Thursday, December 30, 2010

Measuring the success of Christmas

E-man shows off his newest prized possession

 Well it's been a whirlwind of activity. Three days, two turkeys, 7 house guests, 4 dozen carols, 3 spoiled kids, not enough pictures, 6 boxes of chocolates, 1 headache and a partridge in a pear tree.

KJ delights in her TNA bag. If I only knew what she wants it for.
  Or something like it.

Christmas came. I was, as usual, fully prepared in the eleventh hour. Daylight came and kids were delighted. Nothing equals the joy on their faces when they open that one gift they were hoping for. It's one of my favorite Christmas moments. Pure gratitude. Gratitude on their part that Santa came through, gratitude on mine that he managed to pick the right colour and size. There have been more than a few near misses in the past. This year was a success.

Lula celebrates with the usual off beat humour and stuffing.
 I was attempting to define my most favorite moments of the days leading up to Christmas and throughout the celebrations. I love the carols, I'm a purist in this department and opt for tradition and reverence, I belt out those carols like I have the full gospel choir backing me up. I love Christmas morning coffee. I love finding that last gift, I love wrapping the last gift. I love going to bed Christmas eve. I love being woken up Christmas morning. I love listening to the kids open their stockings while Michael and I lay in bed and open our eyes. I love talking to my Dad on Christmas morning. I think though, that if I were asked to define my favourite moment of Christmas this year it was my twelve gifts of Christmas.

My Twelve gifts of Christmas are gifts that I secretly plan, plant or deliver to the unsuspecting or an extra special pick for the suspecting. It's so much fun!

My Twelve Gifts
  • a floral arrangement that doubled as a thank you for the wonderful couple who recommended me to my new job position.
  • a food bank donation for E-man's teacher
  • a book for my "son" at work.
  • a food bank donation for KJ's teacher
  • a candy dish for my new boss
  • a gift card for E-man's big buddy. A special thank you for the extra hours and patience.
  • a Cherry Blossom (possibly the best candy bar ever imagined) for a wonderful friend who I wanted to remind about her wonderfulness and the craziness of life.
  • a food bank donation for each of Lula's 4 teachers (does that count as four?)
  • Cinnamon buns for my neighbours
  • a Children's Wish ornament for my husband's lovely boss
  • Chocolates for the office ladies who make things tick.
  • Special wrapping from the Stag Shop for my Secret Santa. it was totally worth the terror stricken look on my victims face. (that was actually a gift for the other people I work with).
Twelve gifts made me feel wonderful. I talk alot everyday about being grateful. Twelve gifts let me acknowledge some people and things I am grateful for every day. The nicest thing about Twelve Gifts is that it made me feel so good. Every gift made me want to give another. Acknowledging the things that I am grateful for illuminated more and more things to be grateful for. As a result I shared other gifts this year too. I made a point of thanking people and their efforts. I wished store clerks and mall attendants Merry Christmas. I let people have my place in line and in the parking lot.

And I received many more gifts than I was able to give.

Share What was your favorite moment of the celebrations?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Un-Christmas Post

So much of the gratitude being shared at the table these days is guessed it...Christmas. Someone is always grateful that their shopping is done or their wrapping. One of the kids inevitably adds to the Christmas gratitude countdown. "I am grateful there is only X days til Christmas." (Today's count is 3 sleeps by the way) Gratitude is flowing like pancake syrup in our house right now and it's all about Christmas.

The world consists of more than festivities though and I like to remind the kids by sharing a gratitude or two that isn't wrapped in shiny paper or introduced with a Christmas carol.

This week I am grateful that KJ folded the laundry.
KJ is grateful that she earned her phone back by doing so.

This week I am grateful that Lula cleaned her room.
Lula is grateful to use the computer again.

I am grateful for Michael and this insane ability he has to manifest his happiness.
Michael is grateful to have a supportive wife. (I got confused with this one, pretty sure I'm the only wife)

I am grateful that E-man found his bedroom floor.
E-man is grateful to have underwear and socks again.
KJ is not so grateful about folding them all.

I am grateful for my friends at work who I laugh with everyday
My friends are grateful that I have another job to go to.

The kids are on break from school and Michael says I should be grateful when they are fighting. I fail to see it,
but if it's true...

I am grateful for name calling, door slamming, shin kicking, stuff stealing, trash talking, whining, tears, converter fights, snow down your shirt, eat the last cookie, I'm calling Mom bonding moments that apparently mean our kids love and respect one another.

Tomorrow I'm going to write about Christmas again.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Where's the Gratitude?

There has been a lot of misfortune in my circle of late. People have lost their jobs. Others have lost family. Some have learned that this will be their last Christmas. Separations in my immediate circle are at a count of 3 in as many months. The statuses and postings on the walls of facebook are grim and sorrowful. Christmas in it's own right causes sadness in many, even in the happiest of people. It is disheartening.

I woke this morning to find myself in a funk, wondering how people manage a happy Christmas with so much looming overhead. I scoured posts from my friends list looking for some Space Between Raindrops. It took some digging but I found some

  • first a whole lot of posts celebrating the arrival of Friday
  • kudos for a good movie
  • a friend who earned a new car - way to go by the way, you deserve it with all that hard work and determination!)
  • 3 new jobs
  • a new baby
  • a National Championship
  • an engagement
  • a fresh start
  • a birthday
  • 1 new home
  • a coffee maker
  • a great charitable donation
  • a momentary ray of sunshine
  • Christmas errands completed
The harder I looked the more I found. Gratitude is like that.

Of course if I'd gone in search of the bad stuff I could have found more of that too.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gratitude in Pictures

This week has given us a lot to be grateful for.

A quick look in pictures...

Michael builds an ice rink for the kids in the backyard. Of course we live in the suburbs and our backyard is the size of a sticky note but oh well. We can say we have a scale model of an actual ice surface.

Michael gets some help with the construction!

and some more help...and a coffee.

A lot of gratitude in the snap. 1) we picked out a tree together and all made it home in one piece. 2) All three children are home and participating. 3) If you look closely you will note that KJ is wearing her headgear. 4) Dad made cider and is doing a fabulous job supervising. 5) Nobody is making a pair of bunny ears behind someone's head.

We managed 2 pictures without a brawl or a pair of bunny ears!

Santa delivered a new washer (via Michael's parents) YAAAAA!!!!!! Santa also delivered a new desk and printer to work (via my new boss) I think this means he's going to keep me YAAAAA!!!!!!!

This is one of my favorites; the wreath I mentioned in an earlier post. A yearly gift from my husband's fabulous boss.

There are of course other gratefuls that I was unsuccessful at capturing on film.

  • E-Man's Christmas concert at school where he rocked the house to "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas"
  • Everyone with the exception of myself has been grateful for snow.
  • The kids are especially grateful the Christmas break begins this week.
  • Christmas shopping is almost finished!
  • Some Christmas cookies got made.
  • High school Summatives are complete.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Your Turn at the Table

It's Thursday. I'm pretty wrapped up in last minute Christmas stuff, gathering gifts and moments of gratitude to share in future posts.

If you are visiting take a minute to share a grateful of your own. I call it 'Your Turn at the Table'

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Baby it's Cold Outside

This week is bitter. The weather is the exact replica of the stereotypical conditions people expect Canadians live in. I always love when Canada is represented as a great expanse of frozen tundra where people sleep in snowmobile suits and eat cured pork. I have only slept in a snowsuit once, not purposefully I might add and I eat other items besides bacon. We do enjoy beautiful tepid spring and fall days and scorching summers are common place. Our winters are not really that dreadful for the most part, however every once in a while we suffer.

This week we are suffering. The temp in -16 with a wind chills in the very low -20 to -30 range. The roads are slick, the kids can't play outside for fear of frost bite and people are freezing.

Everybody is whining. Everybody that is except those who have no choice but to brave it. Those whose jobs are outdoors. Today my grateful is for them. Thank you to the road crews and the mail carriers, the crossing guards, police officers, tow truck drivers, drive thru workers and gas attendants. You have my admiration and I hope there is someone waiting for you with a hot tea and some fuzzy slippers when you arrive home!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What is Gratitude Doing to Us?

Our week concluded with shopping. Okay not my favourite activity and clearly a strange place for me to begin to recognize some gratitude. The mall as I've stated in earlier postings presses my internal rage button. Utter retail contempt simmers in me during the shopping 'off season' can you imagine what happens during the holiday cram session. Most years find me plowing through the crowds like a raging bull just trying the get my family safely though the mega halls in search of another $19.99 sweater that might be perfect for Uncle Rob.

Consequently "the thought that counts" means I didn't think but you count and so I braved my sanity for you. "I hope you like smoked cheese and this tiny plastic reindeer that dispenses candy reindeer poop."

Except for the kids. I agonise over their gifts. Their lists are always a mile long, sectioned into price point and categorized by wish level. My job is to scrutinize the list, select the items that meet the balance between their  heart's desire and our pocketbook and then pick the right colour. I always feel like we are going to disappoint them.

This is where our first night of mall braving holiday shopping begins; we take the kids out to do their shopping. We separate into shopping teams and get busy. The kids shop for one another as Michael and I gently guide with suggestions and monitor them for what piques their own interest. It's a covert parenting maneuver meant to narrow down the wish list and preview the excitement in their eye when they see that "one thing they have to have." It always works because the kids are always more focused on what they would like for themselves then what they want to get their "butt face" brother or sister. This is night one.

Night two finds Michael and I out with the crowds battling to complete Christmas. Sometimes we battle the crowds, sometimes one another but we get it done. This year I'm excited for night two. Perhaps the spirit of what I witnessed on night one has bolstered my resolve.

Our kids wanted to shop, they wanted to get the perfect thing. They had ideas, They had put thought into what they wanted to get one another. Last year we dragged them through the malls, this year we ran to keep up with them. So what's changed, what has happened in the space of a single year that has altered their desire to please one another? Why is it so important that they pick out just the right thing?"

I really think it is this experiment with gratitude. In the space of a year around our dinner table we have learned about one another. We have heard straight from the source what makes each other happy. We have listened to one another, shared in a tiny bit of each other's joy. We've come to appreciate one another for what makes each of us unique.

The greatest gift I will get this year I've already received, (in a shopping mall of all places!) Our family has the desire to make one another grateful.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

When There's a Question

Sometimes, due to irritability, lack of sleep or brain fog I answer my kids questions flakily. Most often I try my best to provide a thoughtful well composed answer, I really do. I'm the person they learn from after all and they deserve some quality answers.

Lately though, I've come to discover I've been doing a poor job with my answers.

How do I know?

On Tuesday E-man brought home a math test from school. It was all about rounding numbers up and down to the nearest 10. (He's in grade 3 math isn't very hard yet.)

Pay close attention to question 2 b)

Bless the teachers heart, she put a long red circle at the end of his sentence like he forgot to finish his answer.

Grateful for laughter and moments that remind us "kids learn what they live." I shall make a better effort with my answers.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

If You See Sid

Today a Grateful from KJ...

"I'm grateful I get to go to the hockey game tonight"

Hockey is pretty important in our house. We cheer for 2 teams; The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Kitchener Rangers. We spend a great deal of time cheering on Sid the Kid and his team via satellite and an equal amount of time at the auditorium cheering on our hometown heroes. KJ doesn't go very often she usually passes on the opportunity so that E-man can catch the game. Tonight she went with her best friend who also loves our local team and is also a Pittsburgh fanatic.

fast forward...

KJ arrives home from the game, screaming in that frantic way only a 13 year old girl can. "WE SAW SIDNEY CROSBY, HE WAS THERE, WE SAW HIM....I swear, I swear, I swear!!!!

It's highly unlikely I know but really exciting for her just the same. Not simply for possibly having been in the presence of our family favorite hockey great but the opportunity to hold that tidbit over her brother! He thought he was upset that he didn't get to go to the game. Wait until he wakes up this morning and KJ greets him with that!

Now she's grateful for celebrity sightings (real or imagined) and sibling rivalry!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Got Milk?

In Canada our milk comes in bags. I've heard from people in varying countries that this is incredibly strange. I understand that the proper way for milk to be presented is in a carton with a picture of a missing child or ex-husband on the side.

Canada has missing children and its fair share of ex-husbands who many would like to go missing and we have milk cartons. Generally the cartons are small and expensive. A 2 litre carton in fact will cost about the same a 4 litre bag of milk. We have a family of 5 which drinks 20 litres of milk a week; guess which presentation we buy.

The bag system is near perfect. A bag of milk contains 3 individual pouches of milk 1.3 litres each. Every home has a reusable pitcher specially designed to hold a pouch of milk for pouring. Rich houses have 2 pitchers; chocolate milk comes in bags too!

So, we bring the bag of milk home, put a pouch into a pitcher, snip a hole in the top corner and pour. Easy, cold, milk.
Canadian Milk

There are two fundamental problems with the bag system.

the first problem...

 Once you drink the 1.3 litres, the bag is empty. Like a baby it doesn't change itself.  Changing the bag is like electing someone to tackle the poopy diaper, nobody wants to do it. People in our house moan and groan. The rule is "if you empty the change the bag." That's the rule, so generally after I dribble the 5 ml graciously left in the bag for my morning coffee I change the bag.

the second problem...

You need to snip the corner of the bag to get the milk out. This problem isn't really about the milk it's more about scissors. We keep 6 pairs in the kitchen, we even had a special little milk bag snipping gadget for a while. Sometimes I use a steak knife in a moment of desperation. Sometimes we get this...

Evidently 6 pairs of scissors, the milk sniping gadget and the steak knife were all missing. I'm left staring at the puddle of milk surrounding my coffee cup wondering..."which of my adorable children resorted to using their teeth to open the bag?"

E-man assures me that KJ used a knife not her teeth. I'm grateful for that.

Perhaps I should borrow a milk carton idea from my international friends and paste a picture of scissors onto the side of my reusable pitcher.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Blogger's Block

I seem to be facing a bout of blogger's block. Not to be confused with writer's block... I have lots to say, I just can't find the time to do it. Every time I find 5 minutes something blocks my way to the computer!

Saturday would have been a fine day for some gratitude blogging but I was busy preparing for an evening to be grateful for; diner with friends. We really have to squeeze our schedules to jive an evening when we are all free and Saturday was the day. It's always a wonderful evening. Diner was at our house and we enjoyed some Mexican faire, a game of Mexican train and much laughter.

On Sunday I would have much preferred to spend some one on one time with The Space Between Raindrops but instead I spent my free time at the laundry mat. Yes the washer is still broken and its replacement has yet to make its way on to the going to buy list. Actually it's made it there it just keeps getting bumped in favor of more necessary items On the plus side I love to watch and analyze people; the laundry mat is one of the very best places to do that! and I enjoy spoiling Michael's crossword pursuits.

On Tuesday I was blocked by a parcel that arrived via post; a beautiful live wreath from a tiny town in Nova Scotia. I changed course immediately! I love this parcel. Each year my husband's amazing boss has a wreath sent to our home for the holidays. It has become a Christmas Tradition that we love. It arrives late November and to me it signifies the real start to the holiday season. My favorite part, besides adding the decorations and hanging it, is being greeted by it each time I come home. After the bustle of shopping and preparations it’s fresh scent immediately relaxes me and reminds me that Christmas is about the home not the mall.

Wednesdays are never a blogging day. There are hockey lessons, late diner and homework to contend with. Wednesday is also the one TV night we subscribe to in our house. So ya, no blogging for Wednesday however the relaxing was much needed. I'm still a little shocked by the winner of America's Next Top Model but whatever.

Modeling classes take over Thursday night. This week we didn't have that commitment, thanks to KJ's dramatic arts presentation on the weekend that got her grounded to infinity. So modeling didn't interfere with my writing; a pair of boots did. A pair of boots that we never found I might add. We just spent the night cruising every shoe store in the tri-cities. Have I mentioned that I abhor shopping?

T.G.I.F.! and Thank goodness I made it to the keyboard! It's been a great long week and the gratitude has been piling up. Here's the short list

  • Friends and people determined to be your friend despite what little you have to offer in return
  • French projects
  • Bosses
  • Christmas Wreaths
  • Suction cuppy things and a cranky old principal who shared her fail proof trick of ever so lightly greasing the suction cuppy thing with cooking oil. The suction cup sticks like cement and will hold an elephant.
  • Outdoor recess
  • School dances
  • City Transit
  • Noodles
  • Tiny Oranges
  • Family feuds and the healing they facilitate
  • Skating
  • Coat hangers
  • The price of a coffee
  • Winter Coats and the 50 % off sale that made buying one not so painful
With a whole lot of luck Perhaps I'll be back tomorrow; although I suspect some Christmas baking might be blocking my way.