Wednesday, February 18, 2015

50 Shades of Huh?

Without exception, Fifty Shades of Grey is the most poorly written book I have ever read. As someone who reviews books for a living, I can't even imagine what I would have written if I had to review this piece of crapola.   Just a series of zzzs and a sad face emoticon would do.

The main character was a wet rag.  The romantic hero was a cheesy weirdo.  It didn't make a lick of sense and seemed, at times, to be taking place in the early 80s. If Ana wrote "Oh my!" in italics one more time as Christian ravaged her yet again I was going to throw up in my mouth. Now that's kinky.

And yet, there were explosive sex scenes throughout the book where Ana had mind blowing orgasms that often left Christian with his teeth clenched saying "Sentences. With. Each. Letter. Capitalized. And. With. A. Period. After. Each. Word!"

From a literary standpoint, this book was a belly flop. I tried to read it twice but I found myself getting frustrated with its sheer awfulness. It didn't particularly turn me on so much as make me laugh, embarrassed that not only did someone publish this piece of shiza but that it's an international sensation.  But then again, my secret crush is Alan Rickman and I find guys in wool socks ridiculously sexy so we can all agree my tastes are rather...singular.  Ha!  Ba dum bump!

But the truth is that scores of women bought and loved this book. And I think I know the reason why.

I've spent some time coming up with an answer since my husband keeps begging to know why everyone seemed to adore a book that I keep snickering at as I insist on dramatically reading him passages aloud when he's trying to sleep.

I think women love the book because all of us moms are way too busy, work too hard, and do too much.

Fer SERIOUS!

Sometimes I dream of escaping and  having an affair one afternoon a week. I picture a gorgeous white hotel room that I don't have to clean. There is a freshly made bed and quiet. No one is pressing me to make a meal or pestering me to design a reading poster. I'm not spackling Hello Kitty stickers off a wall or trying to referee the latest family fight while trying to meet my work deadlines. It's just me, the quiet hotel room and perhaps a book, a nap and room service bringing me a bowl of some kind of delicious cream soup and a giant slice of peanut butter pie that I don't have to share with anyone. There's no other person involved in my love affair. That would defeat the whole point.

To an extent, that's what I think Fifty Shades did for the army of women who couldn't put it down. It introduced the fantasy of man who does everything for Wet Rag Ana. She, as Christian Grey's submissive, has no responsibility whatsoever.  He makes all her decisions, from ordering for her in restaurants to picking out her clothes.  He chooses her car, and being a stalker he always knows exactly where she's gong to be without her having to tell him, let alone give him directions. Also, being a stalker, he notices everything about her, which is the complete antithesis of the husband who's so clueless he wouldn't notice is you ran around nekkid with your knickers on your head. She's totally witnessed by him!  Rather than criticizing her about her weight he forces, FORCES her to eat so that she will be strong enough to withstand their latest round of mind-blowing sex. (That was really the only part that turned me on. When he was instructing her to eat.)  And he's amazing in bed and does all the work while she just lays there, since, being tied up she can't really do much anyway. And he's ridiculously wealthy so he pays for everything!  That means no arguing about the household expenses.  

I think that this fantasy, of the responsibility-free life, where everything is blissfully out of your control (more than Christian's Red Room of Spank), appeals to women everywhere who are constantly over-stressed and overworked.  Although...come to think of it, if you're being spanked, you're usually laying down which seems restful. And if you're all tied up than you're not doing mindless dishes or picking up your kid's legos for the umpteenth time.  Ah to escape into the sweet fantasy where the only thing on your To-Do List is a hot millionaire.  And Ana isn't just Christian's sub, you know.  He gifts her with a car, buys her awesome clothes and even flies her to Paris on his private jet in exchange for all the sex and spanking she allows him.

Wait...this makes Ana sound a bit like a prostitute.  Oh well, that's a blog for a different day.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sick Kid

I haven't left the house since Sunday afternoon.

My 3 year old came down with a bad cold and with our vacation looming mere days away, and in an effort to get her well, we went on lockdown. 

Little D was fine at church this past Sunday but around mid-day when we realized how sick she was, we left my folks' super bowl lunch early. I didn't even get to eat any football cake. We cancelled making the rounds of two Superbowl parties and stayed put at home.  Where we've been ever since.

Since Little D's default state is to zip up the nearest flagpole and hang upside down singing a VERY LOUD SONG it was sad to see her as a slumped little lump balled up in the corners of various couches, beds and laps.  We pumped her with fluids and vitamins, vaporized her and blew her nose countless times.  We snuggled up and watched Disney movies.  We cancelled her ballet and gymnastics classes and called off any play dates for our older son.  Grocery shopping?  It could wait.  I pulled a veggie lasagna out of the freezer and discovered a case of corn niblets in the back of my pantry and rogue jug of apple juice trying to hide behind the gift bags. Perfect.  

And you know what?  Besides the slight cabin fever I'm rocking now that it's Day 4, (and besides that no one likes to see their child sick, of course, there's that) there were a number of silver linings to her little cold.

A.  I stayed in my pajamas from Sunday night until Tuesday morning.  I was giving so many hot baths to my sick child I didn't get a chance to take one myself.  I'm Natalie.  I'm disgusting. I haven't done that since New Year's Day of 2006!
B. I got to snuggle the kids indefinitely and watch Beauty and the Beast. And Lady and the Tramp. And even Frozen.  (Though my kids protested)
C. I didn't have to drive anywhere!  No schlepping the kids in the car in the ice-cold deep freeze.  I didn't want to make Little D sicker so we just stayed home.  It was glorious
D.  But the best Silver Lining was my pleasant surprise at how many family and friends reached out to see how Little D was feeling.  It warmed my heart that our support system would think of her and wish her good health, knowing that we would soon be leaving town. These check-in phone calls are particularly appreciated when you're trapped inside for three days straight with an extremely irate 3-year old who's coughing up flem.

And while no one likes to see their child sick it's an occurrence that forces everything to stop. (And I am not talking about the parent warriors who suffer the agony of having a terminally ill child -- I am merely referring to most of our experience of having a kid with a mild virus or temporary cold) It forces you to focus on your kids and nothing else.  I got zero books reviews done. I didn't go to my work-out class or run any errands. I had to be completely present and available to my daughter without letting even one distraction get in the way.  Because we all do so much in addition to parenting (work, cook, laundry, volunteer, exercise, etc.) it's rare that I get to stay home for three days straight with the kids. And it makes me feel all the more indignant on behalf of moms who work out of the home -- moms who can't stay home three days with a sick kid.  Unfair!  There should be extra sick days for working moms for when your kids are sick. 

I so happy to say that Little D is feeling great today. What a difference three days can make.  Not just for her, but for me also.  I'm not glad she got sick but I'm glad it caused me to slow down and rest a bit myself before we tackle Disney.

Now let's just keep our fingers crossed that her brother doesn't come down with it.




Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How your kids make you cheesy...the Disney World post

You know those people that have giant inflatable snow globes on their lawn come Christmas?  (Maybe you ARE one of those people).  For many years I thought that was the tackiest thing I'd ever seen.  I wondered WHY would ANYONE put such an atrocity on their front lawn?

And then I had kids.

And I understood that a lot of these families do not have bad taste....they just have kids.  And the joy and delight that fills up their child's face at the prospect of having something SO MAGICALLY COOL on the lawn come Christmas trumps the parents' desire for their home to look classily festive.

And this is why I found myself with a line of light up plastic candy canes festooning my walk this past holiday season. 

There's something else that will happen soon that I never thought would happen.

We're going to Disneyland!

(Actually it's Disney World. But it's so much more fun to say you're going to Disneyland.)

I hate crowds. I mean I REALLY hate crowds and my husband is not much better.  Going to a boy scout pack meeting requires many deep breathing exercises, attending school Halloween parades is best done after a shot of tequila and visiting Funtime America is to be avoided at all costs.  I'm the person who likes to eat out at 5 pm like an octogenarian because no one's at the restaurant and we only go to Chuckie Cheese (once a year) at 10 ON THE DOT on a weekday so that we are the only people there and can then scurry out the door like Chucky's namesake character when it starts filling up.

When we go on vacation, it's always somewhere somewhat obscure, very non-touristy and usually off season so it's nearly empty. Some people thrive on the energy and excitement of crowds but I'm not one of them.   I like quiet, particularly when I'm on vacation trying to recharge. I love when there's "nothing to do".  Jackpot!  More books to read! ( I know what you're thinking..."We MUST HAVE HER at our next party!")

And yet, next month we're going to Disney World.  My oldest is nearly 7 and I had several families urge me to go "before the magic wears off" and this terrified us into booking a trip.  This trip has all of my least favorite things -- crowds, rushing, lines, frantic schedules, bright lights, constant noise and giant turkey legs.

A part of me longs to tell the children that Disney burned down and then go to Block Island instead to sketch lichens and visit the island's lone alpaca.

But their joy in realizing that they're going to Disney is sort of sweeping me up in the excitement also.  My youngest can't wait to see Minnie Mouse and my oldest wants to battle Darth Vader.  They can't believe they're going to visit a haunted mansion and spin on the tea cups.  They are thrilled and euphoric that we're finally going on a vacation in which the main event doesn't involve hiking through a beachside trail because that's really all that there is to do.

And while my husband and I are aren't exactly donning mouse ears yet and prancing around the house to "When You Wish Upon A Star"  I have to admit even we're getting pretty excited. I've been sharing details with the children of our itinerary "Eating with Lady & The Tramp! It's A Small World! Fireworks!"  It's a far cry from our previous non-kid vacations which include visiting the Tate Modern in London and sampling mussels in St. Jean de Luz or sailing completely around this random island as I alternately vomited and went snorkeling for an 8 hour period.  But those kinds of activities aren't geared for children that young. Well, except maybe the vomiting.

Yes, in many ways Disney will be my kryptonite -- over-stimulating, crowded and noisy.  It's the anti-vacation for someone who's at heart an introvert. But I think the looks on our kids' faces and the happiness this trip will bring them will far outweigh any panic attacks I'll be experiencing while we're there.  Or at least I hope.  If it's dreadful we don't have to go again.

Even though it's a giant pain in the ass and extremely expensive, I think travel is really important every so often, not just to get out of your normal environment but to have your kids experience other parts of the world.  There will be a time, yet again, when my hubby and I can go back to the southwestern part of France or take our teenagers on the 12 hour flight to the North Shore of Oahu when it's deserted.  But at this point, it's the Magic Kingdom.  The things we do for our children.

I'll pack my flask. (Is this frowned upon?) Dumbo the Flying Elephant here we come!



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Five Nights At Freddy's and other stuff to be avoided

I woke up Saturday morning in a foul mood.  My husband, Big G, woke up in a worse one.  I snapped at him.  He snapped at me.  We glared at each other. Considering the children were at a sleepover at Grandma's the night before, we should have been elated. We weren't. I was in a terrible mood and I had no idea why. Even my morning walk through the woods with my friend Red did very little to get me out of my funk.  It wasn't until later in the day, in my karate class, when I accidentally kicked through two boards and right into a chagrined classmate's stomach that I realized I needed to reign in my bad mood.

I stomped home and huffed over to my husband who was pouting in the other room as the kids played checker-chess on the floor. 

"What's wrong with you?!" I demanded, which I think is, to date, the worst thing you can ever say to anyone as an opening to reconciliation.

"Nothing!  What's wrong with you?" he snarled.

I stopped.

"Honestly, I don't know." I was puzzled.  Why was I in such a bad mood?  "I had a lot of bad dreams last night. I didn't sleep well."

"Me neither," he admitted as the tension broke.  "Do you think it was the movie we watched last night?  Because I think it was.  It's putting us both in a bad mood."

I stopped and thought about that.  Generally I don't see violent movies.  Anything with graphic violence, torture scenes, and gory horror films I avoid like the plague. Some people can watch it and let it roll off them, but that kind of stuff tends to stay with me, the grotesque or disturbing images running on a loop in my head, hence the bad dreams.   I'm either extremely sensitive or I'm just a big wus.

"I've been thinking about it," Big G continued. "The part where the guys feet were cut off--"

"STOP!" I held up both of my hands.  "I don't want to revisit it!"

"And then it got me to thinking about all the other terrible things in the world." my husband continued.  "And it put me in a bad mood."

Could it be?  Could seeing an extremely violent movie color our mood for the next 24 hours?  And if this was the case, what impact could seeing violent movies/ video games have on our children's less developed psyches?

It reminded me of something that happened about a month ago when our 6 year old, Big A stopped sleeping for a few days.  He finally broke down and admitted to us that he saw a friend on the bus playing a handheld video game called "Five Nights At Freddy's"  He was crying and begging us to please "take the scary pictures out of his head."  Which we couldn't do.  Big A saw something he was clearly not ready to understand and now he couldn't un-see it. We reassured him as best we could that video games aren't real but it broke my heart how his mind was affected by seeing something so disturbing. It took a lot of time and reassurance before Big A believed that the scary characters from the Freddy's video game weren't actually real and were not going to attack him the dead of night.

( I looked up "Five Nights At Freddy's" by the way.  It's TERRIFYING!  Bloody animatronic animals jumping out at you...creepy.  This macabre "horror" type videogame is for ages 13 and up but I was freaked out by it.  I was deeply saddened that Big A was exposed to something so frightening on the school bus that had impacted him so negatively.)

However, some kids and some adults can see bad stuff, cringe and let it go.  Our family has a rich history of internalizing.

When my hub and I realized that our moods were in fact being impacted by the disturbing and depressing subject matter of the movie the night before, we snapped out of it and had a lovely evening with the kids, one involving going out for milkshakes and, ironically, the board game Sorry!  But it made me ever more aware of the effect that movies and other media can have on ourselves and especially our children. 

So we won't be lining up to see the next Quentin Tarantino movie any time soon. Or letting our 6 year old play "5 Nights At Freddy's"...no matter how cool his classmates say it is. Obviously, he can't handle it. And considering how much we enjoy sleep and good times in this house, neither can we.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Just Say No

I know that this is going to sound insane, given that our children are 3 and 6 years old, but we recently talked to them about drugs.

A friend's son had just died of a drug overdose and after the wake, walking to our car, my husband, in an abrupt departure from his usual happy and laid-back self, suddenly grabbed me and said "That was awful. No parent should ever have to go through that. I don't want this to ever happen to our family."  Seeing the destroyed parents is something we will never forget.

It wasn't the first wake we attended for a young person who had died of a drug overdose. But it was the first time we had attended as parents ourselves.

Certain people around me say that we are fighting a losing battle.  That whether or not our kids do drugs is out of our control.  They say that having an addictive personality is something you're either born with, or not.  They say that certain drugs are so powerful that there is nothing we can do to stop them.  And that drugs are everywhere.

So maybe the odds are stacked against us.  But I'm going down swinging.  I want to know that at least I did everything that I could do to keep my kids off drugs.  So after discussing our options after a rather stilted lunch of Korean tacos, we decided to talk to our very young kids about the evils of drugs.

Talking to our 3 year old was pretty easy.  While she likely didn't understand the concept, we figured it's never too early to impart the message.  This is a summation of our conversation.

Us:  Drugs are bad and you should never do them.
Her:  What's drugs?
Us:  Something bad. That you should never do.
Her:  Like Pez?
Us:  Yes.  But they don't taste sweet, like Pez.
Her:  What do drugs taste like?
Us: Uh...like dirt...and poop. They taste awful.
Her:  Will someone go in timeout, if they do drugs?
Us:  Yes, forever.  Because rugs are bad.
Her:  Will I cry?
Us:  Yes. And we will cry.  If you do drugs.  Drugs are bad.
Her:  Okay.  I won't do drugs. pause Can we play a game where I chase you around with this spoon?

I always say that we need to give our children SOMETHING to talk about in therapy one day.  Talking to our toddler about drugs is a good start.

The conversation with our 6 year old was a little more effective, I thought.

We opened by telling him about the wake we attended that day and how the young man had died due to drugs.

Him: Was he a kid?
Us:  No.  But he was a very young adult. And he was (Name withheld)'s child.  And they are so sad now.
Him:  How old was he?
Us:  22
Him:  Was he married?
Us: No, he didn't get a chance.
Him:  That's really sad.
Us:  It is.  
Him:  Was he like, bad?
Us:  No.  He was good and sweet but the drugs were too powerful.  Once he started, he couldn't stop.
Him:  I won't do drugs.
Us:  You shouldn't. They could kill you. And then you won't get to live a long, happy life.
Him: I want to be happy.
Us:  Good!  Because we want you to be happy.
Him:  I'll only drink beer one day.
Me:  WHOA!  Where are you getting this from?
Him:  I'm going to drink a can when I'm an adult. With a straw.  
Stunned silence.
Him:  Don't worry, I won't drink and drive.
Us:  Err...that's good. But moving on. When you grow up, you might be at a party where there's drugs.  And if that's the case, we want you to call us and have us pick you up.
Him: mildly panicked WHY would you send me to a party where there's drugs?!
Us: If we didn't KNOW there would be drugs there.
Him: hyperventilating now  How did you not know? You should check before sending me! 
Us: If for some reason, there are drugs at a party--
Him:  DefCon 5 I don't want to go to a party where there's drugs!  I'm afraid I'm going to do them, accidentally! I just want to stay home!
Us:  You know what?  You and all your friends are all just going to hang out here during high school. This is going to be the hang-out house, okay?  So we're all sure there's no drugs.
Him: Visible relieved If this is the hang-out house, can we get a ping-pong table?
Us:  Uhhh...sure. When the time comes.
Him:  Can some of my friends sleepover?
Us: Whatever, sure.
Him: YES! Okay, I will NOT do drugs. But sometimes I want to go to my friends' houses. Where there are no drugs.

I know it seems like we promised him a ping pong table in exchange for drug abstinence. And I know that perhaps all of this is way over their heads.  But I want to begin the dialogue now.  I want to drill it into their heads that drugs are bad and dangerous, and can easily ruin the lives of many good people.   I want to let our children know that if doing drugs is cool, I will make them wear mandatory pocket protectors.  I want them to know that I would rather them be the total square that calls their over-protective parents to pick them up and be alive rather than the daring rebel who's willing to try any drug and eventually be dead.  I want them to understand that friends of theirs, desperate for an escape (from whatever) or merely looking to have some fun, may try heavy drugs and, unable to get off of them, may pay dearly, perhaps even with their young lives.  

We want our kids to stay active, interested and passionate about things.  We want to know who their friends are and who their friends' parents are also. We want everyone poking fun at us because we spoke to our children about drugs at such a young age.

We don't care. 

Because the price is too high, the suffering too great to lose yet another child to such a preventable tragedy.  So talk to your children about not doing drugs they way you talk to them about not running into the street.  Both can kill you.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Year's Slowdown

The holidays were a blast but there's some relief in pressing the reset button.  Closets are being cleaned out, salads are back on the menu, we've locked up the liquor cabinet and people around here are actually exercising on a regular basis. We're buckling back down with work and school and all the kids' activities are back in full swing.

While things are speeding up again and we're getting back on a schedule (which I love...I truly love a schedule almost more than cheese) I've made an important New Year's resolution I intend to keep.

SLOW DOWN.

I move through life pretty fast. I think most parents do. Besides work, and the business of raising kids (everything from bedtime to homework to meal prep to getting the kids to swimming lessons to imparting wisdom when your daughter is crushed because a classmate told her he hates girls) there's a lot of other crap that sucks our time down the drain. Running a household, volunteering, keeping some semblance of a social life and any additional activities like working out or being creative whether it's writing, painting or sewing. Then there's that 5 minutes a day we all squeeze in to drink a cup of coffee or read something for pleasure.  If we're lucky.

I don't want to live this way anymore. I felt the impact of this rushed existence when I sat down outside my daughter's dance class to read a book (which I will not name, as not to slander it) about making use of the tiny bits of extra time you get when waiting in the carpool line or at 5:45 a.m. before your toddler awakes.  NO WAY!  How is that okay?  I don't want to squeeze my life into tiny fragments of leftover time.

So it's time to clear the decks.  Little D won't be signing up for karate even though she's begging us...why?  She already takes ballet and gymnastics.  Maybe she can try karate in the summer when gymnastics takes a break. New rule for the kids -- "No more than two scheduled after school activities"  Why?  This leaves plenty of time for play dates, playtime and family time. Big A won't be taking basketball lessons...he already has swimming and karate.  He can play b-ball whenever the mood strikes outside at the net with his dad.  Done. 

 I just realized that limiting each of our kids to two scheduled lessons per week not only saves times time, it saves money!  And it leaves plenty of time for spontaneity.  Building with legos, playing with action figures, drawing, creating and imagining in their very own homes.  Not to mention resting from their action packed days at school.

And de-scheduling goes for me as well. I don't think I'll be making every church council or scout leaders meeting. I've asked another mom to cover a few Sunday School classes for me.  "Just say no" might be my new battle cry when it comes to being any more involved unless it's something about which I am truly passionate.   I want to focus during the day and get my work done so that when my kids are present, I can truly be present for my kids.

Giving up some of these superfluous activities leaves precious, blessed room!  Room to watch a movie together as a family or space for that good friend you haven't seen in a while to come over for dinner  (and see the kids!)  That sounds way better than going to a boring committee meeting or driving your son to yet another activity that clogs up his already tight schedule.

As long as I have all the stress of having small children, I want to really relish the enjoyment they bring as well.  And don't get me wrong. I want to make things available to them.  I want to encourage my son's love of swimming and support him in attaining his black belt. I'm fully willing to drive little D, our gymnastics dynamo, 20 minutes away once a week so she can perfect her cartwheel.  But I'm not going overboard because this frantic, face-paced life that's become the norm so for many of us is just not working for my family. 

Time is zooming past me so quickly. It's already a new year. Time to slow down and really savor it as much as I can.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Too much of a good thing...

Look, I have no issue with the long-standing tradition of presents under the tree.  Gift opening and seeing the joy on your children's faces, not to mention the magic involved in the gifts spontaneously appearing on Christmas morning should be cherished.

However. HowEVER.

No child needs 30 Christmas presents from Santa.  No child needs 30 presents at all. But I'm afraid that estimate is on the low end of what most children in our area will be receiving for Christmas.

I sat down and did the baffling assessment this year of how much my children stand to gain from the Christmas holiday.  Three sets of grandparents.  Two great grandmas. Three sets of aunts and uncles.  Two very generous first cousins, once removed.  If each of these entities only get our children one gift (which, by the way, they probably won't) my children will have 11 gifts right there. Counting the fact that my husband and I want to give the children each a gift (a batgirl costume and a minecraft lego, respectively) that brings their  my kids' gift total up to 12.

We've been begging and pleaded with our relatives to get our children NOTHING or give the gift of an outing. The grandma who grew up in poverty gave me a puzzled look and then went off and probably bought them a car. One sporting grandma agreed to give a coupon to take the kids to lunch and a movie which filled my heart with joy but I later found out she bought the kids a bounce house. But it's going to stay at her house, she reasoned, so it really doesn't count.

So, clearly, the grandparents cannot be contained.  The aunts and uncles gently asked me/guilted me to not suck the joy out of their hearts by denying them the privilege of picking out toys for the kids while they are still young.

So maybe I can't control the people in my family, but my husband and I can certainly control ourselves.

I had to say something to the kids. I had to do something to stop them from coming to expect piles of presents from Santa under the tree. I don't want my children surrounded by piles of THINGS when so many go without and nor do I want to raise entitled little brats.   I don't have a bigger house than I need. Half the furniture in our house is second-hand (repurposed is the trendy word). We are not wasteful people. And I didn't want to throw all that to the wind because a fictional fat guy in velvet suit was going to squeeze through my chimney bearing gifts.

So I sat down with them and we talked about the two families we had helped to "adopt" to assist them with buying Christmas gifts...one through the Salvation Army Angels program and one from my WINGS group.  And I lectured them about waste and giving back to others and how things will never love you back and I reminded them of the meltdown Mommy had last year when she realized the giant mound of plastic and paper that all the toy packaging had generated. And how it would all never decompose and be stuffed into poor Mother Earth indefinitely.

"Santa's NOT COMING?!" my son immediately went to DefCon 5, as is his way.

"I was GOOD!  Ask that elf!" Little D insisted.

"No, no," I hurriedly assured them. "You were very good.  Santa is definitely coming.  But he's not going to bring you a ton of gifts this year. Just a couple."

"Why?" Big A wanted to know.

"I think because you're very lucky and you have so much family around you to give you gifts.  And some kids have less family and less money to spend on gifts." That was my response.

"So if we get less, other kids can get more?"  Big A questioned.

"Yes," I said, even though that probably wasn't true.

"Do you know what communism is? I believe mommy is trying to illustrate it. " my husband interjected.   I shushed him.

"It's not that," I tired to explain to the kids what I was feeling myself. "It's just that...for Santa to bring you piles of gifts...when you have so much already...and you're getting even more gifts from your extended family...well, it all seems like a bit much, right?"

Big A looked at me thoughtfully while Little D climbed onto my husband's head, as she often does.

"I think...that would be greedy." Big A came up with.

Paydirt.

"Exactly!" I was relieved he was getting it.

"But..will Santa still bring me a Mario Microworld?" he asked hopefully.

"And my basketball shirt?" Little D piped up.

"Probably, if you're good." I exhaled...glad that they didn't seem phased by getting less gifts from Santa this year.

"So, I still get a few gifts from Santa but just not a pile up to the ceiling or near the ceiling?" Big A clarified.

"Yes." I responded.

"Like how many?" he prodded.

"I don't know," I said. "But remember how many gifts you're getting from all your aunts and uncles and grandparents?  You guys are incredibly lucky to have such loving relatives"

They both seemed okay about it.  And my husband and I agreed that Santa would bring them each three gifts  (A Ghostbusters lego set, the Mario World and an Emmett alarm clock for our son and a soccer ball, basketball shirt and mechanical butterfly for our daughter).  I was glad I managed their expectations and I felt lighter just knowing we'd be generating less waste and consuming less things.

Even though I often feel unsuccessful, I'm not just trying to raise kids here. I'm trying to raise decent adults. And the sooner we can teach them that our society's warped obsession with accumulating things is NOT the path to satisfaction, peace or happiness the better off we will be.

When I think back to my happiest Christmas memories from childhood, very few of them involve gifts.  I remember my mom putting on Frank Sinatra's Christmas record as we decorated the house. I remember my Dad screaming "Pivot! Pi-VAHT!" as my sisters and I dissolved in laughter as we tried to help him bring in the tree.  Hiding the baby Jesus.  Snuggling with my sisters drinking hot chocolate and watching Rudolph. My mom's amazing German cold cut breakfasts.  Seeing my grandparents admire our Christmas dresses.  Sitting with my mom on the living room couch when she (finally) stopped serving people and sat down for a few moments of peace as we listened to opera with the lights dimmed, the Christmas tree twinkling away.  The house filled with the laughter, eating, music and conversation of our family.

I want to create that for my kids. And, believe it or not, I want to watch their faces light up when Santa brings them just what they were hoping for.  But toning it down to something reasonable and less excessive has brought me a lot of peace this holiday season.