Santa is real to those who believe

“For those who believe (in God), no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible” – – Author Unknown

Christmas-TimeWith the first snowfall comes the eager anticipation of Christmas…at least here in Canada. Those of us with a wide range of ages in our children are familiar with the question that seems to pop up as early grade school “Is Santa real?”

When all my little ones were under the age of 6 years old, I never worried about such a thought. The questions back then we “Can Santa Claus bring me… (such and such)?” or “Please don’t tell Santa I did that bad thing…promise?” I think the best one was “Don’t worry mommy and daddy about getting a new car, I asked Santa and I just know he will bring one for you on Christmas!” (!! Love it!)

Then came grade school and with it a multitude of layers of belief and questioning attitudes.

Some 7-year-old at school is all the talk this year because she managed to pull the beard off the Santa at the local shopping mall. Therefore, exposing all of her grade two classmates to her discovery, there is no Santa. This is until the mom over here points out the facts…that all the 7-year-old knows for sure is that Santa’s beard, on that day, was detachable. Bad hair day…so what! Cartoon-Santa

A very nice child in grade six took it upon himself to let my 6-year-old know that Santa was “fake.” All this because he sat up all Christmas eve at his window, did not see a sleigh, or reindeer and the next morning did not get what he had wanted for Christmas. Mom over here was able to mention that any child who stays up ALL CHRISTMAS EVE will not see Santa and possibly will not get anything from him…or so the rules go. Nothing new discovered here either.

Candycane-North-Pole

Then I got teenagers. They think they have EVERYTHING figured out. Occasionally, to change the balance in a family dispute, the 13-year-old, in a moment of defiance might offer to tell his siblings that he KNOWS there is no Santa. Again, I am able to let the small fry realize that the older sibling is only trying to make himself feel better. As due to his poor  behaviour…he won’t be getting what he is hoping for and that does not in itself mean there is no Santa.

I still have very little ones here at home. Thanks to society (and occasionally their disgruntled older siblings), I often find myself being grilled by the toddlers and little kids (cross-examination-style questions) on the reality of Santa Claus. For me, this discussion is easy. Santa Claus is actually St. Nicholas, a Catholic saint with access to heavenly powers and lots of magic. (Any further questions?)

Magic-for-GGThe distribution question on how does one man, eight reindeer visit an entire world’s worth of children in less than 24 with gifts for everyone…is also easily answered. Many saints have been known to bi-locate and employ the help of angels and have access to supernatural powers.

When asked “is Santa Claus for real” …my favourite answer is “Santa is real to those who believe…and not real to those who do not!” Followed up by “Who here BELIEVES in Santa?”… (a big show of little hands) I thought so…

Believe-Christmas-Do-dec-2012-EDIT-JCA-GG-2014

Looking forward to another magical December 25th for kids big and small at my house!

The Garden Goat

One who believes in Santa Claus

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Christmas at School…Secret Santa NOT!

Secret-Santa_2013-GG2

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, if you are like me, your kids deluge you with handouts, notices and invitations to volunteer at the school all in the name of celebrating the upcoming holiday. This would be fine if this is where it ended…but sadly… no. My kids then go on to tell me verbally  not only the school’s plans but how some kid’s parents go all out with the holiday celebrations and send trays of homemade treats to the school and how they wish I would do that for them. (!!!) Before I sound too cynical, in my youth (years ago), when I had only two or three (kids) in school, I was the young mom, carrying the baby and hauling in full-size, homemade gingerbread houses full of candy to each classroom. Much to the delight of my own children who would then bask in the glow of fellow classmate’s appreciate as the ensuing afternoon turned into a zoo. Those remaining hours of the day were apparently quite entertaining as the children were lost in thought “scheming” to steal a bite from the house while the teacher struggled to keep the class on task. I never once considered the nightmare I had created for the class teacher.

Now years later, I am much wiser (although much older and tired). I have now streamlined my celebratory spirit to (sometimes) include a general Christmas card delivered to the school secretary on the last day before Christmas holidays.

Goat-and-santa-hat-and-gingerbread-house

The pressure to celebrate is alive and well in our school system. Enter “Secret Santa.”This is supposedly a program designed to have each child bring in a token gift to exchange anonymously with a fellow classmate. Sounds like something from a greeting card. The note home, at first glance conveys the thoughtful, peaceful spread of some holiday classroom fun…at least on the surface. “Secret Santa” started out last year in my daughter’s grade 6 class as a very benign activity spreading holiday cheer with each child drawing a classmate’s name out of a hat and shopping for an item less than  $5.00 in cost. It sounded reasonable.

secret-santa-logo

“Sure” was my answer to the 11-year old wanting to be the “Secret Santa” and shop for a surprise for her peer. This was doable as I had an entire week in which to make this happen.

Next morning, making the lunches the 11-year old says “I can’t go to school because we don’t have Rice Krispy Squares”-??? Did I miss something? Yep-apparently in the week leading up to the “Secret Santa” gift, each day there are to be special things happen to the peer (the one whose name was picked out of the hat).  These “special things” are designed to give “clues” to the unsuspecting recipient. Well, to this “week-before-clue” thing, I said “sorry sweetheart, you will have to give some of your snack (carrots) as your special clue.” The answer …this boy (secret Santa kid) doesn’t like carrots …HE HATES THEM! I guess each child was to fill out a sheet indicating their favourite things and this little darling made sure everyone knew what he hated. CARROTS! (This vegetable is not normally a culinary custom at this time of year…not sure why the kids had to be so specific!) Oh well, packed up a conciliatory treat of some cheese and crackers as “the clue” for the CARROT HATER.

No-Carrots

Next day, just before bedtime (when the stores are closed and I am ready to call it a night),  the Secret Santa Helper announces that I need to pick up “Gatorade” as the clue for tomorrow! (Really?) Race out to the corner store, purchase the requested liquid and then turn into bed for the evening. Tomorrow will be a breeze…or so I thought.  Next morning…more tears… the “helper” forgot to mention that it HAD to be BLUE Gatorade!!! I guess the CARROT HATER does not like orange anything! While out shopping later in the day, I found a few chocolate bars (on sale) and thought that would help with “clues” for the CARROT HATER. Next morning, more tears…”I can’t take in chocolate… my teacher said the next clue HAS to be a small toy!” UGH! (I am thinking I should take time off work and bake a candy laden gingerbread house, deliver it early in the morning to this teacher’s class and let the zoo begin…just out of badness!) Day three…I now have several little toys from the dollar store that can serve as clues. My daughter will be proud of me today as will the CARROT HATER and the teacher. As I proudly present “the clues” to my daughter (in the hopes of regaining some morsel of appreciation) I am told that this day the teacher said that the clue needs to be “handmade.” I am done. I tell my kid to get the teacher to call me. (NOOOO…gingerbread is TOO GOOD for this teacher) No phone call. (Teacher is likely sick from eating all the carrots other parents must have sent in for the CARROT HATER).

Later that night the daughter wants me to take her shopping…again… I ask why. Apparently we still need to get the Secret Santa gift (?). It is not enough that I have already spent more time, money and THOUGHT on a child I do not know (and I am beginning to loathe)… I now have to shop for a gift? The rules are:

  • under $5
  • nothing smelly
  • no liquid
  • must be thoughtful
  • no cash

After an entire hour shopping for the CARROT HATER we are still no closer to find a gift my daughter thinks the teacher will endorse. Frustrated… I ask what about just enclosing a $5.00 bill in a really, really nice hand-drawn card?? This was answered in the negative (of course) all because the teacher said NO MONEY…period. At this point I am seeing the teacher as a diabolical force intent on ruining Christmas ahead of time with this demented secret-Santa scheme.

5.00 bill

Christmas I thought was supposed to be fun. Instead it has become a make-work project engineered to exhaust the parents, create turmoil and conflict and somehow in all of this, the kid receiving these clues/gifts is to be happy. I will show you HAPPY! Finally found some puzzle, gender and colour neutral, toy/game that just squeaked under the limit at $4.99! Slam –dunk done! This was the official day for Secret Santa. No more clues, lists, late-night trips out, tears …WE ARE ALL DONE (carrots not withstanding). Hurray!

Real Santa Claus

Real Santa Claus

That is until my kid comes home from school with her secret Santa gift…you got it…a FIVE DOLLAR BILL! Naturally I need to know about what “clues” were given…apparently none. Why money when the teacher said NO? Because this giver’s mom said it was stupid to run around and shop for someone you do not know and that everyone accepts money. Then I find out the parent who sent the $5 bill is the CARROT HATER’S mom…who knew?

I think all matters regarding Santa should be left to the one and only REAL Santa. As for the teacher…there are no words to describe what I wanted to say… I think the teacher should get a carrot-shaped lump of coal in their stocking.

The Garden Goat Goat-in-Santa-hat

A Gift of Prayers

I had a great post all figured out mentioning the twelve days of Christmas decorated with some of the more stressful (and funny) attributes of family life as a light piece of entertainment. Then December 14th 2012 happened. Nothing seemed funny anymore. More importantly I no longer felt like being my sarcastic (and reportedly entertaining) self.

love and prayers to Sandy Hook school victims

..little tiny innocent children’s lives, taken by a brutal outburst of gunfire in the hands of a very sick individual.

I was online on Friday and suddenly everywhere there was news of what could not be real…little tiny innocent children’s lives, taken by a brutal outburst of gunfire in the hands of a very sick individual. Were these children somewhere dangerous when this happened? No, they were where they were supposed to be. These little ones were in their classrooms, the gym, hallways (and some were practicing their Christmas celebrations) of their primary school in the small, quiet town of Newtown, Connecticut.

Prior to the news announcement, the days leading up to this event (as we all know) were all about rushing and bustling looking everywhere for that perfect gift for each person on our Christmas list. Suddenly Christmas no longer matters. Presents, bought and wrapped for tiny kids still sit under trees in Connecticut and they will never be opened. There are so many questions and almost no answers.

I was asked on Saturday by my hairdresser if I had put any thought into the rampant idea circulating the globe that the world as we now know it could possibly end December 21st, 2012. My answer was that if the presence of extreme evil was to herald the coming of the end of the world …then this had already happened on Friday morning.

guardian_angel

My heart goes out to all the parents of those little angels that have gone on to Heaven.

I am sure that I am not alone as parents everywhere acknowledge their perfect gift is already present in their lives, those of us lucky enough to have our children still here on earth. My heart goes out to all the parents of those little angels that have gone on to Heaven as well as the other victims of this heinous crime. I cannot imagine how those parents must feel. Their lives and families changed irrevocably forever.

Our gift this Christmas is prayers for all the victim’s families as they try to carry on in their lives unable to make sense out of this horrific event. Some of the victims were adults and from all accounts much proof that angels do walk among us …some as Grade One teachers.

On Facebook I came across this cartoon …it seemed to say it all.

Santa sad about Sandy Hook School shooting

On Facebook I came across this cartoon …it seemed to say it all.

If there is one thing that is so important, it is to love whom you have in your life RIGHT NOW. Tomorrow is not promised. Hug and kiss your children. Ensure that they know how much they are truly loved.  Those of us who have our children here on earth already know that we have the greatest Christmas gift of all.

All love & prayers,

The Garden Goat xoxox

Christmas List

At this time of year all of us are searching for the perfect gift and usually working from lists from family relatives and friends (okay not lists per say from friends…but you know “hints”).

After reading the 8-year-old’s list I am not even sure I should share it. (!!) It was entitled “crismis list” and read:

“I want a Nerf shotgun, I want a Nerf Sniper, and a Nerf tome gun and a BB gun with lots of ammo and I want a Nerf hand gun and a Nerf bulletproof vest and a Nerf Bazooka and a Nerf grappling hook and a Nerf gun that has 199 bullets and a Nerf towing package.” (Anyone who has a family this size totally understands the bullet-proof vest.)  A little worried about the towing package as this kid has wanted to be in the police force forever. He used to stuff his little brother into a pillow case and haul him around the house saying “I caught the bad guy!” Before any of you out there think a call to child protection is in order, the two little boys spend hours together (have for years) one as the bad guy and one as the policemen.

Little boys Christmas list

After reading the 8-year-old’s list I am not even sure I should share it. (!!) It was entitled “crismis list” and read:

Then there is another list that asks for “a guitar, a new karaoke machine, “the Step Master” and a small pink fridge”-Fun! (This child is only ten…what does you suppose she needs the fridge for? (Hoping it is for snacks the other kids can’t access… and that it is NOT for other family member’s body parts!)

Another kids list reads “a cage” …hmm given the two dogs are never locked up makes me wonder who he is wanting to house or worse yet what he is hoping to catch!

Christmas List Elf

One’s Christmas list reveals a lot about the writer.

The baby’s list was funny. Literally everything in the Toys R US flyer was circled…including the nerf guns.

One’s Christmas list reveals a lot about the writer. First of all do you make a Christmas list? If you do, are you honest about what you put on it or do you gear your requests to your audience? Like when your ten-year old wants to know what you want for Christmas. You say Breakfast in bed knowing that it is something he can do, won’t cost him money and he will feel special. You can forgive the crumbs in the sheets and spilt coffee up the stairs for another day per year beyond Mother’s Day!)

When my children were little, it was all about what the children had on their lists (even if the list was in their head or only whispered in the ear of the local mall’s Santa Claus). As the children grew older it became more about them wanting to do something for mom and dad. A great, cheap option would have been to just nicely, (for the rest of the year) agree to whatever we asked them to do…but no, THAT would have been TOO easy.

I have never made a Christmas list in my life. I have had plenty of friends that swore by them stating that they were spared hundreds of terrible gifts over the course of their marriages. I always thought if my husband really knows me I will end up with such and such. Nah…years later I understand the wisdom of the Christmas list as it matters not how cool it looks, how many other people you know want the item…what matters most is that the one receiving the gift is thrilled. This is something that often blows the mind of average North American husband. A paperclip can be the perfect gift (if that’s what I truly wanted or delighted in) as opposed to receiving the latest trend (always more expensive and usually not ever what I want).

Christmas-List-Goat

I have never made a Christmas list in my life.

On that note should my kids read this. All I want for Christmas is:

  • Good kids

When I ask for something to be done I do not have to suit up into armour and conduct battle to elicit a favourable response. My wish is that my request is simply met with the beautiful words…”yes …Mom”

Oh and maybe some chocolate. (You know for the kids that have part-time jobs.) Much prefer the chocolate to the socks and assortment of stuff the clerk “thought” their mom might “like”! (Trust me you can have TOO many socks with cows on them that go with nothing you own!)

My list for the Almighty:

  • Help my husband to get healed and back to work!
  • Help my kids to be good always (even when they are all grown up)!
  • To reconnect with a special friend that currently is missing from my life!

My list for the husband

  • One item (not expensive in the least) that I deep down would love to have….but I will not tell him as it has become a game with me to see how well he knows me and if he is watching all year-long.

Not interested in gift via the 24 hours before Dec 25th aided by the sales associate who specializes in helping lost husbands find their way through Christmas shopping ….last minute. Nope. I want something that I know reflects he has paid attention all year-long. Course in order to not totally unnerve him I must continue to give the standard fare one expects when one reached forty something on this planet and has kids. You know slippers, pajamas and weird ties. If I was to pay “attention” (to at least what he says), what he really wants is a motorcycle (!!) Nope that will not be under this year’s tree (something to do with nine dependents). I will stick with the new deodorant and socks…maybe some chocolate.

One husband I know wants added credit for the time and effort he has supposedly put in researching and locating the perfect gift. This guy has been up to this for years. He takes a whole day off work the week before Christmas, spending the entire day by himself going out for lunch basically having a  wonderful time and then arrives home to regale his wife with how tired he is from searching high and low for the perfect gift. His legs hurt from all the walking and battling the Christmas shopping crowds. The wife buys this story every year (hence the happy 30 year marriage)! Often when this day of shopping is planned the gift has already been purchased months before. This husband says the value of his gift is raised to celestial levels as he makes a big deal of spending a whole day shopping just for his wife. Reality is this guy is known to not like shopping and uses the time to further research his wish list in such male orientated places as home depot, Canadian Tire not to mention having lunch with some of his male buddies and test driving sports cars and motorcycles. Not so bad I guess. The guy gets a glorious day to himself and brownie points from his wife because she thinks that the “shopping” day was spent all on her! (Regardless of the outcome!)

It is always about the packaging the story that goes with the gift!

Garden Goat Gone Christmas Shopping

(Here is hoping not to be incarcerated for inquiring at Toys R US –“Where do you keep the AMMO?”)

goat shopping Toys R Us

Garden Goat Gone Christmas Shopping

 

An “ALIEN” because I like having my kids around in Summer-(thought I was one anyway with a Large Family)

Summer is half way over and I am astonished at the number of people I meet (when I spring lose out of my cage occasionally) that look at me and say “I bet you can hardly wait until they are all back in school!” This statement is hilarious given that it is usually delivered to me by another mom of two (maximum three) children and often after I have witnessed this parent’s exasperation at the antics of their offspring in public. I am often incognito. Shopping or running errands with just a nominal few from my tribe. I appear in the grocery store as someone who can be trusted as I almost pass for “normal” by society’s standards by having only 2 or three kids with me.

School closed for summer

“I bet you can hardly wait until they are all back in school!”

I am afraid that my answer to this question is the one that reveals my true identity as a keeper of a large number of kids. I always answer “No…not really… I like having my children around and miss them when they are in school!” At this point the interviewing parent tilts their head while looking me over head to toe (likely in hopes of spotting ALIEN skin or other extraterrestrial attributes). After checking me out they say “Really?… No one has ever told me THAT before. It must be that you have a lot of help from your husband and family and you never have to spend much time cooped up with kids and no help.” (!!)

At this point the interviewing parent tilts their head while looking me over head to toe (likely in hopes of spotting ALIEN skin or other extraterrestrial attributes).

By this stage it is all I can do to maintain a straight face. This entire summer I have been with 9 kids or more…(counting a grandchild and “other” children coming over to play) all by myself as my husband had surgery in another city and has had to recuperate there to avail himself of the post-surgery physiotherapy care in that location. Yes… “cooped up” might be a way to describe it…although not mine.

Big marketing bucks are spent by retailers every fall hyping up the back to school season. One office / school supply store (national chain) is famous for their rendition of a Christmas carol played in late August/September recognizing the joy with which parents shop for back to school using the tune “It is the most wonderful time of the year….” (A time it is assumed parents eagerly await more than children wait for Christmas.)

In my attempts (although feeble) to fit in with mainstream society I thought I would answer in the affirmative the next time this question came up. Well that went well. I told this woman I could NOT WAIT until the “rug rats” where back in school. She looked at my three and said she could understand as she only had one and did not know how I managed the three little ones I had with me that day. I could not keep the deceit up any longer so with a broad grin I said “no…the ones I wanted back in school were the “other six” I left at home.” Yep back to looking like an Alien again. Total shock is immediately registered on the “other” parent’s face.

But seriously, I do admit there are challenging times and moments here and there where I do think about what it was like when everyone had a place to be (school) but on the whole I like my kids and I like being around them. I am bold enough to tell people exactly how it is. I like that summer lets bedtimes be relaxed, that more time is spent on creative relaxation (with the exception of a few teenagers with employment commitments) and that there is no homework. I also love that playing outside (like when I was little), making friends and playing with each other are rediscovered.  I like getting reacquainted with my kids in their more relaxed state. Not racing to complete homework, stay late for choir, gym practice or other extracurricular activities. I love watching them play the kind of games they invent (especially our crowd as the numbers often outweigh the equipment available at any one time) and the dynamics as they unfold between all of them.

cartoon kids playing summer

Things I have learned is the children get along much better when no parent is watching.

Fall comes all too fast and with it the hurried life of school schedules, homework, extracurricular activities and I close the book on the pages of another summer’s carefree playing and imagination I do so with some sadness. Sometimes I look back and think I learned the most about who my children truly are during the summer months. Don’t get me wrong it is all not a bed of roses and I have some scars to prove it. I am often cleaning the house with a blowtorch and power-sander (and that is just bath time!).

I profoundly miss them once they return to school. Things I have learned is the children get along much better when no parent is watching. When push comes to shove they do care about each other (regardless of the atrocious insults they have been known to hurl at each other), and no activity or equipment can match the creative solutions and games this bunch will come up with on their own. By far the best expenditure this summer was $20 to purchase 5 sets of second-hand roller blades. Hockey is being played as are races. The older more accomplished kids have set themselves up as the “skating coaches” for the younger kids. When my kids show up back in school, while they may not boast about what fun they had on a cruise or family vacation I do know that this summer will go down as one of the most fun…with each other.

kids summer

As for “most wonderful time of the year” that would be now…when everyone is home!

So,YES…I will miss my kids when they return to school, and NO, I am not looking forward to the fall. As for “most wonderful time of the year” that would be now…when everyone is home!

The ALIEN Garden Goat

Circle of Moms Top 25 Moms with Big Families - 2012

You can vote for me EVERYDAY (until Aug 1) at: http://www.circleofmoms.com/top25/Top-25-Moms-With-Big-Families-2012#_

EXCITING NEWS! The Garden Goat has been nominated for a contest featuring top 25 blogs written by moms of large families. You can vote for me EVERYDAY (until Aug 1) at: http://www.circleofmoms.com/top25/Top-25-Moms-With-Big-Families-2012#_