I am, somewhat accidentally, a fairly involved Scout Parent. I wasn’t in Scouts as a youth, and in fact I was kind of against the Boy Scouts. Now I have assorted hats, patches, and uniforms, which at some point means I have to stop claiming it was an accident and start owning it.
When Hannibal was a wee lad, he and I used to amble around our neighborhood on walks, sometimes with dogs in tow, other times by ourselves. I don’t think he really knew why we were walking, but Daddy said we were and that was good enough for him.
The kids all go through phases where they prefer one parent over another, and we were smack dab in the middle of “Daddy’s the best!” phase. My wife was a new mother and I don’t think she appreciated the unsurpassed adulation I received whenever I came home from work. On top of being a new parent at the time, it was a rough time of transition.
One day, as we were making our rounds at our usual snail’s pace, the boy stopped, picked a dandelion, and carried it all the way home where he proudly presented it to Mrs. Nostrikethat.
Here Mommy, I picked this for you because I thought you’d like it.
It was the first of many such gifts. Sometimes a pretty fall leaf, othertimes an interesting rock or stick, but the go-to mommy present usually was a dandelion.
As we had more kids each of them would take it upon themselves to stop and pick a dandelion for mommy, for no other reason than somewhere in their tiny little minds they remembered the existence of their all-encompassing universe and decided that she needed a flower.
I have a neighbor and good friend who wages a ceaseless war against dandelions. Not a weekend goes by when he is not out there, shovel in one hand, bucket in the other, extracting dandelions down to the roots. His lawn is a lush green expanse worthy of an English Estate, which in the suburbs counts for a lot of street cred.
Turn 180 degrees to face my lawn and it looks like a herd of bison power-horked Cheezits indiscriminately– piles and clusters of yellow all over.
I think the categorization of dandelions as weeds is unfortunate. I prefer to call them “accidental flowers.”
Dandelions are common, true, but they have a lot going for them. There’s the color, for one- sunny and bright. Even when they go all gray they’re still fascinating and beautiful, and judging by the number of kids who blow on them they’re more fun, too. Dandelions don’t need a lot to get by- I’ve seen them growing up out of the middle of a sidewalk. Dandelions are also extremely resilient- it seems like no matter how often you run one over with a lawn mower, before you know it–ding! It pops right back. If dandelions aren’t the official flower of motherhood, I can’t think of a better candidate.
With laser-like precision your average 3 year old is focused on what’s bothering them right now. The end result is that the mechanics of attention almost never work out in anyone’s favor except the child’s, which makes it all the more remarkable when the attention does break away long enough to see something, even if it’s just a common, ordinary flower, and think of anyone other than themself.
This weekend pick the mom in your life some dandelions.
I even have a few extra.
This post is dedicated to my mom, my wife, and moms everywhere this Mother’s Day. I love you mom, I’ll probably even remember to call this time.
Here in the Nostrikethat household Christmas Traditions are serious business.
While I have blocked out most of my childhood, my memories of Christmas day focus on getting clothes with the gift receipt attached (you know, in case you want to take it back) and going over to one of my aunt’s houses so all of my dad’s sisters could take turns making my mom cry.
When I met the Eventually-To-Be Mrs. Nostrikethat, however, I learned why that “T” was capitalized.
When I went with her and her family on vacation for the first time to the beach we visited one of those year-round Christmas Stores.
Without even a trace of irony, even. There might be new and interesting Christmas decorations to admire, I was told.
Long story short, my “Low Effort” Christmas tradition ran headlong into “It’s the Great Christmas Buildup, Charlie Brown!” and lost miserably. Let’s face it resistance requires effort, which I am not about.
In the many years since, we have started building our own family traditions. Christmas lights eventually became my thing. Could be the Baltimorean in me (the city that gave us John Water’s Hairspray) but I like’em big, bold, and blinking. This year as I was standing on a ladder in the dark in 20 degree weather I found myself contemplating the silly traditions of our family.
1. The Holiday Food Trough
This time of year Mrs. Nostrikethat starts making Nuts-N-Bolts from the Hallowed Family Recipe (which I think came from the Chex box in 1967) and it tends to just sit on the stove until it is all gone which normally takes about a three minutes and thirty seconds.
I have tried to “preserve it” and put it in some sort of plastic container but then the heathens just eat the container. Hannibal in particular eats like a great white shark with a tapeworm and we usually find him diving in the trough, Scrooge McDuck-style.
2. Death March of Holiday Cheer
A few years ago we thought it would be a great idea to go into Washington D.C. to see the holiday sights.
Cue hearty laughter
Oh, to be slightly younger and idealistic again!
This was remains a bad idea for three crucial reasons:
It involves Being Around Other People, which is–even under the best circumstances–sketchy as heck
D.C. in the winter tends towards cold and windy. Faceman, if not closely supervised, dresses with a disregard for the weather that borders on “Call CPS that boy is an orphan”
Any excursion into the city involves a certain amount of walking, and my children’s legs have all atrophied from being driven in an assortment of minivans to swim practice. Were we actually in Atlantis we would have this thing down, but on dry land it’s a lot like putting a family of penguins on a treadmill: a whole lot of squawking and very little walking.
I am blessed with an almost terminally short memory, though, and so every year I manage to convince everyone to give it another go because This Time It Will Be Festive.
Speaking of festive…
3. Multi-Colored Dog Poo Admiring
I have previously written of New Dog and how much of a suck-up he was. As it turns out, he also has an intestinal track of cast iron and the grazing habits of a goat in weinerdog form.
A weinergoat, if you will.
This time of year our backyard starts to take on vibrant hues that are not so much natural as they are “Made in China”. How or why he has not yet ruptured a spleen I cannot say, but I am deeply thankful to him for reminding me of my place in the universe on a daily basis as I play “What the helldid he eat?”
4. Group Sloth Mode
For as much as I try to be no effort, our weekends start to fill up once we get past Halloween. Between birthdays, swim meets, and trying to stay out of the house enough so we don’t all get on each other’s nerves, we keep moving.
By the time December rolls around we’ve all kind of had enough and Group Sloth Mode kicks in. The other day I came home from work to find the other 5 members of the family plus dog on the couch watching TV. It only took a little bit of adjusting to make it 6 plus dog.
5. The “We’re-Not-Buying-Presents-For-Each-Other” Game
Every year since we’ve had kids, the Missus and I have promised each other that we’re not going to buy each other presents. Every year, I get a little excited because I think finally I can be done with the ruse of Christmas present buying.
Cue hearty laughter
I am not a gifty person. The stuff I want is 1) expensive and 2) not in the budget, so I either do without or put it in the budget. It’s money that I’ve earned for the family, so it’s only logical that I just direct it where I want it to go.
Mrs. Nostrikethat, on the other hand, is genuinely delighted by both giving and receiving. This is because, as I’ve been told, her love language is gifts, which means under no circumstances are you allowed to take the “no presents” promise at face value. I mean seriously, what the heck were you thinking?
It’s taken me several years and a couple of near-divorces but I might have the rules to this game finally figured out. The objective is to pretend that you’re not going to buy the other person a present long enough to lull them into a false sense of security, then at the last minute find a small but thoughtful gift that shows just how completely and totally you understand the other person. Appropriate choices are:
A small splurge item mentioned in passing between 5 and 7 months ago
Chocolate, but not the kind you buy at the airport gift shop because that’s obviously a “oops forgot to get a present” present
Something thoughtful, if you think like a woman
Under NO circumstances should you get:
A Starbucks gift card
As long as the other person isn’t me, you can then expect to receive an equally thoughtful Christmas present in return, thereby validating that you were correct in not listening to your mother and you didn’t marry a clueless self-absorbed narcissist after all.
What unique holiday traditions do you have? Leave a comment and tell me about them!