The (Thanks)Giving Tree

Oh, November, you have a hard row to hoe. The middle child of year’s end wedged between the delightful youth of October with its sugar induced, ghoulish campfire stories and elegant December with its twinkle light covered gifts. Poor November, no elaborate decorations, no holiday parties, no cinematic tributes or television specials. The eleventh month of the year has always seemed like three weeks of waiting in the livingroom for the turkey being prepared in the most slow and torturous way.

Dutifully, at the beginning of the week I packed up our vampires and devils, pumpkins and skeletons, ghosts and goblins into their box and returned them to the garage. And with that action I realized how utterly bare our house seems without them. Not the cleansing spareness that I welcome with January’s fresh start flavor of minimalism – but a boring, empty feeling.

I felt our November needed a makeover. And thus the Thanksgiving tree was brought in.

Every year we do a gratefulness challenge. Most of the time it is just a list that my kids scribble down on notebook paper, while I post mine in status updates on social media. This year I thought it would be snazzier if we made it a more visually appealing affair. I brought in a branch from our backyard, placed it in a large mason jar and anchored it with stones.  We then traced our hands on construction paper, cut out the silhouette and wrote something we are thankful for on them. A bit of yarn to hang them with and voila! November has a decorative, crafty tradition that underscores a core value of our family – appreciating what we have.

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I love our tree and I can’t wait to see it covered in colors and joy by the end of the month. However, I think that our November has room for more. So the second tradition we are doing for the month of Thanksgiving focuses on the second half of the word: Giving. We begin by donating outgrown clothing and toys to our local rescue mission and follow that up with putting together some cold weather bags for the homeless in our area (ziploc bags filled with gloves, a hat, a scarf and some socks) and choosing a couple of new toys to donate to Toys for Tots.

“November is usually such a disagreeable month…as if the year had suddenly found out that she was growing old and could do nothing but weep and fret over it. This year is growing old gracefully…just like a stately old lady who knows she can be charming even with gray hair and wrinkles. We’ve had lovely days and delicious twilights.” – L.M. Montgomery

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When Black Cats Prowl and Pumpkins Gleam

It’s that time again. There are clues everywhere. The sound of cloth dragging through fallen leaves time, a scoot and a crunch. The scent of sugar and burning yard waste on the air. The sight of a cape whipping around a corner. The atmosphere is electric with the promise of chill and suspense.

Halloween!

It is fast approaching as I rush about collecting the last items for costumes and send my children searching out their plastic pumpkins which lie in some forlorn corner of the house, dusty and forgotten since last year.

Halloween holds a special place in our family. We have a LOT of traditions associated with the end of October. We make a new decoration each year, we also have a group costume, we carve pumpkins, we watch spooky movies (Hocus Pocus, anyone?) and we go trick or treating. One thing we do not do however, is encourage our children to go into a sugar coma give our kids a sack full of candy to consume.

We aren’t health nuts, but if you could sum up our parenting style (and lifestyle too, I suppose) it would be: all things in moderation.

The kids bring home at least a pound of candy every year easily. There ain’t nothing moderate about that.

So, rather than allowing them to binge on sugar we have yet another tradition. This tradition’s name is *The Sugar Sprite*.

Rather than being the “bad guys” and having to take away all the sweets we encourage an exchange with a mythical creature. The children are entitled to as many pieces of candy as they are years old, which they choose with the greatest of care. The rest goes into a big bowl placed near the door. In the dead of night the Sugar Sprite swoops in, takes the candy and leaves a small surprise gift for each child.

(Actually, what happens is after bedtime my husband and I invite our friends over to watch a scary movie and to eat all of the candy. Shhhhhhhhh.)

Although, the exchange is voluntary our kids have never opted for the candy and this has been going on for eight years.

The Sugar Sprite usually spends about $20 bucks on two gifts, which is a whole lot less than the copay for two dentists visits to have cavities filled.

It’s Such a Good Feeling

I was one of the millions of children who considered this man a neighbor. Everyday I would listen for the tinkling tune of piano keys so I could watch the camera slowly pan over the fascinating model buildings and cars of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  I adored the show, King Friday and Henrietta Pussycat, the chiming language of the trolley, the working stoplight that adorned the wall, the fish and the videos of things being made (brooms and crayons were my favorites), but mostly I just loved Mr. Rogers. I liked his sweaters, his strange and comforting accent, the way he seemed to speak directly to me.

However, I didn’t recognize the simple brilliance of the show until I had kids of my own.

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Never Tell Me the Odds

Thanks to the magic of the internet those of us too young to remember this public service announcement (and several others such as this 1979 drunk driving ad) have the opportunity to bask in it’s glory.

Is there any other character that would have been better suited to this role than C3PO? Like ANY other character? That gold plated nay-sayer is the essence of uncool.  C3PO is a worry wort,  a fussy budget, the ultimate tut-tut machine.  Anyone who has ever laid eyes on the original trilogy can tell you that without a doubt, no one ever listens to C3PO.

I can only assume Han Solo was backstage during the filming of this commercial simultaneously smoking ten cigarettes.