A Belated Holiday Post/Santa Isn’t Real

Hello. How have you been?

The above picture was taken during a Christmas walk. We try to walk every day, even days like today; frigid, never-over-freezing days. Christmas walks are particularly nice, because everyone is nice on Christmas, especially to kids.

We run an interfaith household over here. Emma and the girls are Jewish; I was raised Catholic, but all I’ve kept is the guilt. This means we do many Jewish holidays and also…..Christmas.

I’m a secular Christmas celebrator: it’s very much about getting the family together, very much about presents, very much about showering love (which is sort of like every day), and very much about Christmas music and movies.

We don’t do Santa, or Elf on the Shelf, or Christ.

We also do Hanukkah, so this is what our house looks like during the holiday season:

As I said, we don’t “do” Santa, and we’ve told Helena as such. Last year (2019) during the December holiday season, Helena told us that Santa visited her school, which was where she was going to daycare at the time. We reminded her that we “don’t do Santa” in our house.

We informed her that Santa isn’t real.

You may be aghast at this, particularly if you’re a Santa fiend. I don’t know, maybe you’re aghast at all of this. That’s fine. Personally, I think Santa is a creep, and I think his little helper, the “Elf on the Shelf”, is a little creep too.

Don’t go watching my kids while they’re sleeping, monitoring their behavior, and doling out appropriate rewards.

Don’t come falling down my chimney.

We don’t tell Helena all of those opinions. We just say that “we don’t do Santa” and keep it at that.

And the “not being real” thing. We do that too. Sorry.

But I’m sure there are some of you out there thinking about your own kids, who DO believe in Santa. What happens when they run into my kid, the one who says “My Mom and Dad told me Santa isn’t real”?

Because I’m sure that’s heartbreaking, right? To lay that groundwork for your kid to believe that some jolly man watches them constantly, even while they sleep, culminating in a home invasion via chimney. He eats your cookies and leaves a bunch of gifts that YOU worked hard to buy under your tree. The lengths you have to go to in order to keep up the façade: repositioning that damn elf every day, guiding them through the cognitive dissonance that both you and Santa are responsible not only for the gifts, but for gauging the appropriateness of their behavior.

“Hey, who’s sober and crazy enough to break out the ladder and the bells and go stomping up on the roof this year?”

And then for little Pre-K Helena to come in, always sure of her opinions, and just lay it out there: He’s NOT REAL.

I’m making it sound worse than it really is. I’m sure you can handle it at home. Also, you have a whole popular culture to back you up, so there’s that.

This past year (2020) Helena started Pre-K and is in a different school. They talk about all the December holidays and make decorations to take home for each. So she painted a Christmas tree. She made a Star of David out of popsicle sticks. She made a Kinara. We continued to talk about “not doing Santa”.

One day, before Christmas, we’re at our dining room table after I pick Helena up from school. She’s working on a drawing and talking about Santa. Santa’s a hot topic nowadays. I remind her of Santa’s lack of existence, just so we’re clear on that.

“But Dad,” she says, still working on her drawing. “My classmate told me something.”

“Oh yeah, what’s that, kiddo?”

She looks up from her drawing; looks me in the eye, and whispers, a secret thing – “Dad, Santa is REAL. My classmate told me so. He SAW him.”

I have to admit: I didn’t prepare for this. I figured, get it out of the way, tell her the truth, and be done with it. I truly, truly, did not expect her to catch us in the lie.

And then this little punk comes and ruins it for her.

It was only a matter of time before someone broke it to her, that awful, first heartbreak of childhood: your parents have been lying about Santa this whole time.

He is real.

“Kiddo, there are kids who do Santa at their house, but he’s not real, and we don’t do Santa at our house.” I use “understanding but authoritative” voice. I understand and respect these Santa-loving households, but I’m the leading authority in the house on whether or not he’s real.

I have, after all, been there.

She doesn’t really pause at all. She just continues with her drawing, and without looking up, says:

“Well Dad, I do Santa.”

You know, as a parent, I never really need to be reminded that my kid is my kid. And besides the obvious genetic markers, this one just runs away with my oddball sense of humor, intermittent moodiness, and….what’s the word……..incalcitrance?

But then sometimes, she goes ahead and shows it off anyway.

I wasn’t sure how to argue with that. Mostly because doing so would be contrary to my whole approach as a parent. Kid decided on her own that “she does Santa.” I can respect that.

So I let it go.

Hope you all had an enjoyable holiday season, whatever you do or don’t do at your house.

Until next time.

M

Pine Cones

Several months ago, Helena and I started collecting pine cones with the intention of “decorating” them later. I figured we’d slap some cheap paint on them and call it a day.

Helena earns prizes at home by doing small chores around the house. Pick-up-her-toys stuff. She picked out this set of Elmer’s Glitter Pens:

I’m not selling anything here. You can use Elmer’s products or not.

I may have to stop using them myself, and make my own glitter glue, because otherwise my new hobby will get pretty expensive.

I obviously decided to combine the glitter pens with the pine cones. Helena made one and I made one. I was pleased with the result, so I started to make more.

I’ve now made 5 glitter pine cones in two days. I’ve run out of pine cones, and also more than a few glitter pens.

I caught myself the other day in a moment of what I can only express as “pure joy,” I was so happy that I had found a thing I could do at home that was relatively cheap, offered immediate satisfaction, and helped me flex some creative muscles.

I’ve never been one for crafting. I don’t tend to look at materials and think “huh, bet you I can make something out of that.” For whatever reason, this whole pine cone thing really took off.

I’m going to coat them with something to preserve them. Then I’m likely going to make more.

I’m also going to buy Helena some replacement glitter pens, because Dad bought her a thing, turned it into a family event, and then turned it into an individual obsession.

I feel slightly ridiculous. But look at these damn things!

Have a good day!

M

Music Pairings: Great Tastes that Taste Great Together

I made a classic rock playlist. If you’re into classic rock, you may want to check it out.

A word on the term “classic rock”: How one defines classic rock is open to debate. For my playlist, I’ve included a lot of rock hits from the ’70s and the ’80s. The included artists are overwhelmingly male, and overwhelmingly white. This doesn’t mean that my definition of classic rock only includes white guys. I’ve made other playlists which are not so male, and not so white, that I’ll also be sharing here.

When I make a playlist, I tend to include one-off hits (AKA one hit wonders) or “the only song I like” by a given artist. This will help explain why some of my favorite artists are so infrequently featured on my Assorted Artists playlists. I find it impossible to choose one track by a favorite band, and I usually make separate playlists for my favorite artists, like my Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits playlist. This isn’t a hard and fast rule: Supertramp and ELO both make appearances on my Classic Rock playlist. But for either of them, you’re also getting some Redbone, Looking Glass, and King Harvest.

I put together this playlist in pairings. I’d find a song I liked, then experimented by pairing it with another song, until I found a series of pairings that stuck. They’ve stuck so well that, in some instances, I can’t hear one song without expecting the other to play next. Anything else sounds….off.

Hope you enjoy. Scroll to the bottom for a link to the full playlist.

Pairing #1: “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest + “Brandy” by Looking Glass

Pairing #2: “Baby Hold On” by Eddie Money + “I Saw the Light” by Todd Rundgren

“Baby Hold On” is an example of an artist taking what could be a really boring easy-listening schlockfest and elevating it by “Making the Right Choices.” In this case, Money adds the background vocals around the :50 second and 1:30 marks, as well as the bridge at 1:50, which turn an otherwise “whatever” track into something special.

If Todd Rundgren had played it straight, he could have cranked out easy-listening hits like this one throughout the ’70s and into the ’80s. Instead, he became a pioneer of “progressive rock”, electronic music, and a successful producer. Anyone who hears a track like “I Saw the Light” or “Hello It’s Me” and thinks these songs define Rundgren’s sound is sorely mistaken: guy has a bit of freak in him.

Pairing #3: “Evil Woman” by Electric Light Orchestra and “Take the Long Way Home” by Supertramp

I use these two tracks to close out the playlist.

Now we’ll get to what I’ll call “The Quadfecta”:

“Hold Your Head Up” by Argent + “I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You” by the Alan Parsons Project + “Couldn’t Get it Right” by Climax Blues Band + “Kiss You All Over” by Exile

You can check out the full playlist by clicking HERE. Be happy to hear what you think of it. Please, no recommendations for additions; it’s perfect as is.

M

Autumn 2020/A Thanksgiving

Hello.

Sorry to leave you on a cliffhanger after my non-stop election coverage. I trust that you know who won at this point.

Here’s a scene from our backyard on the day the election was called for Biden:

Unfiltered.

During the election, the level of posting I was doing was aligned with the level of news I was reading. Keeping up with the news, then doing a post. As someone who’s more of a long-form kind of guy, it was….exhausting.

The election made me feel super-connected to the outside world. Since my world has recently become very, very small, it was sort of a shock to the system.

My day-to-day consists of caring for two small people during the day, and then my wife when she gets home. My week-to-week is slightly larger than that. All of a sudden, I had to care about Brad Raffensperger.

We had a small Thanksgiving, just the four of us. The kids were fine with it; not a question was asked. Helena doesn’t have much to compare this year to yet. Oriana’s primary concern was seeing how many canned cranberries she could eat.

But adults live a life within context -we know what Thanksgiving is supposed to be. We’re supposed to be greeted at the door. We’ll have overpacked and will look slightly ridiculous. Dinner will feel like being fussed over; a luxury. After dinner, we’ll get in a walk, cold air in a city I still don’t know very well, except for the few blocks we do every visit. Back at the house, I’ll fall asleep on the couch. In the morning we can sleep in, as long as Emma’s folks offer to take the girls when they wake up. Any chance, really, to steal some sleep. It’ll feel like Thanksgiving.

Still, I wonder if, years from now, Helena will recall this year and think: “gee, remember that year we stayed home for Thanksgiving? That was the best!” We walked around our neighborhood, wishing our neighbors a happy thanksgiving. We baked together; we made the food we wanted. The timeline was our own. It felt like: A Thanksgiving.

These days it’s easy to feel two ways about things, and for that to be ok. I say this as someone who has previously struggled with ambivalence: I’ve been guilty of being an all-or-nothing kind of guy, in some past life.

These days I know better; if lunch time is a disaster, dinner will be good.

We’ll focus on dinner time.

A Thanksgiving (in visual form)

I’m thankful to live in Upstate New York, particularly when we get a proper autumn. This year, summer’s humidity gave way long before the snow. The leaves held on a little longer than the past few years.

This was the most beautiful tree in our area, just one neighborhood over.

It stayed about this color for a week. We passed it every day on our daily walk to the park. Toward the end, it felt like a friend.

Here’s another one from our walks.

Here’s Ori during a trip to the Empire State Plaza. It was windy.

And here’s Ori with a very familiar look on her face.

When the leaves did fall, it wasn’t all at once, but it did happen in gusts.

They came, lifted up from the trees, silent. Falling arrows turning to friendly letters.

I am thankful for Helena, who is reminding me what it was like to discover fun.

I am thankful for Oriana, who lets me watch her learn something new every day, and sometimes lets me teach her.

And I am thankful that they love each other.

I am thankful for Emma, who makes all things possible (and who I won’t share too many pictures of, lest I embarrass her).

I am thankful that we had a proper Halloween this year. Most folks left candy near their door with a sign, “Please take one,” or even better: “Take as many as you want.” One couple who we see on our evening walks left bags specially marked for the girls: One for “Sparkle Girl” (because Helena was always wearing her shimmering jacket) and one for “Ariana.” It was sweet.

She was a mouse and the rest of us were cats. Emma’s got a sick sense of humor sometimes.
First pumpkin I’ve carved in a while. It came out good!
This was the moon on Halloween night. A blue moon.

I am thankful that we are together for this.

Helena and I made a pie! It was pretty good!
This kid has really, really big hands.

Until next time. Maybe it will come sooner than this time.

M

Hairbrushing/Election Day 3

Good afternoon, everyone! My mother-in-law is up for the day and we went for a walk this morning with Oriana. It’s a beautiful day today, and the weather is expected to maintain throughout the weekend. Hope you’re able to get outside.

As I packed the girls into the car this morning, Helena pointed out that I hadn’t brushed her hair yet. She whispered to me:

“dad, what if somebody is sitting behind me and they notice my hair is messy?”

These are some of her first concerns regarding what others may think of her; her initial foray into being socialized.

I remember being a kid, eating my peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the cafeteria at school, and being obsessed with whether or not I had peanut butter on my face. I would ask my friends at the table every single day. Anyone who looked at me must have been discovering the peanut butter. They would surely laugh. They would call me “peanut butter face”. It would be awful.

I never once had peanut butter on my face. I ate my sandwiches very carefully.

I wonder why, even then, I was so anxious about what other people thought; why I believed their opinion of me would suddenly be fixed: that’s a guy who doesn’t know how to eat.

I tell Helena, whose hair isn’t very messy today: “Nobody is going to notice your hair, they have other things to think about. But I can go grab the brush really quick if you want me to do it.” She says she’s fine, she’ll be ok. We leave it at that.

I think, when I was young, I probably noticed some kids picking on somebody for having peanut butter on their face and made the assumption that this was high treason for an elementary student. I was too highly attuned, and kids are cruel for no reason.

And so, short of making kids less cruel, I offer assurances that certain things just aren’t worth worrying over. Still, the social worker in me wishes people were less cruel, and believes that this is worth working toward.

We work on what we think we can change, whether it’s ourselves or some corner of the world we decide to invest in. Sometimes we confuse the two and don’t really know: is this a me problem, or is this something that really needs to change? Often, it’s too complicated to figure out; both are right. People should be less cruel about peanut butter, and you shouldn’t give a shit if you have peanut butter on your face, or if your hair is a little messy. I write this as a person who often stares down injustice and wonders: where do my feelings end and the reality of the situation begin?

There are a lot of votes still coming in. I’ve read projections that PA will not really be that close, and that Biden will take it. I’ve also read that Georgia may tilt blue, Arizona may hold, and Nevada is looking good for Biden. We’ll see, but it will take time.

I hope you’re able to get outside today. Maybe make it a point to.

M

Later on Day 2

Hello everyone. I hope your news-tracking is going well.

It was a nice day today, hovering around 50 degrees, and sunny. Ori and I got out for a mid-morning stroll.

I picked Helena up from school and the three of us went for a walk/jog through the neighborhood. Helena wore my Uncle Sam hat.

As I write this, Michigan has been called for Biden, as has Wisconsin. By my reading of the polls and the news, Biden is also close in Georgia and PA, with plenty of votes set to come in from from really blue areas.

Arizona and Nevada are also leaning blue, with Arizona being called for Biden, depending on which network/source you listen to.

The nature of absentee and mail voting makes it so a lot of blue votes have been delayed in several states. For those hoping for an “election night blowout” and feeling disappointed, I hope you can recapture the excitement if Biden pulls way ahead as things move forward.

Next round of reports is expected for 9pm EST. See you soon.

M

Day 2

Good morning!

How’s your election anxiety? I stopped posting last night because there was nothing new to report in.

It’s a sunny day, and expected to be warmer than yesterday. The rest of the week looks very pleasant.

Arizona has been called for Biden. There are scenarios in which Biden will win, even if he loses PA, but he’d have to carry Wisconsin and Michigan. Last I heard, they were both looking good. Even Georgia is awaiting votes from around the Atlanta area and is proving to be a close race. Emma tells me she’s going to “manifest” some blue votes today, so you’re in good hands.

I dropped Helena off at school and decided to treat myself to a fancy coffee. Ori and I are going to be outside as much as we can.

Michigan officials are confident of having results by later this afternoon. Wisconsin may wait until tomorrow. PA is enjoying it’s time in the sun.

It’s closer than I would have liked. Maybe closer for you, too.

Get outside this week. Take care of yourselves.

M