Tuesday, December 25, 2007


As I sit here Christmas morning while the rest of the house is still asleep, I realize how fortunate I truly am. OK...there is that snarky little credit card issue that rivals the national debt, but grading on the curve, I am extremely fortunate. I have two amazing kids who are beautiful, healthy and who I adore. I think they like me just as much...well...generally they do. I have a mom who's health could probably use a pick me up, but she makes us laugh...and we her. I have a good job and great friends. Although life isn't perfect, it is all pretty good and I am blessed.

There is a cup of hazelnut coffee at my side. I am toasty warm in new jammies and a chenille blanket wrapped around my toes. Surf and turf is waiting for us at dinner. Santa's presents are the only gifts under the tree since Kat and Adam opened most of their gifts last night. White lights and ornaments adorn our tree. Some ornaments are our standards...others newly added this year. The moment is peaceful. Although I love Christmas and look forward to the day, I can't help feeling a little blue.

This year has flown by in a blink. In 2008 I really need to learn how to savor the moments. In my mind, flashes of 2007 memories pop into my head. Many of them are moments from the year when I didn't stop to savor what was happening. One that comes to mind is trying to take the perfect shot of Kat as she received her diploma only to have the camera malfunction and me miss the moment completely. I have a picture of a blur. There were also times taken for granted which slipped away like sand in a sieve. My arrogance thought there would be other opportunities, or moments to savor. I want to reach back and grab them and hold tight, but its too late. The moments are gone.

Sometimes along with the moment, people leave too. One of my fatal flaws is that I rarely stop to smell the roses. I am always moving on to the next "thing". It could be the whole prickly ADHD thing we discovered this year, but even on meds I tend to just keep spinning my wheels. (Remember the Flintstones when they had a prehistoric squirrel on a wheel running kitchen appliances and lawn tools? That is me on a daily basis.) Kat told me the other day I was like the energizer bunny. She's right.

A very wise woman suggested that I remember to stay present on Christmas. Take in the moments. Enjoy my children. Enjoy the day. Even if I have to stop and remind myself, that is what I plan to do.

The month of December is always so busy for me. Not that everyone else isn't. It's just my busiest time of year at the office and then add the craziness of the holidays, I forget to enjoy the season. So today and starting this day forward I plan to live in the moment. Not take people or things for granted. If there is joy to be found take it in. Love to share - share it. Don't think that just because someone is here today means that they will be here tomorrow. I'm not talking about death, although that too is a very real possibility. My friend, Maggie, told me about receiving an email from a friend of ours stating he decided to move to California. He never said goodbye - he just moved. He sent the email after he was already settled. Poof. He was gone.

Maggie also is spending this holiday with someone who means a lot to her. He flew in on Sunday and is flying home tomorrow. Poof - he is here. Poof - he will be gone. I'm sure that after he flies home it will seem extremely surreal for both of them. Were they really together this Christmas? It will be such a brief visit that it will probably be more like a dream. One thing I know for sure, Maggie is someone who never takes moments, or life events, for granted. She is quite sage and one of the calmest women I ever met. She knows to savor the time they have together because they will be separated all too soon.

I've had too many poof moments this year. I want/need to relax. Enjoy the day. The event. The moment. I want to lie on the couch at dusk and watch the snow fall. Not think about where I should be, or what needs to be done. Just be. Last January there was such a moment. I was lying on someone's couch watching a brand new blanket of snow fall around. It was dusk and the sky was a Cerulean blue with big fat fluffy snow flakes floating everywhere. It was beautiful to watch and I was content to be snuggly warm under a blanket and watch the snow. And just be. I hadn't felt that calm or peaceful in more years than I care to admit. It was a perfect moment. As content as I was, because I wasn't home, in the back of my brain I felt the need to leave that sanctuary and be the responsible parent. I "knew" I would have a moment similar to experience again. I was wrong. The moment I stood up...POOF...it was gone...and a similar moment never again materialized.

Lesson learned.

Living the moment is so important. Therefore, if in a conversation, I need to be actively participating, not thinking of 50 other things at once. I want to be present for my family, friends - all the people I truly care about. I don't want to poof. I've poofed too much in my life.

What this truly means is that I need to relax. I am always reacting to what life throws my way. I need to be an active participant in my life. That may sound weird to any of you reading this, but honestly, I spend the majority of my life reacting to others. Maybe in order to live in the moment, I need to stop reacting and start participating in what is happening around me.

The one thing I have done this season to start and end my day is to sit by my tree. With all the other lights out in the room, the only illumination comes from our tree lights. While I sit, there is either a cup of coffee/tea, or a glass of wine in hand to sip and reflect while I soak up its simple beauty. Sitting and enjoying our tree is my little slice of heaven. Occasionally, when I walk down the steps to the living room, I stop mid stair and just take in the moment of my tree.

So I AM learning to relax. In another week our tree will be gone. After we take it down, I'm not sure what my new ritual will be. I could actually attempt baths. I have always been more of a shower person, but this could be my new endeavor. I once had a roommate, Gail, who LOVED baths. That girl could soak for hours! She is more of a type A personality than I am, yet she knew how to relax. I'd try the bath thing on occasion, glass of wine in hand, candle and a book. The pages would get wet, the water cold and I'd get crabby. That was then. Since after the first of the year, I won't have my tree to aid in my relaxation and I did receive a few spa essentials for Christmas this might be the year to try it all over again. Hmmm...I wonder.

This writing has taken a completely different vain than I initially planned. I no longer remember what my plan was. This all just rather spilled out. And as usual, I'm not sure how to end my writing.

So, to anyone reading this, remember to enjoy whatever you are doing at the moment. Be present. Actively participate in what is happening around you. Do not take life, or the people around you, for granted. They may not be here tomorrow for a variety of reasons.

I think I just received my favorite Christmas gift before anyone has woken up - the knowledge and the wisdom to enjoy this day, the people I am with, as well as the friends and family that I will not see today and the memory of the people no longer in our lives. To all of you - Merry Christmas!!! Enjoy your day. Love those with you and those you wish were with you.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Alexis' Angels

This post is difficult to write on many levels. To talk about Alexis evokes tears just as I start typing. Some of the tears are due to the senseless stupidity of her loss. Some are for the questions that will never be answered. Other tears are because we never got to the hospital to see her. Then there is the fact that family parties are not the same without her. It's not that my relatives are boring, it's just that Alexis pretty much embodied the life of every party. The final set of tears are because Alexis' parents, Patty and Jim, took their loss and transformed it into a way to help others. That final set of tears and thought process - Alexis, her illness, Patty and Jim, transformation and helping others - takes all of two seconds in my brain, but in actuality it took about 2 1/2 years in the making. The outcome and enormity of their actions still blows me away.

I guess if this is ever going to make sense, you should first know a little about Alexis.

Alexis Christine White. To write about her seems to take away some of her vivaciousness. She was so unique that words really can't capture her properly. I loved how Alexis would tell a story. Actually, she did not tell the story…she re-enacted it. The story itself did not have to be of any importance, but she made it amusing. She was pure kinetic energy. As she told a story, her whole body was in motion reliving the events, her voice becoming faster and louder with every word, stringing words together until you swore the story was just one very loooong sentence and at the end she would be giggling with peals of laughter. Sometimes laughing so hard she couldn’t finish. The more dramatic the story the better. I was never sure which was more entertaining, the story Alexis was telling, or how she told it. I still don’t know.

If I was to free-associate in describing Alexis, the words that come to mind are: funny, loud, irreverent, loud, bright, loud, a little ditzy but at the same time quick-witted, fun and did I mention...LOUD. She loved loud music - the louder the better. She also loved a good debate and was never afraid to speak her mind...loudly. Oddly, these are the same characteristics that I use to describe Kat. Kat is now the same age Alexis was when she died. That is another reason I cannot wrap my head around the chain of events. I can't imagine losing Kat. She is too vibrant, just like Alexis.

Alexis hadn't been feeling well for a while. It started out with her arm hurting. Nothing more, just an ache in her arm. She eventually had aches in other joints as well, severe lethargy and horrible headaches. There really wasn't any specific symptom There were a battery of tests, all inconclusive. One doctor suggested that being 15, she was probably just bored. She should lose 10 pounds and find a hobby. I would seriously LOVE to know if that doctor's medical license arrived in a cracker jack box. Her blood work showed that she had an infection, but still nothing showed leukemia. They tested her for everything including Lyme disease, which in Alexis' ditziness stated they tested her for limestone. Finally, after months of testing, on July 15, 2005 they determined Alexis either had leukemia or lymphoma. They would know for sure on Monday. They determined on Monday that Alexis has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).

In veritable Alexis style, she asked if she was going to die. The doctor's assured her that she would not. So, Alexis agreed to be part of a study to help others with blood cancers and then asked when she could be sprung so she could buy her mom a birthday gift. Patty's birthday was Friday and she wanted to buy her mom a Build a Bear. Since they weren't letting her out of the hospital for awhile, she sent her sister Brooke and Jim out to get the present. Alexis resigned herself to losing her hair...she had the most beautiful blond curls you have ever seen, but she was not thrilled with the idea of her braces being removed. Patty recently told me that removing her braces is the one thing that reduced Alexis to tears. Alexis had her first chemo treatment on Tuesday and died that evening from unforeseen complications. Alexis was waked on Friday - her mom's birthday.

There are a million questions that still go through my mind, but nothing will bring Alexis back. I often question why life takes such unexpected turns, yet I still can't comprehend these chain of events to even ask the right questions. We would all love to have Alexis back in our lives, but since that is not possible, Jim and Patty created something to honor Alexis which will benefit many other families in the future. They created Alexis' Angels to help children battling blood cancer at Christmas.

Initially, they created a team to walk in the annual Leukemia Lymphoma Society's Light the Night walk. The team's name is It's ALL About Alexis, named for her type of leukemia. Alexis died mid July, the walk was the 3rd week in September. It's ALL About Alexis raised thousands of dollars in just 6 short weeks. This wasn't enough. Patty needed to continue to stay busy so they organized a bowling fundraiser to help raise more money for It's ALL About Alexis. We have walked 3 years in a row and have had 2 bowling fundraisers.

This still wasn't enough.

Every year, Patty's siblings take turns adopting a family in need rather than buying each other gifts. It was Patty's turn to pick the family in 2006. So, Patty contacted the Leukemia Lymphoma Society (LLS) to ask if they knew of a family that had a teen going through chemo. LLS did not have a program of that caliber, but they would look into Patty's request and see what they could find. This one phone call was the seed of Alexis' Angels. LLS did find a family. They also found a sponsor and through word of mouth 9 children were adopted that Christmas. I remember walking into the LLS office in Chicago to drop off some gifts. It looked like Santa's sleigh exploded. There were gifts everywhere! What a great feeling to participate in something so rewarding.

In 2007 they expanded the program where complete families were adopted rather than children. Thirty-seven complete families were adopted throughout Illinois and Missouri. Jim and Patty personally delivered gifts to many of these families. Jim generally brings the gifts to the door. Patty stays back as she symbolizes what each of these mothers fear. Can you believe what they created out of their love for Alexis?

Patty and Jim were initiated into a club that no parent ever wants to join. The club's initiation fee is set way to high. They took that club membership and chose to create something to honor Alexis. Their strength amazes me. If it was me, I would have booked a padded cell at the local psyche facility and spent the rest of my days there. Not them. Their strength and fortitude is a true testament to their love for Alexis.

Patty told me that Alexis always wanted to help children. My belief is that she was so strong willed that she figured out a way to help kids even from a very far distance. She planted a seed in her mother's brain which has now become an annual event. She is an amazing spirit.

To read more about Alexis Angels please click here:


(I know there is an easier way to list Alexis' link, but for some reason, blogger and I are not getting along at the moment. If you still can't link to it, copy and paste the link to your browswer.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas - Part 3 - Santa

When I was little, I never understood why my father always suggested we leave a pastrami sandwich and a beer for Santa. Everyone else I knew left cookies for Santa and carrots for Rudolph. But in our house, Santa always asked for pastrami and beer. At the young, tender age of 5, and it being the 60's, the idea of drinking and driving never crossed my mind. I just wondered why Santa always wanted pastrami at our house. Was it better in Brookfield, Illinois? Did pastrami not exist in the North Pole?  Why us? Why did everyone else leave cookies? It wasn't until I was older that I realized why Santa wanted my father's favorite sandwich and a beer.

Soon thereafter I informed my mother that Santa wasn't real. Possibly because I put together the Santa/Daddy pastrami and beer puzzle? I remember stating my case matter of factly in the kitchen as she washed dishes. Being the youngest child, I think she wanted to prolong the fantasy for a few more years. Neither Mike, nor Mark, ruined the fantasy. To me it just seemed too impossible and I just "knew" Santa wasn't real. My mom didn't argue. She really didn't say anything.

When Kat and Adam were 6 and 3, a neighbor's daughter posed the Santa question to her mom. The girl's mom told her "the truth" and the child subsequently told her 3 year old brother, plus Trina and Adam. Admittedly, I was a bit crabby over the subject. I never understood the idea behind telling a child Santa wasn't real. It takes some of the magic out of the season. Therefore, from that moment on, I started a "We Believe" campaign at our house. I bought pillows that stated we believe in Santa. To answer the question as to how Santa enters our house when we don't have a chimney and fireplace, I bought a "magic key" that hangs on our door knob from the Saturday after Thanksgiving until the Christmas decorations are taken down. There is a magic to Christmas which embodies the whole Santa concept. Starting at the moment that the kids first came to me questioning Santa, I became and still am Santa's best PR rep.

Santa always vistited their pre-school on a Saturday. The pre-schoolers and their siblings gathered together, made Christmas ornaments and waited in line to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas. Santa always gave the kids a bag of reindeer food so Santa could easily find their house. The reindeer food consisted of oatmeal and glitter that we sprinkled on the lawn. Every Christmas Eve we put on our coats and boots, trudged into the snow and sprinkled tons of reindeer food on our lawn. The glitter always looked rather sparkly and shiny on the snow. Yet I always wondered if it was safe for the raccoons, deer and squirrels that may also dine on 'reindeer food". Is glitter poisonous if eaten in copious amounts? It didn't stop me from putting it out every year, but I still wonder how many animals we may have poisoned in McHenry. Obviously, Santa's reindeer are special, so we didn't worry about them.

One year when the kids were about 4 and 7, they decided their father needed to go to the pre-school Christmas party with us. So, Kevin arrived and helped them with ornaments and stood in line with us to talk to Santa. We looked like any normal family, except we were the only divorced couple there. With the divorce rate well over 50%, there wasn't one other divorced couple at that preschool, or yet in our neighborhood! Excuse me, where were all the divorced, dysfunctional parents in McHenry county!? The kids loved having their father there with us and it was fairly Norman Rockwellish until Adam announced with Santa and a million moms standing around us, "Mom, did you know Becky lives in Daddy's house?" Kat then chimed in, "The cat is out of the bag now!" It was apparent that although the kids knew their father and Becky were living together, they were sworn to secrecy by their father. Every mom within ear shot could not wait to see my reaction and what Kevin had to say.

Yes, another dysfunctional family moment I will always cherish.

So, I picked Adam up and countered the question with a question (a skill I learned going through our divorce. If you don't want to answer a question, answer with a question.), "Do you like Becky?" Adam's response was yes. I turned to ask Kat the same question. Her response was the same. I didn't even look at Kevin. There were some very unChristmas like thoughts going through my head and I knew who was getting coal that year! It wasn't that I disapproved of Becky. I actually liked her. What bothered me more than anything was that their father swore the kids to secrecy.  He was teaching them it was OK to not be honest and forthright. 

As it turns out, Becky was terrific to Kat and Adam. She helped unlock Kat's artistic ability. She also received an emerald cut 1 carat diamond that was once promised to me. Rumor has it she bounced the ring off of Kevin's head at a bar when she broke the engagement. I always think of that broken engagement as why I am a firm believer in karma and as a delayed gift from Santa. I always liked that girl!

To this day, I still believe.

A few years ago, Kat walked in my room, very reminiscent of my confronting my mom over the whole Santa issue. She stated a very clear case. Every questions she posed, I countered with another question - a skill I continue to master.

Kat: "Mom, Santa's not real, right?"

Me: "Why do you ask?"

Kat: "It just doesn't seem possible that this old guy can fly through the air and deliver presents to everyone."

Me: "But isn't it fun to think that it could happen?"

Kat: "But it's not possible."

Me: "How do you know it's not possible? Wouldn't it be a very cool trick?"

The conversation continued something like that until she stormed off in frustration. (tee!  hee!)  A similar conversation occurred a year or two ago with Adam. He too gave up on convincing me that Santa is not real. He now starts every conversation about Santa with his fingers making the quotation sign. "Do you think (quote) SANTA (end-quote) will bring me an XBOX 360?"

The kids have now come around to my thinking. Prove to us Santa isn't real. We dare you. There is such a beautiful magic to this time of year. Everything is prettier, happier, shinier. We love this time of year.

In our house, Santa never wraps his gifts. His gifts were always under the tree ready to be played. Granted the years of the Barbie townhouse, tea cart and hot wheels racing sets were years that I stayed up until 2AM wondering WHY Santa couldn't wrap the #$#%$ gifts and let me deal with the batteries and assembly the next morning. One year Santa and I needed to swap gifts. I bought Adam a Kinex roller coaster that contained over 1,200 pieces and when assembled was 6 feet long and 3 feet tall.  It actually took 3 months to put together. I know, what was I thinking?! Once I realized all that was involved with the gift, Santa gave Adam something else (can't remember what) and I wrapped the roller coaster. But amid the chaos of Christmas morning, I knew why Santa's gifts were already assembled. As much as I love my kids, the idea of being bombarded with putting together "some assembly required gifts" without sleep and minimal coffee is not an activity I can handle on Christmas morning. Besides, this method gave them something to play with until Gramma woke up and we could exchange gifts.

This tradition never quite caught on with my mom. Considering we live in the same house and after years of telling her that Santa did not wrap gifts, she continues to wrap and write "From: Santa" on the kids presents. When they were old enough to questions why Santa wrapped some gifts with Gramma's handwriting, but did not wrap others, I just said that Gramma liked to pretend she was Santa. Her continued disregard always fueled the question of whether Santa was real. The kids had a great case about the Santa debate when there were already presents under the tree signed "Santa" in Gramma's handwriting.

After we moved into this house, Adam started sleeping on the couch in the living room right next to the Christmas tree hoping to spot Santa. He left notes in the tree asking Santa to wake him up and give him a sleigh ride. Adam became very crabby over never being woken up. One year, I found an ornament that is a tube where you can place a letter to Santa. It was used every year until this year. Hmmm...maybe I should put a letter in that this year. I sure could use a wish or two granted.

One year when Adam was asleep on the couch I dropped a present right by his head. If he woke up I was definitely caught in the act. There I was frozen in mid present delivery - completely conflicted on what to do next. Afraid to look to see if he awoke and equally afraid to look to see if the present that dropped was breakable. Thankfully, Adam sleeps like a rock!! (and the present was fine) Whew!!

Kat and Adam are now Santa's junior PR reps. The magic of potential and possibility is very real this time of year. If someone even suggests that Santa isn't real, there is a quiver of a lip, a sad face and a question raised in a very small voice, "You mean...Santa's not real?" It could be said by any one of us. As far as the three of us are concerned, Santa is real. To state otherwise is fightin' words.

We've seen the miracle of Christmas at work. My next entry will be about Alexis' Angels, which brings the true spirit of Christmas to light. Since it has to do with Kat's guardian angel, the two may be combined, or it will be a two parter. I haven't decided yet. Check back soon to see.
In the interim, have a very Merry Christmas!!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Monday, December 3, 2007

It's beginning to look alot like Christmas - Part 2 - Christmas cards

I love my children. I do. I truly do.
If I sound as if I am trying to convince myself of that fact.
I am. I truly am.

Every year since Kat was born, I have taken a Christmas picture to put in our holiday cards. You would think by now, Kat and Adam would understand that this is a tradition. You would also think that by now I would realize my Norman Rockwell visions of these photo shoots are more along the lines of a Lohan or Federline/Spears family reunion.

It's not just the kids who have conspired against these events. When I was married, Kevin and my mother also wreaked havoc on these photo sessions. When Trina (which was what we called her then) was 2, I planned to take a picture of her in front of the tree in her jammies sitting on her red rocking chair with our cocker spaniel, Peppi at her feet. I gave her a bath, dressed her in a new Christmas red flannel nightgown with lace on the collar and cuffs. She looked adorable with her bare toes peeking out from her nightgown. When everything was set up downstairs, I realized that the camera was still upstairs. So, I bolted upstairs, grabbed the camera, extra film and dog treats for Peppi; knowing that neither my busy toddler, nor cocker may sit still for long. Fuzzy pictures and action shots of Trina getting up from her chair, or chasing Peppi was not the image I wanted to capture for our cards. I was upstairs all of two minutes. Two minutes!!! When I next saw my daughter she was covered with chocolate!! My mom gave her the chocolate and my husband allowed it. Neither one could figure out why I was so frustrated. A chocolate smeared face was not a look I envisioned for our cards. I considered murdering both of them but realized that the act was very un-holiday like and karma was gonna get me. Once clean with most chocolate stains hidden and two rolls of film later we had a very cute holiday card.

The following year, Adam had arrived. Trina was now 3 and Adam 3 1/2 months old. Again both dressed in Christmas plaid pajamas we were ready to try this Christmas picture thing again. I hadn't realized that we would have a running theme of chaos in these annual photo attempts. I didn't need to worry about Adam trying to climb off the chair as he wasn't quite mobile yet, but he was rather squirmy and Trina wasn't exactly gentle with him. There was never any malice to her actions. She just thought of Adam as a very realistic doll and she treated him as such. Trina didn't think twice about grabbing her doll by the arm and dragging it, so why couldn't she do that with this squirmy little guy? If I remember right, during this little photo session, Adam kept turning his head to look out the window. I asked Trina if she could please try to move his head toward the camera. So, being 3, and knowing Adam needed his head to face my way, she placed a palm on each one of his chubby cheeks and gently moved his head towards the camera. The only decent shot from that afternoon has Trina angelically looking down at Adam while she attempts to unscrew his head from his neck. The look is completed with Adam eyes the size of quarters with a deer in the headlights look, wondering what his big sister was doing to him. Yes, I still sent it.

For 15 years I have whined, argued, threatened, bargained and pleaded with my two favorite children; trying to get their pictures taken for the #$^&#(& holiday card. Tis the season to be Jolly...Fa la la la la la la la la. We did pictures at JC Penney. They always did a great job. One year we even included Peppi. But they got to an age when they didn't want to have "professional" pictures done. So for the last 5 years it's been me and my old school film camera. Last Christmas I received a digital camera, so this was the first "high tech" (or as "high tech" as I will ever get) Christmas.

Last year, there were moments of fun interspersed with drama. For some reason, Adam decided to "skate" (socks + hard wood floors) past the camera every time I tried to take a shot of Kat. Or he would dive through the air onto the couch. He was very comical and we laughed alot. Unfortunately, when we got the pics developed, Kat hated all of the pictures, stormed off to her room, slammed her door bellowing that she didn't care what I did. So, now that she gave me carte blanche permission, I went to Walgreens and ordered the photos I liked. Which she, of course, hated. More tears erupted when I reminded her that she "didn't care" which pictures I chose. Fortunately, she calmed down, we settled on two pictures (one she liked, one I liked). I called Walgreens and changed the order. We ordered half of hers and half of mine. The clerk was quite understanding. She was obviously a mom.

The other day, when the kids got home from their dad's, I mentioned that after dinner they would be participating in their favorite holiday tradition. Adam informed me that he suddenly had plans. He needed to wash the cat. Funny...we don't own a cat. Kat just asked if she had to change out of her sweat pants. Nope. I'll just shoot from the waist up. No one needs to know she was wearing her gray smiley face glow in the dark sweatpants...well...until now. Never being above bribery, I made them an authentic Mexican dinner from the cookbook they gave me for my birthday.

Sadly, Adam was angry before we even attempted to take one shot. Everything made him mad. One thing I have to say about my kids they rarely gang up on me at the same time. Last year Kat was the diva. This year it was Adam's turn.

Christmas music was softly playing in the background. The tree was lit. I started taking pics of Kat alone. Then Adam alone. He wouldn't cooperate - hated every photo I took until, finally, he settled on the last picture. Then I suggested they stand together in front of the tree. You would have thought I asked them to chop off their own foot! Comments were flying back and forth, some funny...some not.

"You mean I have to put my arm AROUND his shoulder?!"

"I'm not touching you, I'm not touching you!" (Adam says to Kat as he points a finger into her face - Thank you Brooke!!).

"Adam, you are such a brat. Mom, why didn't you stop with me?"
"Because she needed perfection, so she had me."

"Adam can you at least smile at the camera. Pretend you are having fun. It's just a smile!"

"So help me Adam, if Mom wasn't here, I'd beat your butt.  You know she's going to just keep taking pictures. The sooner you cooperate the sooner we'll be done!"

When I asked them to stand back to back, Kat asked if she was still taller. Uh, sorry, you're now the same height Hon. Next, they started bumping each other's butts. OH! MY!! GOD!!! At some point a shoving match ensued of which I should have taken pictures. The card would have been of my children trying to kill each other with the sentiment, "Peace on earth. Good will towards men." All the while a variety of Christmas music continued to play in the background suggesting peace, harmony and love.

It is these proud parental moments I'll treasure forever.

In every picture Adam had a similar deer in the headlights look reminiscent of his first Christmas photo shoot. Eyes huge and round and no smile...just A LOT more hair. He refused to cooperate, yet hated every picture. So I decided I would do the best I could with what I had. There was a great one of Adam which was snapped while Kat was making him laugh. I used that. He hated it. Adam stormed off stating something about looking stupid.

Who is his mother and how is she raising him?!! I then began questioning my parenting skills, why I had children to begin with and why I continue to torture all three of us each year. After a heart to heart with my son and my daughter off to the movies with her friends, I took a few more single shots of Adam which we both agreed we liked. He still looks a bit stern in the picture of the two of them, but I love the single shot of him alone.

So, the question that arises from all of this. Will they look back on this "tradition" and loathe me for the annual Christmas picture, or will they look back fondly at the silliness that had us laughing?