Christmas is always life-altering.
There's the reminder that baby Jesus was born and changed the course of the human world - both religiously and historically. But, that's a buzz kill, thinking about how Christianity has affected the socio-political landscape through the centuries.
Instead, we'll turn our attention to happy things. Like candy canes and prime rib and our life-altering Roku.
I told you Santa would bring something that would change life as we know it. Having taken my sort-of-not-shopping hiatus, I'm easily impressed. That, coupled with not having cable for two years and a recent re-discovery of this thing called prime time television, I have a new source of joy!
After you girls, of course. And food. Fried food, specifically.
Christmas was life-altering in another way too. There was this sudden influx of Stuff in our house. From so many loving, giving and generous people.
You don't have to read the following list, unless you have reason to believe that you're on it. And if you're not and think you should be, then sorry I forgot you. And if you want to be on it, you should probably think about sending something. Just kidding, People.
In order of gift appearance:
Lola, Lola, the RCPs (shout out to Youngest for her homemade gifts), Auntie/Ninang Tammie, Uncle/Ninong Ricky, Auntie D, Uncle Ron, Auntie/Ninang Jonelle, Auntie Abby, Uncle Brad, Auntie Judy, Uncle Ham, Grandma Gibbs, Auntie/Ninang Katherine, Grandma Jane, Grandpa James, Auntie Joyce, Auntie Shelly, Auntie Lisa, Auntie Peggy, Super Auntie, Super Uncle, Auntie Sami, Uncle Tristan, Auntie Cheryl, Uncle Chuck, Auntie Merissa, Auntie Kristy, Auntie Katie, Uncle Mike, Auntie Celi, Auntie Jenina, Gramma, Granpa, Auntie Christy, Uncle Travis, Uncle Jahn, Auntie Jhonna, Grandma Anna and all the Kidlets in the aforementioned families.
I'm probably forgetting someone. Suffice it to say, there were a LOT of gifts.
So, of course, to fit all of our new toys into the house, I had to rearrange furniture.
You think I'm joking, but I'm SO NOT.
The last way Christmas was life-altering was the way in which it ought to be. At it's core Christmas is a celebration of the long-expected gifts of Jesus, of the hope, joy, love and peace that God brings into our lives. These are gifts that should be celebrated every day, long after the toys are put away, the tree is taken down, the leftovers are eaten. Long after the stickers are shared.
As we embark into the New Year, into another 365 days, another trip around the sun, let us hold fast to the meaning of this much-celebrated, but quickly forgotten season. Let our lives be altered, not only by the hope, joy, love, and peace we find in Jesus, but also by that which we find in each other, in our family, in everyday strangers, in new friends and old friends, in nature and in the city, in our backyard and a world away. And may our [Christian] experience of hope, joy, love and peace multiply, not divide. Build up, not tear down. Cooperate, not complicate. Embrace, not reject. Celebrate, not just tolerate.
Because God gave us a gift that tells us: God loves us no matter what.
The least we can do is to do the same for others.
World, prepare to be Stickered!
Love you no matter what,
P.S. A special Christmas morning video bonus for the People. I call this "Danielle gets mad at her new toy, but then they are friends again":
I just drank a pot of coffee and haven't eaten all morning.
A very bad habit.
So, I can't really form a coherent sentence.
And I feel all hyped up, like I have so much to tell you, but I probably don't. It's just the caffeine. Or Christmas. Or both!
So, here's a list:
1) I'm pretty sure Santa is bringing us something from the "entertainment" category that is going to change my, I mean, your life forever. But, I can't tell you what it is yet. Duh. Will report back here later and make all of our readers so so so jealous.
2) Christmas Eve is tomorrow! Wahoooo! Church service to celebrate the birth of Jesus! Prime rib! Cousins! Presents! New jammy jams to wear to bed, excitedly awaiting Santa's late-night sneak attack!
3) Family! Family! Yay! Time with family!
4) Just as exciting as the countdown to Christmas has been the countdown to Auntie Katherine visiting for New Year's! And the bottle of Dom Perignon we're going to guzzle!
5) Are you suffering from exclamation point fatigue yet?!
6) Lastly, will probably taking a little blogging break to enjoy the family and our life-changing Christmas presents (Jesus and otherwise), so this is for the People: Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! From our family to yours!
Because they are on vacation and staying at Lola's, Babybel has spent the past few days with three of her older cousins.
It is wonderful to see you play with them, knowing that you will all grow together, hoping that you'll still like each other and maintain relationships into the distant future.
(Bel with two cousins in June 2010)
It's also great that you spend time with your cousins, because you learn so many valuable things from them. Cousins have such wisdom and insight into this thing we call life.
For example, Babybel has learned at least two new words to describe her posterior.
1) heiny, e.g. "Eat my hieny!" or "Look at Yelly's teeny tiny heiny!"
2) tushy, e.g. "My car seat is poking my tushy!"
"Wow!" I remarked, "you know a lot of words for you bottom, Bel."
"Yes, I do," you said authoritatively. "You can call it bubut or butt or bottom or heiny or tushy or badonkadonk."
Just kidding. You didn't say badonkadonk.
Apparently, after spending time with your cousins, you have also developed an allergy. Which based on our conversation I'm not sure if you think having an allergy is like having a fear or an aversion or a mild disgust of something.
"I was afraid of the princess castle at Disneyland. But, Lolo held me. Were you scared of the castle, Mommy?" (You're such a gifted conversationalist.)
"No. I wasn't afraid," ever the modeler of the proper use of the English language, "And Lolo was holding you so you were safe. You didn't need to be afraid."
"I'm not afraid of Lapu. Some people are afraid of Lapu," you said alluding to some people's fear of Lola and Lolopop's golden retriever.
"That's true. I think he scares them because he's big and clumsy, so he knocks into people, but he's really a sweetheart."
"Yes! He! Is!" you declared.
"Do you want a dog like Lapu for our house?" I asked.
"No," you replied definitively.
"Why not? You like Lapu! He's so sweet and silly," trying to convince you.
"Because I'm allergic to puppies. And cats."
Well that ends that conversation. Daddy will be glad to hear you're on his No Dog team. I'll have to get to working on Danjo. Before her cousins give her any ideas. Or allergies.
There's new research published in Psychology Today by Darcia Narvaez that shows that letting a baby "cry it out" like we did with you two is, basically, THE WORST THING EVER IN THE WORLD. Exclamation point!
So. One thing. She's talking about crying, in general. Not, specifically "crying it out" or even, at bedtime, which most of the Internet discussion seems to be focusing on. Because people want to feel justified that the way they did something was the RIGHT way. There's no right way.
And, Dear Internet: I don't just let my children sit in dirty diapers and cry all day. But, I do let them cry at night. Gasp!
Firstly, stop worrying about the research: your children will be awesome
We, American parents, read and worry about EVERYTHING. Well, except for the ones who don't. And it's a great American irony that the privileged, well-informed (and usually well-educated) parents like me are the ones reading the research about putting babies to sleep on their backs or how abusive it is to let babies cry it out. Meanwhile, the parents who have the most to benefit from The Latest Greatest Research, don't have the time or the opportunities to learn why breastfeeding is good or why you shouldn't feed a baby soda from a bottle or why just talking to your child is the least and most you can do for them.
There is a lot of early childhood information that overflows our bookstores and computer monitors. And if you are from a demographic that reads that information, that has books in the house, that talks to your kid and worries about feeding it healthy food, then I say calm the fuck down. Your children will be awesome. No matter what.
Well, that's my approach at least. If I skip a day of reading to Bel, if I haven't taught her the ABC's and she can only count to ten at the age of three, it's not the end of the world. Granted, she has no discernible learning disability. That would be another story. But, she's going to turn out alright and read at grade level and go to college, simply because of the demographic circumstances she was born into. Recognizing this, is recognizing your privilege.
But, back to sleep.
Narvaez notes that there is an "ancestral parenting" approach that our society has lost. I have two self-contradicting points about this. Because I like to contradict and debate with myself. I'm crazy like that.
Every direction I turn, there seems to be someone who doesn't believe in Santa. And they're on all sides of the fence.
Some people feel that Santa is a lie and they don't feel comfortable lying to their children. Except for when they tell them there's no more candy or the television is broken or babies come from Mommy's "tummy" (it's called a uterus, people, grow one and tell your kids the truth.)
And still other people feel like Santa is a secular figure that has no place in the "true" meaning of Christmas. Or they feel that way, and wracked by guilt find ways to somehow justify Santa and Christmas lights and killing trees.
Here's what I believe:
1) As your Uncle Bruce says, embrace the grey.
2) Traditions are wonderful things. We have Christian traditions. And secular traditions. And religious traditions that have become secular. We have ethnic traditions. And co-opted Jewish traditions, because you go to a Jewish preschool and latkes are yummy. Don't get me wrong. I'm no pick-and-chooser, nor am I a fundamentalist. When it comes to beliefs, I have convictions, but I'll never shake a finger at a well-meaning tradition if it expands your experience of the world and makes lasting memories. (See No. 1 above)
3) You better believe it. Santa is real. And though he can be generous, he's also a hard ass. He's a lot like, oh, say, me?
4) Because if you don't believe in Santa, he won't come. If you don't believe in the magic, then the magic obviously wasn't meant for you. So, we'll just pass your magic on to other children and we'll spend our Christmas morning doing the most mundane, lackluster, magic-less and loathed of all tasks: folding laundry.
5) Folding laundry makes me, very specifically, filicidal. So, basically. You can chose to reject Santa. Or you can live.
Make good choices! Because though I really love you, I really hate folding laundry.
There is a large round terra cotta planter that sits on our front porch. It once held a tomato plant. That never thrived. Then, when we moved it to our new home, we planted flowers in it. Except they never bloomed.
Over the past year, you girls have poked and dug, watered and emptied, covered yourselves in potting soil.
Today, you discovered a couple of whole peanuts beneath the soil.
I really have no idea, but I BS'ed that, "maybe a squirrel dug a hole to hide them there until winter." Because isn't that the dominant squirrel narrative perpetuated by children's literature and those squirrel LOLs that are forwarded to you by your Great Aunt Mildred?
And that would have been all well and good, until you started talking about the nuts.
The "pea-nits" you called them.
"Look, Mommy, I found peanits. I have A LOT of peanits. That's a BIG pea-nits. Oh no! The pea-nits are broken!"
And like good parents, your father and I giggled every time you pronounced the word "peanut" like a part of the male anatomy.
Because if children these days are good for nothing else, you can at least count on them for the occasional chuckle. Or. If you're lucky, a hearty guffaw.
I took Danjo to the doctor this week for her fifteen month checkup.
It was like World War III from the moment we walked through the door. Never has it been more evident how completely different my daughters are.
And I have to remind myself that Danjo is the "normal" one, the one who fits all the developmental time lines and screams bloody murder at the sight of a doctor.
Babybel is not abnormal inasmuch as she is extraordinary. Always easy-going and adaptable. She had dozens of words by the time she was Danjo's age. She's extremely verbal for her age, so her teachers say and so I like to think.
The doctor asked me if Danielle had any words.
"Um, a few, I guess?" I replied, compiling a list in my head: mama, no, dada, Mamba (Maribel), no, chi-chin (chicken) and NOOOOOOOO!
"So, she's not putting two words together?" the doctor continued.
Not unless you count when she yells at me or the dog, "No, mama!" or "Down, Lapu!"
Or the occassional "Whatever, Mama." or "Go to hell." or "Lady, you take one more picture of me and I'mma stick that camera where the sun don't shine."
Why would you need words when your looks have such complex sentence structures?
Don't let anyone tell you different. There are two types of people in this world.
(Pooper #1 in a corner of the hospital room on the day Pooper #2 was born.)
Those for whom pooping is easy. And those for whom it is not.
The former, the type that poops all the time, that can't sit through the dessert course without having to excuse him or herself, the type that makes pooping seem so, well, natural, you'd think they would have a healthy appreciation of poop jokes and would want for nothing else than to discuss poop all day.
You would be SO wrong.
They give little thought to their poop, the bastards.
By now, you can guess which type of person I am.
I am that latter. The type of person that has always had trouble pooping. And, therefore, always hated pooping.
And yet, I am obsessed with poop. I talk about it all the time. Because pooping is this elusive skill that I was born without.
I mean, I am physically able to poop. I'm not some sort of mutant human anomaly. Aside from the fact that I like to talk about poop.
Let's just put it this way. When I was having post-partum pooping difficulties akin to giving birth yet AGAIN, Lola told me, sorry, honey, you're just a "little asshole."
I've had doctors and aesthetician and next door neighbors tell me that I need to poop more. To drink more water, to eat more fiber. That I should be pooping three times a day. Not only does that sound like an obscene amount of time to spend in the bathroom, but it also sounds unpleasant and, frankly, impossible. Trust me, I've tried it all.
Some of us are just born this way. Ahem, Babybel. (So sorry about that, BTW. Nothing like seeing your child in pain and knowing it's ALL MY FAULT.)
And some of us are born, like Daddy and Danjo, pooping four times a day. And I envy them, their poopy alone time in the bathroom or behind a piece of furniture, respectively.
Do you know how much reading I could get done if only I pooped more frequently? That New Yorker subscription would finally pay off. And I would be SO well read.
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know. Each of us is born with certain genetic traits. And we are stuck with whatever bowel movements or sleeping habits or general temperament our parents have given us.
Pooping is in your genes.
It's a general life lesson really. You are who you are. Don't be ashamed of who you are. Each of us is born different, with different set of skills, abilities and struggles.
Some of us are really good at science and painting, but struggle with music and pooping. For example.
And those who are great at pooping, maybe have a hard time with math and fine motor skills. For example.
I'm just saying.
(Also, one word: coffee.)
I've alluded to, mentioned and profanitized poop on many an occassion.
But, I think the time has come to stop tip-toeing around the subject. To stop prevaricating about the bush, as Grommit says. To stop circumlocuting, if you'll permit me to use my 2001 SAT vocabulary. Bam! I just did. How you like me now?!
Actually, I have so much to say, that I'm not sure where to start. I think I'll have to write a series of letters to you about poop, entitled Dear Poopers.
I know what you're thinking, it's so cliche for a mom to talk about poop. And I'm in total agreement.
But, when God gives you a gift. Wrapped up in Pampers or training unders though it may be, it would be wrong NOT to share it.
And anyway. I don't plan on talking about what color it was and how many times a day you did it. Or the difference between breast milk, formula, solid food and meat-eater poop.
That would be so mundane. And I know you've come to expect nothing less than Profound from me.
For serious. I have important things to talk about, people! DD Readers, feel free to contribute to the fecal matter at hand or let me know if there's any pressing topic you'd like me to discuss. So far this is what I'm working on:
I know, right!? You can hardly wait! Your psyched. You're brimming with excitement.
I can tell. You have that "look" on your face.
Don't hold back, that can lead to constipation.