A Tale of Two Houses

Every year, the kids beg me to buy those gingerbread house kits. Every year, I give in. It’s like I forget about the huge mess they make. Or, maybe I think the joy they get from decorating the houses outweighs the annoyance of sweeping up bits of candy for weeks afterward.

Yeah, I definitely forget about the mess :razz:

A couple days before Christmas, the kids got out their kits (I learned years ago that they could not build one house together.) I was working, so it was a great excuse to stay out of their project. I like things tidy, so my presence would’ve put a damper on their fun anyway (I think my younger son had more frosting on his jeans than his house.)

My older son (he’s 12) presented his masterpiece, complete with candy cane arch and candy walkway. The showoff even made a guest house out of regular graham crackers:

01-07 Gingerbread1

My eight-year-old son was frustrated that his house wouldn’t stay ‘glued’ together. I heard his aggravation, but he didn’t ask me for help, so I stayed away. When he did come get me to look at his creation, he presented it as a “gingerbread house in a tornado”:

01-07 Gingerbread2

I found this interesting, because it seems as we get older, we tend to color inside the lines, so to speak. I like my younger son’s creative spin (haha, spin… tornado… never mind) because it reminds me that things don’t have to be perfect to be visually interesting.

This is a reminder that once in a while, I should take the opportunity to toss the rules and let my creativity just happen.

Wrapping Cats, Playing Games, and Grasping Happiness

The “things” that contribute to happiness cannot be wrapped and tied with bows.

Ironically, these are the very things we take for granted.

How do you wrap a cat?  Um, you don't!
How do you wrap a cat?   Um, not very easily!

Around Christmas, marketers hope that we get caught up in the deftly executed ad campaigns. Some unwittingly fall into the trap of overindulging and overspending. Others turn themselves inside out to find the perfect gift to make loved ones happy.

How silly – happiness can’t be purchased. It’s in our heads (and hearts.)

We have a budget for Christmas, and our kids’ requests often fall outside of that budget. So, instead of their dream gift, they get a lesson in handling disappointment. Sometimes, though, they are pleasantly surprised.

We let our kids each pick a gift to open early. My older son tore through the paper on the box and tossed the packing material aside. He examined the bubble-wrapped object in his hand and said, “Oh. It’s an ornament.”

He thought we got him a new phone. He’s twelve- and delusional, it seems.

My younger son ripped the paper from his box and squealed with delight when he saw the game Apples to Apples. “How did you guys know? I love this game!”

Now, that reaction made me smile. A couple months ago, he begged me to buy that game for him because he’d played it at school. I listened (and surprisingly, remembered.)

My kids ‘ reactions illustrate how expectations can lead to disappointment when actuality doesn’t live up to our anticipation. Sure, we could go into debt and “wow” my older son with a phone, but I think the greater gift is to learn true happiness can’t be found inside a box under the tree.

Some people never learn this and spend their lives filling the void with “things.”

On Sunday evening, we played Apples to Apples as a family. Even my older son (who had proclaimed the game as “stupid”) eventually joined in. We spent time together- interacting and laughing. We had fun.

We found happiness in each other’s company.

For those who celebrate Christmas – I wish you a merry one. For those who do not – I wish you happiness. “See” you after the new year :)

Divide And Conquer

11-10 Sedona

Divide and conquer… originally, used to describe a military technique that maintains control by dividing the masses. If they don’t band together, they are easier to manage. They don’t get together and rally against the ruler.

In my life, divide and conquer has come to mean dividing our resources so our to-do list doesn’t control us. Most recently, this thought came to mind when I over-booked our calendar. On the same day, we now have a Boy Scout camp out and putting up Christmas decorations at church. We also had a conflict with my older son’s band activities and our younger son’s doctor’s appointment. Divide and conquer.

I got to thinking – while our ‘to-do’ list is whimpering from our efforts, dividing our resources to manage it could have the opposite effect by bringing us to our knees.  The more things we don’t do as a family, the more memories we miss making as a family. Years from now, it means fewer things we can talk about that we all remember- because we experienced them together. Divide and conquer needs to be our last resort, not our go-to strategy.

This time of year feels like life has been put on “fast forward.” I guess my thoughts needed to go down this path as a reminder that less is more. Even as I write this, I feel a little guilty because I’ve declined to be a leader in Cub Scouts this year. Not because I don’t think it’s valuable, but because I have so little time- and I feel like I’ve over-spent it.

Unlike money, I can’t make more time.

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I appreciate you reading my random thoughts on life. I hope you have a peaceful Monday!

Bits of “Wisdom” I’ve Gained In Last 7 Days

Doing laundry *can* help settle the mind – but I still don’t recommend it

I wanted to write a post on Sunday to publish on Monday, but my thoughts bounced around like caffeinated squirrels.  (Judging by the activity level of ‘normal’ squirrels, I can only imagine ones on caffeine would be hard to follow.)

Writing didn’t happen because of many things:  anxiety over Monday’s dental appointment, not feeling good (after two weeks of tonsillitis), remembering things I have to do since school has started, and deadlines at work that put me on the computer for a couple hours Sunday night.  As I folded laundry, though, the idea came to me to write a post as scattered as what I feel – with the common thread of “wisdom” I encountered this past week.

Thank goodness I didn’t have to iron clothes to find peace!  (I don’t iron.  Ever.)

There has to be better therapy... like chocolate!
There has to be better therapy… like chocolate!

Sometimes it’s best not to try to understand

Conversation on the first day of school:

Me:  “Why don’t you just wear your sweat shorts and t-shirt to school since you have P.E. first hour?”

Older son:  “I’m not going to school looking like a slob.” (said with his ‘are-you-an-idiot?’ tone)

Me:  “You’d only have to change once, and you’d just have to wear gym clothes on the bus ride.”

Older son:  “And recess, too.”

I didn’t say anything else, but did laugh when he came out of his room wearing a different t-shirt and sweat shorts, which he planned to wear all day.  I do not claim to know what made these clothes not “slobby”.

Risk is Relative

Or is that, ‘relatives are risky’?  Oh, never mind.  Conversation with my dad after he spent many hours cursing at working on my computer:

Dad:  “I think your network card is bad.  A new one is $179, or they have a refurbished one for $22.”

Me:  “I’m not spending $179 on a 4-year-old computer.  But refurbished?  I don’t know… seems risky.”

Dad:  “You take a risk buying a new one, but the refurbished is only a $22 risk.”

Perhaps these principles of risk apply to other areas of life; something this risk-avoidant person needs to keep in mind.

My kids can be empathetic (if you’re covered in fur)

My older son put his cat on my lap while I worked at my desk.  Sammy didn’t want to be there so she headed toward the desk top.  She slipped and dug her claws into my thigh as she slid toward the floor.  I shrieked in pain and grabbed her by the scruff of the neck to pull her back onto my lap.

My son ran back into the room.  “What happened?”

“She slid down my thigh,” I said between clenched teeth.

“Oh, Sammy!  Are you okay?” He asked as he bent down to kiss the kitty.

Don’t worry about me.  The blood dries quickly and maybe scars aren’t forever.

Maybe they'd care if I "meowed"?
Maybe I’d get empathy (or sympathy) if I “meowed”?

What about you – what unexpected things have your discovered recently?

Oh, if you came here looking for some fiction, I’ve got a couple of ideas for a story to post later in the week.  I know, ideas aren’t the same as written stories, but I’ll work on that the next couple days :)

Covert Operations

My older son and I are going through a thing right now:  I don’t like to be lied to, and he likes to lie to see what he can get away with.  Lately, it’s been a game for him.  A tiring, ridiculous game that I began to think I might not “win.”

An anonymous tip (okay, my mother-in-law) may have turned the tide.

Last night, my husband got a cryptic text from his mom ssuggesting he raid my son’s room.  We don’t allow food upstairs, for one good reason.  Here… a picture’s worth a thousand words:

Room

Can you imagine food thrown into that mess? Or the pests that such slobbery would attract? {shivers}

I digress.

While my son was outside playing basketball with a neighbor, my husband bagged up the hidden treasures; enough sugar to rot the teeth of eight children.

Stash

What to do next…

1)      We could ask him about the candy and give him an opportunity to lie to our faces

2)      We could hide the candy without saying anything (yet) and wait.

Of course, he won’t come right out and ask where his candy is – that would be admitting guilt.  But one day, it will come up in conversation.  It will be subtle (maybe a photo of the confiscated sugar left on his pillow?) but he will have no question that we know.

However we proceed, it will be clear that we trust until trust is broken.  And trust has been broken. He will know that his room isn’t off limits from the rules of our house.

This may seem a bit overboard for a bag of sugar, but there’s more at stake here.  Next month, he will be twelve and I know there are things much worse than sugar that he could choose to hide.

He needs to know that we look because we care.

I’m not kidding myself; I know he won’t appreciate us caring.  He will be furious that we assert our right to search and seizure.  He will likely resent our infringement upon his “rights.”  I’m aware he likely won’t gain understanding until years later.

Possibly when he’s checking the room of his own child.

At least we’ll know we didn’t trust blindly.

So, what do you think we should do with the “evidence”?  We might was well have some fun with this!