Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Okay, I'm a day late, I've been busy like many people I'm sure. I'm hoping it was grand for everyone who celebrated. For those who didn't, I hope you either had a good down day or earned some wicked time and a half.

I'm mega late on this rant. I actually saw a great big fight (on Christmas no less) on one of my favourite forums at Chatelaine. It was the annual "Why don't we celebrate Christmas anymore." The fight usually starts like this:

"I'm a Christian, though I'm not a bigot, and I'm upset because people aren't celebrating Christmas properly! I want a Christmas tree, with a Christmas pageant, and my tax dollars going to support Christmas everywhere, and if someone doesn't wish me a Merry Christmas I'm simply going to DIEEEEEEEE!" Actually the big kerfuffle was someone taking offense that a store clerk replied "Thank you" to their "Merry Christmas" apparently this was indicative of how Christmas was being threatened.

Now I recently read an article by a friend about marketing and Christmas and it's an interesting point, his arguments are well thought out and eloquent. I can see his point. Ultimately I don't care if it's called a Holiday Tree or a big green thing with shiny junk on it, but if someone had delivered this message onto the forum, I'd be more apt to listen.

I've made no bones that I'm Christian, however I. Do. Not. Require. People. Celebrate. Christmas. The. Exact. Same. Way. I. Do. If you want to do is secular style go for it, you want to add your own religious traditions to the secular style, go for it. Yep, it's an important holiday for me. I mean, son of God's birthday is a big happening, but I also try to keep in mind of what he stood for. Love, sharing, generosity, tolerance, all that good stuff that seems to get lost in the hub bub of people complaining that they are somehow getting hosed at Christmas because there is a little diversity on how it is celebrated.

And for the record, if you're living in Canada (and if you know what hosed means, chances are, you are) you are not getting hosed! There is no one shouting that you cannot say Merry Christmas or have a Christmas tree or Christmas presents or Christmas songs. In case you haven't been to a mall since September, I think it's pretty clear that Christmas is a big event, for all the wrong reasons in the mall, but it's there, trimmed in green and red and shiny!

And to make this clear for Christians. Christmas is celebrating the birthday of a person who epoused Christian love, forgiveness, understanding. He bucked convention of being xenophobic, classist, racist. Bringing those ideas up to this day and age, is it really so horrible if someone who was non Christian shares goodwill with someone else. Donations to non-profits pile up during Christmas, I know it's not all Christians shelling out. And keep in mind that half of our traditions don't necessarily come from our religion, so when you're ranting about not having a Christmas tree in the town square, you better thank those Pagans for the Christmas greenery, they're also responsible for a lot of the traditions around Easter and Halloween too!

What truly threatens Christmas in my never so humble opinion, is those who rant and rail about sharing this momentous day. Think about the story around it. People brought all sorts of presents to that baby born in the stable, some humble, some grand. People of all types, traditions, cultures and religions celebrated. This is what we are told happened and how we believe. So why are we harping on the same thing happening much later in the calendar and within context of our day and age?

I celebrated Christmas with friends and family. Some Christian, some Pagan, some Muslim. It was a blast, I loved it. They loved it, and we got together for sharing, a great meal, good conversation and forming bonds, love and friendship that unite us as humans, which goes beyond race, creed, class, religion. And if that isn't what Christ would have wanted, then I'll eat this post!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Childless by Choice? Really, I don't care.

This morning while procrastinating on the millions of tasks I have on my to do list, I came across this article at the Star. It's nothing I haven't read before from Childless by Choice authors. Kids are all out of control, parents are selfish, every parent they come across is astounded by the fact that they don't want kids, and people hate their cats. Let me address this one at a time.

Kids are all out of control. Bullshit! That's it. I call bullshit. Yeah, everyone has come across a kid melting down at the grocery store, restaurant, mall, school, park. Does that mean that they're out of control? No, it means they're tired, angry, frustrated, hungry. You can easily tell whether that kid is out of control based on what their parents are doing. Are they addressing it? Talking to the kid, hugging them, marching them out of the facility willingly or backpack style? But you know what? As someone who's ears are finely tuned to hearing meltdowns and someone who frequents places where parents and kids frequent, I don't hear that many meltdowns. I heard a newborn crying at the grocery store a couple weeks ago. Mom was wrapping up her purchases and heading out. See, parents who are addressing kids needs, are not letting kids out of control. If you're going to classify out of control by a child talking a little too loudly for your taste, well then I can't help you there. Some kids are quiet, some aren't. Some people are quiet, some aren't. Go to any trendy restaurant after work on a Friday and I will gladly point out patrons who are loudly putting my kids to shame.

I can count on my hands the grand total of kids I've seen out of control at a restaurant. One! I was appalled. I was pissed because Dearest and I were out in a rare opportunity without our kids and just wanted a meal and some conversation. This kid was screaming and the parents weren't doing a damn thing. (This wasn't a family restaurant) I actually said something to them to the effect of they need to take their little guy out to calm him down and stop disturbing everyone. So yes, there are out of control kids, however considering I've been at family restaurants for the past 5 years or so and have only encountered one, says a lot.

If you're upset about a child trying to get their parent's attention while you're trying to have a conversation, seriously? Deal. You can't have it both ways. Inattentive parents have out of control children, attentive parents do have the snafus, but they are monitored and extinguished as quickly and humanely as possible. I might tell my kids to stop interrupting. That works great for my particular 5 year old, not so great for my 3 year old. Age and impulse control isn't a myth and so your expectation that they should be perfect little beings, is going to be sorely disappointed at some point. But guess what? Most parents don't enjoy behaviour snafus. We're usually tired, mortified, frustrated and trying to quickly find a way to diffuse the situation ASAP. If I could snap my fingers and have perfectly behaved little kids, I'd do it. But I have to admit, it'd get a little Stepford-y and boring quick.

Again, it boils down to standards. Children have to be taught. Unfortunately they're not programmable machines that you can set to perfect. Occasionally, one of mine might speak a little too loudly or excitedly in a public place and they are automatically told to talk more quietly. If that offends you, sorry, can't be helped, but consider your meaning of out of control, because that ain't it.

Parents are selfish. Sure. While wiping my butt in my old age wasn't the reason why I had kids (it's that spare kidney or chunk of liver) I reckon it's more altruistic to adopt kids given that there are so many unwanted. But like many people, I chose to have my own. And like many people, I chose to take care of my own. I've worked for child protection agencies, I've donated in spades to children related causes, hospitals, education (and don't start whining about tax dollars going to education when you don't use it, because there are a million other things your tax dollars go to that do not benefit you directly). I teach my kids to care about the world. My oldest donates his piggy bank money regularly to needy causes. You'll find that while parents with larger families might be driving those Godawful minivans (guilty!) we are also whizzes at stretching a buck and lessening our economic and ecological footprint. I know it's hard to believe sometimes, but go ask a family with 3-5 kids on whether they buy tonnes of new clothes/toys/supplies for their younger children. There's a reason second hand clothing stores specifically for children make a rather tidy existence. Reusable bags are essential, as are containers, paper towel is too expensive, hell I even reuse storage bags for dry goods. Nothing is written in stone and there are checks and balances. Yeah I drive a minivan, but my inlaws who have no kids living at home drive an aging SUV for their trailer they use twice a year for two-four weeks which is way less efficient than my minivan. They use paper towel and my MIL insists on shrink wrapping everything from clothes to photos in those bags and then they are tossed. They easily go through as much as our family of five! I wish I could say they're the exception, but you very well know they are not.

The last point, be prepared for this. I have never come across a parent who gave a flying fig about whether someone else chooses to have kids or not. Really! I don't care, if you don't want kids, don't have them! I'm glad you've taken the time to think out your choice. It's an incredibly hard and demanding job, it's very fulfilling for me, but I can easily see how that wouldn't be the case for everyone. I understand the beauties of quiet alone time, probably far more than any Childless by Choice couple ever will! There are times I'd love to grab Dearest, pick up and travel somewhere warm sans my little entourage and I can't though we have the means, so it means when we do slip away for a weekend, that time is treasured. Sleeping in, sick days, a chance to read uninterrupted, all great and I can understand (easily!!!!) how people would want this. Believe me, any parent would and those who say they don't, are lying! I'm sure those astounded folks are out there, but I really, really, really do not think they are in any way near a majority. I've never come across any, and I come across a heck of a lot of parents. Because you know what? Parents are too freaking busy to care about your fertility choices, we have much better or pressing things to occupy our time with, trust me.

I gave my 5 year old the run down of the article and he said "That's not very happy about kids." While I'm sure many people don't care what he thinks, a lot of what children say can really be profound. Essentially, if you're going to look for the negative in everything, you're going to find it. You don't have to like kids, I'm not suggesting you start, but take your own opinion with a grain of salt. I don't like cilantro, hate it, loathe it. Am I ever going to find a redeeming quality about it? Not likely. Whereas with onions, it's something I've been opening up about. I can tolerate them in my food in small and finely diced doses. I'm not about to eat a hunk of one or even medium sized caramelized onions, which I'm told are wonderful, but I can see how they work great in some dishes.

So keep on your beaten path or not, I don't care, not maliciously not caring, but it's really a non issue for me. What I do care about is your generalizations and your interactions with me and my kids. If you're going to generalize about my kids, I'm going to be there contradicting you with the vehemence of a 3 year old. No, they're not angels, but they are pretty well behaved at least in public and if they're not, I'm the first one riding their behinds, so you can save your glances and tsks and chuffs for something else. Better yet, find a better use for your energy because while I'm my children's biggest fan, I'm also their biggest critic and will ride and fine tune them into super human beings come Hell or highwater. However just like me, you're going to have to be patient, because it's an art and like most great works of art, it's going to evolve, take shape, be corrected and most of all, take a few years.

And for the record, while I'm pretty allergic, I do quite like cats. Honest! And since I'm allergic, they loooove me and I will oblige them a tickle or pat despite my allergies. In fact this might surprise you, but most of my friends with kids, also have a cat or two or three hanging around as well.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Traditions

Everyone has them, those yearly traditions that are carried out come hell or highwater. This year I started a new one of baking a different cookie each weekday two weeks before Christmas. Last night I attempted biscotti, it tastes great, but they could dub as jawbreakers. When Dearest asked me what to do with them, I told him to throw them outside, we might off a couple racoons that try to eat them by breaking their teeth. We didn't do that. Much as I hate racoons, I have never harmed one other than a swift broom to their backsides. Anyhow, a more successful Christmas tradition we have is making an annual ornament. This tradition was started by Dearest grandmother, who gave an ornament to her DILs upon their marriage one for every year showing the significant events of that year. Only my MIL carried it on and 40 years in marriage, they don't need much else on their tree. She passed it on to us, making only the first year of our marriage. I don't know if my SIL does it, but I do.

Our first year which was our marriage, we also bought the house which is the base, and a little bead at the top signified buying our puppy Shenanigans.

This is year two which signifies our first anniversary. I admit, I dropped the ball and actually forgot to make the ornament that year, so bought this one.

This was our third year, which was a road trip out to the east and I went back to school. Look at that gorgeous model display hand as well. Such elegant fingers!

Wow, year four already. We went to Vancouver that year, and I graduated from my college program. 4.0 GPA I might add!

Year 5, our fifth anniversary. The star is for Dearests business taking off. We went camping with our doggies that year and Shenanigans turned 5, Banzai turned 10.

Year 6. We had a big year as we added Mister Ninja to the family. There is a hockey stick on that business card, which was important because after a giant strike, hockey returned. I remember, because the first game was at the same time as a wedding of Dearests cousin and he kept sneaking out to the bar to catch the score. I was also mega pregnant at that wedding and there were NO SEATS at the reception for a good 2 hours. Anyhow, side rant over, the Canadian flag has the words NDP written on it, which signified we actually won some seats in the House of Commons. Yes Canadians, I am NDP, a big one! Anyone outside of Canada unless they have some sort of sick fascination with Canadian politics won't care. The business card was to signify that our business was doing uber well. We were being paid and not borrowing money from our ILs to buy a new furnace, or face freezing to death. We had won a big account and got a lovely investment, times were good. See that gorgeous Joy ornament in the background? I made that, with my own two hands. I was once an avid and pretty skilled cross stitcher. Then I had kids.

This was a bittersweet year. Banzai passed away. He was our first dog together and an amazing friend and his death hit us very hard. We did have positive things happen. I started a moms group which has given me several amazing friends whom I love dearly. We also took a trip out east with our wee one. You never really see how friendly Canada is until you travel with a cute baby. We had the people at the security check in Montreal fighting over who got to hold the baby.

Year 8, we had another baby! A Dude joined us late in the year. We went to the cottage. We went to several hockey games (not sure why I don't have something to signify that on the ornament). One hockey game we went with a friend who is normally a very prim and lovely gentleman. Really! Folks are surprised when they see him in jeans. Anyhow, we learned that this friend is also intensely competitive and lost all decorum leaping over/crashing into me to high five Dearest when the Leafs scored a goal late in the game.

Year 9. We went up to the cottage again. We also went to Las Vegas with our friends, which was an insane amount of fun. We were having so much fun I forgot to buy something for the ornament, which is why Viva is written on there. Mister Ninja started school which is the ABCs, while A Dude was growing a mile a minute. The big giant church looking thing...well that's our new home. It was the closest thing I could find that looked like our home. A Dude was also baptised that year so it doubles! Aren't I a genius? Annnnd, we're a pair of political junkies so for those of you who don't recognize that red, white and blue symbol was the logo for the Obama camp. That was 2008 so we know he actually won.

Year 10. Well it was our tenth anniversary hence the big 10 there. We celebrated by getting insanely great tickets for our favourite band U2. The hockey skate is for Mister Ninja taking his first skating lessons. A rite of passage for every Canadian kid, since their parents start envisioning their kid hoisting the Stanley Cup over their head some day. The red thing on the side is meant to be a stilletto. That was the first year that the White Ribbon Campaign first launched Walk a Mile in her shoes. Dearest has been on the board of Directors for umpteen years and did the walk. It also raised a nice sum of money. The dolphin is to signify our trip to Florida-how I wish I were there now...seriously Decemeber in Canada, not nice! The little shoes signify A Dude FINALLY walking. He was 19-20 months old. My back thanked him in spades. It's hard to see, but there is a crystal hanging from the bottom of it. Dearest won Humanitarian of the Year with the National Advertising Benevolent Society for his work with White Ribbon. Our crazy Las Vegas friend, the female half swiped a crystal off one of the centrepieces and gave it to me to use for the ornament. The little bean is because late that year, like in Decemeber, we discovered that we were expecting another crazy dude on the way.

And year 11. This year. Dearest having sold his business has moved on. He's spent a bit of time meeting peopel in coffee shops and working from there, hence the little patio table. Mister Ninja started taking drama. There is a little schoolhouse on the ornament as A Dude started school this year. The barrel is to signify our trip to Niagara Falls, which was actually really amazing for the kids. There is a baby decoration across the middle and my mug shot is pasted on because I have finally got my G license (For those who don't know, Ontario has a graduated driving system, G being the goal for drivers driving things like cars) and will never ever have to parallel park again.  I think some physicist has proven that it's impossible to parallel park an Odyssey anyhow. Really! They did!

So there you have it, our Christmas tradition. I'm not one who is terribly big on traditions for the sake of tradition, but I'm glad I kept this up. Seeing my IL Christmas tree year after year being a chronical of their lives together is something special. Their grandkids love hearing about it and decorating the tree with the handmade ornaments. So I'm hoping we'll have the same to look back on in 30 years.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Resolution

You know how we have all those good intentions of New Years resolutions and never really see them through. I think resolutions should be more specific and for a heck of a lot of shorter time periods. It's easy to lose track of accountability when you have 365 days ahead of you to miraculously get back on that track. I've been running around singing to myself "Tis the season to be busy, fa la la la la...". In addition to Christmas, we have two birthdays, A Dude's who's party is in two short days, and my own on Christmas Eve. We also have an annual drop in the Sunday before the big day, where we hang out with all our buddies we don't nearly get to spend enough time with. It's an insanely busy season for us. But in light of coming out of PPMD, I've decided to take some steps to make the season brighter for me in terms of my workload and since it's a resolution I only have to hold for 15 days, I should be okay.

1. I'm not wrapping presents. I HAAAAAAATE wrapping, it's a pain in the behind for me. I hate how wasteful it is, not only in paper and bows, but my time and effort in making the present look semi decent, only to have it ripped to shreds. So this year, screw it! It's bags for everyone. They're reusable and I have about a million I need to put to use.

2. It's not the end of the world if I don't make everything from scratch. I saw artichoke, asiago puffs from President's Choice brand in the supermarket. Mmmmm, I should make those for the party, but why? When they're here, in front of me and all I have to do is pop them in the oven, easy peasy. Same thing with samosas. I can try and make them, or I can buy these awesome ones and be done with it!

3. I'm not spending any more time with people who don't value me than I have to. You know those stupid traditional family get togethers where no one really gives a crap about one another, in fact some people outright dislike each other, but you go because it's tradition? Not happening! If I'd rather spend time with my friends, other family members, the wall, that's what I'll be doing.

4. I'm delegating. It's been hard for a control freak like me, but we've actually hired help and already it's awesome. I'm making a list for various events for things people can help with if they ask. I'm making a list, because when they ask in the middle of the hub bub, I'm not prepared, so this time I will be.

5.Reflecting on my nativity scene. For me, in all the madness  it's often so easy to forget about why I'm celebrating this holiday. Reflecting on Jesus and what he means to me (selfless giving, compassion, love) will give me much needed down time for a few minutes even and remind me how I should be striving for those traits.

6. Christmas music. I never have Christmas music on! It's beautiful, fun, I can sing the tunes easily, I can teach my guys the songs, plus it's a lot easier to bake cookies with Christmas music!

7. I will carve out time to do baking. I do actually enjoy it. I love to involve my boys too, so the week before Christmas when they're off school, we'll be baking up a storm.

8. Taking care of myself. Staying up to 1am, like last night to do baking, doesn't so much fall under resolution 7. I won't be doing that again! I need to keep healthy so lots of water, lots of rest, taking my vitamins, brushing my teeth and eating my vegetables, just like Santa says. In addition, I WILL book some time at the spa, hopefully before and after Christmas...if it kills me!

9. Eat, drink and be merry! Every year around this time, all the women's or mommy magazines publish articles about how to keep our girlish figures around Christmas which involves limiting all the goodies. If you cannot enjoy the yummies of whatever high holy day you have without abandon, it's time to start burning those magazines. Bite me! I worry about trying to attain that unachievable goal of being a size 2 the other 11 months of the year, leave me alone. December is mine!

10. Call cranky people out. Every year certain people get cranky and makes the mood miserable for the rest of us. You're on  notice cranky people, I'm not dealing with it. Be festive and merry or get out. This is my realm and the only one over 5 allowed to be cranky is me, but seeing how I want to make this season special for my kiddies, I will suck it up whenever I'm feeling like throwing a tantrum. I know it's an exhausting time of year, our blood sugar is out of whack and we all have these insane expectations or letting failed Christmases get to us, but we're supposed to be happy, so take stock of yourself, figure out what is wrong and be happy dammit! :)

11. Santa will NOT be getting credit for the best gifts. Santa gets elves to make them, he doesn't have to go to the mall! So top toy goes to us!

12. Refusing to sweat the small stuff. My Christmas cards aren't done...m'eh! I'm going out tonight with DH and have a full weekend planned. I should get my letter done tomorrow night, cards addressed Sunday night, photos done Monday, but if they aren't done by Wednesday, it's no biggie, Canada Post is fast. I plan on making good use of my fireplace, watching some movies with my kids, hugging Dearest a lot, putting my feet up and just reveling in the good excuse to be cozy during these cold months.

And a partridge in a pear tree.

Have you thought of your 12 Christmas resolutions? Things to make your Christmas days be merry and bright?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I'm getting soft

I am dying! I'm in pain, limping, wounded, mortally even! I don't know how I'm going to make it to the weekend, and heaven forbid even beyond that. My stomach is in knots and I'm sitting twirling my hair anxiously trying to think of a plan B. Thinking that I should have a formal super serious mega plan B that requires two different people authenticating codes to initiate plan B. "Alpha. Zorro. Tango. Delta...." I'm screwed!

My dryer died. Well it still has life, but it's not producing heat. We're calling a repair person. But really, do they even exist anymore? In this throwaway society people just as soon push the thing out to the curb and presto chango $500 later you have a new appliance! I mean for the price they quoted me for the repair person, something in the realm of $35 for the first 15 minutes, $25 for additional 15 minutes, it might just be cheaper in the end to get a new one. Anyhow, I'm hoping that he comes in and fixes the problem in 14 minutes and 59 seconds. With my luck, I might as well just hand him a blank cheque.

I started thinking about the days when I didn't have a washing machine/dryer at my disposal. We were lucky enough to have them in our building and in decent working order, but laundry was done every week or two, not whenever the heck we needed something clean. Unless something was soiled with some horribly wrong organic material, it would stay in the hamper til laundry day came along. If we needed something clean in that time between, we got to hand wash it and hang it up to dry in the bathtub or balcony. Some people were even more hardcore and did all of their laundry by hand, not that they were trying to save the planet or avoid harsh detergents or whatever gentrified reason there is nowadays for handwashing, they were just poor and wanted to spend their precious dollars elsewhere.

So my panic is somewhat subsiding, okay not really, but I am trying to keep in mind that waiting for a highway robber....errrr, repairperson to come fix your dryer isn't the worst thing in the world. In the meantime, I'll be getting old school and hauling my clothes down to the basement, along the bannister and wherever else I can find a spot to hang them.