We must all hang together

It wouldn’t seem right to skip my annual report on putting up the Christmas tree. We were a little later than usual putting ours up this year. The boys forgot to nag about it for a little while which allowed the parental holiday sloth to take over.

Eventually the boys realized there was some hulking monstrosity missing from our already crowded living room. The sloth was chased from the house, but the parent host was made to stay and drag all his tubs of festive cheer up from the basement.

We have an artificial tree (the sloth’s legacy), which the boys were eager to assemble. You don’t get that kind of quasi-LEGO experience with a real tree, no sir. On the other hand, a real tree doesn’t require the dreaded chores of spreading wire branches and fluffing Mylar needles. It’s a Yuletide tradeoff.

Hanging together.

After the first minute of branch-fluffing, I noticed Big Brother and Buster had disappeared. Big Man was still invested though. He helped me test the lights, and gave me tons of helpful advice about where I should run each strand. I was switching the TV back and forth between a basketball game and a football game, and trying to finish cooking a stew in the other room, so he certainly put more thought into running the lights than I did. One way or another, they got on the tree.

The football game was coming down to the wire, so I corralled Big Brother and Buster and made them help Big Man hang ornaments while I let myself become distracted. There was an indirect correlation between the height of the decorator and his enthusiasm for the job, which is why the bottom of the tree is more densely populated than the top.

We have a number of TV character ornaments. Big Man found two from the same cartoon. “I have to hang these two next to each other, because they’re friends,” he told me. I couldn’t argue with that. Besides, I gave up arguing with children about the proper ornament disbursement years ago. Joyful little hands always make a more beautiful tree than cold geometry does. Sure enough, Finn and Jake ended up dangling from the same branch. Friends should always hang together.

Finn and Jake always hang together. It’s what friends do.

Later I noticed Rudolph, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius, Hermey, and the Abominable Snowman hung in a group. So were Homer, Bart, Marge and Lisa. Both television casts were on display near the bottom of the tree, leaving no doubt as to who hung family and friends together.

Why are Rudolph and Hermey in such a hurry?

Abominable Snowman is after them!

Big Man may not win any Martha Stewart Christmas Tree decorating awards, but he’s ahead of the game on empathy. I’ll take that over a perfectly balanced tree any day. It’s a good thing.

 

 

A Valentine’s Day massacre to call our own

Nothing sucks away the Valentine’s Day spirit like Valentine’s Day. This probably holds true in all situations, but it is especially evident when you have children in elementary school.

Valentine’s Day means school parties, which means preparing a bunch of those little waxed ticket Valentine’s cards.

Most public grade school classes contain twenty-some-odd students, making it perfectly natural that the cards come in boxes of 16. If you search hard, you may be able to scrounge up a box of 32 cards, but the prizes (and they need to have prizes now) are not as good.

power ranger valentines

A 32 count box of valentines – more precious than gold.

The boxes I unearthed came with temporary tattoos and glow-in-the-dark stickers. These were not on the lollipop level, but gradeschoolers need additional sugar even less than they need tattoos.

Having limited the number of boxes to buy, and spared dozens of children’s parents from the effects of an added sugar rush, I thought I’d won Valentine’s Day.

I had not.

This became apparent when it came time to prepare the cards. Big Brother was able to address his by himself, but he needed help fitting the tattoos into the little slots in the cards. Those little slits were difficult to find, and impossible to neatly slip the corners of tattoos squares into. It would have been so much easier to ram a lollipop stick through there. Valentine fail #1.

Buster’s cards were worse. With his unconfident penmanship, he could not make his pencil write dark enough on the waxy paper. I gave him a pen that writes smoothly on wax. Valentine fail #2. The pen also smears smoothly on wax. I dictated the spellings of the names of his classmates to him while he wrote the letters and promptly smeared them as he moved his hand across the paper.

We used the extra cards to replace the worst monstrosities. Having learned our lesson, we let the ink dry and folded them so he could write his name without touching the recipient’s name. Then it was time to attach the glow-in-the dark stickers.

More tiny slits! Valentine fail #3. The stickers were harder to fit into the slits than the tattoos were, especially when attempting to do it without touching the ink already on the card.

 

can you find a tiny slit?

Somewhere on this card are slits for sliding a sticker into. Good luck!

Finally, we were ready to fold up the cards and seal them with the little sticker hearts universal to these kits. We’d just fold the names up inside and not worry about smearing anymore. Valentine fail #4.  We got a good way through this process when it occurred to me that with names folded inside, Buster wouldn’t know who each card was for.

Sticker!

Did you guess right? Congratulations! Only 23 more to go!

This must be a common mistake, because there are about four hearts for every card in the set. We ripped the hearts off the cards, folded them the other way, so Buster could try to interpret the smeared names on them, put them into a baggie, and tossed them in his school bag with the last of my Valentine’s spirit.

Thankfulness via poetic license

Buster likes to break up the monotony of family life by sharing his vast knowledge with me.

Some of his wisdom I assume he picked up in Kindergarten: “Five plus five is 10.”

Some I hope he hasn’t: “I know two bad words. Wanna hear ‘em?”

The other day he explained a hierarchy to me out of the blue: “It goes like this: baby, kid, big boy, daddy, grampa.”

“So, what will I be when you’re a daddy?” I asked.

Without hesitation: “You’ll probably die.”

Well, that’s that then, isn’t it?

Maybe not.

Since it’s Thanksgiving time, I decided I’m going to spin this episode toward Thankfulness.

You may wonder, “How exactly do you expect to manage that?”

I’m gonna tackle this blogger style – by linking to an old post. That’s how.

In this post from five years ago, Big Brother told his friend I was already dead. So you see, this new development is quite a reprieve for me. I am very thankful to have had these five years on Earth, and maybe several more, depending upon the length of Buster’s “big boy” phase.

In fact, I’m downright optimistic now. Having gained years of life between Big Brother and Buster, I expect by the time Big Man is heard I’ll be ready to live forever.

It appears I have a long life ahead of me, albeit among rotten children who anticipate my demise (joke’s on them when they see their legacies), and that, on balance, is something to be thankful for.

Amen.

The family gives thanks for Daddy’s longevity despite its predictions to the contrary.

For Mommy

I asked Buster, “What should we get Mommy for Mother’s Day?”

“Probably something she likes,” was his reasoned reply.

“What do you think she would like?”

“I don’t know. Maybe you should ask her what she likes and then buy it for her.”

When it comes to thoughtful gift giving, Buster is a chip right off the old block.

I am old enough to have learned, without having to ask, one thing Mommy wants. That is to be told, once in a while, how much she is loved and appreciated. She isn’t told this as often as she deserves to be told. Mother’s Day is a great time to begin to make up the deficit.

This being the case, I present some words of love and appreciation for Mommy.

From BIG BROTHER

What is your Mother’s Day message for Mommy?

“Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy. I love you.”

How much do you love Mommy?

“More than bacon.”

A big heart full of big love for Mommy.

From BUSTER

What is your Mother’s Day message for Mommy?

“I love you so much, Mommy. From me.”

How much do you love Mommy?

“One hundred.”

A medium heart full of big love for Mommy.

From BIG MAN

What is your Mother’s Day message for Mommy?

“Love Mommy.”

How much do you love Mommy?

“Big much.”

A little heart full of big love for Mommy.

Daddy also loves Mommy big much, one hundred, more than bacon, and also to the moon and back. As a group, we don’t tell her we love and appreciate her as much as we should, but we do love and appreciate her always, even when we are a mob of self-absorbed hooligans.

As important as it is to tell Mommy how we feel about her on Mother’s Day, I also recognize the wisdom of youth. I took Buster up on his suggestion and asked Mommy what she would like for a present. She’s getting that too.