Friday, December 23, 2011

Life (almost) imitating art.


No holiday season would be quite as nice,
without strapping on skates and hitting the ice.
With the wind in my hat and a smile on my face,
I feel like I'm flying or floating in space.
My Christmas is not about presents or toys.
It's all about skating, my ultimate joy.


I'll be honest - I don't actually like ice skating. AT ALL. I mean, what could possibly be appealing about cold feet and falling down a lot? I just don't get it.

But roller skating? Now THAT'S my jam.

Watching my boys tear it up at the roller rink today with a handful of friends and neighbors was my ultimate joy. Ice is nice but...um, wood is good? I don't know. But if you haven't taken your little ones roller skating this winter break, you totally should. Cause wood is good!

(Okay. Wow. That second cup of cocoa with homemade marshmallows was maybe a mistake. All that sugar went straight to my head. I feel like I'm flying or floating in space!)

Just as I was getting Finn into his skates (he borrowed a pair from a friend who was taking a break), a woman skating by yelled out, "Does he belong to you?" I nodded and thought, "What a weird thing to say. Does he belong to you? Did she mean Finn? Why? Because he's adorable on his skates and I'm lucky he's mine? How bizarre..."

A few minutes later I found Bill and he told me some woman told him he looked like he was trying to entertain everyone.

"Why? You're not even skating."

"No, it's because of my sweet dance moves," he said, pumping his fist in the air. "I saw her say something to you, too."

Suddenly it all made sense. "Does he belong to you" had nothing to do with the super cute baby I was couple skating with. She meant did the dude who was killing the hokey pokey belong to me. Heck yes he does! But how did she know? Perhaps she saw me rocking out to DJ Lance Rock and thought we looked like a match made in heaven. Or maybe she saw Finn skating and decided, "There is only one man here who could have fathered a child that cool." Either way, it definitely felt like a compliment.

Put your dance face in, put your dance face out...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cats vs dogs.

I've always had pets (one or more of each), so I never really gave the whole "cats vs dogs" thing much thought. How could you possibly choose one when they're so completely different? I liked dogs for dog things and cats for cat things!

But after Cloey died a year and a half ago, I started to notice something surprising: maybe I didn't like dogs so much after all...

They bark and shed and constantly need attention. You have to walk them and feed them and PICK UP THEIR POOP WITH A SHOVEL. They follow you around and look at you with, you guessed it, puppy dog eyes, making you feel like a grumpy old grinch for not grabbing the leash that very second. Going out of town when you have a dog is practically impossible. Dogs are as much work as kids. Kids you can't take to restaurants.

Cats on the other hand are like the chia pet of of, well, pets. They barely need anything aside from food and water and someone to open the door once in a while. They are soft to the touch (making them so much better than actual chia pets!) and great for warming your feet on a cold winter night. Sometimes they even kill mice! Or chase them under your bed and bat them around while you hide under the covers and hyperventilate, waiting for the angry maimed mouse to scamper up the bed and get caught in your hair. Okay, so maybe cats aren't perfect (they do kind of have attitude...), but in comparison to dogs? I was starting to think they were the clear winner.

As Bill started working on me to get another dog and I resisted like crazy, I finally had to tell him the truth. I was a cat person.

"No, no, no," he said. "You LOVE dogs. You just can't remember because you don't like other people's dogs. It's like kids. You know, like, our kids are great but everyone else's kids suck?"

"What? But I like other people's kids."

"Yeah but if you have to change another kid's diaper? That's disgusting. Whereas if you have to change your own kid's diaper it's less disgusting."

"That doesn't actually bother me that much."

"Well, whatever. You do like dogs. You'll see..."

With logic like that, who could argue! Fortunately he was right (I know, I know, you're always right...). I LOVE our dog. We named her Penny (after the brainy chick in Inspector Gadget) and she's completely fantastic.

She came to us crate trained which is AWESOME and makes having a dog in the house way easier than I ever could have imagined. She doesn't bark unless she's playing and then it's so cute and hound-like we can't help but egg her on for more. She is (mostly) potty trained and really good about going outside (except when it's raining, of course). She doesn't get on the couch except for when we let her which is just about every night because if you saw how small she curls up and how nice she is for cuddling, you would totally be okay with it too.

Now that Penny's in our family I am, once again, totally a dog person. And a cat person. Which is good.



Very, very good.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Making merry.

The advent-ures continue! Every morning as Liam reaches for his advent calendar to see what's in store for him that day, I think, "Oh crap! I better come up with something quick!" Then I distract him with something shiny and shove a quickly scribbled note into the tiny knit stocking. (Being prepared is definitely not one of my strong suits...)

This has resulted in some hits and some misses. On the days he's caught me after I've had some coffee, he's fared slightly better than the days I've stumbled out of bed a bit late and was in the midst of a race against time as he gently reminded me to get on it already.

But for better or worse, I've yet to fill a single day's stocking with candy. In fact, the only "thing" he's received since the terrible, awful, no good, very bad quarter was, you guessed it!, another quarter. (It was a test. A test he passed with flying colors and much appreciation!)

We've jumped on the trampoline together, gone out for ice cream, and made ornaments out of found objects and pipe cleaners. He got $20 to donate to the charity of his choice and a slumber party with mom (someday he'll probably find it really funny that this was one of his favorites!). One day I simply declared it, "better to give than to receive!" (I think I had gotten food poisoning and he offered to stay home from school to take care of me and Finn. Sure, he probably just didn't want to go to school, but I was too busy barfing to argue. He took exceptional care of us all day and when I told him I didn't have any ideas for his advent calendar so maybe it could just be a giving day instead, HE WAS TOTALLY FINE WITH THAT! He even wrote out a few more ideas that he wanted to give us and stuffed them inside the calendar.)

It's definitely made this month even more fun than usual. And even though I'm sometimes caught off guard, coming up with festive ideas on the fly has worked out pretty well. The only problem is that some of my bright ideas could use a bit more thinking through.

Like the day I wrote, "Let's make candles together!" I had gotten the idea from a magazine a few weeks back and didn't even keep the article I had ripped out. THAT'S HOW EASY IT LOOKED! So I didn't think twice as I scribbled the note on a busy Tuesday morning and tossed it in the direction of his calendar as we ran out the door for school. I figured we'd swing by the craft store for some supplies when we picked him up that afternoon and then wham, bam, thanks for the candles, man!

Surprise, surprise, it was not that easy. First of all, we had to go to like a million different stores to get the right stuff (soy wax and beautifully scanted essential oils - I mean, who wants to make a cheap, stinky candle?) so his daily activity had to be postponed (this has happened kind of a lot - no biggie). I finally got everything we needed yesterday but then had a heck of a time deciphering the instructions (I think they were written in code only serious crafters could understand) and by the time I thought I knew what to do, I was starting to get a bit flustered (I think it was the combination of scalding hot wax, a messy kitchen and lots of small people and pets running around my feet). So I sent everyone outside until I finally found my groove.


Unfortunately, by the time I was ready for Liam to help, I had run out of wax (and only made two and a half candles!). Since we had already decided that Liam-made candles would make a perfect little gift, I will be making another trip to the craft store tonight.


After we make marshmallows (advent-ure #18!).

And no, I've never made marshmallows before and have no idea how difficult they will be. Bill heard a story on NPR and thought it sounded fun. Fun like making candles? I hope not! But fun like making finger paint would be right up our alley...

Since the candle making was such a bust in the teamwork department, I asked Liam to help me make a super-secret DIY project for Finn. I had seen a recipe for homemade finger paint on Pinterest (the one and only time I hopped on there...) and thought it would be a great little gift for my budding artist.

We had all of the ingredients on hand (no more trips to the store!) and the recipe was quick and easy and fun to make.

That's my kind of DIY!

And with a big pad of paper that Liam wrapped up all by himself, I think it will make a fantastic gift.

Any merry making happening in your house this month? I still have a handful of days to fill and am running out of ideas!

{FYI - those finger paints were easy to make but by the time Finn opened them on Christmas Eve they were moldy! If we ever try them again we will definitely use them right away. Although that was such a bummer I'm not sure we'll be trying them again. Not that Finn cared a bit - he's young enough not to care if his gifts are poison.}

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The new date night.

For my birthday this year, Bill hired a cleaning crew to come over the day before my party. This was a first. The first time we'd payed someone else to do the dirty work, and definitely the first time our house had been so clean!

I wanted to serve dinner on the floor. Without plates. BECAUSE I COULD.

I mean, everything was clean. The ceiling fans. The mini blinds. The baseboards. The INSIDE OF THE MICROWAVE. The light bulbs. When Bill got home from work he took a deep breath and said, "Ahhhh. They even got rid of that musty smell!"

It's an old house, what can I say?

Of course, within moments of living, our house was messy again. But messy is totally different than musty. A messy-clean house is probably the best we can hope for with two small children and life happening all the time.

Unfortunately, hope is not the best house keeping strategy. But with me manning the cleaning supplies, hope sort of feels like all I've got. I SUCK at cleaning. I still do it, of course, and I actually keep a pretty clean house, but I don't feel like I know how to do it right.

Plus, I hate it.

Which is like, "Oh, stop complaining. Nobody likes to clean." But that's so not true. My sister loves it. She actually looks forward to it! Scrubbing the toilet is like her reward for working full time (and changing lives while she's at it), raising her son and being an all around awesome person. (And yet, we were raised by the same people so I'm confused...)

The night after we had our house cleaned was the best night ever. It felt like we were at a hotel! We didn't want to do anything but lay around admiring our surroundings and breathing in that must-free air. What a way to live!

Now that I knew what I'd been missing all my life, I didn't want to live without it. I had the quote for regular cleaning service rolling around in my head and was determined to find some way to make it happen. It wasn't that much money. Surely we could find something we were spending money on that we'd just as soon do without. Something we'd be willing to give up in exchange for must-free air. But what? What?!

Finally it hit me: date night! The cost was about the same but the benefits of a clean house I didn't have to clean myself FAR outweighed the benefits of date night.

I mean, maybe it's just us, but date night always seems to let us down. I'm not talking about going to a party or a show or something like that. That's a plan for which you need a sitter. I'm talking about date night date night. Where you come up with something to do outside the house for the sole reason of spending one-on-one time with your spouse. Like dinner and drinks at a kid-unfriendly restaurant or something.

Here's why I think it's overrated:

1. The time we would want to eat dinner at a restaurant is the same time our kids are in bed. So more than half our house is kid-free but we're paying someone to watch it for us so we can go have some one-on-one grown up time somewhere else. That's just dumb.

2. We don't eat meat so kid-unfriendly restaurant food is sort of lost on us. $15 for a plate of couscous? Really? I hate to be the person who's like, "We could have made this better at home," but that's what's up. Unless we go for Mexican food or pizza or something like that but then we're like, "You know who would have liked this? THE KIDS."

3. We really like hanging out with our kids.

4. Every night is date night! After the kids go to bed we can cook fancy food or make fun drinks or watch a movie or listen to music or talk or not talk or whatever we want. Every night! It's totally free and there's no pressure to have X amount of fun to make it worth paying a sitter.

5. When was the last time date night cleaned my coffee pot?

I was totally convinced. There was no reason NOT to have a regular cleaning service. So I set to work making it happen. Which means I put it on my wish list and started singing Mariah Carey to it in my head...


It's true. I don't want a lot for Christmas.

There is just one thing I need.

Since November 13th it's been stuck in my head. I've been mentally serenading that sweet cleaning lady, telling her, "All I want for Christmas is youuuu....baby!" And guess what? It worked! Bill gave me my present last night because the cleaning crew will be here before Christmas to get the house ready for Santa. I was so happy I put on a red unitard and started doing interpretive dance right there at the dinner table.

BEST. CHRISTMAS. PRESENT. EVER!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I am selling myself short.

I read my book to Liam's class this morning and, holy smokes you guys. If eating in the cafeteria with those kids made me feel popular, reading a book I wrote and illustrated to them made me feel like a GOD.

Even though it was sort of last minute and Finn was with me and totally trying to steal my thunder I still nailed it. (Yes, Finn, you're adorable. And when you hold up a ball to the class and raise your eyebrows and say ball, it is the funniest thing ever. The kids love you. Okay? YOU WIN! Now can you please be quiet and let Mommy read?!)

So no, the reading was not perfect. But it was so much fun! And seriously, the kids LOVED Christmastime to Me! They had all these questions (most of them were even about the book!) and afterward they rushed the rocking chair to hug me and thank me and TELL ME THEY LOVED ME.

For reals!

I may not know the first thing about sales but who cares? I've written and illustrated a book that kids love. That's...amazing. I need to get out of my own way and let the book speak for itself. It's great. It will sell itself if I let it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Always prepared.

Judging by the huge purses and bags most moms carry around, it's pretty obvious: we're always prepared. But as I rummaged through my over-sized purse in the handicapped stall at Panera tonight while a food covered Finn squirmed and kicked and tried to escape his stroller and Liam (hopefully) kept a watchful eye over himself and our dinner table, I was devastated to learn that while I may very well be prepared (there was a LOT of stuff in my purse!), it is not always for the right situation.

Fortunately, because I'm a mom, I'm generally resourceful enough to make up for it. So I used a size three diaper for a maxi pad.

Yes. Yes I did.

And while I'm pretty sure it's better than if I had to do it the other way around (there's no way Finn would lay still enough for me to stick a maxi pad to his onesie), I'm also pretty sure all the holiday shoppers in the crowded restaurant could tell I was wearing a diaper.

Because they're bulky. Even when properly fitted. And they're not known for being the quietest undergarment ever invented.

Swish, swish.

Oh, I tried to make a quick exit after the incident. And technically, I guess we did. But a quick exit for us meant cleaning the entire booth with baby wipes (didn't forget those!) then making seventeen trips back and forth to the garbage can that was conveniently located no where near our table.

There I was reaching over the table to wipe up all the cream cheese (swish, swish, swish). And bending down to get the food that got thrown under the table (Hey oh! Mama's got some junk in her...oh god, is that a diaper?). Climbing up into the booth to scrub the yogurt covered partition and pick macaroni noodles off the bench (swish, swish, look at the crazy lady!). Then taking tray after tray after tray (what's up with all the trays?) alllll the way across the restaurant to the trash can and heading back to the table for the next load (swish, swish, swishswishswishswishswish).

Sure I could have stacked the trays and saved a few trips. But I couldn't trust my weak wrists in a moment like this. Dropping a pan of piping hot enchiladas face down on the open oven door just as company is sitting down for dinner is one thing (one thing that sucked...). But dropping a stack of trays, half eaten bagels and more used baby wipes than you could shake a stick at in the middle of a crowded Panera whilst wearing my one year old's diaper? That's a risk I was just not willing to take. (I mean, just picture me on my hands and knees cleaning up the mess...)

I definitely could have asked Liam to help and normally would have in a second. But I had already sent him up to order his own grilled cheese after the macaroni and cheese he thought he wanted was not doing it for him (that might help explain some of the trays...). I peered over the wall next to the our booth watching him while a whole line of friendly people coached him to "grab his change" and "pick up the dollar he dropped" and "take the pager." I know I was not helping for a reason (I'm trying to empower him to be self-reliant!) but who knows what it looks like to other people. And while I really don't care what strangers think, sometimes the random acts of kindness are hard to take. Watching my five year old carry trays to the trash while I sit like a bump on a log is fine. Watching a helpful stranger do it because he thinks my kid is not capable? Not fine. At least, not tonight.

Perhaps I should have left the mess and run out of the restaurant backwards with a sweatshirt tied around my waist. But there's just NO WAY. I couldn't be the woman in a diaper and the woman who let her toddler eat like a drunk gorilla and didn't clean up after him. No. Scratch that. I could NEVER be the woman who didn't clean up after my kids in a restaurant.

I have standards, you know.

When we finally got outside, I remembered we had parked waaaay across the parking lot, back by the craft store. On our long walk of shame (swish, swish, swish, swish), my sister texted me back (I had to tell someone I was wearing a diaper in public - you can't keep stuff like that inside). "OMG, are you STILL wearing a diaper? Go to a 7-11 NOW!!!"

I'm sure. Like anyone in their right mind is going to force their kids to make another stop during prime melt down hour when one of them is covered in cream cheese and the other one is pretending to be a (very loud) baby. I mean, seriously. Is she crazy?!

Besides, it's not like I was going out on the town. I just had to drive home. And if there's one thing that crazy astronaut lady taught us it's that a car is a totally appropriate place for a grown up to wear a diaper.

Hey! Guess what literally JUST dawned on me. I bet I had a QUARTER in that huge purse of mine! I am always prepared and NASA smart...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Do you know the muffin man?

What's more fun than muffins you ask? Muffin men of course!

This was Liam's idea entirely. When his advent calendar gave him lemons, "let's make a gingerbread cake together," he turned it into lemonade, "gingerbread boys!" At first I had no idea how we were going to make this happen. But we just winged it. (Wung it? Oh, whatever, we didn't follow a recipe.) And they turned out great!

Now whenever we make muffins, Liam insists on making muffin men. Instead of pouring the batter into a cake pan or muffin tins, we just pour it onto a cookie sheet covered with tinfoil and sprayed with cooking spray. When it's done baking, I let it cool a few minutes then attack it with the cookie cutter (it's a little hot so the boys just watch). Then, as soon as the muffin men are cool, Liam takes over as head decorator (even some softened cream cheese in a baggie for piping makes a plain muffin seem like a party).

And Finn does his best to help out as well.

Oh, and all those little muffin scraps that don't make it into a cookie cutter? No problem. Just save them in a baggie and feed them to the baby.

He'll eat anything.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Selling myself (short).

We have a new bookstore in Nashville that just opened a few weeks ago. "A new bookstore," you ask. "But I thought bookstores were going out of business faster than you could say Kindle!" It's true. Sadly, bookstores seem to be going the way of the dinosaurs and mom and pop hardware stores. But, fortunately for us Nashvillians, bestselling author Ann Patchett calls middle Tennessee home and is not interested in living somewhere that doesn't have a bookstore. So she took a leap and opened Parnassus Books.

As a reader and a book lover, I am over-the-moon thrilled.

As a self-published author who gets nervous at so much as the thought of selling myself, I'm...not so much.

A new bookstore means a new location that could potentially sell my book. While this may sound like a good thing - Oh, the possibilities! - to me, it also kind of sounds like a nightmare. It means I might have to, you know, talk to someone. About buying my books. And putting them in their store! And that's, well, that's just above and beyond what I feel capable of.

My approach to sales could best be described as "un-selling." Meaning, before I have even asked you if you want to buy something from me I have come up with at least a dozen reasons why you should say no. Maybe your budget is a little tight this month. Or whatever I'm selling won't exactly suit your needs. Perhaps you feel bad for me and are planning to say yes out of guilt. No way I can get behind that!

I honed this approach as a young Girl Scout. Yes, that's right, I figured out a way to un-sell Girl Scout cookies. Like there's a single good reason not to buy cookies from a child. A child in a uniform no less! But I did it. And I un-sold the hell out of some Thin Mints.

My husband thinks I'm ridiculous (not in general, just when it comes to my inability to deliver a sales pitch). But it's totally not fair because he's IN SALES. Talking to people about buying things is what he does EVERY SINGLE DAY. Even when he's not at work! Because when you're good at something like that, it's not just what you do, it's WHO YOU ARE.

I think writing is like that too. I am good at writing because I'm BAD at everything else. Okay, not everything else. But the face-to-face, small talky type stuff - oh, lordy. I am awkward with an extra side of awkward sauce. And if I think I'm bad at regular ol' chit chat, imagine how freaked out I get when the conversation turns toward me and something I want you to buy.

{I should maybe point out that people I know (besides my husband) are surprised when I tell them I feel this way. Evidently my awkward un-selling is not discernible to the naked eye. Which seems completely insane because to me it feels like every time I speak out loud a record scratches and everyone in the room turns to stare at the awkward girl with her foot in her mouth. Maybe not, but that doesn't make it any more fun for me.}

So last week after I took the boys to the bookstore for the first time, I couldn't wait to tell Bill what I had done.

"Guess what," I said as soon as we sat down for dinner. "We went to Parnassus and I talked to someone about my book!"

"Who?"

"Uh, I dunno. Whoever was working the register. Anyway, I was like, Yeah, I've got this children's book I wrote and illustrated and I was wondering who I could talk to about getting it into inventory."

"And?"

"Isn't that great?!" I said beaming. "I almost chickened out. Like, I really, really didn't want to do it but I did. I wanted Liam to see that it's good to do things you're scared of sometimes." I looked over at him and winked. I was setting such a good example!

"So who do you need to talk to?"

"Oh, well I don't remember her name. But they're not taking on any new inventory until the first of the year."

"You don't remember her name?"

"What's the big deal? I'll just ask again in January."

"Your book is for Christmas. January is too late."

"Yeah but, that's what the lady at the register said. THEY'RE NOT ADDING ANY MORE INVENTORY UNTIL THE FIRST OF THE YEAR!"

"But that won't work. You need to call them and explain that. Your book is for Christmas, you need to get it into the store now."

"But...I can't. Aren't you at least proud of me for asking?"

"No," he said laughing a little. "I hate to say it but this was a fail. Big time. I mean, you didn't even get a name."

Ouch, right? But he has no idea he's being mean. To him, this kind of thing is a game. He actually thinks it's fun! He's like, "Ooh, now's the good part. You get to push and push and push until they can't say no and you win. Aren't you excited?!" I'm like, "Are you crazy?! I can't even talk about this without wanting to crawl back in bed and watch TV."

Self publishing is so not for me.

I need to find myself a publisher or an agent or someone like Bill who wants to do this icky stuff for me. (He won't do it because he says that would be "weird" like he was "controlling" me or something. WTF?) I think that will be my BIG goal for 2012.

In the meantime, I'm going to do it my way. I have some books on hand I can sign and sell for $10 each (via word of mouth, Facebook and this very blog!). My book is available on Amazon.com and can be found at Fairytales Bookstore in Nashville and The Tennessee State Museum Gift Store (I'm working there on Sundays so if you want me to sign it, just ask the guy in the store to grab me!).

I also have one very special copy that will be given away to one very special reader. Are you feeling special? Leave me a comment and I'll put your name in a hat for a drawing on Sunday!

It really is a sweet book. One that my boys and I look forward to reading together at least once a day every single day of December. The illustrations are handmade cut paper art and the story rhymes which makes it really fun to read out loud. If you don't believe me (un-sell alert!), check out the customer reviews on Amazon. I just did and they totally made me cry! (THANK YOU!!!)

If you'd like to buy a copy, please email me (nomommybrain @ gmail.com) and I'll get it shipped out to you right away. If you want to see even more, you can check out the little website I threw together (www.maggiedayconran.com). And please, tell your friends!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Advent-ures in appreciation.

We have a really cute advent calendar that is made of little knitted mittens and stockings and caps - one for each day of December leading up to Christmas. We've had it for a couple years but I can't for the life of me remember where we got it. Isn't that sad? I'm sure it was a gift, one that I really love, and yet it has completely escaped my mind as to who gave it to us.

(If it's you, please let me know! That way every year when we're like, "We love this thing!" we can also be like, "_____ is so great! How lucky are we to know them?!")

Last year I went a bit overboard stuffing each day full of candy canes and Hershey's kisses and ring pops and Reese's trees and Pez dispensers and, really, as much Christmas-themed sugar as I could fit. It was like I was trying to outdo myself and by the time Christmas rolled around I completely regretted it. Not only did I give my child permission to eat several pieces of candy for 25 days straight (why?), I also totally jacked up his expectations.

If he discovered the mitten for the day only had, say, three little chocolates and a mini candy cane, he would actually be ticked off. "Uh...yesterday I got five chocolates and a ring pop and today all I get is this?" I would just stare at him speechless like, "Is my child really giving me attitude about eating candy?" But there was no one I could blame but myself.

So this year I decided to do things a little bit different. Instead of trying to give him diabetes (the gift that keeps on giving!), I was going to see if maybe, just maybe, I could help him tap into his sense of appreciation. Our advent calender would be sort of like the anti-holiday pepper spray. Less wish list; more thank you note.

On the first day I wrote a little note on a Post It and rolled it up inside. When he reached in and felt the paper the look on his face said, "A note? Are you freaking kidding me?!" But when he read it - After school, let's make a gingerbread cake! - he said, "Mama, what a great idea! I can't wait to come home and bake together!"

Yes, I was still appealing to his sweet tooth, but it felt like we were moving in the right direction. An experience, preferably with someone you love, is always better than a thing. Even if that thing is chocolate. We talked about this while we measured and stirred and in trademark Liam fashion, he took it about twelve steps further than I was anticipating. When I told him I valued experiences over things he said, "Do you know what I think is is even more important than experiences? Life. Because without life, nothing is possible."

Okay kid, slow down. I'm just trying to get you to appreciate your candy canes!

I thought maybe our little experiment was already a success but the next morning when he reached in and found another note he was genuinely pissed off. "A note again? Seriously? This is the worst advent calender ever!" Even though he was actually pretty stoked about what the note said (Dinner = your choice!), I was glad he had had such a negative reaction initially. It's easy to be grateful for things you want; the challenge is finding a way to appreciate everything else.

The next day he got to go to the Adventure Science Center with Dada (he asked me to stay home...) and the day after that we made it a "no electricity except Christmas lights!" night (he equally loved and hated this one but complained enough that I felt like it was a pretty good choice).

This morning, I kind of forgot about the calender (I'm filling it up day by day) so when we got home from school I quickly found a quarter and slipped it in stocking #5 before he checked. At first he thought it was empty. "Hey, you forgot to give me anything! Where's my note?" I told him to look a little harder and when he discovered the quarter, I think it actually made him appreciate the notes!

"A quarter? You DID forget! No fair. I don't want a quarter, I want something good!"

"Well, you're in luck. Because you don't just get a quarter, you also get a lesson."

"Ugh."

"Join me on the floor," I said from my spot in the hall, "and I'll tell you all about it." He reluctantly plopped down next to me. "Seriously, dude, we need to work on appreciation."

"No we don't! I already know how to appreciate things."

"I know you do, bud. You do. But something like this quarter can help you practice being grateful for the things in your life that maybe aren't so exciting."

"Like this dumb quarter?"

"Hey, it's twenty five cents you didn't have two minutes ago!"

"Ugh..."

"Alright, well, if nothing else I want you to think about your attitude. I mean, what do you think will happen if you're never satisfied with what you have?"

"Or with my life since that's what's most important."

"Right. What do you think happens to people who look at their life and think, That's it? I want something better! More, more, more! Do you think they're very happy?"

"No."

"I don't think so either. When someone is ungrateful like that do you think it helps bring more good into their life?"

"No because of the golden rule. Whatever you put out is what you get back."

"Ahh...that sounds like even another reason to be appreciative! A positive attitude will probably give you even more to feel good about. And a negative attitude, well, it will probably do the opposite."

At that very second, the quarter he'd been passing back and forth between his hands fell to the ground, rolled down the hall and disappeared into the heather vent. It was COMPLETELY GONE. And Liam was really, really bummed. As I held him and he cried I couldn't help but think, Damn! I couldn't have planned that better if I tried! I didn't say that, of course, but the coincidence was so uncanny that we had to talk about it. He told me that losing the quarter made him realize how much he appreciated getting it. Then he asked if he could go back for a minute and thanked me for the quarter.

When Bill came home with a big cheese pizza for dinner (Liam's favorite!) I looked at him and raised my eyebrows like, "Dude! You appreciated that quarter and look! More good!" He nodded and gave me a wink. And when we remembered that Street Corner Symphony (another favorite!) was going to be on The Sing Off tonight, he didn't even seem that surprised. He was like, "That's right! I felt grateful for what I had and now I have even more to be grateful for!"

I wonder what that means he'll get tomorrow...