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Monthly Mantra: Everything Merry

One of my favorite Christmas movies is Elf. In one of the first scenes, Will Ferrell and the other elves recite the Code of Elves:

  1. Treat every day like Christmas.
  2. There’s room for everyone on the Nice List.
  3. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

Last year, I thought a lot about Rule # 1. We spent Christmas Day at my sister’s house in Philly, and I noticed this magical thing about Christmas. It doesn’t work like this for everyone; I don’t even know if it worked this way for me when I was a kid! But now that I’m a grown-up with decent self-regulation skills and kids of my own – I have amazing reserves of patience, kindness, and generosity on Christmas Day.

I don’t get into arguments. Things that usually drive me crazy don’t impact me the way they would on a regular Tuesday. I am kinder than necessary. If I have to engage in some sort of conflict, I do it in a way that doesn’t disrupt the merry.

And it is lovely.

I know that a lot of it is a superpower related to my kids. I absolutely love Christmas, and so my priority on Christmas Day is for my kids to have a magical day. It doesn’t mean I excuse unacceptable behaviors or anything like that – but I am my best, most patient motherly self, with the kids and with everyone else, and that allows me to get through the day with a merry disposition all day long.

Every day can’t be Christmas. I do sometimes wish it could be Christmas all year long, but I know that if it was, the magic of the day would dissipate. However – isn’t it possible to take a little bit of that Elf rule – treat every day like Christmas – and spread it out over December 2020 like magical holiday fairy dust?  

I think it might be.

This holiday season is weird and challenging. Everything is different. And yet – this year, for us, was always going to be a little different. Last year, Tamara and I promised ourselves that this would be our first Christmas at home in our own house. And so, it is – but I also imagined this year including lots of precious time with extended family, and I’m afraid that won’t be able to happen. 

This year, I need the holidays and the spirit that comes with it all more than ever. I’m leaning in hard to Christmas joy. There are holiday things that I never do that we’re trying out this year, including outside lights and holiday cards. Will we do them again next year? No idea. But this year, I am craving the novelty of new projects and the joys that come with a merrily decorated home. 

My mantra for December 2020 is: everything merry. Or, in other words, be a freaking crazy holiday elf and treat every day like Christmas. May this mantra bring me endless patience and unbridled joy for every day of the last month of this crazy year.

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FRIENDS + Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving was really different, and that’s okay.

To be honest, Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday. I have wonderful memories of going to see the Thanksgiving Day parade with my dad and my siblings, and I always love spending time with extended family. But everything else is kind of meh. The food’s not my fave – I was a vegetarian for a long time, and even many of the sides, while delicious, are not my ideals. I also struggle a lot with my relationship with food, which has made the grandiose Thanksgiving meal complicated for me to enjoy ever since childhood.

Our little family of four was just us for Thanksgiving this year. Tamara cooked amazing food and we ate pie and it was lovely. We went for a long hike with the boys in the morning and we (sort of) watched the parade while peeling apples. But do you know what I really wished I could do for Thanksgiving this year?

Lay on the couch All Day Long with a mouthful of pie, watching the Thanksgiving episodes of Friends.

There will never be enough written about the Thanksgiving episodes of Friends. I know, from my middle school students, that the show has been making a comeback. But the kids today will never know the anticipation and the bliss of waiting for the evening Thanksgiving episode of Friends to come on. My best friend Christy and I used to call each other during the commercials to discuss what had happened so far and it was amazing. The show aired on Thursday evenings, so it was kismet that their Thanksgiving episodes ended up being some of the highlights of their ten-season-long series.

I thought about ranking the episodes, but that’s been done. Instead, here are my fave episodes, a few favorite lines, and a memory:

My favorites of all the Thanksgiving episodes:

“The One With The Football” – this episode is amazing. For me, it’s sort of Peak Funniness of Friends – from Season 3. The Geller cup is amazing, all of the subplots are hilarious, and I think this episode was probably one I watched at the peak of my obsession with the show.

“The One With The Rumor” – this might be the episode of Friends I quote the most. SO MANY GOOD THANKSGIVING QUOTES. If you ask for the sweet potatoes without saying  “YAMS!” in imitation of guest star Brad Pitt, then you’re not really doing Thanksgiving.

“The One With Chandler in a Box” – amazing episode. My all-time favorite line from the show is in this episode. The other characters are giving Monica a hard time for having a crush on her ex-boyfriend’s son, and she delivers the ultimate comeback, pointing at each person as she names one of their problematic romantic decisions: “Judge all you want, but: married a lesbian, left a man at the altar, fell in love with a gay ice dancer, threw a girl’s wooden leg in a fire, lives in a box!”

My favorite lines from the Thanksgiving episodes of Friends, which I repeat as often as possible on the holiday: 

“These are my Thanksgiving pants!”

Whats not to like? Custard, good. Jam, good. Meat, good!”

“Potatoes are ruined, potatoes are ruined, potatoes are ruined!”

“Got the keys?”

“Don’t you put words in people’s mouths, you put turkey in people’s mouths!”

“My two greatest enemies: Rachel Green and complex carbohydrates.”

“Yams!”

A sweet Friends episode Thanksgiving moment:

We spent Thanksgiving 2016 in Las Vegas. It was my sister, who was living and teaching out there for a semester; my mom, who flew out with us; and me, Tamara, and four-month-old Edgar.

Edgar was little enough that we actually could watch the Thanksgiving episodes of Friends all day long, so we had it on in the background throughout the day. I think we actually had found some sort of Netflix playlist that played them all in order.

It was after dinner, and Edgar was snuggled on my lap while we all watched the Season 10 Thanksgiving episode, “The One With The Late Thanksgiving.” I had completely forgotten that this episode ended with Monica and Chandler getting a call from the adoption agency, letting them know that they were getting a baby.

It had been a long, hard wait for Baby Edgar, and I was an overtired new mom snuggled with her baby boy – a picture I hadn’t thought was possible a year earlier. I cried tears of joy and hugged Edgar and Tamara and was so incredibly grateful. I also got tweaks, thinking of myself at 19, watching that same episode at my parents’ home in Staten Island, with no freaking idea how much life would changed in the next 13 years.

Oh, Friends – I love you forever.

Friends' Thanksgiving episodes headed to movie theaters across the country  - ABC News

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5 Things I’m Grateful For (November 2020)

Such a great month to be grateful.

  1. A week at a beach house in North Carolina with family. So great to spend time on the beach, to be with extended family, and (on rainy days) just to be in a house that is not OUR house. The boys got to play with their cousins, which was lovely, especially for Extrovert Jo Jo; Edgar has been enrolled in an outdoor nature pre-school, but Jonas hasn’t had time playing with anyone but his big brother for a long time. Also, so glad we were able to do this now; with the COVID numbers going up, I’m not sure we’ll be able to travel over the course of the winter. So grateful for our healthy and loving extended fam.
  2. The excitement of the holidays. I always get really excited to make Christmas special for the boys. This year, with things being really different – no trip to see the Rockefeller Center tree, no social gatherings – I’ve been trying to think creatively about how to make this time special for our family. We actually might hang outside Christmas lights this year, which is something I’ve never wanted to bother with previously. I’m sure there will be lots of moments of sadness this season about missing out on time with family. So any excuse for a little extra joy for me or the little ones is well worth it.
  3. Google Meet story time with Nana. We’ve been doing Google Meets with my mom so that she can read books to the boys. I usually set them up with a snack and she reads some of their faves – A Day At The Fire Station, Froggy Learns To Swim – and some new ones, too.
  4. Three good books – Nothing Can Hurt You by Nicola Maye Goldberg, The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy and When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole. All definitely page turners!
  5. A long weekend for the Thanksgiving holiday. I’m happy to have a day with our family of four, to put up our Christmas tree, to decorate and be merry – but also? I’m so pumped to just have four days in a row when I can just BE and don’t need to multi-task constantly.

Happy Thanksgiving to all! So grateful for all my blessings, tiny and tremendous, this year.

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books + reading

Jonas’s Faves (Best Books for a 2-Year-Old)

I started writing posts about Edgar’s favorite books when he was about six months old. I decided to do so as a resource for other moms, and also as a memory keeper for us. I don’t have the best memory, so the blog is a really good memory holder for me. I love remembering that Edgar’s two first favorite books were The Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin and Five Little Pumpkins. Because, really, what was the deal with pumpkins? It was February when he started getting into them – MONTHS from Halloween and fall festivities.

But, I digress.

stopped writing these Best Books post after Edgar was 22 months old. It wasn’t for any particular reason; I didn’t decide to stop, I just fell out of the habit of publishing those posts.

Now, I’ve decided to re-commit to writing these posts. AND HERE IS THE COOL PART: Jonas is now 2 years old. So that means I’m now picking these posts back up JUST where I left off. So someday, this blog will have a plethora of book recommendations covering from six months old to until I stop doing these posts, which may be never. YOU’RE WELCOME, PARENTS!

In all seriousness, I really believe there are enjoyable books for EVERYBODY – even those who aren’t die hard book lovers. And I get so much joy out of writing tiny reviews of the books my boys love. Here are a few that Jonas (age 2) loves currently:

Phoenix Goes To School by Michelle Finch and Phoenix Finch. This book is about a school-aged transgender girl; she explains being transgender in easy-to-understand language, and she tells the story of her first day of school. (SPOILER ALERT: she’s nervous but finds that she is accepted and befriended as herself.) It is such a sweet book, and both my boys love it.

Where Is Baby’s Valentine? and Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? by Karen Katz. To be honest – these aren’t MY favorite books. But little kids seem to adore them. They are lift-the-flap, which I hate, because often the kids who like to lift the flap aren’t the most dexterous and end up ripping the library book and costing you a fine. (TRUE STORY.)

Do Not Bring Your Dragon To The Library by Julie A. Gassman. SO CUTE. So fun.

Frosty The Snowman by Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson. Just a simple book with the lyrics to the well-known song. My boys have both seemed to love books that can be sung to them. This one has actually been a hit since Christmas.

Pouch! by David Ezra Stein. If you have a kid anywhere between 2 and 5, get this book immediately. It is adorable, features baby kangaroos, and is one of those little kid books that seems to be a hit with adults as well; every adult I know who’s read it has loooooved it.

One Love by Cedella Marley. This is a book with the lyrics (adapted) from Bob Marley’s popular song. Super simple and sweet.

Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake. I find this book hilarious; Edgar does, too. I can’t tell if Jonas totally understands why the book is funny, but he sits and listens to the entire thing. It’s not long – none of these are, since Jonas typically won’t sit still for a longer book. A hit with kids and adults.

Llama Llama Sand & Sun by Anna Dewdney. I love the Llama Llama series. I really enjoy books with a rhyming flow throughout; it’s soothing for the kids, and for me, too.

Where Is The Green Sheep? by Mem Fox. I really like Mem Fox’s books a lot. We’ve read a bunch and they have all been well-received by Edgar. Really helps if you start to get progressively more distressed and angrier as this particular book progresses, Jonas looooves that.

Happy reading from me and Jonas!

books in black wooden book shelf
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