traditions

A Lot of Popcorn and a First Movie

Daniel in the movie theater for Frozen

Waiting for the movie to start

I took Daniel to see Frozen, his first movie in a theater, last weekend.  We had been watching full-length movies weekly for several months, and it occurred to me that maybe it was time to brave the movie theater. Sometimes I forget he’s the mature 4.5 year old he is and not the whirling-dervish 3-year-old who traumatized us for a year. Maybe traumatize isn’t a tad harsh, but I would have laughed in your face last year if you had suggested he would sit through a movie 🙂

We had a hard time getting tickets at the theater closest to our house, so we went to the theater at Southpoint in Durham because they had a 10:30 showing.  The movie’s running time is almost 2 hours, and we thought that a later showing would be asking for trouble. Daniel doesn’t nap any longer (sigh), so he can become grumpy as the afternoon goes on.  I bought popcorn for me and M&Ms and chocolate milk for him, and we found seats in the middle of the theater.  I think there were approximately 8 million previews and a Disney animated short before the movie started that left me on edge: don’t they know there are very small children waiting to see this film? Children for whom patience is not a mastered skill yet?

The movie finally started, and it was really good! I might be the only person in the world who feels this way but in general, I’m not a fan of Disney and Pixar movies, so I was worried not only about Daniel’s behavior but also my own LOL. Daniel did beautifully.  He watched attentively and especially loved the snowman.  He even kept himself from eating all of his M&Ms. Actually, he did better than I did because I ate all of my popcorn (I’m a glutton for movie theater popcorn and don’t get me started on how much I love being able to add all the butter I want with the self-serve butter dispensers)!

Daniel said he enjoyed the movie, but it may have meant more to me than it did to him.  Movies were something I shared with my father, and some of my earliest memories are of him taking me to see movies: Bambi, Cujo (my fault – don’t ask), Halloween 3, The Land Before Time, The Goonies…I could keep going. Usually these outings happened on school vacations and were what we would call a “Special Day” with a movie, pizza and bookstore. My father loved popcorn too and having popcorn at a movie was a must.

When I looked forward to having children, continuing this tradition with movies was something I couldn’t wait to do. As Daniel snuggled against me while we watched his first movie in a theater, I was so happy. In a holiday season bound by traditions old and new, it was wonderful to be able to create another wonderful memory and pass along another treasured tradition.

And I got popcorn!

Trying to Find the Magic

When we left work on Friday, it was our last day of work for 2012, meaning that today Jimmy and I are on vacation.  Daniel is at daycare and will be going all week.  I feel a teensy bit guilty about him being at daycare and us being home, but the reality is that we have almost no preparations made for Christmas and need this week to finish buying gifts, figure out menus, order and mail cards, wrap, etc.  Oh and try to relax.  I almost forgot about that part.  We decided that today will be our officially designated “day of relaxation” in which we do absolutely nothing.  As a matter of fact, I should be back in bed trying to sleep, but the huge mug of peppermint coffee next to me likely won’t help that endeavor.

It seems a little silly that we must designate a day to relax, but it won’t happen otherwise.  Does that make us Type A planners and schedulers? And this is it.  This week is our only chance to get things done and rest because Christmas for us officially begins on Saturday with a trip to visit my mother and stepfather and won’t end until December 27.

I haven’t been sleeping well either thanks to the cold virus from hell.  My right ear is still stopped up, my voice is not as terrifying as it had been, and I now have a hacking, phlegmy cough (you’re welcome), but I’m finally starting to feel somewhat human again.  The holidays wait for no one, so preparations must continue whether I feel up for them or not!

The problem is the magic.  I don’t yet feel the magic of the holiday.  Christmas has crept up on us and slapped us in the face, and it feels like everything is conspiring to keep us from enjoying it.  Everything feels like a massive to-do list, and that’s not how I want it to be.

I’m not a religious person, so I celebrate Christmas as a holiday about love and family, which, if you don’t want to get technical about it, is the symbolism behind the season.  I love Christmas, and we love making it special for Daniel.   We are firmly on Team Santa Claus in this house.  There is a spirit to the season, and I want to help Daniel know about it and experience it.

The Newtown tragedy makes it difficult to find the magic also.  How can we think about mundane things like Christmas presents and reindeer food when there is such horror and suffering in the world?  It seems …unseemly…to be thinking about wrapping paper and what to serve for Christmas meals when there are those suffering so horrifically.

Life goes on, however.  We may feel embarrassed by it, but it’s true.  That sentiment is both reassuring and cruel.  Reassuring because it gives structure to our days; cruel because no one person can stop the wheel.  Jen wrote a great post that gives us permission to live our lives when tragedy happens around us.  And she’s right.   Feeling guilty and sad about our own celebrations won’t change what happened to those children.  We should spend that impulse fighting to change or enact laws to prevent such tragedy from ever happening again. That is a better way to honor their sacrifice.

Fake it until you make it.  Isn’t that what they say?  Today is only the first day of vacation.  Maybe I’ll feel better after more sleep, more medicine, more hugs and cuddles.  We don’t have to be superhuman parents.  Just a few small activities will help create the magic for our 3.5 year old.  Holiday stress is yet another topic left out of the non-existent parenting manual. Maybe I should give myself permission to relax and focus on only a few important things, memories I want Daniel to have.

How do you find holiday magic when life is overwhelming?

Friday Fun, Frustration, Frivolity and Food

Preschooler kitchen destruction

Kitchen destruction at the hands of a sick 3-year-old

You’d think that since I had nothing to do today but chase around a 3-year-old who behaved like I had given him mass quantities of speed, I could have completed this post earlier today.  Funny that.  It turns out that 3-year-olds have a finite limit for how long they are willing to have you out of their sight and attention.

Marty, my fellow Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham co-producer, and I optimistically scheduled a conference call for late this morning so we could discuss the manual, potential venues and our charity.  She had her almost 3-year-old at home with her, and I of course had Daniel.  It was a very amusing video chat as about every 5 minutes, one of us had to look away to shout, “No!  Don’t do that!” or “Hi sweet pea.  Yes, say hello.  Can you return to your movie? Mommy won’t be much longer.”  Somehow we managed to conduct a lot of business over the course of an hour before we both accepted that the natives were restless and signed off.  I’m happy to report, though, that we hope to be able to announce our venue and performance date very soon!

We were supposed to travel to my hometown to have Thanksgiving with my mother and stepfather this weekend, but we cancelled due to Daniel’s illness.  I feel bad about it (because I always feel guilty), but I think we made the right decision.  The last thing we want to do is to have to subject a sick 3-year-old to a different routine and a location other than home.  Or maybe that’s just us.

Hopefully my mother and stepfather will be able to join us for Thanksgiving on Thursday instead, and I have to admit that it is not unwelcome that we have another quiet weekend at home to clean and get ready.  Or just relax before the onslaught of cooking and cleaning begins next week.  Oh, we are hosting by the way.  Perhaps I neglected to mention that?

Daniel is having a lot of fun with family relationships and gender right now.  He occasionally refers to himself as a girl, me as a boy, Jimmy as a girl and the cats, oddly, as girl-boy (for our cat Bit, that’s actually more accurate than he knows because s/he may identify as a girl while being a boy.  Or we might have confused her by referring to her as a “she” early on due to not realizing she was a boy).  He also called his grandmother his sister and his father his sister.  It’s been fun. Imagine if we were Egyptian royalty or polygamous and had explain sister-wives!

Speaking of Thanksgiving, while Daniel was “napping” (read: destroying his room and throwing his stuffed animals everywhere.  Remember that scene from Poltergeist when the researchers from the parapsychology department opened the children’s room and found the items spinning around?  Yeah, that), I succumbed to the allure of searching for Thanksgiving recipes.  If you follow me on Pinterest, I apologize because I think I pinned 20 recipes in a 2-hour period.

We are huge fans of Thanksgiving in this house now that we are adults (and this rumination is partially in response to JJiraffe’s post on Thanksgiving today).  Jimmy and I both liked Thanksgiving as children, but I admit that it was more like, “yeah, yeah, Thanksgiving.  Let’s get on to Christmas!”  Now, though, we have new appreciation for the holiday.  First of all, other than the 4th of July, I can’t think of a more seminal, meaningful holiday to celebrate as a nation.  Also, now that I have much more to do for Christmas than decorate a tree and show up at someone else’s house for dinner, I appreciate a holiday that is about food and fellowship only.  It’s like a chance to exhale before the end of the year.  Finally, we adore Autumn, and Thanksgiving is sort of the culmination of Autumn with its emphasis on the harvest.

Anyway, my massive Pinterest pinning was more wishful thinking than reality because my husband is a creature of habit, and no holiday brings that out more than Thanksgiving.  Over the years, we have fine tuned our menu and recipes, and I, to my chagrin, don’t have many opportunities to experiment because Jimmy really likes what we’ve come up with.  And I’m OK with that.  I have free rein at Christmas, so I can let him have the menu he wants at Thanksgiving.  In truth, we both want to make traditions for our family, and our Thanksgiving menu is one tradition that we have created so far.

So here is a rough outline of our menu:

  • Herbed turkey breasts
  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Sweet potato casserole (with marshmallows!)
  • Green beans (leaning towards a bacon-balsamic-shallot sauce)
  • Corn pudding
  • Collard greens (Southern girl FTW!)
  • Cornbread dressing
  • Rolls (frozen; I haven’t mastered yeast yet)

I’m thinking about adding a glazed carrot or butternut squash dish as well.  I don’t make dessert.  I LOVE making desserts, but I find I run out of time and energy, so my mother-in-law usually makes or brings one.

I’ll post next week what exact recipes I use for the potatoes, green beans and corn pudding.

I’m getting really excited.  I’m even thinking about making a decorative arrangement for the table (vs buying some carnations and arranging mini-pumpkins around it and calling it a day).  I’m even pondering a few crafts with Daniel.

So, yay, Thanksgiving!  It took me many years, but I finally appreciate you and want to give you your due.