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.

Better Late Than Never…

I was pretty unfocused this year. It took me until well after the bread pudding and pumpkin pie was served to get simple and clear about what I was thankful for. So we’re just going to keep it basic.

I’m thankful that this tiny 2lb person

turned into this ever smiling joy

and that this determined little girl

turned into this dearly loved light of my life

and that this struggle for life

turned into this struggle to keep a straight face

I’m thankful that this total surprise

has turned into the easiest smile I have all day

I’m thankful that the white noise of attachment disorder in this fierce child

is clearing away to reveal an exceptional and amazing child to love

I’m thankful that this most unexpected arrival

Has brought a mountain of joy and chaos to our home

I’m also really thankful for all the people who have been my pit crew over the years. Without them, none of the people above would be possible

…And now, time for coffee, which I’m also very thankful for.

Turkeys and Families and Such…

Right. Thanksgiving.  It’s here again.  And I’ve been avoiding it again, while at the same time longing for my own collection of warm thanksgiving memories. But holidays have long been a complicated affair, crossing three and sometimes 4 households as we try and navigate all the complicated dynamics within our extended families. I so often feel that I am the hub for and endless number of spokes. It is dizzying.

I’ll give you all the factors that annually have to be taken into consideration: Our own home, the triplets father’s home (which includes their grandparents and an Uncle), my Mother’s home (which at times has included another Uncle), the Golf Pro’s  family home (their family’s traditional gathering place every Sunday and Holiday), occasionally a rehabilitation facility where Youngest Daughter’s birth mom is getting treatment.

Add to this mix the various times that some of these parties are not talking to each other and the fact that they ALL want to see some of the kids. Being in the middle of this over the past 8 years has been exhausting…and has not ever really allowed us to establish our own holiday traditions. Which I regret. I often wish I was one of those people who was more comfortable getting my own way come hell or high water. But I’m not, so here we are….often so busy trying to accommodate the needs of other family members and perhaps that is why I don’t plan them differently.

This year, watching the Pioneer Woman’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay inspired me to do just one thing.  To swear that I would have a peaceful family Thanksgiving in my home with my kids next year. I concede, that with elderly relatives, it may not be on the actual day, but I will claim a day for my family to be together and strengthen our own bonds instead of spreading ourselves across the greater L.A. area. I don’t expect to never have to do it, I just miss the idea of a holiday with the kids and I at home.

Are we always this owned by our extended family or is it just that I am so very bad at saying no and guarding the need to carve out my own life? Will I remember when my children marry that it will be my turn to take a step back and become the extended family?  I hope so, and I hope that this experience will have made me sensitive to the needs of some future young family.  It’s not that I won’t want to share holidays with them, it’s just that my place will be different and the health of their new family will be best preserved by letting them build their own customs and family holidays without the pressure to keep observing mine. I hope they can count on me for that.

And with 6 kids I wonder too what their holidays will look like. Will they take turns at each others houses? Will they celebrate individually with their families? Will there be rifts and years of misunderstandings?  I suppose it’s all possible, I’m just sorry that I have spent so much of this time in our lives accommodating everyone else rather than teaching them to build traditions for their own families in the future. Hope it’s not too late…

Accidental Family

What, I wonder, is this life like for people who set about to do this intentionally?  You know, the kind of people who have a couple of children and then another, and another, and maybe another. The kind of people who know what is causing the children to arrive and allow it to go on with a sort of measured consideration.  The kind who never spent any time wondering, in a kind of panic, “How did we end up with all these kids?!!”

There was a pretty big part of my life where I wanted nothing more than to have a large family.  That’s what happens when you combine infertility with latent Mormonism and having your own family destructively detonated out from under you over a prolonged period of time.

And then, well, it just didn’t happen and I moved on past it and tried to make my life about something else. And then, around the age of 33 or so I decided to play the odds, hoping against hope that I’d get at least one.

I got three…and then I had an even bigger family.  And I had it in a series of explosions that have left me gasping for breath and employing the kind of shallow breathing that only anxiety can bring.

But I wonder, what is this experience like for the people who intend all along to have large families? Are they more relaxed?  Do they live this experience with more intention and less playing frantic catch up every minute of the day?

Are they living the Martha Stewart moments where they create those really special and extraordinary memories, and have it all organized and documented and live with intention? I wonder. I really do. Because that’s how I imagine my cousins have done it.  I imagine them to be less harried. More in control. More on the ball.

I am still trying to make sense of it all, but I guess the fundamental question is this: Are they enjoying it more because they always planned on it and thus were taken less by surprise?  I want to enjoy this more. I love my kids but I am so busy managing our lives that I miss being present in our lives.  I want to live for the moments of our time together, not just facilitate them.

And I wonder if those families loose their shoes as often as we do.

I wonder…