Monday, December 26, 2011

Holiday in Review

Oh Boxing Day.  In our house this is the day to stay in PJ's.  Graze freely from the fridge and to process the turkey carcass.  This year isn't all that different except we have the plague in our house.  My eldest son was sick the Monday before Christmas, silly me, I assumed that the virus had passed and we'd be germ free for Christmas.  Nope.  Proved very wrong.  We were on our way to having a very pleasant, albeit, subdued holiday when in our Christmas best at Christmas Eve mass, our eldest son was once again stricken with the "hum bug".

The church was standing room only.  We arrived shortly after 4:15 for the 5 pm mass and found the church already at 80% capacity.  We did score sweet seats a few rows from the front so that the kids could see the goings-on.  The church filled in immediately after we sat down and Father Charles started the mass early because there was no sense in waiting since not a single soul more could fit under this church's rafters.

Just as the first reading was finished E looked up to my husband and said "oh no..." and gagged.  Snatched out of the pew and climbing over my MIL my husband flew to the back of the church and cut through the crowd at the back of the church just in time to get him secured in the bathroom.  Ten minutes later, we were all leaving church early to get E home and to the safety of the couch.

The only thing we could do was to proceed with our evening.  Though at this point we were somewhat less buoyed   This is a sad Christmas for our family.  My husband and his mother are in a lot of pain.  The loss of my father-in-law is being keenly felt this year.  Even the excitement of the one remaining child at the table wasn't enough to keep the mood light.  Still when you consider it, subdued is still far better than bleak and and still better than none. We did have the occasion to share some stories about past Christmases with my father-in-law that brought us all a smile and some laughter.

The Christmas rites still adhered to, as was right.  We went to bed only to be up a lot during the night with our sick little dude.  Christmas morning found us tired but still very happy that Santa had come.  Good thing he brought some video games.  E had no more energy than to lay on his side, on the couch, for the lion share of the day.  My youngest came out of his room wearing his fireman hat and jacket all set to open gifts and that was exactly what he did.  I had to share the picture with my friends.  I was so sure he was in costume and set to put out the next pair of oven mitts that I managed to set on fire.  The last pair were ignited when my gloved hand touched the top element of the oven when pulling out my duchess potatoes on Thanksgiving, giving a rather dramatic air to our holiday meal.

A mostly lazy day found the healthy of us having breakfast and occupied in play.  I got to wrestle my turkey from the 32 quart water canner which I used as my brining vessel.  I love that it's usually so cold in Ontario that it can be placed on the deck for ease of access,  instead of taking up room in the fridge or having to navigate the garage.  The bird once roasted was glorious and way too big for our needs since only two of us were eating and even still when the two had now seriously impaired appetites due to the spread of the kid cooties.

Today is a day of more industry.  The process of making turkey stock and soup has started.  Later, if there is time I will drag out my pressure canner and put up some litres of stock and some pints of turkey soup.  Knitting is my biggest time filler.  I am determined to get this project finished.  I'll have to search the house but I'm sure that I only have three more skeins of this wool and that will mark the completion.

This week is dedicated largely to a few small projects that I never really had time for.  The rest will be spent horsing around with my dudes.  I hope that the plague lifts quickly.  Still no snow.  This is a big disappointment for me.  I was really looking forward to spending some time on the toboggan and on the trails in my snowshoes.

The holiday winding down here.  It wasn't an A+ holiday but it is unrealistic to think every year will be a Norman Rockwell scene.  I reminded my husband that in time we'd sit back over another holiday meal and see this year's holiday with some humour.  We'd laugh about the "hum bug".  We'd chuckle at the picture of L in his fireman costume. The big brown marks the dogs Christmas chewy bones made.   We'd remember where we'd come from, what we went through, and that we'd gotten through it as a team.  That is what the comfort of family brings.  Shared history.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

All I Want for Christmas

I hate being asked what I want for Christmas.  I always draw a complete blank.  I like to interpret that blank as meaning that I don't need anything more than what I've already got.

This morning I got up and got my usual cup of coffee and was poking through the facebook statuses when I came across one that said "how would you feel if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?"  I paused with that thought.  Yes, it's a good thought.  What did I thank God for yesterday?  Well I can tell you what I didn't thank God for...I didn't thank him for jewellery, botox or cars.  Expensive purses or smart phones.  A house that's too big to clean, in the time span of one morning.

I've got just what I need.  I have the love a great man.  Two wonderful kids.  Enough food to eat and a warm disorganized house.  Friends whom I love and respect.  The skills to survive and make beautiful things from scraps that someone else might discard.  The God's good sense to enjoy what is put before me without tearing it apart to make something that could never be, as good as, the real thing.

Other than that....all I've asked for is snow.  I'd really like to have a White Christmas to marvel.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What Remains

We are only 11 days away now.  The excitment in my house is tangible.  I know I've already said how much I'm enjoying this year.  The credit belongs to my children.  Their smiles are infectious.  Over the last month I've been more preoccupied.  Every now and then I get a flash of a memory that was long tucked away for safe keeping. Since having my children I've been trying hard to remember what it was like to be a child.  Though for me, a lot of my childhood memories aren't Sugar Plum Fairy type of memories but if I work a little harder I can unearth a time when I had that innocent wonder-filled joy.

The Christmases I like to recall were the ones when I was very young.  While I still believed in Santa.  When my family was still in one piece and happy, well as happy as I could remember them ever being.  When I thought the most wonderful sight I'd ever seen was the warm light of our Christmas Tree or the lights on my neighbour's houses.  I can still remember the songs that would fill the house.  My mother had a few Christmas 8-Track cassettes and they played in that endless loop.  She would sing away with them and I'd try to follow a long as I could.  I remember colouring feverishly in a Christmas colouring book with a new huge pack of crayons on the living room floor while my mother whirled around in a fit of housework and festive preparation.

There were the Christmas Cookie bake-a-thons.  Then being bundled up in coats, hats and mittens and being driven up the street to where my Great Grandfather lived with is common-law wife.  He hated us (and most people in general) and was as surly as a man could be.  How Anne came to love him, I'll never know.  She was one of the kindest people.  We'd make sure his car wasn't there and then we'd go in for a very short visit and give her a tin of what we had just created.  She'd give us a tiny Christmas treat in return.

I also remember once helping to clear the kitchen after dinners leading up to the special day and hear snowballs hit the kitchen window.  My mother would say that was Santa's elf letting us know that he had been watching us being good and helpful.  That we should make sure that we were good so that Santa would visit.  Now I realize that my father must have snuck out the front door and circled around the house to throw that snowball at the window. My father's work Christmas Parties were fabulous.  They were balls and each employee's child would get these very large presents.  I do recall one year getting the most beautiful baby doll and coming home half asleep and having my parents discover that the cat had dragged down the Christmas Tree and broken her favourite nativity bulb.

I remember my mother's skilled hands preparing the big Turkeys.  She would cook up a storm and it would be marvelous.  The Christmas dinners were events onto themselves.  The relatives that would flow in and out of the house over the three days surrounding Christmas.  Especially, my Uncle Paul who would show up in Santa suit each year and give us a pair of handmade mittens as presents.  I always loved when my Grandma and Grandpa Westlake would arrive.  There is nothing better in the entire world than the hugs my Grandma would insist on.  The whisker rub my Grandpa gave us.  I don't really remember any of the presents they gave me but their just being there was what I treasured most because it is what I remember best.  I do miss them horribly.

It has not been lost on me that my eldest son is at the same age I was when my family imploded.  That at that very tender age nothing had that child-like innocence anymore.  I marvel at how young my son is.  I always remember me being older at that age (I know that's odd).  I wonder what he will remember when he's old like me and has kids of his own.  I have been making a very big point of making each Christmas something special to remember.  Every season packed with so many things and events.  I can't improve upon what I remember but I can guarantee that my boys have it better.  I'm lucky, I get to build much better memories thanks to them.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Where the Heart is...

There are parts of the Christmas Season that even this newly reborn Christmas lover still strongly dislikes.  Grocery shopping #1 and its horrid companion, the parking lot!!!  Today was the day, though not the actual Christmas grocery shopping trip but more of a preliminary.  We headed out as a family to get the job done because there are just some decisions that need to be made as a family and I find that the meals I make get eaten better by the kids if they help to gather the ingredients.

Husband usually takes the kids off on the "odd" job to get soap or toilet paper then comes back with them in tow to put the item in the cart and then get the next assignment.  This keeps them active and well behaved and gives me the chance to get the other things on the list and to prowl the aisles to see what I've forgotten to put on the list.

Today he treated the kids to a few minutes in the toy aisle, as a reward for the hard work helping to get all the assigned items.  Now, a few of you know that my husband lost his beloved father last December before Christmas.  He's been very sad this whole year but as we come closer to the anniversary of the sad occasion he has been a little less patient and a lot more solemn.  Trust that we understand and have been allowing him to set his pace and mood for the season.  In truth, his muted mood has been well disguised by my insane Christmasy mood this year.

It was there, in that toy aisle that my husband found his Christmas Spirit.  He said that he was just standing there watching the kids point out to each other one cool toy after another.  They were going nuts he said.  Then our youngest held up a Star Wars mask by the box and held it over his face while he played with a light saber that made the noise as he waved it about madly.  I wasn't there but I could well imagine his expression as he watched his child "make due" with the unpurchased toys.  I'm so happy we all went together.  We managed to find something that wasn't on my list.

He's actually gone back to that store to purchase those things because he wants to remember that moment.  The moment when his heart put aside the pain to find a moment that would have made his own father laugh heartily.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

*Arghhh* Harshing my Christmas Mellow!

I've got Christmas fever of that there is no denying it.  I hum Christmas tunes all the time and when I think I'm alone I bust out at full capacity some of my very favourites.  Sorry neighbours and fellow drivers!  Cheerful while I shop.  Opening doors for people who cut in front of me in their haste.  Yep, they can't get to me.  Even the school parking lot isn't putting a dent or scratch in my smile, though it still causes grey hair.

Yesterday it was snowing and I was on a mission to try and start the kids "list".  I spent about 5 minutes just sitting in the car watching the snowflakes hit the windows and melt away.  Marveled at how fast the world got a pristine coating of white.  Suddenly, the world was full of cheerful promise.  I just kept imagining how great it would be if we got enough snow for the kids and I to play in.  I took a little trip down memory lane to all the times that I played for hours in the cold.  Not returning back indoors until every inch of fabric on my body was soaked with melted snow.  The smell of wet mittens on the furnace vents.  Remembering the milk bags I used to use as boot liners because boots were never really water resistant.  Have they improved that yet?

I was tidying up some of the boxes left from the Christmas tree decorations and poking about in the basement when I found another box of decorations.  I brought them upstairs all excited until I took out my Christmas Frog and realized that I don't have a single place to put him.   See, my house is cluttered.  I have to confess that I'm not very good at organizing my stuff.  So where ever I tried to put Christmas Froggy I had to shift a stack of books and papers.  To put Father Christmas out I had to move my husband's netbook and the remotes.  I'm still not sure where I'll put the rest of that stuff.

The clutter in my house harshes my mellow on the best of occasions.  Christmas only highlights how much of a problem it is.  In 24 days there will be more stuff coming in and fewer and fewer places to tuck it.  So for the next 23 days I'm going to pitch out a box of stuff each day.  Who knows it may be the best gift I give myself this year.  Good thing is that I can still sing my Christmas tunes while I do that work.