Saturday, November 29, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Every year around this time I start thinking about Christmas in Germany. In Germany, our Christmas tree was always small, with short needles and plenty of space between the branches to hang the decorations. Every year it was decorated with clear, glass balls that were tied to the branches with little bits of red ribbons. Most of the ornaments were stars woven out of stiff, gold-colored straw, or tiny wooden figures painted with glossy paint. My favorites, though were the tiny angels made out of a little wooden ball for a head and a ring of fluffy white feathers forming a gown. There were strings of white lights, but on Christmas eve the sparkle was provided by dozens of little red candles clipped to the branches with pewter clips shaped like pinecones.
The first weekend in December, Oma would bake an assortment of cookies -- sugar cookies cut into shapes and glazed with egg or sprinkled with powdered sugar, vanilla and chocolate spirals, meringues, almond cookies and (an addition picked up in the States) Pecan Tassies. Every sunday we would celebrate the Advent by lighting a candle and having "Kaffee und Kuchen," the German version of Tea.
The weeks before Christmas also brought the Christmas Market to town. Despite the cold and usually dreary weather, everyone would visit the old center of town to shop at the stalls selling handcrafts, knick knacks, and Lebkuchen, and to drink hot spiced wine.
It became the tradition to have fondue for dinner on Christmas eve. After dinner we would sing carols before finally diving into the pile of gifts, a happy confusion of searching for presents, ripping paper and exclamations of surprise and thanks.
What a change when I first began spending Christmas with C's family. There, the tree is as tall as the ceiling, plump and bushy. It is covered with a layer of sparkling painted glass ornaments, tinsel, lights, and lovingly-preserved kids crafts. Lights twinkle around the whole house, inside and out, lighting up Christmas pictures, dishes, towels and figures in every nook and cranny. In the kitchen C's mom would be dressed in a Christmas sweater, wearing tiny, tinkling sleigh bells for earrings, cooking dinner or dessert. Christmas eve, after the kids were in bed or gone home, would be spent drinking wine, decorating the tree and wrapping presents, late into the night.
To the dismay of the little ones, this would delay breakfast and consequently the Opening of Presents in the morning. No running down the stairs and ripping open presents, here. First, everyone would assemble in the living room (not an easy feat in itself) and one person was designated "Santa" (usually C or his brother). "Santa" would pick a gift from the mountain of presents bulging under the tree, read the tag ("To Gramma, from C") and hand the gift to the recipient. Everyone watched the unwrapping, and when all admirations and thanks were expressed, the next gift was announced. As you can imagine, this process could take many hours, and the Opening of Presents often had to be interrupted for lunch, and sometimes even for dinner. Sometimes, when the mountain of presents began to seem a little thin, Gramma or Grampa would disappear, only to return with more bags or "big presents", too big to be wrapped.
Christmas with C's family was always fun, warm and comfortable, but I often missed my own family traditions. At first, Christmas didn't seem quite right without the candles and the Christmas market and cookies. I felt like I was missing something, but I didn't realize that I was gaining something, too. I don't know when, exactly, but at some point, the H family tradition became my traditions, too. Suddenly, I didn't want a Christmas without the "Santa" and the endless, one-at-a-time, unwrapping. And yet, I still missed the German cookies and Advent wreaths and candles.
It's only now, with two little boys to focus things, that I'm starting to let go of that It Has To Be The Way That It Always Was mentality. Now I see that the meaningful things that we do are becoming our traditions -- baking a gingerbread house, cutting a tree, Christmas eve party at the Clapps, Christmas day in Maine. I want to give the boys happy memories; I just hope they don't spend too much time trying to recreate The Way It Always Was someday.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
(First, an informational note: I'm tired of using T1 and T2 for the boys. It seems so impersonal; plus it's awkward to always have to type numbers. I still want to keep some anonymity on the 'web, though, so I'm going to go for Anakin and Luke, their favorite Star Wars characters instead. OK? OK.)
Anyway, Anakin made up his first real joke tonight. Pippa was licking his face which he loves. "She's a lick-er!" he said, giggling. Then, turning to me, he said, "Maybe she went to the . . . Licker store!" *silly grin*
(And no comments, please, about why the phrase "liquor store" is on the tip of my 5-year-old's tongue.)
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
T2 went for his three-year check-up yesterday. He was:
Three years and three months old;
Three feet and three inches tall; and
("Congratulations, it's a cube!")
Co-inky-dinky? I don't know, but I feel like I should play all threes in the lottery . . .
Monday, November 17, 2008
We had a fun weekend with H and A and the cousins. T1, T2, and I jumped in the car Saturday and made the 3 hour drive. T1 got car sick for the first time (just queasy, not actually sick) but felt better after a little stop. Still made it by lunch time, plenty of time for playing and, when the rain cleared, a walk in the woods to a playground with the 5 kids and 3 dogs. Then, great Fajitas by A, wine for the mommies, and a movie for the kids. More playing in the morning, with lots of jumping on the trampoline, another attempt at a walk (little Xavier was tired, but too excited to sit still in the stroller). After lunch, we headed home for a relaxing Sunday evening at home. I actually played a board game with T1 and T2: Hi Ho Cherry-O. Too bad these weekends can't last forever . . .
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Six Things My Dad Taught Me (see credits in prior post):
1. Why the sky is blue.
2. Why the leaves fall.
3. A good night's sleep is essential preparation for anything.
4. Don't take any wooden nickels.
5. If you're not 5 minutes early, you're late.
6. Follow the rules.
A faith in science, the ability to think logically, and the tools to succeed in life. Thanks, Dad! Plus, when Troy asked me why the sky is blue, I was actually able to explain it to him. "You 'splained that real good, Dad!"
(I stole this idea from Suburban Rage's Five Things.)
Six Things My Mother Taught Me:
1. How to cook
2. How to sew (my livelihood for a while)
3. How to have a positive attitude
4. If you're trying to save money, allow yourself to spend just a little; if you try to deny yourself completely, you're liable not to stick with it. (Hence the little shopping trip today.)
5. Eat real, good food in moderation. (That's not a glaring grammatical error. I mean food that is good and food that is "real", as in not highly processed.) Someone wrote a whole book about this, but my mom knew it all along.
6. Sometimes it's OK to break the rules, just a little bit. (To be read in conjunction with Dad's Rule # 6, Follow The Rules).
Thanks, Mom! These are the foundation of health, happiness, income, and a cute new jacket.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
I've been practicing being placid the past couple of days. Last night as I was on the train on the way home, our conductor Tom (remember, I ride the same train, same car, every night, so I know him) announced that there had been an accident in the Salem tunnel. We were stopped in the middle of the marsh between Chelsea and Lynn, where we sat for about half an hour. I listened to my ipod and worked on some writing ("Cool! More time to work on a blog topic!") Eventually we pulled into Lynn station so we could get off the train and get on shuttle busses to Salem. Hundreds of us stood outside for almost another half an hour, waiting for a bus. ("At least C is home with the kids, so I don't have to worry about hurrying home. I'll let the others get on first.") Finally, we piled onto a bus and started winding our way through Lynn, Swampscott, Salem and on to Beverly. I listened to my ipod and looked out the window, enjoying seeing the roast beef joints and physical therapy storefronts of Lynn, comparing them to the quaint pubs and bakeries of Salem. ("I haven't seen sights like this in a while. I should come back and take some pictures!")
We finally got out at Beverly Depot, and walked over to an empty train parked there. The conductor wasn't sure whether the train would be heading outbound (home), or inbound. We stood around on the platform and waited . . . No one seemed to know what was going on. I called Kathleen and talked for a while . . . No, this train would be heading inbound, we should go back to the other track to catch an outbound train. We waited some more . . . There was some rumbling in the crowd . . . I called Heidi ("I got a chance to talk to my sisters without interruptions!") Finally, the outbound train arrived, and the conductors announced it was bound for Rockport. Half of the waiting crowd yelled "Yay!" and climbed aboard. The other half moaned, and kept on waiting (me included).
At this point it was three hours after I had left North Station on my normally-45-minute ride home. Finally, another outbound train arrived. I knew right away it was my train because . . . conductor Tom opened the door and stepped out! This was the very same train I had debarked about two hours earlier!! I sat back down in the very same seat I had been warming while in the marsh. In the time it took for them to get everyone off the trains, into shuttle busses, through three towns and cooled off on the platform, they had cleared the tunnel and let the trains through. Tom shook his head as we got on; I chuckled and sat down and looked out the window because: I was placid.
How could I be so placid? One of the phone calls I made explains why. Heidi and I decided that we kind of miss being bored. With jobs and kids and pets and spouses and everything else, there is definitely no time to get bored. "Remember when we used to get bored?" She asked. "Oh, yes! Wasn't it great? Some day I want to be bored again. Have enough time to do all the things I want to do, until I run out of stuff and get bored. *sigh* I remember being bored." She told me about her friend with two young kids who did a catering job recently. They wanted someone to just stand behind the buffet table and keep an eye on it. The other waitresses were confused why they would be asked to just stand there, but Heidi's friend happily volunteered -- just stand there and do nothing, talk to nobody? No deadline? No runny noses or why's? Ahhhh, thank you! It's like a little vacation! I'll pay you so I just stand here by myself kind of half-smiling!
These days, I actually relish the opportunity to be completely still. No I-have-to's or I-really-should-be's. Mind you, it was hard to let it all go, but once I did, I was . . . placid.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Halloween in the suburbs is basically a candy swap. C and the boys were gone for almost two hours, collecting candy, while I stayed home waiting for trick-or-treaters. Unfortunately, our street is pretty dark, and barely anyone came by, so we collected more candy than we gave out. We let the boys binge for a few minutes when they got home, and yesterday and today they actually didn't really ask for any candy.
T1's friend, Luke, and his mom stopped by, because they had been at a party nearby. He and Luke were so happy to see each other, we got together again on Saturday. We took Luke with us for a walk at Wingaersheek beach, and then they stayed for dinner. It was nice to have drop-in visitors like that, because I didn't have the stress of getting ready ahead of time.
Today I ran a few errands, and worked on the cushion covers I'm making for the wrought iron patio sofa. I know it seems weird to be working on them now, when we won't be able to use them until Spring, but I want to push myself to get them done, so they'll be ready when the weather gets nice (and I won't want to stay inside sewing any more). I also found some cool paper on sale at the craft store, and made T1 work on a project with me. I can't tell, because they may end up in some of your stockings!!
The boys are in bed now, but they had some super crankies there for a while -- sheesh! I wonder if it's the time change? Anyway, another weekend is over, and I didn't get a chance to call anyone. Hope you're all well. We miss you. Love,