needles" thing was working. Cameron enjoyed the choo-choos and seeing Santa through a window.

Oh, yes. The Man in Red. Third time . . . not so much a charm. This past Saturday I took Cam to see Santa for the annual picture. He stood between me and the platform, arms raised in a blocking gesture, so that even I could not approach the hallowed chair. So I sat, with him in my lap, on the platform, and Santa came and kneeled behind us for the picture. What a guy. Now Santa knows (thanks to me, since Cam went all mute like he does) that Cameron would like a car for Christmas. A toy one. He's not quite three yet.

Loving how we can use the Santa thing to our benefit, by the way. When C throws a fit (which lately is any time he's even a wee bit tired), I can ask him if he's being a good boy so Santa can bring him his car. We then go through what being a good boy means:

Mommy: "No . . . . "
Cam: "Tweeming" (screaming)
Mommy: "No . . . . "
Cam: "Whining"
Mommy: "And no . . . "
Cam: "Twying" (crying)

If it weren't so frustrating when he gets like this, it would be cute and funny, but by that point I always have a headache, and am mentally composing the Nobel Peace Prize my neighbors will want to give me for getting the kid to stop freaking out. (He's SO loud.)

So, nothing all that geeky, except the geocaching, I guess. But there's been tons at work, plus I think I hooked another geek on geocaching. Today, I was out sick. But, as I have done once before this year, I spent much of the day approving project topics (countries this time) from 6th and 7th graders via e-mail . . . and when the server crapped out . . . via IM through my co-teacher.

The kids seem like they're moving forward fairly well. They seem to have come around to the idea that learning how to research, present, and cite sources of information is a necessary skill. Some kids have already done their re-take of the online MS Word quiz, and the overall average went from 78% to 79% after the first of three nights of re-take opportunities.

Life is good. Pizza and lasagna in New Jersey is better. That's next week. Little C and I board a plane Saturday night for a week with my family back East. And my brother will be letting us get a close-up look at a fire truck, so C is sold.

All right. Sleep would be nice.

I promise to be more geeky and edu-tech next time.