Category Archives: Traditions

Transcendence On the Way to Preschool

Claire

In life there are few moments of transcendence, or perhaps better said, there are few moments of transcendence that we recognize and commit to memory, and even fewer that are clear enough to shift our existential bearings and redefine our hopes.

When they do happen, they’re usually fleeting, they’re often mundane (given our inability to see the forest for the trees), and unless our emotions and spirit communicate, they’re usually glanced over so as to leave no trace of meaning.

For me the dark glass is lowered and transcendence is recognized almost always in the presence of my children, in particular aside my oldest daughter Claire (four years old). It happens simply, when undeterred joy emanates from my daughter and I feel partly to blame; when somehow my being her dad and being present in her life plays a role in it all.

It has happened at a pizza parlor as Claire watches her younger sister Maren do the funniest thing ever: refuse to keep her feet off the table. I’ve been wise enough to notice it as Claire is caught in a whirlwind of leaves, a recently raked pile behind her, the remnants of fall clinging to her hair and eyebrows.

Most recently it happened in the car, on the way to preschool. Claire and I have a tradition: We crank the volume up on the radio and act wild. We do this to get our crazies out—something both of us need to do before entering the real world where calmness and put-togetherness are most admired. A hit song from a few years ago comes on and we’re both dancing; we’re both unhinged. I look back and catch a glimpse of her, lost in the moment without concern. To make her laugh, I look forward and scream. I pretend the traffic cones on the side of the road are a brick wall and I’m about to hit them. I’m nowhere near them and I hit nothing but the explosion is real; it’s Claire in the back seat, head back, erupting with laughter; she’s like an infant guffawing for the first time at something that’s only funny in the beginning: a coo, a song, a bark, the tearing of paper, an older sister shaking her head inches away.

To see this innocent, explosive, in-the-moment elation was too much for me; I sobbed. I was happy. I was sad. I was nostalgic. I was worrying about the day she wouldn’t think a fake collision with traffic cones was funny anymore. I was in limbo.

I was no longer in the car. I was no longer on earth. I was outside looking in. I entered a realm that felt like home in a strange land. The meaning was clear and it was mine. And then I watched my Claire put on her backpack and walk toward school, a big girl.

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Christmas Was A Beach

Here’s me being WAY romantic

I know this is late and I know what you’re probably thinking, how can Christmas be a beach? Did you magically change it from a holiday to a pebbly or sandy shore by the ocean? And the answer would be no, no I did not. I did, however, leave the freezing, snow-capped mountains of Utah with my family of three to join an extended family of over 20 in one beach house just 30 feet from the sunny, wonderful beach and the freezing, no-less wonderful ocean. Usually leaving a wintery wonderland during Christmas would feel like an abandonment, a betrayal, but not this year. It could not have been more Christmasy and it was one of the best vacations I have ever had.

Why Was This One Of The Best Vacations Ever?

There are a lot of reasons this was a fantastic trip. I will not bore you with all of them, just most of them. For one, it was great to have all my siblings (except Chris who is in Bahrain…yeah I don’t know where it is either) and their spouses and kids crammed in one house—it was chaotic but for that very reason, fun. I liked the small Christmas tree on a shelf, mountains of presents scattered everywhere, gross leftover sweet and sour soup (that only my dad liked) in the fridge from the first night’s Chinese food, sodas lined up like soldiers on the kitchen counter, noise, new born twin babies crying, toddler cousins all dressed in similar jammies laughing, and me constantly breaking up the fight or fit started by my daughter, who despite being one of the best kids ever can also be quite the bodag.

Present time!

twins

New born twins, Benjamin and Thomas!

It was a very memorable ambience in an unforgettable setting. The beach was literally a five second walk away and even though the locals thought we were crazy, that didn’t stop us from swimming and boogie boarding everyday. To be honest, the water was no colder than it was in August, and after you’d been out ten minutes you were num to it, so you could fight on, catching an occasional awesome wave, no feeling in your toes, all the way to the shore. It was great.

The most attractive stance ever (me on left). Thanks Grandpa Marshall

We had a volleyball/badminton net right next to our beach house. We had many an impromptu game, but the most memorable of all was America VS. Brazil. A group of Brazilians approached us, challenged us, played us, and we walked away victorious. It was a game full of laughs, language barriers (my cousin Chase kept speaking to them in Spanish), and a lot of fun.

There was the Home Alone Marathon where Ryan, my older brother, was again crowned the victor of Home Alone Trivia and my sister-in-law April was crowned the most recent winner of the Home Alone quote contest.

Christmas morning. Grandkids and grandparents.

There were the gifts the kids loved. Claire with the teepee my beautiful wife finished making her a couple nights before. And then there were the Ninja Turtles PJs that I thought Claire would love—after opening them, we asked her if she wanted to wear them, she just said no. Her and all her cousins had PJs with different princesses on them, so I don’t blame her. (She’s wears her Michelangelo PJs now).

Princess PJs with cousins and aunt.

There was Rinda trying out surfing for the first time and loving it, and looking natural as she did it. She was surfing. I saw her. She was also crashing and getting enveloped in massive waves, but she was surfing and she was happy.

The babe and the waves.

There was my family’s gift to my dad: an authentic Indian headdress (my dad’s been known to dress up) and the photo of him wearing it, sitting in front of Claire’s teepee.

Chief Wanna-Hawk-A-Loogie.

Truth be told, there were a lot of things, but the number one reason this vacation was SO incredible was that it was simple. I know, I know. Getting people from all over the country to San Diego, existing in one small space, avoiding contention is not simple, but once we were there, it was. We didn’t try to cram too much into the time we had. There were options presented everyday but almost always we chose to hang around the beach house so we could hit the beach. If we got too tired or too cold, we could just go back and relax with a bunch of people we like being around.

We walked the boardwalk (whatever it’s called in the west), saw sea lions, ate plenty of nearby Mexican food, and so much more. Beach, house, beach, house. No stressful or long days away. It was miraculous. Oh, and Claire, with her cousins to convince her, actually got in the water and loved it, and Abigail, her cousin, who wouldn’t step off the beach towel previous to this trip for fear of the sand decided playing and covering her entire body in sand was a fun, good idea.

Oh, did I forget to mention: it was in the 70s the entire time! Heaven my dear Watson, heaven.

The Moral Of The Story

Needless to say, the moral of the story is this: food, fun, good people, that’s a recipe for a great time. Thanks mom and dad for putting this trip together (and paying for the beach house) and thanks family for being family.

Until next time.

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The Worst Christmas Song Ever

I need to talk about something serious. With the exception of my two-year-old daughter Claire, who this year has joined the ranks of those who love and constantly listen to Christmas music during the holiday season, I am the biggest Christmas music lover I know.

Many do not share my sentiment. In fact, you may be a grinch who hates that Christmas music even exists and that it blasts triumphantly through the cheap speakers of every supermarket and mall, but not caring a button about the complaints and whining and christmas-ruining of Scrooges like you, I shall continue to talk about the sounds of the season.

My Tradition

I start listening to Christmas music November 1st, and I don’t mean occasionally. At work it’s constantly playing on Spotify. If I am in the car, the radio station with “long sets” of “holiday favorites” is on and being sung along to. If I have time at home, yup, you got it, I am listening to Christmas music.

I listen to all types of Christmas music—classical, instrumental, religious, jazz, pop, R & B, operatic…. I could go on forever baby.

spotify:track:17oy9DhHqTmdNRwV1E5fKz

To get you through this post, I have shared some great Christmas songs along the way

My favorite Christmas music artists are, but are not limited to, Harry Connick Jr, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Johnny Mathis, James Taylor, Mariah Carey, Sufjan Stevens, Bright Eyes, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Andy Williams, Jim Croce, The Carpenters, Weezer, The Robertsons, Elvis Presley, The Irish Tenors, Michael Buble, James Brown, Boys II Men, Gene Autry, Johnny Cash, Nat King Cole, Brenda Lee, Perry Como, John Lennon, John Denver, The Muppets, She and Him, The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, Burl Ives, Wham… and this is only a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my Christmas time playlist.

If you ask me, I can confidently tell you the best version of every Christmas classic.

spotify:track:604DTaRINInOPt26OBBNU6

So, it’s fair to say that I have heard a lot of Christmas music. I have listened to so many wonderful tunes and have been shockingly disappointed by how bad some Christmas albums are, even some by my favorite artists.

spotify:track:7FFeHKYv7Cj4haT4wqOpQg

The Worst

But enough context, let’s get to the meat of this post, the reason I titled it “The Worst Christmas Song Ever.” Everybody has a Christmas song they cannot stand, even us Christmas music lovers. For my mom it’s Paul McCartney’s “Simply having a wonderful Christmas Time.” For my wife, it’s any song sung by Josh Groban. I like Paul’s song and Josh’s album, but whatever.

Christmas Shoes

Many argue that “Christmas Shoes” is the worst Christmas song ever. They’re right that it’s not a good Christmas song. It’s contrived, overplayed, and obnoxiously sung. That being said, it’s not the worst Christmas song ever. I’ll even admit, the first time I heard it the message did come across as valuable (if you can get beyond the “he was dirty from head to toe” moments), even if it was delivered in such an annoying way.

Speaking of Christmas Shoes:

Mary Did You Know?

I submit that another song, with an equally valuable message, is worse than “Christmas Shoes.” “Mary Did You Know” is an awful Christmas song, especially when sung by a breathy, over-dramatic man. I cannot listen to it. Even I, the holly jolly Christmas music man, must change the station if it comes on. But it is NOT the worst Christmas song ever.

Bruce Springsteen

The worst Christmas song ever, the one stations insist on playing again and again, every year, the song that’s like fingernails on a chalkboard, sand in your teeth, sunburn on your shoulder is Bruce Springsteen’s idiotic live version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” I hate it so much. It takes hours to get started and then it just simmers as Bruce obnoxiously throws around contrived banter with his band mates and then the audience; and it’s SO long.

So Christmas music lovers everywhere, even you haters, boycott that song. Refuse to listen to it. If that doesn’t work, call your station and tell them they’re doing a disservice to humanity by playing that most odious of tunes.

Merry Christmas Everyone

Please tell me why I am wrong in the comments. Let me know what you think the worst Christmas song ever is. More importantly, tell me about your favorite Christmas song.

My next post will be about essential Christmas reading, so tune in!

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I Soiled My Brother’s Bell Bottoms On Halloween

My costume this year is Garth from SNL’s Garth and Kat (see below).

Last night, driving home from last-minute Halloween costume shopping (I know, I said I wasn’t going to do that, but hey the costume is good), my wife asked me when Halloween changed from being a holiday (or pagan ritual) where you dressed up as something scary to a holiday where you can dress up as anything—wearing as much or as little as you like. I didn’t have the answer. However, her question got me thinking of Halloweens of old.

I’d Rather Be Silly Than Scary

As long as I can remember, with the exception of maybe a homemade tiger outfit my mom made me when I was a wee lad, I’ve never dressed up as anything frightening. Grotesque, bloody, or repulsive outfits are not my thing. Some of you like scary. You love the horror movies that make you feel like Satan is breathing down your neck or a murderer will tie you up and throw you in his/her van as you’re walking to your car. I do not. I prefer Casper, The Burbs, Hocus Pocus, Zombie Land, Nightmare Before Christmas—essentially I prefer kid or comedy Halloween.

My Costumes Are Proof

So, rather than dress up like Freddie, Jason, or a guy who recently got run over, I dress up in costumes that make me laugh, even if no one else thinks they’re funny. One year I thought I’d make a killing dressing up as a “weird hippie.” Clearly I lacked originality, but hey, I was in the fourth grade, I didn’t know that. Since I didn’t have hippie clothes or money to buy any, I raided my older brother’s closet and found his off-white, color-striped bell bottoms. He wouldn’t know I wore them, right? I’d just slip them back in his closet at the end of the night. If I would have known then that the next time I brought them home they would be covered in poo, I wouldn’t have taken them.

I Soiled My Brother’s Bell Bottoms On Halloween

As I said before, I was in the 4th grade when it happened. I wish I could say it was the last time I soiled my pants, but alas, two years living in Mexico and a dairy intolerance would make that statement a lie. It was Halloween night and I was happy as a weird hippie could be trick or treating in the neighborhoods within a couple mile radius of my parents’ house. Everyone was opening their doors, candy was being tossed about like a drug lord’s money, and crazy kids were snatching it up without hesitation and slipping it into their plastic buckets or pillow cases.

All was well and then it happened. My stomach started to growl a vicious growl, a growl so low and rumbly it could only mean one thing: if I didn’t get to a bathroom soon, I was going to mess my pants.

I hurried to the next house. The owner opened the door, candy bucket in hand, waiting for me to say the three magic words. But trick or treat never left my mouth, instead a rushed, perhaps overly excited, “Can I use your bathroom?” passed through my lips. The large man in the dumb orange shirt that had This Is My Halloween Costume written on the front gawked as if he’d never heard such a request. I recomposed and said, “please,” but to no success. He just handed me a peanut butter taffy and said, “I don’t think so.”

I rushed to several more houses and asked the same question to the same results. Somehow, every decent person in the world was willing to open their door and hand out candy to strangers, but no one would let me use their bathroom—candy cost money, letting me go to the bathroom cost nothing and I’d even flush a couple of times during the download so it didn’t stink. No argument prevailed. I had but one course left: run the mile or so to my parents’ house. Which, if you have any experience in nearly pooping your pants, you know is a near impossibility.

I made it to the field 100 yards from my house and had to stop running. I shuffled forward a few feet but it was of no use. My stomach won the race and my clenched buttocks unclenched. The next thing I knew I was in my parents’ laundry room throwing out my socks.

Despite The Mess, Halloween Was Still A Success

My brother came home before I could scrape the pants and properly wash them. He was mad and relentlessly mocked me. But that’s okay. Moments later, changed into my PJs, I was sitting Native American style in a circle with my siblings. I was once more a participating member in our annual candy trading session. The delicious sweets overshadowed the accident and I made some good trades. After all that had happened, the night was not a waste (no pun intended). And it only took a few years for my brother to stop calling me poopy hippie.

As messy as that Halloween was, it is cemented (perhaps not the best word to use here) in my memory as one of my favorite Hallow’s Eve memories. It was hilarious.

For Those Of You Who Like Scary More Than Silly, Check This Out:

If you have a little money and a bit of time and you love the frightening aspect of Halloween, you should probably visit these seven terrifying haunted attractions around the world:

http://www.priorityonejets.com/blog/just-tell-make-believe-7-terrifying-haunted-attractions-around-world/

Happy Halloween! Have any scary or embarrassing memories of October 31st? I bet you can’t top mine.

 

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Halloween Decorations = The Secret To Happiness

I once wrote a post that essentially said, life is more exciting, even happier, if you have something to look forward to. Traditions, even the smallest ones, play a large role in setting the stage for joyous experiences.

The Difference Between Grown Ups And Kids

Busy adults push events and moments out of their minds until they crash down upon them; but not kids, kids are pros at anticipation. If they know a summer trip to the lake is around the corner, they’ll prepare physically and emotionally—swim trunks and plastic boats will be carefully set aside and memories of water fights and sunburns will splash around in their mind.

Remember, One Secret To Happiness Is Remembering

I believe the secret to happiness (of all sorts) comes down to remembering. So, have something worth remembering and remember it! Halloween is a little over a month away. Many adults, even those that don’t get excited for Hallow’s Eve, might say, “look, with all the stores, magazines, and advertisements attacking me with orange and black, it’s near impossible to forget Halloween!” Touche. But not forgetting and remembering are two different things.

I know my birthday is in January. I don’t forget that. I do, however, forget to remember what my birthday used to mean… means. When I take the time to remember, my birthday becomes so much more fun and well, meaningful.

Halloween may be silly, but do you remember how exciting it was for you as a kid? Your parents let you play dress up in the streets, you got to knock on random doors, and for some reason, they all handed out free candy. AWESOME! And let’s not forget the activities at school, the parties, the hayrides, etc.!

What if you no longer trick or treat? What if you have no children candy beggars to take around the neighborhood? It’s still Halloween, October, fall! You’re not dead. Eat some candy, bake some apples, make a pumpkin pie, tell ghost stories, watch Halloween movies, throw a party, have a Halloween themed dance or talent show—even if it’s just with a few friends. And for crying out loud, wear a costume, one that you’ve been thinking about for at least a couple of weeks. I admit, I am the worst at this. I always end up throwing a leather jacket on and saying I’m a greaser. Lame. Not this year.

Skull salt and pepper shakers on top of an awesome table-cloth. Good purchases Rinda!

Decorate, Decorate, Decorate

If you can’t get in the mood for Halloween, if you just can’t get excited, decorate, decorate, decorate! Everyone knows that decorations are great for pumping kids up, but they can be great for big people too. Throw some fun decs around your house and you’ll soon see how it helps you—even Ebeneezer Scrooge—feel festive. And throw them up early! For example, there’s no reason that Birthday decorations should only be set up the day of a birthday. If you want a kid (or an adult) to get really excited for his/her birthday, talk about it months before, set up decorations the week of, and then do something super special the day of. Your child’s (or weird roommate’s) eyes will glow.

It’s the same with Halloween. Fill your house with celebration, pumpkins, skulls, skeletons, Monster Mash on repeat, the scent of pie and candy, etc. Do that, and your dreams of a happy, exciting Halloween just may come true.

*If all you can do is stay at home and be grouchy, don’t be one of those houses that shuts all their lights out. Hand out some candy, good candy, not peanut butter taffy, and watch how excited the kids get when you drop it into their plastic pumpkin or ratty pillow case.

Now, tell me something AWESOME you’re doing this Halloween so I can copy you!

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