Chen May Yee swapped life as a foreign correspondent in Asia for domesticity in Minneapolis, where she lives with preschooler Maya, kindergartener Zoe and husband Chris, a stay-at-home dad. She writes about healthcare at the Star Tribune and hankers after warmer climates.
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Ah, decorating for the holidays is so much different when you bring kids into the mix. Candles are out of the picture. Breakables are put up high or not at all. Grandma's vintage ceramic Christmas tree? Forget it. I had just read article from Parenting.com 4 Ways to childproof your home for the holidays then received a very timely guest post from new blogger and SAHD Michael Buerke. Serendipity fills the holiday season. Thank you Michael! Read and enjoy!
(Bombs) Away in a manger - Michael Buerke
It's a shame when a missile takes out the Manger.
One of The Boy's mom's favorite things to do every year is prepare the house for Christmas. The 2 largest Rubbermaid boxes come out from underneath the stairs (they are green with red lids, for visual effect and for easy finding for the hired muscle - me), containing 3.5 decades worth of memorabilia and tchotchkes from Christmases past. Everything blue and silver and gold and red and green and plaster and snowflaked and tinsel is in there, but not the tree itself, which is purchased exactly the Friday after Thanksgiving. A real live one which smells way better than the little things that hang from car mirrors or squirt out of a plastic aromatherapy jar. Real trees are a must for our house.
This year's tree adornments have a refreshing and novel scheme - the decorations reach all the way down to the bottom branches. Not since year one in our house (that we've owned for 9 Christmases) have the bottom branches bore fruit. Year two introduced a beagle puppy, Year four introduced a human puppy, and between eager jaws and eager opposable thumbs, the cherished glass bulbs and fine ribbons weren't allowed within reach. The tree always reminded me of Donald Duck - wearing a shirt, but uncomfortably naked from the waist down.
But this year, with the beagle in beagle heaven...
(where the rabbits are slow and forgetful and the chipmunks can't climb trees and the kitchen counters are conveniently slanted towards the linoleum and you're allowed to walk farther away from the curb than a leash would allow),
and the Boy having matured enough not to squeeze the glass ornaments to "see what happens", we have a fully clothed tree.
And, oh, was The Boy helpful. He very carefully trimmed the branches with his favorites (the ones he called "the most beautifulest I've never seen"), and did an excellent job.
As for the rest of the house, I know that this is my wife's favorite. She very peacefully walks around the various rooms and strategically places her prizes in purposeful spots, deciding which will be showcased this year and which will stay hidden for a future year. She does a wonderful job each time, while I watch TV. (decorating the indoors for Christmas would give me an asthma attack if I had asthma, I'm convinced. My hands shake just thinking about how many things would break if I ended up handling them). Anyway, the stockings were hung, the bowls and hangings of Christmas-y things interspersed exactly as they should be. Tis the season!
Ah, but that poor manger. First, it's a lovely little wooden desktop manger, complete with barn animals, three very wise-looking men, angels, shepherds and of course, the Fam, haycrib included. All less than 3 inches tall. I'm almost positive it was a gift from great-grandma Betty, a lovely gift.
This year, the manger got top billing - a spot on the entertainment center in the great room near the gazing ball (aka television). It wasn't there an entire afternoon before this happened:
You see, (almost) 5 year old boys are notorious for staging disasters. Car accidents are envied, tornadoes and exploding volcanoes wished for upon a star. Not for anyone to get hurt, mind you, just to see what happens. Turns out boys never outgrow this fascination. We men define rubbernecking. Look at how far that hood crumpled up, honey!, as we drive past at 10 miles an hour (and sometimes, when alone, circle back for another look at a different angle). We stand on the patio during thunderstorms, staring at the clouds looking for funnels, we watch shows called "10 Greatest House Explosions of All Time" and "World's Deadliest Roads" and "Buildings That Crumbled" and "Dangers on High - the World's Largest Recorded Waves".... Not for anyone to get hurt, mind you, just to see. Just to see.
Nothing is safe from the destructive imagination of a pre-school boy, not when free range missiles are on the loose. Not even the manger. Note the very relaxed looking cow on the top, acting like he's supposed to be there, and the baby J, teetering over the edge of the cliff. I'm sure someone could write a novel on the symbolism, but I digress.
As for the manger, it has now been restaged on the mantle, 7 feet off the ground. Maybe next year.
Michael Buerke is a stay-at-home-dad, raising a quirky and gifted 5-year old boy alongside his highly educated and breadwinning wife of 10 years, Annalisa. As she slowly pays off the mortgage on their 1100 sq ft suburban dream home. Between loads of laundry, Michael writes about the never-ending joys and blunders in bringing up The Boy (tm) .
You can read Michael's blog here: The Boy (tm)