Monday, December 24, 2012

The Littlest Actor

Every family has a story that keeps on giving, one that will be retold for the rest of their days. This is ours. And while I have run it on previous Christmases, I hope you won't mind if I run it again. It occurred a few years ago, when we lived in Oregon. May you Christmas worship time be memorable to you.

Every Christmas Eve, my wife and I take our sons to the children’s service at our church. The service includes a kids’ pageant and our boys seem to pay closer attention than they do during the typical church service. Also, we feel that attending Mass on Christmas Eve provides a wonderful way to begin the holiday. After the service is over, we go out to dinner to the one place open on Christmas Eve, a Chinese restaurant.

While my wife and I believe every family Christmas is special, we cannot conceive that any will be more memorable than this one. It was to be a big night as our older son, Andrew, was finally old enough to participate in the Christmas pageant. He enjoyed two rehearsals and getting into costume, admirably playing the role of a shepherd.

Because church seating at Christmas is limited and we wanted to take pictures, we arrived almost an hour early to get a seat up front.We knew it would be difficult to keep our pre-school age son, Christopher, seated for the long service and the time before it. Therefore, my wife saved our seats while I played with Christopher and kept him entertained. When it was close to time, I corralled him and took him to our seats; he sat on my wife’s lap and anxiously looked for his older brother and the start of the show.

Just before the beginning of the pageant, the stuffy air in the crowded church became a little more unbearable than usual. As there were several babies in the immediate vicinity, my wife and I both thought one of them must have needed changing. Catching the odor, Christopher said aloud, “What’s that smell?” He turned around, looked at his Mom, and said, “That’s disgusting! Mommy, you stink! Mommy, go to the bathroom!”

We did our best to quiet him down, while the people around us were suppressing their laughter. He continued on, repeating the words, “That’s disgusting! Mommy, you stink! Mommy, go to the bathroom!” Eventually, Christopher quieted down and the pageant began.

After Mass ended, we walked to the car, buckled the kids in, and drove away. On the way to the Chinese restaurant, my wife and I discussed the incident. She realized that the words Christopher used in church were the same ones she had used with him during his potty training. Also, we were convinced one of the babies close to us during the service must have had a poopy diaper or probably just passed gas. We chuckled about it.

However, our little guy provided the last laugh. Overhearing the discussion, Christopher, with the smile that only a young child can produce, piped up with one more comment, “Oh, in church? That was me.”

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Twain of Thought

I helped my 10-year old study for his history test over the weekend. It was big test, the end of the semester. It was to be open book, so my son thought it would be easy. His logic was wrong, as my wife and I explained to him. “‘Open book’ doesn’t mean you can look up every answer,” we told him. “You won’t have time. You still need to know most of the answers without the book, checking only when you’re unsure.” Despite his protests, he worked with me all weekend. When he came home yesterday, he was happy and said he’d done well on his test.

During his studies over the weekend, one of the items he had trouble remembering was the identity of Mark Twain.

When I first asked him about it, he stared back at me. “Who?”

“Mark Twain. He’s a famous author. He wrote Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.”

“What’s that?”

I expressed shock at that point. I quizzed him further. Nothing. Given how mischievous my son is, I would have thought he’d have heard of Tom Sawyer, indentifying with him almost as easily as the first time he’d watched Ferris Bueller. No recognition.

A quick poll of my friends on Facebook revealed that it may be too early for Tom Sawyer. My son was only in fifth grade. Several of my friends suggested that my son wouldn’t see Tom Sawyer until middle school. Some said high school. Still, I was surprised that he hadn’t heard of Twain.

I plan to rectify that. I downloaded Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn to my e-Reader. He’s already started on the first one. I plan to read it with him a bit over the holidays…as I wonder what else he may be missing in his education.

Readers, how about you? I’ve always found myself surprised at the amount of things my kids are studying at a younger age than I did. It’s why I count myself more surprised when I hear of things that aren’t there. Do you feel the same way?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Charlie Brown Christmas, only bigger

above picture from "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

In summer, I wrote a story about a crepe myrtle that was blocking my son’s fastball. I trimmed the tree to get rid of low branches, a fix that would last for two weeks before I had to do it again.

However, more important than the son’s pitching was when my wife realized that the branches were scratching her car. She said we needed to take action and began researching the best way to prune a tree. Her research indicated December was the best time to cut away branches, allowing the tree to come back more healthy in the following spring. Last Saturday, we began cutting.

I think we overdid it.

After two hours last Saturday afternoon, our crepe myrtle resembled the Christmas tree from A Charlie Brown Christmas. The poor tree looked sad, stripped of its myriad branches. We may have killed it.
Then again, we may have made it stronger for the future.

I hope it’s the latter.

How about you? Did your decorating ever kill the outdoors? Did we do the right thing for the tree?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Being There

For both my kids, their fall seasons are now officially over. My younger son’s ended when his football team lost in the first round of rec league playoffs. For my older son, who is in marching band, his season ended last Friday when Mill Creek lost to North Cobb in the quarterfinals of the high school football playoffs. We offered my younger son the opportunity to play basketball; He declined. My older son still has Boy Scouts, but that doesn’t occupy his time the way marching band does.

Essentially, both boys are taking a rest, at least as far as a rest can be taken. They are focused on their school work, exams, and chilling a bit before baseball sign-ups in January.

As a parent, I’m enjoying the rest, too. For a brief time, we don’t have to be somewhere every night and can enjoy family meals together at a proper time, as opposed to eating early and piling them in the car. The break is welcome. 

For at least a month, we have the holidays. Prior to Thanksgiving, we went to the Great Wolf Lodge and then spent Thanksgiving with my parents. For Christmas and New Year’s, we will see family again. In the interim, we have the holiday rush with decorating, parties, etc.

But I’m enjoying it.

I spent most of the fall watching my kids enjoy their activities. I was there for them, in the stands and at the beginning and end of practice. Still, I was watching them.

For the next month or so, I stop watching my kids do things and instead do things with them. That’s the best part of the holidays.