new york city kid in arkansas
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Christmas in New York City can be very exciting with the hustle and bustle and the pretty lights and the tall trees and the Santas everywhere you look.  So when I sadly realized that yet again we would be spending the holidays here instead of joining everyone in Kansas, I tried to remember how lucky we were to be in such a magical place at such a magical time. And it’s true: there’s no place like New York. And after spending Christmas Eve in Times Square seeing Monsters Inc. 3D on what appeared to be the 37th floor of the AMC theater, and after walking over to the spectacular Rockefeller tree and then over to the west side for a delicious mid-day lunch and then back up to our neighborhood for some fun holiday get-togethers with special friends, what really made it all feel like Christmas was being back in our warm living room with no hustle and bustle, even prettier lights, a perfect size tree and the anticipation of the one and only Santa who none of us believes in but me. We spent hours slowly opening our many presents (we like to stop and play with each one for a while) until nothing was left under the tree.  And in the morning Huck’s stocking was full of more delights and our tree had a special “Christmas in New York” ornament, our last one you know, with this year’s card drawing.  We enjoyed Christmas dinner with our friends Charlie, Debbie and Jamie complete with a set of gifts that Huck could not open until he solved a Roman Numeral code because that’s how well they know him.  The rest of the week found us watching Wreck It Ralph and Brave (my new favorite movie), beginning book 3 of The Mysterious Benedict Society, enjoying a SNOW DAY with sledding, and visiting the Hall of Science, Chuck E. Cheese, the Bronx Zoo and the Park Avenue Armory.  On this final night of 2012 we will celebrate a British New Year with dear friends, ringing in 2013 at 7PM for all those younguns. Once we return home Huck plans to stay up all night long playing in his bedroom while his ol’ parents happily sleep in the room next door.  (He’s asked me to set out snacks in case he gets hungry.)

Over the last week as I’ve watched Huck in his jammies running from room to room playing with his new toys and reading his new books with the attention span of a one year old, I’ve realized we are home for Christmas.  I guess that’s what happens when you become a parent: your definition of Home changes.

Happy New Year, Friends, from our Home to Yours!

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But I heard them exclaim ere they drove out of sight

Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!



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We’ve gone to parties, we’ve wrapped our gifts, we’ve made our cookies and we’ve sent our cards.  We’ve filled our home with the smell of cinnamon, we’ve decorated our humble tree outside, one of us played a Magi onstage and one of us saw Jake Gyllanhal onstage.  We’ve heard every Christmas song ever recorded, we’ve made seasonal origami, we’ve had Family Breakfast at school, and we’ve survived the subway at Christmastime.  (Barely.)  And as if the past month hasn’t been fun enough, now we’ve got a bunch of days together in New York that we plan to fill with the unwrapping of presents and movies and site seeing and museums and the zoo and even more friendly gatherings.  But I know me: no matter how busy we fill our fun days, there will be more than a few moments when I picture our families together in Kansas and wish we could be there, too.  Next year for sure.

In the meantime, here are pictures from recent festivities … BRING ON THE HOLIDAY NAP!

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Good idea to let the child pick his own school picture background?  Discuss.

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Last night I had just put Huck to bed with a few good books and the same ditties I’ve been singing to him since he was three.  He doesn’t let me change my repertoire except at Christmastime when he allows the occasional “Silent Night” or “Away in the Manger.”  I kissed him good night and made my way into the living room where I got settled with my trusty laptop when I heard him cry out for me.  I returned to his bedside and heard a variation of something he’s been saying for the past year: “I’m so scared that I’m going to die someday.  Everything will just be over.  I won’t be able to learn anything ever again,” followed by weeping.  And though I typically freeze up in emergency situations, when it comes to this recurring death theme I seem to know the right thing to say to make him feel better while magically changing the subject. This time I quickly told him that if Heaven is real, the way I see it is we get to spend eternity with God in the happiest way we can imagine. If you love to learn, you keep learning; if you love the water, you get to swim with God; if you love nature you get to take lots of walks.  And you definitely get to be with all the people you love the most.  But no matter what Heaven is, dying is a mystery and none of us know exactly what’s next so we might as well spend our time thinking about living, which led to movies we want to see like Monsters, Inc. 3D and then he was back to normal and I was back on the couch.

We weren’t going to tell Huck about the Newtown tragedy, sure he wasn’t going to hear about it without us, sure no good could come of him knowing what happened just 60 miles away.  But then he found out anyway, due to a well meaning but unfortunately timed tribute at our church.  While one of our pastors named the children and adults who died, Huck climbed onto my lap and held onto me tightly.  The next day my Advent prayer book listed the geneology of Jesus with the following words: “This litany of names deserves to be read reverently, as all names do. I think of the lists that can easily dehumanize and pray that the dignity and experience of each person be respected. I consider that a life’s story lies behind each name that I see today.”  So this Advent I’ve been praying over a new litany of names: Charlotte Bacon, Olivia Engel, Dylan Hockley, Jesse Lewis, Ana Marquez-Greene, Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Noah Pozner, Jessica Rekos, Daniel Barden, Josephine Gay, Madeleine Hsu, Catherine Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, James Mattioli, Jack Pinto, Caroline Previdi, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler, Allison Wyatt, Rachel D’Avino, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach and Victoria Soto.

And hoping for sweet dreams for my boy and all the rest of God’s children.

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This really is the most wonderful time of the year, if you ask me, and here are some first half of December pictures.  From the neighborhood Christmas cookie contest party to the lighting of the first Hanukkah candle in Brooklyn; from Thursday night Advent services at the church to a Friday night Polar Express movie in pajamas; from our early morning by the Christmas tree family reading of The Mysterious Benedict Society to our nerd-out family Sun Salutations to get the day started right; from singing carols with friends to wrapping presents for each other; from Huck losing his fifth tooth without me present (hoping to never witness such a gross thing) to getting news of dear friends moving away soon; from the last Storefront Science class to Candlelight Night at Huck’s school … ’tis the season for less sleep and celebrations ’round every corner.

I may be the only one who feels this way in our family of three, but the more the merrier!

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Every year right around this time Troy prints out a booklet of Christmas song lyrics and Huck becomes obsessed with it, carrying it around and singing acapella with a slightly fancy put-upon voice.  Between that and our church children’s choir and the Washington Heights Jazz Choir and the Carnegie Hall music program at his school, Huck often hears poetry set to music and can’t get enough of it.  I’ve noticed in the last few months that his own language has become a bit poetic, in that really cute way that kids start making sense of the world around them.  For instance, the other day we were talking about making new friends and Huck described relationships as being held together by superglue, that they get set a certain way so that over time you cannot change them.  After hearing a great conversation I had with a friend about our future, he said it was like she gave me encouragement to find a small golden egg in a large sandy desert that is two miles wide and two feet deep.  He says his brain is like a treadmill and when he receives new information it gets onto that treadmill and stored inside his mind forever.  He’s written a rap called “Country Side Rapper,” which is about a rapper who lives in the country-side.  And the other night at dinner as we talked about how organized I am he said, “You are like a brick, Daddy is like a cloud, and I am a cloud in the shape of a brick.”

Exactly.

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The other day at school Huck came up with a mathematical formula that nearly blew his mind.  Here’s how it works: you take any three numbers, add two of them together, then take that sum and add it to the other number.  Then you take those two equations and add the numbers up and down and that becomes its own correct equation.  Or something like that.  I really can’t explain the “Huckreom (apparently pronounced Huck-rem) Thereom,” but I think it’s just a variation of the more appropriately spelled Pythagorean Theorem. How he got to it is what’s hurting my brain while simultaneously filling me with the same mother-pride I felt when he suddenly started writing letters on a big cardboard box back in 2008.  I think it’s time to accept that my future as the applauding/crying mother may be less in the So You Think You Can Dance studio audience and more in the Nobel Peace Prize arena (or whatever award is given to smart mathematicians) with a bewildered look on my face that appears to say, “I have no idea what he does all day but oh how I love him so!”

Then again, just about the time I lose all ability to understand the words coming out of Huck’s mouth, he suddenly comes up with something creative like “Project Christmas,” and the next thing I know the two of us are on the floor slopping together an enormous Santa that now takes over the entrance to our apartment.  I may get a headache hearing about his new theorems and formulas and whatnots, but just wait till you see what I can do with a bag of cotton balls, some construction paper and a roll of tape.  Ta-da!

(It’s even scarier in real life.)

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Here’s a photo montage of Huck with the same Santa through the ages …

2005, 9 months

2006, age 1

2007, Age 2

2008, Age 3

2009, Age 4

2010, Age 5

2011, Age 6

2012, Age 7

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On Saturday we joined the neighborhood at our church’s Tree Lighting Community Christmas Party, and on Sunday we got our very own tree and put it in the living room window for all to see when they walk down Bennett Avenue.  Troy and I have lost count of how many of these parties we’ve volunteered for or actually organized ourselves, but it was Huck’s eighth, which means eight times to sit (or lean) on the very same Santa’s lap for a photo or three.  (Picture Montage to come!)   In talking to Santa before the festivities began, we learned that he’s retiring to Maine and so this is his last New York Christmas, too.  If you’re going to leave a city like NYC, you might as well do it at the same time as Santa.

And speaking of all that, I stood in the very familiar church yard filled with Christmas lights and good cheer as holiday music played from the large speakers, and I had one of those “oh wow, this is the last time” moments.  One of my favorite singers Brandi Carlile was singing something like “It’s right about Christmas time … thinking about moving on,” followed by something like “I’m thinking about years gone by, I’m thinking about church at midnight, I’m thinking about letting go,” and “silver bells and open fire and songs we used to sing” and then I went inside and enjoyed it all one more time.

Huck got to throw the switch (or push the button) that lit the tree with the help of another faithful companion in his young life, our pastor and friend Charlie.  Huck’s good pals Valentino, Lorenzo and Parker stood closeby to watch, immediately shouting “GOOD JOB!” and hugging him when he successfully made the tree full of beautiful lights.  At one point in the church yard Huck and Valentino stood with their arms on each other’s shoulders and heads pressed together, taking turns listing the elements until they could no longer remember any more.  It’s good to have friends who understand you.

Our tree is named Apple, because she’s the last in a long list of New York trees that we’ve gotten from the same delightful French Canandian couple  year after year after year who also call our church their second home for a season.

And with the party behind us and the tree in front of us, it officially feels like Christmas around here.