Turkey Day & Dreidels Too

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  And Chanukkah starts.  I’m kind of ready for both, which is better than not being ready for either.  We have the menu done and the food bought, and part of it is already made.  The girls gave me their wish lists, and I’ve looked at them.  I’d love to buy them everything on the lists, and then some.  Unfortunately, between cheer, a senior trip, an eighth grade trip, two graduations and a kid starting college next year it will be a holiday season about being with family, and not about the few gifts there will be.  As it should be anyway.

I do have a gift for each of them for tomorrow night.  Oldest One is getting a sweatshirt for the college she will attend next year, and Little One is getting a cute top and tank to go under it.  Oldest One helped me buy the top for Little One (she is convinced she alone is keeping her little sister from being awkward) and in the process found an outfit for herself.  I’ll be wrapping it up as her 2nd Chanukkah gift.  I have no idea what I’m giving Little One for her second gift, but I really need to get on that.

Because we do both Chanukkah and Christmas we realized after one crazed holiday that we needed to manage the amount of gifts.  So the girls get 2 very nice gifts for Chanukkah, and then they get more gifts for Christmas, but those also include socks and sports bra type of items.  Not having grown up with Christmas, I early on decided stocking stuffers had to have chocolate, and then practical stuff like chapstick and hand lotion.  The girls include those little items on their wish lists.  I’m hoping to have a little money left over after putting on the feast tomorrow and paying the end of month bills to do some online shopping.  Husband will probably have to be content with new underwear this year…he did ask for that specifically.

I’d like to say I’m excited about tomorrow, but I’ve learned not to have expectations for big holidays.  Expectations lead to disappointment, and to crankiness.  So, I’m looking forward to not having to get up early, and to eating good food.  Beyond that everything else, such as family getting along, will be icing on the cupcake.  I’ve warned the girls that as soon as their Grandparents arrive (Husband’s Mom and Dad) we will be taking pictures.  Last year I didn’t get the pictures, and I know my in-laws really like them, so I’m going to push everyone into the backyard early, and get those taken.  After that, no schedule, no plans, we will take it as it comes.

No matter what tomorrow brings, or how many people show up (we could have 3, we could have 15, fun to plan the food!) I know that Friday morning I can sleep until Noon if I want.  Well, 11:30, I have something going on at Noon.  I get to watch two of my favorite movies this weekend, When Harry Met Sally and Love Actually – we watch them every Thanksgiving weekend.  We will put our tree up, and Husband will put up lights outside.  I think I am having expectations here, but that is okay, the expectations have nothing to do with Thanksgiving itself, just what happens afterwards.  And I have plenty of chocolate to get me through if these expectations don’t go as expected.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Chanukkah!

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Smurfy Mess

Husband and I made such a mess last night, and laughed so much.  I wanted to make a new dessert for Thanksgivukkah (Thanksgiving and Chanukkah) this year.  I usually make a sheet cake that I cut into a dreidel and frost.  This year, since this won’t happen again for 77,000 years, I wanted to do something different.  So I found a recipe for blue velvet cupcakes that are blue frosted and have dreidles on top.

This isn’t my first time making a red velvet cake.  For Little One’s last birthday she wanted a red velvet cake.  I found out too late I was out of red food coloring, so I made it purple, which is one of her favorite colors, and colored the cream cheese frosting two different shades of purple, and she loved it.  So I felt confident going into this I would be fine with the new recipe.  Ha!

First wrong move was Husband asking me to triple it, not just double it.  Now, I did think the amounts were bigger than I’d used last time, but this batter was supposed to be thicker than normal, and I went with it saying it made 12 cupcakes.  That was wrong, it made 24, and I tripled it.  We couldn’t use our stand mixer, because there was so much.  We ended up transferring the batter to our biggest metal bowl and I used the hand mixer.  We could have bathed the dogs in a blue bath there was so much.

Then we did the color.  You add the color to the coco, so you really can’t see the color until you add that to the main batter.  I thought it looked too green, but Husband thought it was a nice blue.  But he’s color blind, and he admitted he had no idea what color it was, just that it looked nice.  So I added some pink and some green and came up with a really pretty blue.  Smurf blue.  That looked like it came out of a Smurf.  You can imagine it from there.

As Husband said during clean up, it looked we had has slaughtered thousands of Smurfs.  The island table and counters were blue.  Our fingers and hands were blue.  Eventually our tongues and lips were blue.  It was everywhere, and just kept multiplying.

No problem, because yummy cupcakes overcome Smurf blue everywhere, right?  Except these weren’t good.  Husband said they tasted like pancakes, and Oldest said it was like a sweet cornbread.  So not cupcake!  Oldest one’s friend said it was kind of cornbread like as he quietly tried to shove it down the sink.  Huge failure, but Husband and Oldest said they’d eat them as is.  Little One wasn’t home, but I can imagine she wouldn’t want to try them.

But the night wasn’t the dismal failure it seemed.  Husband and I had so much fun doing this, especially after we figured out we had made way too much, and it wasn’t working.  The Smurf jokes just didn’t end.  My face hurt from laughing.  When Oldest one got home she joined in, and I actually got to bed really late for me because I was enjoying the joking and laughter so much.   Who knew a bad cupcake recipe could be so much fun?

Guilty for No Guilt

I have not invited my Mom to Thanksgiving this year, and I don’t intend to.  I should feel guilt, or sadness, or something like that, but what I really feel is stupendous relief, and some confusion that I don’t feel guilty.  I almost feel guilty for not feeling guilty.

I would probably have to have some sort of communication going with my Mom to invite her, which isn’t currently happening.  Again, I should feel some sort of guilt, but all that is there is relief, and the nagging feeling something is wrong with me for not wearing a hair shirt over this.  But I enjoy not having the big boulder on my shoulders weighing me down, even though I know at some point it will be back.

I admit that I did make a conscious decision to just not contact her anymore back in October, because I couldn’t take how awful she was making me feel about myself, and that every encounter left me crying.  And I’m not even a crier.  Once I realized I didn’t have to respond to the hurtful text messages, and I didn’t have to call her and be given a list of my wrongdoings and shortcomings I cut about 80% of the emotional stress out of my life.  I was quite startled the day I realized how much better I was doing because I wasn’t communicating with her.

But now the holidays are rolling around, so of course I briefly thought about her, and just as quickly let that thought go.  Last year she only came for dessert on Thanksgiving, and it was awkward and uncomfortable and full of her snarky remarks about our meal that she didn’t eat.  We were all relieved when she left.  Thanksgiving will be a long day as it is, and I don’t see any reason to make it longer than it needs to be.

All of this really goes against what I feel a good daughter should be and do.  I want to support my Mom, and be there for her, and make sure she is taken care of.  And I have done that, especially after my Dad passed away.  I truly feel it is important for parents to continue to be involved in their children, and then grandchildren’s lives.  But if the parent is only causing bad feelings on the part of the child and the grandchildren then being a good daughter might just have to be secondary to being a good parent and plain old self-preservation.

For all the relief at the absence of the stress I can’t shake the feeling something is wrong with me for feeling this way.  Not enough to contact my Mom, but enough that it is in my mind.  Okay, maybe what is really in my mind is the dread feeling that she will just appear at the door in the late afternoon on Thanksgiving, expecting to come in and be met by open arms.  She does that kind of thing.  I don’t have a clue about what I would do if that happened.  Somehow, I don’t think running away screaming is really an option.

Unconditional Love

Unconditional Love.  Two words, but they can mean so much.  I know I have it for my girls, and for Husband.  But not everyone gets it.  Look around, its absence is everywhere.  But I’m not necessarily talking about the obvious, the beatings and abuse.  Sometimes it’s the kind that we can pretend we have, but we don’t, or at least we are made to feel we don’t have it.

I look at my girls, and I know what I never want to say to them, and how I never want to treat them.  A list might be:

  • You’re fat
  • You need to go on a diet / I’m putting you on a diet
  • Anyone else would have had a date with that boy before he left our house
  • You’re stupid / You’re an idiot
  • They couldn’t find anyone better for the job?
  • Your sister did a better job when she did it

I could go on, but the point has been made.  Yes, yes, I do have low self-esteem at times.  Which Husband is always boosting, he luckily thinks I am beautiful and smart, and truly understands why I have the urge to hide chocolate.  He’ll even pretend not to see it when I fall back into doing that.

I am a happy person, and I consider myself lucky/blessed with my family (Husband and girls).  It doesn’t stop me from feeling that in certain parts of my life there isn’t Unconditional Love.  Yet I feel there should be, and I’m being shorted.  Most of the time I look back and the memories I don’t want can be pushed into a little box and covered.  Until they all come bursting out and hit me, and make me feel like a complete loser.

I know the saying that no one but me can make me feel a particular way.  But sometimes people or things said and done can make me feel a certain way, and that is just how it is going to be.  And I am determined I won’t make my girls feel these things.  They are smart and I tell them and praise their good grades.  I help them stay active and try to keep the garbage food level down.  I truly don’t favor one over the other, and I try to let them know that also.  They are each unique and amazing, and I couldn’t choose, because I love each so much.  I let them know I am proud of the people they are growing up to be.  When they do something I’d rather they didn’t, I try to frame it in a way that is about the action, but not about their being smart or not.  Do I always succeed with this?  Probably not.  But I know I haven’t done any of the things on the list.

I know I’m not the only person to feel I’m not loved unconditionally, and I know I can do my best to make sure my girls and Husband never think I feel that way about them.  I also know that I’m not willing to share how I feel with those that tell me I’m silly for the feelings, or that it is my ego so I should get over it.  I also, after all these years, really don’t want to deal with people who have so little regard for how they make me feel.  And maybe I don’t have to.  I’m big on forgiving and forgetting, and giving people chance after chance after chance.  But there comes a time when you feel you don’t have any chances left in you.

And maybe, that’s okay.

Christmas Tree Tradition

Growing up Jewish I never had one, but always loved the look of Christmas trees.  We had a Chanukah Bush, and I made paper decorations for it (it was a fake bush/tree thing in the formal living room of the house), and we did gifts and a Chanukah meal.  But it wasn’t a major holiday (it still isn’t), and it was more a reason for my siblings home from college to be at home for a dinner.

Then I married a Goy (slang Yiddish for non-Jewish man).  We agreed to raise our children Jewish, but to keep some of his family traditions, because they were not rooted in religion for his family.  Finally, I get to have a Christmas tree!  Our very first Christmas together we shared a house and a tree with another couple.  I made Husband (then boyfriend) Looney Tunes ornaments, because I wanted something special for us on the shared tree.  We still put those ornaments on our tree each year.

Then we didn’t have a big tree again until Oldest One was a year old.  My Mother-in-Law was very generous, and gave us the ornaments Husband’s family used when he was growing up because they didn’t put a tree up anymore.  We have ornaments made by his Grandmother, made by Husband in school, and ones commemorating the year, such as one from 1979.  I love pulling those out each year and watching the girls carefully hang them on the tree.  I like the tradition we are continuing, and handing down to the girls.

When I was pregnant with Little One I went to Hallmark with Oldest One and we picked out our first family ornament.  It was a gumball machine with the year on it, and Oldest One loved it.  Every year since then we have had a family ornament with the year on it.  At first they were simple, and I bought them in town.  Then I started to get family ornaments online I could put our names and the year on.  We have bears on boats, monkeys, cows…a whole zoo of ornaments decorate our tree.  When they are unwrapped each year we still ohh and ahh over them, and remember the one I dropped and broke taking it out of the box (Husband glued it), the one where the names wore off by the next year…each one is a memory.

I also get the girls ornaments for cheerleading.  They get an ornament each year (this is year seven) for each team they are on.  The first years were fairly easy, but it is definitely getting harder to find cheerleader ornaments they don’t own that can be personalized.  And they have each been on two teams for the past two years, Oldest One for three years.  Husband always does the obligatory eye roll when I order the cheerleading ornaments, but he always wants to see what I’m ordering.  Oldest One told me last year she always looks forward to seeing what I’ve found.  Little One just loves getting new ornaments.

We also have Chanukah ornaments on our tree.  They make specific ornaments for Chanukah to hang on Christmas trees now, but we were putting ones on well before that happened.  We would find Chanukah items, and in looking for where to put them on display we realized if we put an ornament hook on them they would be perfect for the tree.  So we did.  And they look great hanging next to the Looney Tunes, cheerleading, and family ornaments.

The tree also has ornaments the girls made over the years.  It’s hard to believe how tiny their hands and feet were.  I love those ornaments so much.  It brings back the days of lopsided tree trimming because tiny hands couldn’t reach very high without help.  It reminds me of the bright eyes putting out milk, cookies and beer (because milk can only fortify Santa so much) for Santa in their new Christmas pajamas.  It also reminds me of lighting the Menorah, and the girls wearing headbands with big dreidels sprouting from the top, and seeing who could spin the dreidel the longest.

I love our Christmas tree.  It symbolizes the traditions Husband and I have created with the girls, and who our family is.  It isn’t traditional, since it has Chanukah on it.  It isn’t color coordinated, and we don’t change the balls and tinsel each year to keep up with current trends.  It is hung with memories, and laughter, some fighting, and tons of love.  It is our tree, and I love it.

Sub-Par? Not Even Close.

Anyone who knows me know how important my girls are too me.  I love them more than I can put into words, I am so proud of all their accomplishments and who they are, and I will happily make sacrifices for them to be able to do things that make them happy, and that will help them become good people and on their future paths.  It’s a given.  Or so I thought.

But then I had a conversation with someone that, by the time it was done, pretty much left me understanding they thought my choice of school, high school specifically, wasn’t a good one.  Understand, education is very important to Husband and me, but apparently we hardly gave it any thought.  I researched the school when we moved to the area, and visited, and talked to people.  It’s a charter school, and my girls have never gone to a traditional public school, because we don’t like the big class sizes, how PE, art and music have been cut, and that the education itself might not be what we wanted.  Oh, and our state ranks one of the last for education, so parents really need to be proactive.

Oldest One will be the first high school class graduating from our school.  She has gone there since 4th grade.  Little One started there in Kindergarten, and plans to attend the high school.  Oldest One only has 20 kids in her class.  She also, as a Senior, has all but 3 credits needed for college, she will finish with a semester of college credits, and being as it is a preparatory academy, has had very challenging classes.  By her freshman year she had already dissected pretty much every animal done in high school.  Driving by dead cats on the side of the road was challenging, because she always wanted me to stop and get them so she could show me how great she was at skinning and dissecting a cat.  Nope, I never did.

But it was implied that my daughter wasn’t getting good science classes, and with such a small class they couldn’t have done labs, because it was too expensive.  Except she did.  Her favorite science class was anatomy.  I am sure every regular public high school kid takes anatomy.  Oh yeah, it’s required at our high school.  You know, the one I didn’t research too well, and that it probably wasn’t a good idea to put my daughter in.

I am hugely pushy about education.  I expect good grades, and for them to learn and understand, and they know college is an expectation, not a choice.  I check their grades (and so do they), and as I’ve already said, I’m pushy with Older One about everything college related.  I’m pushy with Little One, already telling her she will do National Honor Society, and I want her to do something with student government in high school.  Things that will help her with applying to and getting scholarships to college.  Older One has done NHS, Key Club, Student Government, Varsity Cheer…and she has a really good GPA.  Even though she attends a sub-par school.

Did this just set me off?  You bet it did.  Nothing is more important to Husband and I than the girls, and we do everything we can to make sure they can be successful.  Ultimately success is up to them, but without our support (and money!) it would be a lot harder.  And I know they go to a great school.  Little One has 80 kids in her class (which is big for this school), and most of the grades have waiting lists.  Because the teachers and administrators are great, and really care about the kids.  The curriculum is challenging.  The kids are prepared to go to college.  What a horrible place to send them.

I’m fine with people deciding I’m not too bright.  I use it to my advantage.  But don’t you ever imply my kids aren’t, or that I’m not doing right by them with education, or how I raise them.  Messing with my kids always makes me extremely mad.  Like it did just now.

The Sex Talks

Recently I was in the car with Little One and her Best Friend.  We were driving to the store, and somehow the conversation got around to sex, STD’s, and wearing condoms.  It started because the girls, who are in 8th grade, told me a new classmate’s mom was pregnant.  The only person I had seen this child with was a much older woman who was in a scooter, and it didn’t seem she was pregnant.  It turns out I had met Grandma, who was not pregnant, and I hadn’t met Mom yet, who was indeed pregnant.

I try to take the conversations about sex where I can find them.  That day, once the pregnancy discussion ended, it somehow went to STD’s and condoms.  And I told them they always needed to use condoms, even if they were on another form of birth control, because of STD’s.  And I told them that it was important for both them and a new partner to be tested for STD’s before they had sex.  Then I let them know that Husband and I respected each other enough back in the early 1990’s that we both were tested before we had sex.  Apparently that went into the TMI category, and caused major grossness.

It isn’t easy, no matter how open-minded you think you are or try to be, to have talks about sex.  I know, I’ve had the talks with both girls and my Mom when my widowed Mom began to date again in her 80’s.  She came to me.  The girls were so much easier.  I bought my girls books about periods and sex, and I read the books before I gave them to the girls.  We talked about it too, and then I told them to read the books and come to me with questions.

I did this because I didn’t want them to be the uninformed ones in the dorm discussions at college.  My freshman year several of us girls were sitting around one night talking about sex.  One of the girls finally got her courage up to ask where the bone went when guys weren’t having sex.  Once I understood what she was talking about (what a literal interpretation of a boner) I explained how it really worked.  And I felt bad that at almost 19 she was pretty much clueless about sex.  And she had just gotten a serious boyfriend.

So I’ve tried to be open and have talks, and to let the girls know both the Husband and I would answer any questions they have.  I have older brothers, much older, so I was hearing about things way before I should have, and since no one explained it I often didn’t really understand it.  I wanted to stay age appropriate, but let them know it wasn’t a taboo subject, and that sex is natural, and everyone does it.  Even if they say they don’t, and especially if they say their kids aren’t.  Because the kids probably are, they just aren’t telling their parents.

I’ve let the girls watch R rated movies well before they should have.  They were going to watch them at some point, and at least if they were with me and Husband, we could answer questions.  And we have.  Often it went over their heads.  Little One loves SNL, especially the Weekend Report, but a lot of it is over her head.  I’m glad about that, but I’m also glad she is watching it with us so we can answer questions.  Katie Perry was kind enough to help us need to explain what a ménage a trios’ was.  I actually am a fan of many of her songs.  Including that one.

However it happens, we’ve talked about it.  And they’ve asked questions.  And I know they’ve had discussions with friends.  And sometimes Older One is nice enough to define words I haven’t yet heard.  Urban Dictionary helps too.  It isn’t easy, but it is important.  Much as we’d like our kids to not do it until they are 30, they are going to.  So it is our job to talk about it, and emphasize the safe part, and let them know it’s okay to talk about, and ultimately to do.  I wasn’t a virgin when I got married (gasp!) and I don’t expect the girls will be either.  I do expect them to be smart, and not get an STD.  And not get pregnant before they are married and in their 30’s.  I do want to be a Grandma one day, but that day is hopefully about 13 plus years away.