Handmade Rush Delivery…


Here’s the book that I made for Christmas for the Golf Pro’s Mom. Not bad considering how little time I had. I still have one more to finish this week for my Mum. Of course, I totally should have taken the pages out of the plastic sheet protector before I photographed them, but, well, you get the idea…



A Christmas Carol of My Very Own…


RbP - Ghosts of Christmas Past

I’m not sure I have something illustrative to say about the season this year, but I do hope to have produced something along those lines by the end of this post.  It was messy, like this post is going to be and I’ve been a bit stuck. But part of learning about the experience of this blog is that I’m going to have to post through these moments, when my thoughts are less than perfect and I can’t seem to get the salient points nailed down…Here’s my less than perfect post. It matches my less than perfect life ☺

The way the season went it turns out I didn’t have to read Dickens this year. I was visited by all the ghosts of Christmas anyway. So let’s hope that, like Scrooge, it will finally help put some things into perspective and release me to move forward.

CHRISTMAS PAST

This year was flavored with more memories of the past than usual, which didn’t thrill me. It felt entwined with spiritual reminders of my teenage Christmases, where I felt very much on the outside looking in, and as a result I just couldn’t seem to get into Christmas this time around. The financial terror at the beginning of the month seemed to just consume all my energy. Then having the older 3 kids gone for the week leading up to it was sort of the coup de grace. And as I drifted, without plan or energy, I was easy prey for a visit from the ghosts of the past, days where Christmas routinely felt like it belonged to everyone but me. For a very long while, light years from where I stand today, it was the loneliest time I ever knew. But for 11 years now, the warmth of all these little bodies and souls has driven those feelings far, far away for the most part. (do I really need to insert the kind of words of gratitude here that I feel? There aren’t enough.)

And so, it was no wonder that I felt removed from it all even while I tried to have Christmas for the little ones. I was only marginally successful I feel, but I don’t think they noticed it too much. Not enough anyway, that it can’t be recovered with a better effort next year.

With that as the goal, what’s the take away from all this? I’m still not living the life I envision for myself. Not really. I think the answer lies in what keeps me from completely inhabiting my own life? Who am I still trying to please and what choices and steps do I need to take so that by next year I am writing a post about how we found our own way through Christmas…and how much better it was.

CHRISTMAS PRESENT

Which brings us to…The ghost of Christmas Present. He came wearing a chauffeurs hat again, as this season found us once more driving the freeways of SoCal trying to make sure everyone was seen by everybody who needed to see them. 6 kids, 4 different houses, numerous relatives, 48 hours. Hard to believe the suicide rate jumps during the holidays, right? You know, if the parents and families of all my children decide to check in someday, I could find myself trying to negotiate 4 fathers, 2 mothers, and an absolutely endless number of other relatives. Hard to believe the suicide rate jumps during the holidays. Oh, wait…I mentioned that already.

I can see things could get even further out of hand and it is too much, for sure. But, to tell you the truth, I’m not really sure how I can possibly edit it. I wonder if the trick won’t be more about crafting the days leading up to the 24th so that we feel we have a greater ownership of our holidays. And then I wonder how many other people talk about having “ownership” of their holidays…is this common do you think?

We opened a “Box of Grandma” again this Christmas, and I found that with it, I opened a big box of resentment I didn’t realize I had been carrying around – ever since “The Phone Call”.   These boxes come at least twice a year and they are huge. I mean H-U-G-E.  As in, “How much guilt can you pack in a box?” and they come for one child. That sounds mean, I know, but so have all her phone calls to me – all 2 of them in the last year. It is certainly their prerogative to send their gifts to only one child, I see a lot of this and it is nails on a chalkboard to me. I admit that I bristle at any attempts to draw lines through my children, and although I will likely never be able to avoid the carving up of my family completely, don’t ever expect me to be ok with it. And so, by all means, you don’t have to concern yourself with my children, but if nothing else, she has a brother who is biologically hers . Not so much as a matchbox car for him. Wow. I mean, WoW. Oh, and also, if you could stop packing that stuff in those Styrofoam packing peanuts? Cause that shit gets all over my living room.

So never mind her brother, or that the other families who have been enmeshed in this through no fault of their own managed to include the other children, or that you are sending items to a child with hoarding instincts, resource hyper-vigilance and material goods issues, just keep serving your own feelings and making yourselves feel a bit better. I wish my guilt at the uncharitable feeling I have towards you could be bought off as easily…but hey, I haven’t tried yet, so perhaps they can! (kthxI’mdone – dusts hands)

But, to get away from all of that (and it’s best we try), this Christmas also brought an opportunity to give hope to someone else. The opportunity to tell the father of my youngest daughter that there is still every reason to believe that he can have a successful relationship with his daughter in the future, despite my move to adopt her. More will be revealed on that front in the future, I’m sure, but even if it never happens, I felt it was of great worth to be able to tell him that he could walk toward a future that would include her as long as it included healthy decisions. Santa likes it when you can reach out and give hope, so I’m trying to build on that moment in hopes that the “Box of Grandma” will get smaller, both physically and metaphorically.  And so, this brings us to…

CHRISTMAS FUTURE

Am I the only one who feels so out of control of their holiday season? Is that more the norm than the exception? I don’t know, but I don’t think I want to spend another holiday feeling like this. I keep coming back to the same word: SIMPLIFY. The fact that our finances dictated a leaner Christmas for us this year is something that I’m hoping to springboard off of in the future. I’ve long been feeling harassed by the uber-commercialism that has become Christmas, as have so many of our friends. I don’t feel that the kids are getting what I want for them out of the season and that we can do much better about discovering the true meaning of the Season.

1. SIMPLIFY

2. PLAN EARLIER

3. MAKE SURE TO PLAN ONE EVENT THAT’S JUST FOR ME AND THE KIDS

4. JUST SAY NO TO CRAZY

5. HAVE DIFFERENT EXPECTATIONS

So, come November 1st 2011, my job is to have a plan in place to make the holidays more organized, affordable and enjoyable…but mostly, to make it far more full of the kind of meaning I always wanted the kids to think about.

What do you think? If you have any ideas about things I’ve missed or that might help, throw them out there. I’d love to see them.

Cheers!



Après-ski or…Ménage à NO!


No More Family Vacations

Trip #3: Mammoth Lakes, Ca. 3 Adults, 3 Seven Year Olds, 1 Four Year Old, 1 Two Year Old

To get to Mammoth, we packed 8 people and their gear and supplies into a car designed, in theory, to hold 8 and their gear.  This is only a theory, I assure you. We left for our trip on Christmas night, right after opening gifts at the Golf Pro’s parents house.  It actually wasn’t that bad. They slept, we made a respectable distance and slept overnight before making the final leg.

I was more strung out than usual on this trip. We had recently come into the possession of my great-niece after she had been removed from her mother’s care due to drug and alcohol addiction issues. In reality, what we actually had come into possession of was a child who had deep emotional and behavioral issues due to Reactive Attachment Disorder, but at the time, we were about a year away from that diagnosis.  All we knew was that someone had lobbed a human grenade in our midst and chaos followed in it’s wake.

Also at play was the fact that the triplets’ father and I were entering into the early stages of a very different understanding of each other and how we were going to negotiate the future of shared custody. Time spent together was anything but comfortable…but again, didn’t I want my kids to have as whole and repaired a family as I could give them? Wouldn’t I go to the mat for that sense of security for them?

So  we made the trip and got settled into our cabin, and we waited for the good times to begin. And we waited. And actually, the first night was without incident. That is, if you count the 2 year old waking up 3 – 4 times and screaming absolute blue murder because the wiring in her head has shorted again as being without incident.  The next day saw ski rentals taken care of and snow gear purchased, the local market located.  I will remind you that all these tasks are being accomplished while herding 5 young children from place to place through the snow.

So, up to the ski run we took our crew and after dropping them off and setting a time to return for pick-up, the Golf Pro and I went over to the ski school. I had called when we arrived to ask about classes for kids with special needs and sensory issues.  Turns out they had a fabulous program for that.  Yay! The Kid was going to take a shot at skiing. We went over and signed the paperwork for the next day. This was going to work! At Last! I spent the rest of the day fighting for control of the wild horse that was my 2 year old, buying supplies and exploring the town.

That night, I lost a crown, fought through another scream-fest with my RAD kid and watched as the 4 year old projectile vomited in front of a horrified, yet oddly fascinated group of 7 – 12 year olds.  The curse had clearly not been broken. In fact, I think I may have tempted the gods with my burst of carefree optimism. We treated his fever through the night and did our mad dance with the 2 year old.

The next morning we located an emergency dentist, left the now sleeping 4 year old and 2 year old in the care of the triplets’ father and got my dental emergency taken care of by 9am. We went back in time to release the skiers and to find out that the cancellation policy for the ski school was 24 hours notice. We didn’t make it. They would have credited it to another lesson, but it was clear by now that this kids wasn’t recovering anytime before we left and using what energy he did recover on the slopes when we had a 6 hour drive at the end of our trip was going to be a bad idea. So the Golf Pro paid for the class and the 4 year old lay delirious on the couch.

What we learned from all this was that getting trapped in a small cabin with a child who has un-diagnosed RAD is a recipe for going postal.  Spending time with people you have nothing in common with eventually provides an intolerable amount of general discomfort for someone with my Spidey Senses and that if you put enough pressure on some mothers, they will accidentally teach their 4 year old to repeat the phrase, “Is this some kind of effing joke?”  Except they won’t say “effing”.

I got to go skiing with my kids on that trip for the first time. And despite the fact that I got lost on the other side of the mountain once, it was awesome-sauce.  I had an ipod, skills to match my kids and an entire Led Zeppelin playlist loaded up, starting with the Immigrants Song, a little nod to the skiing of my youth in Reno where one run had the name Immigrants Run. Turns out a couple of my kids are total dare-devils on skis and it was just the best. In fact, I shamelessly wrangled a second afternoon out of an unwilling Golf Pro. I just had to. When his turn came, it was miraculously timed with the leading edge of a white out storm and 30 mph wind gusts.  Sorry Golf Pro, but I admit, I’d do it again to be with my kids.

The return trip found me once again trapped by my shorter legs in the back seat with the kids, which by the second hour left me feeling like a badly abused lab rat.  It also included a 14 minute speed tour through the site of the Manzanar Japanese Internment camp. If my kids recall any of it, I’ll be shocked.

I did not go on the next trip. I’d had enough. In the face of being trapped again in a snowbound cabin with small, screaming, vomiting children I declared the shared parenting divide healed enough and left them to it. I hope they will forgive me for birthdays I’ve missed and memories I wish we shared. But in return, they get a higher degree of sanity and peace in their parent

The trips I have missed since that decision have included another jaunt to Mammoth. Reports came back from that trip of truth or dare sessions and guilty admissions of circle time where they improved each others vocabulary by sharing their lists of  swear words with one another and at least one of the boys jumped into an icy pool in response to a frontal challenge of his burgeoning manhood. Also missed was a trip to Utah that rendered their father almost horizontal for the majority of the trip with altitude sickness and left the kids burning up the phone lines to me so I could mediate their inadequate social skills and tell them that I wanted them to come home soon too. This year they are in Tahoe and I am getting regular phone reports, because my daughter is excellent and understands that I need them. The general outcome of the trip has yet to be reported.

I miss them so much every time…but then I remember all the past trips and I’m distracted by the nervous tic that’s just starting up around my left eye. Perhaps another year down the road,  I’ll allow my optimism to overcome me once more.



Ski Trips and Voodoo Curses…Part Deux


Just Say No to Family Trips

TRIP #2  Big Bear Ca., 2 Adults, 3 Six Year Olds, 1 Three Year Old

I wasn’t present for most of this trip because of work commitments.  Yes, I know it was a blessing.  I left the day of their birthday with the baby to drive up and meet them for dinner. I think I had their birthday cake in the car with me.

The drive up the switchbacks to Big Bear was largely uneventful, except for the fact that I was running late and fielding phone calls from my 6 daughter who was in a state of extreme panic and existential angst because her father had told her over dinner that when you die there’s just nothing after that. Predictably, you would think, her response was stark fear and terror. Nice job, Jackwagon.  I spent the middle part of the trip negotiating dangerous road conditions and talking her down off the ledge, “Well ask Daddy how he knows that?  Where ever you end up going is exactly where I will be going.” “But he said that there was just NOTHING!” “Ask Daddy to prove it!” and in final desperation, “Well, Daddy doesn’t know what he’s talking about, OK!”

By the time I reached Big Bear, it was dark and even more unfamiliar. I was harried and late for my children’s birthday dinner and I am now caught in the cross-hairs of an uncontrollable situation. I was a woman who’s sense of direction measures a -10 on any scale being given directions by a man who’s ability to communicate information is even lower than that.

It’s dark, I’ve never been here, nothing is clear and at one point his exasperated, impatient directions included this gem, “The restaurant looks kind of like a log cabin. You can’t miss it.”  Ever been to Big Bear?  Want to guess how much of the architecture up there is designed to look like a log cabin?  Oh, and the baby has started to get seriously over it by now too.

It took about 40 minutes to find the place and by the time I arrived there, it was the family friend at dinner with my kids who actually took the time to wait downstairs at the restaurant to help me with the baby and their birthday stuff.  But I made it!  Now, I could relax in a restaurant with 4 small children. The waiter came and asked me if I wanted a drink. I think I hate Big Bear by now.

I’m pretty sure at least one of the kids threw up, but I no longer remember who it was, oh and the Baby got his hand closed in the automatic sliding door of the minivan.

Time spent skiing with my kids: 3 Hours



Ski Trips and Voodoo Curses…


Ski Trips and Voodoo Curses

So, my oldest 3 kids are currently stuck in a blizzard having a great time on their annual ski trip with their father.  This year they went to Lake Tahoe and I miss them in irrational ways. To keep me busy while they are visiting one of my favorite places on earth and to make myself feel better about not being with them (it’s not really working btw) I thought I’d take a tour through ski trips past and revisit a little thing I like to think of as Post Traumatic Trip Disorder.  Pay attention now, because I’m about to make you feel better about every trip you’ve ever taken with your kids.

*Please note, this is as faithful a recollection as I can post, but some memories have been repressed for my own protection…

The ski trips began several years back. It’s a tradition the triplets’ father started over Christmas vacation/their birthday.  When he mentioned it after we had stopped cohabiting together and an uneasy truce introduced, I agreed to go for several reasons. Firstly, because it would be the kids first time to the snow right?  Who wants to miss that? Secondly, it would be their birthday, and I’m not missing that. And thirdly, because my presence and that of their younger brother and the Golf Pro was a statement supporting the kind of shared custody that I hoped for them to have.

Trip # 1:  Big Bear, Ca. 3 Adults, 3 Five year olds, 1 Two year old.

When I look back on this trip, I can only tell you that we got in the car and it pretty much went downhill from there.  We made the short trip into the mountains before the gods of travel turned on us.

The vomiting began about a third of the way up in the midst of an absolute maze of switchbacks leading us up the mountain. At least 2 children succumbed (it might have been three, who can say, repression is a wonderful thing) By the time we arrived they had pretty much thrown up in every available thing and I had been reduced to emptying packet oatmeal boxes so they could have something to throw up in.  The humanity, the HUMANITY!

I barely remember where we stayed that year, only that it was night by the time we arrived.  After cleaning things up in the car as best as possible that night, we investigated the cabin and one more child threw up.  Little did I know this was only the beginning of the Bataan Death Marches these vacations were to become.

The next morning brought with it incontrovertible evidence that we weren’t just dealing with motion sickness. Nope, stomach flu – one 5 year old and the baby.  The other two went skiing with the adults while I stayed in the cabin and racked up more laundry. Some time later that day the Golf Pro and I found one of maybe 2 Big Bear Laundromats and began to wash pretty much everything they had touched in the last 2 days, car seats included.

Between tending sick kids and cleaning the results of it, I still hadn’t really seen much (any) of Big Bear.  So after a couple of days of crises management, we , the Golf Pro and I, decided to actually enjoy some of what the mountain had to offer. I had never been there before.

The whole crew (we had friends and their kids with us) had decided to go tubing that morning and we made arrangements with the triplets’ father to come back and get us.  We packed up the two year old and the triplets Dad, who had possession of the only car, dropped us off with the plan of getting a lift back with the others. He had been up all night and was going back to the cabin to sleep for a couple hours.

He let us off in a busy parking lot at one of the tubing places off the highway with directions on where he had left everyone else less than 30 minutes ago. And with a goodnight and good luck, he drove off.  We went over as directed, paid our price and began to search for our people. Except…no people.  Anywhere.  Take out our cell phone and call. No answer either.  WTF? Call their Dad. No answer. Call everyone else we are connected to on the mountain. Nothing. Arghhhhhh!

After an hour of Where’s Waldo, we accept our situation.  We are stranded on this highway with a 2 year old and outside of reasonable walking distance back to the town. Well fine, we can’t just sit out here off the highway forever.  We ask the desk clerk of a nearby motel that was across the parking lot from the tubing hill about ways to get back to the main town.  We learn we can take a bus.  The bus stop is just up the road a bit. We go and wait for close on an hour at the bus stop for the bus. They’re not big on public transport on the mountain. The three of us finally end up on a bus, which I seem to recall had a crazy, homeless person on it conveniently located in the seat next to us.  The day is really starting to take shape. It’s the kind of shape generally achieved only after a really good dose of Chernobyl-style radiation.

We reached the town.  More calls, more no answer from anyone. Let’s have lunch. Still no answer. Let’s window shop. Still no answer. Let’s go and visit the Big Bear Visitors Center and Chamber of Commerce.  How about a taxi service, because I’m freaking over this and I’m positive that I can guide him to the general vicinity of our cabin.  There is, it appears, only one taxi guy for the whole of Big Bear. I think his name was Pete. At least that’s what the answering machine we kept reaching said before it informed us that he was currently out of range.  We left a message.   It was one of at least 3 messages we left for him.  We never successfully made contact.

I don’t really remember how we were finally rescued. I have vague recollections of finally hearing their father’s sleepy voice on the phone.  We hadn’t seen him for about 6 – 8 hours. At least 4 of those hours were spent in the Chamber of Commerce.  Big Bear Lake was the first mountain recreation area in Southern California. I know this because I read every pamphlet in the visitor’s center.

We were picked up and because my people are crazy…no one ever acknowledged that our ordeal of being abandoned stranded with a 2 year old all damn day was in the least way remarkable. They just said, “Hey, we’re all going to dinner!”   Yay! Dinner in a nice restaurant with a bunch of small children, my favorite! The waiter that night asked if I wanted a drink, it felt like both the kindest and the cruelest thing anyone had ever asked me.

I remember very little about the rest of the trip. My oldest children had a birthday and they learned to ski. When we went back down the mountain, the one child who hadn’t thrown up on the whole trip, joined the one who genuinely did get car sick in a show of solidarity and they vomited their way back down the mountain. Afterwards, friends had to help me decompress, and I had the shakes for a good month afterwards.

Time spent skiing: O Hours

*Stayed tuned for trip #2 coming soon…



Create…Handmade Christmas


I’m doing the handmade Christmas this year for the most part. So, not a lot of writing.

Instead, I’ll be making things like these and hoping I don’t get snickered at…

"Once Upon a Time"

Scrapbook Mini Album

What Love Is...

The dress she loves...

For Princess Mini Album

All Girl

A little detail

Scrapbook Mini Album

Princess pg

Scrpabook Mini Album

Princess

This was the first one of these that I attempted. It’s made from envelopes and it’s been close on to a year since I had time to do any of this.  What do you think?  Gift-Worthy? I hope so…cause that’s what they’re getting.

Merry Christmas Peeps!



Bits and Pieces Time


School wraps up for the holidays today, and while I’m looking forward to jumping of the hamster wheel, I also know that the kids will be turning on each other out of boredom in about 2 days. They really don’t have any idea what to do with free time at this age.

Also, today the older 3 kids leave for a week on their annual Christmas/Birthday ski trip. I have mixed feelings about these trips. I have participated in some of them, been unable to attend others, and have finally decided that there is no comfortable place I can occupy about them. The kids enjoys them, which makes me happy, and I generally endure them.

I am still in a holding pattern on many other things and hoping for the best, but am generally starting to feel a bit more as if things will be ok in the end. It’s stirring up a lot of questions about faith and trust and the meaning of life.

I look at the never-ending clutter around me, so much of it produced by the kids and I start to think again about purging. Simplifying my life. I don’t really want to spend my time taking care of ‘stuff’. I find looking after the kids is enough.

Lastly, while driving to an appointment the other day though, I caught a split-second glimpse into a strangers life that just made my whole day. Sitting in my car at a stop light, a movement through the crosswalk caught my eye. There was a middle-aged woman in a wheelchair, her lap absolutely piled high with Christmas items just bought from the store. She clutched big tins with Santas on them, tall rolls of wrapping paper loaded up in the tins and towering over her shoulder, and she was being pushed by a younger girl as fast as she could go, just flying across that intersection. There was a smile of such gasping, wide-eyed joy on this lady’s face, and I could only guess at the wonderful feeling of speed on the face of someone whom fate had put the brakes on. It may have been the fastest moment of wonderful ever delivered to me. My smile matched hers.

Society is still so uncomfortable with physical handicaps, and I don’t exclude myself from that grouping no matter how much I wish I could.  So on top of being denied some of the basic mobility that we take for granted, they must also struggle with terrible feelings invisibility. But at that moment, for me, she was the clearest, brightest presence I had seen all week.

Merry Christmas.



This Year, We’re Going With Festivus!


I was wondering what my topic would be for today, then I came across this post by Erica Ehm at the YummyMummyClub about her trip to Africa and the effect it had on Christmas. (I have to admit that I struggle with the name of this blog…it seems fraudulent of me to hang out literarily with other Moms who consider themselves “Yummy”. You could check into my post about the hat, wherein I explain that this is not a “Yummy” year for me).

That aside, I decided to write this post.  Then I had to decide to post it. Then I had to actually post it…it wasn’t easy. But it seems that if this blog has any value then it has to be authentic.  There will be some things I won’t write about…but I needed to post this because it’s honest and I don’t think I should be ashamed by the admission that money is tight, even though I am just a bit.

So, this year, we’re going to have what I like to think of as the “Broke-Ass Christmas”.  I am learning how to say “Broke-Ass Christmas” in Spanish…and French, just because one should never ignore a chance to learn, even in times of stress, Besides, I have long regretted not speaking a second language.  I’ve always thought of it as kind of rude not to speak Spanish since I live here in SoCal. But anyway, there it is. Our tree will be a little bit bare underneath this year. I’m not a huge fan of having this decision forced upon us, but having my kids know that there isn’t actually a money tree doesn’t hurt them either. They have had many marvelous Christmas mornings before this and will I’m sure have more to follow.

This is not to say that my kids will do without. Far from it, if they didn’t have enough already, and they do, they will receive gifts from at least 3 separate households. It’s just that ours will not be one of them.  But I don’t think that this will irreparably harm them.  I’m kind of hoping it will be the beginning of a new trend toward less materialistic Christmases in the future, because I’ve long been annoyed by the pressure to find gifts that no one really needs.  In this day and age in society, goods are quickly and relatively inexpensively produced and just as quickly replaced. Also, I am bad at giving and receiving gifts and I’d like to be excused.

Mostly, I don’t want to spend hours, days and weeks stressing and searching out presents for other adults that don’t need them in the first place. And really, you have my permission to skip me as well.  I have now sufficiently matured enough to tell you I don’t need anywhere near as much in the way of things as I think I do.  With the possible exception of maybe a house or the gift of having my current dental crises handled, at this age, the things I value most are the kind that generally can’t be put under a tree.  Things like more time, less fear, a deeper sense of peace.

I’d like to have more energy. I’d like to spend more evenings with really good people who have something to say.  I could go for more laughter and kindness. Actually, I’d like to stay in my pajamas for a week and just be generally irresponsible in a way that I haven’t been since before I had kids.  But just for a week, because I don’t know if I could handle any longer than that.

But the thing is, I just don’t know how to break the people around me of the habit.  They would feel terribly, terribly guilty if they didn’t get me something.  For me, much of the pressure comes from the Golf Pro’s family.  They would feel terrible to know this I’m sure, as that isn’t their intention. But you see, they have this elaborate present ritual where we all sit around in a circle and then the presents are given out individually, one at a time. They are not opened until everyone’s attention is centered on the individual with the present and the givers name announced. The present is opened and there is much ooohing and aaahing and admiring. There is a Vanna White moment of display and demonstration and only then do we move on to the next present.  This is all for the adults mind you.  I think it happens because the 2nd generation of children was very late in coming and so they have continued with the familiar traditions of their house when it had children in it rather than being able to incorporate fresh traditions. But perhaps this is a very common way to do it, I wouldn’t know.

In the midst of all this, picture being the ones who are conspicuous by not having gifts to offer up into the display rotation. And yet, they don’t seem to need anything much.  So what do you give that is not embarrassing somehow?  In over 10 years I have never been able to crack this problem.  And it seems like a struggle to me, but at the same time, you have to admire the strength and commitment of their family traditions…it’s just that it feels like theirs, not ours. But that may be on me, it’s hard to say. They are nice people and I don’t want to imply otherwise.  I just never can get comfortable with the formality of it all (says she with her terribly limited Christmas tradition experience).

I think I’d still like to have a less material take on Christmas (thanks this Christmas for lending a hand with that!).  And I think I’m not doing it right, but that’s a problem for next year.  This year, I’m pretty exhausted, and I’m running late putting the tree up and all. And the older three will be gone away for a week on their annual ski trip with their father, which I am doing my level best to pretend isn’t happening.  So I’m looking at a low maintenance Christmas all around…

I wonder if I could get away with giving them all a George Costanza type Christmas gift –

“A Donation Has Been Made in Your Name to the Human Fund.”

Happy Festivus.



Lying to the Children…Again


So, do we ‘lie’ about Santa?  Sure we do. I lie to my kids all the time. I actually look for opportunities to do it.  I LOVE to do it.  In fact here’s a quick confessional: I have lied to my kids about them having born with 6 toes, I used to tell them that once they went to bed it was nothing but clowns and ice cream parties for the grown ups.  I have lied about one of them having to have belly button surgery and I have told them elaborate stories about how they were so small when they were born that we used to keep them in a shoebox on the bedside table. I lied to them about trying to teach them how to play dodge ball when they were 18 months old and that it didn’t work because they weren’t really good enough at dodging back then. Actually, that one may not have been a lie. But there have been about a thousand other such moments and I will undoubtedly try to lie to them about  6ooo more things before I die.  I think it helps to build their “truth meter”.  It also alleviates some of the extreme monotony of parenting. I lie, a lot…but not about anything important.

I stubbornly lie to them about things like Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Beagle even in the face of their certain knowledge that it is me.  I like to maintain a slight air of delusion around the house.  I believe it will cushion the blow for them when my senility kicks in next year.

Personally, I have nice memories of believing in Santa for about 2 and a half Christmases. Then my older brother happily set me straight on the matter. Because that’s what older siblings do.  And that is how it will go for our younger children too in the keeping of a family tradition. But those were a golden couple of years filled with having both parents still and watching the Charlie Brown Christmas Special every year and watching my mother put all these wonderful ornaments on the tree one by one. It’s the last time I remember loving Christmas until the kids were born.

Our current status in the Santa Lie stands with the 10 year olds now knowing that we are Santa (I’d be pretty worried if they didn’t), the seven year old I’m not sure about, I suspect the 5 year old still believes in Santa, but she knows the presents come from us, and the two year old will learn about Santa for the first time this year. And he will believe in Santa for as long as his 10-year-old sister can manage it, because she has already taken over his holiday education.

Where you stand on the Santa thing can be a real issue between parents. I remember the father of my older 3 children taking me totally by surprise by announcing to me during the pregnancy that he wouldn’t be lying to his children ever by telling them there was a Santa.  I was very upset about that at the time. These days I just think, “What a jackass!” I mean who tells that kind of thing to a woman waiting to give birth to 3 babies? “Hey I’m going to be ruining Christmas for these kids once they’re born.” (To be fair, I think all men have at least one jackass moment during the pregnancy. I had the biggest fight of my life with the 7 year olds father about the college education of a child who hadn’t even been born yet. You really want to try to time these things well with a pregnant woman)

The interesting thing is, that same man who was so determined to give his children only the brutal, unvarnished truth later  hired someone when they were 2 years old to come to their home fully dressed as Santa on Christmas day.  It’s one of a select few truly redeemable moments that I pull out of the deck when he’s completely stopped making sense to me and I’m not sure if we’ll be able to continue forward in any semblance of partnership at all. I like to believe, in the end, he looked at the faces of his children and allowed the season and their childhood overtake him.  Children will do that to you…which is why we have Christmas in the first place.



American Pumpkin Weirdness…A Rant.


Tis the season…when all Americans will look at one of the best vegetables ever invented by God and man, and turn it into a dessert. It must be said by the Australian in me…WTF people?  It’s true, Australians don’t understand this. Iced tea either for that matter, but let’s stick with one cultural confusion at a time.

One of the best things about growing up Australian in the time I did was that Sunday generally meant a roast dinner. All together now,  Yay! Roast leg of lamb or chicken, roast vegetables, gravy…and best of all, Roast Pumpkin! Absolutely perfectly, tender, caramelized pieces of roast Pumpkin. Maybe with a little gravy, but not necessary. Watching my Grandmother shop among varieties like Queensland Blue, Jap and Butternut at the local green grocer back before supermarkets there were the norm. Pumpkin in Australia is a weekly thing. I have yet to see it served at a meal over here. And pumpkin soup has only just entered the American menu relatively recently thanks to uber-chefs like Wolfgang Puck and his ilk.

And lets just address this confusion with names shall we? They were are called Pumpkins. Not winter squash. Pumpkins.  Squash, no matter what the season, is zucchini and patty pan and the like. All discussion on this point ends here for me. Same goes with your highly affected pronunciation of the word “Scone”. It is NOT a long O sound anywhere else in the word. Neither are they triangular. That’s just something they do here to make the bakers job easier. The English Empire, inventors of the things, do not do this. But America, I forgive you. Mostly because the Australians do not know as a country how to pronounce certain words like Monaco…or Vitamin.  But I digress…

Pumpkin, when cut into pieces and roasted in the pan with lamb or chicken until it’s natural sugars form that lovely crust of golden brown on the outside is one of the most delicious things known to man…unless you’re American. Then you have to turn it into a dessert.  Even after all these years, I do not understand pumpkin pie, in the same way that I wouldn’t understand sea bass pie if you offered it to me. Why would you do that?  It was perfect the way it was. Why?  But you’re going to do to me again pumpkin-impaired Americans, aren’t you?  And I’m going to think you’re weird.

…Just like I do when you give me Pennies…but that’s another rant.