Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Whack on the Side of the Head Wednesday: Corned Beef and Cabbage

I started this blog a year and a half ago, because I believe small things make a big difference.

Consider this. Birthdays were a big deal growing up in my house. If your birthday landed on a school day you were treated to a highly coveted Coke, instead of a can Mott's Apple Juice; your first treat of the day was always waiting in your cereal bowl; and you always, always got to pick the dinner of your choice. Mine? Corned beef and cabbage with cooked carrots and potatoes. So etched is this memory in my mind, that Richard (thoughtful man that he is) still makes this dinner for me every October.

Here's the truth. I wasn't eating corn beef and cabbage at two or three years of age and probably not even three or four. I probably ate my first corn beef and cabbage dinner was when I was nine and I left for college when I was 18 years old. That means this birthday memory, etched so deeply in my mind, actually happened eight or nine times... at most!

When you get down to it, it's true. Some of our most fond childhood memories are family traditions that, when truly recalled, can be reduced to an event that happened six or seven times.

Today's post is in celebration of this factoid.

Last year around this time I introduced readers to my neighbor Nan A. Not only did I share her simple First Day of School family ritual, but I shamelessly stole it, replicated it, and gave an extra one away on my blog.

Her idea was a table cloth. When Nan's kids come down to breakfast on the first day of school they are met with a well appointed kitchen table - the star of which is a first-day-of-school tablecloth. That's it. No bells, no whistles, no major expense and limited preparation on Nan's part. But to those three kids who are already excited about the prospect of a new year, the sight of that familiar table cloth provides the security of a warm blanket.

It's not really about the table cloth - which Nan admits is just a large swatch of material from Joann Fabrics. It's about Nan's one gesture, repeated annually and ultimately condensed into one poignant childhood memory.

Small things make a big difference.

Today let's whack First Day of School Traditions (yours as kids, ones you've recently started, or - since so many of you work in higher education - ones you can share with college students). But, as is always the case, let's apply a creative principle from Axelrod's book on Edison (today's principle should seem especially timely to any reader participating in our StrengthQuest Saturdays).

Play to your strengths. If you are a manager, manage others in innovation. If you are a theoretician, think innovatively. But if you are hands-on, innovate with your hands. See the work and see it through. Let it take shape under your touch.

How can you use your strengths to innovate a fall tradition?

Signing off until tomorrow....


cassie p said...

I cannot honestly think of any fall traditions from my childhood; relating to school. I always played soccer, so I knew, and was excited, that it was the start of another soccer season!

Danko Family said...

My mom always lined us up by the front door and took our "first day of school" picture. We have them going all the way back to kindergarten. I continued that tradition with my boys when they went to a 2 year old summer camp this summer. It's not much, but it's neat!

Birthday traditions are better! We had cake and ice cream for dinner and dinner for dessert. Dessert was VERY rare in my house growing up. I started a tradition of making the boys breakfast in the shape of their age. They had "1" shaped pancakes and "2" shaped sausages, apples, and toast.

maureen said...

First day of school at the Peres house includes an elaborate breakfast ( I hate cooking breakfast) and then we take pictures with our full uniform on. Lunch is also special because it includes some special treat that I would otherwise NOT put into the lunch bag.

Our birthdays here consist of some of us decorating our bedroom with balloons and streamers while the birthday person is sleeping. Then being we were all born during normal school schedule I bring pizza to the lunch room for the entire class and juice and cupcakes. Soda isnt allowed in my kids school. Then dinner is the birthday persons choice and we invite grandma and grandpa for dinner and we have a cake and ice cream after dinner. Gifts are then opened during cake.

One thing I do each day is write on a post it something for my kids lunch bag. Sometimes its a little joke sometimes its an I love you or something special to make them smile. I want them to think of me at some point of their lives and smile when they remember the little notes.....

Have a good day HLA:)

Cheryl said...

I don't remember any traditions for back to school growing up and I can't say that I've created any for my boys either. We do take the first day of school picture and we also take the last day of school picture.

No regular tradition for birthdays either. There was always some kind of acknowledgment but no set tradition. For my boys I usually let them pick a place out to eat because I don't cook.

I'll have to think on the whack...

Peggy said...

I doubt there were any traditions for me, if so... I don't remember them.

For us too, we take an annual picture by the door with the spiffy first day of school clothes and the back pack.

If anything, my whack would be informing all parents of youngsters to create these traditions. Some parents just don't come up with these ideas on their own, it isn't too late to start them, but prompts always help. Thus this blog...

I think the Danko Family is on target.... taking pictures at 2 years.

Just like Martha Stewart does a monthly calendar... if ideas are composed concisely with a product list... it could be a handy calendar with prompting...

August 19...get camera ready to take an annual 'first day of school photo'

August 28.... post it notes ready to leave extra love in the lunch bag

August 30... back to school table cloth, use markers and have the kids write about their first day

Sept. 2... get photos printed and start a "back to school album"

Claudia said...

Peggy... your post is your strengths at work, FOR SURE!

You are the epitome of responsible and organized. In my house it could look a little bit more like..."Oh crud, it's 12:30 a.m. the kids are waking up in a few hours. Dig out the table cloth and throw it on the table before they awake!"

The beauty is, whatever you mode, kids will appreciate the end result.

I couldn't agree more with Peggy. It's never too late to start an annual family tradition and your kids will appreciate it.

Cheryl, one of the students in my office shared with me the other day that her father is a very good artist and that she has a whole shoe box of notes he drew for her and left on the kitchen table. His sketches revolved around important things that might be going on in her life (taking an exam, a big volleyball game, etc...). The point. She has them saved in a shoe box! One of your strengths is your artistic ability. This is a great example of using your strength to innovate a tradition.

Anybody else?

Heather said...

Oooh Peggy I think you are on the right could also add the date of when you'd start your next Scrapjournal.

First day traditions...typically ours surrounded the night before and writing oh so precisely our name on all our school supplies. There was nothing better in my mind that neatly etching Heather McDaniel on each and every folder/notebook/binder etc...

The actual first day was not really marked with any event though I think I'll certainly do the first day photo with Lily when she starts school.

Birthday traditions. Growing up it was dinner/cake and icecream with Grandma and Grandpa. I loved this tradition and celebrated every birthday with my Grandma that I could possibly get home for. Since Lily is so far away I know this won't be a possibility which makes me sad. But...we are in Texas and her birthday is June 1 so I think we'll make it a tradition to always include water of some sort...a splash pad last year, maybe a pool next year and when she gets older perhaps a water park!
Otherwise she'll get a special breakfast and a dinner of her choice...oh and getting to pick out your favorite flavor of ice cream! That is a real treat!

Now to whack!

Especially for college students moving back to campus my college roommate after moving in each year then made a trip to Walmart where she and her parents wandered the aisles and bought fun things she might want/need in her room that year. They never really BOUGHT that much, I'd say typically less than $50 worth of supplies but it was the act of that last store trip together that was so special to her.

I think it would be neat to commemorate the start of any college student's year with a picture of them in front of their room along with the RA or room mate who will inevitably play a large role in their year.

Using my "includer" strength I think on a small block like yours Claudia it would be fun to have a "Back to School Bash" the night before school starts back up with a grill out and block party for all the kids heading back to school. Wouldn't it be a fun way to celebrate with all the kids and assure that if your child were riding the bus they'd be certain to know a few other kids aboard?

Cheryl said...

Periodically, I put in the little notes with the lunch I pack. I bought a small pad from Target last year and I also used notecards. I also put a small treat in their lunch (in an effort to get rid of the candy in my house). I don't think the boys really care about the notes and I can't remember which said he didn't pull his notes out because it was embarrassing... so... I try not to write too many hearts on them when I do.

Katie K said...

In my house, we never really had a back-to-school tradition. My favorite part and biggest memories include the school supply shopping that happened the week before school started. I also loved organizing all of it and then putting it in my backpack neatly placed. A few hours later, I'd come back and take it all out, just to re-organize it. There is nothing like fresh school supplies to me and getting to organize them!

Birthdays were special in our house. In the morning, my mom would come in singing happy birthday to wake me up. Then sometime while I was getting dressed, my grandma from New York would call and sing to me again. That night for dinner I would have the dinner of my choice, and then sometime within a 2 week period, I would have a 'family' party at my grandparent's house in KY. It was a joint party for me and my brother as we're only 12 days apart.

Now that I'm in college, my mom calls me at 7:45 on the dot (the time I was born) and sings to me. And my grandmother still calls me early in the morning to sing to me, too. Since they can't be here to cook me the dinner of my choice or take me out to dinner themselves, they put money in my account for me and a friend to go out to dinner for my birthday.

Robin said...

We always do first day of school cookies. I also do a breakfast, sometimes it's biscuits or applesauce muffins, but it's something out of the ordinary. We also do pictures. This year it was pretty funny to see the first day of school (smiles) and the second day (being separated at the bus stop for being sisters).

Cheryl said...

Robin... what does that mean "being separated at the bus stop for being sisters"?

Chaotic said...

Had a rather unorthodox upbringing so there were no traditions growing up. However, my son & I always brought "Summer" to a close by going shopping for school supplies (my fave) and school clothes (his fave) and then going out to eat @ place he chose. As an only parent/only child team, and having our birthdays so close to holidays (his is after Yule, mine is Memorial Day) we GO DO something instead of a party. We've been to the Dinosaur Nat'l Monument (his), Enchanted Rock (mine), Texas State Aquarium (his) and Gruene (mine).

If I were going to start a tradition for "Fall" it would be with a group of people, maybe bringing together for an annual activity relating to the season as we know it here. Since it is so hot, maybe roasting the last ears of corn... oh, wiat, that crop failed... hmmm.... Strengths are
Connectedness Relator Arranger
Strategic & Input.

Jessie said...

Happy Wednesday Everyone!
For the first day of school, my Mom always made us homemade waffles. They were always considered special and a treat. We usually got them on the first day of school, Thanksgiving and Christmas day, and Easter. They were for special occasions! I still to this day make my Mom's waffles for special occassions! When someone comes to visit, they know I will make my Mom's famous waffles!
For birthday's my mom would always make a big deal for us. On our birthday's my mom would wake everyone up really early to sing to the person whose birthday it was. To this day all of my siblings rush to see who can be the first person to call and sing happy birthday to the birthday boy/girl!
I don't have kids, but I plan to institute some fun traditions into their lives.

Claudia said...

What., no one else eats corned beef and cabbage on their birthday?

Thanks for sharing your birthday traditions. An added bonus to the sharing of fall traditions.

So far not too much whacking going on...

Anyone up for the challenge?

Cheryl said...

Okay... so Claudia has already played to my strength of being artistic and I could draw something with a note for them. Not sure how how that will be on the embarassment scale. I guess it depends on what I draw.

I try to put a positive note like I love you; Have fun a recess; good luck on your spelling test. Maybe I can find a joke book and write jokes. What else could I send to school other than a drawing or a note... maybe a little trinket or eraser or new pencil.

School rituals... I can't come up with anything that I think I can do because school starts at 7:45 this year and it's going to be tough getting there on time. Oh, I know we'll do it but it's not going to be easy.

Claudia said...

Jokes are a great idea, especially if they are gross jokes.

What else can you do to a lunch to make it fun?

Tic tac toe boards; pencils and erasers, as you said; A piece of Laffy Taffy; a note on a napkin; a coded message; Tin Foil with the challenge to make a tin foil structure.

Cheryl said...

I also want to just throw in that lunches at my boys school is quick. They really don't have time to play. The teachers have them focused on eating, cleaning and gettting out of there for the next class... The boys have actually said to me, "I didn't have time to finish my lunch." Which translates to "I was talking too much and didn't have time to eat all of my lunch."

Peggy said...

Lunch rooms are sad! When my kids were at the elementary school I volunteered a lot and was there 2-4 times a week and tried to avoid the lunch room!

A. The hot lunch line was so long, the kids then had about 10 minutes to eat

B. If your kid is a slow eater, they are rushed to gobble it down

C. If there are kids with discipline issues they really do ruin it for the other kids

D. The lunch ladies screamed on a microphone threatening the kids to be quiet or they wouldn't get recess.... many times blaming the entire lunch room, as opposed to an individual or small group

E. They even had a red,yellow, green light for a talking meter... often there was NO talking.

I went to a neighborhood school and actually walked home for lunch until they started bussing when I was in 5th grade. I loved lunch, that's when you got to see friends!

But there is always someone who ruins it for everybody!!!! :{

Cheryl said...

It's sad Peggy but it's true. Does that make the notes and little things even more important?

Susan said...

(Claudia, pick your jaw up that I creeped out of lurker status for the day.)

The only first day of school tradition that my Mom did and that I do now is taking that first day of school photo. My Mom has a frame with all my 1st days in a circle from kindergarten through
11th. The grad pic is in the center. When I took Daniel's 1st day pic this year is was somewhat bittersweet because he was getting in his truck to drive himself to school.

Birthdays were never a deal when I was growing up. Not sure why. However, about 10 years ago, my Mom and Daddy started calling me at 5:30pm, the time I was born.
For my kids, we try to make it special (special breakfast, backpack birthday card, fav dinner) The one thing that I love is that I hang a Happy Birthday banner in the dining room. Its the banner I bought for Daniel's 1st birthday party 16 years ago.
Oh and about 2 years ago I started putting a baby picture on the dining room table on their birthday. They are growing up so fast, too fast and its a reminder of how little they were and how far they've come.

p.s. Claudia - Corned beef and Cabbage, really???? Yuck, hehehe.

Cheryl said...

Susan~ I agree! Yick on the CB&C!!

cassie p said...

Dr. B, I like corned beef and cabbage!!! :-D though idk if I would pick that for my birthday diner...hehe.

Chaotic said...

you know, I am probably WAY TOO connected to my son... but for his lunches I would make him something special, like a card or a whacked out origami or fold-em, other oddball stuff... just ot let him know I was thinking about him. When he got to highschool he got more time for lunch & ate the school food so I would leave notes in his books & tucked into his backpack, etc. And he knows I miss him even still because I text him "Just me, missing you... " when I have not seen him in a day or so. Is that sad? That I still enjoy him? Am I warping him? ARGHHHHH

heather said...

I forgot one birthday tradition I started...
since of course we have a picture of Lily from the exact minute she was born 3:56 pm I decided to take one at the exact minute every year.

So 3:56 pm on her 1st birthday we were in the car on our drive to Texas for the first time to begin the process of finding a place to live, place to send Lily to school etc.

3:56 pm this year her 2nd birthday we made sure we picked her up in time and she was on the deck at school enjoying a birthday popsicle with her friends.

I wonder what 3:56 pm will bring in years to come!

And Chaotic I definitely don't think you are warping your is nice that you guys have such a close relationship!

Claudia said...

Heather... I love the 3:56 thing. I imagine over time you will acquire great pics of her getting off the bus participating in after school events playing with friends, gabbing on the phone, etc...

My boys were born at late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. Hmmm....

Chaotic... agreed. Hard to know who is luckier - you or him.