Archive for December, 2012

CSI: North Pole

December 30, 2012 Leave a comment

45080_4300559867171_935294126_nA couple of months ago, our dog Digger lost a tooth and so the kids decided to put it in a bag and put it under their pillow for the Tooth Fairy. Later that night, after I had slipped the tooth away and was in the process of slipping a bone under Benjamin’s pillow, he suddenly woke up, looked at me then quickly lifted the pillow.  In that moment that he looked at me, I was able to quickly slide my arm away without him noticing, and, for now, the Tooth Fairy remains alive for them.

So, when we got to Christmas Eve, I was nauseous with nervousness on the boys discovering Santa’s true identity. In our house, Santa doesn’t just drop off presents.  He also decorates the hallway outside the kids room with lights as well as does other things in the backyard, just outside their window.  He also, with the help of the Christmas Cardinal, decorated the Christmas tree in the kids room. So, there is a lot of room for mistakes.

Since the kids were old enough to understand, we have been extremely careful.  We have special paper that is used just for Santa’s gifts, as well as ribbon.  We have a red “Santa’s Bag” that we keep well out of reach of the kids that contains all our tools of the trade. When we wrap, we carefully collect all the little scraps and make sure they go deep into a garbage bag, which immediately goes into the trash cans outside.  Presents are well hidden in the basement and we carefully monitor the boys approach of the basement door.

As we go through all of this, I start to use all the “knowledge” I’ve gained from watching CSI and CSI: New York. I analyze the scenes for little mistakes: a tiny scrap of paper, something that would identify Andrea and I as Santa, even footprints in the snow (after I finished hanging candy can lights in the tree in the backyard after the new snow fall, I dragged a rake over my footprints and made a crazy pattern in the snow).  As I got closer to their room and more and more stuff got set up, I was cleaning up behind me so that I could jump into bed if they woke up.  I had cover stories in my head in case I messed something up and they caught me in the act.  I left nothing to chance, but it was so very stressful…and successful.

However, I love every moment of it.  I know there is probably just another two or three years of this for them, probably even shorter for Ben (I feel he may connect the dots next year).  I don’t know who will be more heartbroken when then discover the truth behind Santa.  I love Christmas so much and actually creating Christmas magic for them…well, it makes me really feel like Santa.  So, the thought of no longer being able to do that just makes me want to hold on to these years that much more.


Darkness and Light

December 19, 2012 1 comment

darknessandlightThe other night, I sat at church and watched the Christmas concert for my sons’ Catholic school.  I watched with an overflowing heart as my kindergartner and my big first grader sang, one with a giant smile on his face, the other studiously singing the words as he seemed to be scanning the audience.  They stood among their friends and classmates, all of them decked out in their Christmas best. They were the very faces and minds and pureness of the innocence that the Christmas season promises every year.  Their equally well dressed parents, friends and teachers watched and reflected the children’s excitement.  It was a building that, even before the concert started, was rumbling in the excited talk and laughter of the children and parents alike, to the point where a member of the faculty had to remind all of where we were. It was a building filled with such joy.

And it was a night that was dedicated the the victims and families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.  It seemed like such an appropriate tribute.

Like much of the country and all decent human beings, I have desperately struggled against the sadness of this senseless attack.  It’s a sadness, I think, that may lie in our souls for a long time. A sadness that will fall to the depths of the scars that we all still feel from September 11, 2001. A friend of mine  recently talked how she will be walking around happy, having a good time and then think about what happened and instantly be filled with panic and sadness. I think it is a range of emotions that many of us share. As a parent, the thought of what those parents of those innocents are going through is unbearable.  It is impossible to not project those losses into our own lives and families.

My sons are the joys of my life. I have no doubt in my mind that the reason I am on this earth is to be Benjamin and Matthew’s father and to do all I can to give them a happy life.  If I accomplish nothing else in life except to raise two happy, loving boys into two happy, loving men then my life will have been a success.  The thought that one person in a single instant could wipe that all out is terrifying.  That fact that one man did exactly that to so many families has me living in a perpetual heart break.

In the days since the attack, I have found myself relishing in my sons’ laughter, love and even pestering.  I find myself just starring at them in wonder.  However, there are times when I need to turn away from them to hide tears because, it is hard to watch them without feeling a sense of remorse and guilt for all those fathers in Newtown that have lost their joys. I guess it is a sort of survivors guilt, even though my sons were secure and safe, hundreds of miles away.  I take some comfort in my belief that those 26 souls have made their way to heaven, but I mourn the hell that has been left behind in Newtown.  The fact that it is Christmas, the season that is suppose to be all about the children, these feelings get amplified to the point where I just want to take down the Christmas decorations and move on.

Of course, that is not possible because it is the season of children and forgetting that and not celebrating our children would not be honoring the memories of those lost.  For now, I keep my grief hidden away from them and do my best to repair my heart with their laughter.

I am doing all I can to make this the best Christmas my sons have ever had as some small way to honor the families of the victims.  It is a dark Christmas for them which makes me feel like I need to do more to make our Christmas brighter.  I’ve become more patient with them, taking time to help them fix the LEGO village under the tree that they destroyed.  I have stopped doing far less important things to check out how the Christmas pig is riding the crane (don’t ask). Last night, I walked into the family room where the TV was still on and saw a message on the screen that it was about to power down because there was no activity for four hours because we were all upstairs playing and talking and laughing.  The pile of presents from Santa in the basement seems to have doubled since last Friday.  There is little I can do for those Newtown families, but there is so much I can do for my own.

During the concert, the principal, used the metaphor of the children being the brightest lights in this world, and that is so true.

So often, we face evil and sadness and pain in this world. So often, there are people that suffer and struggle in the darkness that sometimes seems to dominate this world.  When the darkness lashes out at the tiniest, most innocent, yet brightest lights in our world, the sadness becomes that much more profound.

We struggle for answers on how to battle the shadows that live in people’s souls. I am sure the answer lies only partly somewhere between the polarized sides of the gun debate and how we help the mentally ill in this country.  I know that the biggest part of the answer lies in that raucous building of children, educators and parents and in similar buildings around this nation and this world.  Whether it be a church, temple, mosque, a kitchen table, a mud hut or any place that people gather in love and joy, embracing hope and faith.  It doesn’t matter if that faith is in God (or gods), science or ourselves.  We fight the darkness by passing that faith, hope and love on to the children with the hope that the next generation will grow up in a better, brighter world.

During the concert, I also found myself staring at my sons’ teachers and the rest of the school’s faculty.  I really wanted to go up and hug each one of them, because I don’t doubt the love they have for our children and what they do.  Many are parents themselves and I can only imagine what a painful time it must be for them.  Yet, there they were, smiling and laughing and celebrating our children.  May God bless them and educators everywhere and may God watch over our children and the families of Sandy Hook.

Returning to Church

December 6, 2012 Leave a comment

We hadn’t been to church for a while…In fact, it might have been well over a year since we last went (I know, I know).  We decided that advent was as good of a time as any to return, so we went this past Sunday.  With the Catholic school rubbing off on them, both Ben and Matt were perfectly behaved.  They paid attention and there was barely a peep out of them.

On the drive home, Matthew asked if we could go back to church some time.  I told him that, yes, absolutely.  I asked him why he liked church so much and he said, “The candles and because of the quiet time.”

There is a reason we call him our angel.