Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Memories . . .

I've blogged in the past about how powerful memories are. That point is driven home regularly during the Advent and Christmas seasons. (soapbox warning . . . I refuse to call it the "Holiday" season here. I'll be PC at work, but this is my blog, dadgummit, and I'll call it what I want!!!!).

Ahem, where was I?

This time of year is filled with triggers that bring back vivid memories from Christmas' past. Stringing lights on the tree; singing those great Christmas carols; hanging stockings with care; etc etc. Many of my memories are musical in nature. One was triggered last night.

Blockus and I were up late wrapping Christmas presents. Did you see what I just wrote?!? On December 17th, we were WRAPPING PRESENTS!!!!! This did NOT evoke a vivid memory as we have never wrapped anything this early. I'm so proud. (it was either that or clean the house and that clearly wasn't going to happen). Anywhere, we were still going strong at 11:00 when A Christmas Carol ended on TNT. As I was reaching for the remote, I saw the promo for what was on next - Christmas in Washington. Now, the annual spectacle that I remember was just that - a spectacle. President and Mrs. Reagan sitting on the front row listening to a mix of singing stars broadcast during prime time on one of the big three networks. Over the past few years I've caught glimpses of the show on a seemingly random array of networks (CMT, Lifetime, the Food Network maybe?). And the "talent" seemed to have fallen off a bit. Lot's of pop; not much culture. Maybe I'm just getting old(er).

Last night didn't start off much better. I don't know who the first singer was (bless her heart), but we promptly hit "mute" while she gyrated around the stage in a gold lame mini-dress. "Merry Christmas!" I was going to give them one more song; if things didn't improve we were moving on.

Good news! Next up - Kristin Chenowith. Loved her in West Wing; can sing along to most of the soundtrack from the original "Wicked". (yes, I love Broadway; you gonna make something of it?).

Well, it wasn't her best performance, but it was enough to keep us watching. Next Darius Rucker (ne "Hootie") singing an absolutely lovely song that neither of us had ever heard before. I was starting to really enjoy myself! And I suddenly realized that, despite everything, I was still watching Christmas in Washington. Not "Holiday" in Washington or "Winter Solstice" in Washington. These people were right up there on stage singing about the Baby Jesus and everything! Out loud! On TV! Well I'll be!

The next act (that I remember, at least; remember that by now it's 11:30 and we're wrapped out) sealed the deal. I remember Blockus calling me to the kitchen to see some acapella group on YouTube singing the Twelve Days of Christmas. Just some guys from Indiana University singing at their annual Christmas / Holiday concert. They were amazing! Talented, funny and yes, talented. Well, that video went viral and now they are living the dream of every college-age music group. Major contract with a major recording label; performing on national TV (albeit TNT) in front of the First Lady. (FYI, this was recorded while the President was dodging shoes in Iraq earlier in the week). "Straight No Chaser" is the name of the group and they are darned talented. Enjoy.

Anyway, the whole show ended on a high note. Lot's of beautiful carols sung beautifully; unashamed celebration of the birth of the Christ Child. It was an awful lot like the olden days.

Merry Christmas,


Arby said...
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Arby said...

It is safe to say that next time The Boss tells me that there’s an open position for deployed analysts, and she asks if I mind if she goes, my answer will not be a casual, “Yeah, I don’t mind.” She left on July 18th for a five month deployment to Baghdad. Yes, that Baghdad. The one in Iraq. There is an even better chance that the next time The Boss asks me if we can hatch some chicken eggs right before she deploys for half a year, my reply will not be, “Let me build you a coop.” She painted the coop “Va-va-voom,” and the paint color’s name accurately described its appearance. We had a chicken bordello in our backyard. I repainted the Best Little Chicken House in Kansas with “Barn Red” paint so that our neighbors wouldn’t be concerned about any fowl activity in the area. These were just two of the events that highlighted one of the most unusual years that I have had since The Boss enticed me to join her in Kansas City 14 years ago when she said, “Come with me and I promise you an adventure.”

In May, we took Captain Chaos to Children’s Mercy Hospital for an evaluation with Laura, the Occupational Therapist who helped Captain Chaos learn to eat real food a few years ago. Laura suggested immobilization therapy for Captain Chaos. We agreed to the procedure, and Captain Chaos spent the month of May with a purple cast on her right arm. Casting Captain Chaos was enormously beneficial. It forced her to learn to use her left hand more effectively. The down side to casting Captain Chaos was that we installed a club on the hand of a girl who held absolutely no inhibitions about slapping around her brothers whenever it suited her mood. It was The Boss who took the worst shot. If life had comic book sound effects like in an Adam West Batman fight, our bedroom would have filled with a bright blue “THONK!” after Captain Chaos, who was bouncing on our bed next to The Boss, jumped in the air, landed on her fanny, and clocked her mother in the forehead with her cast. It sounded like a baseball hitting a wooden bat.

“That’s gonna leave a mark!” I laughingly observed.

“I’m going to tell people that you beat me,” The Boss replied.

Major Havoc ran into the room after hearing The Boss yelp. “Are you okay, mommy?” he asked.

“I’m fine, honey,” she replied. “I just got hit with Captain Chaos’s purple glove.” “Purple Glove” was Major Havoc’s name for the cast.

“Oh, yeah,” he giggled, with genuine understanding. “That hurts!”

May was also the month when we incubated chicken eggs. The kids loved watching the birds hatching and holding the chicks. Just my luck, 3 of the 4 chickens turned out to be roosters, and by the end of the summer, long after The Boss departed for the Middle East, my mornings began at 0530 when they awoke and started crowing. Tending to three roosters and one very nervous hen was not what I had in mind when I agreed to keep the birds. I gave away two roosters and traded the third for two hens. We now have three hens (one Americauna and two Rhode Island Reds) that keep our yard bug free, the lawn well fertilized, and provide a steady supply of brown and blue organic eggs. The kids love chasing, catching, and holding the chickens. It’s great exercise!

One item that The Boss checked off of her pre-deployment “To Do” list, right before “Pass a kidney stone two nights before departure,” was to complete her oral boards for her Masters degree before leaving the country. Actually, she would have run for the border without giving her degree a second thought if not for one her professors, who asked her, “When are you going to get this finished?” Unable to think of a quick excuse, she scheduled her orals for late June, and spent one month cramming six year’s worth of studies into her noggin’. Her efforts we rewarded when she successfully completed her boards. The Boss earned an MS in Operations Research from the Kansas State University School of Engineering. Don’t bother asking. None of us really know what that means, either.

The children have tolerated their mother’s absence quite well. General Mayhem still studies Karate on Monday nights. He is currently a red belt, and tests for advancement this month. He enjoys Boy Scouts on Tuesday nights. In his first year of scouting, he has participated in many camp-outs, earned his Tenderfoot badge, and five merit badges. He enjoys the volunteer activities that involve physical labor more than he enjoys the meetings. He is in the sixth grade and in his fifth year of homeschooling. On Wednesday nights he attends Confirmation class at our church.

Major Havoc joined our homeschool this year as a kindergartener. He also started Tiger Scouts last September. I cannot tell whether or not he really understands what he is doing in Tiger Scouts, but he gets to wear a cool uniform and hang out with kids and play. Every once in a while someone gives him a patch for his shirt that he has absolutely no idea why he is getting. Tiger Scouts lets him be cool like his big brother. Major Havoc, who is going to rival his mother in the freckles department, has a huge smile, bright eyes, an infectious giggle, and a thirst for chasing down and catching chickens. Every day we watch the birds race across the yard, followed closely by a maniacally cackling Major Havoc. One of his biggest thrills comes each day when he finds an egg in the coop and can bring it into the house and place it in the refrigerator. He’s a fun kid.

Captain Chaos starts each day by exiting her bed shortly before dawn, climbing into my bed, and balancing her milk cup on my head. I awake to the sounds of, “Milk, daddy. Daddy, milk? Milk please, daddy.” The arrival of a full cup of milk does not guarantee that I will be allowed to sleep longer, as the chatterbox is usually just getting warmed up. All the important things that a four-year-old has to say are spoken before 6 a.m., well before my first cup of coffee, during that period of time when only the unconditional love of a father for his daughter assures her continued survival. Captain Chaos does attend preschool four days each week where she receives her Speech and Occupational Therapy. The speech therapist recently sent me a note telling me that they were working on two word phrases. I need to let Captain Chaos sleep at her house for a week.

Our family will be reunited when The Boss returns home in mid-December, just in time to celebrate Christmas. While you celebrate Christmas, please keep in your prayers all the servicemen and women, and civilians, who will spend their holidays overseas, and their families back at home. May God’s blessings be visited upon you during the Christmas season and throughout 2009.