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Poisson d’Avril

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I don't like April Fools' Day. Since I'm not a huge fan of practical jokes, it's not really a holiday I have ever gotten into. I've played a prank or two, but I never felt good afterward. But I want to enjoy fun things with my kids so I started looking for practical joke options.

Here's the thing. Practical Jokes involve violating someone's right to consent.

That sounds harsh, but think about these jokes we play, the classic pranks of summer camp and sleep overs. They involve humiliation, confusion, sometimes fear, or general use of someone's body without their okay (drawing on the first person to fall asleep at the slumber party?) Even something that seems totally silly and safe – freezing a bowl of cereal and milk – results in the prankee being confused, and likely being laughed at. If you just take a peek at the language, we play a prank ON someone or do a practical joke TO someone. Never WITH**. Stuff like that matters.

As a parent trying hard to teach respect and consent, I don't feel like a holiday devoted to ignoring consent is really something I can get on board with.

Happily, there is a better way, a gentler alternative full of silliness.

In France they celebrate Poisson d'Avril – the April Fish.

The goal is to tape a paper fish on someone's back, or hold some sort of a fish behind someone without their noticing. When they do notice, the joker says “Poisson d'Avril!” and everyone laughs. It's simple, it's expected. It's easy to say “I don't want to play that this year.” and easy to respect that person's right not to consent to this game. An a parent I can play along, not noticing as my minions “sneak” behind me with their fish.

I made a batch of small felt fish with a little glitter paint and googly eyes. I'm putting them on the table with some tape. And I'm letting Poisson d'Avril rule the day. Already there has been a lot of giggling.

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**Side Note: It is, of course, possible to have a prank relationship with someone else. Everyone in the relationship understands that pranks are possible and not done out of malice. Everyone has agreed to play. This kind of relationship is awesome and develops over time, with respect and listening coming from all parties. I'm into that kind of prank. As long as there is mutual consent involved.

 

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DIY Flag Ornaments

I love the way our ornament collection grows, full of memory. The wobbly salt dough ornaments from various childhoods, the bugs we painted with glitter one year (Brother-Bug has a millipede ornament), first ornaments of the kids, the angel ornament that adorned the top my our first mutual tree some 11 years ago – so small a tree (table top rosemary) that this angel ornament was almost too big. My childhood ornaments, Papa-Bug's childhood ornaments. It's precious.

This year I ended up with extra glass globes – empty and waiting. They came in a six pack and I only needed two. So I started looking around online. I found this lovely silhouette idea…

Nativity Silhouette Ornaments

But I wanted something to save This Year.

As you know, we are studying global cultures (and really enjoying it). So flags, I thought. Something fun and special just for us. Something to remind us of this year of travel from home and study of things abroad.

I found flag pictures online, tweaked them in Photoshop a bit, and printed them on vellum. Then following the tutorial I stuck them to acetate and put them in the globes. Of course we added glitter. We almost always add glitter, especially at Christmastime. Glitter and/or sprinkles.

These look really good from all angles, and especially lovely in front of the tree lights. Because of the fragile ornaments, I did most of the actual work. But the kids picked their own flags and were right there in the way while we made these. All four ornaments took only about 20 minutes total.

 

Sister-Bug chose Brazil. We studied Brazil in September and October and she loves all things Brazillian right now.

Brother-Bug chose Thailand. He wanted Japan, but the Japanese flag would have looked kind of like just a red dot…so he went for Thailand. We haven't had a Thai unit yet, but my mom and her sweetie have travelled in Thailand a lot, so we love it for that.

I picked Hungary for Toddler-Bug. He was asleep (because I wouldn't do a glass ornament project with an active and wakeful toddler). Papa-Bug has roots in Hungary and it seemed like fun. It was really hard to choose – so many good flags out there.

Finally, for Papa-Bug and me, I went with South Africa. Because Nelson Mandela. And wanting the best global representation I could get in four flags.

So that's our ornament of the year. They are glowing and beautiful on the tree. Another memory preserved to cherish.

And now I must be off. Brother-Bug is performing in our local Nutcracker tonight. I have to get my Little Angel (for that is what he is onstage) fed and rested and ready to go. It's going to be a big night.

Happy Tree Trimming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Deeds Again

Last year we tried out our Good Deeds Calendar for Advent. It was a mixed bag for the kids, but I really liked it. At the very least it helped me keep a focus on extending our bounty and love out into the world.

Good Deeds

Here is the original post, and here are my reflections on our experience.

And here is a list of what Good Deeds we might do:

(Note that there are more than 24 here so that I have some wiggle room if the plans don’t always work out…)

  • Send a loving letter to someone.
  • Draw a picture for a child in the hospital.
  • Buy some pet treats and take them to the animal shelter.
  • Donate canned goods to the postal food drive.
  • Today is The Great Toy Giveaway!!
  • Write a list of 5 things you love about someone you haven’t talked to recently, and mail it to them.
  • Take a hike somewhere beautiful. Bring a bag with you and pick up litter.
  • Bring Papa coffee in bed.
  • Make a batch of fudge or cookies and take it to Pasta Plus (where my mom works).
  • Tell Mama something you like about a local business and have her post it to their FB wall.
  • Give compliments to 3 people today. How many people total is that?
  • Play a game with your sibling that THEY want to play. Let them make the rules.
  • Send a Christmas card to someone in the military.
  • Take flowers to a nursing home.
  • Buy some art supplies at the Dollar Store. Donate the supplies to the children’s ward at the hospital.
  • Go out for steamers. Have Mama pay for the person in line behind us.
  • Visit an elderly person and ask to hear what Christmas was like when they were young. Really listen to their story.
  • Plan a Christmas Movie Party. Pick a movie, plan on pop-corn and cocoa! Invite friends and ask them to bring $3-5 each. We will donate the money to a good cause.
  • Have the Movie Party!! Draw a card for your guests to sign. Send/take the money to the organization you are donating to.
  • Donate some picture books to children who need books. Mama will help you find a good place.
  • Write a Christmas card for your ballet Teacher and your scout Leaders about why they are good teachers. Deliver them at class time with a jar of jam.
  • Take these candy canes with you when you run errands to day. Give one to someone you see who looks like they “need a smile”. (I borrowed this idea from Colleen Kessler – Thanks Colleen!!)
  • Out on errands? Hold the door for people coming behind you.
  • Take a donation of food to the Food For Lane County office.
  • Bake a batch of cookies and take them to the Fire Station near our house. Thank the Firefighters for their service.
  • Leave early for Church. Stop at the Dollar Store and buy some personal care product (toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap…). Leave it in the Occupy Medical donation bin at Church.

I am thinking of getting a Good Deed canister to go next to the calendar and putting money in it. That way they can take the dollars out for a trip to the dollar store and buy their own supplies. They don’t have to rely (as directly) on me to do pay for them. It is their Good Deed Money that does the Good.

What does your family do that is similar?

Holiday Give Away! Tie-Dye Stockings!

You read that right. I’m giving away four tie-dye stockings. I am making tie-dye stockings for our family for Christmas this year and I ended up with extras (it’s a long story…). “What to do with these stockings?” I wondered.

I’ll give them to my wonderful readers! The obvious answer.

The Give Away Link – Click to Enter
 

The give away has a quick turn-around, closing up on the 16th, so that I can get the stockings out to the four winners before Christmas Eve, so make sure you don’t miss it. Maybe you already have stockings hung up with care…but a tie-dye stocking? You probably don’t have one of those, or it could make a lovely gift for that hard-to-shop for person. You could fill it with tasty goodies… So may possibilities. 

Good luck!

Click the Link to Enter the Give Away!!!   

I Believe

Brother-Bug is getting to an age where he's going to contemplate The Big Question. Is there a Santa Claus? It's a hot button issue for sure. Some parents feel that the perpetuation of the Santa Claus story is a lie. Some love the magic and willingly play along.

I'm in a different camp. I believe.

But allow me to clarify.

I don't believe in the northern toy factory. I don't believe that I have to be good (phew!). I don't believe that a staff of elves work tirelessly on toys to distribute to deserving children.

I figured out that Santa didn't bring the presents when I was 6 or 7. I was utterly mystified. If Santa didn't bring the presents, and still existed… Well he had to have a purpose, right? I thought about for a long time. I thought about it A Lot.

I figured it out, one long ago Christmas Morning. I woke up too early; a kid excited for Christmas. I was aware of tingles in my fingers and toes, jitters in my tummy. The house felt and smelled different, special. The house felt and smelled like Christmas. “Ah ha!!” my small brain said, “That's what Santa brings!” It's that feeling. That once a year, tingly, etra-special feeling that exists only on Christmas morning. From that moment, by belief has never faltered.

Another mom out there shared this letter that she wrote to her daughter, and I think she nailed it.

The Truth About Santa Claus

“Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.”

(Martha Brockenbourgh)

We are teaching our kids to believe in a lot of things – seen and unseen. Love. Trust. Their “gut feelings”… These are all intangible. You can't point to it. Some of us are teaching our kids about God and the Divine. Not something you can see with your eyes. We read them magical tales of Fairies and Trolls. Magic is everywhere when you are a kid. To disabuse them of magic is a terrible, terrible thing to do to a child. If Santa doesn't exist, what other intangibles might not exist? That's a dark and scary place that I don't even want to think about.

Santa Claus isn't a lie. He is an Elven King, a Fairy Helper, a Spirit of Kindness, a Blessed Saint, and an Inspiration.

Perhaps it was best and most eloquently stated in the New York Sun in 1897, by Francis P. Church:

“You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

(Full text of the famous letter ” Yes, Virginia” here.)

I will always believe. And I hope my kids join me.

 

Thank-Full

 

Thank you for reading, commenting, sharing, and supporting. I could no more stop writing than I could stop thinking, and I am gratefull that there are people like you out there who read my words.

Now the turkey needs to be trimmed and some potatoes peeled. I have much to do and even more to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Thanksgiving & Black Friday

Ahhhhh…the time of year when the demon bear of consumerism is more than a little apparent. As I write this, Sister-Bug is working on one of her many lists to Santa Claus.

I shared this picture on my personal Facebook Page.

It generated a lot of comments; people seem to be incensed by the idea of shopping on Thanksgiving. Naturally. Some people have to work on Thanksgiving – we need emergency rooms and fire fighters and police/ambulance folks keeping us safe. But do we really need department stores or grocery stores open? Not so much.

Do we really need to scarf our pie so that we can be in line at the Mall-Wart at 5:58 PM to get the newest, shiniest, tackiest piece of thing? Do we? Really? I don’t think so. And I won’t be. I will be at home, surrounded by family, friends, and dirty dishes. My kids will be gorging themselves sick on desserts and chasing their aunts and uncles around the house. There is just about a month in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which means I can have plenty of shopping time and catch some sales without curtailing our Feast of Gratitude OR forcing people to work on a day that is deemed special for family.

You can go to this Facebook Page and add your Pledge! Don’t shop on Thanksgiving. And spread the word.

But what about the spectre of Black Friday? Last year I reminisced about my memories from childhood. It was a nice time, a special day. There is a big push every year for Buy Nothing Day; I support that. Buying Nothing is a great idea. But what if you are just pushing off your shopping? What about a positive alternative? If you are committed to the idea of Buy Nothing Day, it will catch on better if you have something positive to fill that space. Something else to do.

  • Host or participate in a Make Day – get together with friends and make presents, cards, treats…play holiday music, eat leftovers, socialize and enjoy. You will end up with presents at the end of the day and you won’t have to mace anyone or get run over by a shopping card stampede in the process.
  • Go shopping! But avoid the big box stores and national chains. Shop at your local craft fairs and small retailers. Keep your money local. Buy a coffee drink at a local coffee shop. Talk to the crafters and retailers you encounter. Build local connections.
  • Gather with friends at a local coffee shop or bar and start filling out your holiday cards together. Keep your money local, get a holiday job started (possibly finished depending on how long you hang out).
  • Have a game day! Have other families over, spice some cider. Get out Clue, Monopoly, and Fluxx. Laugh. Connect. I know we all did that yesterday, but if you can envision leaving the house to fight the mall crowds, you can probably find the energy to go to a small family gathering.
  • Trade Dates. If Aunts and Uncles and Cousins are around, parents can take turns watching the pack of kids while their parents have a date. The parents return and trade off. Kids play, adults converse, everyone wins. And parents get a little personal/downtime as this most-wonderful-time-of-the-year kicks off.

What can you add to this list? What do you do on Black Friday? And will you pledge not to shop on Thanksgiving?