Looking Forward to Sugar Cereal and Life

The father of my childhood friend was a genius. He never used words like saxicolous, I never saw his SAT scores or overheard a neighbor talk about his IQ, but I knew, even at the age of seven, that he was brilliant. Today, my opinion of him remains the same; the only thing that has changed is my reason for believing he was so smart.

My friend’s dad did the shopping for his family, but it was more than buying eggs. He had a rotation. Every time he went to the grocery store, he’d take one of his three sons. That son was his personal assistant and the official family cereal-chooser. When my friend told me he could choose any cereal (that he wasn’t limited to Cheerios, Cornflakes, and Rice Krispies) and that, when they were in the check-out lane, his dad would always lean down and encourage him to select any snack, I about lost it. Who was this man and did he teach courses on genius fathering?

A dad that let his son choose whatever cereal he wanted and candy — images of Butterfingers, Sweetarts, and Big League Chew electrified my being  — had to be the next Gandhi, Mother Teresa’s Uncle, or at least the long lost brother of the Ninja Turtles. He was giving and awesome  — gawesome. I knew he was the wisest of men; he got us little guys; he won over his sons (and me) with sugar cereal and gawesomeness.

Today, I still admire my friend’s dad. I look back and still conclude that he was brilliant, giving, and awesome — I won’t combine all three — but, what I realize now is that, his smarts had nothing to do with grocery stores, bubble gum, or even sugar cereal.

Starting a family and becoming a father has let me in on a secret. Because of his father, my friend had something to look forward to every month. Isn’t the magic behind traditions, holidays, birthdays, vacations, weekends, and movie releases found in the excitement that comes with looking forward? I respond with a loud, boisterous, and reassuring YES.

Some might be thinking, “big deal.” Well, I am thinking, “What a discovery!”

Want to know why last year’s birthday wasn’t nearly as exciting as your tenth birthday? I don’t know about other people, but these years, with a few exceptions where rude people remind me I’ll be turning ___ in so many months, I hardly even think about my birthday until the month before. Unlike my worry-free younger years, life distracts me until it’s basically too late. I know this isn’t the case for everyone; there are plenty of individuals who still get giddy at the thought of a birthday six months away (and I applaud them), but why?

My childhood birthday was awesome because I looked forward to it. I looked forward to much more than a day; I looked forward to the the events of the day (and I knew them well). Birthdays in my family included, but were not limited to, going to a dollar movie with all my sibs, ordering 5 Buck Pizza and buying generic grape, orange, and root beer soda.  It included a cake or lemon meringue pie (for me) with candles on top, and usually some small, but ever so exciting, toy. It may not sound that great to some but it was heaven on earth to me. I loved birthdays. If my next birthday followed my childhood birthday agenda to a tee, I would be thrilled.

So what does it all mean?

The idea for this post came after Rinda and I had a great conversation about easy ways to make life wonderful. We concluded that starting and maintaining family traditions was key. Rinda’s family is pro when it comes to getting excited about traditions. The amazing thing is, their traditions are simple but make things so much more enjoyable. For example, whenever they go to the beach they always order “the best” calamari from the same dumpy old bar; when they go to Disneyland, they can’t leave without eating “the best” sour cherries and churros in the world — they get more excited about the food than the rides. Brilliant.

Rinda and I want Claire’s life to be simple but ever so exciting. How can we help make that a reality? We have challenged ourselves to start and maintain a simple family tradition for every month of the year. These traditions will be planned, marked on the calendar, and spoken of regularly. As the years go by, more traditions can join the table.

This last Christmas was incredible for many reasons. My whole family (with the exception of Christian, that jerk) was present, we had a schedule of events and we did them! Most exciting — and I promise I will post about all of this in detail — were the returning traditions: our annual Home Alone movie watching Marathon (1 and 2 back to back with Little Nero’s Pizza, throwback Pepsi, and ice cream sundaes), our Christmas Eve Twas the Night Before Christmas gift exchange, and the Christmas Eve cracker and cheese fest.

See what I mean? Simple things to look forward to = an exciting life to live.

Traditions can start today. You can call making a new, homemade Christmas ornament each year a tradition, even if Great, Great, Great, Grandfather Merle, from the Highlands of Scotland, never did it. I give the world my permission to do so.

Start traditions. Start living. Find ways to look forward to life.

What are some of your simple or not-so simple traditions? What do you look forward to? Please share in the COMMENTS!

UNFUNNY HUSBAND MOMENT: Rinda wanted records (vinyl) for Christmas. I bought her two. To trick her on Christmas day, I also bought a calendar that looks like a record when wrapped. When she was opening it, I told her to be careful, it could break; she was thinking “this is definitely a record,” she was wrong; it was a calendar jam-packed with pictures of wolves in their natural habitat.

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28 thoughts on “Looking Forward to Sugar Cereal and Life

  1. Sarah G says:

    James, I love your blog. I do. I especially liked this post. I know of a few people that go on “Daddy Dates” with their kids and to know how excited those kids get to spend one on one time with their Dad warms the cockles of my heart. I can not wait for the day when I have kids and can instill the tradition of chili dogs on Halloween or no laundry on New Years Day (mostly because we’re superstitious folk).. Anyhoo.. The reason your wife and I are such bosom buddies is we share the love of Disneyland and churros — Disurros. That’s all I have to say.

    • Sarah, I am glad you like the blog; it means a lot to me.

      I think parent dates are brilliant and am super excited for my first daddy daughter date with Claire.

      P.S., chili dogs on Halloween sound like a great idea. Then again, chili dogs always seem like a good idea AT FIRST.

  2. rromney says:

    I can think of many other traditions that my family keeps. Unsurprisingly, they all revolve around food as well.

  3. April says:

    This is a great post. Celebrating something every month is such an excellent idea! Presidents day was a big deal in my family..my Mom always made American apple pie, and threw pennies and quaters on the table. We loved it!

    • Thanks April.

      I love your President’s Day celebration. I would be a liar if I said I ever did ANYTHING on President’s Day (I know, I know), but I really like your tradition. Maybe I’ll have to try it on for size. Throwing money at your kids sounds fun.

  4. lostnchina says:

    This is a wonderful post. So sincere. Made me think about my own family traditions and how every moment with them is precious and should always be treated as such.

  5. gioiahm says:

    From the time I was just a few months old my family went camping once a month (excluding December and January). Each month we would pack up the camper, pack up the dog,leave food for the cats and hop in the car and head off to a different campground. We did it until my brother and I hit late high school and work schedules got in the way. It was something I always looked forward too.
    On our trips we did like your wife’s family, for our summer vacation week long camping trip to the beach we would always stop by the same place for ice cream cones — I always got vanilla with rainbow sprinkles.
    I am now grown and moved out, any time I go to Kings Dominion or the fair or carnival I am more excited about getting a vanilla ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles.

    I am sure you guys will make wonderful memories of your own 🙂 enjoy and just remember to embrace each moment, just as you already do.

  6. Family traditions are great and kudos to you for realizing that now what your child is young. Just a forewarning though, if your darling baby girl turns out to be anything like my three grown children (and they really are wonderful people), you may create a tradition monster. My kids have a FIT when we (the ol’ folks) want to try something new for the holidays or change something. I’ve written a few blog posts about that if you’re interested. http://mamasemptynest.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/tradition and /http://mamasemptynest.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/the-truth-about-the-christmas-tree/

  7. Alan Sexton says:

    Whatever wonderful traditions, it is vital to continue these. Happy New Year to you and your family, James!

  8. mooremom523 says:

    Your wife might not think you are funny but I do!

    You definitely deserve the versatile blogger award!


  9. Gabe says:

    Nice post man. Sounds like you are doing very well. I like the blog a lot.

  10. MM says:

    Love this post and your blog.

    I too have children and their arrival has also made me think about traditions and creating happy memories for us all. It is easy to get jaded as adults, but once you start reliving your childhood excitement through your own kids, it validates the effort of organizing these traditional outings and events. This year we went to the Santa Claus parade in our city and my 4-year-old’s amazement at every single float, in turn, made me excited to be there.

    Keep it up.

  11. James, So happy that I came upon your blog through Jani’s FB. I think you’re hilarious, but i understand the whole…my wife doesn’t think i’m funny thing…well because we have a similar scenario happening in my marriage:) no, really my hubbie is funny…sometimes:)
    I LOVED this post. Jesse was telling me about Little Nero’s. Sounded hilarious!
    We have started lots of little traditions with our kids.
    Some of their favorites are guessing which level we will park on at Goofy’s Palace {parking structure} at Disneyland, Sunday interviews with Dad ending with a treat, and Valentine’s t-shirts. Each Valentine’s day I have bought or this year made {see my post: http://journeywithjohnsons.blogspot.com/2011/02/love-rocks.html} them matching t-shirts to wear.
    I loved reading everyone’s traditions.
    Hope you share more of them!

    • Thanks for reading. I am glad you liked the post and happy to hear about your traditions. Don’t traditions make everything brighter?

      P.S. you should start the Home Alone marathon tradition; it’s a real diamond in the rough — a lot of fun.

      I’m excited to check out your blog.

  12. […] Looking Forward to Sugar Cereal and Life (unfunnyhusband.wordpress.com) […]

  13. Teresa Dix says:

    James, read this post just today as I was out galavanting around the country campaigning for the Mittster!! T’was a great experience.

    Can I just say that you are gawesome! Giving us your humorous and unique perspective on life…it’s awesome!

    My friend makes fun of me for aaaalll the traditions we have in our family, but I love the love we feel when doing them. A few of my faves are dinner in a pumpkin on Halloween…yum! Carmel apple dipping during fall along with a trip to the pumpkin patch. When I was growing up and up to about 6 years ago mi abuelo y nana would gather with the fam to make tamales before Christmas. My gramps would make the masa and nana the various meats and the rest of us would put them together…such great memories!! Gramps isn’t around anymore and it’s kind of fazed out…shame on us. We need to carry on that tradition, but it’s just not the same without abuelito!

    You’re off to a good start with your great idea of monthly traditions…I look forward to hearing all about them!

    • Having tons of traditions is the best way to enjoy life. Keep them up, especially the tamales! Kids really remember and connect with traditions. I know I did.

      If I’m ever nearby when you are making tamales, I’ll come eat some (invited or not). I love tamales. Thanks for reading.

  14. 52brandnew says:

    Love the idea of a family tradition for each month! And love April’s President’s Day tradition. I think I need to start that one. I’m all for celebrating any day where we get a day off of work and school.

  15. […] once wrote a post that essentially said, life is more exciting, even happier, if you have something to look forward […]

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