Who is really taking Christ out of Christmas?

I personally see nothing wrong with saying Happy Holidays to people as we tend to celebrate a “holiday season” starting with Thanksgiving. And the argument about Happy Holidays vs Merry Christmas alternately amuses and irritates me.

But this post isn’t about words, it’s about actions. My husband recently got into an argument with someone about the fact that our family doesn’t “do” Santa Claus. My kids know who Santa is but know he is not real. They also know about the real St Nicholas. And we celebrate his feast day. The argument this person was making with Jeff was that Santa was part of the “magic” of Christmas and was fun for children. Jeff mentioned to this person that some children did not get gifts on Christmas from Santa or anyone else, so how do we explain to our children that injustice if we are allowing them to believe in Santa? Are all poor children “bad” children? Is that why Santa “skips” their homes?

But what weighed most heavily in my mind when Jeff recounted this argument to me was “Where is Christ in all of this?” We have many friends and even some family members for whom Christmas is a time to give and receive gifts and eat a big meal and nothing more. AND NOTHING MORE. Christmas has ceased to be about the birth of Christ and more about secular traditions and activities we have attached to it. And people have no idea how some of our traditions are related to the actual birth of Christ.

Where does the tradition of giving and receiving presents originate? It originates from the Wise Men, Kings or Magi, if you will, and the gifts they brought the newborn King, the baby Jesus. In our home, as it was in my home growing up, we are instituting the 3 gift policy. As the baby Jesus only got 3 gifts, so will our children. When Christmas becomes about how much we spent on the biggest toy or how many toys a child gets to open, we can lose the origin of the tradition easily. And we allow this one tradition to overwhelm this holy day. Last year, someone we know’s child spent 2 hours opening presents while the parents, an uncle, and all his grandparents watched. And those were just the presents from “Santa” and Mom and Dad.

Where does the tradition of the stockings come from? It comes from St Nicholas and a story attributed to him. When St Nicholas was bishop, it was rumored that he often dropped gold or money down the chimney’s of families in need. That money would often drop into socks drying over the fire, “stockings.” Traditionally in Eastern Europe, children received nuts and fruits in their shoes or “stockings.” And typically on December 6th. The feast of St Nicholas, not Christmas Day. The moving of this tradition to Christmas Day is primarily a North American tradition.

The tradition of Santa Claus is based upon the real St Nicholas and the jolly elf dressed in red is primarily an American creation started in the 19th century. The Saint Nicholas Center is a wonderful resource for families looking to celebrate this wonderful man and the patron of children. It also includes a detailed history of how we came from St Nicholas to our modern-day Santa Claus.

We can certainly celebrate traditions such as gift giving and stockings and more without losing the birth of Christ in the mix. What is most important is that we put Christ’s birth front and center of the day. We should not be allowing anything to overshadow that. We should use our traditions to teach our children about our faith and the history that is behind them.

The people who are taking Christ out of Christmas are certainly not necessarily those saying “Happy Holidays,” it is those who treat Christmas as any other secular holiday by not acknowledging the birth of Christ in their actions.

What potty-training my three-year-old has taught me about potty-training, my child, myself and parenthood.

Joey turned 3 in September. And the only interest he had ever shown in potty-training was to avoid it. We had read lots of books, we had watched the Elmo potty-training DVD. And we had attempted to sit him on  his potty. Jeff even brought him into the bathroom with him so he could see that yes, in fact, Daddy uses the potty. But he was refusing to train.

When Jeff went back to work in August, he would ask me every day if Joey sat on the potty. And every day Joey and I battled it out. When we went for his three-year-old check-up in September and I told the doctor he was not potty-trained. Her advice: don’t pressure him, he will only become more resistant. She told me that it was not as uncommon as “common knowledge” would lead you to believe for little boys to not be potty-trained by their 3rd birthday. It made me feel better, but only a little.

I felt his lack of potty training was a reflection on my parenting and it was not looking too good. So, try, try again, more gently. And I continued to be frustrated. No incentive was working, he was perfectly content to poop and pee on Lightning McQueen in his big boy underwear and he didn’t tell me. Evidently it wasn’t as uncomfortable as we would think.

Finally, this week, push came to shove. And I forced him to be naked and presented the potty. And he did it. On his own.

What I learned about potty-training is that it is always best when child-lead, but some children need you to take the lead by putting the ball in their court. Joey is a take-charge, type-A kind of kid. If Joey ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. It’s his way or no way. And I know he’s not the only one out there. It’s important for us to respect a child’s individuality when it comes to potty-training. Just as the same incentives don’t necessarily work from child to child, but the same techniques don’t either. Some won’t pee on their favorite character, others could care less.

I learned that Joey needs his space to grow and learn by experience ON HIS OWN. But at the same time, he needs positivity and encouragement. He needed a cheerleader. He needed someone to tell him he could do it. And cheer when he was successful. He is so determined most of the time that sometimes I forget he does have his own insecurities. Being a “failure is not an option” type of kid, he was terrified of failing. We’ve had accidents, but I’m always there to tell him that it is okay and he can do it again.

I learned that I need chill out sometimes and respect that my timeline is not the ultimate goal. And I am doing a better job than I give myself credit for. Parenting is hard and perhaps the most difficult part is knowing we will be successful…eventually.

Finally, potty training and parenthood have a very strange relationship. As parents, most of us can’t wait to get the kids out of diapers and on the potty, which will only happen when our child is truly ready for it. Potty training is an amazing gain of independence for our children. In some ways, it is the greatest gain as it completely removes a parent (once it is successful) for the first time from something they were primarily responsible for. Once a child is potty-trained, he or she realizes they are needing mom or dad less and become more independent as a result. They don’t have to worry about who will change that pesky diaper anymore. And yet, we mourn our children’s lack of dependence on us, their “growing up” in just about every other respect except the one that is essentially the key to all the others.

At the end of the day, I have a child who is doing a great job potty-training and building his self-confidence and becoming more independent. And I celebrate and mourn simultaneously.

7 Quick Takes Friday

1. So, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Twitter. I loved to hate it. Not anymore. Now I love it and love to love it. I guess that’s a l0ve-love relationship? I logged in to my deactivated account this week out of sheer boredom and then I started following friends. And celebrities. And NEWS OUTLETS. That last one is in all caps because that is where it got SUPER addicting. Michelle Malkin and Our Sunday Visitor in seconds. I was in! Even better, I followed the voting of the USCCB and was on the edge of my seat the whole time!

2. For those who missed it yesterday, Joey has started hard core potty training. Let me paint you the picture. Wednesday, we had just arrived home from school and the boys had gone into their room to play. That’s usually a harmless event. Until they both came out five minutes later completely naked! I informed Joey at that point his days of refusing potty training were over. At first I tried with big boy underwear but we had an accident almost immediately. At the suggestion of friends I let him go completely naked and on his own, within an hour, he had peed on the potty. After several successful trips to the potty last evening, he managed to stay dry all night. I couldn’t believe it. We’ve had some accidents since, mostly involving going #2, but he’s persevering and that’s what’s important!

3. Maybe you’ve seen this article on Twitter or facebook. What these people are doing is not only immoral and disgusting, it’s just plain bad form. And I vote they have this baby and be forced to give it up for adoption to people who are clearly more capable of loving and caring for it than it’s birth parents have proven to be.

4. Did you see The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond on Throw Down with Bobby Flay making Thanksgiving Dinner??? I missed it (thanks to a thunderstorm that took out my satellite), but I am sure going to get it in a re-run. I love how Bobby Flay finds these people and has such a great competition with them. I admit, I haven’t always been a fan of his and was embarrassed at how he behaved when he defeated Iron Chef Morimoto, but I think he’s come a long way and has me as a fan now to prove it!

5. Have you heard, have you heard???? The “Beguiles” family has moved into their new RAT-FREE home and got their new couch courtesy of YOU and ME the readers of Betty Beguiles! I have a lump in my throat just looking at that couch and this is one family that deserves a beautiful holiday season in a new home!

6. I’m going to go on record here with what may be the MOST controversial thing I could EVER say on a blog about being a mother…I was not at all impressed with Toy Story 3. For all the hype, I was disappointed. I did cry at the end. I did cry at the beginning when they mentioned Bo was no longer a part of the group. I was incredibly let down by the story line involving Lotsa and the other toys at the daycare. It scared my kids. I felt like the movie would have been just as good if the kids at the daycare were terrible and that was what they were escaping….I’m just saying…

7. Can I tell you how awesome it is our dishwasher works again??? I don’t think I could ever say that enough!

So, c’mon over to Conversion Diary and check out the other Quick Takes there!

Small and Wonderful

FaithButton

1) Joey is successfully potty training (FINALLY!)

2) I found an awesome recipe for Coconut Bread. I doubted such a thing even existed but decided to look for it and found this recipe. I was bummed because it called for coconut extract and I doubted my ability to find it. Not only did I find it, I found it ON SALE!  Elisa and I are excited to try it out.

3) Shelby has been joyously running into school in the morning and to her classroom. I know, this is really more sort of her success than mine, but, it really makes my day run more smoothly!

It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, we do exactly that. ~Danielle Bean

Thankful Thursday

1. Perseverance

2. A little boy who says, “no more computer, come play mama” whenI feel deadlines looming

3. The encouragement of friends

4. The wisdom of USCCB in the election of their new president Archbishop Dolan

5. Bloggy mom friends who go out of their way to encourage me with new endeavors

6. A husband who takes a sick day because he is actually sick but seizes the oppurtunity to take his daughter to school and meet her teachers

7. Back scratchers

8. It’s one week till THANKSGIVING!

9. Jeff’s county supplement

10. That my three-year-old can now sing some of the verses from songs in Hello Dolly! …it’s the little cultural things

Yarn Along 3

We are joining Ginny over at small things again today. I am still working on A Redbird Christmas and enjoying it all over again. I’ve added the kids favorites for the week. One of which The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson is my all-time favorite children’s book from when I was a kid. A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban is another favorite. Joey especially likes the character of Thelma, funny because he reminds me so much of her sometimes in his “negotiations” with his baby brother! What are you reading? Are you knitting or crocheting anything right now?If so, we want to know and see. Hop on over to small things to share!

Guest Post: Sonya from Glam-O-Mommy on “Epidural: A Love Story, or Why Having a Medicated Birth Doesn’t Make You Less of a Supermom”

I post often about how we need to stop tearing each other down as mothers, particularly on the fronts of childbirth and breastfeeding. It’s nice to see I’m not the only one, but beyond that, Sonya of Glam-O-Mommy takes on the superiority complex many of us have about our births by telling her own birth story that includes an epidural in it. It is important to remember that when we tell our birth stories, we must take into account our tone and our emphasis. It should be our goal to share our story, not try to portray our choices as morally superior to others. And I would also like to share that for every anti-epidural study out there is a pro-epidural study. Keep in mind that the reason there is so little conclusive, scientific evidence as to the use of epidural, induction and caesarean is that no two women and no two births are identical. Therefore, we should never judge them against each other anecdotally and instead concentrate on the miracle of a new life and the amazing woman who brought a child into the world, regardless of circumstance.

Epidural: A Love Story, or Why Having a Medicated Birth Doesn’t Make You Less of a Supermom by Sonya aka Glam-O-Mommy

I was reading parenting.com today, as I often do, when I came across a post by Jenny Feldon, one of the Project Pregnancy bloggers. In Supermom Does Childbirth-The Natural Way?, Jenny, pregnant with Baby #2, wonders if she should opt for natural childbirth this time around vs. getting an epidural as she did with Baby #1.

Jenny writes, “Shouldn’t Supermom be able to handle natural childbirth with strength and grace? I’m fascinated by women, like my own mother, who have delivered multiple children without the benefits of anesthesia. If she could do it, shouldn’t I be able to? If I’m strong enough to be a mom, then maybe I should be strong enough to go it alone starting with that very first contraction.”

The tone of this bothered me a bit. I mean, don’t get me wrong, if you want to do natural childbirth and not have an epidural or any other kind of medical intervention, knock yourself out. I’m all for women having the freedom to make these choices and if Jenny or any other woman chooses this, that does not bother me at all.

What does bother me is the implied subtext here–that giving birth completely “natural,” aka unmedicated, makes you a better mom or a stronger woman or something, and that if you choose to have an epidural, you are less of a woman or weak or a worse mother or something. I mean, if that were true, what would that say about women who end up having to have a c-section? Are they not Supermoms then because their bodies couldn’t deliver their babies without major medical intervention? Of course not! Can we stop ranking the levels of our motherhood, ladies? We’re all equally mothers from the moment the lines appear on the pee stick, and we’re all trying to do the best we can. We’re all Supermoms here!

Now all of that said, I didn’t title this post “Epidural: A Love Story” without reason. I think the epidural is AWESOME. I’m all for it. And I don’t think it makes me less of a Supermom or a woman because I do. I never questioned whether to have one or not to have one–I always wanted to have one, partially because of the birth story I’m most familiar with–my own.

When my mother was pregnant with me, she had gestational diabetes, and as a result of this, I was a very large baby. The military doctors my mother was seeing also allowed her to go a full three weeks past her due date with me, so I was extra large (9 lbs, 11 oz). When my mother finally went into labor, she labored hard for about 18 hours…at which point, they gave her an epidural for half an hour to give her “a chance to rest.” My mother, in retelling the story, always describes the time period when she had the epidural as “THE BEST 30 MINUTES OF MY LIFE.” When it wore off, she had eight more hours of hideous pain, and then the doctors realized, duh, this baby is too large to have ever been delivered vaginally AND she’s stuck sideways in there, so maybe we should do a c-section before both mother and baby die.

The story ends with my mother recounting how she wasn’t very happy to see me after all that (LOL) and it was a terrible experience. Now, she loves me very much, but my birth story IS pretty awful. And I think she’s a Supermom for surviving all of that, especially because what she went through meant she couldn’t have any more children after me, which is why I’m an only child.

When I was pregnant and thinking ahead to labor, my only thoughts were, “I want an epidural and I’d like to avoid a c-section if I can, but if we need it, I’ll do it sooner rather than later. Oh, and I’d rather tear naturally than have an episiotomy.” That’s it. That’s all I thought, and that’s all I communicated to my doctor. That was the sum total of my birth plan.

As I approached my due date, I did do all sorts of things to help along the dilation process, so that with 11 days to go, I was already 2.5 cm dilated. I had a checkup with my doctor and he was concerned about how big the baby was going to be in 11 days–his estimate was over 8 pounds. How did I feel, he asked me. I don’t want to go past my due date, I told him. I’m worried I’ll end up like my mom with a big baby and need to have a c-section and I’d like to avoid that if I can. Since my due date was on a Saturday when he would not be on call, he suggested we induce me in exactly a week–four days before my due date.

So that was the plan. I was only a little concerned about being induced early — I had one friend where induction didn’t work for her and she ended up having a c-section, but they induced her a few weeks early, which was more likely why that was her result. Another friend has been induced twice a few days before her due date and both times, the baby was born a few hours later, no problem, so I was hoping I’d be more in that situation.

As it turns out, I didn’t have to worry. A mere 12 hours later, I spontaneously went into labor 10 days early. It was 12:30 a.m. and I was on my way to bed when what I thought was my water broke. I called and they told me to come in, but no need to rush. So I took a shower, styled my hair, and applied fresh makeup–I am Glam-O-Mommy for a reason! My husband also took a shower–hey, for all we knew, I had 26 hours of labor ahead of me! While I was getting ready, my contractions started. The first one wasn’t bad. Seven minutes later, the next one wasn’t bad. Five minutes later, the next one still wasn’t too bad. TWO MINUTES LATER, OMG BAD!! Less than two minutes later, OMG BAD!!

At this point, it was 1:40 a.m. and we were on the way to the hospital. My husband wasn’t speeding or anything crazy, although I urged him to, because the contractions were less than two minutes apart, OMG BAD!

We parked at the hospital, walked down LITERALLY the longest hallway ever, with me having to stop every few feet because OMG BAD! OMG BAD!and finally entered Labor and Delivery. I walked right up to the nurse at the desk and said, and I quote, “If you need to wake up the anesthesiologist, please call and do so NOW because I want an epidural as soon as possible.” Seriously.

They checked me out in triage and I was 4.5 cm, my water hadn’t broken yet (apparently, it was the plug), but they were definitely checking me in. They asked me what seemed like a thousand questions, got me into a Labor and Delivery room, put IVs in me (I was positive for Group B Strep so I had to have an IV), and then asked me a thousand more questions. (I got asked my height over and over–still have no clue why!) The whole time I was OMG BAD! OMG BAD! less than a minute apart and in the less than 60 seconds between contractions I was all, “WHERE’S THE ANESTHESIOLOGIST?! WHERE’S MY EPIDURAL?!”

Because y’all, contractions HURT LIKE HELL. I had mine up front AND in my back and the back ones hurt way worse than anything I’ve ever felt in my life. They kept saying the anesthesiologist was on his way and would be there any minute and I should just focus on breathing and all I felt was OMG BAD! OMG BAD! OMG BAD! And it wasn’t like how they described contractions in my childbirth class, where they said you would have a BREAK between contractions where you could REST. I did not have that! As soon as one contraction was ending, I could literally feel the next one revving up. I couldn’t catch my breath, my blood pressure was sky high (gee, I have no idea why! OMG BAD! OMG BAD!), and I just wanted my epidural.

Then, the pain became so intense, I threw up. Twice. OMG BAD! OMG BAD! And then I heard the magic words, “The anesthesiologist is coming.”

Dr. Johnson arrived and I was so happy to see him. I was also worried, because I didn’t think I could hold still for him to get the needle in my back because the contractions were so intense I was shaking all over. No problem, he told me. He got the needle in and in seconds, I felt blissfully numb from the bump down. No more OMG BAD!

“Dr. Johnson, I could kiss you!” I told him. “If you hadn’t just thrown up, I’d take you up on that,” he replied. Favorite. Doctor. EVER!

It was now 3:30 a.m. I had endured two straight hours of OMG BAD! contractions less than a minute or two apart. They checked me and I was 7 cm. My parents had just arrived at the hospital, so everyone cleared out of the room and my husband brought them back to hang out with us. For the next three and a half hours, I zoomed from 7 cm to 10 cm dilated without feeling a thing but BLISS. I was relaxed, savoring my last moments of pregnancy, talking with parents and my husband, taking little cat naps, and eagerly anticipating meeting my daughter.

I pushed for an hour and 15 minutes with no pain but enough pressure to guide me in my pushing and out my daughter came, screaming loudly, pink and healthy and beautiful, a mere eight hours after the whole thing started. She was 8 lbs and 6 oz, which is what my doctor thought she would weigh on my due date, so it’s good she didn’t wait till then. I did tear in two places, probably on the last big push that got her out. I felt amazed at myself and my body and my baby. I felt like Supermom. I felt like I could do anything, including scale Mt. Everest! It was an awesome feeling–an amazing high!

So that’s my love story with the epidural, and that’s why I think having a medicated birth doesn’t make you less of a Supermom. Truthfully, I don’t even describe my daughter’s birth as medicated. Given the OMG BAD! OMG BAD! contractions I endured, I had natural childbirth! I experienced both sides, unmedicated and medicated. For me, the epidural was the way to go. I have absolutely no doubt I could’ve gone on without it, but I’m so glad I didn’t have to.

And I’m glad that thanks to the epidural and the eight short hours, I remember labor as one of the best experiences of my life (even though I still remember the OMG BAD! very distinctly) rather than one of the worst like my mother. When she came in afterwards and was holding my baby girl, she looked at me and told me she was so happy for me, because I had had a better birth experience than she had. And I told her that I loved her so much and couldn’t believe she’d had 25.5 hours of OMG BAD! OMG BAD! to endure epidural-free, plus major traumatic surgery, to have me.

However, your birth story goes–natural, medicated, c-section, we’re all Supermoms here, ladies. We are–every single one of us! We have given birth, brought life forth.

But the epidural’s kind of awesome, I’m just saying.

Tiny Treasures Tuesday

image courtesy of Lerin at Beautiful Chaos

William- Will is Mr. Chatterbox lately. He is the first of our children to actually be on schedule with his language skills. He actually has some interesting words though. He had mama, daddy and milk for sure. But “ghost”, “boost”, and “lightning” are among his more unusual words. “Ghost” came from Halloween when we had a large white ghost we hung up. We also play “ghost” sometimes where someone will put a blanket over his head. Will not only pointed out to ghosts but will put the blanket over his head and say “cary (scary) ghost!” “Boost” and “lightning” are from Cars. There’s no escaping it in this house! He had his 18-month check-up last week and was on target for growth and is showing some advancement in the area of socialization.

Joseph–Joey is wishing he was about thirteen to fourteen these days. He is full of snappy comebacks. We are working hard on being respectful and obedient in our words and actions. He is very head-strong and independent, so it may take a while but we’ll get there. He also has not relinquished his self-appointed position of “parent- pro-tem.” Although he refuses to sit on the potty unless forcibly put there, he acts as an authority on the subject. When Will recently had a blow-out diaper that resulted in a trip to the bathtub, Joey brought the potty to him and instructed, “Poop goes in the potty Will.” Right….

Shelby– Shelby is doing excellent in school. The teachers have noticed marked improvement in her social interactions (although she has still not met our goal) and she is beginning to show more ability in communication and increased attention span and willingness to try new tasks. Her teachers are wonderful as are her therapists and they are all always willing to offer suggestions when I’m at my wits end about something. She is really enjoying school and meeting new friends this year!