Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Week Reflections

Except for Boxing Day, which we had gloriously and entirely to ourselves, at home all day watching the snow, we've been enjoying lovely family time, relieved and satisfied at how well our new, smaller space accommodates "life with grandkids." With towels spread on our new-to-us dining table, it worked as a good spot for some pre-Christmas Painting with Nana. . . Subject of the painting is a doll I sewed for 8-year-old's Mom some 38 years ago -- poor thing had her hair removed some 36 or 37 years ago, and Big Girl and I were experimenting to see how she might look with new yarn applied. The prototype seemed to appeal, so Nana did some hurried Abracadabra and surprised 8-year-old with this on Christmas Day -- new garments have been suggested. Nana should perhaps not have revealed her powers of wizardry. . . .

Christmas morning tradition -- I love to go for a run, sometimes with Pater, but I haven't been running much lately in deference to a few sore spots. But the weather, though freezing, was too gorgeous to let the opportunity slip by -- although I had to be very careful not to slip, period. Icy conditions kept me watchful throughout the 7.5 Kilometres -- and part of the watching included a beaver's contented munching in a nearby pond (you can find a short video on my Instagram feed if you're interested). I also managed to raise my head, occasionally, to see the sun's artistry on old warehouses. . .
I found myself not much wanting to take the camera out when family was here, preferring to absorb the moments for themselves, in the present.  But I snapped this shot of the table, set and waiting. The small paper-bag place tags were a fun addition -- I filled them with a few tiny treats that both kids and grandkids seemed to enjoy finding and playing with as we eased into the meal.
As I say, I wasn't much inclined to take photos, and when I did, I chose vantages that captured the moment but kept faces within the family circle. Not sure why that felt right, for now, but it did. 4-Year-Old has been wearing her red strands up above, in a delightful topknot, very sweet. And The Little Guy is talking more and more -- dressed up in new duds for Christmas Eve at his place, he kept pointing out his "cute suit." And it was.

Since then, I've been doing a lot of this -- it's a cardigan for 8-Year-Old, intended as part of a matching set for her and her doll. The notion of matching outfits thrills her, for some reason (although she explained to me, who really didn't need to be told, that her mother doesn't like matching outfits at all).
Not much knitting today, though. The island crew made it over yesterday, so we're enjoying one last big round of festive visiting, and revelling in time with a Toddler Girl we haven't seen for over three months -- during which time someone's learned to speak in sentences. Dazzling.
 She's a very active Toddler Girl, and we were really excited about giving her this Balance Bike for Christmas, so Granddad and Papa put it together yesterday afternoon, only to find that it's Much Too Big for now (we were misled at the toy store earlier this month -- phone calls were made after yesterday's discovery, and we're still deciding what to do. Most likely choice is the straightforward one: wait for Toddler Girl to grow!).

Next on the agenda is today's dinner where we'll get to see four of the five cousins together. We'll be missing our Italian crew, of course (although at least that daughter finally posted again on her blog about ex-pat life).  Still, eight adults (counting Pater and me) and four kids? That's a lot of family life for a condo in the sky. Not going to lie -- it's been a challenging year in many ways, and re-settling after our rich life on a very special island raised questions about how our roles as Mom and Dad, Nana and Granddad, would change with our new digs. That verdict is still in the forming, I'd say, but for now, it looks as if we'll still be able to pull off hosting a decent Christmas gathering or two. Good to know, right?

So that's a potpourri of random Christmas doings. We're rounding up to the New Year, of course, but I'm not ready for retrospection right now, nor for anticipation of what might be ahead in 2017. I'm just going to sit here, now, in the moments with family, or alone with my book or my knitting or out for a run, or with Pater at a yoga class or cooking a meal together. Not blogging too much, but happy to check in with you -- if you're in the same mood, perhaps you'll let me know what moments you've treasured or are treasuring this season. And if not, I'm curious about that as well. Are you looking back, evaluating? Or forward, itching to get the New Year started?

29 comments:

  1. Hi Frances, I love the photo of your dining table, mainly as I can see how light and bright your new home is. Enjoy the rest of the holidays!

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    1. Thanks Patricia. It is lovely and light-filled, even on grey days.

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  2. I daren't look forward or backwards - it's all too stressful! We're cleaning out our house daily but there's still so much to do. And I'm going to have to find a new house for March 1. Can't find a place for less than 3K a month (I know, insane. But if I want a 3 bedroom place in my current neighbourhood, that's the cheapest going rate.) Today I asked my mother if she really thinks this reno is going to happen - I mean, we have plans and builders and financing and we're cleaning all the time - but there's a part of me that has no idea of how this is actually going to occur - what life will be in 3 months. I guess that's how it is though. My co-manager at work just broke her foot in 3 places and will be unable to move for 6 weeks - with 2 kids under the age of 4 (of course, this means I'll likely be picking up another set of responsibilities at work - Lord, I don't know how it would be possible to work more.) Change (for good and bad) happens all the time, which is why I have to be here now.

    Wow, this comment is crazy. My point is, good change can be extremely stressful and it won't necessarily feel good in the transition. But change is non-negotiable. Just wait to experience your new 'hood in the summertime. There are marvelous things about the city and high-rise living.

    You may be amused to know that I think to myself: Oh, to be retired! at least once a day.

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    1. It's reassuring to know that there is "other crazy" out there -- although I wouldn't truly call your comment crazy. We had to live in a rental on our island when we a) lifted the old cottage right up to have a proper foundation/crawlspace put underneath it; and b) had a two-storey addition built alongside...So much went wrong (builder had a nervous breakdown which at first was suspected to be cancer because he lost so much weight!) and deadline was extended too often -- But we survived and lived there long enough to forget the horrors (although my husband swears the lobotomy is what achieved that for him, ha!) and have many, many good years living in the home we planned -- as will you, I'm quite sure.
      And change, yep! Plus trying to avoid stress isn't a bad idea, but it can surprise us, right? and pop up where it's least expected.
      And I do believe that this place will really hook me as the weather warms up -- not so convincing in the grey rain and cold. . .

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  3. Monsieur and I found Pages in the Sun, an English (used) bookstore today. It was just the kind of ex-pat hangout that you find in unlikely places. Blue skies and water, fresh seafood and cold drinks make for a nice break.This retirement thing goes in stages and I hit 65 next month. My mother is getting older and with that comes adjustments. Change is non-negotiable and we are privileged to have so many opportunities to travel in different ways.

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    1. Oh, I can just imagine you there -- of course you found an ex-pat used bookstore, perfection! ;-)

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  4. Thanks for sharing your Christmas thoughts and reflections. We are in a similar family state. Our daughter and son-in-law from San Francisco are staying with us for two weeks along with our Four year old and eighteen month o,d granddaughters. In fact the parents are away for a few days of much needed respite while we take care of the children this week. It's so wonderful to spend this much time with them but also a completely different rhythm to our lives. We also,have our other daughter, son-in-law and 5 year old and toddler grandchildren here in Portland who have been able to share lots of time with us this holiday season. I do find it strange to experience being the grandparent at this stage in our circle of life. It seems a bit fragile to now be the older generation. My goal is to,keep cherishing each of these moments. Sending you good wishes.

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    1. It does sound as if we're at a similar stage. Lovely, isn't it, but yes, there is something strange to it as well. And the word "fragile" has really lodged with me somehow. Going to come back to this, I think, in a future post. Thank you for sparing a few minutes for running after those wee ones.

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  5. Christmas for us was very different this year -- it was the first in over 35 years of marriage that it was just the two of us. Our daughter could not get home for Christmas, but could get home for 10 days in November. Our son chose to come home at the same time as his sister so we celebrated "Christmas in November" (with all our usual traditions). But that left me, in particular, feeling flat all December and especially on Christmas Day. Change, as said above, is non-negotiable -- but still is an adjustment. I'm still processing all this. Best wishes. Lyn (South Surrey).

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    1. I'm not sure I'm ready for that to happen -- just the two of us at Christmas -- and I can see how it might feel flat. We've talked about when it might, though, and we've also imagined going away, just the two of us, at Christmas. You're right, change is not a choice, but that doesn't mean adjustment is easy. Still, I'll bet you'll have shaken off the flat fairly soon, and then we'll have a whole new year to adjust to. . . ;-)

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  6. The column with lights,white flowers on the piano and festive table with red checked tablecloth,the light and the view-I like it
    Interesting-we all are in some kind of change or adjusting
    You could always rent a house on your island (or elsewhere) for the summer with your grandkids and kids,if this is what you wish,although I like the part of your new urban life that you've showed us. I am sure the kids like it too
    Dottoressa

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    1. Thanks, Dra. So far, I couldn't bear to rent on "our" island, but we have thought of renting somewhere on another island or in another nearby vacation spot. And the kids do seem to like our new spot (and our proximity for baby-sitting!)

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  7. I loved the glimpse of your grandchildren and the interior of your new apt.! For so many of us, space to host all the family on a handful of occasions is way too big for everyday life, unless someone wants a big place for other reasons.

    @donnyb: We now spend Christmas the way we started, just the two of us, with both our sons at our DIL's mother's, several hours away. Instead of everyone racing back to the city on icy roads, we prefer to wait till it's calm, and host a relaxed dinner here sometimes between Christmas and New Year's. The first year or two we did this (5 yrs now), I felt flat like you, but now my heart has synched up with my brain, and it's fine.

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    1. K, you're so right, especially for a family our size. The upkeep of a larger place gets tiresome, and it's surprising how well you can manage on less, albeit with compromises.
      I can't believe you've been in Mtl for five years!

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  8. I just love the light in your new home and the Christmas table was beautiful. Mad for plaid, I am.

    Love the story of the bike. My dad made my son an absolutely beautiful rocking horse for Christmas when he was three, but it was huge. He couldn't ride it by himself until he was about 7, and at that point he was not interested in it. It is in storage along with my daughter's beautiful refurbished dollhouse.

    It is so hard to let go of Christmas traditions that have been cultivated over the years; I drove my family crazy trying to recreate my mother's Christmas after she passed away. But ultimately, these important holidays are about family, not stuff, not the right china, the heirloom silver, or the favorite aunt's macaroni and cheese but simply being together and loving each other.

    The week leading up to Christmas this year for me meant visiting my brother in the hospital two hours away. Thankfully my daughter lives 30 minutes away from the hospital so we were able to sleep at her place. He was released Christmas Eve but he is weak and we will not have Christmas with him until he is stronger and the kids can get more time off from work. At my house, I managed to get lights on the tree, but not the ornaments. I decided that I could live with that because my brother is alive and healing, my kids are happily employed, my house is warm, my belly is full, I live where I want to be with the man that I love. The rest is gravy... Carol

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    1. Thanks Carol! Some very wise words here, and a beautiful reminder of what really matters. (I laboured for so many hours over a Vogue-pattern felt Wendy House that fit over a card-table, all windows and shutters and latching door, etc. that my than 6yo daughter says now was one of her big Christmas disappointments, though she disguised that well at the time. To me, hand-crafted Christmas gifts were the standard that had to be met).
      I hope your brother continues to heal and you'll be together and strong at Christmas next year. Perhaps the tree will even have ornaments -- sounds as if you already generate enough of your own light!

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  9. Haven't read any blogs for a week now. I didn't read or write or comment or anything while I was in New Brunswick. Now I've lots of catching up to do. Hope the rest of the holiday season is good to you Frances. Happy New Year. Now I'm off to look at old videos of Debbie Reynolds.

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  10. I have been cocooning and embracing the festive season...not much computer time at all.
    Your new table looks like it will be large enough for most of your family get togethers..well done!
    I made a doll for our daughter around the same time you made yours...I must take a picture sometime soon and share her with you.
    Happy New Years to you and your family Frances.

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    1. The table worked so well, L! It seats 10 easily, and even 12 comfortably enough with the potential to squeeze few extra in a pinch.
      I don't suppose that doll you made came from a pattern in Canadian Living magazine, did it? I've tried to track mine down, but no luck. I'd like to see a picture of yours. Happy New Year to you and yours as well!

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  11. Change is non-negotiable – so true! This year, life has brought changes for several members of my extended family: new jobs or new homes in new countries. In the end, we could not arrange the traditional family gathering for Christmas. Then the equally traditional get together at my house on Boxing Day, including my sister plus family and two very dear friends with their partners was sadly thinned out because one friend’s father had fallen ill and could not be left alone.
    On the other hand, I may have started a new tradition. I googled a recipe for tourtiere and tried it out and the result was well received. I’d love to know more about the history of that dish.
    At the moment, I am looking out at “my” lake in the pink winter light, with ducks and seagulls paddling around. A bit of continuity here.

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    1. So impressed you've brought Quebec to Germany in your tourtiere-baking. For a good history from The Canadian Encyclopedia, see this: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/tourtiere/
      You are so lucky to have "your" lake -- savour that scene to get you through the next few months of work. . .

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  12. Hi Frances - I really enjoyed your potpourri of moments, as I did enjoy following your European travels. As you might imagine I loved the picture of the warehouse. Hope you enjoyed your run, and niggles not too bad - its a dilemma I think that often those most lovely running days in winter are also potentially most dangerous underfoot. I won't fully share my own reflections just now,save that I am also in a period of change ( having left my permanent FT job in Nov and work plans are fluid ) - but fully addressing that change is on the back burner till the first week of January. Right now I have both my girls at home , and awaiting a few more young folk - boyfriends, friends et al to celebrate Hogmanay ( New Year's Eve). We have a small house filled with too much stuff - so I can relate to your change from family home to apartment- our home will w be a bit like a student sleep out for the next few days - but also full of lively chat and different viewpoints, which is a joy.
    I purposely came to read your blog as have a big does of writers block, with my own writing somewhat abandoned.
    Has been as always good reading - and just the jolt I need.
    Wishing you a very Happy New Year

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    1. Thanks Marob -- it was a great run, and it doesn't seem to have made the niggles any worse, so I'm going to try again this morning.
      I love the sound of your house-full -- in fact, that's something I miss, the easy visiting that happens in between. . . especially when they're still at the stage that they have friends living nearby who pop in to visit. Mine are a decade to a decade and a half ahead of yours, sounds like, and this next shift is good but, as Beth says above, there's something strange about it as well. Savour the moments, that's the lesson, I suppose. Over and over, that's the lesson. . .
      So glad to hear you find something worth coming here for. I'm still hoping this might be the year we meet in person. Meanwhile, Happy New Year to you as well.

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  13. I have had a very nice holiday season. Now I am considering the new year. I will be making some changes - some pretty big ones or so they feel to me - in near future. All to do with my presence online. I am taking very small steps now. I am sorry I am here less right - that is not part of my plan for the future but an artifact of the time needed to figure everything out.

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    1. Glad to hear you've enjoyed the holidays, and I'm very excited to hear what changes you're making to your online presence in 2017. (never any need to apologise!)

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  14. so fun to see 8 yr old painting along side nana!! Can't lie, we miss you here. But happy to see you building a beautiful "city" life.

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    1. Isn't it fun?! She was here for the day, but we got busy making pies, etc., and then it was almost time to go, and I could tell she was disappointed we hadn't managed to paint. So pleasing to know how much happiness you can pack into fifteen minutes and a paintbox!

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  15. Frances, I think I may have your doll pattern -- in an old Canadian Living Christmas Crafts book. In the book it's called Merry Mary. Email me (lynjames54@gmail.com) and I can give you details (and if it is, I could lend you the book if you would like). (I don't think I can post a picture of it here in comments.). Lyn

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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