December 23, 2012

Happy Birthday to my Christmas Angel

Fifteen years ago this morning, I was resting after a long night of childbirth. I had just greeted my newborn daughter a few hours earlier and we had both gotten cleaned up and sent to our respective rooms for rest. I was too excited to sleep, instead I kept thinking about my answered prayer.

We already had a two year old daughter who was waiting at home. When she was born, I said a silent prayer that she would someday have a sister, but we didn't know the sex of the baby beforehand. My prayer was answered that morning. For the past several weeks she had taken to hollering at my stomach for the baby to come out. We never expected to have a baby born so close to Christmas, especially after the first baby was five weeks early. This baby had different ideas though. From the beginning my pregnancy was different. I had food aversions early on which was how I knew I was pregnant before I even took the test. I took a look at my bagel and cream cheese one morning for breakfast and couldn't even bring it to my lips. A pregnancy test a week later confirmed my suspicion.

I didn't have the distraction of working at a job as I had stayed home after she was born. Instead we were building a bigger house in the suburbs and caring for a toddler. It was an eventful summer and fall as we were settling into our new home and preparing for a baby who didn't seem to be in any particular hurry to join our family. I was sure I would have our second child early as well, based on my previous experience. If parenthood has taught me anything at all, I've learned never to expect anything to go the way you predict. So we waited from mid November forward, experiencing several moments of false labor only to find the due date come and go as we got closer to Christmas. The doctor promised that no matter what, he would induce me before the year was over if I didn't start labor on my own. He said not to worry that the baby was probably between 7 and 8 lbs.

I was eight days overdue and woke up that morning thinking, here we go again, false labor. I had a non-stress test at the hospital later that morning, so I figured we'd find out then. Sure enough, we got to the hospital and the tests confirmed what I had been waiting for, I was in labor, but very early stages. I wanted to go home and wrap up a few more loose ends and get ready to come back to the hospital to welcome our newborn.

We spent the day running errands. In fact, we stopped by the salon where my husband's grandmother got her hair done to get a gift certificate, and the beautician remarked that she had heard all about us and when was I due anyway, I looked like I would go any minute, she remarked. I said, well in fact, I'm in labor now, I'm going back later today when it progresses. We continued errands the rest of the day and I came home antsy, knowing the moment was finally here, but also knowing that this second baby was not particularly hurried.

One thing I knew for certain was that I was not going to be as hungry as I was the first time I was in labor. So despite warnings not to eat, lest I poop during delivery, I had dinner. We called our in-laws over to stay with our firstborn and said our goodbyes, we figured it was time to head to the hospital. Honestly, the labor was happening, and the contractions were more frequent, but with none of the pain or nervousness that we experienced the first time.

We arrived at the hospital where they were expecting us, and got settled in the room. Again, thinking I was such an authority after having given birth once, I was simply determined not to be strapped into a bed with wires and monitors. I was going to walk around and kill time. I wasn't allowed to leave the birthing floor, so I just did laps. I wasn't allowed to pause at the nurses station (for the privacy of the other patients information that was on the chalkboard), but I knew other women were giving birth as the evening was punctuated by  moans and then baby cries. I was bored and frustrated. My spouse took a nap, again because we considered ourselves such experts after our one baby.

Three hours ticked by. It was a little bit before the 11 PM shift change when I begged my nurse to let me go home and I would come back when things moved along faster. She refused. She reasoned with me that I was already halfway there, and that it was winter, I was in a safe place, and things could start to go fast.

I was irritated and my laps around the birthing wing became more pointed, stomping as much as I could in fuzzy hospital issued socks with grips on the bottom. I was getting jealous of all the moms in labor. I think I wore a ridge into the floor with my pacing. I had things to do and really wished I was at home if I wasn't going to be giving birth. About an hour later, I went to the bathroom and when I tried to stand up, I had a really difficult time moving. The labor pangs were stronger. I woke my husband and asked him to just go tell the nurses that when they got around to it, could they please come and see if I had progressed at all, but that it wasn't urgent (which is why I didn't use the buzzer). I laid down and started rolling channels on the TV.

About 20 minutes later, the nurse came in, examined me and said, "Call her doctor, NOW."

It was about 12:30 AM when that call was made. My doctor was there and ready to deliver within 20 minutes. I don't know why I was so surprised how quickly he got there, he knew I was in labor and that I had gone to the hospital. But for some reason, I didn't expect him to be there before 1 AM. But he was and I was glad to see him, especially when at 1:16, I became the proud mother of another baby girl. The baby girl who weighed 9 lbs, 12 oz., a lot more than 7 or 8 lbs. I looked at my angel who wasn't so little. She had a close cropped head of light brown hair and looked more like she was 3 months old, not 3 minutes. She was sturdy and healthy and actually chubby.

Today, that little baby who was in no hurry is the most punctual person I know. She also is tall and slender, wearing a size zero jeans with long inseams. She is funny and smart and hard working. She makes me smile with some smart aleck remark nearly every day. She is also generous and kind.

One of my favorite stories from her life was from her first grade year. We had gotten our school supplies the first week of school and about a week into classes, one morning she was rummaging in the basement gathering every thing on the list again. (We had several duplicate supplies due to having an older sister and an ever changing supply list each year). She had found an extra pencil box, scissors, markers, crayons, etc. I asked her why she was doing that. She said, I want to surprise one of the kids in my class. They don't have their supplies yet and today is the last day, so I'm going to put this on his desk before he gets to school so he won't get in trouble. My heart swelled. That little girl's compassion for others and strong sense of empathy has continued to grow. She is a good person and the world is better for having her in it.

Happy birthday, to my little Christmas angel.

We love you!

December 21, 2012

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December 20, 2012

think twice

I am humbled and saddened by the headline news. A young man did something so horrific and unthinkable.

We gasp, we pause, we wring our hands. We wonder what it is like.

I don't know. But yet, I think I can relate. Yes, believe it or not, I get it.

I am the parent of high schoolers. One in the first year, one in the last. Like the world will tell you, it goes fast. But not so fast I've forgotten. In fact, I remember all too well. I remember a moment of fear. It gripped me like a demon.

When my first child was in kindergarten, I had the typical mom fears. I worried if she would have an accident, how she would navigate lunches, and if she would be understood. My fears were quickly alleviated. She was well beyond potty training, I fed her before she went to school, and while understood, she was recommended for speech therapy. (We took a wait and see approach which worked fine).

Nonetheless, sending our first child to school was fraught with the usual parental concerns. After the first week, she came home regaling tales of another classmate who seemed to bully her. She was by far the youngest one in the class (she began kindergarten at age 4, very close to the cut off date). I advised her to not tattle, but try to handle it on her own. I said, don't bother the teacher unless it's really big. I was determined not to be one of "those parents". I wanted to let life unfold on its own terms in its own way without me hovering like a control freak.

I had no idea what would transpire.

One September afternoon she came home, upset and indignant. She proclaimed that the young person who bullied her had lied. I looked at her quizzically. What are you talking about, I asked.

She proceeded to explain how she had spent the afternoon in the principal's office. That the young bully had said something horrible to her and when she told the teacher, they were hauled to the office. What happened I gasped with terror?

My child explained. "Mommy I got on the bus, and X said, I know where you live and my mommy has a gun. I'm going to come shoot you."

I was aghast. I ran to my answering machine convinced I had somehow or another missed a phone call. I was sure my negligence was part of this issue. The machine was silent.

I called the principal. Shaking. Inconsolable.

The first words were, "I figured I'd be hearing from you".

Flabbergasted, I only muttered. Um, yeah.

I quickly regained my composure to say, "Why didn't you call me? Why did my child spend the afternoon in your office and I had no idea?"

The moment quickly digressed. The administrator was in defense mode of an indefensible. Muttering things about how they handled it in house, that they knew the family and that they didn't want to make a big deal were lost on my ears.

My child received a death threat.

We lived in an exemplary district. We chose it for many good reasons, but primarily that it was known for its schools. I was beside myself. I had no idea what to do.

None. The school felt the situation was handled. They had called the other parents and determined that that remark "meant nothing", therefore no need to alert the parent of the threatened child.

I felt dismissed, but could not stop thinking about the 6 year old in Michigan who shot a schoolmate the previous year. I could not feel comfortable sending my child to school. The school had not done a psychological evalutaion, they had not checked police records, they did nothing but call the other kid's parents. All I knew was that what I expected and what the school did was not aligned.

I contemplated my options. My own child wasn't nearly as upset as I was. She was merely upset that the other child denied what they said. (for the record, that's just not something a kindergartner can make up, there is no doubt it was said any more than the child who said it would deny as much when they got in trouble).

I didn't know what to do. I drove my child to school the following day, and marching into the principal's office. I'd already contacted the school board. explaining my problem. So I asked the principal to give me the other parent's name and contact information.

I decided to contact the other parent.

I called that person on the phone and said, I cannot imagine what your day has been like anymore than you can imagine what mine was like. But I would like to invite you and your child over to our house and see if we can work this out mom to mom, child to child.

It was no easy call. It felt weird and creepy to be honest. I felt like I was contacting a potential mass murderer. But I didn't know. I just knew that unless I made contact with the source of my worries, in the absence of school intervention, I could not continue to send my child to school there. I already had a pile of parochial schools in the list.

Instead, I listened to another mother breakdown hysterically on the other end of the phone. Wailing, sobbing, crying. She couldn't stop apologizing, stating over and over she had no idea where her child's words came from. She just didn't know.

I realized then... the only thing more terrifying than having your child threatened? Is when your child does the threatening. I shed a tear or two myself during that phone call as I tried to maintain my stance as the victim. But I realized truly the best thing to do was move forward.

They came over. The kids played and we moms drank coffee and talked. To this day, we don't know why that other child said what they said. I do know that there was a happy ending.

What more could I ask for?

OZ The Great and Powerful Sneak Peek

In a modern spin on the beloved classic, Wizard of Oz, Disney is bringing a new twist to an old favorite. Premiering in March, 2013, Fresh Daily Bread is thrilled to offer an advance peek at this upcoming film.

Disney’s fantastical adventure “Oz The Great and Powerful,” directed by Sam Raimi, imagines the origins of L. Frank Baum’s beloved character, the Wizard of Oz. When Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot—fame and fortune are his for the taking—that is until he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity—and even a bit of wizardry—Oscar transforms himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz but into a better man as well.

December 19, 2012

Monsters 3D in theaters TODAY!

We are huge fans of Monsters, Inc. The Pixar film voiced by John Goodman and Billy Crystal ends with the beautiful reminder that children's laughter is far more powerful than their fear.

That is a powerful and poignant reminder and we're thrilled to share the news that Monsters is back in the theaters today in 3D! We love being a Disney blogger and having the chance to share this with our readers. 

Here is are a few downloadable activities for the little Monster fan in your house. Follow the links below the picture. 

Monsters 3D activity sheets
Coloring Page
Door Hanger

Monsters, Inc. 3D

December 17, 2012

Cures for feeling powerless

We will never know the full story surrounding the crimes that took place in Sandy Hook, Aurora, Columbine, or Virginia Tech or any of the other sites of horrific events. These places are so deeply ingrained in our national psyche that their names are forever associated with the terror that gripped them. We focus our attention intensely, study the news reports and eventually dismiss ideas towards action, feeling ineffective in a world that seems to have gone bad.

In an attempt to feel less powerless and more effective, I've compiled a list of ideas for action. There is only so much hand wringing, news stalking, and lamenting among ourselves will accomplish. It's a useful tool for processing what happened, but if we really want to do something, we are not powerless. We possess the greatest tools for change in the world. We possess love. We care. We cannot allow our shock and grief to render us ineffective.

Without further ado, here are some ideas:
*Agree that the time to talk about action is now. Waiting just means that we delay the opportunity to change something as long as we wait. Whatever opinion you have about the factors that contributed to these sort of horrors could be, work to change it. Whether it's lack of gun control, society, violent media, mental illness, or a combination? Pick the factor that you think would improve the situation and do something. Don't argue about which factor it is or why XYZ isn't the reason. You have an opinion, do something constructive about your opinion. 
*Reach out to someone who seems lonesome, awkward, or uncomfortable. Say hello. Show some interest. Maybe that is the first step to convincing that troubled soul that someone cares. We don't know. Be the bigger person and reach out. 
*Write your lawmakers. They have the power to create laws that will help protect our nation. Don't give up. Find out what they can do. Make your voice heard in a positive way.  This is the time to be political.
We can only write our own story, we cannot change the rest of the world. Why not start with ourselves?  What will you do to be a part of a better today and tomorrow?
...  these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  (1 Cor. 13:13)

December 14, 2012

Family Movie Giveaway!

Who doesn't love Charlie Brown, The Grinch, or Rudolph?

We have teamed up with Warner Brothers to offer a great last minute giveaway for our readers. To qualify, just leave a comment and tell us your favorite Christmas television special.

We will give you a copy of Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection, Classic Christmas Favorites or Dr. Seuss’s Deluxe Holiday Collection on Blu-ray to give for Fresh Daily Bread's readers! (Prize will be chosen randomly from the above Blu-ray titles!)

The contest will end December 18th at midnight EST. The winner must send me your address within 24 hours or a new winner will be chosen. No PO boxes please.


Last Minute Movie Giveaway!

You have until December 18th to reply to this post to win a randomly selected movie below! 
To be eligible, please leave a comment about the best gift you ever received. 
Winners will be chosen from comments received by midnight, December 18th, EST, you will be notified the 19th and must send me your address within 24 hours. All winners are shipped the 20th to arrive in time for last minute stocking stuffing! 

December 3, 2012

Santa Unwound

We love Christmas. We love all it invokes from the faithful as well as the secular world. What child doesn't know about Santa?  And yet... what child doesn't remember that crushing moment of learning the truth about Santa?

Today, I was inspired by a former colleague and writing friend of mine to look at my Santa story with a little more scrutiny. I grew up with the stories, the displaced logs out of the fireplace because apparently Santa was able to manage flaming logs without setting the home on fire, but not put them back on the hearth. He left footprints around our yard, nibbled cookies and gave his reindeer our carrots.

We had pages of evidence why Santa existed as well as the reassurance of Mom. Santa was real. There was no doubt in my mind. I blithely accepted that truth so convincingly that in 6th grade Sunday School class, when I was 12 years old, my teacher reminded us very matter of factly that now that we were old enough to know that Santa wasn't real we needed to talk more in depth about what Christmas really meant.

I looked around my classroom at the nodding heads and had that horrific moment of uncool revelation. I was literally the only kid left in the class who didn't know the truth. I faked it the rest of the class until I ran to the bathroom holding back the tears of my embarrassment. Splashing water on my face, I gathered my composure the best I could to meet my parents for Mass. I never told them that I knew they hadn't been honest about Santa. But I felt deceived and angry. In fact, 35 years later, I still feel indignation that I could have been spared that moment if only my questions had been answered. Instead, they were deflected and unanswered. I don't blame my folks. I was gullible and I'm sure when I still believed at age 12, they were confused how to proceed. I am sure they just never expected me to still believe them at that age. I was well past the age of reason and marching towards Junior High.

My horror was so magnified that I swore I would come clean with my own children the very minute they wondered. In fact, I almost pounced on the opportunity to tell the truth when they expressed the slightest doubt. I wanted to spare them that moment of horrific realization that they were the only ones in the room who didn't know the truth about Santa.

Today those memories came rushing back when my young mother friend posted her thoughts about perpetuating the myth. She explained, "It's fun to be imaginative with your kids and play pretend with their favorite characters. The difference is, I don't put cheese on the counter with a bite out of it and a letter from Mickey Mouse inviting the family to go to Disney World... "

Her thoughts resonated with me as I reflected on my own explanations With child #1, I merely confirmed her suspicions that Santa was me when she asked. I was matter of fact and succinct. With child #2, I explained that Santa was a good man who loved children and he was so inspiring that parents everywhere carried on his traditions on Christmas. Naturally child #1 thinks child #2 got a way better revelation.

It has nagged me. Santa is not why we celebrate Christmas. Why are we making the day about anything other than what it really is? The other day I decried the "War on Christmas" as trivialized and of our own making. But maybe... that is a piece of the puzzle.

For my dear readers?

How do you handle the Santa story?

December 1, 2012

Is there a War on Christmas?

There has been a lot of talk about the War on Christmas so as a writer, I took a more careful look around this war torn nation to observe the damage.

I looked down my street and saw blow up snowmen, twinkling lights, and penguins. In fact, one neighbor even has Santa flying in a blow up helicopter. I drove through town and saw hundreds and thousands of lights synchronized to songs like Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Store windows are filled with displays of wrapped presents. The streets are lined with giant snowflakes and wreaths on the light poles.

There are reindeer antlers on the minivan next to me, and the car behind me has a wreath wired to the front grill. I am stunned by their bravery. To blatantly flaunt their celebration and love of Christmas in such a hostile environment must take tremendous conviction.

I look at my Christmas cookie baking supplies filled with frosting, sprinkles and flavorings. I have cutters to depict every single Christmas character that exists. Holly leaves, Santas, reindeer, snowmen. It's all there. I looked at my 9 foot tall Christmas tree adorned with ornaments depicting every vacation I've taken, every craft I've tried, and every event I've attended. We call it a Christmas tree, but I wonder if that offends the pagan worshipers who originated the custom.
The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime; it survived further in the custom, also observed in Germany, of placing a Yule tree at an entrance or inside the house during the midwinter holidays.
To learn more about this war on Christmas, I thought I would visit the mall. The stores have been getting ready for Christmas since mid October, and seemingly without resistance from the soldiers. More examples of immense bravery. What it must take to sell that peppermint flavored refreshment in the midst of such strife is inspiring, especially when the cup is adorned with obvious symbols of Christmas.

Neil Postman's book, Amusing Ourselves to Death contains a poignant quote, "We do not measure a culture by its output of undisguised trivialities but by what it claims as significant." 

He further comments, (in comparing society to Huxley's Brave New World versus Orwell's 1984) Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions"... In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
To learn a bit more about this War on Christmas, I attended my church. According to statistics, church membership as well as attendance is on the decline for nearly every denomination in the states. Perhaps this is where the War on Christmas should be recruiting soldiers, and not the mall or city hall, tree lots, Santa workshops or front yards. Perhaps this is where to find the appropriate arsenal to combat the war on Christmas.

We have trivialized Christmas to the point of unrecognizable. That is not the fault of any government institution or other religions or atheists or agnostics. The War on Christmas is being fought from within. Jesus didn't storm city hall or demand that everyone observe as He did. Instead He went to the temple. He prayed for hours on end. He invited others to follow Him and learn from Him. He talked to the masses about caring for one another. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus does not care what we call the decorated tree we put up in any public or private venue. He doesn't care if we sport ugly sweaters with candy canes and jingle bells and He doesn't care if we wish people well, no matter what words we choose. He cares that we love each other and love Him. He asks us to forget all other distractions and remember why He came to earth.
...and his name shall be called wonderful, counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)


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