Posts Tagged "holidays"

A Christmas Miracle

Posted by on Jan 19, 2012 | 1 comment

A Christmas Miracle

Somewhere along the line this year, Jack started disliking Santa.  Oh, he loves the man and the gifts he brings, but as December rolled around, Jack made it clear he wouldn’t be sitting on the Big Man’s lap, and there would be no photo for the mantle this year.

I have to confess, I’m most likely responsible for Jack’s trepidation.

In late September, before we had even begun to talk about Jack’s birthday or Halloween (our favourite October events), it happened.  My boys pulled out their Polar Express DVD and started the countdown to Christmas.  I didn’t discourage them much, as I have a deep and abiding passion for Christmas and all the pageantry it entails.  I did insist on doing all of our traditional October things like picking apples, decorating pumpkins and the like, but it didn’t take long after each activity for their attentions to turn back to Santa.

One night, as we were looking for books to read before bed, I was quite upset to find that one of their favourites had been ripped to shreds.  Actually, its pages had been turned into paper airplanes.  We really love our books in this house, and I was beside myself.  I decided they needed to learn a lesson in consequence.

I told my big boys that in order for Santa to bring them shiny new toys this year, they’d have to apologize.  They needed to write him a letter, in advance of the traditional “I want” missive, explaining that not only had they shredded some books, but that yes, they’d used their special Polar Express train set outside in the mud (it was not, surprisingly, mud-proof), and that they were sorry.  I told them Santa wouldn’t bring them nice new things if he thought they would be treated badly, and an apology was in order.

Lennon didn’t like it, but he understood.  Jack argued points with me (he did not take part in the book destruction, so he felt he only needed to cop to the train wreck), but finally understood if he wanted new loot, he needed to come clean.

I felt good after that discussion, happy that my children might have actually learned responsibility and culpability.  They did, sort of.  What Jack learned, though, was that Santa has a bit of an attitude, and he wanted nothing to do with it.  He started to tell me how he would write his letter, but he wouldn’t go see Santa.  Not even for a second, no way.

I didn’t push him. If I’ve learned anything in the six-plus years of living with Jack, it’s that if he says he doesn’t want to do something, he means it.  We went to Sea World once, after a week of three-year-old Jack telling anyone who’d listen that he did not, in fact, want to go.  He didn’t want to see sharks or dolphins or whales.  He didn’t care about the turtles.  He did not want to go, period.  We assumed that once we got there he’d change his tune, as he adores sea life, but lo and behold, he stuck to his guns.  We did not get to see sharks or dolphins, and he summarily dismissed the huge killer whale swimming right past him.  It was the fastest trip to Sea World in recorded history.

Boring

So when Jack said no to Santa, I figured that was that.  Last year’s trip to see Santa was a debacle, since the whole family had been sick with the flu the entire month leading up to Christmas.  We finally got to see him at the little mall near us one night while we were out, on a whim, looking at decorations.  The boys were in their jammies, and the hurried photo we got reflected the moods of everyone involved (even poor Saint Nick, who was minutes away from quitting time and bombarded by a load of sick kids in pajamas). In search of a better experience this year, we packed everyone up and went into the city to the VanDusen Botanical Garden’s Festival of Lights.

Seeing the light

We enjoyed a spectacle of lights, music, Swedish waffles and fun.  As we neared Santa’s cottage, Jack started his dialogue of how he wouldn’t be participating, lest we had forgotten his endless lecture during the hour-long car ride to get there.  I took the younger kids in, and Jack watched through the windows.  For about ten seconds.  Then he was hooked.

The Santa experience at VanDusen was like nothing we expected.  Santa had his own little cottage (which they called his “living room”), separate from all the hustle and bustle of the botanical gardens. He sat on his big, comfy chair nestled between a fireplace and a beautiful Christmas tree, in front of three rows of benches.  Families sat and waited to chat with him, or just enjoyed the quiet coziness. There was no professional photographer, no cameras at all other than those in the hands of grinning parents and grandparents. Santa took his time with each child, asking them questions about their likes and dislikes, their thoughts on the world, and yes, eventually, what they would like for Christmas.  He invited them onto his lap if they were comfortable, let them sit next to him if they were not.  He smiled, laughed, and exuded absolute joy.

Deep in discussion

It didn’t take long for Jack to assess the situation and change his mind about meeting Santa.  He responded wholly to the calm and quiet, and wanted in.  As we waited our turn, I watched the excitement grow on his face, his love of Santa overcoming the fears he’d built up in his head.

Jack and Santa discussed the fireplace, the lights, and several other things before Jack finally expressed his desire for a book about airplanes.  Jack climbed up next to him and I took the best photos I have ever gotten of Jack and Santa.  In fact, the photos I took of the three boys and Santa are, hands down, our best Santa photos to date.  There is joy on their faces, all four of them.

Team Baskin with Santa. Joy all around.

As we left the little cottage, Jack couldn’t contain himself.  “It was a big mistake telling you I was afraid!”  He was giddy with pride.  Then he was serious. “Santa loves children all the way to the bottom of the world because he lives on the top of the world.”

Yes, Santa loves all of the children.  Even if they tear up books or destroy their Christmas trains in the summer mud.  Santa loves the children who are brave, and those who are not.  Santa loves the children who can tell him what they want, and those who cannot. Santa loves equally, always.

I will never forget this visit with Santa, and we will go see him in his little living room next year. And the year after that.  I hope he knows how much he is appreciated, by the parents as much as the children.

"Dear Santa, Thanks for making my stuff. From, Jack"

 

Share this: name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> Read More

Happy Canada Day!

Posted by on Jul 1, 2011 | 2 comments

Happy Canada Day!

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Share this: name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> Read More

Mama's Christmas List

Posted by on Feb 16, 2011 | 1 comment

My kids love Christmas.  Not a surprise, I know, but it’s still exciting for us.  My husband and I have waited eagerly for the time our children would finally “get” the holiday and all of the traditions surrounding it.  Finally, at the ages of 5, 3 1/2 and 2, they collectively figured it out.  Christmas fever ran rampant in our home from American Thanksgiving on (we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving as well, but since it’s in early October, that’s a bit early to bring out the tree).

We love the whole circus that is Christmas.  We have countdown calendars for each child, we hang lights and decorations, we have a big tree with a star on top, stockings (actually two apiece, one for toys and a smaller one for treats), we spread “reindeer dust” (oatmeal and glitter) so they can find our home, we leave cookies and milk and carrots out on Christmas Eve, and, of course, we go visit Santa.

Until now, the Santa visit has been simply an opportunity for the boys to see the man who brings toys in person, and a photo op for mama.  They love the idea of him, they’re tickled to see him in person, they reluctantly speak to him and have their photo taken.   Last year all three boys asked Santa for a train, and they got trains.  I didn’t push the idea of a list too much, and they didn’t seem too interested.

This year, before we went to see The Man Himself, I asked my children once again if they wanted to make a Christmas list.  They had all decided to ask for a Polar Express train (conveniently suggested by me), and that seemed enough for Lennon and Kieran.  Jack, however, was intrigued.  He wanted to know more about this magical way to get more stuff.   After I explained that Jack could write a list to give to Santa telling him what gifts he’d like for Christmas, he was all about it.

I recall sitting on my bedroom floor as a young child with the huge Sears, JC Penney and Toys-R-Us Christmas editions spread out before me.  I compiled novel-length missives to Santa, including things I had never even heard of but discovered in the depths of the catalogues.  I rarely got a fraction of what I asked for, but it wasn’t about that.  For me, just the thrill of having the whole world of toys available for the asking was good enough.

Jack didn’t need a catalogue.  He was ready to go.  He started telling me what he wanted, slowly at first, then with breathless abandon.  I had to go grab a pen and paper.  Jack wanted a fire truck, a book about “strange things happening,” the aforementioned Polar Express train, a new water bottle, some new clothes, new sheets for his bed, and on and on and on.  Together, we wrote out his list for Santa, and I mailed it to the North Pole.

With regards to Jack, that is rarely that.

About a week before Christmas we were returning from a quick trip to the US for supplies (cheese is a lot cheaper there, and we’re quite the cheesy family).  Sitting in line at customs, Jack was telling his Daddy about his Christmas list.  When he realized that Daddy didn’t have his own list, Jack decided that he needed to rectify the situation.  He then told us what Daddy would be asking Santa for for Christmas:
1) new headphones (Daddy sleeps listening to Old Time Radio and goes through earbuds quickly)
2) a new phone (Daddy goes through mobile phones quickly, too)
3) a new mask (Daddy wears a c-pap to sleep, and the boys like to take it apart)
4) a new light bulb for the house (the light bulbs keep burning out in our new place, so this is just practical)

Not bad.  Some fun stuff, some things he needs, all in all a well-rounded wish list.  On a roll, Jack turned to me.  I was eager to see what I would be asking Santa to bring for me. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been so excited.
1) a tent for camping (we have never camped, not even once)
2) baby gate (we got rid of all of our gates when we moved, and maybe I miss them?)
3) baking soda for throwup (all of us had a wicked stomach virus before and during Christmas)
4) a red flag to wave to stop the van for when daddy forgets me (he learned about the red flags for stopping trains – not exactly sure why Daddy would be driving off without me)

No toys, nothing fun, unless perhaps he thinks I get some joy out of cleaning nasty things up with baking soda.  That’s it.  He was adamant about it, too.

For some reason I didn’t get anything on my list.  I can’t wait to see what I ask for next year.

 

What I Want for Christmas

Share this: name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> Read More

The Evolution of Halloween

Posted by on Nov 5, 2010 | 0 comments

The Evolution of Halloween

Through the years October has become our favorite month.  We celebrate all month long, rolling Jack’s birthday into Halloween – a 31-day festival of family fun.  We decorate cookies, decorate and carve pumpkins, pick out costumes, hit every pumpkin patch within driving distance, and culminate with some trick-or-treating.  We’ve taken small steps through the years, working our way up from simple observance to full-on celebration.

Jack’s first Halloween was a pretty low-key affair; we had just brought him back to Los Angeles, a teensy tiny thing.  He was only two weeks old, so while his Daddy worked, the two of us just hung out and bonded, him in his (way too big) Halloween onesie.

Jack’s first Halloween.

We didn’t do much for his second Halloween.  Jack was still an only child (although Lennon was on his way), and he had just turned one.  We took a stroll around the neighborhood but there wasn’t much to see.  The area where we lived in Los Angeles was full of singles, and they were more interested in heading out to the festival in West Hollywood than staying home and passing out candy.

For Jack’s third Halloween, we finally got our act together.  He and Lennon donned costumes and we all headed over to The Grove outdoor mall in Hollywood for late afternoon toddler trick-or-treating.  Neither boy had any idea what we were doing or why, and were honestly more excited about the trip to the Farmer’s Market afterward for dinner.

 This is Jack as Harry Potter.  The costume is still too big for him, 3 years later.  Back then he looked more like a ridiculously adorable Son of Death than a boy wizard.

Jack’s fourth Halloween was a little more productive.  Both boys went as Thomas trains (Jack as Thomas, Lennon as James), and at least Jack understood there was candy at stake.  Once again we went to The Grove, and, alas, once again the post-trick-or-treating trip to the Farmer’s Market was the highlight of their evening.

 We like costumes with some room to grow.

For Jack’s fifth Halloween, our last in Los Angeles, we pulled out all the stops.  We celebrated on the 30th, because our new neighborhood in Hollywood was no better for trick-or-treating than the last.  Since we weren’t going door-to-door, our little ones wouldn’t know the difference anyway.  The day started at Jack’s preschool, where they had a costume parade and trick-or-treating.

Jack in his preschool costume parade.  My boys decided to mix things up and swap costumes – Jack was James and Lennon was Thomas.  They were happy and I saved money.  Winners all around.

After a break to regroup, we took the party to Disney’s California Adventure for Mickey’s Halloween Treat.  Every year they transform the park into a Halloween wonderland and have trick-or-treating in the evenings the whole month of October.  It was a lot of fun, but kind of overwhelming for the kids, since they were sleepy and had already had a big day.

The boys stayed in the stroller the whole time, but Disney was ready for them.  All of the trick-or-treat stops were stroller-friendly, and the candy was flowing (even for Mom, Dad and baby).  We took home a serious haul, and could have easily doubled or tripled our loot if we’d stayed longer.  (Another plug for Mickey’s Halloween Treat – almost every treat stop offered a kid-friendly alternative of carrot sticks, fruit or crackers.  Disney always thinks of everything, and we’d be going back every year if we still lived in Southern California.)

A long, hard day of collecting candy, but somebody had to do it.

This year was different for a lot of reasons.  Mainly, we now have three Halloween-aware children.  As oblivious as Jack was at 20 months, Kieran is tuned in to all things Halloween.  He’s obsessed with pumpkins, adores dressing up in costumes and attaches the descriptor “Halloween” to everything he loves (ie: Halloween star, Halloween sticker, Halloween bicycle).

Furthermore, we live in a new place.  I don’t just mean a new country, I mean a new neighborhood and community chock full of young children and holiday-loving people.  Jack and Lennon spent the month of October watching our neighbors decorating their homes with increasing fervor, dubbing each new effort a “Halloween house.”  Our neighborhood rivaled Disney for decorations, and that’s no joke.  These particular Canadians take their spooking seriously.

When the hallowed day arrived after a month-long buildup of trips to the pumpkin patches (real ones, not just gourds in a converted parking lot), decorating cookies and pumpkins and watching every Halloween special broadcast, the boys were ready.  As with every Halloween, though, there is the bad that comes with the very, very good.  That, of course, is the long wait from breakfast to go time..

It’s hard enough explaining to a toddler and a young child that no, we can not go hit up the neighbors for candy at 10am.  Little people are not known for their patience.  Enter autism, and the day gets hours and hours longer.  We told Jack that trick-or-treating happens after dinner.  We probably should have clarified  “when it gets dark.”   He wanted dinner at noon.

Once we cleared up that misconception, we had to fill the day.  We put on our “daytime” costumes and went out for a drive, the Halloween equivalent of the Christmas Eve Christmas light tour so many of us take each year.

 Conductor Jack, ready to wait.

We drove around, looked at the glorious Halloween splendour of the neighborhood, and then headed to a playground to blow off some steam with the hopes that the boys would be tired enough for a much-needed nap.

Yeah, that didn’t work.

Dusk finally arrived, and when we would usually be finishing up dinner and starting the bedtime routine, we put on our costumes and headed out the door.  Under-slept and amped up, the boys were primed to hit the streets.

Thomas and Sheriff Woody.  Ready.

All three boys did a great job.  They went up to every door, said “trick or treat” and “thank you,” and required very little assistance from us (although much to Kieran’s chagrin we gave him a lift up and down all the stairs in the interest of expediency).   They collected a haul of treats to rival the booty we got last year at Disney, and are still excited to have their two or three daily allotted pieces from the family candy bowl.

At one point in the evening, standing in line with my big boys waiting to get to a particularly popular house, I took a moment to reflect on our Halloween journey.  There was once a time when I wasn’t sure Jack would ever play dress-up in an earnest fashion.  I couldn’t conceive of him “pretending” to be someone he’s not.  Not only did he become Woody this year (to the point of asking each of us, “what’s my name? Woody!”), he was a conductor at school the Friday before, and assumes any number of characters he’s created on a nightly basis while playing with his toys.

I used to doubt we’d be able to do traditional trick-or-treating.  Our trips to The Grove were quick and Jack collected his candy with much trepidation.  I wasn’t sure he’d be able to handle the stimulation of scores of other children in costume, an onslaught of decorations or talking to strangers house after house after house.  Not only did Jack handle every part of the trick-or-treating process, he did it with gusto.  He charged up to every doorstep and sang out “trick or treat” with glee.  He kept his costume on the entire time and outlasted both of his brothers in the candy collection.

I am fascinated by Jack’s evolution, by my family’s evolution.  I love looking back at where we were to see how far we’ve come, and I can only imagine where we’ll be in another two or three years.  Who knows, maybe next year Jack will actually want to carve a pumpkin himself instead of making me dig out all of the “guts” while he watches and offers helpful pointers.

As our night wore on, exhaustion claimed my children one by one.  First Kieran, then Lennon climbed into the stroller.  Jack was the last man standing, but eventually even he threw in the towel.  We were in the home stretch, just a few blocks from home.  As we walked up the path to a house, Jack stopped and looked at me.  He looked at the neighbor, sitting on her stoop with a bowl of candy.

“I’m tired.  I want to go home.”

“I understand that honey, we’re on our way home.  Let’s just do a few more houses on the way.”  I won’t lie, I was reliving my childhood here and walking past perfectly good chocolate is just not done.

“I have enough candy.”  Say what?  Is this my child?

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”  He looked at the woman with the bowl of candy.  “I have enough candy.”  She looked at him, and looked at me.  I shrugged.

“Jack, this nice lady would like to give you some candy.  Do you think you might want to say ‘trick-or-treat’ just one more time since we’re already here?”  He thought it over, grinned, and held out his bag.

“Sure! Trick or treat!!”

That’s my boy.

Share this: name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> | name;?> Read More