Thursday, December 18, 2008


This year I proposed to my husband and kids that we have a “homemade” Christmas. Between the four of us, the only gifts we could exchange were ones that are made by us using materials from our house or yard. The prevailing rule is that no one can spend any money on any part of the present.

Much to my delight, everyone agreed!

I’ve crafted fabulous gift ideas for Hubby, Abby and Henry. I’ve yet to start making/writing/photographing any of them.

The thing that surprises me about my homemade proclamation is how it’s affected me--in a fairly profound way. I’m going through retail withdrawal. I’m amazed that I’m feeling slightly empty thinking about a Christmas morning without any store-bought glitz under the tree. I find myself willing deliveries from the UPS man, with visions of retail wonders inside for ME. I'm both shocked and embarrassed by my reaction.

Every time I see an Old Navy TV commercial, I want to sprint to the store to stock up on $10 fleece for the whole family. While in Target, I suddenly find myself browsing the women’s pajamas that I could buy for the kids to give to me.

Why? Does anyone in my family really need a fourth fleece? Has society programmed me, a very willing participant, to buy Christmas? Am I just a retail whore? (Husband—please remember that these are rhetorical questions.)

My husband and I want to impart the true meaning of the holiday season to our children. We feel that by putting energy into others and by taking time to make thoughtful gifts, we will help them learn this lesson. As Dr. Seuss so wisely inspires in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, "What if Christmas...doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

A good friend of mine says that we teach that which we need to learn.

I have a very, very wise friend.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Expat Yankees

I just came inside from the ice storm that currently inhibits Little Rock. Most sane southerners have been safely inside, staying warm. But my husband, son, daughter and I all finished dinner, donned our jackets and dashed outside to enjoy the wintry weather.

It was beautiful. It was dark. And cold. Our chimney scented the air with fragrant smoke and all cheeks were rosy, all eyes shining. We laughed, danced and giggled through the almost-there snow flakes, trying carefully not to slip on the more prominent ice.

Since I’m out of winter practice, I forgot to put on a hat. My hair began to freeze and this was my signal to escape inside to the fire. As I sat by the dancing flames, I listened to my husband, Abby and Henry outside, scraping together snow balls. (Since we do live in the south, this required a shovel to pry the “snow” up from the deck.)

I love that after all these years, Brian and I still love winter. We love the contrast of the ice and snow against the warm lull of a crackling fire. I love the red cheeks flaming against the winter skin. I love that my children love the winter. I love watching them celebrate the novelty of their origins.

They just came inside. Abby said to hubby, “It’s so nice to be home.”

My sentiments exactly.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Moments of the Season

As a mother, I cherish it all:

Hugging Henry while his diaper is poop-filled and his face is covered with Abby’s kiwi mango melon lip gloss.

Tripping on Henry’s intricate trail of choo choo train tracks which have used my dresser for topographical interest.

Negotiating with Abby about how many red, green and silver Hershey’s kisses are really too many (while internally apologizing to her for passing down the “I-must-have-chocolate” gene).

Dashing down the driveway with Henry in search of the leaf blower that is “making dat noiwse”.

Receiving an early morning visit from a coughing daughter, snuggling in close and tight.

Reading a book to Henry and drifting off to sleep while his warm, just-washed head is nuzzled into mine.

Laughing with Abby while making our coveted Buckeyes about super-silly things which still elicit giggling in my heart.

Hanging Christmas lights with Henry's help which includes his standing on the last step of the step stool so I can't step down.

Realizing with a saddened heart that this might be the last Christmas that Abby innocently believes in Santa.

Rejoicing that Henry is just learning about that right jolly old elf.

Looking forward to helping Abby realize that Santa always lives in the hearts of those who truly believe.

Giving thanks for each moment this season brings.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


A tragic casualty of the Mumbai terror is a now-orphaned two-year-old boy, Moshe; his parents were murdered in the assaults. His father was a Rabbi, originally from the States and his mother was an Israeli.

I watched the heartrending footage of this two-year-old’s parents’ funeral as he cried out repeatedly, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” I am glad my children were not in the room because I crumbled to the floor in sorrow. I cried for him, for his parents and for the unfolding of my worst fears.

This child’s reality is my worst nightmare. I dare say it is every parent’s nightmare, dying while our children are young and leaving them in the hands of others.

How can a two-year-old understand that Mommy and Daddy aren’t coming back? How can a five-year-old comprehend the loss of her parents?

I know that Abby and Henry would survive and even thrive in a post-parent world. There are many who have done just that after loosing a parent or parents. The black cloud of raw fear that unravels my heart is that my children don’t yet know that they will be ok if Brian and I were to die.

I’ll hold in my heart that they will thrive and hope that because I believe it, they will, too. I’ll continue to write them letters of encouragement, take photos and fill them with love. I’ll kiss their cheeks and hands and hug them silly. I’ll create lasting memories. I’ll lead a life that fulfills me, one which my children will be proud to recant with laughter, through tears, after I’m gone.

For now, we continue to live. I hold my children tight. I instill in them my love, my values, my empathy, my joys and my essence. I teach them how to quiet the noise and listen to their hearts. I hold on and hold dear because I don’t know when I’ll have to let go and let someone else do the holding.

If the unimaginable happens, when Henry cries out, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”, someone can hold him close and draw pictures in his mind of me, of who I was and how I loved him—and he’ll remember. When Abby cries, “But I told Mommy and Daddy that I didn’t want them to ever die!”, someone can fold her into their arms and explain that we will always live in her heart.

My most sincere wish today is for the well-being of little Moshe, whose parents are now living in his memories and his heart.