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I’m thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  I am thankful every day for family, friends, and my wonderful life.  But today I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the many other things in my life for which I’m thankful:

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A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  And a Charlie Brown Christmas.  The Great Pumpkin one – meh.

Oxi Clean.  Without it, my kids would be walking around in clothing covered with a delightful array of grass and chocolate stains.

Coffee.  Really, need I say more?

That first dog snuggle of the morning.  The doggie morning breath, not so much.

Comfy jeans, cozy flannel pants, fuzzy socks and too-big sweatshirts.

Coffee.  Yes, I am THAT thankful for coffee.

Things that make me laugh out loud – reruns of Big Bang Theory, posts on DamnYouAutocorrect, and my husband trying to play Just Dance on the Wii.

Bacon.  Actually, not really.  I don’t really like bacon (don’t tell anyone).  But I think I might be the only one who doesn’t, so I figured I should just put it on my list.

Cinnamon rolls, Black Friday circulars, and the Thanksgiving parade on TV.

Happy Thanksgiving, and have a wonderful day.  Be thankful for all that you have.

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The thing about Santa.

Lately, my 8-year-old son Michael has been asking me if Santa is real.  I am not at all sure what to tell him, for a number of reasons.  First (and many people might think, foremost), we are Jewish.  That said, Michael has always believed in Santa, but totally understood that because we don’t celebrate Christmas, Santa just doesn’t come to our house.  And he’s always been okay with that (unlike his older brother, who at the age of about 4, asked me “When we’re done being Jewish, can we get a Christmas tree?”)

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Michael has, for some reason, always had this fascination with Santa.  When he was in kindergarten, he asked if we could go to the mall to see him.  I said we could, and on our way there, we had a conversation about what we might talk to Santa about, given that, you know, we don’t even celebrate Christmas.  Michael waited patiently in line for about 30 minutes, and when we got the front, he wouldn’t say a word to Santa or sit on his lap, but was completely mesmerized.  I did the talking for us, and told Santa that we’re Jewish but that Michael had really wanted to see him.  He looked at both of us, wished us a Happy Hanukkah, and told us that it’s all really about what’s in our hearts.  I walked away from the experience feeling like I’d just met the real thing.  Michael walked away with a little holiday paperback (containing some really weird story about some kids who get trapped in a giant snow globe, or something like that), courtesy of the mall.  He still talks about meeting Santa.  And the book.  Which, now that I think of it, I hope he doesn’t pull out and ask me to read to him.  It kind of scares me.

Michael and I just read one of Judy Blume’s “Fudge” books, and the topic of whether or not Santa is real comes up.  I tried to gloss over the part where the older brother says there’s no Santa, but Michael was having none of it.  So I read the page, then asked him, “Do you think Santa is real?”  And he seemed very concerned about the whole thing, and told me that he’s not sure, but that most of his friends do believe in Santa.  And then he asked me what I think.  And what I tried to explain to him, in the best way I thought an 8-year-old could understand, was that on some level, yes, I do believe in Santa.  I believe in the magic of the holidays.  I believe that there are people in this world who will show you their best, most generous selves.  I believe in the idea of Santa.

We talked about it some more, and Michael still isn’t sure what to think.  Logic is starting to take hold, and he says that it would be impossible for one person to deliver gifts to everyone in the world in one night.  I am glad that he’s talking to me about it, instead of just sadly realizing that so many of the magical things of our childhood are parents slipping into our room late at night to tuck a dollar bill under our pillows, hiding gifts in the attic, and writing notes in handwriting that won’t be recognized.

Being a mom has made all of those things magical again for me, and I’d like to be able to hold onto that magic for just a little bit longer.

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The problem with holiday cards.

I was thinking about the slew of holiday cards we send out every year, as well as the many that arrive in the mail to us (some, along with those holiday update letters, but more about that later).

I look forward to getting holiday cards – I like to see how faraway friends’ kids have grown each year, and it’s fun for the boys to look at pictures of nearby friends.  We display the cards we receive around a window in our family room.  And we send out a card every year, usually with a picture or two of the boys that comes from a fall backyard “photo shoot” that Dave does with his fancy schmancy camera.  What people don’t see in what’s usually a cute picture would be the hour we spent trying to get the boys to sit still, stop poking each other and making funny faces, or the swearing Dave did when the camera died in the middle of this mess, because he doesn’t use it that often and it wasn’t fully charged.

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This year, we used some vacation pictures for our holiday cards.  And even without the photo shoot, it was no different.  Sure, we had a nice picture of the four of us in a nice place.  But nobody could see the exhaustion on our faces from the 3-hour time change from home or the argument we’d had trying to figure out where to park that morning.

And as for those letters that some families include with their holiday cards, let me just say – blech.  I’ve never thought about actually sending one with our holiday cards, but just for fun, I’ve thought about different ways I could approach writing one…..

1. Dear family and friends:  Well, we survived another year.  Barely.  I continue to drag myself out of bed to teach college classes where an occasional student will nod off in the back of the room.  Things are going great for Matthew in middle school.  Unless you count the day I spilled coffee on his binder and wrecked the cover of a group project.  That wasn’t so great.  Michael is learning a lot in 3rd grade.  I even got to have a meeting with his teacher where she told me about a story Michael had planned to write about Santa getting drunk in a bar.  And Dave has had the opportunity to travel to wonderful and exotic locales for work.  Like New Hampshire.

OR…..

2. To our most cherished friends and family:  We are delighted to be sending you this letter after yet another fantastic year for our family.  You’ll see from the photo on our card that we enjoyed a lovely vacation together over the summer.   Master Matthew and Master Michael continue to excel in school and in their many extracurricular activities.  I continue to shape the lives of young people through my teaching adventures, and Dave receives accolades for his work.

And then, what I’d really like to write:

3. Here we are again, friends.  Another holiday season, another year that has passed too quickly.  We continue to count our blessings every day.  Yes, our boys do well in and out of school.  But wanna know what I really want to tell you about?  The time I spied Matthew lifting a 4-year–old neighbor off a friend’s trampoline at our block party.  When I glanced outside and saw Michael tying his friend’s shoes, because he knows this friend has a little trouble with it.  The day we drove home together from camp and Matthew told me that the best part of his day was helping the counselors out with the little kids.  Is it always easy?  Nope.  But in these small moments when I know that Dave and I have the privilege of helping these wonderful people grow up, it’s all worth it.

Happy holidays.

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