Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas in DC

The best thing about living in the DC area has got to be Christmas.  I just decided at the spur of the moment, about a week before the big day, that we should go check out the national tree in front of the White House.  You just can't beat a sight like this:

Even though I figured it would be pretty cool to see a huge Christmas tree in the heart of our nation's capital, little did I know that there would be a whole entire replica town with cars and train stations and houses and little tiny marching bands surrounding it. And when you go at 11am on a Wednesday, you can even find parking, which is nothing short of a Christmas miracle.

I was impressed-slash-really sad at how accurate their portrayal of real life was in this scene-- even in a children's display, they were sure to park a police car right at the scene of the high school marching band.  No sense in letting them live in fairy tale land, right?

But for the most part, it was a fairy tale... view from the front:

And view from behind:

As well as a little celebrity lunch at the hot spot of the world's best (and possibly only) "half-smoke."  I think it's a half-hot dog/ half sausage, but who really knows or cares-- it's some kind of meat and it's delicious.  We must have just missed the Obamas and Bill Cosby, dang.  Maybe next time.

Brendan would have given his 2 front teeth for a bite of that dog, but I think he still enjoyed just tagging along for the ride.

Some other pit stops that week included the children's Christmas Pageant at the National Cathedral...


And Christmas lights at the Dragon's Castle-- AKA The Mormon Temple...

And that doesn't even get me started on the real, actual Christmas.  Next time :)

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Times are Changing

I took Niall and Brendan to the National Christmas Tree in DC this morning, knowing that we-- I-- needed a little pick-me-up after a week that challenged my faith in humanity.  There are probably few things in this world that are better than looking into the eyes of an excited child; which is what makes last week's tragedy even more devastating.

But I suddenly realized, at this innocent children's holiday exhibit, exactly why these kinds of things are happening in our world today.  It was always pretty obvious to me that our society was becoming more and more desensitized when it comes to violence, but I didn't realize how much is engrained in these little kids' minds before they even know what they are saying, sometimes before they can even construct a complex sentence. 

Niall walked up to the gate that kept the children from completely destroying the model train set that had been carefully set up around the base of the tree, and was quickly joined by some 5 or 6 year olds who were clearly on a field trip.  They jumped up onto the slats on either side of Niall and began "firing" with the pointed pickets, pretending they were "shooting up the Christmas tree"... then came some machine gun noises, followed by gun pointing gestures with squinted eyes to focus on the target.  All that the teachers/ chaperones said was: "Watch out for the little boy."

I used to laugh when I saw things like this, thinking "boys will be boys"... but as soon as Niall started imitating older kids who did this sort of thing, I became deeply disturbed by it.  My 2 1/2 year old son was saying things like "We have to kill the bad guys!" because he had heard it from his own little buddies.  Now every rod-shaped object in our house has become a sword and I am having to explain to his tiny, innocent little brain how incredibly unacceptable it is to say that you want to hurt someone.  Why would a 3 year old know what it means to kill?  Why are we letting them learn and repeat something like this?

We don't let him watch anything violent on TV-- in fact, the other day I got really excited when I saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was still on the cartoon network.  "Niall, this was my favorite when I was little!!"  But after about 10 minutes, I turned it off because I realized that even a childhood favorite of mine was too much for young eyes.

The problem is, it doesn't matter that we don't let him watch any of that stuff because he is going to learn it from someone else.  He's not even in pre-school yet!  He picks things up in the few hours we spend playing with friends each week.  What really scares me is when he is at the age where video games become the big thing.  The thought of him pressing that control button repeatedly and eagerly, aiming at the TV screen, yelling "I killed him!" makes me want to throw up.

I made a vow to myself that I will never ever let Niall play anything where the goal is to shoot or blow people up, but I am about 99% sure he will find it at someone else's house.  It's so horrifying to me that these innocent children are being not just allowed, but encouraged to lose the very thing that makes childhood so precious.

My heart aches for those families in Connecticut and all I can do is think "What if that was my kid?"  I wouldn't be able to go on, and I don't know how they will.  In times like these, we are forced to find the good since we can't find the reason.  And so the only thing I can come up with is this:

If an angel came to me while I was pregnant and said "You can choose-- your son will die at 6 years old after a short, but completely fulfilled life of joy, beauty, adventure, laughter, love, fun and play.... or he can live a long life-- but the catch is, you will have to keep him locked in your house; shield him from all evil, all potentially dangerous situations; no school, no movie theaters, no shopping at the mall, no airplanes, no cars, no bikes, no restaurants, no playing at a friend's house.  Just a simple life sheltered from the world, in the care and containment of his home", I would reluctantly and heavy-heartedly choose the former, because I know that is what my child would want.  And just because some people in this world want to steal the innocence and joy from a child's heart, doesn't mean we should give that to them.  So I will continue to show my kids the love and joy and laughter and adventure that make up this thing called "childhood."  And remember that, mostly, life is good.
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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Enjoying the Moment

It's been so long, I don't even know where I left off.  We've been sick, celebrated birthdays and holidays, lost our heat, had to buy a new furnace, entertained company, transitioned Brendan from the pack n play in the guest room to the crib in Niall's room, caught up on lost sleep due to previously mentioned event... and most recently, Niall has turned into a human-o-saurus.

As in, he acts like a dinosaur in front of people we don't know and makes me look like a really bad mom.

Grocery stores, cross-walks, parks, church... anywhere you are in human contact with perfect strangers, Niall will give you the stink eye (actually, it's more like a stink face), growl at you and possibly even throw in some commentary about eating you.

This is the sweet, timid, stoic Niall that I used to know:

And this is Niall now:

I never could have imagined that one day, as a mother, these would be some of the most frequent phrases that would come out of my mouth:

"You can't tell people you're going to eat them!  They don't know that you're a carnivore!"
"Stop growling at that lady-- you don't even know her!"
"You can be a brachiosaurus, but not a T-rex... Fine, a stegosaurus-- no more negotiating!"

One thing that I have learned, though, in the last couple of years is that sometimes, you just have to laugh.  I often get so wrapped up in making sure I'm doing the best job as a mother and hoping that other people aren't going to judge me based on my kid's strange behavior that I forget to sit back and revel in the fact that I have my own free personal entertainment right in front of me 24 hours a day. 

Some of the stuff that he says and does just can't be made up, even by the funniest and most creative comedians out there.  Kids are pretty awesome like that.

The other day, I was about to get on his case again when he started tornado-ing through the house squawking like a dying bird (obviously a taradactyl, duh)... Right when I was about to yell out "No squawking!! I'm trying to make dinner!", it was like time stopped for a second and I had this freeze frame of his crazed lunatic face coming at me full speed (with the intention of completely taking me out, naturally). 

It took a second, but I realized that I sometimes need to just snap out of it and loosen up a little.  I finally let my shoulders relax and unsquinched all the little muscles in my face, and my demeanor just kind of changed.  Despite being tired and busy and constantly running late, I suddenly realized how hilarious it was, and how important it was to enjoy this little moment (as weird of a moment as it was).  Deep down, I knew that if it was someone else's kid, I would be doubled over on the floor uncontrollably laughing.  And so I did.  And then I joined him :)

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