Category Archives: Traditions

Bump Update: 33 Weeks

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Weeks ago it was as if someone pushed a button and Autumn just was.  There was that crispness to the air and the need to start to layer after a summer where we got to wear SHORTS and feel good about it (pretty significant for England).

We’ve got so much to look forward to in autumn.  The food, Bonfire Night (that is an ACTUAL thing),  traditional carnival in the Southwest, our annual Thanksgiving, celebrating six years of marriage, and of course, the arrival of this little one.

I feel my natural instincts kicking in that delivery isn’t too terribly far away.  Today I spent hours de-cluttering and reorganizing our bedroom – and it.was.glorious.   After doing my Big Night In post, I have this CRAZY desire to make S’more cookies.  I want to paint.  I want to do furniture renovations.   My body is telling me to get this house ready and I’m glad I have (hopefully!) a few more weeks to do it.

And to spend time with this little monster once I begin my maternity leave.

Here’s to autumn!

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Easter issues

Um….I think I may have gone a little overboard.

I blame it on a guilty conscience from St. Nick’s.  I took that guilt that only a Mommy can feel – that feeling of wishing I’d done more- and I hot glued the crap out of it until it was buried under a pile of scalding adhesive.

I present with you with The Duchess’s Easter basket.  

Voilà!  C’est magnifique, non?

To see where I got the inspiration and to be really impressed, hop over to Mabel's Log. http://bit.ly/Ho1ewD

And look at the hand-decorated eggs.  I won’t blame you if you gaze at them for hours in wonderment.  Clearly, American egg dying kits stifled my creativity when I was growing up.  I feel that my egg-decorating gift has finally come to fruition.

Don’t panic.  I don’t expect you to do an Easter basket for your child (unless you’re American – what are you doing with your life?!). I know it’s not really a British thing to do.  I hear you saying it. Chocolate eggs are better, anyway.  You’re right.  And actually, we all know that The Duchess will be able to do absolutely nothing with those  faultless masterpieces that I call Easter eggs.  These are my issues – my glorious, perfectly-painted, egg related issues.

The Native has already said that every year he is going to up the ante and set me a challenge.  Next year he has commissioned me to create a giraffe.

Mission accepted, brutha.  Mission eeeeegg-cepted.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Christmas Tradition

It has come and gone and I can genuinely say that at one point I felt so overwhelmed with happiness there may have been tear shed-dage.  I know…What has motherhood done to me?

Christmas, for me, always brings up a lot of cultural conversations.  Each year, I’ll be sitting around a table around mid-December when someone will ask, “Isn’t Christmas Eve when Americans celebrate?”  To be honest, I don’t really know.  Perhaps it seems a bit odd that I’m dubious about this tradition in the good old US of A, but I can only really say what I know from experience.  In my case, this stereotype is pretty accurate.

Christmas Eve 1980-something: My Dad would be in the middle of trying to get us to shake our Christmas presents when my Mom would order us into our Christmas dresses around 3-4pm.  With slow-cooked baked beans in tow, we would pile into the mini-van and make a short trip to an extended family member’s house to celebrate with aunts, uncles, and cousins.  And with 25-ish cousins on my Mom’s side alone, these were not small occasions.  After celebrating with my Mom’s small army family, we’d then head to my Dad’s side, where my grandma would literally pinch our cheeks, before we went home around 10-11pm (or at least it felt that late, as a kid) and crashed for the evening.  End scene. 

Two words. Lite. Brite. photo via: 8tracks.com

You Brits could learn something from this, since I’m pretty sure we always came home exhausted.  Having problems getting your kid to sleep because he’s too amped up about Father Christmas?   Visit your families on Christmas Eve for hours.  Make them run military drills with their cousins.  “Clean up the wrapping paper!  Move!  Move!  Move!”  Have sausage roll eating competitions with Uncle Bob.  Full bellies equal tired eyes or it could equal the wonderful gift of cleaning vomit out of a mini-van into the early hours of Christmas morning.  But that’s unlikely – I really think you’ll thank me in the years to come.

Since moving to the UK, Christmas Eve is somewhat of a nothing day, characterized by those state-the-obvious facebookers putting up statues that say something like, “OMG– It’s Christmas Eve!”  I spent the Eve running around town picking up last bits of pieces for our Christmas Day lunch, cooking and baking, and wrapping presents.  And we spent the evening lounging around with friends.  There was no familial merriment.  It was a day to get ready for THE day.

Maybe you’re asking what the Brits do on Christmas Day, then.  Here is our family’s break-down:

  •  9am – Up prepping the Christmas Ham.  (Well, more like 9.20am.  What? I’m not good with alarms.)
  • 11am – Christmas Day Church Service where the kids are always asked to show what presents they’ve received.  The poor little chap behind us was whimpering for the last 10 minutes of the service.  And we found out that the earliest risers were at 3.30am.  Seriously, people?   I’d have a jolly old assault charge on my record against Old St. Nick if The Duchess ever tried to pull that.
  • 12pm – Back home to finish preparations for lunch.  That ham needed a lot of TLC.  Between the number of times I tenderly cared for it by turning it and poured the resting juices over it, you’d think it had paid for some kind of Christmas Ham Spa Day.
  • 1.15pm – The Duchess is passed out in the front room (that’s my girl!) and we go in to wake her so we can open presents.
  • 2pm – Finally, eating our buffet style family lunch.
  • 3pm – Watch the Queen’s Christmas Day Speech Skype with family in America.
  • 4pm – Head to in-laws for present opening and Christmas dinner.  We had goose for the second year running.  How English!
  • 8.30pm –The Duchess sleeps for the 10 minute car journey, wakes up and then thinks it’s time to play.  I honestly had no idea that at 6 months old a person could get that hyper.  I’m telling you people, that child was wound up.
  • 10.15pm –She finally settles down and The Native and I watch a traditional Christmas Day film.  Super 8, in this case.  Two very enthusiastic thumbs up.

    Happy Christmas, Liz! photo via: guardian.co.uk

    It was a day sprinkled with new traditions that will make up our life as a family.  Yesterday was the Christmas that will define us as a family in the years to come.  It will be the Christmas that The Duchess will reminisce about when she grows up.

    How do you celebrate?

Christmas Edition – Carols

Ameri-sing: O Little Town of Bethlehem

Brit-sing: O Little Town of Bethlehem

Yesterday we were hoping to go to a local Carols by Candlelight service like we do each year, but The Native is still not 100% and so it will instead be a delayed tradition.  There is something about belting out your favourite Christmas carol while candles flicker all around you that is heart-warming…until you realize you are singing the wrong tune, then it is face-warming.

 

 

Which do you prefer? 

The Christmas Post I’m Scared to Write

Maybe when you’re about to say something that is potentially controversial the best thing to do is just to rip it off like a Band-aid.  So here it is:

We don’t plan to do the whole Father Christmas thing with The Duchess.

(Cowers in corner and covers eyes)  Is anyone screaming at their computer yet?

Santa can hear your disapproving screams from the North Pole. Photo via takepart.com

Here’s the thing, we don’t think badly about the people who spark the imagination of a child by telling them about Santa and how his sleigh is pulled by reindeer or how he comes down the chimney, or through the mail slot, or if you have neither – breaks into your house through the window like a criminal of the night.  We know that there is fun and excitement in that element of Christmas.   I’m not suggesting that other people should adopt our position, I only want to explain why we think what we think.  So, before The Native and I are accused of being killjoys, hear me out:

In it together: I wouldn’t take this approach if we didn’t both feel this way.  I believed in Santa Claus until around the age of five, maybe six, but The Native never believed and the thing is guys, he is not scarred for life, even if he cries himself to sleep every night about his lost childhood.  But seriously, he doesn’t resent never believing.  Plus, it’s pretty hard to believe as a young boy when your own dad is Father Christmas at your toddlers’ group (who must have been the skinniest Father Christmas ever.  I am told it was his real beard that was the important casting factor).

Emphasis: That’s not why Father Christmas wasn’t a fixture in his home, as far as he remembers his parents simply never put an emphasis on believing in him.  And so The Native and I will not villainize Santa.  We will not hand The Duchess a Christmas present and say, “Now remember, sweetie, Father Christmas is a fraudulent home invader and this present is from your superior Mummy and Daddy,” we just won’t make any big fuss about him.

Since she will know that Mummy and Daddy buy her the gifts we will, of course, swear her to secrecy because for those children who believe, it isn’t fair for her to ruin this time for them for the sake of being a know-it-all.  And I trust that she’ll be able to do this.  When I was growing up there was always that kid who still believed at 11….12…..17.  The other kids would just listen, as they looked at each other with knowing eyes and a slight nod, when the believing child would speak dreamily about what Santa might bring them.  It’s kid code; you don’t tell.

Meaning:  I think the biggest thing I question is whether Christmas will be as magical to her if we choose not to tell her that Father Christmas is real.  I love this time of year.  It does feel special and I want her to feel that it’s special, too.  But when questions come about presents and why we do what we do, what will we say?  Instead of saying that there is a rotund stranger dressed in red that she’s never met who decides if she deserves the presents based on whether she’s been good or bad this year, I would rather tell her that we buy her presents because no matter what she’s done, no matter what has taken place, she is ours and we love her.  We buy presents because as a family we want to celebrate an incredible event in history.  Surely, it is just as magical to know these things and that she is loved beyond measure by those who see her at her very best and at her very worst.

Jolly Old St Nicholas

Happy St Nicholas Day (ahem, yesterday)!   I feel behind on everything at the moment.  Christmas shopping, Christmas cards, housework, especially laundry, expressing…yes expressing milk.  I am even behind on that.  The explanation of why I’m so behind will perhaps be explained in the days to come.  The abbreviated version is that I’m helping out at work for a couple of days over the course of three weeks while they are short-staffed.  After a TERRIBLE night on Sunday, my first day was Monday.  I came home, felt like death, and pretty much didn’t get out of my pyjamas all day on Tuesday.  Can you die from tiredness?  And I don’t mean the residual effects of tiredness, I just mean dying from being tired because I’m pretty sure you can.

So of course, when I walked through the door on Monday night and The Native apologetically said, “I have to run out and sort your stocking,” worried that he had left to the last minute what I had sorted weeks ago, I had to admit that I had done zilch-o for his stocking.  Nothing.  Nada.  In my death-like tired state, I then sheepishly had to ask him if he would sort his stocking out, too.  There’s the spirit of the holiday season….Honey, go out and do my Christmas shopping for you.

 Some of my British readers may be asking why we do stockings on the 6th December.  Well, may I humbly ask….why don’t you?!   No, I kid.  I do get why you do stockings on Christmas, but I grew up in a German settlement in the Midwest, was of German descent myself and so my family always celebrated St. Nicholas Day on the 6th of December like they would in Germany.  It wasn’t until university that I realized that, no, not everyone is of German descent, and no, not everyone celebrates St. Nick’s.  Imagine my horror.  But The Native was all about my family’s holiday tradition and so once we were married, we adopted it as a couple.

And now we have brought The Duchess into that tradition, except that on Monday night the only thing I had bought for her stocking was a touch-and-feel book called That’s Not My Reindeer.  I sent The Native to Asda (thank the good Lord it wasn’t me) with a short list of less than mediocre things to throw in her stocking.  And yes, I get that she’ll never remember this St. Nick’s, but I felt pretty rubbish about the whole thing, because as a new mom, I want to make everything special for her because she is so special to me.

A book about rejected reindeer

I wanted to get her an especially handmade stocking that had her name carefully embroidered or stitched on the fold.  I wanted to carefully hand select every little present and parcel that this stocking held.  I wanted them to be hanging beautifully above our Victorian fireplace.  And instead it was a stocking I rushed to buy, with the majority of presents quickly thrown together and a stocking placed under our tree because we couldn’t find anything sensible with which to hang it.

We opened our stockings before dinner on Tuesday and it all felt very anticlimactic.  I debated on whether even to get the camera out and take pictures, but in the end thought, “I need to get something right!”

What I loved is that at 6 months old, our Duchess noticed that stocking under the tree, pulled it out and, once The Native showed her there were things inside, she took interest.  The first thing she pulled out was That’s Not My Reindeer.  Then, it happened.  She took it and smiled and was desperate to look at every part of it.  She sat and read it with her Daddy 4 times, as she patted each page.  She couldn’t get enough.  As I watched her, I felt an overwhelming sense of happiness and all of the sudden I felt like I hadn’t done such a bad job after all.   I love that this kid can make me feel like that.

Happy belated St Nicholas Day, one and all!