Jan 12, 2012

Willy Wonka Birthday

Who can take a birthday, sprinkle it with dew
Cover it with chocolate and a miracle or two
The Candy Man can - cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.

New family tradition - bi-annual birthday parties. Last year's parties were just so good, and so much work, that this year we took a break.

Last year G's 9th birthday was a lumberjack party. We sharpened the axe and 9 of his friends took turns swinging at a tree until we finally felled it. We tapped the maple trees, came in for a reading of Farmer Boy, then ate some of Almanzo's favourite foods - fried apple & onions, stacked pancakes, home-made apple cider. Every guest was given a pair of orange workgloves as the take-home present. "Best party ever" was heard.

Z's 7th birthday was a volcano theme. We made playdough volcanoes with a jar of baking soda & food dye in the middle, then dropped in vinegar to make it explode. Outside, they took turns digging dirt into a huge pile, then stuck a 2 litre diet Coke into it, added Menthos and watched it erupt high into the air. Then inside for a volcano-shaped cake and crazy story about a Tofino lava-surfer. "Best party ever" again uttered.

Cost of both parties - $40, and a huge huge amount of energy and stress and enjoyment and lifetime memories.

This year, birthdays are being celebrated with a family outing somewhere special, with one special friend. Galen took us to the Nutcracker ballet, which our family has long wanted to see anyways. Tonight Zekiah took us to the highschool production of Willy Wonka. Both boys feel well-celebrated.

It actually cost us alot more money, but ballet and the local high school are both good investments in our books. Preparation was little more than buying tickets online and calling a friend. No stress about who to invite or exclude, worry about who might not make it, what presents will be received, what kind of cake to bake for the myriad allergies and preferences. Just family celebrating the birth of our family together.

I love huge birthday theme parties and can't wait to create them again next year. But for this year, we found our own Peaceful magic and held our birthday boys close. For as Willy himself says, "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams."

Jan 8, 2012

Perfect, A+ Holiday

Just how 100% perfect was this holiday season? Or at least as perfect as a holiday that doesn't include a tropical beach? Well, let me brag about how we pretty much hit it:

Presents - Almost all home-made/grown, spent under $100 but still gave thoughtful, much-appreciated, very personal gifts. Like the 100-metre steak dinner I assembled for a friend - beef, potatoes, garlic, leeks, onions, rutabaga, and beets all from our farm. And received likewise - not too much, nothing plastic or batteried or Disneyed - givers obviously thought about our quirky likes and values and gave beautiful, simple gifts.

Family - A full week in Surrey just hunkering down at Mom's with out-of-town brother & partner, skating with cousins and playing music for great grandmas (my nana and her twin are both 98, though she'll get mad if I say she's a day over 95). Not a rush-in-rush-away duty call, but truly enough time to commune and familiate.

Tradition - Relived my childhood favourite Swedish Christmas Eve with the relatives, cheered and booed at the Christmas pantomime, sang every word of every carol, ate nanaimo bar, watched The Grinch, received a note from Santa and presents from famous people (this year, Stuart McLean and Julia Child both showered me with lavish presents), sang Auld Lang Syne with the traditional "what does this mean?" banter, and at long long last made a gingerbread house.

Old Friends - Had outings with ALL FOUR FAMILIES whom we promised to get together with over the holidays (that's twice the success rate of the entire summer vacation). Both kids had good playdates as well as many many days of many many neighbour kids on the land. Family dinner invites, a lovely 4-couple new year's feast that lasted until 1:30am, hikes, bikes...

New Friends - Joyously welcomed a new family across the street with twin boys in Galen's class. Also brought 3 sheep and a new rooster onto our land.

Cleaning and Clearing - Swept the house so clean that we swept the kids into their long-awaited own bedroom, and swept an entire wall-mounted kitchen cabinet into my workshop, which was then completely re-organized (actually, organized for the first time ever). Repainted the now-bare kitchen wall and shuffled/sorted everything to fit into remaining cabinets. Emptied the entire basement in preparation for the new bedroom I've promised will be built this month (to make up for the guest bedroom that's now the boys' abode). Hired a grade 8 boy to help me clear year-old piles of lumber, debris and gravel and clear the land to greet the new year. And all that at a truly enjoyable, natural pace.

Rest - Celebrated our first adult-only bedroom in 4 years by sleeping in until after 8 every morning while the boys quietly played in their own room. Despite all the crazy fun we still managed to have the boys in bed close to their usual bedtime almost every night. Winter is the season for extra sleep and rejuvenation, and we're finally able to honour that.

No work - I just completely unplugged. No work meetings, maybe 20 minutes a day to keep on top of emails, no volunteer gigs. No clever facebook entries, not even a blog entry since Dec.10. Just walked away, and now find myself coming back fresh.

Quiet family time - Somehow in the midst of all that we managed many hours a day with just the four of us, playing Settlers of Cataan and Trouble, practising piano and violin and singing in harmony, baking, playing street hockey, biking, hiking, skating, and doing all the above-listed activities together as a family.

Mexico really doesn't call me at Christmas. Family does. Friends do. Nanaimo bars do. Of course, if all those were on a hot beach, I wouldn't complain. But really we did what we do best, or would like to do when we're at our best - spent time together with the people and activities we cherish. We spent our holidays at that place where Holly meets holy and Jolly meets Joyous.