Tag Archives: Family

It’s going to be a long season

Last night, just before he headed upstairs to bed, The Artist came to me with a confession that he’d had, what he called, a “crying fit” earlier in the evening.  He told me he’d seen a Hallmark commercial for something – maybe a talking card or a picture frame – “…and these two little girls heard their grandma’s voice, and that’s totally something nana would have done and I REALLY MISS HER!” and then – much sobbing.

Dudes.  How the hell am I going to get through this season when it’s only the 10th of November, and every other commercial is already about baking cookies with grandma or throwing the door open to eager grandchildren and enveloping them in the warmth of your loving grandmotherly arms?  Fuck.

The poor kid.  So we had a little cry together and then he and his brother went upstairs and got ready for bed.  While they were gone, The Genealogist told me he’d come downstairs during the earlier “crying fit” and The Musician was trying to comfort him. 

I love that all three of my boys are so sensitive, that they get emotional and they comfort each other without embarrassment – at home and in public.  I love it so much, but I also know what it’s like to go through life as the kid/teen/adult who cries at everything from long distance commercials to those World Vision infomercials with the sad children of third world countries, to even really cute kitties doing really cute things or a song that just tugs at the heartstrings.  At times?  It sucks to not be able to keep it together, to lose your shit on a regular basis when your emotions get the better of you.  It can really suck, and the sad thing is it can suck even worse for boys and men who are supposed to be immune to emotions or something.  And that in itself is a whole other level of suckage, hooray patriarchy!  But it’s who I am, it’s who they are.  And I wouldn’t change a thing about us. 

Still, it’s going to be a long holiday season.

Melancholy turkey

Thanksgiving weekend is upon us.  I know, I go through this every year for my US-based blogfriends, apologizing for having Thanksgiving in October.  It’s what we do, as Canadians. 

The actual holiday is Monday – day off work, school, banks and beer stores closed, etc., but most people I know – my family included – have their big dinner on Sunday.  I guess it gives you that extra 24 hours to digest the 3 pumpkin pies and 20 kilos of mashed potatoes we all seem to ingest, as well as a bit of extra time to try to remain upright for an hour or so at a stretch.  Seriously, it’s all about gorging isn’t it?  That’s what we have to be thankful for!  

Ok, but seriously, it’s a great holiday and for me it kind of signifies the true beginning of the autumn season.  By now the leaves are close to their colourful best, the air is cool in the mornings, but warming up by afternoon, followed by a nice crisp evening.  The forecast from today onwards is sun and warm temperatures and a whole lotta awesomeness, so there’s that to be thankful for too!

This also marks another “first” in this year of “firsts” that began when my mum died in May.  First Thanksgiving weekend without her.  By now, if she were alive, I would have been over there helping her do the shopping, picking up the turkey, planning the menu, helping her decide what little favours she’d put at everyone’s place.  We’d be laughing about how much wine we needed to buy (a lot) and how much beer my one cousin would bring (4 cans, which he would drink, and take the empties with him) and the godawful wine that my other cousins would bring (Maria Christina) and how maybe we should open that first and make them drink it, and save the good stuff for ourselves.  She’d have the menu written out and posted on the range with a magnet so she could keep track of anything.  She’d probably have made cabbage rolls by now – pork and beef for the most part, but a nice sized casserole dish of tvp ones just for me.  She’d be agonizing over how to arrange the tables and who should sit where.  She would be cleaning and cooking sometimes simultaneously, and if she was exhausted by the time the guests started to arrive, she’d never show it.  Every year she’d say “Christ, never again” and yet by January, she’d be planning Easter dinner – for 18 or 20  – again.

This Sunday, The Genealogist, The Musician, The Artist and I will be driving to The Genealogist’s parents’ place for a quiet dinner, just the six of us.  I am bringing a salad which requires very little preparation.  And the only conversations with my mum will be the ones in my memory, and in my imagination.  It will be a very different occasion, that’s for sure.  But I am grateful we’ve been invited, and we’ll have a lovely time, I’m sure.

As much as the Thanksgiving dinners my mum hosted were crazy-making ones, I know I’m going to miss them.  I already do.  I think that’s the best part about the family holiday get-togethers.  My family is bananas.  Yours probably is too.  We had lots of dinners and lots of laughs.  My mum kept it going, even after my dad died.  She was the glue that kept us all together, and now that she’s gone, well, you can see the cracks. 

I always said that after she was gone there was no way in hell I’d ever host those enormous family dinners.  No way.  And certainly this year I’m not.  It’s too soon.  But next year, perhaps?  Who knows.  It is family, after all. 

And it’s what I’m thankful for.

On bringing back a classic

Well, if that was Christmas, I guess we’ve had it.  Oh, people.  That was the fastest five days of my life, without a doubt.  Birthday, Christmas, Boxing Day and then The Genealogist’s family dinner at our house the next day, followed by yours truly spending an entire day in pyjamas and sitting on my ass.  It felt good, let me tell you.  As much as I love to host gatherings and as much as I love to cook and as much as I enjoy my friends and family, sometimes you just need a day to sit on your ass.  And that day, for me, was Monday. 

But I hope you all had a lovely holiday, whatever you celebrate.  We certainly did, and the boys were definitely excited by the Wii purchased for them, as well as the many, many other gifts they received over the course of several days.  But, as The Artist maintains: “it’s not just the presents, it’s about the family, and the food and….well, and the presents too, but it’s not just about that…”  He is wise. 

So as mentioned above, we did a metric tonne of entertaining this season, which required a metric tonne and a half of food, all of which was prepared by me, for the most part.  Which is cool, because I enjoy it, but holy sweet hell it’s a lot of work.  First we had The Musician’s birthday bash, which was really a snacky-type meal – shrimp ring, cheese plate, veggies, etc.  Then it was Christmas dinner, with turkey and all the rest – vegetables, stuffing, potatoes, the works.  Followed by Boxing Day (which, ok I didn’t actually host, but I did help out at my mum’s) followed by The Genealogist’s Family Kinfestation of Aught Nine which required the majority of the food, which I mostly prepared on the aforementioned Boxing Day, and which consisted of chili, turkey soup, turkey pot pie, and a wide variety of snacks and appetizers, requiring the use of every single dish, plate and piece of cutlery in our house.  We hosted 19 people on that day, can I get a witness? 

So everything on every occasion was enjoyed and well received, which is truly the benefit of hosting events like this.  If people are getting together over food that is tasty and nourishing and enjoyable, well then, I have done my job.  And I love to see family and friends coming together over food and drink, having a good time, catching up and reminiscing, and I often will take a good step back from the festivities to just watch and observe and notice how comfortable everyone feels.  It’s a happy thing for sure.  So while I was proud of the fact that we’d been able to create such an enjoyable time for so many people (particularly on the day of The Genealogist’s family visit, because we even had surprise guests from across the country and the US, so it was truly a reunion) I was most proud of my relish trays.

You heard me.  I, the Urban Info Girl, have hereby resolved to bring back one of the classics of the gastronomical experience – the relish tray.  Now, hear me out.  I have fond, fond memories of the relish trays of my youth.  My mother was a staunch supporter of the relish tray, and owned several of those excellent little divided crystal dishes.  And for dinner parties and special occasions, the relish tray was where it’s at.  Always.  Big fat black olives, radishes, pickled onions and sometimes beets, gherkins or sweet mixed pickles, sliced dills, celery sticks and sometimes roasted peppers or even chunks of cheese.  Not a salad to be seen, usually, just the elegance of the relish tray – often chilled for a couple of hours before being served – and gorgeously, deliciously colourful. 

I own several relish trays.  I have about 5 right now, and I used two on Sunday for our big get-together.  And you know what?  People noticed.  They made comments about how they hadn’t seen a relish tray done up for ages; my sister-in-law told me how envious she is of my dishes, how she tried to register for one when she got married but the registry didn’t know what she was talking about.  Sad, isn’t it?  That the ever-wonderful relish tray has been long neglected.  Crystal and Depression glass, Fiesta ware and bone china beauties all gathering dust in the backs of cabinets!  Or worse, being given away, treated as fossils, something you inherit from grandma, and can see no use for.

So, blogfriends.  Who’s with me?  Who will join me in the fight to re-establish the relish tray as the height of sophistication?  Who will dust off their crystal pickle dishes and create masterpieces of the pre-dining experience?  Who will shun the salad at the dinner party in favour of artfully arranged vegetables and pickled items?  Who among you is brave enough to throw caution to the wind and embrace the relish tray?

Well, okay.  Can you at least not laugh when I put one out at my next gathering?  Much appreciated. 

And, if anyone has any relish tray-related memories, I would love to hear them.  Happy New Year, blogfriends!

Merry, Merry, why ya buggin’?*

I can’t help it.  It’s what I hear when someone says “Merry Merry” as in Christmas.  Which is 2 days away, are y’all aware?  Help me Run DMC!

But!  Before that, The Musician turns 12!  On the 24th!  Christmas freaking Eve, people.  Yes, for unto us a child was born, lo these many years ago, and I swear on a stack of whatever you got, I get really of tired of people who have to get all up in my business about this.  It is pretty much impossible to have the conversation of “when is your son’s birthday” and say “December 24th” and have them not offer some sort of comment, and to that end I have determined that there are two types of people in this world – those who comment positively on a Christmas Eve bday, and those who do the exact opposite like the a-holes they are.

Type #1: “What, you had a baby on Christmas Eve?  How could you do that to him?  The poor kid, he must feel SO ripped off!  You wait ’til he’s older when he understands what’s going on, he’s going to HATE you!  That really sucks, poor guy, I bet you just wrap up stuff for him and say it’s for his birthday AND Christmas, right?  So not fair, I bet he hates it.”

That right there is a whole lotta rage directed at me – and indirectly at The Genealogist, of course, who was also involved.  But really?  I no longer have any time for these people.  When I was pregnant and due dangerously close to this date, people gave me grief.  And then once he was born, people continued with the grief and I have over the past several years told this type of birthday joy-killer to suck it.  Actually, my typical response is to say “we think it’s a really special day to be born” and leave it at that, because Type #1 people are generally too stupid to get it.  And, if I actually ever sent Christmas cards?  They would be off the list so fast.

Type #2 is much nicer.  They will still feel the need to comment, but totally go in for the “Wow, that’s awesome, what an exciting time it must have been for you when he was born, and how special it must be to have a birthday at Christmas, etc.”  So much love for these people.  Mainly because these are genuinely nice and smart and lovely people to begin with, but I have also noticed that these lovely people NEVER mention the line about the gifts.  Never.  They don’t assume the kid gets “ripped off” in the gift department.  Why?  Because for Type #2 it’s not all about the stuff.  Which I love so, so much. 

In truth, it is a bit challenging having a December 24th birthday, but for the past 12 years, we have managed, and The Musician, partly because he’s just so damned awesome, really loves his birthday.  From the time he gets up in the morning until it gets dark, it is his birthday.  Only when the sun goes down do we get in the Christmas Eve zone, and that has worked well for us.  And, in some ways, it helps with the “day before Christmas” crazy that can happen with kids.  With the birthday to focus on for the majority of the day, the whole “Santa’s coming tonight” thing tends to take a back seat ever so slightly, leading to calmer times for all.

When I was pregnant, I remember thinking “oh please don’t let me have this baby on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, I don’t want to be in hospital over Christmas!”  And then, early in the morning of the 24th I went into labour and thought “Oh fuck”.  But then, about 10 hours later he was born, and he was so perfect and it didn’t matter what the date was, or that I missed out on Christmas dinner and Boxing Day festivities or anything else.  We had our very first baby, and that was way more important than any of those other events could ever be. 

So as you enjoy the Christmas holiday season, please raise a toast to all the babies born around Christmas time, and send happy thoughts their way, so that they can one day live in a world where jerks don’t ruin their birthdays for them by explaining to them how sucky it is to be born at this time of the year.

Peace, joy and love to all.  And a very happy 12th birthday to The Musician, the greatest 12-year old in the history of 12-year olds, who has done such great things already, and will continue to do great things.  Because you know that other guy whose birth we celebrate tomorrow?  He didn’t start doing much until he was at least twice that age.  I’m just saying.

*Totally aware it’s actually “Mary, Mary”.  Just trying to be funny and festive, yo.

And this says what about me?

When I was growing up, my parents had this Boxing Day tradition where they would do a big open house for friends and family.  There would be food and drink and Christmas dinner leftovers – just a big ol’ party.  You’re probably thinking “who in their right mind has a gigantic party the day AFTER Christmas, that is just messed up.”  And you’d be right, of course.  It’s crazy.  But it’s a tradition that dates back to the early 70s when my grandma died just before Christmas, and the visitation and all that was on Boxing Day, and my parents lived closest to the funeral home, and had everyone back between the afternoon and evening visitation times – and thus, a tradition was born. 

We lived in a little postwar bungalow and we would sometimes have 60-70 people in the house on that day.  I remember having to go outside frequently to get away from the heat and the cigarette smoke and the crazy relatives.  That was about the only place that didn’t have people in it from noon until whenever all the food was gone or whatever. 

This was mostly my dad’s family – he was one of 10 kids, whereas my mother has only one brother who is divorced and has no kids, so it was my dad’s family that descended upon our place.  And what a madcap cast of characters they were.  One of my dads old aunts was particularly bizarre.  There were lots of rumours about Aunt Nikki (that wasn’t her name, that was just what they called her.  I still don’t know why or even what her real name was) that she’d gone off the deep end after marrying a Protestant (the horror) and felt to make amends or whatever, that she needed to give as much as possible to the church – this often included the family’s furniture, money – a lot of money –  and food for her kids – which the church, rather nicely, would always return to the family posthaste.  She also spent a lot of time at mass, and basically just lost touch with reality and in a lot of ways it was really quite sad.  But she never missed Boxing Day at our house!  She would arrive early – usually by taxi – and stay late – usually by hopping into the car of someone who was leaving – and they’d be compelled to give her a lift home.  Aunt Nikki had a huge purse that she always carried around and it held some of the most amazing things you’d ever want to see – missals, squashed After Eights, photos of children (her grandchildren?  Maybe, maybe not) silverware (we were usually missing a fork or two after Boxing Day festivities) newspaper clippings and obituaries, and many other odd things.  She was wild and hilarious in so many ways, and the contents of the purse was just the icing on the cake, really.

Today I ran some errands at lunch.  I hit the library, the drugstore and the Lebanese grocery store.  Being the environmentally conscious UIG I am, I refused all offers of plastic bags, and instead chose to carry my purchases in… my huge, giant purse.  Let’s take a look, shall we?  Right now, I am carrying a tube of Canesten, a new eye liner brush, a book about knitting, and a package of whole wheat pita.  And if I stopped in to visit a friend after work and and needed to  rummage through the contents to find a picture of my kid to show them? 

Batshit old lady?  I might just have to rethink Aunt Nikki.