Simple Traditions that Define the Holidays

I have been sending out Christmas cards since my 20s. It’s something we did growing up and it is one of those traditions I am loathe to abandon. Even before I knew that you were supposed to send “Thank You” cards to the sweet little grandmothers who handed me $20 after church just because I was graduating from high school, I knew that sending Christmas cards was polite.

Back home, we taped up the cards we received from friends and family, around the extra-wide door frame leading from our dining room to our living room. And each year, it was filled, inch-to-inch, with cards–most proclaiming some religious sentiment (“Hosana In The Highest! For Unto You A Child Is Born!”) based on the fact that nearly all of our family and most of our close family friends’ families, were church-based. But, the cards were wonders of glitter and poetry and they stuck in my memories almost even more than any gifts I received under the tree.

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Who you gonna call?

halloween I didn’t do anything overtly mean when I was a kid, but like all kids, I did my share of tricks. One of our perennial favorites was knocking on people’s doors and then running away. I don’t know what was so funny about it, but we sure laughed our butts off when the homeowner would come look outside and get mad.

Last night, we had just finished dinner, I had cleaned up the dishes and I had just gotten the boys rounded up and naked for bathtime, when I looked out our front window and saw someone on the front porch. It was an adult woman with blonde hair. My first thought was that it was my adopted mom. She frequently travels back and forth through Atlanta without bothering to stop by, and I figured she might be coming through and leaving something for the boys. But, the vehicle at the top of the driveway was a red SUV, which I know she doesn’t have.

I sort of hovered out of sight to see what this person was doing on my front porch and then watched as she rang the doorbell and then took off running. She hopped in her car and took off.

I was like, “What the hell?”

After telling the naked boys to sit tight, I went down and opened the door to find a trick or treat bucket of goodies on the front porch.

Apparently, we’d been “Ghosted.” This was our first experience with it, but if you have older kids then you’re probably ahead of me. Basically, it’s a combination of a Blog Meme, A Random Act of Kindness, and a childhood prank, all rolled into one.

What you get when you’re ghosted:

  • A paper picture of a Ghost. You can print it off the Internet here
  • Some Halloween candy, in a trick or treat bucket, or any other kind of container; it’s your choice
  • A poem thingy and instructions for carrying on with the “Ghosting”

The rules are as follows:

  • You have to post, somewhere on your house, the printed Ghost. This supposedly keeps other “Ghosts” away from your home (and I suspect it keeps others from Ghosting you again).
  • You have to give the same “Ghosting” to two others that you know
  • You are supposed to sneak up to their house and carry out the ghosting without being seen

It’s pretty simple, and apparently pretty exciting since MLI told everyone he saw this morning about it.

But I’m wondering, how is someone with small children supposed to pull this off? I mean, it’s impossible to quickly run from someone’s house, get the kids strapped back into the car and drive off without being seen. Which I suppose, is exactly why the person I saw, was an adult doing this without her kids! HA!

I wanna make, a memory…

Every now and then, you do something that’s not only good for familial relationships, but which is also cathartic. It’s cathartic like the way watching Augustus Gloop glutton his way up the chocolate tube makes you feel better about the time you spend in the gym. It’s cathartic in how watching a nose picker in the car beside you come up with a nugget only to find that he/she is out of hankies, makes you feel better about yourself.

That’s what the yearly familial trek to the punkin patch is for me.

We didn’t really have family traditions around the holidays growing up. Oh we had a “fairly close to Christmas eve” family get-together, but to my knowledge, we didn’t go get pumpkins; we didn’t go cut a Christmas tree; and we certainly didn’t decorate for Halloween.

I like traditions. To me, they are the best kinds of memories (not that I really have much of a basis for this belief). So, I try to decorate a bit for the holidays, and I take the family out to a local tree farm and I hack down a tree with an old fashioned handsaw, and each year we go to “Berry Patch Farms” here in the burbs and we pick out pumpkins–overpriced pumpkins to be exact.

Sunday morning (yes, we skipped church…get over it!) MLE woke up at 6 a.m. I heard him because I was sleeping on the couch after having woken up at 1 a.m. with back and leg spasms and having gone downstairs so as to not wake up CareerMom. After the usual Saturday morning routine, we all piled into the car and arrived onsite at the punkin patch when it opened at 10 a.m.

They have a nice setup there. There are a few choice farm animals for the kids to fawn over. They have face painting and a little swing play area. Then, you take a hayride over to the punkin patch where you trek across 50 yards of leftover punkins–still on the vine in many cases– to a main area where the majority of the big ones are gathered.

And then, the pictures commence!

Pumpkin patch 4 pumpkins patch 1 Pumpkin patch 3 Pumpkin patch 2

Along with a dozen or so other parents, for nigh on 30 minutes we cajoled, we bribed, we even occasionally threatened our children to do something cute (or else!) just so we could get that one picture…that one memory to stick away in a book somewhere, or maybe to e-mail to all our friends.

But we got a few and then we let the boys pick out a couple of pumpkins to take home. We all loaded back onto the hayride and it was then that I noticed we were the only ones actually buying pumpkins. It seems everyone else just came for the pics, and that made me kinda sad.

Isn’t part of the fun, taking a pumpkin home with you? Does the kid care that you brought them to the punkin patch and just took pictures of them and let them feed the goat some leaves you stripped from a nearby tree? Is that a good memory? I dunno.

The carthartic part, for me, was watching all of the other parents with their kids. And so many of them seem to be going through the same things we are with ours–the defiance, the pulling away when you want them to do something, the annoying whines–it was all there on display. It made me realize that we’re not the only ones sighing on a regular basis, or praying for just one quiet meal at the dinner table. It was a good moment. Kind of like when you blog about something and a bunch of other people respond in kind.

So we did it and I have the pictures to prove it, good or otherwise. Now, if the weather would just cooperate and drop about 15 degrees, it’d be pretty darn perfect!

Take a 1/2 cup of milk and put it in the pureed punkin’…

BPumpking Patch Goodness!eing the third weekend in fall, and the first weekend of the season that wasn’t mired in the upper 80s temps with humidity nearing triple digits, we decided that it was time to hit the pumpkin patches in search of the perfect picture, oh and yeah, a pumpkin or two also.

We normally do a local pumpkin patch called “Berry Patch Farms.” There, you can ride the wagon full of hay around to the pumpkin patch and let your little ones romp on hundreds of pumpkins, while simultaneously trying to take a picture of your precious little one that doesn’t include a horde of strangers. Afterwards, you can toss your “punkins” back on the wagon and ride it around to the cash register-cum-refreshment stand and wait in line for fifteen minutes while your spouse (partner?) entertains the children with some barnyard animals and a small swing set.

Wow! With that kind of description, I can’t imagine why anyone would NOT want to do it. But I digress. It’s really fun, especially when it’s not hot. But we wanted to do something different this year, so we decided to hit another pumpkin patch that also serves as a functional dairy. The thinking here was that we could maximize our “out of the house” time by combining multiple fun things into one long fun thing.

Per the new Pumpkin patches’ Web site, you can get lost in a giant cornfield maze, tour the dairy processing plant, let your little ones jump on bouncy things, and get your punkins…all in one place!

WOW! Score!

After our little one took his nap (and we adults hit the gym) we packed up and went to the pumpkin patch, arriving about thirty minutes after they opened and before most of the crowds had shown up. With so many things to do (and more! There were ponies!), we carefully scripted our activities to maximize fun, while minimizing any screaming that might ensue due to an overly-tired child.

Right off, our oldest wanted to ride the ponies, so we let him. Then we steered him over towards the bouncy things, where he bounced for about one minute before succumbing to a crying fit because there were other children on the jumpy thing too. This from a child in daycare who is used to having to share! After attempting to get him to jump some more (because “Dammit! I drove all the way over here and WE ARE GOING TO HAVE FUN!”), which induced a crying fit, which led me to, “Fine we’re going home!”, which led to “Noooooooo,” which led to me taking him back to the car and spanking him and letting him sit and think about how nice it is of mommy and daddy to take him to fun places and how selfish it is of him to not want to share…things finally calmed down and we made our way over to the dairy tour.

Now some of you might think my response a bit harsh, but what you don’t know is that this is about the 4th time we’ve made a special trip somewhere for our son, only to have him pitch some fit because he’s too shy to play with the other kids or just too jealous to share the playground. So, walk a mile in my shoes and THEN pass judgment!

To call this new place either a Dairy or a tour might be generous since the dairy that we saw was a crudely rigged mock-up of a real dairy, only using old rusted equipment. However, the kids did get to see a real live cow (wow!) get milked using those suctiony things and they got to get some fresh chocolate milk made there at the dairy. And anyway, does a kid know the difference between a real bottling conveyor belt and a fake one? I doubt it.

All in all, we were there for nearly three hours. We didn’t get any good punkin patch pictures because A) the patch sucked. It was basically just a bunch of punkins all neatly lined up on the grass B) because by then the baby was tired and fretful and poopy and Career-mom took him to the car to change him; C) because my oldest was more interested in the tractor than any punkins, and D) it was getting HOT!

Basically, let’s just call this one more memory that didn’t quite go as planned and if you had it to do all over again, you’d do it differently. Which seems to be the norm rather than the deviation when you have children. One of these days I’ll stop deluding myself that any trip with the family anywhere is going to be even remotely close to what I have built up in my head. Only, I hope I never become that jaded, because overall we did have fun…it just took a while.