Advent Day One and Two: The Magic Begins

Advent Day One: Decorate the house for Christmas. 

I’m pretty sure last year’s Christmas decorating tilted towards “Christmas Explodes in Your Face! Like a Bomb!”

This year I decided to get slightly less aggressive with my Christmas decor. Maybe if was the four days of rain which also equaled four days of mud, but this year I was just hoping for “Uncluttered”.

I’m testing out a working theory which postulates that either other people just have better personalities than I do (You: Yes), or else they just have better Christmas decorations. Regardless, in my mind, decorating the house for Christmas is a magical experience, filmed in soft focus, while white lights twinkle, and Christmas carols play softly in the distance and I wear a sweaterdress and boots and scatter decorations, smiling angelically. Maybe I pause sometimes, and study a festive arrangements of nuts or something, and sip some hot cocoa.

In reality, my husband and I dragged the two filthy rubbermaid totes in from the garage in the middle of a torrential downpour. At some point someone pried one open and scattered decorations all over the table.  Christmas decorations were everywhere and every time I unveiled one corner of the dining room table, someone else would put something else there that I’d have to stop and clean up or wash or put in the dishwasher or throw out. One of the totes was filled with broken ornaments which I had to extract before I could do anything.  The magazine trees from last year were smashed and sticky.  Mr. E sat on the couch with his Iphone playin Boggle with strangers while Scooby Doo blared on the television.  I don’t own any sweaterdresses, am not a big fan of cocoa.  Hmmmm.

Next year, dammit, there will be Christmas carols, and I will set aside a time for decorating during which we do nothing else and we will not be watching Scooby Doo while we do it! NOT EVEN A CHRISTMAS THEMED EPISODE OF SCOOBY DOO! No one will make any appointments to get the oil changed in the car and it will be magical! I will buy a sweaterdress DAMMIT, see if I don’t.

Advent Day Two:  Buy a Toy For a Needy Child

So now that we have celebrated Advent Day One with dashed expectations and crabbiness, we can move onto abject despair.  Ha ha ha, not really. Well, kind of.

Every year we “buy a toy for a needy child” but last year Eli still didn’t really get it and I donated something I didn’t want of his to Goodwill, because 1. I am a bad person and 2. what I wanted to do was that thing where they have a tree at the mall, you draw a name, you buy  A Child, Boy, Age 8, A Transformer, but I couldn’t find one of those trees anywhere. This year, it turns out that at Eli’s school, they send home a big list and they ask for donations for children in each class who are “identified by the teacher.” whose families need extra help at the holidays.   Besides cash, they ask for things like non perishable food, new clothes, toys, and coats.

I’ll let that sink in for a bit.  Children who go to school with Eli need COATS.  Children sitting with my son, who has never known hunger, never known need, who gets pretty much everything he has ever wanted, who has FIVE coats, there are children in his class who need food, clothing, and coats.  It makes me sick to my stomach, is what it does. I wish I could do more, I wish so much I could do more.  Anyway.  We are giving money, we are giving food, and Eli very carefully examined all the Lego sets at Target and picked out what he thought was the very best one for someone his age.

But man, nothing makes you really feel like an asshole quite like explaining to your son that some kids parents don’t have enough money to get them toys at Christmas.  All the while buying buying buying, so you can shower your kids with things.  It’s pretty screwed up, but I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know what to do about it, and it’s just really not put me in the Christmas spirit, but we did what we could.  I wish it was more.

And that’s Advent so far.  Jeez.



18 Responses

  1. Our Church has one of those trees every year, and this morning I picked off the one that asks for two twin comforters. Comforters!

  2. Yeah, my daughter goes to both private day care kindergarten (so I can work full time) and the local public school so she can get special Ed services from the county. I believe the statistic for her public school was….83% get school meals and weekend backpacks of food so the kids don’t go hungry at home. And there are approx 80 kindergartners at her school. It is very hard to wrap my brain around. And heartbreaking to explain to her why we are sending her to school with a target bag of peanut butter for kids who don’t have enough to eat. And, our neighborhood is fairly lower to upper middle class. It sucks.

  3. Our church also does those trees every year, and almost always clothes are on the list. Definitely makes me feel like an ass for wanting more for my kids than they already have.

    Also, our Christmas decorating tradition involves doing everything while the kids are napping. I just can’t deal with the “help.”

  4. I do the “pick a kid off the tree” every year, and this year I picked kids that matched my kids in age, and explained to the kids that they would be buying a gift for the less fortunate, which then led down a path of “why isn’t Santa bringing them any gifts?” Uh….Santa only brings one gift per kid!

    I have an Advent calendar that I have unpacked, but the act of finding a place to hang the calendar is too stressful.

  5. Oh! Well, that’s completely heartbreaking. (And I’m sure exactly the same is true of the district I love in, where my mom works and also where I went to school. Actually, we were probably just BARELY the kids who didn’t need it.)

    I think the part that really broke me here was Eli examining the Lego sets, finding one that would be best. I kind of can’t take it.

    (Also, is there additional need for his school, maybe? We do Adopt A Family at work, but I’m not exposed to too many other opportunities to help. I’d love to take my nieces to pick out some extra toys…)

  6. I LOVE your description of How Other People Put Up Decorations! That is EXACTLY how I picture it! It goes along with “Other people sit in lovely vintage rocking chairs wearing white eyelet nightgowns, rocking their newborns with full appreciation of the precious passing moment, as the beautiful morning sunlight highlights their perfect hair.”

    My own workable plan, as it turns out (along with “Slumping in a La-Z-Boy recliner in men’s flannel pajama bottoms and a t-shirt with holes in it, snoring/drooling with a newborn snoring/drooling on me, and spit-up in my hair”) is more like “Booze up. Explain to the children beforehand that Mommy might be saying some Bad Words, but that that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love them and/or that they may say those words. Try to get these CRAPPY NO-GOOD LIGHTS to light up.” Etc.

  7. Our church does things like that and we always participate, but this year there is such a shortage at local food banks that everyone is being asked to contribute to THAT instead. Our pastor said that 1 in 4 kids in our city is undernourished and I almost started crying right there. When we lit the Hope candle on our Advent wreath yesterday, we talked about hope versus despair and what it would be like to be hungry regularly, to rarely be full, to try to sleep when your stomach is growling.

    I remember learning about these special bundles of food that go home with certain kids at our school on evenings and weekends because otherwise THEY DON’T EAT. It broke my heart. I don’t know how my kids can get it when *I* can’t wrap my head around it.

  8. R said the other day that he was STARVING. You better believe I whipped out pictures of real starving children (not dying, but hungry) and told him there were kids in our neighborhood who don’t know when they’re going to eat next, let alone get a freaking snack. It felt a little extreme, but the fact that there are children in my NEIGHBORHOOD who don’t have enough to eat breaks my heart.

  9. I don’t know the statistic for our neighborhood school, but I’m sure there are kids in C’s class who have less than we do. Our neighborhood is very diverse both culturally and economically.

    We also live in New York City, and I’ve spent a lot of time talking to the kids (who are 5 and 3) about the areas hardest hit by the hurricaine, and how we can help. They are astonished to hear that there are kids, only a few miles from here who are homeless.

    BTW – love your blog – cannot recall how I found you, but love it, and wanted to let you know.

  10. We do the same thing (it was day one on our advent calendar). My company did a tree partnering with the local foster nonprofit so we adopted a three year old girl. Spencer still didn’t get it (he’s four but an idealist to the max) but he helped me shop for her. I want to get a good pair of shoes and a jacket if I can swing it before I bring the stuff in. And a book? Would she have someone to read to her? It’s heartbreaking, really.

  11. We do the toys for a needy child thing every year through David’s office, and one year there was a coat on the little girl’s wish list. It really is heartbreaking to recognize the need amidst the abundance–and realize that IT’S EVEN WORSE in most other countries in the world.

    But! You are doing your best to teach Eli (and Katie, when she’s old enough to “get it”) that real needs are out there, and that we have an obligation to help respond to those needs.

  12. Ohhhh, sad about the coats.

  13. My office started the adopt a school program with the school next door last year and it has been heartbreaking seeing the requests that have come in from them. We have donated school supplies, turkeys and hams for Thanksgiving, and they send us Angels for Christmas. It makes me so sad to see these children are hurting and even more angry when Sean doesn’t appreciate that we have a roof over our heads, food on our table, and gifts under our tree.

  14. It is anecdotes like this that really make the headlines come to life for me.

    It feels like it’s been several years of so many adults and families struggling to make ends meet, consistently, and it is heartbreaking to see in real life how many CHILDREN are the recipients of choices adults far away and above them make. I just never read headlines or see stories about the KIDS. It’s always presented at a much higher, broader level with a lot of grown-up finger pointing while someone’s belly growls silently. It’s always been like this, of course, but it seems somehow more awful now that I have children of my own.

    I hope everyone who needs a coat gets one.

  15. 1. I HATED, HATED, HATED Christmas when I was a kid because my parents snapped and fought over every blessed thing. Do we get a tree or not? Do we put it here or there? Who does the lights? Why are you putting that decoration there? Why do we have to go to your parents’ house and not mine? Who? Why? What? Fight, fight, fight.

    Cut to me as an adult, living with my fiance, and he *suggests* we put up a Christmas tree. I envision fighting, snapping, and whining and suggest we don’t. But he perseveres and I see it means more to him than to me and we put up a (teeny tiny) tree. The afternoon is filled with Christmas music from Los Straightjackets, hot chocolate, and many pleasant memories as we discussed ornaments and light hanging strategies. We don’t have kids, but I really and truly look forward to that afternoon when we put up the tree every year now.

    2. The number of kids in this country who go to bed hungry and cold every day is horrifying. I am forever donating bags of food, toys, and shoes (kids shoes! imagine your kid not having shoes!) for kiddos. It’s hard to be poor anytime of the year, but this time of year it really, really, really sucks.

    3. But you don’t own a sweaterdress? What do you wear all winter long? Maybe it’s different in California (undoubtedly), but I LIVE in sweaterdresses and sweatertights in the winter time here in the Midwest.

  16. I think we do what we can when we can for those that are less fortunate, and teaching your kids about giving is a wonderful place to start.

    My workplace always does a tree for the kids at the Boys & Girls Club, and I usually pick one or two names to shop for. As I was perusing the tags this year, I saw one for a 5-year-old boy that was asking for socks and underwear. SOCKS AND UNDERWEAR!! And then my heart broke into eight million pieces.

    I mean, I’m sure adults at the club helped them come up with the requests but I don’t think they’d put it on there if there wasn’t a need. So, yeah, he’ll be getting socks and underwear (Ninjago underwear, actually) this year, as well as some other fun things.

  17. One of those programs for children is called the Angel Tree, and it’s for kids who are needy and whose parents are incarcerated, I believe. Anyway, if you wanted to ask around in order to find a program in the future, that might be an easy one to ask about. However, it sounds like you have plenty of need that could be addressed as it is. That just breaks my heart, and yes, it is like that in our area, too. As a matter of fact, the nurse at the elementary school my boys went to would take my hand-me-downs anytime I brought them in. That way, she’d have stuff to give to kids that came to school inappropriately dressed or not dressed warmly enough for the weather, never mind puking on themselves, peeing their pants, etc.

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