Eternal Father, outside of time, You know how the invention of the clock complicated our world. Not content with that, we not only invented Daylight Saving Time, but “spring forward” in March, re-darkening hopeful Midwest mornings to December gloom. OMG, I agreed with babies brought to church yesterday. While some changes are necessary, this isn’t one of them.
Tag Archives: Children
Today, we ponder the crucial issue of socks.
Socks? How can socks rank with global warming, European peace and Lady Gaga’s hair?
I, too, underrated these essentials that keep our world from getting cold feet.
Unfortunately, 3,005 unmatched socks inhabit my laundry room. A Sunday sock. A striped soccer sock that fit my son three decades ago. A romantic sock printed with a red rose. Along with hundreds of others, these languish, lonely and unloved.
Maybe not so lonely. They multiply faster than rabbits. However, my socks never produce identical twins. Sigh.
My husband’s socks are paired by weave, wear and color (brown in the top drawer, black in the second, folded, with toes facing the same direction, thank you very much). While I relegate gift socks to stocking-stuffer status, Hubby considers them special. For his birthday, I gave him Smartwool® bicycle socks, guaranteed not only to prevent blisters, but to increase mileage and double IQs.
Not only do smart cyclists (and their smart spouses) purchase specialty socks, but runners, golfers, snowboarders and fishermen swear by them. Manufacturers speak in scientific sock terms like “moisture and thermal management” and “dissipation of friction.” One hockey company sells “sanitary socks” — as if all others are unsanitary? Still, motorcycle riders from one survey should buy them. The riders admitted to wearing electric socks three winters straight without washing them.
Even corporate types struggle to maintain nice socks. One CEO, attending a Japanese tea ceremony, politely removed his shoes. His toes erupted from a shabby sock like pimples. His new mission: to sell “sockscriptions,” mailing periodic boxes of socks so businessmen won’t experience similar trauma.
Fine socks are available for every occasion. Silk monkey socks for posh trips to the zoo. Glittery sushi socks for Japanese restaurants. Mint Chocolate Chip socks for Ben & Jerry’s grand openings. I can buy cute socks for my daughter’s dog, Rufus, that coordinate with designer coats, collars and chew toys.
Who am I kidding?
I’ll continue to purchase bunch-in-a-bag socks that preserve my circulation and budget. And if I don’t deserve fancy socks with matching chew toys, darned (pun intended) if Rufus does, either.
Finally, I bless your socks on, because with March’s unpredictable temperatures, I certainly will not bless them off.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How many singleton socks live in your laundry room?
The Best Cabin Fever Cure
Suffering from cabin fever?
I recommend a tried-and-true cure that works for all ages: baking bread.
Years ago, I was pregnant, diapering, potty-training, or all the above, laboring under a blizzard of “Mo-o-m-myyyyy!”s.
After coloring 147 Smurfs, we needed a different creative experience.
Baking bread worked.
My preschoolers stared in wonder at yeast particles. When we gave them a warm bath, I explained, they blew up tiny balloons that made the bread rise. (Hey, you play Mr. Wizard your way, and I’ll do it mine.) Everyone took turns measuring flour and salt. With luck, we didn’t reverse the quantities.
I needed to knead bread. The rocking rhythm soothed my soul. The children clobbered dough instead of each other.
We made the best bread on the planet — if we let it rise. Like a drying sidewalk, a blob of dough begs for kids’ fingerprints. So, the bowl rested on top of the refrigerator.
When the dough finally rose, we punched it down together. The final step: shaping loaves and twisty rolls. Only culinary experts age six and under can create these little masterpieces.
The baby swallowed the little lump of dough I gave him. The sisters rolled and cut dough into strips with plastic knives. They added cups of flour when Mom wasn’t looking. It whitened the dough, an improvement since one chef decided the floor made a great cooking space. I helped them braid segments and persuaded them to allow each magnum opus to rise again.
Scraping dough off kids, I began to reclaim the environment. One child had showered us with a bag of flour. Another washed dishes to “help.” After rocking them to sleep, I scraped goo off walls and ceiling. Redid the “clean” dishes and mopped. Could I finish a cup of tea before little voices called, “Is it time to bake twisty rolls yet?”
I opened the oven 14 times so they could supervise! But who cared? Heavenly fragrance swirled around us like warm love. Gray, alien lumps miraculously baked into little golden braids. Each kid slathered warm twisties with butter and devoured them while watching Mr. Rogers.
Half a big loaf of bread disappeared too.
Everybody felt lots better.
Decades later, half a loaf might cure cabin fever too.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your cure for cabin fever?
Classic Post: Booting Up
This post first appeared on January 3, 2018.
“Don’t go outdoors without your boots!”
These winter words echo across decades.
Actually, this child liked clumping boots. Despite Mom’s belief I would catch 19 diseases, their podiatric force field protected me when stomping ice-covered gutters.
Unfortunately for my parents, their children’s feet grew hourly. While my sister acceded to wearing my hand-me-downs, I drew the line at my brother’s galoshes. However, recycled boots weren’t always an option because we had honed losing winter wear to a fine art.
The positive side: Lack of sufficient winter garb kept us inside warm classrooms at recess. While friends shivered outdoors, I read favorite books.
Some stories featured boots. In Little Women, Jo March’s boots helped her play swashbuckling heroes and villains in homegrown dramas. In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, a traveling cobbler designed Almanzo Wilder’s first manly pair. Puss in Boots never would have brought his master fame, fortune and a princess if he hadn’t strutted about in that all-powerful footwear.
Still, most boots seemed mundane until go-go boots invaded the fifth grade fashion scene. My ignorant mother refused to buy me white boots amid the muddy slop season.
I whined. I pined. I promised I wouldn’t lose them, not even one.
She wouldn’t budge. So, I languished without the go-go boots every girl owned except me — and Becky Andrews, who wore thigh-high black boots like Nancy Sinatra’s when she sang “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.”
Ten years later, I wore a similar pair that stretched my height well past six feet.
But snow time with my toddlers required mommy boots. My little ones readily wore garage sale Strawberry Shortcake and Ninja Turtles boots, even with PJs. They, too, waded in yucky gutters, despite my warnings.
Years later, they cornered me in a boot discourse similar to my go-go debate with Mom decades before. My children wanted me to spend a gazillion dollars on short-topped “boots” designed to frostbite toes.
When I refused, they left a row of sensible boots to an undisturbed existence in the closet — until I discovered my son’s worked well when I shoveled sidewalks.
I couldn’t wear the tall, black leather boots (my size!) I’d found on sale for five bucks.
I still wear them. I just leave them home when it rains. Or sleets. Or snows. Or. …
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Fess up. Do you wear your boots during yucky weather?
January: Love It? Hate It?
Some welcomed 2023 with the same enthusiasm as author Jerry Spinelli: “I love beginnings. If I were in charge of calendars, every day would be January 1.”
Contrariwise, author Roald Dahl would “remove January from the calendar altogether and have an extra July instead.”
Thankfully, neither works for a calendar company. But their clash illustrates typical debate.
My highly scientific poll, based on Walmart eavesdropping, suggests that in January, most shoppers wilt like post-Christmas poinsettias.
Snow-lovers gripe because The Weather Channel sent only flurries. Snow-haters grouse because blizzards lurk behind every cloud. Kids hate January because they return to school. Babies, imprisoned in snowsuits Grandma gave for Christmas, raise loud protests.
Besides, everyone’s broke.
We’re all on diets.
Many people really hate January.
My mother, a pastor’s wife, loved it. Her Christmas responsibilities ranged from distributing food baskets to ensuring no shepherd in her pageant picked his nose. Plus, we children assumed Mom would make Christmas dreams come true … without money.
Though she loved Jesus supremely, Mom thanked Him when His birthday party was done.
I, too, savor January’s serenity. Time for unhurried worship of the Christ who dared enter our crazy world. A hot-soup-homemade-bread aura helps us settle down and settle in to savor good books. For Hoosier authors, January’s excellent writing weather. (How do unlucky novelists in the Bahamas finish anything?)
Mom and I have passed January preferences to my Michigan grandson. He, however, loves shrieking forays down the highest sledding hills.
My husband and other sports fans welcome January because they wallow in basketball. Mourn losses. Decimate January peace with insane celebrations.
January also gave the world distinguished citizens: Martin Luther King, Benjamin Franklin and Joan of Arc. Betty White, James Earl Jones, Elvis and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Hopefully, their birthday presents weren’t wrapped in leftover Christmas paper.
If this January sends snow, I’ll welcome snowflake kisses. Swish snow angels. Sled with my grandson, shrieking all the way down, “Jesus … he-e-e-elp!”
Then do it again.
Sorry, Roald Dahl. I’ll never vote these days off the calendar.
John Steinbeck reminds us: “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?”
Though, Charles Spurgeon offers even better advice: “Let January open with joy in the Lord.”
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Why do you like or dislike January?
OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: How About an Energy Transfer?
O Lord, what a wonderful way to celebrate the New Year with these little guys, dancing to fun music, blowing squawky noise makers and bopping lighted balloons! OMG, thank You, too, that their parents counted down the “final” seconds of 2022 at 8 p.m. so the boys — and we — could go to bed.
Of Blessed Barbarians and Baby Jesus
Years ago, my husband and I prepared for a barbarian invasion.
We hid valuables. We said prayers. We kept watch, knowing they’d sweep away our well-ordered lives.
We charged outside … and retrieved the world’s most beloved barbarians, our 2-year-old granddaughter and 10-month-old grandson, from car seats.
Baby immediately yanked our books from shelves. When we interrupted, he reacted with a type A personality’s outrage.
His sister flipped light switches. “On! Off!” The little blonde goddess obviously controlled the universe.
Time to civilize barbarians — a little. We played with blocks, love-worn stuffed animals and an ancient Fisher-Price parking garage our children once enjoyed.
The grandchildren zoomed cars down the ramp, cheering wipeouts. The scene reminded me of Christmas parking lots. And (shiver!) future 16th birthdays.
I offered a Nativity set with soft finger puppets. Baby happily crawled around with Wise Men in his mouth. Retrieving bowls from my cabinets, his sister made imaginary applesauce for the Nativity crew.
Peace on earth reigned.
Too soon, they had to leave. Hubby and I helped their parents search for bag, bottles, coats.
We wanted to send the Nativity set home with them, an early Christmas present. Hopefully, gnawing the Wise Men would keep Baby quiet during the trip. Mary and Joseph bore evidence Little Girl had found real applesauce for their dinner party. We corralled animals, angels and shepherds.
Where was Baby Jesus?
Hubby sifted through the toy box again. I scanned refrigerator shelves, hoping Little Girl hadn’t decided Jesus needed air-conditioning.
“Is Jesus in the parking garage?” I yelled to Hubby.
Not a question I’d ever expected to ask during my lifetime.
Shaking my head as I raised the toilet lid, I hoped He wouldn’t be floating in a not-so-sanitary Sea of Galilee. No, but new anxiety seized me. Had someone flushed Him?
“I’ll find Jesus and mail Him,” I promised.
But I’d wanted our grandchildren to get to know Him during Christmas.
I dove under furniture again and discovered Baby Jesus behind the stereo.
“How did He end up there?” Our daughter dusted Him off.
I shrugged. “Who knows? Jesus sometimes turns up in the oddest places.”
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Where did Jesus show up during your Christmas season?
Classic Post: Christmas Tree Chronicles
This post first appeared on December 2, 2020.
Do you remember that first Christmas tree you, as an adult, hauled home?
Maybe you and your beloved cut a fragrant evergreen at a Christmas tree farm amid silvery snowfall.
Or you procured a Charlie Brown escapee or spent precious dollars on a Salvation Army find.
I wish we, as newlyweds, had considered those alternatives. We’d saved $50 for Christmas. Total. We possessed no lights or ornaments. We spent our bankroll on family gifts instead.
However, neighbors offered bottom branches removed from theirs. Humming “Deck the Halls,” I accented the pine-scented boughs with little red balls.
The next year, I vowed to have a tree, though possibly decorated with popcorn strings and spray-painted macaroni — and the red balls.
My sister-in-law to the rescue: “Why didn’t you tell us you needed Christmas stuff? Mom gave us bunches.”
How I celebrated that tree in our government-subsidized apartment! We’d never go without one again — though some Decembers proved more adventurous than others.
Later, when Hubby was training day and night at a hospital, I stuffed our Christmas tree into our only car’s trunk.
Whew! Now to drag it downstairs to our basement apartment. Except, where were my keys?
With the tree. In the trunk.
Did I mention I was pregnant?
After a grand tour per city bus, I finally arrived at Hubby’s hospital. They paged him: “Dr. Phillips. Dr. Phillips. Your wife locked her keys in the car. Please report to the front desk.”
He displayed zero Christmas spirit, but he handed me his keys. After another city tour, I drove myself and the tree home.
Little did I know what Christmas tree tribulations awaited me as a parent.
The following year, Hubby and I set up the tree in our daughter’s playpen.
Why didn’t we corral her instead?
Child-raising theories then advocated free-range offspring. No dastardly playpen for our baby.
As our family expanded, Christmas ideals shrank to survival for us, the kids, and the tree. Trying to hide it from rampaging toddlers, we moved the tree to different locations each year. All in vain. Our son’s destructo gene zeroed in. I covered the tree’s lower branches with harmless ornaments, hoping he would eat those.
He climbed it.
To this day, I don’t know if our son consumed broken ornaments. He is 30-plus now, so I guess the destructo gene was linked to another granting him an iron stomach.
This year, our empty-nest tree mostly fears my smacking it with the vacuum. With no inkling of its predecessors’ sufferings, it basks in gentle serenity, glowing with lights, tinsel and memories.
Unnoticed little red balls, polished by 47 Christmases, still shine.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What Christmas-tree tale can you tell?
Has Murphy Visited Your House?
“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”
This maxim originated in 1949 with Air Force Captain Edward A. Murphy, Jr., who ran a bungled aerospace experiment. Perhaps his holiday gathering didn’t resemble a Hallmark movie’s, either.
Few do. Anyone celebrating Christmas wrestles with Murphy’s Law.
- If you’ve decorated, young children/grandchildren will un-decorate.
- If you hide medicines from them, you’ll have hidden them even better from yourself.
- If you’ve moved plants and breakables to your bedroom, they’ll remain safe — until you and your spouse rise for nocturnal bathroom visits.
- If light strings work, five minutes later, they’ll short-circuit your entire block’s electrical grid. Repairmen will come “after the holidays.”
Murphy’s Law also wreaks havoc with holiday feasts. Along with meeting fat-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and pescatarian (fish only) requirements as well as free-range partridges that have roosted in pear trees, hosts face numerous other challenges.
- If everyone shares dinner responsibilities, COVID-19, flu, road construction, blizzards and/or meteorite showers will necessitate a host’s wild dash for a turkey that can thaw and cook in 15 minutes.
- If you make real giblet gravy, older diners recall Grandma’s tasted better. Younger ones request gravy-in-a-jar.
- If you overload grandchildren with sugar, parents will disappear for a week.
Then, there is the weather.
- If half your family votes for snowmen, and the other half for clear roads, you’ll receive a compromise politely called wintry mix. Less politely: slop.
- If eight grandsons visit, it will slop all day. Every day.
Murphy’s Law loves to tinker with generational differences.
- If the eight grandsons play Monopoly, keep ice bags handy.
- If you own five identical, yellow toy cars from Cheerios® boxes, all your future NASCAR drivers will claim the same one.
- Mary, Jesus’ mother, might have welcomed a little drummer boy, but most moms of infants — and cranky, old adults — don’t.
- Though … if grandparents turn up “Jeopardy!” volume to seismic levels, they still insist children are too loud.
- If no one brings up politics or COVID, the don’t let-your-kids-tell-my-kids-there-isn’t-a-Santa discussion keeps communication flowing.
With Murphy’s Law on the loose, grinches could present an excellent case to ban holiday get-togethers.
But grinches don’t understand that Family Law trumps Murphy’s. It declares love is worth risks. Worth gravy, Santa and Cheerios® car clashes. Worth learning to pronounce “pescatarian.”
After Christmas 2020, who would have it any other way?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How does Murphy’s Law affect your Christmas?
If My Christmas Tree Could Talk
Merry Christmas! I’m the tree chosen by the Phillipses. I’m decorated and lookin’ good, if I do say so myself.
Though, I wasn’t always so full of holiday cheer. You wouldn’t be, either, if you’d hung around Lowe’s while everyone critiqued your figure and bald spots.
Still, we trees looked forward to seeing children — despite sibling arguments. Those mostly ended with the famous parental line, “We’re getting this tree because I said so.” Plus, hot chocolate bribes, which parents wanted anyway to medicate away seasonal frustrations.
While I missed kids when these seniors decorated me, I’d heard horror stories about toddlers scaling tree trunks. However, older people own nosy cats and dogs that would over-hydrate me. Or would these seemingly normal Midwesterners allow a pet boa constrictor to wind around my branches?
Like I said, I’d heard stories. But saw no animals, not even goldfish.
I like life by their picture window. None of my fellow fauna outside are bedecked with colorful lights and ornaments of every size, shape and hue like me. I love being a Christmas tree — even if the lady piles too much tinsel in the wrong places. She doesn’t like looking fat around the bottom. Why should I?
My owners bring coffee, tea and Bibles. Together, we worship our Creator, who gave Himself at Christmas. They pray for their family — 17 strong, who’ll arrive soon.
I can’t wait to see the grandkids’ shining eyes.
Their parents will breathe in my fragrance and memories. A miniature needlepoint mailbox holds a note in their great-grandmother’s handwriting. The figure wearing a serape was brought back from Spain. A one-of-a-kind collection of ornaments made of plastic lids, crayon-scribbled Nativity scenes and spray-painted macaroni reminds these grown-ups they can be children today.
If they spoke conifer, they could ask me what’s inside those packages. We Christmas trees eavesdrop, you know. We also could tattle on who’s shaking gifts, but why spoil the fun?
It’s a great gig. I work only a few weeks of the year. Afterward, I’ll stay in the garden, covered with food for hungry critters.
A short life. But if I live and give more joy in a few weeks than some people do in a lifetime — who’s complaining?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: If your tree could talk, what would it say?