Saturday, December 13, 2008
Christmas in Cowtown
December often finds Dad running a zone defense while Mom exchanges a variety of things with her girlfriends - cookies, ornaments, wacky kitchen gifts, etc. Dad prefers the cookie exchanges for obvious reasons, although Mom does think that the banana slicer from this year's kitchen gift exchange will prove useful (and very empowering for young Parker). This year, we did find some time for man-to-man coverage - Parnell and Connor attended the Cub Scout pancake breakfast and space derby while Mom and Parker watched "The Polar Express" in their PJ's at the Museum of Science and History. (The BIG development - Parker discovered hot chocolate, courtesy of the Starbucks baristas who were working the museum event. And he LOVED it . . . . "Mom, now we can go to Starbucks, and you can have coffee, and I can have THIS STUFF!") We also have had the opportunity for some major family fun, some of it structured and some of it spontaneous (microwave s'mores parties!). However, the kids will no doubt remember this holiday season as the one in which the Space Shuttle came to town. Fortunately for them, Parnell's mom retains privileges at the Joint Reserve Base, so on 12/11 Parnell and Grandmother McGlinchey took both kids out of school, scored grandstand seats on the tarmac and watched the shuttle take off for Florida on the back of its jet. They got really, REALLY close, and needless to say Dad (and Grandmother) scored serious cool points.
For Mom, this season is memorable because it's the first time that Parker really "gets" the holiday. And he's very committed to it . . . . Cross Buddy the Elf with Mini Me, and you have our young Parker James. "Mom - I love chocolate. Chocolate is my FAVORITE! Candy canes are my FAVORITE!" (These outbursts of unbridled enthusiasm usually elicit the same response from cynical big brother Connor - "Parker, you're a cotton-headed ninny muggins." Yes, we are an Elf-obsessed family.) Parker is also hard at work on his present-opening technique: "It's like opening a ketchup package from McDonald's. PEENCH [pinch], PEENCH, TEAR!" It's a tradition in our family to wrap the kids' old Christmas books, which are opened, advent calendar-style, and read before bed, so he has had some good practice sessions.
Connor is looking forward to a two-week break from school, and I'm sure that after the third-grade field trip to see the Nutcracker on the 19th, the teachers will be ready for a break as well. Connor has made it through the Nutcracker 1 1/4 times. At age 5, he made it to "Waltz of the Snowflakes," then tugged on Mom's sleeve, inquired as to when it would be "halftime," and requested that we walk across the street to Barnes and Noble for refreshments (the concessions at Bass Hall having been deemed unacceptable - all beverages, no cookies). Needless to say, we never returned. The next year, family friends were among the performers, and the fascination of seeing Kendall, Reagan and their parents on stage held his attention for awhile, but we were in the lobby midway through the second act. Perhaps the third time will be the charm.
One of our favorite holiday traditions is "angel shopping." Our attention this year has been focused on two charities, Alliance for Children and the First Street Mission. Connor was charged with selecting gifts for several nine year-old boys, and Parker helped select four year-old-appropriate toys and clothes. We also stocked up on cold weather gear for the Mission's mitten tree. Our kids aren't saints, to be sure - each tends to come down with a serious case of the "gimmes" at this time of year - but we try to mitigate the commercialism of the holiday by involving them in charitable giving whenever possible. The last couple of years, we have made end-of-the-year donations in the names of various family, friends and coworkers, and the kids have helped match the honorees with appropriate donees. Not surprisingly, they tend to gravitate towards the MD Anderson Children's Art Project, ASPCA, Heifer International and other kid-friendly organizations, but this year I suspect that we may see a broader focus: as a participant in our church's summer mission camp, Connor had the opportunity to volunteer at the First Street Mission, tour one of the local night shelters and purchase food and clothes on a budget approximating what is given to those on government assistance, so his frame of reference has grown beyond "buying shares in animals is fun."
Our love to friends and family, and much health and happiness to everyone in 2009 . . . .