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Wednesday, 28 December 2011 12:09

Christmas Stresses

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Do not misinterpret this blog entry - I love Christmas, mostly.

However, when you are the oldest in all of your families, and all of your grandparents are still in the habit of picking either the 25th or the 26th of December on which to have their Christmas gatherings and because you are married you have five sets of said grandparents, and because you have a child EVERYONE wants you to be at each gathering so they can see the baby.... well, it gets a bit crazy around the holidays.

In addition to our five sets of Grandparents, we have our own parents who - due to the fact that they are now grandparents themselves - would like to host a Christmas gathering for their families also.

If we intend to spend a day with our own immediate family, we are juggling at LEAST 8 different family 'days' into only a few days of holiday.

Again, not to come across wrong - I do love Christmas, and I am so grateful for all of the family we have, but sometimes I just want to hide under a rock!

The past couple of years have made me seriously evaluate my priorities when it comes to Christmas, and make my choices based on these. 

Firstly, I believe that Christmas is an extremely 'un-Christian' holiday as we celebrate it today.  We focus a LOT on consumerism and end up spending a lot of money on unnecessary items just for the fun of it.  Unfortunately for me, I have a lot of fond feelings of attachment toward this type of Christmas, so I don't really want to let it go... In order to make myself feel better, I have resolved to make the 'Christian' part of the holiday the most important part - which involves, for us, attending the Christmas Eve service at church, as well as doing everything I can to teach my children the story of Jesus' birth.

Secondly, I am selfishly deciding that I want an entire day to spend with my husband and children (when our descendents become plural).  One whole day, no exceptions.

Thirdly, our parents have earned their 'Grandparent' status, and they are next on our line of priorities.  As long as it doesn't conflict with our own time with our kids, we will plan to spend a day with each set of parents. 

After that, if it's possible to attend our Grandparent gatherings (that's Great-Grandparents for our daughter), we will.  Although the way I'm feeling this week, I'd almost like to cut them all out...

Oh well.  I'm looking around my house at strewn toys and tissue paper and wishing I had the energy to get off my butt and do something about it, but I think I will say 'maybe later' and, well... maybe i'll get to it later.

Sunday, 18 December 2011 01:05

How to Overplan a 1-Year-Old's Birthday Party

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As I was planning my daughter's first birthday party, which we held last week, I called and asked a friend (who has five children) what she did.  She kind of laughed and said that it wasn't really for the kids anyway, so just to invite my friends! It was a little late for that, and we have the added complication of having about a million family members who live close by...

The original guest list was 75... so I cut that down to only the family members who would be ABSOLUTELY offended if they weren't invited, and the friends of Celia's who actually played with her on a regular basis.  This cut down the list to about 60.  So, we divided that approximately in half and invited all of the friends to an afternoon party, and all of the family to an evening party...

Note to self - A Pinata for a 1-year-old is a bit much...

When I was a child, I never had a pinata for my birthday - or for any reason - so when we were walking through the Bulk Barn and Celia noticed the brightly coloured pinatas lining the tops of the shelves, I thought it would be fun to have one for her.  All of the families that were invited had multiple children, and all of them were older than Celia - up to about 6 years old, so I thought they would love it! (I think they did, actually, but unfortunately Celia didn't).

She liked the cupcakes, though!

Sunday, 18 December 2011 00:58

Heirlooms... sort of.

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Last weekend was my daughter's first birthday party, but I'll get to that later...  during preparation, my Grandma offered to make cupcakes for the party but ended up being unable to ice the cupcakes herself due to time constraints.  She did, however, make her classic decorating icing that I remember from my childhood and dropped off the cupcakes, icing, and a small tupperware container holding her set of Wilton icing bags and tips.

This may not seem like an overly big deal, but I think my feelings toward these icing tips may be similar to the way some people might feel about holding their mothers wedding dress - and being told that they could actually USE said wedding dress. 

I spent large parts of my childhood with my Grandma.  She was my replacement 'Mom' for almost the first decade of my life, and so I feel just as close to her (I think) as I would if she were my Mother.  Some of my clearest memories are of watching my Grandma decorate my birthday cakes, make icing flowers that she would stick in the freezer to harden faster, and of sneaking into the back of the cupboard where she kept these icing supplies to sneak some of the tiny icing flowers she always had a stash of. 

So, I felt absolutely HONORED to be given these icing bags to use.  My Grandma even made a comment about possibly passing them on to me, because 'no one else uses them anymore'.  I haven't heard more on that yet, but I'm excited that this could be a possibility...

ANYWAY, I set to work icing my daughter's birthday cupcakes, trying to emulate the style my Grandma would have used on all of my birthday cakes as a child.  I began imagining myself going to bulk barn to rent one of their many cake pans and decorating it using my newly practiced skill.  They didn't actually turn out too badly, and it was fun in a nostalgic sort of way to be doing this.

A few days later I recruited a couple of my piano students to help decorate some mini-cupcakes for the annual Christmas recital, and completely without thinking, I set them up to use my Grandma's wonderful icing bags.  I recall, when I was younger, that keeping the pressure off the icing so as not to burst through the bag was much more difficult than I find it now.  I recall this because both of these girls reminded me by bursting large holes through these icing bags! 

I really couldn't be angry, and neither was my Grandma - thankfully.  The bags were old, and well used, so it was all too likely they would weaken eventually.  It made me sad though, to see these 'heirlooms' break, and to know that I can't always hold on to everything.

I can buy new bags.  And the tips should last forever.  Maybe someday I will have an even bigger collection that I can pass on to my daughter and tell her that 'these used to belong to your Great Grandma...' It's pretty sappy, but it makes me smile. 

Tuesday, 13 December 2011 22:34

Is Honesty REALLY the best...?

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I've been described as blunt and insensitive - although rarely to my face, which I find a bit annoying.  As a teenager, I had a tendency to attempt to engage people in debates whether they liked it or not.  This meant I would state a strong opinion and wait for a reaction.

I've grown up since then, and I realize that not everyone likes to debate, and I even tend to shy away from debates myself since I have discovered that stating honest opinions can permanently damage friendships. 

I recently had a friend approach me about her new 'business' (opinion alert) - you know the type, the companies that sell a particular kind of product at high prices but no one seems to actually buy the product except the people who are supposed to be selling it? So the point of being a salesperson is not to plug the product as much as to plug SELLING the product.  The whole thing seems strange and uncomfortable to me, but I readily admitted that I knew nothing about this particular company and agreed to check out her catalog and to do some research before making any judgement calls. 

So I did a few Google searches and did some Wikipedia browsing and discovered all I needed to know to know that I wanted to run as far away as possible from this particular company.  This put me in the difficult position of approaching my friend about it.  Now, I'm not a fan of evasiveness.  To simply not mention the issue until it comes up, and then skirt around it as much as possible is cowardly and stupid.  If you really believe something - make sure you are really certain about WHY you believe something - that's why I like to do research, and then find a way to truthfully and tactfully vocalize it to the person it affects. 

I want to note here, that I completely realize that the internet is not necessarily the greatest tool of research, and can have a lot of bad information. What I realized about the company was how it is viewed by the general population.  It was my feeling that I did not want to associate myself with the public's perspective, just as I would not feel comfortable working for a company that was widely perceived as being highly unethical. 

So, I had to approach my friend about my disinterest in her business.  I realize that email and letter writing may seem cowardly, and maybe it is, but I've found that if I can write out my thoughts and read them over again to myself I can be sure that I am saying what I need to without coming across as insulting which I sometimes do when I'm speaking.  I've found it to most often be a safer way to communicate.  I wrote her an email.  She hasn't responded in over a week.

Maybe it is just because it's Christmas, and she's busy, but I may be leaving one more person in the line of friends in my 'Honesty Wake'.

Consider this scenario.  You are in a relationship with a person who is BAD for you.  Not so bad that he/she beats you or steals from you or tells nasty lies about you behind your back, but just generally treats you badly.  He/she controls what you do and who you hang out with, maybe he/she has a bit of a spending habit but gets really angry with you for spending any money on yourself.  Maybe he/she is a mean person, or maybe your personalities are just really incompatible - like, if you are the kind of person to give until it hurts, and this person takes without even thinking about it, or appreciating it. 

Would you want your closest friends to tell you the truth? 

My answer to this is a resounding YES!!!!

When my husband and I were dating, I had previously been in a BAD relationship and had learned that when you are in a relationship you don't always see it very clearly, so I asked EVERYONE what they thought of my relationship with my new boyfriend.  I asked my parents.  I asked all of my friends - and I made them promise to tell me the truth.  I asked our pastors and leaders in the church.  His family was quite against our relationship and actually went to great lengths to ensure that we ended it, and although I was quite certain they were mistaken on a number of points, I couldn't shake the memory of my situation with my previous boyfriend.  My previous boyfriend's mom was feeding my new boyfriend's parents information, which made the situation so much more complicated, but that's beside the point.  And because I knew they COULD be right, I had to double check that no one else agreed with them.

Now, if my relationship with him was also bad, and none of my family or friends had the guts to tell me the truth, I would have felt completely abandoned when I discovered the truth for myself.  I honestly would have felt as though my family and friends didn't care enough for my happiness to make sure I didn't get into something that might make me miserable for the rest of my life. 

A few years back, I lost a friend to a situation like this - I think, anyway, she never actually told me why she stopped speaking to me.  She became involved with and married a person who was actually a lot like me, so his weaknesses were glaring to me.  She was the kind of sweet and wonderful person who would sacrifice the rest of her life for another person, and he seemed to be taking whatever she gave him without giving anything back.  This is a struggle I have had always - I am self-centered and would easily take someone for granted - it was necessary for me to marry someone who can put his foot down once in awhile and make sure I don't take advantage of him.  I could have been wrong about my friend, and I understand that, but she would come to me with situations she was concerned about and ask me what I thought about them.  Note - SHE ASKED ME.  Feeling very strongly about honesty, I had no choice but to tell her if his (or her) actions seemed off to me. 

Anyway, she eventually stopped speaking to me and I heard vague reports from other people about why, and the whole situation still haunts me because although I feel very strongly about being honest, there is a part of me that wants to go back to her and tell her whatever lie would make her want to hang out with me again... We live very close together and have both had our first baby's within a year of each other.  This is the kind of thing we dreamed about in college.  But now we don't speak. 

I guess the point of this story is to rant about how uncomfortable I feel in this world where people seem to want to hear what they want to hear over what may actually be the truth.  For all of my friends out there - I will always want the truth, and whether you like it or not, you can always trust me to give it - or at least my honest opinion, whether I'm 'right' or not is totally up for discussion.

Wednesday, 07 December 2011 20:43

Little Princesses

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I love a bit of controversy, so when I read an article, 'liked' it on facebook with a bit of a comment, and had a ton of people commenting on it also - agreeing or disagreeing on various parts of the article - I got a little excited.

The article was called 'How to Talk to Little Girls', by Lisa Bloom from the Huffington Post.  It was about talking to little girls, and trying to steer clear of telling them how cute or pretty they are in favor of more intellectual things like asking what they're reading and if they like books, etc. as well as telling them what you do and asking their opinion on some sort of 'grown up-ish' things such as 'What bothers you about the world?' and 'If you had a magic wand, what would you fix?'.

I thought it was great, and added a comment about another article I had read about the early sexualization of girls in our society today and how the 'Disney Princesses' helps to pave the way for this process.

What? Not the Disney Princesses - but I love the Disney Princesses!!!

Not to blame the Princesses, but with these toys there is a 'prescribed method' of play.  Princess is pretty.  Princess attracts the Prince.  The article suggested this subtle theme encouraged girls to start thinking about appearance - particularly in reference to attracting boys - at an early age.

Anyway, there were comments from moms who played with Barbies and watched Disney Princess movies, and didn't think there was any connection between that and low self-esteem.

There were also comments about the dangers of NOT complimenting your daughter's appearance, and how that might damage their self-esteem also.

I wish there was a clear answer to this, because I don't think anyone would deny that little girls in our society are sexualized WAY to young.  I think we also know that girls focus on their appearance too much and too early, and that eating disorders are rampant. I think this is probably not a really new problem, but I think something has changed in recently that has made this situation worse.  Personally, I do believe the media is partly to blame (another part being the parents who allow their children to watch anything and everything in the media).  I was recently in the vicinity of a nine year old watching music videos on you tube.  I was horrified at the message that was being directed at girls her age.  Some of the songs were obviously about sex, and one even mentioned something about a 'manage et troi' (I'm not French, so you'll have to forgive me if that was spelled wrong.

Anyway, there must be some way to combat these messages and raise strong and self-confident young women.  We need more of them in this world.

Tuesday, 06 December 2011 11:27

Changing my Attitude

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Lately my husband and I have been eating out - a LOT.  Which would be ok, except that we don't have a ton of cash right now, since we're still recuperating from Brian being jobless in September, and we're not eating out for fun and to places we enjoy but because we're lazy, and we're going to places like McDonalds and TacoTime. 

In November and December, I spend a lot of time doing Christmas baking.  As I have been baking this year, I have also been watching online documentaries from my computer.  Mostly historical and religious stuff, particularly if they're controversial, but I happened to stumble on 'Supersize Me'.  Every one has heard of it, I'm sure.

I was surprised at how taken in I was by what this guy was saying.  It hadn't occurred to me that ANY kind of food could be THAT bad for you, or cause that kind of damage.  And although it's one thing to fill your own stomach with crap food and damage your own liver, it's entirely different to give this stuff to a child who has no say in the matter.  I decided that it was time for a change. 

We were mostly eating out because after a long day of baking and cleaning up after baking, I was tired and didn't want to do any more kitchen work.  And the option is always there - at the back of my head - when I'm tired, I can always resort to fast food...

SO - I decided to remove this variable completely.  I have forbidden us from eating out - at least for the foreseeable future - to give myself time to develop better habits, and to force ourselves to choose homemade food instead.  Even if we have to go out to the grocery store to get something because there's nothing in the house - we would have gone out for fast food anyway.

There is a new tab on this website - for recipes.  I have been scouring my family and friends for quick and easy recipes that they use, as well as recipes they use regularly simply because they really like them.  So, for every day that I use a new recipe, I will add it to my Recipes page.  I'm a bit behind, since I started this a couple of weeks ago, and some recipes will be without pictures - I hope that will be ok. :)

Thursday, 01 December 2011 22:04

Celia's Mittens

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I'm a pretty meticulous cookie decorator, so I had a bit of difficulty deciding what kind of cookies Celia should decorate - because of course, I still wanted them to look good :) Snowflakes have to have a snowflake pattern - really, they HAVE TO! And if you just smeared icing all over a gingerbread man, snowman, santa or any other living thing it might just look dead... And candy canes have to have stripes...

So, what can look blotchy and multicolored and still be potentially accurate...?

Looking through my cookie cutters, I found a mitten!  So I iced them initially with white icing and let that dry.  Then, I gave Celia a paint brush and a little pot of blue icing, and this is sort of how it went.

Using skills developed on the Buddha Board...

She usually hit the cookies.  Sometimes her mouth...

She even knew how to dip the brush to get more icing!

Obviously my daughter is a genius ;P

I forgot to take pictures of the finished cookies and now they're buried in the deep freeze.  We did this with blue, pink and purple icing, letting each layer dry in between.  Ok, I did some of them myself - she got pretty tired after awhile, and after she discovered how yummy icing was it was hard to keep the brush out of her mouth.

I think we will make 'Celia's Mittens' an annual tradition.

Here is a picture of the finished product - they were in the freezer for awhile, so they look a little more blotchy than they did at first.  I forgot to take pictures of painting the pink or purple icing.

Thursday, 01 December 2011 21:55

The Day I Learned My Daughter Could 'Paint'

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I have one of those 'Buddha Boards' - for those of you who are unfamiliar with these, they are a lightly colored sort of 'slate' on a tray that you fill with water.  There is a brush that you use to brush the water onto the slate, and where the water touches, it turns black.  Kind of like a Zen Garden, it's one of those things intended to be 'fiddled' with to keep you occupied.  My piano students often play with it when they're waiting for their lessons...

Anyway, one day I look over and see Celia concentrating intently on the board.

And I don't know if this is normal 11 month old behavior or not, but she knew how to do it! She dipped the brush in the tray of water, and then painted with it.

I was quite impressed.

Thursday, 01 December 2011 21:51

I Do Not Like Them, Sam I Am...

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We had leftover ham one day, and decided to make ham and eggs for breakfast.

And I could not, would not, make them without dying the eggs green.

Yup... Green Eggs and Ham...

And then I got what was probably the most joyful picture I have ever seen of my daughter...

I Do! I Like Them, Sam I Am!

Thursday, 01 December 2011 21:45

Back to the First Snowfall...

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It's been awhile since I've blogged, so I've missed a few things... I'm still waiting for my husband to update this site, which is partly my reluctance to add anything until that happens.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of my Celia from the last couple of months.  It snowed later than usual this year - November 7th, and even then we didn't have snow 'to stay' until a few weeks later.  I took Celia out in her sled that first day though, and despite the cold air, she seemed to love it!

This fuzzy picture I got from my cell phone while we were walking...

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