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All I want for Christmas?

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I remember fondly the Christmas presents my children used to make for me at school. I still have the classroom-crafted Christmas ornaments from Kindergarten, the decorated Santa’s cookie plates from Grade One, and will simply never part with the rendering of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer done with hand prints for the antlers and footprint for the head from Grade 3. I am so glad that I wasn’t the classroom volunteer that day! Somehow Christmas Gifts for Mom dropped off our school board’s educational curriculum some time before middle school. Such a shame.

It was about middle school, however, that I suggested to them that just because they weren’t making things in the classroom anymore, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t still get us a gift. I mean after all, the time had come for them to fully appreciate the old saying that “it is better to give than to receive”. Lord knows their dad and I have been doing a lot of giving over the past seventeen Christmases.

Generally their Gifts for Dad came out of my wallet and the Gifts for Mom came out of Dad’s wallet but that was ok. It was still fun to find a little something under the tree to enjoy along with our Christmas morning mimosa – my husband’s and my mimosas, not the kids (that would be wrong, right?). I’m so glad we started this new tradition because now that my children are all teenagers, I can tell that they truly enjoy picking out the perfect gifts for their parents.

So what was under the Christmas tree for mom this year, you ask?  Well, my oldest son bought me a set of wine glasses, my middle son bought me a Mason jar with a straw (with a heartwarming dedication, “for the cottage”, along with it) and my daughter, my youngest, bought me a coffee mug and a half a kilo of coffee. My mother, who was visiting for Christmas, suggested “Your children seem to know you well.” I couldn’t tell if she was impressed or disgusted.

Christmas 2013

Well, yes, they do seem to point to the things in life I appreciate the most, given to me by the people in my life who I love the most. Anyhoo, no matter. I love my presents and will no doubt put them all to good use. After all, my kids are undoubtedly the ones I have to thank (or blame) for needing them in the first place!

Was there something special for you under the tree this past Christmas?

Christmas traditions that suck …and some that don’t!

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Oh, the happy sights and sounds of Christmas are pervading my happy home: carols a-playing, tree lights a-twinkling, candles a-flickering, the mixer a-mixing, wine glasses a-clinking and of course … kids a-bitching.   “Joy to the …”  how does that one go again?

I really like Christmas traditions.

Like the year I started the tradition of letting the kids open one (1) gift on Christmas Eve.  This tradition was necessitated by a Christmas morning family photo in which my daughter was wearing her older brother’s hand-me-down thread-bare Pokémon pajamas with a hole in one knee, both my sons were shirtless and in boxers, and my husband did a reasonable (posterior) impersonation of Dave the Plumber, if you know what I mean.  Their initial excitement towards this new tradition disappeared almost as quickly as Karen’s homemade Christmas fudge as they soon realized that I got to choose the gift they opened, and they each got new pajamas each and every Christmas Eve. They hate this tradition almost as much as they hate their new pajamas, but I love my annual G-rated family photo. To each their own traditions, right?

I am looking forward to another of our annual traditions. I love that one of my neighbours organizes an annual Father-Son holiday hockey game, right around Christmas, at the local arena right around the corner from our home.  It’s a tradition that started about 7 years ago when my boys were only 7 and 8 year old – barely a few years into their respective minor hockey careers, and their dad, my husband, was a recently inducted member of the beer adult recreational league.   According to my daughter, however, there is a major problem with this tradition:  she’s not a part of it.  XY Chromosome or penis must be present to play in this hockey game – and typically both conditions are met (I think) with all its participants .  So I have to remind her, that I am not the host, our neighbour is free to invite whomever he chooses, and I am not about to jeopardize my invite to the after-party with a poorly-timed feminist tirade on gender equity (I don’t actually say all that, I just tell her to suck it up). She suggests a counter-attack but the thought of an on-ice Mother-Daughter hockey event triggers sheer terror in me and am certain my $500 max on my group insurance physiotherapist fees would prove insufficient.

Father-Son Group from 2005

I do however love my off-ice role in this annual event as the official photographer. Yes, I get to take the big group picture with some 24 fathers and sons in full hockey gear, but then one by one, each dad and son(s) skate up to me for their annual Father-Son hockey portrait. It’s the second best part of the whole event for me! In seven years, most of these boys have gone from being propped up by Dad, to towering over Dad. It’s enough to make this mom’s heart swell with pride, no matter who is in front of my lens. Any discussion of a Dads versus the Sons match-up would now be entirely delusional as there is no way the dads could survive a full-out game against their much younger counterparts – not without shorting out the arena’s electrical as a result of portable defibrillator unit overuse. Sensibly, the teams continue to be mixed. Once the game starts, I am usually relegated back to the kitchen and to busy food preparation for the after-party at our neighbour’s home, just across the street. The official outcome of the game is rarely conveyed to me, and is probably not integral to this tradition in the first place.

So my daughter has vowed to boycott the upcoming 7th Annual Father-Son Hockey Game with her now familiar and repetitive, “It’s not fair!” protest. And you know what I said? “Go right ahead!  If you need me, I’m across the street.” She is now old enough to stay home alone. I am sure, however, knowing that pizza, pop and more of Karen’s Christmas fudge await her across the street, we’ll find our sad but sporty little elf at the door at some point during the afternoon, if only to kick someone’s butt in the annual ball hockey game down in our neighbour’s basement. To each their own traditions!

Unlike many who feel lonely and isolated during this time of year, I am part of a vibrant, lively neighbourhood and am thankful for this annual tradition to toast our friendships. My annual post-after-party hangover? Not so much. But … to each their own traditions, right?!

From my daughter’s potty  mouth, not mine:
What holiday traditions piss you off?

Please change American Thanksgiving!

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 “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others.  And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

– Edward Winslow, Mourt’s Relation (modern spelling), 1621

 I’ve been reading quite a bit in the blogshpere about this past Thanksgiving weekend and I have an important announcement to all my American friends south of the border:  You have it all wrong! 

I’m making a pitch to change US Thanksgiving. You have got to start petitioning your lawmakers to change this statutory holiday to a Monday from its current calendar position on a Thursday.  See, usually it’s Americans who think we Canadians should concede and go along with US majority.  Can I tell you how many times I am asked, why don’t you guys just celebrate Thanksgiving in November, like we do?  Or, why don’t you guys just use the same currency as we do?  Or best yet, why don’t you guys celebrate the 4th of July?  So indulge me briefly as I turn it back to Americans this time.  Of all the US statutory holidays, Thanksgiving is one of two holidays which does NOT fall on a Monday, therefore not guaranteeing y’all (you + all = y’all, right? I’m still fuzzy on this contraction) a long weekend.  Why is that?  

 The American Thanksgiving statutory holiday is on a Thursday and while many have the Friday off, it is not technically a statutory holiday, so many are expected back at work on Friday.  More than likely they are still enduring their self-induced food coma.  My first thought is to those suffering poor souls that work in retail … after they have their loving family gathering, they have to go head right over to their minimum wage retail job at midnight and deal with the throng of shoppers delighting in long lines and minimal stock.  Isn’t that like visiting your mother-in-law with a debilitating hangover?

To be fair, I haven’t done detailed research on the history of the calendar placement of this American holiday, but do you think the Pilgrims really did gather on a Thursday to celebrate the harvest with the indigenous peoples?  Really?  I honestly don’t think Winslow had anything close to Black Friday shopping in mind when he penned the words ‘partakers of our plenty’.  I’m pretty sure he meant crushing grapes into wine, with those words.  Yes, that has to be it.  Pass my goblet, please.  

If Americans celebrated Thanksgiving on a Monday, the traditional holiday meal would take place on the Sunday evening before.  The holiday Monday would truly be one of rest, recuperation and of course thankfulness (or, yes possibly the busiest travel day of the year, but let’s not worry about that for a moment).  Best yet?  The stores would be closed on Thanksgiving Monday.  C.L.O.S.E.D!  No Black Monday shopping would even be possible, so we don’t have to awake to the viral images of pepper-sprayed Californians hoping to scoop an XBox deal, or an Arkansas woman’s bared butt as she loses touch with reality over a $2 waffle iron at Walmart (I actually did not these but heard about them on the radio on my way into work this morning!).  For the football fans, have no fears about Thanksgiving football.  The NFL could easily accommodate this change in holiday schedule given that Sunday afternoon and Monday evenings are already devoted to football… why not throw a real turkey around on Sunday too?

I’m not trying to initiate an international debate, I am only thinking of the best interests of our dear American neighbours, and believe that you should all return to work fully recuperated from the feast and food leftover orgy that is Thanksgiving…on both sides of the border!

I think this proposal warrants careful consideration.

What do you think?

The Twelve Days of Pumpkin

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Inspired by Stu Mills of CBC Ottawa Radio One, who has vowed to air a pumpkin story daily until Halloween, I’ve decided to [try and] write my own little segment of the Twelve Days of Pumpkin.  I shall endeavour not to post too many pumpkin pie recipes, but make no promises!

Here goes:

***

On the Twelfth Day of Pumpkin …

The Twelfth Day of Pumpkin happened to fall on my Dinner Club tonight with my lady friends (“Mom!  They’re called gal pals, now!” says my daughter).  Though we might meet more often by happenstance, we plan, organize, negotiate, swindle and bribe so that we can meet for dinner for sure every other month.  Since September 2004, we have been gathering to eat, drink and be scary.  Over those seven years, the menus have varied almost as much as the hairstyles.  Our members have fluctuated far less.

Seven years ago, I was a mother three young children.  I’d move mountains to make sure I didn’t miss this dinner (which really means I’d work extra hard to find a competent sitter but my definition of ‘competent’ relaxed as my options waned!).  My kids today are much more self-sufficient, but I am no less reliant on this group of women.  The mountains we move are less likely due to childcare issues but rather due to other commitments and responsibilities.  Yet somehow we all still manage to pull it off.  Somehow this gathering has remained a priority for all of us.  I can honestly say the unconditional support of this group of women has helped me parent through the carefree friendships of pre-school to the complicated relationships of high school.  I doubt our sagas are over.

Though the first few gatherings were fraught with high Martha-like menu expectations, we have occasionally succumbed to take-out.  I won’t say we don’t care what we prepare or eat, but as the years have passed, what we eat takes on less importance as with whom we eat!

Now.  Lest you thought I had completely steered off tangent, tonight’s meal was finished off with a delicous pumpkin cheesecake with a ginger crust.  AND … I snapped this quick shot of our adorable table décor for your pumpkin pleasure.

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