Yay! Our final post to wrap up a horrible year. You’ve probably already read tons of “2016 in review/memoriam” articles, so let’s get on with business, shall we?
These last few weeks of the year . . .
> We listened to the explanation of what happens in a household where one spouse loves the Christmas decorations/festivities/general merriment, and the other doesn’t
(Don’t get us wrong: he loves Christmas and all the fixins; he just hates “the decorating and all that stuff.”)
> Which leads us to our phrase of the week: “There’s nothing better than spiteful decorating.” – The Girl (Think Christmas ornaments hanging from the kitchen cupboard, the knife bar, and coat pockets; ribbons on manly boots; bows on the toilet tank; forcing a t-shirt like this one on a Grinchy husband . . .)
> What we didn’t buy into: the scourge of capitalism, part 1. (a.k.a “Note the irony in the product description of a $199 copper pole”; a.k.a. “This is how Toronto consumerism is sometimes represented, unfortunately”). They took their web page down, but Google is only too happy to provide you with a cached web page, as am I equally happy to provide you with a screenshot. Yer welcome.
> Anyway, if you’re going to celebrate Festivus, do it right.:
> What we’re reading: the scourge of capitalism, part 2 (a.k.a Why people hate Big Pharma. And drug dealers.)
> What we’re watching, with laughter (and tears): Kim’s Convenience, season finale: part 1 and part 2. Tune in next week to read my response to one short-sighted white man’s review of this multicultural-celebrating comedy series.
> The Trump presidency is not a natural thing. What we’re watching to take our mind off the ugliness in the world: great moments in nature.
> What we ate: due to lack of time, our annual Christmas cookie baking spree was smaller this year (three types of cookies instead of five). Still, the gingerbread man (courtesy of The Boy) with tighty-whities and pink nipples more than makes up for it.
> Finally, ring in 2017 with knowledge. Because knowledge will always beat ignorance in this world: a great general knowledge site for kids (of all ages).
While putting away the Christmas decorations at the end of January (yes, we were that lazy busy), I’m reminded once again that sometimes parents need a little help from the kids, to preserve a little magic.
Every year since the Girl was about three years old, I’ve hung out a homemade Advent calendar to let her count down the days to Christmas, but without the candy. The 24 pockets are supposed to have little surprises in them, ranging from jokes and riddles, to coupons, to little drawings and love notes. (Okay, there might be three or four candies or chocolates in there, in the space of 24 days.) And for the past few years, I’ve been away for the first few days of December, for work. That meant that I had to do catch-up-Advent-calendar-stuffing around December 5th or 6th. Not this year.
When I mentioned casually to the Boy this year that as usual, I’d have to fill the calendar only when I got back, he replied, “Oh, don’t worry. [Big sister] did it.” Indeed, she had. She had hung up the calendar, done her research and taken her time, and filled the first few pockets with suitable coupons and jokes for the Boy, so he wouldn’t have to wait and be disappointed. Sample: a breakfast in bed coupon, and a riddle: What’s the first thing that Santa’s helpers learn in kindergarten? . . . The elf-phabet.
A regular little do-good elf, she is.
The Girl knows that her little brother loves Lego. She also knows that we already have about a gazillion Lego pieces in the house. So although he had asked for (and received some) Lego for his birthday and Christmas, she came up with the idea that nothing beats homemade Lego kits, complete with homemade instructions.
Here then, are Lego-building, photography, CorelDraw, upcycling, and loving-big-sister know-how, all rolled together into a “Police Racer”, “Mars Rover”, and “Street Speeder”:
The Boy decided on his own, the week before Christmas, that he was going to either re-gift some of his own treasures, or make gifts with his own hands.
Here then, from left to right, are a boy’s gifts to his family: a “lucky charm man” for his papa; a “pen pad” for his mama*; a “lucky charm cat” for his sister.
Not only were these creations full of beautiful details made by little six-year-old fingers, but they were also wonderfully imaginative, and solved problems that we didn’t know we had. Handmade crafty gifts: a wonderful way to start Christmas morning.
* In his own words: “You put this pad on the floor beside your bed so that in the middle of the night, if you drop your pen when you fall asleep, it will hit the pad and not the floor, and it won’t make a loud noise to wake you up.” Ah, exactly what I thought that thing was.
The Girl and the Boy both picked out presents this week, as charitable donations to disadvantaged kids. While this was quite a big deal for at least one of them (the little one, who still needs to be convinced that ’tis better to give than to receive), it was a valuable learning experience for me too. It made me realise that I’m not the only who feels just a tad uncomfortable about the process.
You see, I appreciate and support the idea that everyone who can, should do what they are able to, to make a child’s Christmas a little brighter. Yet, there was always something that bothered me a smidge about the whole idea of equating happiness with a new toy under the tree. I don’t want to sound like one of these curmudgeons who say, “I didn’t have a lot of toys when I was a kid, and I turned out all right.” Still, I want to believe that children can have wonderful holiday memories, even without a bunch of toys and presents under the tree.
So I was relieved and comforted to know that I wasn’t the only one, when the Girl said to me this week, unprompted, “There’s one thing that bothers me: It’s the idea that a kid has to expect a toy to be happy. It just turns them into adults who think that buying and giving presents makes you happy at Christmas.”
Exactly. Sometimes we need a child to express to us that the Emperor has no clothes. And on top of that, he needs gifts under the tree.
So the Girl says to me the other day, “You know how people start their big Christmas shopping on Black Friday? Well, I’m all done by Black Friday. That’s going to be my goal every year.”
What? She’s organised and thoughtful enough to have finished buying all her gifts already? Granted, 10-year-olds don’t have that many gifts to buy, or big budgets, and it’s not as big a deal here in Canada as it is in the U.S. (for an idea of how big a deal it is there, check out these photos). Still, it’s nice to think that she’s thought ahead. I just hope that she doesn’t get into the need-t0-shop mentality later in life, and that she continues to keep it simple.
It’s one thing to keep up the façade about Dora the Explorer, but it’s much more meaningful when a child keeps the illusion of Santa alive for a younger sibling. This is a glimpse of the goings-on in our household concerning the jolly old man this past Christmas:
The Boy: Does Santa really exist?
The Girl (hesitating): Do you think he exists?
The Boy: I think so.
The Girl: Then I think he does, too.
Then on Christmas Eve, she reminded him to leave cookies (we didn’t have cookies, so we made do with lemon pound cake) and milk out for Santa, and a carrot for the reindeer, and write a quick note. And when he fretted that Santa wouldn’t be able to come visit us because the friend’s house where we were staying was only equipped with a woodstove and not a chimney, big sis and our friend quickly came to the rescue: “Oh don’t worry: Santa knows to come through the window when there isn’t a chimney.”
The next morning, a letter appeared on the top of the wood stove, written in as neat cursive writing as a nine-year-old can manage:
Thank you for the cake and milk and carrot for my reindeer. You have been a very good boy this year. Hope you have fun skiing today!
And though I teased the Girl that maybe next year, Santa should block print his letter so that a five-year-old can read it more easily than cursive writing, of course, I was immensely touched; she had put in so much effort to keep the dream alive for at least a little while longer.