Sunday, December 23, 2007

I'm Not Intentionally Mocking My Friends in the Midwest

We had an absolutely beautiful afternoon at the beach.

One of Fillip's cousins hosted a post-Chanukah/house warming party at his newly built home in the Malibu hills. Words can't adequately describe the visual impact of stepping into his living room. The great room itself is beautiful, yet simply decorated. Orange is the accent color, but in limited and very effective amounts. Looking through the room is a 180 degree view of the Pacific Ocean, and the nearby mountains. Two of the walls are floor to ceiling glass, that opens by sliding into the adjacent walls, leaving nothing to obstruct the scenery. Often, there is a foggy marine layer down by the beach, even when the local cities are perfectly clear. However, today was perfect. Just perfect.

My boys quickly got overly rambunctious after we arrived, so a bunch of us piled into the golf cart to drive down the beach. I had the joy of spending over an hour on the sand with Hayden, Logan and two of my sweet nieces- 4yrs old and 9 yrs old. Seeing all the kids on the beach made me laugh. The two girls managed to stay really clean, even while digging in the sand. From the moment we got there, my boys looked like we dunked them in a sand pit before even starting to play. Despite the challenge of taking three youngin's to the porta potties, we had a great time. They built (and destroyed) a sand castle, and dug some pretty impressive holes. Nobody fell (very far) from the empty lifeguard tower, or got sand in their eyes. It was probably about 70F, and as clear as can be. We had come prepared for serious cold weather, like down to at least 50F, but stayed in just long sleeve cotton-t's all evening.

When we'd had enough, we called up to the house for someone to pick us up. That was a bit scary actually. The backfacing seat on the cart doesn't have a belt and is a bit slippery. I had Logan on my lap, Hayden next to me, each of them in a vice grip with my foot braced against the side of the cart, and am still surprised I didn't lose anyone as we went up the hill. The kids of course, thought it was great fun to slide and bump along on this great adventure. Once we arrived, we brushed off at least a couple pounds of sand, and never even bothered to put their shoes and socks on. It was that nice out.

We stayed into the evening, watching a stunning sunset over the water. The sky gave us a full display of brilliant yellows, oranges and reds as the inky water gradually darkened from an ashy blue to black.

There have been many times I've lamented the lack of seasons here. Today was not one of those times.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I Have a Newfound Respect for My Grandma.

My Grandma used to play endless board games with me. Bedtime was not an issue when the Master of the Game was being determined. The game we played the most by far was Aggravation. She was great about teaching me strategy and good sportsmanship. Cheering each other on was essential. However, there was a flip side to that. She was ruthless! She would bump off my marble with a little shout of glee, and expected the same of me given an opportunity to keep her from bringing that marble "Home." Playful pouting was fine, but no sulking allowed. We could gloat, but we could not get mad. The first loser would call out "two out of three!" in order to get the tournament going. I can remember my Grandpa dozing on the recliner chair nearby, giving us a sleepy indulgent smile at midnight as he would hear shouts of "seven out of ten!" There were several other games too like rummy tile (which I don't think I have ever won), and Hi Ho Cherry Oh.

For Chanukah this year, Hayden was given Hi Ho Cherry Oh. He and I have played Candyland, and recently War, but he hadn't yet seen this childhood favorite of mine. Last night I thought it would be great fun to bring Logan into the world of games as well. What I did not realize is how difficult it is to set up the game. Those cherries are so tiny, and it was taking me forever to get all 40 of them on the trees. Each time I would get about halfway there, Logan would accidentally bump the board, sending them all flying. After about half a dozen times, I was getting pretty frustrated. We would start to play then- Blam! At one point we were pretty well into an actual game. Hayden was being a great sport each time his spinner landed on a dog or a bird (put 2 cherries back!) or dumped his bucket completely. Logan was doing pretty well understanding how to play. He had a surprisingly good spin on the spinner and counted along as we put cherries in his bucket or back on the tree. When I would spin a bird or a dog they would both shout "Hey Birdie!! Hey Doggie!!" It was really cute. The first game was only a couple rounds, as I somehow got lucky on each spin. Next, Hayden won a round where Logan was off distracted by something else. We set up again, as there had been no clear winner, and Logan wanted to play. Again, that little foot bumped the board halfway through the game eliciting my frustrated cry of "Logan!!" and thoughts that I should just put the whole thing away. He responded with a very sweet "Sawwy, Mommy. It was a attident. I won do it adain."
Awww, shucks. Two out of three then!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Santa Claus is Coming To Town, but Chanukah Has Come and Gone

Although our celebratory dinners continue for a couple more nights (and then next weekend, and then on Christmas), Chanukah is officially over. As hectic as it is, I really do enjoy this holiday. That might be due to the fact that we have 8 nights to get together with people, rather than trying to cram everyone we know and love into one day. It has been really nice to spend time with family and friends, trying to keep a hectic schedule relaxed by making simpler menus, and not worrying about a spotless house. I haven't even been baking. That is quite the concession, but a needed one. Although I really love to bake, I simply don't have much time. I'll start again with the boys when we are less busy and can enjoy the process more.

The kids really enjoy the ritual of lighting candles every night, and can recognize the Hebrew blessings when they hear them out of context, like on a Chanukah cd I have in the car. They are surprisingly low key about getting presents. Getting them to open more than one is actually a challenge. They do love all their new stuff, however, and I think that is going a long way toward more peaceful mornings. The kids are occupied with new toys rather than diaper cream, bathroom soap and red chalk. Monday night is our first free evening in about 10 days, so we will start implementing an early bedtime to get our little guys back on track. The Shared Bedroom Experiment is over for now, by the way. We will likely try it again, but the sleep deprivation was getting to us all. Despite all the sickies going around, so far we only have one small cold in the house, although Logan is a little wheezy, and ready to start nebulizer treatments again.

Second night of Chanukah

Today was the kids' Holiday Program. Try as I might, I could not keep from bawling for the first 10 minutes of the show. They are all just so freakin' cute! Hayden didn't seem to want to sing, although he wasn't objecting to being on stage. Logan was happy to participate best he could, but once his class came down, he wanted me to hold him. For some reason he was holding on for dear life. Maybe he was more nervous about the show than he let on, but I was happy to indulge those snuggles. I did convince him to go back up with everyone for the last song. It was really cute to see him run across the room after the class. He is by far the littlest one. At one point, Hayden's class was sitting in back on risers, while Logan's class stood in front singing their song. Hayden was slouched down, almost competely flat, obviously bored out of his mind! They did have a couple Chanukah songs sung by all the little girls - and Hayden. His teacher kind of (gently) shoved him into the middle of the lineup. Lucky lil dude to be with all the girls! After the program parents were asked to stay and help their kids with the potluck lunch. My kids didn't seem impressed with the fare, but the homemade Indian samosas were unbelievably delicious! Had Logan not been clearly exhausted, I would have indulged his request to come to work with me. However, he obviously needed his nap and I know he is enjoying his afternoon. It's hard for me to believe that we are already in a point in life where finding the video camera for the kids' perfomance is critical.

Whoosh! That's the sound of these kids growing up.

Last night of Chanukah

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Not to be a Grinch or anything...

Each year, as we get through the holiday season, we are faced with the necessity to identify ourselves. Not in the sense that I have to show my driver's license everytime I use my debit card, but as Jews in a Christian society. At the beginning of the month I found myself making the comment "no, you aren't used to having to schedule meetings around every holiday, because you automatically get the day off for yours." This may sound like I have a chip on my shoulder, but I really don't. I'm not bitter, but do feel the need to live according to my own principals, which can mean speaking up.

I grew up knowing that Christmas was lots of fun, but was not our holiday. We celebrated Chanukah, and could enjoy various aspects of Christmas, but that it was somebody else's holiday. My friends would have me over to decorate their Christmas trees (and still do!), but I've never had, nor wanted a Christmas tree of my own. I've been to church for Communions and Confirmations, but always in celebration of somebody else. Because I had exposure to these other traditions, I never felt left out as a child when it came to the holidays. I felt pretty lucky getting to celebrate for eight days rather than just one and it was always a very fun time. Now, we need to forge our way as parents to give our boys the same sense of identity, without a feeling of exclusion or envy.

The school the boys are attending has been great. This being our first holiday season there, we didn't know what to expect. When we picked them up last week to see menorahs on the walls of the classrooms that each child had colored, I was gratified to know that different traditions are being taught there. We were told that there is to be a gift exchange this Thursday and a Holiday Program on Friday. First off, seeing Hayden carefully holding onto the name he drew for the gift exchange was very cute. Unlike the way I tend to go about these things, he didn't forget which friend he picked, and we are all set for tomorrow.

The school has been rehearsing for their Holiday Program for a couple weeks now. Hearing all the new songs Hayden and Logan are singing is so sweet. It seems that they each pick up a different song each week. Last night Logan was singing Baa Baa Black Sheep for the first time. Hayden has started singing the national anthem, but doesn't seem to quite get the lyrics. I cracked up to hear him belting out "O-oh say can you seeeeee? By the dawn's early liiiight! We're so proud of Eeeee-an!" Um, what? Who's Ian? Anyway, he'll get it eventually. I find it too funny to want to correct him. When Fillip spoke to the teacher today regarding the Holiday Program, they said that they hadn't given our boys a part because they don't attend on Fridays. Oops! Hayden had told me they had been rehearsing, and I certainly can't see letting him rehearse for two weeks, then saying "Sorry, you don't go to school on Fridays." So, I made the arrangements to have them there an extra day this week, freeing up my mother-in-law to attend the program too! Before we got off the phone, the director of the school mentioned they all needed to wear Santa hats in the program. Hmmm. Here's that Santa issue again. Hayden clearly knows that Santa isn't real, and that we don't celebrate Christmas. Is it hypocritical to give him a Santa hat to wear? Is it over-sensitive to not let him wear a Santa hat? I did mention to the director that we celebrate Chanukah and she asked that I have them wear some hat, as all the kids will have something. I had to really consider this all morning.
And, you know what? I'm getting them Santa hats. I came to the conclusion that it isn't a religious symbol, doesn't have any implications that would conflict with our own faith just by wearing the hat, and I just don't think it would be worth it to have them feel left out over something so trivial in the big picture. It seems that in order to live in a society where our traditions are not the majority, some assimilation will be necessary in order to assert our own identity on the bigger issues.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Pigs in a Blanket

The boys have wanted to share a room for quite awhile. We really like the idea in theory, so we decided to move Hayden's mattress into Logan's room to see how it goes. The first night they were so excited, bouncing from one mattress to the other. We figured it would take hours to get them to sleep, and we'd have to go in twenty times to tell them to pipe down. Much to our surprise, they were fast asleep in10 minutes. We smugly patted ourselves on the back for being The Best Parents Ever, having always stuck to our guns about bedtime and going to sleep. Hah!! Little did we contemplate the fact that Logan is like the pre-rooster in house, crowing well before the crack of dawn. He calls to Hayden over the baby gate "Buvva! Wake up!! Come pay wid me! Wake up buvva!" Hayden usually ignores him for close to an hour, then dutifully drags his sleepy self across the hall and over the gate to play with his brother. Often, this goes really well. They might snuggle for a little while then play quite nicely until we get up. Frequently, playing nicely means dumping every toy and drawer into the middle of the room to amuse themselves. (This led to Logan losing 75% of his toys Saturday morning. The little bugger doesn't even care that his toys are in a box in the garage!) One day playing nicely together meant drawing on the light green walls with red chalk and finger painting the entire dresser, the window and two boys with diaper cream. Today, I found that they had moved Logan's mattress off the crib into the middle of the room, stripped both mattresses, and were jumping back and forth. I haven't confirmed that it was a landing pad for jumping off the changing table, but I have my suspicions. On our way home this evening I told Fillip that I really don't think having them share a room is working out. Having them both up so early is leaving all of us cranky and sleep deprived. Yet, this is what they look like at this very moment....

How could I object to that?