Monthly Archives: December 2009

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

This past weekend was a “barn burner,” as my native Montanan husband would say.

Our six-year-old daughter was in her first “professional” dance performance this weekend–The Big Sky Dance Ensemble’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.  Compiled from ballet, hip hop, modern, tap, African, Irish dancing and more, this show tells the story of Santa traveling the world to bring a series of special gifts to a little Montanan girl named Taylor and her family–stacking dolls from Russia, a four leaf clover from Ireland, a bottle of the Northern Lights from, well, you know…and more.

For two months, we’ve been taking Ellie to Saturday morning rehearsals–some of them upwards of four hours long.  This past Friday, following her last day of school (a series of emotional good-byes…we’re now less than two weeks away from moving to San Fran, baby!) she had dress rehearsal.  Then again on Saturday morning (after nearly spraining her ankle wearing a plastic pair of princess high-heeled shoes!).

At 1:30 our out-of-town family visitors arrived to watch their grand daughter/niece/cousin perform.

By 2 o’clock Saturday afternoon it was show time.  Minus a few scene change issues  (Santa couldn’t get his sleigh off the stage at the end of Act I), from the audience’s perspective the show went off without a hitch.

Despite our three-year-old son getting his foot caught in the folding auditorium seat and two painfully long all-women barber shop style singing pieces, fun was had by all…and then the Hull clan retired to our home for pre-Christmas dinner and drinks and chaotic gift opening.  (During the adult gift exchange, my dear husband, Andrew , ended up with a howling, robotic leg-humping stuffed chihuahua named Humphrey.  Ahhh, the holidays!)

Sunday afternoon brought with it the final ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas performance, and our little hip hop dancing, miniature Rockette kicking daughter danced her heart out one more time.  I’m fairly sure she enjoyed the pre-show hair fixing and make-up applying every bit as much as being on stage.  Nonetheless, always the drama queen, for now, she’s found her niche.

This morning, wondering what other renditions of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas exist out there, I searched YouTube for the very same title.  Anyone old enough to remember TV programming from the ’50s and ’60s might remember the little diddy.  Enjoy.


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Filed under Artists, family, holidays

All I Want For Christmas…Helping Kids Understand the True Meaning of Christmas

Initial disclaimer:  I don’t claim to know the extent of the true meaning of Christmas.  What I do know is that it has a lot to do with love, hope, grace, trust, an ultimate gift and yes, even receiving.

Yesterday, while going through the motions of final school pick-ups for our kids before the Christmas break and–more significantly–our approaching move away from Montana, one of our middle son’s preschool teachers pulled me aside to share with me the particulars of a conversation she had with him that morning.

“He is so unique,” she started.  (Automatic Paranoid Parental interpretation: “He’s a trouble maker.  He’s difficult.”)
She continued:  “I love talking with him!  He has such interesting things to say…and the expression on his face…just like this,”  (she modeled a head cocked to the side, thoughtful expression, eyebrows furrowed, lids blinking)

“He told me his dad is coming home from a trip today and that the art projects Landon has been making here in class are all for his dad.  That his dad’s return from traveling is the gift in and of itself–that he doesn’t even want his dad to bring him a toy.”

It is better to give than to receive.

Of course, less than a week ago, I also overheard this same cherubic boy under the tree counting presents, followed by the exclamation, “Hey! Gabe has five presents under here and I only have four!  That’s no fair!”  Anxious to jump in and teach a timely lesson, I inserted into the conversation, “We are not going to start counting presents!  It doesn’t matter how many gifts are under that tree!  You need to be thankful for whatever you receive for Christmas!” (insert a huff and a sigh)

Last week, our rector at church–winding up for the big Christmas sermon that, I imagine, many clergy quite nearly loathe for the weighty responsibility it carries–presented us with an interesting take on Christmas gift giving.

“I like to give gifts,” he proclaimed.  “But I’m not very good at receiving gifts.”

A lofty personality trait, for sure.

But, no–that’s not the point he was getting at.  Fr. Clark is the first person to proclaim his humility on any given day, and being a poor recipient of gifts is a trait that, truthfully, I think many of us can relate to.

When a friend or neighbor offers you a hand with something, how often do you hear yourself responding, “Thanks anyway, but I’m fine.  I can handle it,” ?

It is sometimes difficult to humble ourselves enough to accept the help of others.

Think about this from a toddler’s perspective:  with so much desire for independence and drive to carve out a place for himself in the world, simple tasks like putting on shoes and brushing teeth have the potential to make a nightmare out of a morning–all because one little stubborn being refuses to accept the willing help of his or her parent.

It is better to give than to receive?

Fr. Clark’s message last week in church was all about receiving–receiving the gift of Christmas each and every day.  His focus, of course, was on receiving the kind of love wrapped up in sending His Son to us to save the world.  Now that is lofty.

But what about us on a more microscopic level?  Are we to go around everyday feeling thankful for God’s love and salvation through Christ?  If you are Christian, the obvious answer is, “of course.” But like Fr. Clark, many of us have a hard time doing this on a regular basis.  Many of us forget on a regular basis that that’s something we ought to strive for.

Down another level:  if we can’t go through our days being thankful recipients of The Greatest Gift Ever, can we at least try to be good recipients of everyday gifts?  Of friends’ and neighbors’ offers of help?  As parents can we accept the gift of our childrens’ independence…trusting that that is, in fact, what will drive them toward becoming sentient beings and functional adults…rather than always trying to be the “giver” of help and expediency?  Can we receive actual wrapped gifts with openness and appreciation no matter what lies within that odd-shaped package of shiny paper tied with a bow (instead of criticising the gift-giver’s intentions or taste–I still recall a friend’s description of a snowman statuette which her sister-in-law had given her for Christmas…’it’s like a Thalidomide snowman…look at those weird little stick arms!’)?

Side note: Dad,  we actually do appreciate the shower heads you gave us last year!

The giving of Christmas gifts is inspired by a whole lot of things before tv advertising and corporate marketing come into play:  The Three Kings’ gifts to the baby Jesus,  St. Nicholas’ gifts to the poor…God’s gift to us all embodied in His Son…

The importance of receiving of gifts is inspired by an even higher source.

Blessings to you, dear readers, during this season of giving and receiving.  May you give whole heartedly and receive openly and accepting.  May you teach your children to do the same.


Filed under family, From One Mother to Another, holidays, Kids, Living, Religion

Breast Feeding, Breast Cancer, Pink Glove Dance

Lately, our almost-seven-year-old daughter has taken to nursing her baby doll at the dinner table.  “She’s hungry,” our daughter proclaims.  “I can feed her even while I’m eating!”

Oh, how many evening meals I spent doing the very same thing.  Good thing I’m ambidextrous when it comes to eating.

Of course the meaning behind this is much more profound:  Ellie witnessed her two younger brothers being breastfed as infants and, I assume, there’s some sort of cellular memory of her own breastfeeding days from her infancy.  She has clearly embedded these experiences into her concept of “normalcy” and is now acting this out with her dolls.  The hope, of course, is that she will grow up to be a breastfeeding mama if, and when, her life takes her down the road of motherhood.

Anyway, you’d have to oblivious as a doorstop in this day and age if you haven’t come to understand the various benefits of breastfeeding for the child:   decreased ear infections; decreased risk of developing: diabetes, asthma, eczema, allergies, obesity…the list goes on and on.  (As a side note, two of our three breast-fed kids have asthma and eczema, respectively.  The breastfeeding protection isn’t necessarily fool proof–likely because there’s a heck of a lot of STUFF in our environment that predisposes kids to things like allergies and asthma.)

Two of the latest findings regarding benefits of breastfeeding for the woman are protection against breast cancer and heart disease–metabolic syndrome, to be exact.  Check out this article on  It does a great job reviewing a study started in 1985 that included 1,400 women and revealed a HUGE drop in heart disease-related illness in the moms who breast fed for greater than nine months.  (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding a child for a minimum of one year.  The World Health Organizations recommends at least two years.)

Some estimates suggest that nearly 1 in five Americans have metabolic syndrome–or the precursors to it– and, at last count (per the National Cancer Institute) there were 192,370 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed this year…accompanied by over 40,000 deaths by the same disease.  Knowing these statistics, wouldn’t you make any choice you possibly could to lower your risk of these entities?

Thankfully, there are LOTS of folks out there researching, raising money and awareness for things like breast cancer and heart disease-related illnesses.  One such group, in Portland, Oregon, did their part by creating the following video.  Enjoy.


Filed under breastfeeding, family, From One Mother to Another, General Health