Merry Whatever

Today is Christmas Eve, and I am so grateful to be celebrating with my family.

This holiday season has been lovely. I’ve had so much fun getting things ready for the boys. Tamara and I don’t go too crazy with gifts, but the boys will each open a few presents on Christmas morning, and their stockings will be filled with tiny delights. We’ll eat cinnamon rolls tomorrow morning and curl up by the Christmas tree with books and coffee.

There’s so much more I want to cultivate for our family as the boys grow, and not everything happened as I’d like it to this year. I did not achieve my goal of pondering gift ideas throughout the year so that every gift I give is thoughtful and intentional. If I am giving a gift, I’d love to buy it secondhand when possible, but that requires forethought and that’s not my strength. I also did not incorporate service into this season the way I’d like to. I did a few small things for others – toy drives, adopting a family, donations – but I’d like to do much more next year, and I’d like to incorporate the boys.

For now, I’m so grateful for this Christmas, just as it is. Merry Whatever to you and yours.

green christmas tree with string lights
Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on
family · traditions

How To Be Santa Claus – Part 1

Every December, I think a lot about Santa Claus.

My kids are still little enough that our family approach to Santa is evolving. Tamara and I talked a lot before having kids about how we would handle The Santa Claus Thing, and it raised a whole bunch of issues that I hadn’t thought about previously.

For example: Did you know that there are different ways to be Santa Claus? I only found this out a few years ago, and it was like Finding Out The Truth About Santa Part Two!

When I was a kid, I thought every family’s approach was pretty standard. There is a Santa; he’s a strong presence from birth until sometime during the school-aged years. He flies around the world magically on Christmas Eve and he delivers presents to all the “good” boys and girls. His arrival at your house is ALWAYS sometime between your bedtime and the time you wake up in the morning, even if you only sleep for four hours. You leave out a letter for him asking for a certain list of gifts for Christmas, and you leave out milk and cookies.

Pretty standard, right?  I think my family had one of the more common approaches to The Santa Claus Thing, although maybe I just think that since it’s the way I grew up. But it turns out that there are families who make different choices about how to be Santa Claus and how to treat Santa Claus in their homes.

The first time I learned about this was in college. My friend from the Midwest told me that she’d always opened her Santa gifts on Christmas Eve, and that her parents had explained to her that Santa’s task – delivering toys to every kid in the world while they were sleeping – was so challenging that some kids had to get their presents on Christmas Eve. (I am pretty sure her parents liked to sleep in on Christmas morning, and A+ to them for figuring out how to make it happen!) When she shared this, I thought it was interesting, but didn’t think much more about it.

I may have heard about other family versions of Santa over the years, but the next time I really thought about it was when Tamara and I discussed how we’d handle the Santa thing. She explained that in her house, Santa filled the stockings, and maybe brought one other present. The rest of the gifts were from her parents.

I thought that was interesting, too. In my childhood home, every thing we opened on Christmas morning was from Santa. We opened our Santa gifts on Christmas morning, and then our Santa stockings on Christmas evening when we got home from celebrating at my aunt’s house. It never occurred to me that you could decide, as a parent, which presents Santa brought and which presents your kids knew were gifts from you.

Once I started thinking about it and asking about it, I found so many different versions of Santa. My sister’s close friends have exactly one present under their tree from Santa – THE present that the kid asked for when he went to see Santa and sat on Santa’s lap. A lot of families do this, and the ONE Santa present is based on what they tell Santa in person or what they write in their letter to Santa. I talked to another parent who handles Santa this way, and says that it really helps with the gift wrapping process; if the kids know that they are going to receive several gifts from their parents, then you don’t have to be quite so undercover. You can honestly say to the kids, “Don’t go in my closet,” without raising suspicions about Santa – because they know you’re buying and wrapping certain gifts for them. Of course, the other reason to only have one gift be from Santa is so that you get CREDIT for providing joys and toys to your kids on Christmas, and that’s legit as well.

Tamara and I have sort of settled in on Santa bringing stockings and maybe one gift to our boys. We decided that last year, when Edgar was 2 and Jonas was three months old, and it was pretty funny. I didn’t really think about which presents would go into Edgar’s stocking. For me, it makes the most sense for things to go in the stocking that are small or squishy. So last year, Edgar’s presents from Santa included socks, underwear, and a toothbrush, because THAT IS WHAT FIT PROPERLY IN HIS STOCKING. This year, I thought ahead a little more, and Santa is going to be much less practical.

Edgar didn’t write a letter to Santa this year – maybe next year? – but every week he makes a semi-formal announcement letting me know what he’s getting for Christmas this year. It changes periodically, but I’m not too worried about it, because he’s three and any pile of presents is going to be well-received on Christmas morning.

I have many, many thoughts about Santa, which is why this is Part 1 in my How To Be Santa series. I wish I could tell you when Part 2 would be posted; I can promise it will either by this coming Saturday, later this month, or the end of next year. Stay tuned!

santa clause figurine
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on




balance · family · mindfulness

Messages From The Universe

Over the course of the past two weeks, our family has had two weird and costly incidents. Each incident was a silly mistake – the kind of thing an absent-minded professor might do – and they resulted in a banged-up car and a smashed cell phone. These were bummer incidents, of course, but we were able to laugh at the funny parts of the stories and not stress too much over what happened.

These two things happening in close succession did cause me to wonder about our family’s general status. Like, are we so exhausted that we’re not functioning correctly? Are we trying to do too much? Are certain kinds of activity overstimulating for all of us, to the point that we really need to focus on slowing down and being present to avoid costly damage and general life headaches?

Then today, I went to the doctor. I never, ever go to the doctor. I have sort of a phobia, but it’s not about germs or sickness. My phobia is this: I am always worried that I’ll go to the doctor and find out that there’s nothing wrong with me. Then I’ll feel foolish, like I am imagining illnesses in my head. It is DEFINITELY a souvenir of my childhood and will be dealt with in a therapy session someday, I’m sure.

But I got three bad sore throats in a row, and I haven’t had a sore throat in years. When you google “persistent sore throat,” the internet throws you a whole bunch of websites talking about throat cancer. And then two days ago, I felt a decent-sized lump in my throat. (NOT the metaphorical kind that’s related to nervousness! The internet had trouble understanding that the lump I was googling was not caused by anxiety.) The lump freaked me out, even though Tamara assured me it was probably swollen lymph nodes related to some kind of infection. So I made a doctor’s appointment, and it turns out that I actually have strep throat, and probably have had it for several weeks.

This blew my mind a little. I was relieved that I hadn’t been imagining my illness, and I was relieved that I most likely don’t have throat cancer. But I couldn’t believe that I had strep and didn’t realize it. And that thought brought me back to reflecting on our two absent-minded accidents, and to wondering: Are we doing too much right now? Are we too busy to keep ourselves healthy, or even to notice when we are not healthy?

The answer is definitely yes. The farm is getting busier, which is the main thing. And the day-to-day life tasks involved with being adults and running a family – they just seem insurmountable at times, especially with two full-time working parents.

I am constantly making resolutions about slowing down and being present. I don’t know what else I can do to actually make this life change! All I can think of are these strategies:

a) Turn it over. In recovery, we talk a lot about letting go of things that seem to be unmanageable or out of your control. I am wondering if slowing down is one of those things that I need to turn over to the magic of the universe and just stop worrying about. I mean, I resolve on at least a monthly basis (if not weekly or daily!) to slow down, and I still catch myself rushing from place to place. So I don’t think another resolution will help.

This is me, turning it over. I’d like to slow down; it seems impossible. Your move, Universe.

b) Catch up. I feel like I have some pretty good systems in place for staying organized and accomplishing tasks, but it also feels like we’re all always ten steps behind. I don’t want my whole summer to be swallowed up by adulting, but I do think summertime is a good chance for me to catch up.

If we ARE getting cosmic messages, it’s a good time for it. (For me! Tamara can’t slow down because farming is relentless.) It’s summertime baby! Slow and steady equals a relaxing and refreshing summer.

scenic view of night sky with stars
Photo by James Wheeler on


family · goals

When My Baby Starts Sleeping…

Slowly, surely, Jonas’s sleep is getting better. Last night, he only woke up once for a night feeding; it was wonderful.

There are many things that have been on the back burner for the last nine months. Things would come to my mind, and I’d consciously tell myself, You can’t deal with that until Jonas starts sleeping through the night. True or not, this has been my policy. And now that “sleeping through the night” seems within our reach, I want to set some intentions for what I want to focus on once we reach that milestone.

  1. A big improvement with my bedtime hygiene. Ugh. My bedtime hygiene is awful! Right now, I eat a candy bar, and then fall asleep with my clothes on and the light on while listening to a TV show on the iPad. My goal is:
    • Pajamas.
    • No bedtime candy!
    • Lights out.
    • No podcast or TV show playing.
  2. Create a regular schedule for exercise, meditation/mindfulness, and writing, including early morning time and evening time. These pockets of my day – early morning and evening – have mostly been lost to sleep, since the middle of the night has not been reliable for sleep.  🙂 And exercise and writing (as well as meditation) have taken a huge hit since my time became limited. I’ve done a good job of squeezing them in when I can (IMHO) but I’m going to amp up in all three areas once Jonas is sleeping through the night.
  3. Focus on maintaining a healthy diet. I am really trying to make this a priority NOW – cutting back on candy and caffeine and eating well. However, I make terrible choices about food and drink when I’m tired, and while I am working on this at the moment, I am also trying not to beat myself up about not maintaining a perfect diet at this incredibly hectic and sleep-deprived season of my life.
  4. Make a plan for flow/life alignment. Right now, I am too exhausted to make sure that my whole life is aligned with my values. But I want to make this a priority for once my sleep is more reliable. I am inching closer and closer to where I want to be, I think – but sometimes I don’t even know where I want to be! Do I want to buy yogurt pouches to keep as snacks, because they’re easy and encourage Edgar to be independent? Or do I want to prioritize the environment and limit waste? I really don’t know. And, importantly – I am too tired to figure it out at the moment.

This may be another post that is updated if I think of more goals.

I am also noticing that most of my recent posts have been related to goal setting. I like that a lot; it shows that, in contrast to my nature, I am learning to think ahead, at least a little.

green grass field
Photo by Aron Visuals on
family · parenting

Happy Birthday Dad

Today, on what would have been my dad’s 71st birthday, Edgar played ‘organized’ soccer (laughing out loud at calling any toddler activity ‘organized’) for the first time.

This was ordinary, and it was extraordinary. I got emotional last weekend when I first realized this coincidence – Edgar starting out with soccer on Dad’s birthday. I felt a little in awe of the universe at the timing of things, and a little bit like laughing hysterically. (“Seriously, Universe?  I needed a reason to get MORE EMOTIONAL on Dad’s birthday?”) I cried for a while, and then, while Edgar wandered around the farm kicking a soccer ball, I followed him and I thought about my dad.

The inscription on my dad’s grave reads: HUSBAND, DAD, & COACH. Because that is who he was. From the moment when my mom signed my dad up (without asking him) to coach at Holy Child Soccer in Staten Island, NY, he coached. He coached my sister, my brother, and me on various teams, and he coached hundreds of other kids. He ended up running Holy Child Soccer, and then serving as president of the Staten Island Soccer League. I did not ever know my dad not as a soccer coach.

Every parent involved in Staten Island soccer when I was in grade school called my house at some point. I know this because I was my dad’s unofficial secretary. His responsibilities as a leader in youth soccer in Staten Island are the reason why, to this day, I have an EXCEPTIONALLY friendly and polite phone voice.  The coaches would call about fields, referees, schedules, uniforms, and I’d take their message and promise that my dad would call them back. When my dad eventually talked with them, I’d hear him laugh and say, “yup, that was my youngest on the phone,” and I’d beam with pride. When I was a kid, I didn’t realize just how much my dad did for youth soccer in Staten Island – and he did all of it after a long day or week of full-time work. We don’t realize how much our parents are doing for us, I think, until we grow up and are exhausted adults or parents ourselves.

I have countless memories of my dad as a coach – from him leading my team at practices and games to the thousands of quiet moments he had with me and my siblings, helping us to learn life lessons on the field and off. This year, there are two stories I can’t get out of my head. They both involved my dad as coach of my grade school soccer team, the Holy Child Crosskickers.

We had a heartbreaker of a game one season, when we came in second place in the league after a 1-0 loss to the Notre Dame Academy Sweethearts. The other team’s goal was the result of a long ball that hit a weird bump and bounced awkwardly over the head of our flustered goalkeeper. A fair loss, to be sure – but a real bummer after a hard-played game and season.

A week or so after this game, my dad showed up to a team gathering with a large cardboard box. He explained that a stranger had left this box of T-shirts on our front porch; they were red and white (our team colors), and the text read: “CROSSKICKERS – SIMPLY THE BEST – ONLY ONE SWEETHEART OF A BOUNCE CAN BEAT US.” We all smiled and laughed and put on our shirts and questioned nothing.  It was YEARS later when I realized that my dad (who made T-shirts for our entire extended family every summer, so it’s not like there weren’t clues, Kerriann) had ordered the shirts himself because he knew that it’s important to acknowledge our defeats, laugh if we can, and move forward with determination and a smile.

The other story I can’t get out of my head is about my dad selecting the team all-stars from the Crosskickers for the end-of-season league all-star game. That year, we were allowed to pick two players to represent our team in the game.

There were a lot of strong athletes on our team, and I was certainly one of them; my sister, my brother, and I all played soccer well, with passion, hard work,and talent. However, it never once occurred to me that my dad would choose me as an all-star for the game; he was not the type of guy to engage in nepotism, even at the level of a youth soccer game. He was harder on me, at times, and he was diligent about coaching our team in a fair and supportive way.

I remember asking my dad about who he would pick for the all-star game, and he sat down with me and explained that he really wanted to reward the players on our team who had worked especially hard and performed exceptionally well that season. I instantly understood that he wasn’t going to pick one of the three or four other “stars” on my team; he was going to reward players who had shown exceptional spirit and effort even if they weren’t the top goal scorers. We talked together, and he asked me to guess who his picks were; I thought and I talked through our season, and I guessed two players who had improved tremendously that season, moving from being average players to essential starters as the season progressed. I remember my dad beaming at me when he told me I’d guessed correctly – maybe because he was happy I understood his logic, or because he learned that we thought in similar ways.

That was my dad – he wanted to acknowledge when he saw young athletes working hard and improving. He knew that youth sports was about cultivating talent while also teaching important lessons about effort, disappointment, teamwork, and grace.

There is no pressure on Edgar to play soccer. Yes, he owns six soccer balls and only two of any other kind of ball, and yes, I’ll be thrilled if I get to coach his teams the way my dad coached mine. But really, truly, he doesn’t need to play, and I don’t need to coach. However, watching him run and kick today – watching him listen to his oh-so-patient coach talk to him about respect and fun and how to dribble – watching him run to me with a huge smile, telling me how much fun he had at “soccer school” –

Those were pretty good gifts.

Happy birthday to my dad. Keep the lessons coming, Coach.