‘Twas the day after Christmas

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays, Home sweet home, Life with children

Greetings everyone! I hope this finds you all basking in the afterglow of a beautiful Christmas. Because this time of year gets so busy, I enlisted some help with my column. I’d love to give credit where credit is due, but as is my luck there’s controversy buried in something as simple as determining who penned the famous “‘Twas the Night before Christmas”.

To avoid potential problems, I’ll say thanks to Clement Clarke Moore OR Henry Livingston for providing inspiration way back in the 1820s. I’ll let those two hash it out.  And without further ado, on with the show!

(Disclaimer: In no way do I advocate the use of a Taser on cute little sugar-plummed-up human beings, but who among us hasn’t at least thought about it? Don’t implicate yourself out loud. I, of course, make my inner-most t ruminations known for your amusement.  That I might be arrested, or locked in a rubber room for doing so is a job hazard I accept; money and fame have a way of negating such things.)

‘Twas the day after Christmas, when all through the town, parents lying passed out, drooling, face down. The stockings are emptied all over the floor, sweet-candy contents consumed, hyperactivity hard to ignore. The children are crazed darting to and fro, with so much that is new, which way to go?

Mamma in her robe and Papa with his new razor, decided they should have asked for a Taser! Because all through the house there’s nothing but noise, whose idea was it to bring all these toys?

Up from the floor they arose feeling numb, remembering it all came with a rather large sum. The smiles seemed worth it leading up to the day, who imagined there would be such a fray? When what to their haggard eyes should appear, youthful energy waning, relief may be near!

Small little people beginning to yawn, they’ve not slept a wink since yesterday’s dawn. More rapid than the effects of sugar, energy tumbled. One tripped over strewn packaging and wearily stumbled. “Now, sleep! Now, Slumber, Now, Nap! Now, Doze! On Dream! On Hibernation”, sleepy parents propose. Don’t worry about a bed, right there is fine. Relax little darlings it’s all by design.

Like a litter of pups nestled in a papered box, they curl up wearing pajamas, feet covered by new socks. Silence reigns and a sweet sigh released, for all the mayhem has finally ceased. And then in the silence, the feeling, it grew. It really was worth it, what an incredible view. The moment, it sparkled.  The minutes began to pass. I wanted to freeze it, stop the hourglass!

Beginning the clean-up, trying not to disturb, the trash was cleared and hauled to the curb. Tired, but feeling renewed, my heart swelled, began to protrude. For it was all over, at least for a year. I leapt through the air and yelled a loud cheer.

Returning to ground and zipping across the drive, I rejoiced as I realized I’d made it through alive! And with that it was done, over, the end. At least until next year I mused as I grinned.

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Wrapping it up

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays

In keeping with my word I set aside my semi-Grinchy ways, armed myself with some holiday spirit, plastered on a smile, and mostly worked my way through the holiday shopping list. Incidentally, that list gets harder and more stressful to make each year because the people in my life already have everything within my monetary grasp.

Wearily returning home and without missing a beat I became determined to put additional unpleasantness behind me by embarking on a marathon wrapping session.  For good measure, I taped my grinning-while-bearing-it mouth shut to avoid verbally spoiling the outward appearance that I was enjoying the task.  I know, what is wrong with me?  It’s the most wonderful time of the year! (And, ladies, Scotch tape does a fairly decent job of moustache removal.)

Somewhere along the line I picked up that finding a special, meaningful gift and packaging it in a way that incites anxiousness and intrigue on the recipient’s part is supposed to be one of the highlights of life. ‘Tis better to give than receive, right? Absolutely.  I’m just so much better at giving, well, not material stuff. I partially blame it on having far too many options — a nightmare for those of us who aim for “just right” in the gift department.

Anyway, the wrapping made me think about outward appearances and how it really is possible to dress up practically anything and have it look fabulous on the outside. But isn’t what’s on the inside what really counts?

I suppose there is something magic about the possibilities of what might be inside . . . right up until the contents are found to be a disappointment after lavish packaging built lofty expectations. Precisely why I avoid elaborate wrap jobs. That explanation also doubles to conceal the fact that my skills in that department are lacking. Not much in life intimidates me more than fancy gift-wrap accessories. I do well to tie my shoes. Enough said.

Enter the gift bag.  Why didn’t someone think of it sooner? Even I was able to quickly master the art of fluffing the tissue with relative ease. I use them as much as I can and they have eased my gift-giving woes, but they’re not practical for family members prone to pre-presentation snooping.  (In case they are reading: I refer to those who rifle through my closet. And you thought I didn’t know. If you really want to pull it off, pay closer attention to putting things back the way you found them.)  

Deep down, I know I shouldn’t let the whole gift-giving frenzy spoil my good cheer, but as I near the big day I like to make sure all the present stress is wrapped up so that I might enjoy the future holiday. And when it’s done, I get a twinkle in my eye thinking of all the reasons I want to give to others while remembering that the reason for the season has nothing to do with packages, boxes, or bags.

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Mea maxima culpa

Author: natalie  //  Category: Life with children

My children accuse me of misusing “now” phrases, so I’ll try not to further humiliate them. I come before you this week as I throw myself on the mercy of my beloved daughter’s court while begging for forgiveness and swift, just punishment. To aid in my groveling, I’ll dig deep back into my own Ross Sterling High School days where I occupied space in the late, great Mr. Witt’s Latin class.

Brief background: My family of five requires five cellular phone devices to keep tabs on each others’ whereabouts and communicate items of extreme importance. My daughter, Erin, had the distinct honor of being the youngest person in Whatley family history to have been bestowed with a phone and full text-messaging capabilities. The fact that her older brothers were answered in the negative each time they begged at her age is still a thorny point of contention. What can I say? Mass communication became difficult when one family member didn’t have a phone. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

That said there have been “issues” concerning her phone— not of the misuse variety, but of the-thing-is-never-charged and she-forgets-to-carry-it kind. It has also been “misplaced” numerous times. And then there was the not-so-minor incident of a screen being cracked making one phone inoperable and needing to be replaced recently.

That new phone was in Erin’s possession mere weeks when it was “lost”. (By this point her older brothers were pointing out that I had no one to blame but myself —giving such a youngster a phone was a grave mistake on my part.) Our home, vehicles, and school property were searched extensively.

Erin and I both remembered the last time she held it in her hands because we simultaneously texted happy-birthday wishes to the same family member before school one morning. She claimed the phone was given back to me because the battery was almost dead. I had no recollection of that and nagged relentlessly for a full week before declaring the line was being shut off with no replacement forthcoming.

Before I continue, allow me to offer the following in my defense: Life with three teenagers is spelled C-H-A-O-S! Most days I barely know my own name much less have the ability to remember what transpired with whom and that is even more true regarding early-morning transactions.

So, night before last an excited Erin knocked on my bedroom door and announced she’d found her phone – stuffed inside a pair of high-top sneakers. In a flash, it all came back to me. Embarrassed, I sheepishly opened my door and looked that sweet little cherub in the face. We both knew who put the phone in there and that it was the same woman who threw a little mini-tantrum over said shoes having been left in the living room . . . again.

Now I remember having the phone on the morning in question and grumbling to myself about picking up the shoes I’d sweetly asked be removed earlier. I dropped the phone inside a shoe and placed the pair on the stairs. I forgot about the phone when I resumed the shoe tirade that afternoon.

To my baby girl: Mea culpa . . . no, mea maxima culpa! (Mr. Witt would be so proud.) That’s Latin for “my bad”.  I’m pleading guilty and asking that I be allowed to pick up your shoes from the living room floor for as long as I harassed you over the lost phone.  Deal?

© 2010 Natalie Whatley

Spy with a little third eye?

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you

Especially this time of year, many parents verbally deliver an idiom in the hopes of gaining a little pre-Santa-visit compliance. It baffles young children and brings about a degree of the desired result in those who haven’t lived long enough to figure out their ignorance is being preyed upon.

But as is the case here in modern times, technology may once again change the very fabric of our lives and make liars out of older kids telling younger siblings, “No, Mom doesn’t really have eyes in the back of her head. Just wait. In time you’ll see with your own two frontally-ensconced eyeballs that there will be times when you’ll get away with close to murder.”  I already sense fear in brats the world over. Of course, I don’t know any personally.

Controversial New York University arts professor, Wafaa Bilal, recently had a thumb-sized digital camera implanted in the back of his head for an art project commissioned by a museum in Qatar. The implications are beyond interesting even if the images captured don’t fall under the mainstream definition of what constitutes art.

The project, titled “The 3rd I”, is being billed as “a comment on the inaccessibility of time, and the inability to capture memory and experience.” The camera, which will be worn by Bilal for one year, will record images at one-minute intervals 24-hours a day and transmit them to monitors at the museum.

The whole thing teeters on the edge of weird artsy thinking running amok. If I think of my own day-to-day life, it seems the potential is great for there to be a whole lot of nothing. (Let’s hope for the sake of paying museum customers that Bilal leads a far more exciting life than me.) But Bilal said in an interview that he chose to do it as a statement about what we don’t see and leave behind. Whoa. That sort of made the hamster in my brain start running on the wheel.  Now I’m fascinated.

On the one hand, I probably don’t want to know what is successfully pulled off behind my back. In some areas of life, ignorance is bliss. But the “leave behind” part, that got to me a bit. What all have I forever walked away from simply because I never knew it was there in the first place? Yes, the hamster has nearly run itself to death.

I bet in the grand scheme that there’s a reason we were designed with both eyes in the front. (Wait, what if front is really back? How do I know front is front? Because I learned it from someone who told me they had eyes in the back of their head?) Maybe it all somehow ties in with how humans need to look ahead and move forward.

Yeah, we were also given a neck and a good span of peripheral vision, but we weren’t intended to dwell on our behind, I mean, our past. I’m more than a little perplexed by the whole idea. Do I wish to spy with a third little eye? I don’t think my hamster could handle it.

© 2010 Natalie Whatley