All of Us

All of Us

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Preholidays--Feeling Slighty Grinchy

Daryl's extended family celebrated Christmas together on the 17th, around 60 of us. The men (and any woman that is brave enough--I was the first maverick to break into the men's game but I stopped playing years ago!) play football in the snow, lefties against righties. His generation sports an unusual number of lefties, but almost all of their children are right handed, so most of the kids play on their fathers' team now, or else the lefties would seriously be outnumbered. They even have jerseys with left and right handprints on them and their birth order number (the oldest lefty is #1, etc.) One of Daryl's uncles dresses up as Santa and pays a brief visit to hand out candy canes and offer to to have kids on his lap (but since they are afraid none of them ever wants to get that close to him!) We all bring dishes to pass and have a sit down turkey dinner together. It is a lot of fun to see everyone and catch up with them.

The 18th was Daryl's immediate family Christmas celebration, and since he is one of 5 children, that is a good size gathering also. Too many presents, lots of good food, and a lot of fun was had by all. The only bummer was that the kids had school Monday morning, and they had a Christmas party hangover after 2 days of junk food and late nights.

The kids were in school through Thursday the 22nd, timing that I found unfortunate. I wanted to make cookies and go to performances or sledding or shopping, but they were busy. Of course we had lots of fluffy white snow that fell from Thanksgiving until a few days before Christmas when it warmed up and melted.

I have to admit that I was feeling rather Grinchlike that week. It just seemed there was too much to do and too little time to do it, and not enough time to do some of things I wanted to do. We did 2 name draws within our family. The first was a Secret Santa draw that included the parents but not the 2 youngest children where you were supposed to do something nice every day for the person whose name you drew. The second name draw was for a gift exchange among the kids, so that did not include the parents but did include the little ones, and I just shopped for the names they drew. These are both nice ideas in theory, but I think all of us found it difficult to actually do the Secret Santa effectively until those last few days when we had more free time. It is especially hard for the mom, who does so much for everyone, to do more for someone and have it be really noticeable! We also learned that 5 years old is too young to be a Secret Santa, as T. didn't really do anything for her person. The gift giving name draw went well, except again we were pressed for time, and couldn't all go out together, since it was a secret whose name you drew, so we had to go on multiple trips with 2 kids at a time. It was nice to see them thinking about what someone else might like and spending their own money on it. There was one aborted trip to a department store where the line was literally about 75 people long and I was tired and hungry, bottoming out from low blood sugar and frustration.

I also felt like a lot of things sound nicer than they are. For instance, our quaint village does a Victorian Christmas downtown on 2 different Saturdays featuring Santa sitting (in a beautiful old-fashioned Father Christmas costume) in a gazebo in the center of the town park, and it is free to visit him and they take your picture for free. There are several small reindeer in a pen to pet, free hot cocoa and horse drawn sleigh rides (not free). All the merchants are having sales. In reality, my children who are young enough to still believe in Santa are too terrified to sit on his lap, and don't understand why he isn't dressed in his traditional red suit and hat. The line is long and they get cold, and they spill hot cocoa all over their jackets.

My final Grinchy complaint is about all of the extra things that teachers, music instructors, religious education teachers, etc. come up with to do or bring right before the holidays. Case in point: J.'s teacher decided that rather than have a Christmas party, her class would have a Latin American feast. Each child was supposed to bring in a homemade Latin American dish on Dec. 22. When J. had picked her recipe several days prior, I glanced at it, determined that none of the ingredients were impossible to find, and said ok. She planned to make an Orange Caramel Fool. Of course, that afternoon, when I visited the grocery store, my head was full of my own holiday baking needs, and I totally forgot to buy what she needed. Unbeknownst to me, Daryl had to work very late that night so was unavailable to help. When I went out to take D. to religious ed, I left J. in charge and ran in the store to get the 3 items she needed for her dish. J. likes to call me very frequently when I'm gone, and so after I'd been gone about 5 minutes, she picked up the phone to call me, and discovered that another extension was off the hook somewhere in the house so she couldn't call out. She got her siblings to help her look upstairs after failing to find the phone downstairs. While upstairs, they thought they heard the door slam. Thinking it was me, they called my name but I didn't answer (presumably they imagined the noise or the wind slammed the storm door). Now they were really nervous and began running around looking for the phone. While running and carrying baby A., J. went around a corner too fast and A. leaned out and smacked her head on the wall. When I returned 15 minutes later, the kids were all frantic, the baby had a big goose egg on her forehead, and the dog had eaten some of the pizza I'd ordered while the kids were running around upstairs. The phone was still missing. After reassuring them and determining that A. didn't have a concussion, I went upstairs looking for the phone. I had the kids listen for my voice on the extension so I'd know when I got close. It was shoved in I.'s snow boot, presumably by A., who loves to play with the phone. I found the upstairs rec room floor was covered with white couch stuffing fluff, as apparently K. had pulled it out of a hole in the cushion earlier while D. was supposedly in charge.

Now we began making the Fool, while simultaneously cleaning the kitchen, getting hyper kids ready for bed and making sure they had whatever items they needed packed for their school parties the next day. We completed the fool around 11pm! At that point, since I was now muttering darkly about the teacher that assigned this project, J. volunteered that her teacher, who has children, but they are grown, had told the class, "If your parents are upset about having to do one more thing right before the holidays, it's ok if you buy something and bring it." Not only was this information imparted to me much too late by a daughter who would not have wanted to bring a store bought dish (she is her mother's daughter in this way, I must confess), the local stores don't usually have a supply of ready to eat Latin American dishes on their shelves. The Fool, which was essentially a rich vanilla pudding layered with orange caramel sauce, similar to flan, was delicious. Sadly, the parents who cleaned up after the feast at school threw out the leftovers!! The Latin American feast would have been a great idea to ease the winter doldrums during January (when they are actually studying Latin America).

On Friday we finished our shopping and the kids made shaped sugar cookies, using a recipe from Anne at Cooking With Anne and they tasted as pretty as they looked!

Then we went out to dinner as a family to Zingerman's Roadhouse, which is a nice restaurant, a step higher than we normally take the kids to. I had the idea that because we are a large group, we might be able to get a table at one of the nice restaurants in the area that do not take reservations and normally have a lengthy wait, but will take a reservation for a large group. This was a good idea, or would have been if I'd had it sooner than Friday afternoon. By then everywhere I called was booked until after 8pm. Although we often eat late at home, we figured beginning dining out at that hour with small children was asking for trouble. So we went out driving around, stopping first at a restaurant that seemed unable to tell us over the phone what their availability was or would be in the next 15 minutes. Of course they had a long wait when we arrived. We hadn't called Zingerman's Roadhouse, but they were next door to the first restaurant, so we thought it wouldn't be too big of a waste of time to ask there. At first the hostess told us it would be more than an hour, but when I modified my description of our group from 9 people to 8 plus a highchair, she asked me to wait a few minutes while she checked, but she thought she could seat us right away. She was able to, and we were thrilled. The kids behaved really well and we had a terrific experience at a busy restaurant on a very busy night for dining out. The only glitch was that K. decided about 3/4 of the way through the meal to get out of his chair and he wouldn't sit back down. He stayed right next to the table, so it wasn't a huge problem. It wasn't until we were on our way out of the restaurant that he announced, "I have a poop!" I was glad he hadn't announced that loudly in the crowded dining room, and understood why he refused to sit down.

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SE Michigan, United States
Mother to 10 fabulous kids, ages 4 to 21 years! Married for 26 years to my best friend.

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