Tag Archives: family tradition

Friday Favourites 37: Advent

Last day of November. Blink and you’ll miss the next month entirely, it can zip by that fast.

Advent has so many great possibilities, but this year, more than ever before, I am embracing the adage: I can’t do everything. Maybe you can. Maybe Martha Stewart can (millions of dollars and a household staff would help). But me, not so much.

We’re not skipping Christmas this year, we’re just, downsizing.

Quote

Anyone who believes that men are the equal of women has never seen a man trying to wrap a Christmas present.

~ Unknown (aka Common Sense)

Advent Tradition

It’s that special time of the year. The tradition we hold most dear. That’s right: Daily Chocolate.

BUT, I’ve got a thing about mainstream chocolate (which uses child slave labour to pick cocoa: mmmm… taste the suffering). So I’m not buying the standard ones anymore.

Enter despair and depression. I know you think I’m talking about the kids, but it’s Glen who nearly wept at the thought of doing without. On the other hand, I nearly wept at the prices of the fair trade calendars. So last year (when I was feeling more Griswald than Grinch) I put together our Fair Trade Advent Calender.

Christmas Countdown: Fair Trade Style

advent

Once it’s made, it’s not much work to tweak and reuse each year. This year the kids are helping put it together, including brainstorming simple family activities for each day: things we’re already doing or can do with little to no prep/hassle. I wonder if “Clean your room” counts as festive fun. I know it’d be fun for me.

Christmas Lights

This year we are NOT putting up our Christmas lights. After watching this, we may never again. I mean, how can you follow something like this?

At first I thought this song was saying something about “Gangland Style.” Some kind of hip hop nod to the mean streets. But then they did the dance at the Wiggles concert and it didn’t seem very gangster-ish after all. What language is that? What does it mean? When did I get so old that I am bothered not understanding the lyrics of a song?

Amphibian Video

C watches this and decides that she really MUST have a pet frog for Christmas. I watch and think, “ha ha ha… ew… NO.” Sorry kid.

Meanest. Mom. Ever.

So here’s us, celebrating Advent without a pet frog or Christmas lights or a daily dose of brown wax popped out of an overpackaged “calender”… and all the better for it.

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8 Years Old

Total honesty… not the cupcakes I made for B’s Dr. Suess birthday, yet. These are the ones I’m planning to make. I’m sure they’ll look JUST like this. Really!
from goodlifeeats.com

One more birthday letter for the year…

First up, my favourite Guest Poster: the Dad.

Dear B,

As you’ve been telling me for weeks, you’re 8! Today it’s finally true! And, since you’ve been telling me “Happy Birthday Daddy!” several times a day for the past year, today I’m thrilled to be able to say, “Happy Birthday B!”

It’s been another year of adventure for us with you, as we wait with expectation for your next surprise that will have us laughing loud and long. Often it involves layer upon layer of dress-up clothes. Lately it’s involved you shouting, “Blow me down, guys!” and when we do, you teeter and squeal and eventually fall down backwards. Of course, once you got one laugh, we were destined to play this game about 800 times. That’s okay though; it’s still just as funny as the first time.

This was the year your world got rocked. After almost 8 years as the unchallenged ‘baby’ of the family, there’s suddenly a new baby on the block – one who’s not afraid to stake his claim to everyone and everything in our house!

There was no way to fully prepare you for what was coming when we decided to add S to our family. As much as we talked about him and explained that a new brother was coming to live with you, we couldn’t really help you understand what was about to go down.

We worried about how you were going to react to this new little person competing for our time and attention – not to mention your toys! And, truth be told, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. You gave us a good run for our money for a little while there, finding ways to get our focus back on you, for better or worse.

But through it all, I was amazed at how you loved S. If you were upset about all the changes, you didn’t take it out on him. You’re not known for your patience, but I think you’ve been extraordinarily patient as you and your brother have adjusted to each other. You’ve shared – often willingly – and you’ve been a wonderful, loving big sister.

You’ve also grown up in ways that I didn’t foresee. Maybe Mommy and I being busier than normal has caused you to try things for yourself instead of waiting for us to help. I’m not sure, but I know that you have seemed much older and more independent these past few months. You’re talking in much longer sentences – it’s wonderful to be able to have real conversations with you!

Amidst all the changes, I hope you know that some things haven’t changed. My love for you hasn’t changed. My promise to be here whenever you need me hasn’t changed. The fact that I am so proud of you hasn’t changed. And your ability to make me laugh harder than I’ve ever laughed before hasn’t changed either. Thank you for bringing so much joy into my life. Happy birthday!!!

Love from,

Your Daddy

~~~~~~~~

Today you are 8-years-old.

For most people, 8 is when the cute starts to wear off. Not you. You remain as cute and sweet a little girl as ever. Except when you are cute and ornery. Even then, we’ll keep you.

This has been a big year for you. A lot of change and a lot of growing up have made for a bumpy ride at times, but we’re getting used to the drama. Our life is never boring, and usually, we have you to thank for that.

You are a born comic. There is not much you won’t do for a laugh. You’ll yell “Blow me down, guys!” until we’ve stopped what we are doing to puff in your direction, at which point you flail your arms, make worried “aaah, aaah, aaah” noises before collapsing in a heap on the ground. Your gales of laughter afterwards are contagious. Each night before dinner you lead us in the song “Open/Shut them” (presumably to ensure that our hands are properly folded for prayer time), then thank God for the food and for the cats who are partying. You’ve decided that your horse at therapeutic riding is named “Toot”; which is the word for ‘fart’ in our house and consequently, super-funny (he’s actually named “Dot,” but you will not be convinced otherwise).

You’ve always had a lot to say. From the beginning you taught me that everybody has stories to tell, whether they can express it or not. But this is the year we’ve begun to understand so much more of your stories. It is such a gift to hear your thoughts and ideas and strange pretends. You love to jump on the trampoline, then when “BubbleMan” comes, we are all required to lay down. Okay, so I still don’t understand a lot of what goes on in your world.

You are a true believer. When you are pretending, you do it with your whole heart and assume that it is just as real to the rest of us. Whether you are barking as a dog and eating your snack off the floor, or wearing 6 fluffy skirts, a neck tie, large floppy hat and mismatched shoes all afternoon (the costume of choice for a discerning “pwetty pwin-cess” we’re told), or even answering to a nickname (sweetheart, honey, silly goose…) – you will very seriously demand my attention, throw your hands out and trill “It’s me! B!”

The biggest change this year has brought is your sudden acquisition of a baby brother. Since he is not actually a baby, but the ripe old age of 2, you have actually acquired a partner in crime. Most of the time he is your little shadow, dogging your every step, getting into your stuff, and trying to hug you with his entire body. You have been mostly patient, if not a bit alarmed by his desire to wrestle. He’s a pretty good sport too, because you’re sister-ing style is somewhat tyrannical.

We call you the “Dastardly Duo,” and you have brought mischief to an unheard of level in our home. Just last week I noticed the bathroom door was closed with both of you in it (never a good sign). Worried that you had once again blockaded yourselves in the room (took 1/2 an hour to extricate you last time), I rushed in. Just in time. To see the sink overflowing onto the ground while you happily splashed one another. As I bundled up the sopping towels, having turned my back for no more than 2 minutes, I heard a piercing shriek. You had both climbed into the tub, fully clothed and turned the cold shower on. I was just relieved that nothing found its way into the toilet that day.

I’ve probably written more in my blog about your funny little quirks and extreme stubbornness, ahem… determination, than just about any subject. It can be a challenge, but you are certainly worth every long day, tearful break and prolonged battle of the wills. Because at the end of the day, you are a kind, gentle, funny, strong person. And the world is a better place because you are in it. And I am a better person because you are my girl.

I love you!

Happy Birthday 8-year-old!

Mom


Birthday Letters for The Boy

Birthday Cupcakes specially decorated by the Big Sisters

Once again our family tradition is going public. Each year both of us write a birthday letter to our children on their special day. The pitfalls of having two writers for parents…

One day we hope they will cherish the encouragement, advice and wacky memories we recount in these epistles. Or at the very least, their spouses/kids/biographers will appreciate the historical significance and goofy photos.

Today’s guest poster: Daddy!

Dear S,

Welcome to a new family tradition – the birthday letter! You’ll get one of these from both Mommy and I each year on your birthday, as we look back on the year you’ve just finished, look ahead to the year that’s just beginning, and celebrate the boy (and someday, man) that you are becoming.

It seems so strange to be writing a letter marking the end of your second year, when we haven’t even known each other for two months yet. But that’s okay – it only took me about two minutes to love you!

I thought I might never get the chance to write a letter to my son, since your big brothers never got to come home to be part of our family. After 12 years of being surrounded by girls, I wasn’t sure if I had any boy left in me! I feared I may have lost it under a pile of doll clothes, princess outfits and ballet slippers.

But it sure didn’t take you long to make me man up! You’re energetic and fearless in a way that the little girls never were. Before you even came home, we played our first hockey game together, and we haven’t stopped playing ever since. I can’t wait for the day when we can stretch out on the couch with some pizza and a couple of pops, game on the television, and tell the girls to pipe down so we can hear the play-by-play. Which reminds me, it’s about time I gave you your first Canucks sweater….

When we’re not playing hockey, we’re usually wrestling, as manly men like us are known to do. Sure, the girls used to wrestle me too, once upon a time, but not like this – with a fierce growl, and a look of destruction in your eye. This is new to me, and new to you too, since you’ve never had a daddy until now.

Maybe that’s why we hit it off so well, so fast. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when we met each other. Would you like me? Would I like you? Would you be afraid of me? Would you even look at me? Would you run from me? Would you annoy me? Would you spend all my money? (Well, yes, probably to that last one.)

After one ear-to-ear grin, I knew the answer. I had nothing to fear. Sure, it may take a while… or maybe not. As I put on my shoes to go home after that first meeting, you reached out and let me pick you up. I may never put you down… at least not for a while. Happy Birthday buddy! (Oh, and have I told you about our cake yet? It’s good.)

Love from,

Your Daddy

And now, a word from Mommy:

Dear S,

I can’t believe that it was only 2 months ago when I first laid eyes on you. You were so much smaller than I expected with big blue eyes and a shy grin that lit up the room. I loved you already. I would have even if you weren’t insanely cute, but it didn’t hurt. I had loved the idea of you for years. Before you were even born we were praying for you and imagining what you might be like. It was thrilling to finally meet you.

You did not have an easy start to life. You came into the world 3 months early. The file they gave us was 4 inches thick and by the time we read through it all, we realized that was only your medical records for the first month! It did not look good for you. But you were 3 lbs of fighter, possessing absolute determination. That hasn’t changed.

Your birth mom loved you and wanted you, but she wasn’t able to take care of you. When you were 2 months old your foster mom started visiting you in the hospital, after 2 more months she was finally able to bring you home with her. She is a very special lady: a nurse who takes care of babies with complex medical problems until they can go home with a forever family (birth or adoptive). You did not like to be touched or held at first, but she taught you how to be loved and to give love back. Soon you were a cuddly little charmer. That hasn’t changed either.

You have officially been part of our family for 1 month. Our lives have been turned upside down, but no one’s more than you. It hasn’t been an easy month, but it has been a very good one. Your Daddy and sisters have discovered that you are the best thing they never knew they always wanted. I wanted you all along, but even I am blown away by how important you are to us all. We are enjoying you so much. You are so much fun: so much mischief-making, full-tilt, maniacal laughing, enthusiastic fun. I’m so glad you are part of our family!

Today you are 2 years old!

Those 2 years have helped shape you into the amazing mini-person that you are now. The tough little trooper who overcomes the odds time and time again. The sweet, loving boy who sticks close to family and has bonded with us so quickly. The smiley monkey who keeps us laughing, and on our toes.
Even though it makes me sad that we have missed so much time with you, I wouldn’t change you for the world!

You have such a bright, happy future ahead of you and we will be there with you every step of the way. Always, always, always…

Happy Birthday!

Love Forever,

Mommy


10 Ways to Celebrate Leap Day

Sometimes it’s more of a curse than a blessing to have a child with a long memory. My, now 11 year old daughter clearly remembers celebrating Leap Day last time, when she was 7. Those were my homeschooling days when I spent a lot more time coming up with fun and “educational” things to do everyday.

Today, I have a sick child at home, 2 papers due for school (now that I’M the student) and a backlog of household chores that make me want to cry. But I’ve decided that they will still be there tomorrow.

February 29th only comes around once every 4 years. It hardly ever happens. I’m always complaining that I need more time, and here I have a whole extra day! Of course, it usually gets eaten up with the ordinary hustle and bustle. Just one more day in the rat race. What a shame! What a waste!

Why not take advantage of this bonus day to do something special?

Or, if you can’t think of something special, here are 10 silly ideas the girls and I came up with to celebrate Leap Day:

1. Play Leap Frog. The girls remember doing this last Leap Year with our friend Shannon, who was quite pregnant at the time. They were impressed!

2. Sing and Dance to “Jumping Songs”. If you have children, you can let them join in too!

    • 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
    • If You’re Happy and You Know it Leap Around
    • Jump Your Jigglies Out
    • Jump for my Love – Pointer Sisters
    • Jump Jump – Kriss Kross (remember them!)

3. Declare this to be EXTRA day – and give everyone extra. But only the good things: extra hugs, extra game, extra ice cream, extra Wii time…

4. Hide frog gummies all over the house. These are always fun, because you find candy in weird places for months to come.

5. Buy a box of EXTRA gum and hand it out to everyone you know.

6. Serve food that LEAPS: Kangaroo Steak, Bunny Tail and Jumping Beans for dinner. I suggest steak, mashed potatoes and green beans, but you can be as realistic as you like.

7. Watch Annie and try to work “Leaping Lizards” into every conversation.

8. Make a frog cake, then sing “Happy Leap Day to you!” Or you could be like me and buy an ice cream cake instead!

9. Write letters to yourself for next Leap Day, then put them in a time capsule to be opened in 2016. Futureme.org allows you  to e-mail letters and photos to yourself, and will send it to you at some future date. You can even include pictures. This is so much easier than trying to keep track of it myself!

You can even get an app for your iPhone or iPad – only $0.99!

10. Watch Larry’s Leap Year Lesson. I must admit that I floundered when they asked me why we have leap year, something to do with the earth’s rotation and how we calculate the calendar… Larry the Cucumber cleared it right up for me.

 I’m always looking for more ways to build memories and embarass my children. How do you celebrate Leap Year?

So here’s me, celebrating my made up holiday, because that’s how I want to use my extra time. I wonder what my kids will remember 4 years from now.


the CAKE

Every year, since time began, the women in my husband’s family have prepared a 4 layer, boiled icing, chocolate drizzled, MADE FROM SCRATCH German Chocolate Cake in celebration of each person’s birth. It is tradition.

In my family of origin that means something we sometimes do, if we feel like it. In in-law”ese” it means, a task or experience which is absolutely required and essential. If you don’t do it, you are out of the family. Or will wish you could be.

Shortly before I was married my Mom-in-law sat me down to have “the talk”. No, not sex; I wish it were that simple. This was about the legendary family cake and my new responsibilities as both a wife and, someday, mother.

You have to understand. I am not what you would call “kitchen friendly.” I think it’s a complex recipe if it calls for a can of soup AND shredded cheese. As for baking – someone like me is why God created Duncan Hines cake mixes (or why God created Duncan Hines in order that some day he would create cake mixes). Why, oh why, couldn’t the family tradition be DQ ice cream cake?

I can regale you with tales over the years of my many struggles with “the cake.” There have been tears, muttered profanity, botched attempts hastily thrown in the garbage, desperate calls to my mother (what does “fold in” mean?) and some years it just hasn’t worked out. But I keep trying. I even sift the flour for pete’s sake.

This year was no exception. A clue as to how it went… here is my husband’s facebook post:

The more my wife curses the cake she’s making for me, the more I appreciate her for making it. She’s very appreciated at this moment…

The cake layers were uneven and gaped. So I put a lot of icing on. The icing didn’t work quite right – perhaps cooled too long (since last year it wasn’t not long enough). It was super sticky, so I piled extra on. It slid down the cake, pooled on the edge of the plate and onto the counter. So, I put more on.

Every year without fail, this project causes me stress and frustration. So I’ve been asking myself – why do I do it?

Because, he makes me laugh…every day, at least once, but usually more.

Because, when we argue he talks in outline format (A…, point 1, 2…) and it’s strangely endearing.

Because, he is crazy about his girls and enjoys being their dad so much he wants another daughter.

Because, he is brilliant (don’t tell him I said this – but he’s way smarter than me).

Because, he is sexy and makes me feel that way too.

Because, he is the first person I want to tell when something good happens.

Because, his is the hug I need when things go bad.

Because, he really, really, really likes the cake.

Marriage is about loving that other person in the way they actually need and want – not the way that is convenient or makes sense to me. Now, I may still moan about this cake with my sister-in-law and I doubt it’ll ever be my favourite thing to do. In 364 days I will re-read this post and hopefully I will have a better attitude for that cake, because he really is worth it.

So here’s to Glen – a better man than I deserve. Happy Birthday G!


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