Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Post-Holiday Aftermath

Bringing everything home, it begins to feel like this whole Christmas thing was a mistake. Maybe the kids don't need more stuff. Maybe none of us need more stuff. So an intensive sort of all toys took place to clear away the old and make room for the new. And again, for maybe the fifth year running (note the correlation with Aleks receiving presents), a reconsideration on who should be gift-giving and how and what...

We seem to cut back every year and yet thus far we've only seemed to increase the children's sense of entitlement and expectations. Admittedly, this is an age-appropriate response to receiving and there is a lot of sweetness, love, and a spirit of giving amongst the greedy gobbling of goods. Nonetheless, it is a somewhat disturbing representation of our values.

We don't want to be buried with stuff and we don't want to support the current climate of commercialism and consumerism any more than...we do want to, I guess. Of course we buy things. We enjoy our toys and our computers and our giant robotic dinosaur. We are a part of this culture. This is our context, as much as we venture to its extremist edges philosophically.

At the same time, we want to be careful about what we want... The only thing to do is to encourage a spirit of cooperation, a volunteer ethic, giving in addition to receiving, and a sense of community, emphasize the meanings we assign these holidays and traditions, clear out the old, eliminate excess, redirect some of our media consumption, remind the boys why they don't need everything they see, and have patience with their under-developed minds that don't quite get it.

In addition to that, I'm going to put a halt to extended family gifts next year, find ways to avoid advertising more, commit to more activities that have nothing to do with stuff or that have more to do with giving, re-watch The Story of Stuff with them and peruse The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood website.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Post Christmas Walk with Grandma and Aunt Lilly

As Jon and I packed up to head back home, the boys went to Aullwood to check out the center and hike with Grandma Cat and Aunt Lilly.

In the center, they put together a deer skeleton, wore some antlers, and checked out the bees:
Outside, Lilly took lots of photos of herself with my camera:
They saw a bat house...
Climbed through and over creeks...
Aleks harassed Grandma endlessly for more and more piggy-back rides, resulting in some upset feelings upon returning home.

Bastian battled the long grasses.

They visited the lookout tower in the middle of the field. We once got stuck in the rain here...
Then Bastian tried once more to defeat the pokey pasture...

They disguised themselves amidst flora, fauna, and winged creature...

...and forged the creek once more...

Friday, December 26, 2008

December 25th

The final envelope.

Sugarplum fairies personified in wealth beyond measure. Ah, the Christmas catalog.Woo-hoo! An envelope involving nothing more than what we'd otherwise do!
And the children awoke far too early and got everyone else up to shower ourselves in gluttonous bounty.
By the time we got there, they'd already made their way through most of the stockings with the help of Aunt Natty and Lilly.
Bastian, ravenous for earthly possessions, tears open packages with teeth.
The boys rip and shred, loving everything.
Lilly gets what she knew she was getting...
And then, after almost all the presents were opened, like something out of A Christmas Story, Grandpa Jim says to Aleks, "what's that out in the mudroom?"Aleks rushes past me, flings open the door and starts dragging this giant wrapped box into the room. I, not knowing what was going on, begin to stop him from opening it to see who it was for. Sure enough, it said, "To Aleks. From Santa." I have no knowledge of this gift. I fear the worst.

Sure enough, upon unsheathing it, the boys come to find the ultimate reward for all those dozens of letters to Santa - a giant robotic dinosaur. It does not transform into a green car or shoot ice lasers from its eyes, nor is it forty (or ten) feet tall, but it is the exact model that the letters to Santa had finally settled on and which calls to Grandparents described endlessly in the frenzied build-up the Christmas Countdown became. D-Rex has arrived. Oh dear.
Exploring his controls: Attack, Guard, Seek, Prank, and Q&A. Attack roars and moves. Guard paces back and forth. Seek uses a sound sensor to follow you (and roar and look threatening at you!). Prank farts, burps, and yawns, usually followed by a snicker that's just lizardly wrong. With the Q & A function, you can ask D-Rex any yes or no question and he'll answer - sort of like a magic 8-ball, only with weird Velociraptor-like clicking and either a nod or shake of the head. His snout crinkles. His eyes squinch. He gives Jon the heebeejeebees and the boys call him their pet.
The Plan Toys pirate ship I'd bought for Bastian came with a broken anchor. Grandpa Jim excitedly announced that he had the perfect wood glue. We entrusted the ship to him.
When Jim opened the glue, however, it exploded all over, sticking the bottle quite effectively right to his hand.
When I returned to the kitchen from telling the boys what had happened, I found Jim sucking his fresh (burning hot!) coffee from one cup and depositing it in another as the first cup had become glued to the countertop, preventing him from drinking it.
While photographing this for posterity, I became glued to the counter as well.
While the children played with their new toys and Aunts Natty and Lilly napped and played on their computers, Jim eventually worked his way free of the bottle of glue. Success!
Everyone lazed about appropriately for the rest of the morning.
The boys, counter to my previous dismissals of Waldorfian elf hats and playsilks, donned just that as they played with their electronic monstrosity.
D-Rex joined them, occassionally letting out a bored roar, as they played pirates, vikings, and Lego Agents on the new pirate island play mat.
It is so the blissful image of that which I simultaneously mock and strive for: the privileged children in their Hanna Anderson Christmas pajamas and matching Swedish moccasins, the wooden playscape...spoiling the scene with their plastic crap. They look like all the other crunchy unschooled children. I eat it up, of course.
For Christmas dinner, we went to Jeri's house where the boys had even more gifts showered upon them. Aleks mostly enjoyed the holiday poppers and the bizarre tiny plastic China-made treasures embedded within. The adults drank lots of wine. Christmas exactly as it should be, told through the jaded eyes of the post-New Years' aftermath...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

December 24th

Getting so close now...Kids rockin' out, much like my kids. Dragons and all.
Voila! Nothing spectacularly unusual! Yay for mama not having to do more than absolutely necessary!
On Christmas Eve the last few years, we have gone to visit at Grandma Cathy's house to see and exchange presents with my step-mom, my dad, and my step-siblings. It's a small crowd that we have to fit in around all the other holiday partying. My sister Laura has four children, Mark, Braden, Noah, and Emmalyn. Aleks and Bastian rarely get to see their cousins, so this is always a treat for them. My boys are a little more wild than the other children though. We, uh, aren't very strict parents at all.

The boys with their cousins at Grandma Cathy's house, pre-presents, post nibbles. These four were born within just over four years of each other. For about six weeks each summer, their ages are in a direct line. Next June, Noah will be 7, Aleks 6, Emmalynn 5, and Bastian 4.Jon and Anna Kiss - the couple from H & M. Rare picture of the two of us together...
Upon returning to Grandma Cat's house, the boys opened their special gift - a Gingerbread House kit Papa had picked up. So we built it. The icing was sickly sweet and corn-syrupy. I was in charge of it.
The boys were in charge of decorating.
We pretty much did it exactly like the picture... eh.
The boys proceeded to continuously eat it for the next several days.
Especially Bastian.
After dinner, the boys got to open yet another present - their holiday Hanna Anderson pajamas with matching Swedish moccasins. This is the third year in a row they've gotten them. They're so adorable and organically soft...

I noticed that Aleks kept randomly singing "and a partridge in a pear tree," to himself, so I recommended my sisters and I sing the whole song with him, much like our caroling in the car last Christmas Eve. Our singing is terrible:

Then we decorated the tree. We were very Christmasy.
Aleks found an Elf hat in one of the Christmas boxes.
Jim and Natty attached what has been our tree topper the last several years.
Giselle B√ľndchen in lingerie and a Santa hat. Natalie used to work at Victoria's Secret and while working Christmas Eve three years ago, the employees were given the opportunity to take home the displays that would have to clear out by the 26th. She grabbed this stupid thing as a joke for Jon. We found she fit nicely upon the tree and remembered that she is indeed an "angel."
Aleks got down to writing another letter to Santa to leave with cookies. Also, drawing out plans for every holiday from here til doomsday (Christmas Day: 1) Open Presents, 2) Christmas Feast, 3) Christmas Party).
So we had to work on the having cookies bit. This would take care of not just Santa, but the baking cookies activity we skipped back on the 20th. We made peanut butter blossoms, everyone's favorite. I did the cookie part.
The boys unwrapped the kisses. And ate quite a few as well.