Thursday, November 29, 2012

so many santas

Sunday evening we opened the seven or eight tubs of Christmas decorations. Some Chinese friends gave us these Santa costumes in Guangzhou, about eight years ago, but I think this is the first year the kids have discovered them before I could tuck them away. I am not sure why I had them in some kind of safe keeping. Sentimental reasons, I guess.

 Guangzhou is the world's crappy stuff market, and at Christmastime, communism takes a backseat to capitalism and a somewhat gawdy sort of Christiany. While we were there the trees frosted in disco colors and garish plastic Santas were a bit nauseating, however after the fact I've looked upon these thinly woven crimson costumes with nostalgic affection.

 But even I have a letting go point where the tangible, and fragile, can no longer keep a memory hostage, preventing it from taking life. And at some point our attachment to distant and romantic far away adventures, whether they be in deep distracted thought, or in the form of a treasured keepsake, must become less important and less compelling than the life that is right in front of us, demanding our love and attention, and needing our appreciation

 My Christmas decorations don't seem to be staying where they are put, and will probably end up broken, but at least I have a William

So in Guangzhou there is a place called HaiZhu square where we spent many afternoons browsing the hundreds of stalls. The smell was cigarettes and street food, the scent of which wafted from the carts owned by little men outside the square selling roasted sweet potatoes and fried noodles. And in one section, there was the overwhelming unmistakable acrid odor of urine, and it was essential to ex-pat life in China that it become loveable, that let you know right where to find the bathroom.

 In the fall, the square was filled with the most ghorry and horrifying take on Halloween costumes and decorations you can imagine. At Chnese New Year it was decked in red laterns and stuffed monkeys, or roosters, or tigers, depending on the year. It was always a great place to shop for take-home-to America trinkets, for birthday party favors, or for cheap toys that you only wanted to last the afternoon.  But if you winded yourself past the endless booths of  hair accesories, and office supplies, into the center of the square you would come to my favorite place, which actually had it's own door and looked like a real shop: the cookie jar vendor.  I fantasized about having a cookie jar for every season.  My mother-in-law bought me a glass ginger bread house that comes out at Chistmas, and I returned to the states with a pumpkin head scarecrow too.  I think he appeared in a post a few weeks ago...but he has since lost his head to King William, and has been sent the way of letting go.

Sunday night I was hit by a bad case of mean grumpy stressed out mom. Maybe it was too many consecutive days of eating pie, or too much Christmas clutter, or the realization that tomorrow was not a sleep in day, or just the single parent at the holidays blues.... Stated that way it would seem almost justified. I promise it had nothing to do with the broken cookie jar.

Monday was better. I am intensely grateful for warm days in late November. The little kids were too tired Monday to wake up for preschool. William had been awake most of the night with a cough and had finally fallen in to a comfortable sleep, so I let the morning stay quiet, as I finished arranging the nativity sets on the mantel, and boxed up the remaining ornaments that I hide away for that year when we have more space, more time, less need to keep things simple.

Before lunch we drove Bethany's cello to school, then went to our park to play without jackets. They thought it was a unique dynamic to drive to our park across the street and park in the parking lot. Sophie wanted to roll down the hill, which was sparkling with the melted frost... Not quite as idyllic as the weeks before when the grass was warm and dry.

 "Your turn Momma" she insisted.

 I hate pictures with my shadow in them. But I have that parental need to excessively archive perfect moments with the kids on the swings.

Tuesday morning we got a new faucet in the kitchen, and I made some progress with the laundry piles on my bed and bedroom floor. The afternoon was busy with dentist appointments, dance, sewing which turned out to be cancelled, drove to get a hair cut for Sam which we postponed when we saw the crowd, grocery shopping, shoe shopping, back for dance pick up, home for a quick dinner, and then to an appointment with Kyle. I was grateful that Judith brought us her delicious meatloaf, which made things easier.

Meanwhile our sweet friends from the ward brought us an enormous load of clothing they had outgrown.They were beautiful, designer dresses and shoes, and their mom had ironed them and put them on hangers, so they looked brand new. William claimed a little grey jacket that he insisted said Green Lantern, because there was a G and the letters were green.

There were even things for me. When I looked at the size I thought I wouldn't even be able to stick my arms in. Caitlin insisted I try on a pretty red dress that she had been wearing herself. The girls stood in undisguised disapproval as I presented myself in the dress, which fit, but greatly accentuated my need to find a personal trainer. Fertlilty Goddess Abs. The white cotton socks, and white legs were reportedly awkward as well.

"Maybe with stockings..." They said.

"So I guess I won't wear it dancing just yet," I said.

At which Caitlin brightened and said "Yes! Wear it. Noone will ask you to dance."

To which Bethany sagely added," But if they do, you'll know they really love you for you."

"How about we keep in in the closet for dieting inspiration," I said.

Everyone pledged to monitor my food intake.

Wednesday the school portait people were at the preschool.  William reported that he smiled for "his camera teacher."  The little boys wore their new shoes, and as we arrived home they dashed out of the van, and ran to front door to show me how fast their shoes can run. Sophie ran after them before I could realize that I have no baby anymore.

In the evening, hair cut for Sam, shopping with Olivia, Young Mens.  Caitlin asked me how many pounds I had lost that day.

"Zero," I reported.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

thanksgiving 2012

I love the Thanksgiving week, as the kids were calling it.  There is so much anticipation, and most of it is about sleeping in and having nothing to do.  This was our beautiful Monday.  It was nice to get a chance to play with the little kids at the school playground as we waited to pick up the big girls for dance.  We stopped at Arctic Circle for ice cream cones on the way for an after school snack.
Tuesday evening Bethany hosted some of her friends for a pajama party to celebrate her birthday.    

 It's not like me to have cute party favors, but I thought these went over well.  I found these fun socks and stuffed them like Christmas stockings with candy, nail polish, and lotion. 
 Wednesday was our first day of vacation.  We met Aunt Judy and the cousins at Trafalga. Bo and Julia came home with us for a sleepover.
 Thursday the kids worked hard to help me get the house clean and prepare the food.  Mary helped me with the stuffing.
 Bo surveying his mom's yummy raspberry jello salad.  It was great to spend the day with Grandma Julia, and Judy, Jeremy and the cousins. Aunt Courtney and Uncle Joe had just returned to Utah, so we were happy that they were there with their girls.
Friday morning I was grateful to have time to exercise at the park. When I came home I was excited for the sunshine and weather warm enough to clean out the garage...probably my favorite thing to do on a holiday.
 Friday evening Caitlin lost her first tooth.  About an hour later she lost her second tooth.
 Saturday the weather was perfect for driving out to storage to collect the Christmas decorations.
  Those boxes are all full of junk I can't part with...old paper chains from a ten years ago, Christmas cards I never sent, ribbons I'll never use, preschool projects. I don't consider myself a pack rat. I am apparently too sentimental at Christmastime. I am most attached to the newspapers I use to wrap the ornaments. I love to read the dates and headlines and consider the boxes like time capsules. 
 This is not so idyllic. Here we are at Smith's picking out the Christmas tree.  Maybe someday we'll walk through the snowy woods.  I reminded Ben about the year when we lived in Maine and Sam wanted to chop down our Christmas tree with the plastic axe from his Halloween fireman costume.  A neighbor had offered us a scraggly tree he had acquired himself. There was nothing lovely about it, but the price was right.  We took the tree into the small patch of woods behind our compound and shoved it into the snow.  We let Sam take some swipes at it with his axe and miraculously it fell right to the ground.  I always hoped that wasn't terribly dishonest, because it was memorable.
  Saturday evening we celebrated again with leftovers. I tried to convince the kids to try my favorite turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce sandwhich but there were no takers. They were only interested in the thousand kinds of chips and dip and varieties of cranberry juice and soda cocktails. After dinner I was able to spend some time with the laundry and reorganized my closet. Everyone agreed that the weekend was too short.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

save the zingers

 I told Ben that Hostess is going out of business.  It is true that our family is obsessed with zingers. I have been since college and I passed the trait on to my children.  When we lived abroad we headed for the Hostess aisle as soon as we hit American soil and now it's come to this.  I put a yellow zinger in Caitlin's lunch bag Friday and thought nothing of it. I had two boxes on the top shelf in the kitchen. Saturday morning William climbed up on his favorite partner in crime, the stool, and distributed our last zingers throughout the house, with a generous dose to himself not doubt.  I went to Smith's hoping to get more...but it was like they never existed. I felt like I was the earth moaning because I could take no more. It really is 2012.  I have a feeling Hostess will be in our family prayers, as it should be. 

As for that bow tie, Ben and Sam spent the week performing in their high school play Hello Dolly. Sam was sick for most of the run, but proved himself worthy of the show must go on award, as he didn't miss any performances./div>

Friday after preschool, Grandma Martha treated us to lunch at Arctic Circle and called it our Thanksgiving, since she was headed back to California Saturday morning.  Olivia had stayed home from school because she had a case of the croup during the week and was still recovering.  We have a loose definition of recuperation at our house.

Grandma's girl.

Caitlin came home dressed for the holidays. Thank you God for letting me be the parent of seven first graders.  Whimsical hats worn so proudly melt my heart, really to the point of tears. There is meaning Sam.  I pray for many more years of paper turkeys.

Friday night we made homemade pizza again. 
 Olivia in mid-flip...reminiscent of The Crow's Nest in Beijing, where the kids liked to watch the cooks throw the pizza up two stories high...or so goes family lore.
Caitlin said my cheese pizza looked so realistic.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

bethany's eleven

Sam said Bethany wanted to be in control of everything about her birthday, even the weather, and when she wants snows.
 We woke up to four or five inches and fallen branches, the sound of which Bethany said woke her in the night.  It began on Friday afternoon. Bethany wanted to go with me to buy her birthday presents (part of what inspired Sam's comment.) I started out with enough time to drive down to south Provo and do some shopping before I retrieved the little ones from Grandma Martha's house.  I am a snow wimp but really wanted to get the sleds out of storage, knowing Olivia would be dying to get over to the park. Between home and BYU the snowfall became so heavy I couldn't see out the window, so we had to turn around.  We made it up to the store, which was closer to Grandma's house.  I was grateful for time to spend with Bethany. It was fun to watch her choose her own gifts...even wrapping paper!   We bought a little Beta fish from Petco while we waited for the pizza we'd ordered from Five Buck.  She named him Ron.

On our outing we stopped at Sprouts and bought a box of strawberry blond henna. Bethany wanted to go red for her birthday too.

Saturday morning I was grateful that the kids acted happy about the birthday breakfast, even though, in my opinion, the eggs were too salty, the waffles were crusty, and the bacon was greasy. I think I used to be a good cook. I think distraction changed that.

Meanwhile the kids were running in and out of the house in various states of dress. Sophie thought she was good to go with a wool hat and a diaper. William followed after Ben's footsteps in boots, shorts and a t-shirt.  The pile of wet gloves, and coats, and socks grew by my front door, as my hope for accomplishing much that day diminished.But our common yard was alive with snow inspired activity...and even some neighborhood rivalry. Snow brings that out in people.  
Grant was a little nervous about his first run down the sledding hill, but he overcame his fears quickly. 

 As did William.

 I didn't see much of Bethany on her birthday, she was invited to a good friend's party. They went to a salon to have their hair and nails done. Luckies. 
In evening grandma Martha came over for dinner and presents.  We had one of Bethany's favorites...a Maine staple appropriately, shepherd's pie.

Bethany, I am grateful and honored to be your mom. You are compassionate, intelligent, and gifted in so many ways. Happy Birthday! I love you.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

the first signs of november

 Indian headdresses

 Acceptance speeches
The last days that are perfect for rolling

 And picnics

 Parent teacher conferences