December 11, 2013

Christmas cards

I haven't really kept it a secret that I love Christmas. I mean I've written about six posts relating to the holidays, posted about twenty photos of various holiday activities, and talked about it non-stop. My house looks like a giant bauble full of glitter has exploded all over it, I've been munching Christmas treats all day long, and the concierge at our building knows me, my apartment number and how many packages I got today when I just enter the reception area. And with about 700 apartments to look after I think that's saying something (no, contrary to popular opinion around here it does not mean I should stop buying things). But bit by bit I feel the "holiday anxiety" starting to creep up. You see, the truth is I don't like holidays that much. Ok I don't like holidays at all. They are too intense, to stressful, too full of people I rarely like, too... Too suffocating. For me, one of the main perks about living abroad with no family in sight was never having to go through another of those holidays again. Or so I thought. Because as the kids are getting older holidays are becoming much more important. Holidays, after all, are about forming traditions and connections. For many people this connection is with God, for some it's with their country, but for me it's about my boys. By choosing to raise my kids in a different culture, language, environment than I grew up in, I lost something that I couldn't fully appreciate up to that point - I lost the continuity thread that runs through the generations. They don't sing the same songs, read the same stories, or even learn the same history of the world as me. Their view of the world is different to mine and is build on different foundations. And that is exactly what I want for them, but it also makes finding that connection and traditions that much harder. It all depends on me. And I don't really like holidays.
I've adapted, as one does, and over the last four years we created our own traditions and I made my peace with the holidays. But then you have Christmas. And Christmas is not just any old holiday, it's The Holiday, and it comes hand in hand with a gigantic Christmas dinner, what feels like 1,000 presents, two weeks off school and work, and my parents. And the key to the success of what is starting to feel like Mission Impossible 7 is me. And I don't like holidays.
I do, however, like lists. I have a very complex Excel file to organise all the gifts (due to various family issues, I buy all my kids gifts and give them out under different names. Don't ask. It's as absurd as it sounds, and causes me distress to talk about). This file is my saviour, as I have to have the exact same number of gifts per child from each family member, and trying to keep track on what's been ordered, what's arrived, and what is yet to be wrapped is a sure way to go crazy. But it doesn't end here, because you have the teachers presents, the building presents (you know - cleaners, concierge, etc.), our presents, guests presents... Unrelated to that I have the holiday-visit-schedule because past lessons have taught us that six people do not fit well inside a tiny shoebox for long, so I set out to arrange a list of activities that takes into accounts 2 grandparents who don't like the cold, 2 parents who are very tired and 2 kids in different ages who like very different things, and one of them has special needs. Easy peasy. And lastly who can forget the Christmas dinner? Now, I've read all the magazines, and I've eaten 2 traditional Christmas meals, one of them last year we made ourselves. BUT this year we are hosting, and that is completely different because according to Jewish law if you are hosting one person it's as if you have invited a hungry platoon. You are required to make enough food to feed three times the amount of guests you have for at least three days (plus ten precent extra just in case). It's not just when you are talking holidays, it's every meal. But when it's a holiday? it's unforgivable if you don't. There is nothing worse for a Jewish hostess than no leftovers. The saying is, if everything you made got eaten and you don't have any leftovers than you haven't made enough food. Try harder next year. If anyone will be willing to come over again. Bad hostess. So you'll understand when I tell you that I have been stressing over the menu for two weeks now, and having endless conversations with my mum about how many types of pre-dinner nibbles is acceptable, and why I am not going to serve soup. How can you have a holiday dinner with no soup??!
I am having trouble sleeping. The stress of having a perfect (or at least acceptable) Christmas is getting to me, and as it's on top of a less than stellar time, I am starting to crack. I know I am over-reacting, but the last couple of Christmases were a bit on the tight end, and last year was six months after we moved here, so I really want this year's to be perfect for everyone. And last week I started to feel like I'm crumbling under the pressure of all that needs to be done. I really am a very organised person usually (ok I'm obsessive compulsive), and when I am under stress I tend to clean, clear and organise everything I see, but somehow this Christmas became like one of those monster-projects that you just can't defeat, you know the ones - every time you finish one task three jumps up and threaten to bury you underneath a new pile of "have to do's".
This is how I found myself in BHS last week looking for Christmas cards, without being sure even how many I need. Because I forgot to buy them. Ron loves writing Christmas cards to all the kids in his class. I have no idea how many of them actually celebrate Christmas, but since I couldn't find a box with 25 "season greetings" cards they got generic ones (and I also bought a giant dog for Yon. Or maybe it was for me. It looks exactly like a real one and it's fur is so fluffy and cuddly. I need cuddly). He got into the habit when we were in Gibraltar, where everyone give out Christmas cards every year. I think it's a lovely tradition and he enjoys it and doesn't seem to mind that it's less common in our school here. And on top of everything this year we had Yon joining the party. Last year I wrote his cards, but this year I wasn't sure what to do. Should I let him write his own cards or not? I hate these dilemmas, I never know what the right answer is, and I have no basis for comparison. As a rule of thumb I try not to compare Yon to Ron, because I know Ron is not a good indication of what a child is expected to do, after all not all kids know how to write in two languages when they are three.
This is how I found myself on Monday afternoon not really sure what to do, but Yon is going through an "I want to be Ron" period, and he wants to do everything Ron does. He really wanted to do those cards. In the end what I did was write each child's name on the envelope and he copied it to the card and added a JonJon at the bottom (that's his real name - Jonathan. But no one calls him that, because it's too serious, so it's JonJon to everyone except me. And you). He wrote 25 cards, most of them were even legible. It is an incredible achievement for him to be able to copy from a different paper without making a mistake and without getting tired. On Tuesday morning we took the cards to school to hand them out. I thought he would want me to do it, but I was wrong. He was so proud of them, he told every child he saw, he showed the teacher, and he handed them all out by himself.
It always amazes me how much inspiration we can get from our children. How much better they are than us at dealing with difficulties (most of the times), and with Yon, how he doesn't let anything stop him doing exactly what he wants.
I now have three lists ready, one food order for the 21, a complete schedule including Google-Calendar invitations, and a set menu for dinner. And all I am missing is one gift that is on its way and 2 books for Ron.
Because if Yon can do it, I can do it too.

I am linking it for the last time this year (!) to the wonderful Small Steps Amazing Achievements at Ethan's Escapade. Have a wonderful Christmas Jane :)
To the equally lovely Motivational Monday at Pinkoddy, who is always inspiring me to do better :)
To Victoria's wonderful #PoCoLo. Have a very merry Christmas!
And to Jaime's Magic Moments over at The Oliver's Madhouse. Merry Christmas :)


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