The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

December 13, 2013

LEVINE: Creating a new lighting strategy

By Scott Levine
Herald Associate Editor

---- — It’s the most wonderful time of the year and this year’s trek to Christmas has been a bit different than in past years.

A new house will definitely do that to a person, but this year’s Christmas season is different for another reason. Having a 5-month-old on the scene has added a new twist, but the main reason for differences rests with our 3-year-old daughter.

Last year, she was on the cusp of understanding the many distractions this time of year brings. Santa, presents, that pesky Elf on the Shelf and the actual reason for Christmas, Jesus’ birth, were all things she was starting to grasp.

This season, though, she’s all in on Christmas.

During Sunday school, she’s dressed up as Mary and learned about the Christmas story. Her school program is coming up, so that means we’re singing several Christmas songs at the dinner table, including Happy Birthday Jesus one time a day.

And then there’s everything else. And for my family, that means a lot of other stuff.

After returning from Thanksgiving, my daughter and I went right to work on our new lighting display. I’ve handled the duties of hanging lights outside since we moved to Clinton, so it was a change of pace to have some assistance.

In trying to conjure up our inner Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor and Clark Griswold, my daughter and I planned out a new lighting strategy to go along with our new home.

Then, everything started to rain on our display…literally. My daughter didn’t mind, considering she wasn’t on a ladder trying to attach light bulbs to a gutter.

Every year I struggle with this activity. And every year, depending on how close you are to me, you would likely be surprised by the colorful language exiting my mouth under my breath during this annual activity.

Luckily my daughter was off pulling everything out of the garage while I whispered the tune of my monologue to the droplets of rain drenching my face.

Eventually, we finished. And by we, I mean I stepped off the ladder, while my daughter rode circles around the driveway on her bicycle, honking her horn along the way.

Needless to say, her light-hanging abilities are still about a year or decade away.

Once we finished, we were a little underwhelmed.

“We need more lights Dad,” said my daughter, flashing a smile so big that I couldn’t possibly disagree.

So, we got more lights.

And then we decided those weren’t enough.

So, we got more.

And we bought a new ladder because the one we had wasn’t big enough for the new lights.

The bright side of this is that we shop local so the area economy is booming thanks to my daughter’s view on our lighting strategy. My wallet, on the other hand, isn’t quite as happy.

We’re not all about decorating the outside of our house, either. Once we dried up, it was time to decorate our trees. Yes…trees.

My daughter couldn’t resist the miniature, aluminum pink tree (yes, pink), during one of our excursions for more lights. I wasn’t quite sure that would fit into my plan for “non-tacky” Christmas, but my daughter had other ideas, and since she knows more than I do about decorating, we bought the sparkly fir and decorated it along with our other tree.

Unfortunately for our larger tree, most of the ornaments actually reside on the bottom half, since the person doing most of the decorating is a little more than 3 feet tall.

With all the decorating complete, my daughter has turned her attention to presents, Santa and Toodles, our Elf on the Shelf. Toodles finds a different spot to land each day, giving way to a different game of hide-and-seek each morning.

Santa is everywhere in this town, and we’re at a perfect age where both of our children are able to sit on the big man’s lap without setting off the waterworks. And as we peruse through the holiday catalogs (one of my favorite memories as a child) my daughter doesn’t discriminate on what she wants — she simply wants the entire page of toys.

That’s a simple request.

After a brief discussion, she understands that isn’t a possibility. But it never hurts to ask, so she’s just adding those to her list.

Sorry in advance Santa.

Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald. He can be reached at