Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Strepmas!

Merry Strepmas!

Yes, that's a little step-filled elf, sitting there with a plate of cookies and boiled custard for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. Hope Santa Claus has good health insurance.

On Christmas Eve afternoon, both boys were running a low (under 101) fever. So their daddy brought them each an early Christmas present. When I was a kid, I usually got a sticker book or something for a Christmas Eve present, but for my kids, it was a rapid strep test and a flu test. Luckily, only William tested positive for strep. So it was off to the Publix pharmacy with us for antibiotics. I had sworn not to have to return to the grocery again before Christmas, and yet, there we were at 4:30 on Christmas Eve.

Insert obligatory "Thank God that we have a pediatrician in our family so we could dispatch this with haste" comment here.

Anyway, William and I skipped the children's Christmas Eve service. David went off to sing in the adult choir, and the boys and I drove around and looked at Christmas lights. William and I sang along with the Blind Boys of Alabama and Frank Sinatra on the radio. It was so peaceful, cruising around with "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" playing, as we gazed at all the lights coming on as the sky darkened. Then we came home and had a nice quiet evening. When David got home, William put out the plate of Santa cookies and David read both 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' and the Nativity story to the boys.

Also, William received a personalized video message from Santa! (Google "portable north pole" if you're curious.) David and I wrapped gifts after the boys went to bed, and as the night wore on, snowflakes began to fall.

And yes, Virginia, we had a white Christmas. In fact, it was my first white Christmas. I mean, hello, I did grow up in Alabama. It was just as likely to be 75 degrees on Christmas Day as anything. But the snow started on Christmas Eve, and when we woke up, there was about an inch of snow. And it continued to flurry off and on all day long. I was so giddy, you'd have thought I'd never seen snow before. You'd have thought I didn't spend all of last January and February snarling at the snow because I was so worried I'd get stuck out here and go into labor and be unable to get to the hospital.

Anyway, William woke up early. David hopped up and spotted him peering over the bannister toward the living room, craning for a glimpse of his presents from Santa. He also excitedly told his daddy that he thought he could see the tracks from Santa's sled on the snow on the roof of our neighbor's house. I immediately sat up in bed and posted that little gem on Facebook via my iPhone. (I so love modern technology.) And David and I decided to go ahead and let the boys have their presents from Santa, and then we'd have breakfast after the excitement died down a bit.

William was so thrilled by his Santa presents that it probably would not have mattered if he had gotten anything else for Christmas at all.

William was content to play with his Santa toys and his stocking gifts for a good long time. In fact, Diane and Mark came over around lunchtime, and we didn't even start opening the rest of the presents until after 1 p.m.

Here's William with David and the present that he specifically picked out and bought for his daddy (yes, you read that right):

And here's Andrew with Diane, and his special first Christmas present from her:

And the boys and I piled into Andrew's new chair for a quick picture right before bedtime.

I hope you all had a lovely Merry Christmas, white or not.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

That is the question

I can't wait to see what kinds of questions Andrew asks when he starts talking. Right now, he's mostly saying things like "Da! Da! De!" and the odd "Guh!" and "Ba!" But he says them enthusiastically and with a great deal of conviction, so you can tell that the wheels are turning in there. Probably he'll bust out with some sort of jaw-dropping question one of these days that will have me floundering around for an answer, any answer.

William, of course, does this sort of thing all the time these days. The other day, he asked me me if we would understand everything about God when we get to heaven. I opened my eyes very wide and thought, "Wow. How do I even begin to think about that, let alone respond to that?" I ended up saying something limp about the mystery of faith, which didn't even satisfy me. I don't particularly like it when someone uses that as as response to one of my eschatological or teleological questions, but I have more or less accepted that, well, that's about all we can know at this point.

A few days ago, William asked me another question that strained my abilities: "What comes after outer space?"

I stuttered for a few moments, unsure of how to respond. I mean, the truth of the matter is, I have no earthly idea (no pun intended). I finally said, "Well. I don't know, William. I presume that outer space just goes on and on forever, but I don't know for sure."

This led him to begin asking questions about infinity. I tried to explain that infinity is more of a concept than an actual number. Which is a weak answer, I know. But theoretical mathematics, as a general rule, is not my area of expertise. Then, tonight I had the experience of searching for "googol" on Google. (How meta is that?) William and I know now that "googol" is the digit 1 followed by one hundred 0s.

Of course, I was all satisified just to learn that, and William had to go and ask "Well, what's the number after that?"

"Um, googol and one?" I suggested. (That is right, isn't it?)

The good news is that William does ask this kind of question. Those of you who know me in person have probably heard me complain about people who have absolutely no intellectual curiosity whatsoever. Intellectual curiosity is a trait that I value a great deal. I'm not saying that I expect people to just know certain things but I like it when people want to learn more. And I especially like it when people ask questions to which they don't already know the answers. (Sorry, lawyers out there.) So it pleases me that my son wants to learn more. It challenges me, too. I mean, I can't think of a single other reason that I would have been Googling googol, but now I know. I'm not sure if that makes me a better person--probably not--but hey, at least I'm learning something new.

Side note: I wonder if I asked this kind of question when I was a child. I don't remember asking questions that had my parents scratching their heads as they tried to come up with a reasonable answer, but perhaps I did. Mom, Dad, want to weigh in?

Monday, December 20, 2010

The challenge of getting good Christmas pictures of the boys

Gratuitous Christmas picture time!

I so love them. I mean, I know I'm utterly biased, but aren't they adorable?

I took a billion photographs of the two of them in various matching or coordinating outfits, trying to get a good picture to use for a Christmas card. I have learned, in doing so, that it is exponentially harder to get a good picture of two small boys than it is to get a good picture of one small boy.

You see, if Andrew is looking at the camera and smiling, then William is grimacing in that time-honored scruched-face smile that all four-year-olds seem to do. Conversely, if William is smiling naturally and looking charming, then Andrew has his hand in his mouth. Or he's trying to crawl away. Or both.

It's like a Christmas miracle when I get a shot like the one I just posted. It's like getting your story on A1 of the newspaper or winning the door prize at a party. Woot! It makes me very happy.

And believe it or not, I actually got several good photos of the two boys to choose from. Here's another one:

And one more:

If only this one had been better centered:

But anyway, there you go. William's doing a little bit of the fake smile there, but overall, I think they're pretty acceptable.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas

Wow, it's December, and we have about three inches of snow on the ground!

It's very surreal. The snow started yesterday morning. It flurried lightly, in a lovely Currier and Ives kind of way, for a few hours. Then it started really coming down in earnest by early afternoon. It snowed steadily the rest of the day and into the evening.

And oh yes, it got cold. Very cold. Deep freeze-type cold. Fret about having enough blankets cold. It was beautiful, though. The Christmas lights on all the bushes were lighting up the snow, casting this beautiful glow. I wish I could have captured that with the camera, but it wouldn't have done it justice.

Finally, this morning, I decided that if we are going to get snow in December, we need to at least get out and enjoy it for a few minutes. We bundled up. Majorly up. There were no "I can't put my arms down!" moments, but we were about one layer away from it.

William's class read a book about making snow angels, so he was eager to give it a try:

And here's a sight you don't see in Nashville very often: a white almost-Christmas. Here's a shot of William in front of our neighbors' Christmas decorations (since they really went all out on the festive front):

The baby stayed inside, in case you were wondering. I may be crazy, but I'm not that crazy.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Give a little

I've been trying to hammer home to William the point that Christmas is not about just getting presents. I've been trying to emphasize the whole birth-of-Jesus angle and the whole do-unto-others aspect.

I really wanted to do an angel tree or something similar this year, too, but it just didn't happen. So we're going to try to do some small "giving" things this year, and next year, we'll step up and do something larger.

So I suggested something to William, something that I figured he could easily get his brain around: giving a present to someone he loves very much. "Let's go to the store and you can pick out a Christmas present for your brother," I said.

See what I was going for? Getting him to learn how to give presents, not just get them.

William whined, "But I don't know what to pick!"

Me: "That's why we'll go look. You can look around and see what you like, and then you can pick something out."

This seems easy enough, one would think. Well. It took us about three different visits to two stores before I finally just lost patience and said, "Just pick something!"

Of course, he finally picked something that I probably wouldn't have picked. It was a little toddler keyboard. You can play it like a keyboard, or you can set it to play songs. It has these little moving figurines on top, too. And requires a handful of batteries, not included. Of course. Now that I'm thinking about it, it really isn't a bad choice. It doesn't light up or laugh maniacally or consist of many small easily-lost pieces. At least theoretically, it's even sort of educational. And it's not that big, so it won't take up a ton of valuable family room or play room real estate.

But William mainly picked it, I think, to get Mom off his back. And so he could go look at the trains in the toy store. I put the toy away when we got home, and it was like we never even bought it. William promptly forgot all about it. So I'm not sure how much of a lesson it was.

I'm holding out more hope, however, for the shopping trip to buy food to take to the Christmas Eve service at our church. Last year, we talked for days about how we were going to bring food to help feed people who are hungry. And then, a day or so before the Christmas Eve service, I took him to the store, and he picked out a bunch of cans of green beans and green peas to take as his offering for the food pantry. And he was so proud of himself, carrying them up to the manger during the service. I hope he'll be so enthusiastic this year, too.

And he did like the idea of donating some cold-weather gear to the "warming tree" at his preschool. I sent him to school with some gloves and hats to put on the tree as gifts for children who might not have nice new gear to keep them warm this winter. His teacher had to remind him to do it, but at least it seemed to make some impression on him, which is what I was hoping for.

I realize that this isn't much. But I wanted to try to do something to make my point. It'd be easy for me to just give things to people, but I want my child (and now children) to understand that they, too, can give. We can ratchet it up next year and then again the year after that. But we had to start somewhere.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Two of a kind

Don't you love this? Brothers being so happy together:

There are times when having two small boys totally wears me out, and then there are moments like that when it is all so totally and clearly the best thing on earth that I can't imagine it any other way.

Time to go shopping

I had a sudden flash of realization about something Very Important yesterday.

I'd been planning to wrap up a few of William's old baby toys and give them to Andrew for Christmas--yes, yes, this is terrible and horrible, blah blah blah, but do you know how much stuff we already have?--and I wasn't too worried about buying a bunch of presents for Andrew this year as a result. Plus, everyone knows that babies like wrapping paper way more than the actual presents anyway. Am I wrong, folks?

Until William asked me what Santa Claus was going to bring to Andrew.

Uh oh. I guess if we are going to maintain the whole Santa charade for a few more years, I need to get cracking. Now I need to go find a few baby toys that are reasonably inexpensive so that "Santa" can bring then to Andrew. Andrew won't care if he doesn't get anything new from Santa, but William will notice. And yes, he will notice. This is William we're talking about. He notices almost everything.

Guess I'll head over to Toys R Us or Phillips Toy Mart soon and peruse the baby toy aisles. Any suggestions?