Monday, December 31, 2007

In Which More Christmas Arrives, Belatedly

On the second evening after Christmas I was lying in bed, trying to fall asleep. Suddenly the thought occurred to me that I hadn't noticed a reaction from Timid Daughter to a certain gift I thought she'd particularly like. Then, being a mom of rather many thoughts, I promptly forgot that idea.

On the third day after Christmas I asked Musing Dad if he'd seen Timid Daughter playing with this particular toy. He had not. But he wondered if in fact, the toy still remained wrapped in the presents hiding spot. I gasped. Certainly it wasn't. It couldn't be. I went to the hiding spot. Deep in the bowels of the secret hiding place I found the toy, still wrapped.

How could this be? I'd done what I'd seen my mother-in-law do on several previous occasions, occasions where I had laughed at her forgetfulness. I'd forgotten a gift! And yet Timid Daughter hadn't noticed, had no reason at all to even consider it. She was content with what she'd received. Yet there was more...withheld. Oh how I berated myself for doing what I'd promised myself I'd never do. And yet there it was, a gift ungiven several days past the Date.

Musing Dad placed the gift prominently near the Christmas tree, in the midst of the detritus of Christmas Past. It wasn't long before Timid Daughter spied the bright wrapping and crept near to read the label.

"For me?" she asked.

I nodded, feeling ever more the rotten mom I suspected myself of being.

"Can I open it yet?" came the next request.

Yet? Yet!? Why would I ever make her wait a moment longer on a gift much delayed. Open child, open now! But we needed to await the presence of her siblings who rattled and clomped noisily in the room to see this oddity. A gift long after Christmas!

It was opened with glee and instigated a whole afternoon of new play. I only recovered from my mistake when I remembered the year that a whole pile of presents for my youngest brother were forgotten by an aunt for at least as long. And as that to me was comedy, I decided perhaps my own small mistake was not so much a tragedy. And perhaps I'm not so alone in neglecting to retrieve all the gifts hidden.

Editorial Note: on the eighth day after Christmas Timid Daughter came to me with a Christmas card she'd made and finally found. Touche, eh?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Post Christmas Gratitude

We had a great Christmas in the Musing House. The uber-princess summed it up best as we drove home on Christmas Eve, "I'm so happy!". We had the opportunity to share the Christmas story from Luke 2 as a family in our church service on Sunday. How special to be able to serve that way together (although there was some consternation on the part of the uber-princess. She remarked to her father as we walked off the stage, mics still hot, "heard and seen, Dad. Not seen and heard". Poor Dad, no one would have known his mistake if it weren't for her).

We also had the great fortune of coming across a living Nativity scene on Christmas Eve. There were even sheep, a donkey and a belching camel. And the sidewalks in one town we drove through were thickly lined with luminaria up and down street after street, a sight more beautiful than any holiday light display because if its simplicity and significance .

Now our house is riddled with the remnants of the Day. Bows and ribbons, packaging, toys. Our family was very fortunate. Me? I'm happy with all the neat things I got. And I'm especially excited about the chance I have to make a difference in other peoples' lives through the Kiva gift certificate I received. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check it out in the sidebar or at

The fact that I woke up with the stomach flu the day after Christmas? Not so bad. After all, everything went so well up to that point, who was I to complain. It sure is hard to get back into things now though. I'm glad it's still winter break for the kids. We need more time for playing our new video games and breaking in new Barbie dolls!

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Tribute to Grandma Higgins

I have no baby book, and pictures from my infancy are few and far between, most having perished in an apartment fire when I was very young. But the image that stands out in my mind is a picture of a teeny, tiny me being held by my Grandma Higgins.

Grandma died yesterday at the age of 97. She was a tough and resilient woman who lived for much of her adult life in the same house she raised her children in. I don't know much about her early years, except that she was a farm girl who married a school teacher and had five children. And she was an excellent seamstress, a skill she passed along to my mother, who in turn taught me.

What I know most of my grandmother comes from being her granddaughter - and a far away one, at that. While all of my cousins grew up nearby (several next door and a few one house away), we lived a nine-hour car ride away. So our visits to her house were cause for great celebration, and all my memories of Grandma's are of fun times - playing in the creek behind her house, tag in the field with cousins, sledding down the hill in her side yard come winter.

She was a youthful grandmother well into old age. Her visits to our house usually meant batches upon batches of fresh-baked cookies and lots of game playing. She even taught my sister and I how to play penny-ante poker so that she and Mom could play. And in her later years, once the casinos came to town, every trip to Illinois for her also meant a trip to "the boats".

One year for my birthday, Grandma treated me to getting my ears a second-piercing. But the fun part was watching her get her ears double-pierced too!

A lot of haphazard memories here, cobbled together in tribute to a woman I loved. I'll miss you, Grandma!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gimme A Gift That I Can Keep On Giving

Have you ever heard of micro-finance institutions (MFI's)? Neither had I until recently when I read an article about them in my business school magazine. Sounds kind of dull, doesn't it? That is, until you understand what they're about. In a nutshell? They make small loans (under $1000 usually) to people for whom it will make a big difference. A vendor in Asia who needs $100 to repair his cart and stay in business. A Guatemalan shop owner who can support her whole family by expanding her offerings at a cost of $250.

The point is, these people's lives can be improved radically with just a small amount of investment. But they fall below the threshold for conventional banking loans. So MFI's fill that gap.

I learned in this same article of a non-profit MFI called Kiva, that in their words: "lets you lend to a specific entrepreneur in the developing world - empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty". The way it works is you log on to their web site,, read the stories of businesses in need, choose one to support and contribute via credit card payment through kiva. Typical loan periods are 6-12 months, after which your money will return to you (no, you don't receive interest - I believe that's how kiva generates income to keep running). And the default rate is incredibly low - 0.2% on over $2 million in completed loans.

Okay, I realize it might sound like a scam. But with appearances on Oprah and the Today Show, and support from President Clinton, I think they're legit.

What does this have to do with Christmas? Well, I've put a kiva gift certificate on my wish list. Just think of the joy that would come from being part of helping someone make a better life for themselves. And with that money coming back to me later, I could do it over and over again. In fact, I think I'd like that as a Christmas gift every year so that I could compound the impact. Plus it's a great antidote to my problem of "too much stuff".

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mary to Gabriel: "Will That Be Fried or Scrambled?"

My kids are really getting into the holiday spirit these days. Christmas music blares from their radios and tinkles from our piano. And at the first notes of "The First Noel" Uber-princess perks up and shouts out the name as if it was "Name that Christmas Tune". I'm not sure how many others she knows, but as long as she knows that one, we're good.

However,in the midst of all the celebration, there seems to be a bit of confusion. For one thing, I overheard Timid Daughter accusing her surly sister of being a "grunch".

"Mom, will you tell her to stop being a Grunch?" she asked me.

"A what?", I replied.

"You know, a Grunch. That guy that stole Christmas. She keeps being mean to me and I want her to stop".

"You mean the Grinch?", I ask. Then I stop myself. Why should I correct her? Really it's much more fun to see her go around accusing people of being Grunches. And maybe they are. After all, who knows what a Grunch is?

Then there's the carol that every kid loves to sing simply for it's long drawn out chorus. Gloooooo o o o o oooooooooo o o o o ooooooo o o o oooooria. It so happened, during a car ride while they were all belting this out along with Michael W. Smith or whoever that was on the radio, that Little Miss History fessed up.

"I always thought they were saying in EGGSHELLsies deo. But why would there be eggshells?", she wondered aloud.

"Ah yes, dear. That's just one of the mysteries of Christmas", I wanted to say. But I didn't. I just agreed that eggshells sounded kind of silly in a song about Jesus.

Now if I could just get them to stop singing "Jingle Bells, Batman smells...".

Sunday, December 02, 2007

My Kind of Store

I think I've finally found a grocery store I might sort of like. You know I can't stand grocery shopping. But maybe that's just because grocery stores make it so I can't stand them. I'm thinking I've found a new place to shop where they understand me better. In fact, I think maybe it's a match made in food shopping heaven.

Have you ever heard of Bloom*? It's a new concept in grocery stores that I think has a lot of the right stuff. First of all, they've got special nearer-to-the-door parking spaces for quick trips and moms with kids. What great thinking! After all, how quick is your trip for a gallon of milk when you have to hike across a big parking lot and then hike across another expanse inside the store? Did I mention that they have their milk near the front of the store where it's easier to grab and go? So I'm thinking when I've got a quick trip for milk and my kids are with me, I'll be parking right next to the dairy fridge where I reach out the window, grab a gallon, pay and go. Okay, so maybe it's not that easy. But it still sounds like a great improvement.

And there's more: you can choose to check out as you go by getting one of those hand-held scanner things (you know, the kind that they give you when you're registering for a wedding and the groom-to-be carries around like it's a futuristic gun thing and scans all sorts of odd stuff so when you're opening gifts as newlyweds you're going, "Hey, what's this drill press? And why did somebody give us Risk? Did we register for these things?" and he's just grinning and grinning. Yeah, one of those things). The way it works at Bloom* is you scan stuff as you put it in your cart. Then you just swipe your credit card at the door to pay and off you go. Works for me, especially since half the time I'm bagging my own groceries because I like to use my own eco-friendly bags.

Then there's the Bloom* staff. They're so full of energy. You walk into the store and they're singing the Partridge Family theme song and dancing and tossing stuff into your cart. Plus they wear one of my favorite colors: lime green. You can see them here.

Yup, Bloom* is the store for me. Sounds super-convenient and efficient. If only the nearest store wasn't 750 miles away.