Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 22: Heading off on our Christmas holiday

The last of the presents are finished, the suitcases are packed, our plane tickets are printed, our pick-up ride reminded, the car's all loaded up and we're off up North for our beachy Christmas and a countrified New Year/first birthday. Have a safe and merry holiday season.

Friday, December 21, 2012

December 21: Childcare Christmas party

Dear Boy's childcare put on a Christmas lunch today, which we were invited to attend even though he's not normally there on a Friday. A full Sunday roast with all the trimming and Dear Boy's first ice-cream for dessert. No photos to share given the restrictions on taking photos of other people's children but needless to say it was adorable. And very, very, noisy.

It was also an opportunity to deliver some small presents for his carers but this morning I was struck with the dilemma of what to get for them. His primary carer, W, is Muslim, while the assistant carer is Hindu, so all the usual festive type pressies suddenly seem a bit inappropriate. Christmas-themed pressies and decorations were out. They'd also both received large piles of chocolate already (one mother had actually given them a metre-long stick of chocolate - not entirely sure what she was thinking).

In the end, I picked up mangoes and punnets of strawberries and blueberries and decorated them with big purple bows and ribbon, and offered them as end-of-year thank-you presents. Both laughed and said it was a great idea.

Not just giving, but giving thoughtfully when there's a minefield of tastes, cultures, allergies, etc seems to have become all the more intense since having Dear Boy. At the child-care centre in particular, I'm always concerned about how my comments and criticism will affect Dear Boy's relationship with his carers. I'm even mindful about what he eats for breakfast on his childcare days so the boy in the next room doesn't stop breathing if he touches the residue that coat's Dear Boy's face and hands and hair after he eats peanut butter toast.

But it's Christmas. The centre has lights and tinsel festooning the hallway and pictures of Santa on the windows. so I figure no matter what religion you are, you can appreciate the secular sentiment of peace and joy and goodwill to all mankind... and hey, presents are always welcomed.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

December 20: Packing, wrapping and posting

While the boy was in child-care today, I wrapped the last minute presents and made two trips to the post office to send off the ones for the people we won't be seeing in person. Just one pressie dilemma left - will we be able to fit that big one into one of these two suitcases?

I started our packing today too, just to give myself enough time to do another load or two or washing of anything we'd want to take. Probably comes as no surprise that there's always a pile of washing to do in our house... and I'm really not above packing dirty clothes that we can wash while we're away... but there's just something nice about a suitcase of freshly washed clothes, just waiting for awesome holiday weather to wear.

I've also packed a few little bits and pieces for Dear Boy's first birthday party, which we'll be having up on the plateau in the New Year. Only a few balloons and old-fashioned blowers - just enough to get the party started.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

December 19: Christmas pudding

As gross as this looks, there is a metric crap-tonne of deliciousness inside. I never liked Christmas pudding until Lovely Husband's aunt made one of these for us. Now we get one every year. Last's forever. Awesome excuse to have more custard in my life. Dear Boy's gonna love it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 18: Present production line


I've been thinking about fidelity recently. I've been thinking about the garden-variety marriage/partnership variety because of my lovely friend Sash over at Inked In Colour, whose heart is broken but still fierce and wonderfully loving. Fidelity of the body, of the heart, of the partnership, of the family, of the promise of a future together.

But after this past weekend I've been thinking about a larger-scale kind of fidelity, the kind that happens at the social, cultural and global level, where there is an often unspoken  set of guidelines for humanity. Call them natural law, call them commandments, call them common sense, call them whatever you will. When these fundamental pacts are broken, we all grieve.

The most fundamental of these for me is that children are off limits. If you hurt them, if you kill them, and if you do it en masse - you have broken fidelity with society, with humanity. You have been unfaithful to what we share, what we all hold dear even when everything else about us is different.

You can feel that shift in the world when these things happen. This rent in our humanity is mended and in most cases made stronger by the pulling-together, the shared grief, the stories of courage and the spirit of generosity that follows, but you can still feel that shift.

I believe that violence and crime are inevitable in particular circumstances. Where there are many people living together, where there are competing values and religions, where there are poor services for mental illness, where there is poverty and wealth living side by side, where there is a culture of binge drinking, where there is a culture of gun rights and idolisation of people who solve problems with guns and violence, there will always be violence. But there doesn't have to be... or at least, there doesn't have to be so much.

I believe the phrase 'guns don't kill people' is stupid. Most people wouldn't kill people if they didn't have the gun in the first place. There are exceptions (as the knife attacks in Henan Province in China shows - although these weren't fatal), but guns can make cowardly people brave.

The only commonality between all of the school shootings around the world is access to a gun. Not metal music, not violent video games, not even mental illness. Access to a gun.

Think about it.

Then go and badger your government representative to start making things better in whatever flawed area you wish. Doesn't have to be about gun control, because quite a few countries already have this one down.

Then go and hold your children close and teach them to be kind and compassionate and to solve their problems another way.

Then go and call your mother. Or someone else's mother because they all need to know that their kids are okay.

Monday, December 17, 2012

December 17: Playing with Christmas toys (some assembly required) and decorations

Some of these presents are easy: add a battery, screw here and done. Others have more complicated instructions than the television we bought ourselves for Christmas last year. Bless toy makers that add an on/off switch.

Luckily these babies are super easy and fairly quick to construct. And pretty cute too, I think. Thanks Pinterest.

2012: The year of living contagiously

Poor Dear Boy has come down with another lurgy, coughing and spluttering and dripping and whinging. The timing of it sucks, but I hope he's over it by the time we head North on Saturday.

Poor Lovely Husband has yet again come down with Dear Boy's lurgy.

I'm hoping my Christmas cheer is shielding me from illness.

New songs on a Monday afternoon (541-560)

As part of my ongoing effort to improve the range of my cultural consumption, I'm casting out for new things to listen to. Part one and an explanation of this musical escapade can be found here. You'll need to search for the rest yourselves.

Throughout December, most of these songs are going to be of the festive variety. I'm spreading Christmas cheer around our house and Lovely Husband would kill me if I turned our home into Target with Mariah Carey on repeat all day.

I've been listening to Cory James' 'A Very Elitist Christmas' over at, so I won't be linking my list below. Some are covers but there are quite a few originals in here that I'm liking more than I thought I would. I've added extras to the end that cropped up elsewhere.

1. Sara Bareilles - 'Love is Christmas'
2. Christina Perry - 'Something about December'
3. The Puppini Sisters - 'Let it snow'
4. Laura Gibson - 'It came upon a midnight clear'
5. Bess Rogers - 'Little Saint Nick'
6. Rachael Yamagata - 'Baby come find me at Christmas'
7. Kate Busby - 'The holly and the ivy'
8. Mindy Smith - 'I know the reason'
9. The Weepies - 'All I want'
10. Ingrid Michaelson - 'When the leaves'
11. Meiko - 'Maybe next year (Xmas song)'
12. Corinne Bailey Rae - 'This Christmas'
13. Persephone's Bees - 'Sleigh ride'
14. Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson - 'Winter song'
15. Rosie Thomas - 'Much further to go'
16. Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler - 'Christmas moon'
17. Indigo Girls - 'Peace child'
18. Eleanor Friedberger - 'Santa, bring my baby back (To me)'
19. Slow Club - 'Christmas TV'
20. The Bird and the Bee - 'Carol of the Bells'

Sunday, December 16, 2012

December 16: Christmas Movie Night kick-off

I seem to have developed my own tradition, watching our small but growing collection of adult Christmas movies each night in the lead-up to Christmas, usually all by myself as Lovely Husband taps away on his computer nearby. Tonight, we're kicking off with Die Hard and Die Hard 2. After that it's Lethal Weapon, Little Women, The Holiday, The Family Stone.

We finish with Love Actually on Christmas Eve. No matter how many times the younglings complain about it. It's Love Actually or bed.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 15: Christmas Part I

My newly married brother hosted part one of our family festivities this year. He and Middle Brother Mountain got all crafty yesterday and put together this awesome 'tree' from leftover wedding decorations. 

We opened pressies, ate the obligatory pig, feasted on trifle and chocolates and pavlova, played Heather's Revenge and then crashed into food comas in front of superhero cartoons. Perfect.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

December 12: Christmas cards

I wasn't going to do Christmas cards this year. Generally I buy a pack and send them away to all those we don't see over the festive season. But this year, I refrained. And then a few cards came trickling in and I bought one or two reciprocal cards. And then I realised I should send one to that person. Oh, and that person. And I'd totally forgotten about this group of people I'll be seeing next week...

And so today I did the Christmas cards. In between frantic stitching of presents that I need to take to the post office tomorrow to make sure they arrive before children go off to their non-custodial parents and various adults begin their own summer pilgrimages to see family and friends. In between visiting a friend and picking up the boy and extra vegetables for dinner. In between looking around the house at the cacophony of unfolded laundry and breakfast dishes and unmade beds and un-vacuumed floors.

Then I remembered: it's Christmas. Relax.

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 10: Walking the streets, searching for Christmas

Today we went walking from here to there, Dear Boy in the pram, Middle Brother Mountain pushing and me searching out the Christmas decorations.

Because Dear Boy is in bed around 7pm and the sun sets after 8, we haven't seen any of the night lights in our neighbourhood this year. But walking through the 'burbs, I've found... well... very little. Hardly any lights strung in trees, hardly any wreaths on doors, and definitely no Santas on roofs. So yesterday's walk was a mission to find the secretly festive enclaves, made all the more difficult because it was, der, daytime.

It took a while, but eventually we started to see the subtlest of signs: 'Santa please stop here', a few giant candy canes pushed into the dirt of the garden, some spray can snow on windows, the shadow of a tree through curtains. We'll take our Christmas cheer where we can.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

December 9: (Tastiest) Mince Pies

Biggest Little Brother and Middle Brother Mountain came for lunch. We fed them ham rolls (because this is the festival of the pig, after all) and mince pies. I am not a big mince pie or even a big pudding fan but I'm slowly being converted. First Aunt C's Christmas pudding won me over and now these bad boys - the cheapest of the mince pies, I'm sure, but the best I've had. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

December 8: Gingerbread village

Dear Boy and I paid a visit for the Gingerbread Village in the City Gallery (*ahem* a tiny room in town hall).  Taking two months to create and crafted by the Epicure's pastry chefs in painstaking detail in aid of the Starlight Children's Foundation, the little village incudes a few Melbourne icons like the MCG (including the massive night lights - can see a pic of this on my instagram) and Luna Park. Happy to make a door donation to help make sick kids' dreams come true. 

We couldn't leave without purchasing at least on gingerbread man, not after smelling this place. Dear Boy tried his first piece of gingerbread with the carnage shown below - his face, my jeans, the lens of the camera and that poor gingerbread man. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

December 6: Heather's Revenge

We started playing Heather's Revenge on Christmas day years ago. It's always been Heather's Revenge to us, introduced as it was by Aunty H, but I'm sure it's known by other names in other families in other places. We play it late on Christmas afternoon when the presents have been opened and discarded about the room after the initial enthusiams, when lunch has been devoured and the leftovers put away for supper, when the kids are coming down off the sugar high or waking from their sugar comas.

For Heather's Revenge you need:

  • dice (2 for rolling doubles)
  • funny/silly/weird 'presents' sourced from two-dollar shops, supermarkets, the dark recesses of cupboards or sometimes the fridge.
  • wrapping paper and various containers or props to disguise the shape/feel/sound of the presents

Today I went shopping for sillies, standing in a cheapy shop and browsing the shelves for things that'll make for a good photo opportunity when finally opened. I wrapped all my finds this afternoon, hiding something cylindrical and a bit noisy in an empty tissue box, wrapped in a (clean) nappy. I'll get the old nappy back at some stage but it's performing admirably right now. All of these are for Christmas part one, for the Southerners before we head north for the summer. 

To play, everyone places their wrapped presents in the middle and the first person rolls the dice. Until someone rolls a double, the dice keep moving around the circle. When those doubles come up, that person gets to pick a present from the centre OR steal someone else's. Mounds of presents are won and lost, as young and old go in for the pilfering. If you roll a double, you get to take another roll of the dice, and another if you keeping rolling them. The game ends when the final present is taken from the middle and then the present opening commences. Objects must be opened, worn, eaten, played with immediately. Pictures must be taken. 

Merriment is generally had by all except the very youngest of kids who sometimes are upset when their presents are stolen, have hissy-fits when they don't roll doubles or don't understand their joke presents. The kids generally love it, though, and pester the adults about when we're going to play almost as soon as they wake up. One of the littlest from last year's game was reminiscing a few weeks ago: 'Remember when I got that jar of gherkins?' This restores my faith in the next generations, who aren't all - as the doom-and-gloomers say - completely corrupted by their consumption and greedy for more, more, more. Most of them are happy with a game, time spent in the company of their family, laughter and maybe the promise of more dessert.


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