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!



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.