Friday, October 31, 2014


Last night, as my husband and I were snuggled up in the basement family room, me reading on my phone and petting the puppy, my husband watching Lebron bring basketball back to Cleveland, it hit me. "Tomorrow is Halloween!", I exclaimed, sitting up abruptly and accidentally pushing Marley Pup to the floor. "The Great Pumpkin needs to come tonight!". My husband visibly rolled his eyes. And I agree- it might seem silly to rush around and set out little trinkets for every holiday. Maybe. But to me, it's a memory. It's excitement. It's a tradition I started when my oldest son first joined our family. His first American holiday with his new family was the Fourth of July. He was so pleased with his little flag and star spangled stuffed bear. And I was pleased with his sweet smiley reaction. A tradition was born.

As the years have passed I have witnessed my oldest son sharing his excitement about this holiday tradition with his little brother. I know it won't be long before I will have to navigate the maze of one kid starting to question how these trinkets show up every holiday while one little one still full on believes. But for now, for a short while longer, I can enjoy sneaking around the kitchen late at night, setting out whatever little gift I found. Placing it on the kitchen table, at each boy's seat. The lights low, the hour late, it almost feels as though the warmth in the house is brought out exclusively by the fuzzy feelings of love these family traditions bring on. This glow follows me upstairs as I sneak in to each boy's room, checking on them, pulling blankets up, (on the oldest), and down off the face, ( of the youngest). It sticks with me as I wash my face and climb into bed. I fall asleep amid memories of past holiday mornings. The St. Patrick's Day when my oldest found a small watercolor set waiting for him. The Valentine's Day that both boys found new heart themed plates and cups waiting on the table for breakfast. The July Fourth that brought blinking star sunglasses.

And those memories are amazing, sure. But it is what is underneath those little gifts that bring the true power of family traditions. The memory of sitting at the kitchen table painting with my son. Those heart themed plates? We still use them. And they still make me smile.

Family Meeting Night. Chinese Tea Parties. Apple picking. Christmas lights viewing. New Christmas books to read at bedtime. Bedrooms filled with birthday balloons. And little inexpensive gifts for holidays, always waiting on the kitchen table, ready to greet my boys as they bound down the steps in the morning. Family traditions are important. I already knew they were important to me. And every holiday, as I listen to my boys talk about the "Great Pumpkin", or the mysterious Valentine's Day gift giver, I begin to understand more and more how very important holiday traditions are to my boys as well. This morning, while my oldest son slept, his little brother ran to his place at the table, exclaiming at the spider covered drinking cup and puffy Halloween stickers. As I was sitting down to join him, gently cradling my mug of steaming coffee, the lights low and the house quiet except for my son's giggles, I smiled at my sweet husband. The skeptical one. The roller of the eyes.

"You know, when I was a kid, I only had Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy visit my home. You are a very lucky boy.", my husband said, as he picked up the cup to get a closer look at the spooky spiders. I nodded my head in agreement, knowing that he understood why this tradition was so important to me. These two sweet boys had nothing. They came to us malnourished, scared, with no understanding of family or love. I want to give them the world. And I know that giving them the world really means giving them pieces of me to carry with them as they grow.

Family traditions. Tonight my boys will bounce into the house after school, ready to throw on their costumes and rush out into the damp rainy evening collecting candy from our new neighbors. But not before they eat a delicious dinner of meatball mummies with "bloody" tomato dipping sauce. (I am the mom of boys, after all!) This weekend we will cut out colorful construction paper leaves to write our "thankful thoughts" on. And throughout November, as I move about the kitchen, preparing meals, washing dishes, packing lunches, I will read and re-read each of those leaves, reminding myself of our many blessings. Big, like Forever Families, and small, like Coffee. Big to my boys, like Winning the Football Championship and small, like Crunching Leaves Under Our Feet as We Walk the Dog.

Creating these thankful thoughts won't be easy for my boys. Tracing the leaves, cutting them out- that they can do. But thinking thankful thoughts, reminding yourself to enjoy the small bits of life in between the big stuff- that is something that must be modeled and taught. Another positive result of family traditions, teaching stuff our kids need to know but don't always pick up on their own.

And after that we will move on to our next family tradition, marking the change in seasons and the growth in my family, as little trinkets go from matchbox cars to football cards, to God only knows what a teenage boy would find fun. Giving little gifts is fun for me, sure. Building memories, establishing a strong sense of family, teaching my boys to appreciate the little joys in life, and sharing with them the joys of anticipation, that is what creating family traditions is really about. Family traditions help to define our lives. They can provide a strong sense of safety and can ground us in this confusing world. 

 So this one has passed. And I am already dreaming of  turkey shaped erasers and heart covered pencils, (in blue, for my boys, of course!).

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