The Nutcracker: Not Just for Girls

by Abby on December 19, 2014

The Nutcracker” is one of my all-time favorite performances to see live. It never fails to put me in the Christmas spirit. Growing up, my parents took me to see musicals, plays, and concerts often. As a kid, I performed in an annual Christmas production at our church for years. And I have fond memories of going to see “The Nutcracker” in Boston with my dad when I was in college.

The Nutcracker

Sadly, my husband does not share my love of musical theater. I made him go to “The Nutcracker” with me when I was pregnant with our first child and I think he fell asleep during the first act. Even so, I was determined to share this experience with my children. So last year, when I felt they were old enough, we went.

As you know, I have 2 small boys. So you can see how the ballet might be a hard sell. Classical music, sitting quietly, girls in tutus and toe shoes? And it’s true, of all the small, smartly dressed children gathered in the theatre lobby, boys were a distinct minority.

But here’s what you may have forgotten if you haven’t seen “The Nutcracker” in a while: it’s full of magic, sword-fighting, and acrobatics. There’s a naughty little brother who breaks toys, a giant Mouse King who is felled by a slipper, an army of toy soldiers, an undulating Chinese dragon, and Russian dancers doing backflips!

My boys were at the edge of their seats for most of it. So what if they got a little antsy during the dance of the Snowflakes and yawned during the waltz of the Flowers? At least they stayed awake! (Unlike SOME people… who weren’t invited this time around.) Also, I bribed them with candy.

Beforehand, I worried: would they hate it? Would this be a waste of money? Would I spend the whole time stressing about my kids’ behavior? Would I be so distracted I wouldn’t even enjoy the performance? Should I just bag the whole thing? But no, I decided I had to at least try. And I was glad I did.

My son and his Nutcracker date last yearThis year, my older son opted out. So my 5yo and I joined my goddaughter and her mom. And I enjoyed the performance just as much as I ever have. Maybe this was the last year my younger son will want to go. But that’s OK. I tried. And maybe as he grows up, when he hears that distinctive music, visions of sugarplums – or sword-fights – will dance in his head, and he will think of me.

SONG O’ THE DAY: At the end of the show, the entire cast came back out on stage to this rocking version of “The Nutcracker Suite” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. In case you like some head-banging with your ballet.

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The Santa Situation

by Abby on December 15, 2014

Parents: prepare yourselves. At some point, it’s going to happen. On the bus, at the playground — somewhere, an older kid is going to tell your child there is no Santa. When they do, what will you say?

Santa ClausOur babysitter once poured cold water on the head of a kid who did that. It shut down the conversation, that’s for sure! But should you find yourself without water or duct tape handy, you’ll need to think of another strategy, fast. Like the conversations about death and the facts of life, kids tend to spring these things on you without warning.

Here’s what I think. In parenting, as in life, there are different strokes for different folks. (Another time, remind me to tell you all how I found myself Googling Gary Coleman and explaining the plot of “Diff’rent Strokes” to my kids.) I understand that all families may not believe in the same things. But we should all be mindful, and encourage our loose-lipped older kids to be mindful, that not everybody thinks the way they do. Especially when some of us are only in kindergarten. Why is it always the doubters who are the loudest, anyway?

Is it really so hard to believe in a jolly, white-bearded gentleman who bestows gifts and goodwill on the children of the world once a year? And is it that much of a stretch to believe that there are things that exist that we can’t see or touch or prove scientifically? (Even Sheldon Cooper believes in Santa. Sort of.) And why is it that the older and supposedly wiser we get, the more we think we know?

The older I get, the more I learn just how much I still don’t know, and just how much can’t be explained. I know now that dinosaurs aren’t really extinct, that sometimes life is not short, that prayer works, and that miracles do happen.

I like Santa, my kids like Santa, and in our house, he exists. So that’s what we tell the nay-sayers: say what you want, but we believe.

“I believe Santa is real. Because you and Dad would NEVER get me an iPhone for Christmas!” says my 8yo, clutching the lime green iPhone 5 he found under the tree last year. He’s got that right. (Santa, why did you have to set the bar so high?!) Can’t wait to see what this Christmas brings.

I leave you with this excerpt from “Is There a Santa Claus?” from an 1897 issue of The New York Sun:

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

… Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.”

LINK O’ THE DAY: Beware – 11 Santa spoilers in popular kids’ movies and books.

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Flashback Friday: Annoying Things About School Holiday Events

December 5, 2014

So let’s follow up all those deep thoughts about life and song lyrics with some good ol’ seasonally appropriate snark, shall we? It seems like a good time to re-post this piece from my archives. A mom I know told me yesterday that she’s been asked to chip in $90 for teachers’ gifts and class […]

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Wild Horses

December 2, 2014

I have always loved The Sundays’ cover of the Rolling Stones’song, “Wild Horses.” That beautiful, haunting melody popped into my head this past weekend when we took an impromptu family trip to the Maryland shore. A long weekend, a Groupon, and some low-key togetherness were all that was on the agenda. I figured the hotel’s […]

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4 Ways You’re Doing Gratitude Wrong

November 20, 2014

My 8yo son and I are on a mission to save Thanksgiving. Well, not so much save it, but help its image, like a Thanksgiving PR team. We get outraged when we see Christmas decorations up before Halloween. We cheer when we glimpse the stray pilgrim or turkey flag in someone’s yard. We are annoyed […]

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A Moment of Zen

November 14, 2014

He’s saying, “Ommm… my goodness, I’ve never sat still and quietly this long in my life.” What, your family doesn’t meditate in bamboo forests? Then have a peaceful weekend doing whatever it is that brings you joy. Namaste!

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Welcome to Mom’s All-You-Can-Eat Snack Buffet

November 11, 2014

Hi, my name is Abby and I’ll be your server today. Can I start you off with some drinks? Water or milk? And you’d like that in the green cup with an orange straw? Certainly, sir. And for the other gentleman? Before I tell you the specials, may I ask if you finished your lunch […]

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3 Things Kids Have Taught Me About Reaching Your Goals

November 5, 2014

I spend a lot of time around little boys. They’re loud and frequently smelly, but I love ’em. They really get in there and live life in all its messy, painful, imperfect glory. Whether they’re hitting balls or climbing trees or finding new ways to incorporate sticks and rocks into my living room décor, they […]

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Notice the Resemblance?

October 31, 2014

Orange on top, gap-toothed grin, scary if you come across them unexpectedly at night?  

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Don’t Let Your Pants Ruin Your Day

October 27, 2014

You might not think boys care about their clothes, but you’d be wrong. Mine care about comfort first, coolness factor second. Or rather, comfort first, coolness factor of the T-shirt design second, and fashion forwardness not at all. And don’t you dare call them cute. When my 8yo was a toddler he once said, “Mommy, […]

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