Four Sibs1852

So my oldest, affectionately nicknamed “El Surfeador,” will be twenty years old on Saturday.  20 on the 20th.  His golden birthday.  He’s at home, in the U.S., and we’re here, in Spain.  Here were a few things I did to help him start enjoying the epic Two-Oh, just two days away!  (Wow.)

One.  Maybe six weeks ago, I emailed all kinds of people who had been important to him, and I invited them to shoot him a card for his birthday.  A couple of weeks ago, I sent a reminder email.  My hope is that he’ll get somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty birthday cards.  A friend at home gave me the idea:  she invited friends to do the same thing when her daughter was turning eighteen last fall.  So exciting, that he’ll be receiving birthday wishes from all kinds of people who have meant the world to him!

Two.  My other three kids–Goose, Miss Zinnia, and Miss Lavender–sang him some birthday songs, and the Eleven O’Clock Dad filmed them.  The video went into an email attachment and then into the inbox of a new Acqaintance, Treat-maker, and Co-conspirator I happened to stumble across . . . who happens to live near my son.  (Funny, how those coincidences happen!)  When my son “happens” by her home on his birthday (there will be a pretext, of course), she and her husband will open the attachment for him so he can hear his siblings sing to him on His Day.  Surprise!

Three.  The package.  All this week, he is opening gifts we sent him in a birthday package–one a day:  things like antique peseta notes (Spanish bills), some dating to the 1920’s, that he can use for bookmarks; a #10 Lionel Messi wind-up action figure (with very sweet moves); two professional yo-yo’s, and other bits of utterly (un)Necessary Nonsense.

Four.  A couple of days ago, we all emailed him our own list of twenty things we love about him.  Goose’s was priceless.  Among his twenty to his older brother:  You’re awesome, You can kick a ball hard and far, You’re one energetic kid in a man’s body, and “I am happy you were born.”

I realized some of you may be far from children whose birthdays are coming up, and, being an inveterate Idea Thief myself, I thought you might want to steal a couple of these if they worked for you.  Or maybe you’ve sent your own Love to birthday kids who are far away?  I’d love to know!

(Photo:  The Kids, on the day El Surfeador reported to the missionary training center in Provo, Utah.  He began serving as a missionary for the Mormon church last August and will finish in August of 2014.)

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Looking back over some family photos from Christmas 2011 got me thinking.


With the holidays approaching, I’m hung up on the always perplexing question of what to give my kids for Christmas, which is the holiday we celebrate.


Seems like every year, just after Halloween, I get excited and anxious in equal proportions.


I make lists, I plan, I start my Christmas errands, of which there are far too many.  But this year is different. Celebrating Christmas in the style to which we’ve accustomed ourselves makes absolutely no sense here in Spain.

If we manage to find a tree somewhere, it’ll be pint size, and, with all my ornaments and other tree-decorating accoutrements in storage back home, we’ll have nothing to drape on it but homecrafted stuff. But maybe that’ll be cool. Strings of popcorn and “caramelos” (hard candy) wouldn’t be difficult, right? And maybe a tinfoil star for the top?  I could delegate the tree ornamenting to Miss Zinnia, who would not only rise to the task but shine!

I realize I am smiling. Being unburdened by all my stuff could be a very nice thing indeed.

And all the home decorations? Well, we could spend an afternoon cutting out paper snowflakes, for starters. And maybe hang them around our loft, just so?  For this, I could enlist the help of a daughter who loves design.  I provide the supplies, she heads up the effort, gives us our jobs, keeps us on task, and stages the home, so to speak.  And a subsequent photo shoot for Habitania magazine–no big deal.

The baking, I can handle. I have a buttermilk cookie recipe given to me by my childhood BFF, Melissa. And we can surely find some Vince Guaraldi on Spotify and make a Charlie Brown Christmas playlist so we’ll have some classic background music to dose up on while we’re also dosing up on cookie batter. I bet I can even find some Christmas sprinkles for the tops of the cookies.

And we can go carolling. We sing all the time anyway, shamelessly, and we’ve made lots of friends here who would, at the very least, be amused by our attempts to spread a little musical cheer. We have coats. And scarves. And gloves. And ready voices.

Ahh, but the gifts!  What to give my children?


Whatever we present to them we’ll need to pack up and take home next summer, so there’s that to consider. And my “wrapping factory,” (perhaps you have one, too?), also in storage, won’t help me one bit come December, when I’m normally closeted with my supplies and madly trying to create masterpieces of paper and ribbon that rival the gifts inside the boxes. Nope, not going to assemble a wrapping factory here.

What to give, what to give?  One thing is sure, though: whatever we do, it will be simple, and it will be more about experiencing than opening, more about seeing than collecting.

I like the sound of a little road trip.  Just the five of us this year, in some town no one’s heard of, waking up on Christmas morning, wishing each other well, breakfasting on pastries and breads and cheeses, then heading out into the day to hike through castles we’ll never set foot in again.  Hmm. I’m game. (And I’m smiling pretty big now.)

What are you doing for the holidays?  Are you going to stick with tradition or shake it up?  Do tell.

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Act I. So the youngest member of our household lost three teeth the night before last. Not one. Not two. Three. On discovering that they were loose, he got down to business and simply yanked them out.

Silas looses 3 teeth in one night

Problem is, someone has to signal the tooth fairy when that happens. Right? Otherwise, how will she know to come??? You feel me? You would think that something as, well, SEISMIC as three teeth(!) being released from an eight-year-old’s mouth would be its own signal and that the cosmic ripples from such a life-altering event would, given how powerful they were, knock the Tooth Fairy upside the head, causing her to go all bug-eyed as she suddenly realizes that a young man down in the Land of Teeth has lost THREE at the same TIME! But no. Just like any diva, she’s got to have the proverbial banging on the dressing room door, reminding her that yes, yes already, it’s show time.

Act II. Seems the Tooth Fairy forgot to come that first night, a fact which caused everyone connected with this young man (especially his older siblings) to look at their mother all disgusted, like, “Really?”—which caused her to look around defensively, as if to say, “What!? I fell asleep!”  (Which is no excuse, but still.)  

See, the mother’s job is to coordinate with the Tooth Fairy—at least telepathically, before falling asleep, to—you know—communicate the Great News.  But, as a result of having failed to do this, she now needed to make it up to her Youngest in a big way, by using a bull horn this time to call the Fairy, instead of a weakly telegraphed afterthought dispatched on the road to sleep.

Act III. The older children in this family were well favored of the Tooth Fairy. Once, to my oldest, she brought a tiny castle sculpted of sand and a corresponding note written in glitter ink. Can you just imagine? How generous, our Fairy! Which made it imperative that she revisit her glory days, so to speak, and really bring it for the second grader who of course deserves the same consideration his brother and sisters routinely received. So, maybe out of a sense of guilt, the Fairy went a little crazy last night. Here are the items found on or in our youngest’s bed this morning: a small box of rainbow Goldfish (a perennial favorite); Fruit Punch Icebreakers (sugar-free, naturally); a box of Angry Birds Adhesive Bandages (a crowd pleaser); a box of multiplication flashcards (not such a crowd pleaser); a box of Kraft SpongeBob macaroni and cheese (huge hit); and (the coup de grace) a Mega Bloks brand authentic Need for Speed Collector’s Series Nissan GT-R Key Launcher 14-piece race car in matte blue.

Silas eyeing his bounty

This morning, you could hear the cheers and hoots all the way up the street.

 Tooth Fairy is now on better terms

Act IV. At breakfast, the following conversation occurred between my two boys. Silas, scorer of fairy booty: “I think my fairy is a boy.” Clave, my older son, with a derisive snort: “Dude, your fairy is a girl. Come on, this is real life, not some Disney movie!”

Wait . . . you mean life’s not a Disney movie??

So the point is, the fairy came, he/she was generous, and a certain mother was redeemed. (For now, at least. Until the next tooth falls out and she has to scour the house for a cell phone, which I hear is the latest mode of communication preferred by delinquent fairies.)

Act V. On his way out the door to school, Silas brought his treasure hoard to me and said solemnly, “Hide this from Clave. You know he wants it.”

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Flower Note

The Art of the Love Note

by Becky on March 30, 2012 · 1 comment

in Parenting, Traditions

Remember when you used to tuck a little note in your second grader’s lunch? I often wrote silly little poems on index cards and slid them in between the sandwiches and Teddy Grahams, content to think about the big moment of discovery.

Love note from mom with Mom in focus

Well guess what? My big kids love love notes. They do! Sometimes I bury them deep in a sack lunch. Sometimes I leave them in other spots. For my two Big Girl Valentines, I wrote love notes on February 14th and left them perched on their respective pillows, along with six roses each. The title of both notes: “Six Reasons You Are More Beautiful Than These Roses.”

Rock the notes. Pop them in lunches, prop them on pillows, post them on mirrors. For a son, something simple, left on his desk: “I’m honored to be your mother.” He may not say anything, but he’ll log both the gesture and the sentiment.

Try it, and let me know how it goes!

Love note from Mom with room and flowers in focus

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