Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Because we all could use a little magic.

He knows.

I just know he knows.

He knows that I know.

He knows that I know that he knows.

At least I think he knows.

How could he not know? He is 11-years old, after all, and logic has set into his growing brain.

He hasn't spoken of his knowledge, however.

It is The Unspoken topic in our home.

The 9-year old is showing signs that he is starting to doubt, but he is a child that believes in the impossible. He is a dreamer. He has said to me on more than one occasion that he will cure cancer one day, so who am I to crush the dreams of a believer like that?

I will not.

But when it comes to the 11-year old, this knowledge of the non-existence of the fat man in the red suit who allegedly soars through the sky on Christmas Eve, in a sleigh pulled by eight magical, flying reindeer remains unspoken on his lips.

It is The Santa Knowledge.

Every child figures out the logic at some point, and when it came to my pragmatic, responsible oldest child, I thought it would be a lightbulb moment. I pictured us sitting down and having a conversation. I pictured a nod, and moment of, "Shhh...now you know, but please don't ruin the magic for your siblings."

Maybe that day will still come, but for now, I know he knows, but he doesn't speak of The Knowing.

And of course, I cannot speak of The Santa Knowledge with him.

Because what if?

What if he doesn't know?

Even though I just know he knows.

I just know it.

Perhaps it is because he is the oldest child. Perhaps he still doubts The Santa Knowledge, and wants to believe, because if he doesn't believe, and there really is a Santa, he will receive a big ol' pile of underwear and socks on Christmas morning. Perhaps he is just humoring us, his parents.

Perhaps he wants to keep the magic alive.

Perhaps he says nothing about The Knowledge, because knowing something and believing in something are two very different things.

Innocence is difficult thing to harness, because one moment you have it, and then within a matter of seconds, it can be gone.

Just like that.

One peek behind the curtain of life, and you become jaded, and knowledgeable.

Knowledge is power, yes, but knowledge is sometimes also a huge bummer.

Reality, as they say, bites.

Buzzkill alert, kiddos! Santa isn't real. It's all smoke and mirrors. It's your sneaky parents, who, by the way, have been lying to you since birth about the whole entire thing.

But isn't it less about lying and more about the embellishment of the truth? Because, after all, Santa is real.

I just know it.

Sure, he might not be an actual person that exists today, but don't all of us believers have a bit of Santa in  our hearts this time of year?

Santa is good. Santa is kind. Santa is love. Santa helps others. Santa wants you to be nice and not naughty. Santa gives freely without expecting anything in return.

Santa is magic.

And what's wrong with believing in a little bit of magic?

What's wrong with believing in something you can't see, you can't feel, you can't touch?

Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.

This belief in Santa, or the spirit of Santa, makes this season that much more magical. It's why some of us put elves on our shelves and make them do silly things. Because we are adults. Jaded, seen-it-all, know-it-all adults. It is why we wait in long lines at the mall to sit on the lap of a Santa impostor. We do it all because we want to try to recapture the magic of the days before we had The Santa Knowledge, and we thought the whole thing was real.

Before the boom was lowered. The Santa Knowledge boom.

Otherwise, it would just be another dreary, rainy Monday at the end of November. But when there is a sneaky elf in your house to find, it becomes a Magical Monday, as you discover that he has dyed your milk red and green. (Thank you, Pinterest for this idea.)

Otherwise, it would just be another dreary, rainy Tuesday at the end of November. But when there is a sneaky elf in your house to find, it become a Magical Tuesday, as you discover him atop the stove, having roasted a marshmallow over a tealight after you went to sleep. (Thank you to my friends Bridget and Katie for this idea!)

Otherwise, the roads and streets and night look boring and plain. But, starting at the end of November and throughout December, they twinkle and shine with millions of light, and look downright..well... magical.

Otherwise, most of us would just go about our days, thinking of only ourselves and our schedules. But at Christmas, we go out of our way to be kind. We write extra checks to charity. We drop money into red buckets staffed by bell ringers in Santa hats. We organize food drives. We tell ourselves that we are going to carry this spirit all year long.

Otherwise, we go to our mailboxes and find a pile of bills, catalogs, and credit card offers. But at Christmastime, we are excited to open our mailboxes and find cards and pictures from family and friends old and new, near and far.

All because of Christmas.

When the time comes, I hope that I have the tact and the right words to drop The Santa Knowledge on each of my children. But who really wants to drop The Santa Knowledge on anyone?

I don't.

Because who says his spirit isn't alive and well in 2011?

I know it is.

I just know it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Penn State Talk.

This morning, my 11-year old sports fanatic, and avid fan of ESPN Sportscenter, came into the kitchen as I was making lunches before school. He plopped down on a barstool at the counter and as he was pouring the milk into his bowl of Cheerios, he said to me, "Guess what?!? Penn State fired Joe Paterno last night! Can you believe it?!?" The butter knife that I was holding in my right hand stopped mid-spread and hovered over the bread, leaving a trail of grape jelly in its wake, as I knew The Question was next.

"Yep. I heard that on the news this morning," I cautiously replied, bracing myself for The Question that inevitably followed.

My boy paused as if deep in thought and continued, "So Mom. Why exactly did Joe Paterno get fired?"

For a moment, I said nothing.

In parenting, you only get these teachable moments sporadically, and you have the chance to say the right thing. You can lie and flub your way through it, or you can go with the truth.

Unfortunately, the truth isn't always rainbows and unicorns.

Sometimes the truth is awful. And dirty. And heinous. And deplorable. And just about every adjective that you can think of for a horrible, life-changing act against children. Then you look at your 11-year old innocent boy, who knows nothing of the horribleness that lies within the hearts and minds of some people. The closest contact he has had with pure evil is a fictional character in a Darth Vader costume on his television screen.

He waits for your answer eagerly, and your brain scrambles for the words, especially because it is 7:02 a.m., and your brain struggles for any coherent thought at 7:02 a.m., let alone a coherent thought and talk about child abuse.

I looked at him and began. "Well, there was this guy, Jerry Sandusky, who used to be an assistant coach to Joe Paterno. And everybody thought he was this great guy, because he was a good coach, and all his players loved him. They also thought he was a great guy because he started a charity to help needy children. But it turned out that he was a very, VERY bad man. He hurt little boys. He abused them. He touched their private parts. And you know that it's NEVER, EVER okay to let anyone besides a doctor, when Mom or Dad is there, touch your private parts, right?"

"Duh, Mom. I know that. You only told me that like a billion times."

"I know you knew that. Anyway, even though most people didn't know it, Jerry Sandusky was a very, very bad man who hurt boys, and it turned out that Joe Paterno and some of his staff knew all about it. At first, Joe Paterno did the right thing and reported it to one of his bosses, but they didn't do anything about it. So what should Joe have done instead?"

My boy thought about it for a minute and responded, "Well, I guess he should have gone to the police."

"Exactly. He should have gone to the police, or even someone higher. He should have NOT stopped until someone listened to him. He should have made sure that Jerry Sandusky, even if he was a friend of his, should have been fired and reported as a child abuser. He should have made sure that Jerry went to jail, because it is NEVER, EVER okay to hurt children."

"But he didn't?"

"No. He didn't."

"But did Joe Paterno abuse boys, Mom?"

"Absolutely not. Joe Paterno is not a child abuser, and he never abused the boys. But when he didn't protect them, he hurt them. Adults should ALWAYS protect children, and never hurt them, or allow them to be hurt."

My 9-year old son, who I thought was deeply engrossed in his waffle and the Harry Potter book he was reading, perked up his head.

"Well, why didn't the boys just tell someone?" he asked, very matter-of-factly.

"I don't know, dude. Some of them did tell, but no one listened. Maybe some of them didn't have anyone to tell. Maybe they were scared. Maybe they didn't understand it. Maybe Jerry told them that if they told anyone about it he would hurt them or their parents. Or he would call them liars. Who knows? But you DO know that if anyone EVER tells you to keep a secret from Dad and I, you never should, right? Daddy and I would NEVER be mad at you if you told us something that scared or worried you. Bad guys only say that to make kids scared so they won't tell."

"Duh, Mom. You always tell us that. We would always tell you something."

"I know, dudes."

I continued, "You know, guys, Joe Paterno is not a bad man. But look at what happened to him, and all the other people that got fired, all because they didn't do more to help those kids." My brain scrambled for an analogy that would make it all relevant to their pre-adolescent brains, without having to dwell on the scary, cringe-worthy topic of child sexual abuse.

"Now, what if one of your friends kept bullying a little kid on the playground, and you saw him do it, but you never said anything? What if you thought, 'Well, I'm not the one being the bully, so I should just let it go,' and you kept on letting the little kid get bullied and hurt without telling a teacher? Would that be wrong?"

They both replied quickly, "Yeah."

Then my 11-year old son continued with a question in his voice as he said, "Mom?" and I wasn't sure what more I could say about the topic.

I hate this topic.

It is horrible that parents even have to talk to their kids about this topic.

With hesitation in my voice, I responded, "Yeah?"

"So when's my first basketball practice?"

And just like that, we moved on.

Perhaps we were all a little less innocent than at 7:01 a.m., but we moved on nonetheless.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Word Up Wednesday: Candy Coma.

My kids talked a big game on Halloween.

They were determined to get candy.

Lots of candy.

Piles of candy.

Pounds and pounds of candy.

"CANDY!!!!" they yelled many times in the days leading up to Halloween.

"MORE CANDY!!!!" they yelled, even after they went to a Halloween event, and got only a small amount.

They were not satisfied.

Two chocolate bars and a Skittles?

"WE WANT MORE!!!" they said.

Were they greedy about it?

Of course.

They were greedy, little, candy monsters.

But they are kids. Kids on Halloween.

It kind of goes with the territory.

In fact, if they had looked at me and said, "Why no thank you, dear mother. We would not like any more  candy. We are perfectly satisfied with our humble little pile of chocolate pieces, Mother dear. That will be enough for our little tummies, what with not wanting to spoil our healthy meal of grilled chicken and asparagus. In fact, if you could please put more asparagus on our plates, that would be better than any candy you could send our way. After all, we are not interested in rotting our teeth clear out of our heads, therefore causing you and Father dear to have to spend so much in dental bills that our dentist can buy a new Lamborghini. No, Mother dear. That will be enough," I would have thought something was wrong.


Not in my house.

Such a conversation would be about ten different kinds of ridiculous.

Instead, my shorties donned their costumes, grabbed their pillowcases with much gusto, and went on a mission.

A candy hunting mission.

They were proud to report that it was a success.

Although, I don't know if I would use the word, "success" when describing their candy haul.





Actually, I had no words.

To date, we have never had such a candy haul in our home. In past years, we have always been able to fit our candy into two large bowls. Being slightly anal retentive and OCD when it comes to my candy, I would divide into chocolate candy, and "other", which are lollipops, Skittles, Smarties, Starburst, Tootsie Rolls, and etcetera.

This year? It took me a half hour to sort through all the candy and put it into bowls.



Then, I told the shorties that they would have to donate a pound and a half of their candy to the troops. (Thank you, Noodles and Company candy swap on November 6!)

You would have thought that I asked them to chop off their left arms.


No, shorties. I did not stutter. I said a pound and a half, and I meant a pound and a half.

Now fork over the candy. It's for the troops.

"Listen up," I said. "This is no time to be selfish. You could give away half of this candy and still have bowls and bowls of it. Also? Without the troops you would not even have the freedom to roam our streets safely to beg for candy."

What's parenting without throwing in a little guilt once in awhile?

They had nothing more to say, and went to work digging through the bowls looking for candy for the troops. I pulled out our food scale and they measure out EXACTLY 1-1/2 lbs. each.

My kids...ahem...generously them every single Almond Joy in the bowls, which was about 25 in all.

Sorry troops. God Bless the USA. Thanks for all you do to protect our freedoms.

But everybody knows Almond Joys are disgusting.

I was happy to report that the shorties also gave them piles of coveted candy as well.

And this mom gave them every single Pixie Stick in the pile.

Really, Pixie Sticks? I'm a fun mom and all, but really? Pure sugar poured into paper tubes?

I have my limits.

Foolishly, I thought that donating 6 pounds of candy (1-1/2 lbs. from my four kids) would cull the pile greatly.

Unfortunately, it did not.

This is the finished product. (The Ziploc bags are the candy to be donated.)

The word, "redonkulous" comes to mind.

Even though it's a fake word.

Because I have no words.

My children should not be surprised if they find Halloween candy in their Easter baskets next year.