Tag: parenting

When You Are Fired from Being Santa, but the Spirit Lives On

“I’ve been holding onto these,” my son said with a wink. “How much will you pay for them?”

I opened the tiny case, and inside were three baby teeth. His little sister was sitting right next to me at the coffee table. She looked down at them with as much disgust as I did.

Mind you, my son is fourteen. Neither of us have declared the non-existence of the mythical creatures in our lives, but we both knew how these schemes worked. I obviously had my motives: I didn’t want to ruin the magic of the events. I love being Santa, although to be honest, I was a crappy tooth fairy. My son didn’t want to ruin his cash cow, and to ensure that he kept getting gifts, he would help keep his cover by vehemently defending Santa and the Easter Bunny to his little sister. But he had kept these teeth for months, saving them for when he needed money. His need to get a Fortnite Battle Pass was outweighing his need to keep his cover. Given that it was July and Christmas was a long time away, I couldn’t blame him for choosing the immediate concern.

 “I’m pretty sure the tooth fairy only takes fresh teeth,” I replied. “And I paid the dentist to remove them, so why would I pay for them now?”

My youngest rolled her eyes and said, “Mom, we know.” But it wasn’t just a simple statement. There was major emphasis on the “know” that made it heavy with accusation and understanding. My cover as blown!

All kids come to a point when they know that Santa doesn’t exist. I realized it myself when I was eight. I had made custom bracelets for all the reindeer and later found them under the couch cushions. Like my son, I didn’t say anything. I just let the magic die.

 I didn’t want that for my kids, so I had been planning for this day:

I explained that when kids are younger, they have a hard time conceptualizing abstract ideas that lead to them to be good people, like generosity, kindness, and empathy. It’s easier to teach these constructs when they have concrete examples. Additionally, kids can understand at a young age that a person has a role that they play, for example, doctors heal and teachers provide us with the opportunity to learn. Having these constructs within a corporeal form gives parents the opportunity to show examples of what it means to be good and generous. As such, Santa exists to teach children goodness in the world. Now Santa is most certainly not the only way to teach these constructs; it’s better in my opinion that the adults in their lives be examples of these things, but it’s easy to have Santa be these examples because society by and large helps to promote him. Although, society’s reasons are largely capitalistic, and therefore actually selfish… but not the point!  

As kids get older, they realize that teachers don’t live at school and it’s impossible for one man to travel around the world delivering billions of presents. What a lot of people have trouble understanding is that when kids are old enough to understand the abstract ideas, they also learn another truth: the people they trust the most can and do lie to them. Thus, the good lessons that parents were attempting to teach are tainted, making it easy to sweep these lessons under the rug. I didn’t want that for them; I wanted them to focus on the good lessons, and if they could focus on “being the Santa” and understand the value of generosity, kindness, and empathy, they would be better people for it.  

That’s a heavy kind of conversation to have with kids, but they nodded in all the right places. My youngest, per usual, asked a million questions, but we came to a consensus that they would think of others, and more importantly to them, it wouldn’t affect their own gifts at Christmastime.

That was back in July when we faced our hardest summer, financially. They learned a lot of lessons this year, so I wouldn’t have been surprised if the lessons that I had tried to convey in our conversation had been forgotten.

But they weren’t.

When December rolled around, they didn’t have a million things on their list that they wanted; they actually had a bigger interest in getting things for the family and not themselves, essentially adopting the Santa role for the people they care about. I could see they were getting the idea of being generous, but I wanted them to branch their Santa spirit outward beyond the family, so we set out to donate toys to charities. That seemed easy enough, but then I learned of a child whose mother was conflicted. Her son had never asked Santa for anything, and now that he was, she couldn’t make it happen. I knew this was a key opportunity to help a child that they knew by helping his Santa, the very concrete thing that would cement the giving spirit that I wanted them to emulate. They were on board, in fact, they were excited! They pooled what money they had left, hustled me and my mom for more money, and thus helped to continue the spirit of giving during the Christmas season.

It’s times like these when I think that maybe I am worthy of parenting two amazing kids.

Now I recognize that there is more to Christmas than gifts, but that is not the focus of this blog post. I’m providing my own story to help parents transition children from believing in Santa into being kind and generous members within society, although I suppose as time passes, we’ll know if these lessons truly stick or not.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Here’s to all becoming more generous and kind people in the upcoming year.

Grandma to Turtles?

In class, my daughter was dubbed “Clumsy Turtle,” which has led to a near obsession the past few months of all things turtle related:

A collection of turtle trinkets is forming. This is one we found at the local coffee shop.

Naturally, she wants a pet turtle.

I really REALLY don’t want another pet. I mean I want them in the fact that having a new pet is exciting. But a turtle? They don’t look the snuggly type. And does she want a turtle because she loves the creatures, or is she infatuated with her nickname connection to them?

To figure that question out, I bought some time and told her that she needed to do some serious research on turtle care and wait awhile to see if this was still what she wanted. That same day, my daughter blew through my room, her laptop in hand. She had compiled a list of detailed care instructions for the three most common varieties of pet turtles. (I say compiled because she straight up no shame in her game copy and pasted things without citing references. Have I taught her nothing?!) At the bottom, she had itemized a cost of all the supplies. The only thing she couldn’t find was how much the turtle themselves cost, otherwise, it was incredibly thorough.  

We drove to three pet stores the next day. One was nearby. No turtles. The second one we went to was larger, but even they had no turtles. My daughter asked a clerk why. He said that they had received an order of turtles, but they couldn’t sell them. Not until Saturday, which also happened to be their annual Reptile Rally. The turtles would be 50% off then. Finally, we went to a smaller pet store. And they actually had a turtle!

Which is where I saw some information that my daughter conveniently left off of her list of information. Turtles can live up to 25 years! Say what now?!

That’s a long shelf life!

The next step was to call our vet and see if they cover turtles. I assume they do. Their logo has a bunch of animals, turtles included, so it would be a major case of false advertisement if they didn’t. However, I expect full and complete leg work of my child if she expects to bring a new life into this home.

Meanwhile, I started some research of my own. I learned that the reason that the second shop couldn’t sell their turtles to us was because they were red eared sliders, which are considered an invasive species in my state. I know that I should be concerned by that, but I’m not going to lie: When I heard that, I thought why can’t I just go and find some in the wild then and save $40? I kid…

My next set of research was to see if there were any turtles in the local shelters. There weren’t, but there is an organization a state away called Turtle Rescue League. On their page, they state that red-eared sliders are the most abandoned pet in the country- which if I’m being honest makes me very sympathetic to the idea of getting one now. You poor, abandoned creatures!

On the other hand, if that sucker lives 25 years, it IS like bringing another child into the home. In fact, we talked about how our dog and cats are like children to me, in that their needs will sometimes have to supersede my own. On our way to day camp today, I stressed that this turtle will not be her sibling. It will be her first “child,” and I expect her to give it that level of care. I said I’d treat it like a grandchild, spoiling it and watching it when she needed me to, but at the end of the day, that turtle is going home with its momma…

Photo curtesy of Cheezeburger.com

There is a knowledge digestion period that we’re now in. We must let all the information we’ve learned sink in before making a decision, which kids have a hard time doing. Everything must be NOW! Let’s face it, that’s probably why so many turtles are abandoned.

I have a feeling though that before the summer is out, I’ll be a grandma to a reptile.

Bad Navy Guys and Awesomely Feral Navy Kids

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Over a month ago, the kids and I went to this amazing summer fest that they have on the subbase.

They had paintball- which got super heated because you had grown men serving in the military either pairing up with or going against children. My son was accepted into this super alpha group of guys, and I now think he assumes being the in the Navy consists of drinking, cursing, and playing paintball.

Rock Climbing- the guys that manned this station were so great with kids. I saw more than a fair share of kids get halfway up, realize that heights could lead to impending doom, and freak out. These guys deserve hazard pay..

Inflatables galore- Most of these involved waiting in a line until an unspecified amount of kids cycled through. This one little kid was like NOPE. He barreled through the line and monkeyed his way up the slide and then proceeded to hide within the innards of this Ironman bouncehouse. My daughter was asked by the attendant to perform a special ops mission to retrieve said kid, which she agreed to do, but then didn’t. She left the kid to be feral for another 10 minutes before the kid came out his own. I can laugh about it, because it wasn’t my kid…

They also had a pretty cool archery set up, but most of the little kids couldn’t wield the bows, so they were natural targets for the bigger kids… <~ I’m really starting to see that Navy kids are both brutal and fierce creatures O.O

And fireworks: The best I had seen in years!

41848835_235607443781450_1015402737757585408_n (1)But what got this military spouse happy was the FREE STUFF! And imagine my extreme giddiness when my daughter, knowing that I am huge nerd for books, snagged me a free book by James Patterson.

I had given the book a good home, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to ever read it. Action Thrillers aren’t what I normally read. But then Alycia asked me if I would go to a book signing to meet Patterson. Naturally, you should read a book from an author before you meet them right? I remembered that I had one of his books! It felt like the book was free twice over!

Unfortunately, we couldn’t attend, but I was motivated to finish his book. Once you start an action thriller book, it’s really hard to put it down.

One thing I really liked about Patterson’s work was how he seamlessly combined three different crimes into one flawless experience. It wasn’t just a “ME SMASH ACTION TOGETHER,” but rather each crime had a key element that connected each to the next one. There was a continuity, so to speak, that kept up the pace of reading that, dare I say, made it enjoyable?

Like so enjoyable that I feel kind of sad that I didn’t start the series from the beginning? Patterson, what have you done to me?!

There is also some pretty hilarious irony in the fact that two of the main bad guys in this book are Naval Academy Officers, and this book was given out for free at a Navy Family event….

Although,

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Can we take a second to look at this guy’s photo on the back of the cover. Is this really the photo they liked and felt should take up the entirety of the back of the book? Over the few days it took me to read, I felt like this guy was staring at me confused..

Like he was asking me how to fix his computer and couldn’t understand what I was talking about when I suggested turning it off and back on. He knows what that means, but can’t fathom why it works..

Or was that really the top I wanted to wear to work?

Another cup of coffee, Faith.. really?

tumblr_mi0q5u1exh1qf42vzo1_1280Or it looked as if he was trying to figure out if a certain vampire was his son…Pattinson is obviously the British version of Patterson.. AND look, they both share that confused browed scowl! No DNA test required!

(Photo curtesy of  http://www.robsessedpattinson.com/)

Ok, I think the connection is all in my head. I clearly just wanted a reason to browse 100’s of Pattinson photos….

Will Travel for Good Food and Free Books

 

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Despite my state’s super high taxes and lousy roads, we have the golden opportunity to live a book lover’s dream. Some genius decided to combine the love of being a fat kid and the love of reading FREE books.

To be fair, most big chain book stores have cafes in their book stores, so there has been an established correlation between coffee, books, and snacks… but I’m talking a full service restaurant that has the look and feel of a library!!!!

 

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Oh, and beer:

In less than an hour of finding out the existence of this wonderland, I had a road trip negotiated. In a caravan of two cars, the Allaire family joined forces with the awesome S. family and made the journey to Traveler’s Restaurant.

The article lied about people who buy meals getting a free book. The reality is that you now get THREE free books each meal! I have to say, other than being concerned about the insane amount of Freudian psychology books sprinkled into the selection, they had an eclectic range.

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It was a bit awkward oogling books while people were trying to eat. Some of the selection is right above the tables, and since it is creepy having to look at those books, it’s likely where all the good books are.

I have to admit there were some personal boundaries crossed to get my three books.

 

Judy Chicago

Between a book about monsters of the mind and another with no name on the spine so it was clearly to be avoided, I saw a book penned by one of my favorite artists: Judy Chicago!

 

I was super psyched about Judy Chicago’s Through the Flower: my struggle as a woman artist because I had just finished a “History of Women in the Arts” course last fall. I was able to dazzle my table mates with facts of how awesome Judy Chicago was. Ironically, that was not the first time I had gushed about her feminine awesomeness, as I had included her in my final project about how women traditionally used needlepoint as a form of education AND activism.

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I could go on and on about her, but I digress.

Mr. Allaire abstained from getting books, which felt incredibly sacrilege. How could I marry a man that doesn’t see what a gift this restaurant is?!

I’m glad that this did not rub off on our spawn. They were as equally eager as I was to find their own bounty. In fact, once they found out that there was a used book store in the basement, they went crazy. The two eldest were about to battle for the last Dean Koontz book.

I didn’t buy anything from the store, because nothing could top my Judy Chicago book. I was in love, and at least until we got home again, there was no other book for me. At least for the day. So, if you’re ever in Connecticut and need a buddy to dine with at Traveler’s restaurant… I am your lady.

Closet Readers

When I was around my daughter’s age, my parents separated, and we moved into a tiny apartment that was cozy enough for my ,mom and me. When I wanted to escape from the world, I would hide in the only closet. It had just enough space for myself, a blanket, a flashlight and a handful of books.

I remember reading one book over and again. It was a non-fiction book based off of a Gorilla who knew sign language and had a best friend that was a kitten. If you haven’t guessed it, the Gorilla’s name was Koko.

This weekend that Gorilla passed away, which made me a little heart broken.

To honor the part of my childhood she made memorable, I grabbed a book and squirreled away into a closet. I know it should have been more about honoring Koko than comparing and contrasting my childhood with my children, but ya know…stuff happens.

For example, my kids have access to five closets not including bedroom closets where they can lay out and create summer reading dens. This works in their interest because I had no siblings trying to break down the door to see what top secret activities were going behind closed doors.

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I was in the closet a total of five minutes before the youngest sniffed me out. Then she climbed in and joined in the reading with her own book. Ten minutes later the eldest found us, cramming us in like sardines and making me wish I had picked one of the bigger closets to honor Koko.

My son is a lot smarter than I ever will be. He rigged up the flashlight to hang from a hanger, allowing for a hands free experience.

I expect that by the time my grandchildren become closet readers, they will have closets with lights on the inside and locks from the inside to keep intruders out.

Summer Reading Goals

Today is the very first day of summer!

It would be something to celebrate, if we weren’t still a family of school goers for ANOTHER WEEK.

Snow days seemed worth it at the time…..

Since a week can feel like forever, we started to make our summer reading goals.

We searched the Scriptorium’s shelves for books we haven’t read yet.

Everyone’s personal choices are squished on this shelf in no apparent order, so it’s hard to say who chose what. I will say that I was not the one to choose the Shakespeare plays…..

 

Family Reading Time

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34348147_10211190866983306_3776500550791593984_nIn the Allaire Family Constitution, it specifically states that 7-8 p.m. is reading time. Any use of electronics at this time results in the guilty party having to cluck like a chicken…

 

 

Suffice to say, we take our reading time seriously.

I found a lot of information on why you should read to children from early infancy, my favorite being “Why It’s Important to Read Aloud with Your Kids, and How to Make it Count” by Amy Joyce, but I couldn’t really find any that showed the benefits of reading as a family once the children have already learned to read. (Joyce’s post states that older children cite reading with their parents as one of their favorite family memories).

As such, here is my list of reasons why I still read with my nine and thirteen year old:

I Get to Read Kids’ Books:

No shame in my Diary of a Wimpy Kid game. Why does middle grade fiction have to just be for kids? I can enjoy fart jokes or sympathize with a kid feeling like he may be failing math class. It reminds parents and adults that the problems children face are important to them, if they may seem small on an adult’s grand scheme of things.

Conversations: The best heart to heart moments I have had with my kids have come from situations expressed in the experiences of others. Fiction allows us to see things from another’s perspectives, especially when they go through situations that we normally could not. For example, I will never be an orphan forced to leave India and move to dreary England, but the kids and I could sympathize with feeling alone like Mary had in The Secret Garden. We talked about the power of hope and how changing your perspective can open doors you never even thought existed.

Fluency in Reading: I am often assisting in appropriately pronouncing words rather than the super speedy blurring that seems to happen when kids don’t know exactly what they are reading but still want to complete the sentence. By catching and correct these fluency hiccups, I am helping to improve my children’s fluency. I’m also learning to pronounce certain words, although I blame my mother being Scottish on a few choice pronunciations.

Time is Finite:

Learning how to manage time is an important lesson for children to learn. Realistically, there are nights where we are not at home. We are, after all, a family of four and have social lives. Reading as a family has cut down a lot of the activities that we would otherwise have agreed to do. When we plan things and I know it will run into family reading time, I’ll say, “If we do this we cannot read Harry Potter tonight,” and the kids then have to prioritize their wants. In a world of constant extracurricular activities, this is a necessary tool for a well-balanced lifestyle.

Quality Family Time:

With homework, chores, and extracurricular activities, it’s hard to get everyone in sync. Reading time has provided a time where are all together without any other distractions. The teenager thinks we’re on a mission to read a book and then see the movie based on it (if there is one), but what we’re really doing is spending uninterrupted family time. We established a goal as a family and maintained it towards success. If we did not choose to carve time out of out busy schedules to invest in this goal, it would have happened.

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I’m not advocating for everyone set a family rule to spend an hour every day reading as a family, but what about once a week? If a family were to read an average 20 pages a week of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, it could be finished in around eleven weeks. That is an impressive goal!