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Each year we do an advent calendar, and a few years ago I started giving Mythankfulboy a question each day to answer to make it bit more contemplative.  I got them from childrenchalice.wordpress.com.  Mythankfulboy gets a Hershey kiss first thing in the morning just because it’s a countdown to Christmas, and when he answers the question, he gets a second one.  Here is our first installment this year:

December 1:    What does kindness look like?  Holding doors for someone, asking how people are doing, being happy in general.  

December 2:    What do you look forward to in the coming year?  Getting a job.  

December 3:    Do you like wintertime?  I would rate it a 6/10.  

December 4:    Advent is a time of waiting.  What is something you wait for eagerly?   Baseball season and packages arriving in the mail.  

December 5:    Why is it important to say thank you?  Because even if it seems small, it can make a big difference in someone’s life.  

December 6:    Tell me about a time you felt lucky.  I felt lucky when my summer baseball team won the championships  

December 7:    How important is a smile?  It is extremely important because a smile can make someone’s day.  

December 8:    Let’s plan an activity for winter.  What should it be?  Find the best hill to sled down with the BOOMS (his friends, short for Boys Of Obnoxious Mothers – long story) and go sledding/tubing there.

December 9:    Does your energy change when you sit in darkness?  I feel like I slow down a lot, get sleepy and cold and quiet.  

December 10:  What animals need our help in winter?  There are a few cats staying on Dad’s porch in the winter that probably wouldn’t make it without our help. And squirrels.  

December 11:   Name a time when you have helped someone.  What did you do?   I have helped O move in across the street.  

December 12:   If you were to send a card or letter to someone today, who would it be?   It would be to my cousins Wil and Ben because I miss them and I want to know how they are doing.

December 13:   Why does giving make us happy?  Giving makes us happy because it makes others happy.  

December 14:   If we had a family symbol or motto, what would it look like?  Friends are family and family are friends. 

December 15:    Name a time when you knew you were loved.  How did you know?  When my mom told me she was willing to alter her work schedule to be here with me more often.  

December 16:    Name someone you’d like to get to know better in the coming year.  The R’s, across the street.  

December 17:    Talk about your favorite holiday memory.  Walking around at Bethlehem Steel and ice skating with the BOOMs.  

December 18:     If you could be a character from a book for one day, who would you want to be?  Why?   Percy Jackson, because I would have a cool shiny golden pen-sword.  

December 19:     Tell me a joke. Why is laughing good for you?  How can you tell if a Christmas tree is a guy or a girl?  You look up its tree skirt!  (This was the first joke B made up, at about age 8.  Then he said “boy or girl”.)  I think laughing is good because it can easily brighten someone’s mood.  

December 20:     This is the darkest night of the year.  Do you like darkness?  I kind of like darkness.  I don’t like when it gets dark at 4:00 in the winter.  I do like sleeping in the dark, though, and it helps me concentrate.  

I love this tradition.  It makes me happy to read his thoughts, in the same way it makes me happy to hear them each night at the chalice lighting.  Lately, B has been thankful for a range of things, including friends, our Christmas tree, his snow globe collection, and last night, for fingernails (because they’re really useful).   The Christmas season is a great time to be thankful..

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Christmas evolution

All-in-all, Thanksgiving and its weekend were kind to us.  We did things we wanted to do, got a few things that needed to be done accomplished (including a new schemata of our fuse box, but that’s a long story), Mythankfulboy got a pair of sneakers (a Thanksgiving weekend tradition, complete with shopping at the mall on Black Friday), we shopped with J & V for our Christmas tree, and we got about 2/3rds of the tree decorated (long electrical story linked to the fuse box).  Along the way we were thankful for new shoes, Christmas lights, J & V, and UU resources online.

I had my annual holiday struggle with my mother and sister, this year over whether or not to do gifts (my not wanting to and their wanting to).  My mother tried to draw a distinction between giving gifts and giving money (she wanted to do the latter), and she and I got very frustrated and upset.  Finally she said, “It’s what Christians do at Christmas, Lynn”, and it suddenly and completely made sense to me that my discord with my family at Christmas has a lot to do with my being secular, or at least not traditionally Christian, about the holiday, and I realized for the first time the degree of discomfort I have always had because I feel like I’m intruding on a very precious time for them.  This caused me considerable angst, and I spent a good deal of time examining more closely my relationship with Christmas.

Meanwhile, when B was small, someone gave him an Advent calendar with candy tied to each day.  I had always been ambivalent about it, given that Advent was meant to be a period of deprivation and reflection, not another opportunity for a gift.  Last year, to try to make it more meaningful, I asked him to retrieve (along with his candy) a small piece of paper with an instruction for a mini-reflection of one sort or another each day (e.g., Advent is a time of waiting.  What is something you wait for eagerly?;  What does kindness look like?)  My questions were adapted from something posted on Childrenchalice.wordpress.com last year (sorry – I can’t find the exact link).  I revived the practice this year, and I’ll be excited to see how his answers have changed from the answers of a 13-year-old.

So, last night at the chalice lighting we read about the origins of Advent, and talked about how our tradition is both a departure from and an embracing of the Christian tradition.  We lit the candles of a small Christmas pyramid (German spinning toy), and we read the following prayer by UU minister David Breeden, the first of a series of prayers, one for each Sunday of Advent:

In this holiday season,
May we find the patience
To forgive ourselves;
To forgive those who do not do as we wish;
May we find patience.
May we find the wisdom
To let be.

And so, I am very thankful for UU resources online, and for these words, in particular, to help me with my relationship with Christmas, and, by extension, with my family.  I’m thankful to B for listening as I struggle with these questions.  Last night, at the Advent chalice lighting, he was thankful for the tree, and for the holiday weekend.  I was thankful for time together.

Amen.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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You have no idea

Oh how I missed mythankfulboy over the week following Christmas this year, with his being north and my being south.  I’m glad he got the opportunity to see his dad’s family, and to spend some one-to-one time with his dad, though.  We texted throughout the week, he often asking permission to do something or other (Could he use money he’d been given for Christmas to buy something related to his new XBox One; Was it okay to split coins his grandmother gave him and his cousin if they gave $30 of it to charity?) and me asking repeatedly for a picture of him, with his face in the picture, in the sweatshirt my mother gave him for Christmas (the first one he sent was of him wearing the sweatshirt, but only showed his chin – grandmothers want to see cherubic faces!)  We spoke once by phone to go over what he’d been doing and to figure out when he could have a friend over when we returned.  We both got back yesterday, which was New Year’s Eve.  We stayed up (okay, he stayed up and he woke me to see the ball drop), and late in the evening we did a New Year’s chalice lighting.

At the chalice lighting, B suggested that we make resolutions instead of saying something for which we were thankful.  He suggested that I make a resolution to do the best I can to help everyone I meet in the new year.  I asked why he thought that would be a good resolution for me, and he said, “Because it will be easy for you to keep!”  Aw, shucks.  I asked if he had thought about a resolution for himself, and he said, “Yeah – to get buff!”  “Well” said I, “You’re going to have to change your diet, Dear.”  He said, in a singsong tone “I know.”  I asked what the best part of his holiday was, and he told a story of holding a dead mouse on a long shingle out for an owl to swoop down and take.  This happened at his biologist-great-uncle’s cabin in the snowy woods, so it’s not as odd as it might seem, and was really pretty cool.  We went on about our trips, and I eventually snuck in my statement of gratitude when I told him I was thankful he was home.  He repositioned himself to snuggle up and lay his head on my shoulder, and said, “You have no idea.”

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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What to do about boredom

Mythankfulboy’s nerves are on edge with Christmas so close, not because he’s excited about the holiday, but because he doesn’t want to spend the whole thing at his dad’s house.  He says he’s so bored he doesn’t know what to do.  I do my best to support him in communicating this pleasantly to his father, and to help him approach his dad with suggestions, and I believe him when he says he’s tried and feels that nothing he can say makes a difference.  It is hard to watch this struggle they have finding ways to be together sometimes.  B wanted to talk about it when we lowered the lights and lit the chalice tonight.

The first indication I had that something was on his mind was when I began to quietly sing along to the Christmas music box and he wailed (truly, he wailed) “Mom – PLEASE!  I don’t FEEL like singing right now!”  I assured him that I was not trying to torture him, and wondered aloud why he said this in a tone suggesting I already had that information and had chosen to ignore it.  He said, “Oh. I’m sorry. I just wanted you to stop.  I didn’t mean it to come out that way.”   So, I stopped, and I waited, and the rest spilled out.

We did a little problem-solving about his dad’s house, and he began to perk up as he got some things off his chest.  Soon I noted that he was singing to the music box, so, naturally, I wailed “B – PLEASE!  I don’t FEEL like singing right now!”  He laughed, not having realized he was singing, and I laughed with him.  Then I added, “I feel like buzzing!” and buzzed like a bee where the words should have gone.  He feigned horror, so I switched to clucking, snoring, and, finally, bunny noises (if you don’t know what those are, see me about it) before I gave him a reprieve and asked him for what he was thankful.  He said he was thankful for our house, and that it was a really good house (the unspoken thank you being to my father, for all his hard work on it).  I was thankful for a lovely lunch today with my friend and business partner.

B broke heartily into song at this point.   I joined him, we finished out God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen with gusto together, I turned off the music box and kissed his forehead, and I turned to go.  B said his goodnight with, “I love you, Momma”, and I said, “And I, you, Darlin.”

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Tattoos, aging, and responsibility

After 10 years of B going to the same pediatrician’s office, I realized with great clarity one well visit that not a single person recognized us or knew his name.  I thought, you’ve got to be kidding me.  A friend had been talking about the wonderful experience she was having with a pediatrician an hour away, but close to my office, so I changed over, too, despite the drive.  The first time we saw Dr. S, B left and said “Wow.  I thought she was going to tattoo my name on her arm!”  Today at his annual well check it was no different.  She fluttered around and made him feel like there was no one else in the world but him as she checked his ears and his spine and everything else.  She told him that, if he ever needed someone to talk to, he should call her, because she would be there for him.  There is no question about it, either.  She would be, and he believed her.  How often do you find such a wonderful human in the course of our health care system and its pressures?  Tonight, at our chalice lighting, I said I was thankful for Dr. S.  He said “I was just thinking about her.”  I said “She’s pretty great.”  He said “She really is.”

When I asked for what he was thankful, he said he was glad to almost be out of debt to me.  At the beginning of the school year, he had wanted two pair of pricey shoes, and I had given him a price I was willing to pay, and he said he’d work to make up the rest.  While he could have had it paid off by now if he’d been diligent, he’ s nearing the finish line, and I remind myself that he’s 12, and that he’ll get better at this as his frontal lobes begin to perk up with age.  For now, he’s doing pretty well.  He followed up with “There should really be two Christmases a year.”  I countered “That’s kinda what a birthday is, if you’re lucky enough to have it mid-year.”  He observed “Yeah, but you know, the older you get the less you get.”  I thought about that.  “It’s probably true you get less things, but the things are much more expensive.”  He said “Yeah, that’s what I mean.  When you’re old enough to not believe in Santa, you know that your parents have to pay for whatever you ask for, and you know you won’t get everything you want.”  I smiled in the dim light of the candle.  “So, getting older is no fun, huh?”  He replied “No, it’s fun.  It’s just responsible!”

How did we get from a chalice lit in gratitude to aging and responsibility?  I’m not sure, but it’s a marvelous process to watch.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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