Entries Tagged 'Traditions' ↓

The Responsibility of Memories

This is a time of year when traditions find their way back into our home. But, you know what? Sometimes I have no idea where these traditions have come from. More often, I never expected that they would become traditions in the first place. But they have, just because it is what we “always” do. It is what my children expect that we do. It is what they remember and count on and find comfort in.

I often read my 8yo’s writing (*proud proud proud* of it, too) and am stunned by what he remembers. I can’t believe he has this or that stored away and then accessed over and over as “that time when we went to that place and this happened.” Why was that special? It wasn’t special. Was it?

It is dawning on me that I am responsible for my children’s official childhood memories.

Oh my God.

This seems more mind-blowing than the daily exhaustion of feeding, clothing, schooling, homeworking, driving them. Because so much of the very mundane, very everyday stuff will mostly be forgotten (I think). It is the traditions and the trips. The decorations I pull out and the chocolate chip pancakes on Saturday mornings that WILL be remembered. And I am in charge of all that. So I better make it good.

Fall Festival = Good Memory

I’m trying. I know I can’t over-think it. But I’m trying. So, today, we went to a corn maze — a tradition they have come to count on every October. We had a great time. Phew.

Because here’s the other part. While I am responsible for their memories, I can’t control what their minds snap hold of and never forgets. Will my 5 yo remember how I hollered at him when we got home about video games? I yelled that he needed to get outside, and “I don’t CARE what you’re saying, just stop bothering me already!” …Ugh. Will he remember that today, too? Because I was tired after a morning of driving an hour there, traipsing through a corn maze, rallying them through carnival games and driving them back. Sure, any adult could understand what set me off. But a child very often does not. So, will my 5yo remember “Yeah, we did this fun thing but my mom yelled at me about video games that day and it made me sad.”

Mommy Yelled About Video Games = Bad Memory

I suppose we can’t control what sends them to therapy one day. I suppose every mother does her pound of damage.

So the point is here that I’m aware. I’m aware that my children look to me and wait for me to create their childhood. They wait to be exposed to what is out there and then expect explanations. And if we just happen to do it over and over, it is “what WE do, in THIS family” and that is that.

I hope I can do right by them. I know I won’t. Not entirely. And they will tell me about the times I yelled at them someday. But I have to hold on to hope — and go into that weird place of denial most mothers do so that they don’t go insane with guilt — that these two very significant childhoods will be good enough.

Happy That-Time-of-Year-I-Better-Not-F-Up Holidays!

Florida Fall

Here we go again. I had to turn my A/C back on. I wanted it to be Fall. And it was Fall for a little while. My boys and I played in the backyard, windows wide open, humidity gone and temperatures perfectly perfect.

But no. Florida came back to remind me that all bets are off down here. Never pack your summer clothes and always keep your A/C vent clean. It was 89 degrees today.

As a kind of, former New Englander, I get asked about this time of year a lot. Don’t you miss the changing leaves? What is it like living without any seasons? Isn’t it weird to celebrate Halloween or Christmas in the warm weather?

I guess.

I’ve lived in Florida for over five years now – a fact which blows my mind in its own right. And it is not the same down here. With the A/C and a tank top on right now, yeah, its hard to feel all hot cidery and crunchy leavey about this time of year.

But does that make this season any less like Halloween? Maybe its a cop out, but I argue that it’s just, well, different. And haven’t we learned from many an Afterschool Special that different IS OK, dammit?

Most of the U.S. celebrates holidays and seasons similarly with certain colors, temperatures, smells in the air, clothes worn and sun shifts across the sky. It’s familiar, it’s comfortable, it’s how it’s done.

But Florida plays by its own rules. It sticks out south here and tries to get all chummy with the West Indies, Mexico and Central America. Like some rebellious teen, it acts all “I’m sooo not anything like my family”. And then, after glancing northward at its sibling states, it insists “I don’t know what they’re into but I totally roll with humidity, keeerazy sun and palm trees, yo.” And it does.

But eventually Florida shrugs off its humidity and plays by the rules for a small while. The air does get “cooler” and the A/C is switched off. And while others worry about jackets over Halloween costumes, we worry about… well, nothing. Because Halloween night here almost always promises perfect, dry weather, folding chairs pulled into the driveway, pink and purple skies, laughing neighbors and temperate breezes. It is a beautiful absolutely spectacular time of year. And one we can’t help but enjoy adopting as “typical” Fall weather.

You see, after 5 years, I’ve learned to look a little closer and find that seasonal specialness that comes with this time of year. It is here. T-shirt and flip flop worthy, sure – but it is here.

Sometimes, if you look carefully in certain light, the colors of Fall are there.

Sometimes the sky is more orange than any pumpkin you will find.

After 5 years, new symbols of fall emerge. Like a drying stump in the backyard or beautiful berries on a bush.

Sunflowers come and sunflowers go. (And then come back again.)

And yes, sometimes, our leaves change too.

Happy Halloween. The beers will be on ice in our driveway on Sunday if you want to stop by…

Experiencing A Mother’s Burqa

burqa1In the final week of Women’s History Month, I have decided to tackle a topic that has been on my mind for awhile. It is not so much a topic actually but rather an item of clothing. A few years back, my father returned from his time in Afghanistan with a gift. He brought his westernized, feminist, know it all daughter something extraordinary and like nothing I owned. He brought me a burqa. I want to share this burqa with you and try to respectfully encourage some awareness about the experience of wearing this article of clothing in a country very different from our own.

Truth be told, this is my second burqa. When I was a child, my father went to Afghanistan and brought me back a smaller burqa, one that actually fit on one of my Barbie’s perfectly. This burqa seemed part of another world, a piece of clothing I didn’t exactly understand but my Barbie wore from time to time while she went about her very important Barbie business.

While I was pregnant with my second child, my father brought me my second burqa. This time is was large enough for me to wear. I couldn‘t thank him enough, I was grateful to finally own one myself.

Why would that be?

First let me explain the burqa – or try to. The burka is worn by women in Afghanistan. Traditionally, it has been expected that women cover themselves entirely in a burqa whenever in public. It is said to be a matter of honor and one both men and women have upheld respectfully. And while this tradition has given way to western influences and fashion trends in recent years – perhaps with simple head coverings rather than a full length burqa – the Taliban do enforce the burka. In fact, in the eyes of the Taliban, it has meant a woman’s death if she doesn’t wear one in public. Regardless, enforced or not, women in provinces all over Afghanistan wear these coverings. (Please note that women cover themselves in many Islamic countries also, each garment having different names and social expectations.)

Are you a mother? If so, imagine yourself doing what you do: working, chasing down children, doing errands, cleaning, cooking, caring for your families entirely covered head to toe in a burka while in public. It is an awesome feat. Whether a cultural choice or not, I truly respect the women who wear them.

But you see this is all I understand about the burqa. I know what my father tells me and what I have read in books. So what do I really know or truly understand about its history or its meaning – positive or otherwise? I don’t. All that I do know now is what it feels like to wear one – and that has only been briefly.

(Oh yes, here I am. A privileged, American woman – annoyed when she has to wear a bra in public – and now I have a burqa and I want to see what its like. Groan. How condescending that sounds. But I don’t mean it that way. I am simply wanting to learn, to get it, to share this experience, if only for a moment.)

burqa2So I have tried on my burqa many times and here is what this western woman experienced. First of all, the burqa is hot. I guess they used to be made of more breathable cotton but newer ones are made with synthetic material so that they keep their color and their creases. And it is very hard to see through the burqa, but maybe I’m just not used to it. Also I initially thought my head was really big because the top of the burqa did not fit on my head well, it was constricting. After doing further research, I have learned this is typical for most women wearing one and it is not comfortable at all. And finally, its not at all easy to breathe in. There is no vent for the nose or mouth. I just can’t breathe in it for long. That’s why I always take it right off. I can’t breathe. I feel claustrophobic and closed in. So chasing children? Carrying food back from the store? I can’t imagine.

Now I am sure there are readers ready to discuss the matter of women’s repression in Afghanistan. And I am sure there are readers who feel offended by any lack of respect for the burqa and its place in Afghanistan tradition. While I certainly have my views, my post is not meant to judge the purpose behind the burqa. I am simply sharing the experience of a burqa, an experience many women have daily and I don’t. If you ever have the chance to try one on, please do if only to honor a woman’s lifestyle someplace far from our streets of Main Street, U.S.A.

burqa3And finally, a quick note. Do you know where I keep my burqa? It is kept in my closet, draped over the box which contains my carefully preserved wedding dress. It just seems fitting. After all, we too wear constricting garments which are expected of us. It’s just what women do here.

Cross posted at Type A Moms.

Happy Holidays from the Cutest Two Year Old on Earth

Holiday giggles and yuletide glee have taken over my home. We’re baking sugar cookies, tracking Santa on Norad and wrapping presents madly.

(Sidebar: My dilemma. My 5 year old’s “Santa” presents are being wrapped in same paper as everyone other’s presents. Will he notice? Will he pick out my handwriting, already? The stress of making sure he believes has even surfaced in my dreams: last night I dreamt I forgot to put out all the presents and T. woke up to find that Santa NEVER came…)

But back to the fun. We’ve got cookies and loaves of bread to make for family and Christmas lights to scout tonight and “Twas the Night before Christmas” to recite. It’s really such a wonderful time.

So as my gift to you, I am sharing with you something quite precious: the cutest two year old in the world singing his favorite Christmas carols.

To all of my readers, whatever your holiday, may you have a wonderful celebration filled with family, tradition and joy.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUjAonX6VHc]

Keeping it Green this Holiday Season

led

While getting caught up in the fun of the holidays, it is very easy to throw your usual rules aside and go all out - hoping to ensure the perfect holiday gathering for your family. We go on endless shopping sprees, the budget is long forgotten and so are some of our better “green” habits – all in the name of holiday cheer. The holidays don’t have a reputation of excess for nothing. However, here are some ways to try and keep your cool and stay green without having to forget the fun of the season too.

Decorating

Some of us will be buying Christmas trees this year to decorate. If you do decorate a tree, consider buying a potted tree and planting it after the season has passed. If that isn’t possible, be sure to contact your local Waste Management Program to find out how to recycle your Christmas tree. Also check Earth 911 for local Christmas tree recycling options.

When it’s time to string up the lights in my home, my inner Clark Griswold comes shining through. However, this year, if you happen to need new lights anyway, consider buying LED holiday lights to save energy. Or if you don’t have to buy new lights, be sure to keep your current lights on a timer so they are off during the day and when you go to sleep.

If you are looking for new ornaments this year, All Free Crafts suggests making ornaments out of recycled Christmas cards. I love to make salt dough ornaments with my children and those treasures will stay on my tree for years to come. Don’t forget about the extra things around the house that might spruce up your tree too like left over ribbon, restrung beads and buttons and even stringing good old fashioned popcorn garland for your tree.

Holiday Cards

It has never been easier to send e-cards or virtual greetings. I use Hallmark Smilebox to send festive slideshows, greetings and even movie clips. If you still prefer sending mailed cards, consider buying cards made on recycled paper this year. Some options are Cards Direct, Cards for Causes and Green Field Paper.

Cooking

Part of the holidays always includes cooking traditional meals for friends and relatives. Plan ahead and try to be a green chef this year. For example, try to buy organic foods when possible, think about some vegetarian meals and buy free range poultry and eggs. Another fun tip is to track down a local farm and buy your fruits and vegetables locally – they taste better and are usually more affordable.

Green Gifts

Gift giving is on everyone’s minds right now. Think carefully about what you are giving and why your are giving it. Grabbing as much “stuff” as possible just to wrap and stick under the tree isn’t a smart idea. Rather, buy one or two quality items, than a bunch of less well made, more likely to break items. Also, think about buying things that are personal, make some gifts and put your heart into the giving process. A hand knit scarf is always more valued than another boring tie.

Another inexpensive way to buy green gifts is to hop onto Craig’s list or shop in consignment stores. Recycling and saving a dollar never came so easy.

Finally, here are some links to articles or websites with green gift ideas: EDF.org, NRDC.org, Ecomall.com, and Treehugger.com. One of my favorites? Consider buying your loved one some poopoopaper. A fun gift and it’s certainly, er, been recycled.

Gift Wrapping

When I was a child, it was inevitable that as we opened our gifts a relative would shout out “I forgot one!” And they would run off and return with a gift wrapped in a towel or pillow case. We used to laugh about it then but now it really isn’t such a bad idea after all! If possible, try to make your own wrapping paper this year by using beautifully decorated paper bags, magazines, old posters, old maps and even the tried and true funny pages. And make my family proud, an old piece of cloth might even look beautiful with the right ribbon and sprucing up.

Another thought? Wrap presents that go together in one package. Also, try to avoid buying gifts that are too large that would take extra wrapping – they probably have too much packaging in them anyway.

If you do need to wrap some gifts in paper, track down some recycled gift wrapping.

Shipping

I know I still have to get my gift boxes sent off. When you do, try to find old boxes to mail your gifts, be sure to avoid the plastic peanuts and use old newspaper and other pieces from your recycle bin to pack your items. Sometimes I save my sons used ziplock bags and then blow them up for cushion in the boxes.

Finally, you should know that the USPS is actually doing an excellent job of being green about their shipping. They have eco-friendly packaging and even soy based inks and non toxic adhesives. To learn more, go check out their site.

Cross posted at Type A Moms.

Teaching My Children about Every Holiday this December

ist2_4364427_dove_symbol_of_peace_on_earth

While driving my 5 year old son home from kindergarten yesterday, he pipes up from the backseat with the following question: “Why don’t Hanukkah people have Christmas trees?” “Well… uh, because your Jewish friends don’t celebrate Christmas…” But I knew my fumbling reply was simply not good enough. When I became a mother, I was determined that my children would understand as many aspects about this holiday season as they could. So after polishing up on my seasonal facts, I would like to share with you some information I’ve found online. I hope to teach my sons what this time of year means for children worldwide and of every religious background.

There is no doubt about it. When December begins in our country, it is very apparent that Christianity is the dominate faith as Christmas tends to deck each and every hall far and wide. My family is Christian but even I am often overwhelmed by all of it. However, as a result, it hasn’t taken much effort on my part for my sons to learn the traditions of Christmas. Most of my efforts have been recently spent on keeping their minds out of the Toys R Us catalog and into the spirit of Christmas – which can be a challenge.

Still, do my children know how other cultures celebrate Christmas? My son was amazed to see how differently some countries celebrate the holidays. And to hear that no, in fact, the Toys R Us catalog is not available world wide either. If you would like to educate your children further than the Toys R Us catalog too, I have found some very informative websites about how Christmas is spent around the world.

TheNorthPole.com
Santa’s Net
The Holiday Spot

But what about the other holidays celebrated this time of year?

Let’s start with Hanukkah. My son does have a very general idea about this holiday since he has friends who celebrate it. Last year, we had the opportunity to have my son visit his friend’s house, play the dreidel game and check out a menorah – and I hope to do it again this year. Here are some sites where we can teach our children more about this magical celebration starting December 21st.

Hanukkah Stories
Learn about the Menorah
Hanukkah Crafts
Hanukkah Coloring Pages

Kwanzaa, beginning on December 26th, is a holiday celebrated by many African American and African citizens. I have learned that each of the seven days celebrated represents seven important principles: Self Determination, Purpose, Creativity, Unity, Cooperative Work & Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, and Faith. Learn more about this fascinating holiday at the following sites:

Everything About Kwanzaa
Kulture Kidz: All About Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa Coloring Pages and Activities
Kwanzaa Music for Kids

December also marks important Muslim holidays as well. People of Muslim faith take these days to visit with family, exchange gifts and enjoy a wonderful feast. While celebrating with your Muslim friends or their children, here are some important days in December to remember:

  • December 6th – 9th celebrates the Hajj which is the annual pilgramege to Mecca.
  • December 8th is Eid-Ul-Adha and this Festival of Sacrafice begins a four day holiday.
  • December 29th is Al-Hijira and marks the start of the Islamic New Year.

Here are some interesting website for children to learn more about the Hajj:

Helping Your Children Understand the Hajj
Islam for Children
Children Performing the Hajj

There is certainly a lot to celebrate this month. I hope everyone enjoys the start of a wonderful holiday season!

Cross posted at Type A Mom.