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Archive for the tag “holidays”

Not-So-Merry Christmas

So our Christmas was a bust. Especially mine.

Christmas Eve is when we traditionally have our big meal. It’s how we did it when I was a kid so my mom could relax on Christmas instead of being busy cooking all day–it’s a tradition I’ve kept alive (with a few exceptions over the years).

So, Jack (9) woke me at 10am on Christmas Eve because I promised to bake cookies. Meagan (19) had to work until 7pm so we were going to have a late dinner anyway. Lots of extra time to get those cookies done.

I was in the kitchen by 10:30am and ended up having to clean all the stuff I told the kids to have done before I could bake. I just don’t have the energy to clean and bake, but I pushed through, determined to improve what was going to be a dismal Christmas morning (more on that later).

Anyway, I got the dough for kolackies and sugar cookies in the fridge to chill and was about to just end the day because I was in so much pain my back and hips from leaning over the counters, but my husband offered me a reserve oxy from when he had his surgery. It got me through the day (mostly).

With Jack’s help (and occasionally the other kids), I managed to make batches of chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, and ranger cookies. I also had to make the filling for the kolackies because you can’t buy the Solo filling here anymore. The raspberry filling (made from frozen raspberries, sugar and lemon juice) turned out perfect, but the apricot one (made from dried apricots and sugar) was too sweet–next time, I won’t add the sugar or not as much. The kolackies themselves turned out great. It’s the first year we’ve had them in a while because of the filling issue.

We also managed to fit in a couple hands of UNO while the cookies were baking and then it was time to clean up and get the pork roast in the Instant Pot.

All-in-all, I was on my feet pretty much nonstop from 10:30am until we ate at nearly 9pm (the cooking took way longer than I anticipated and I got the meat in the pot later than I had wanted) minus the 20 minutes to play UNO and maybe 30 minutes after I put the meat in. By that time, the oxy had worn off, and I was in so much pain, I was nearly in tears but the night wasn’t over.

After dinner, I snuck off upstairs to finish the gifts I was working on. I still had to put together a llama and put the finishing touches on a couple other things. And wrap it all. All without the kids barging in and ruining the surprise. I was up until 5am.

And then I started feeling sick to my stomach. I still have no idea what was wrong. I managed to get things wrapped and under the tree, but left the stocking stuffers in the car (the kids know it’s not from Santa). I was so sick, all I could do was crawl in bed and cry myself to sleep.

Jack tried to wake me at 9 the next morning, but I was still too sick to move. My head felt like it would explode and every time I moved, I wanted to puke. And I was just plain exhausted. I obviously overdid it on Christmas Eve. I slept until 6:30pm then managed to eat a tiny bit of leftovers but was back in bed by 9pm and slept until 2:30am. Stayed up for an hour before I started feeling dizzy and sick again then slept until noon the next day. I didn’t watch the kids open their presents or get to see my grandson on his first Christmas. I was that sick. It sucked.

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The kids, gracious as always, loved their one gift each. Meagan (19) got a shawl I made from a pattern in a 1970s booklet I found. Owen (18) got a cribbage board because he’d been wanting one for a while now. Brenna (17) got a stuffed llama. She wanted me to make her another little giraffe because the one I made her was taken hostage by the baby even though I made him his own, but I did the llama instead–it sleeps on her bed now. Nora (13) got her blanket finished. I started it in January as part of a monthly crochet-a-long, telling her it would be done by Christmas. It almost wasn’t because I ran out of yarn and had no money for more, but managed to get just enough to finish it two days before Christmas. Jack (9) got a little game about submarines and exploring the oceans (we haven’t had a chance to play it yet). And Arrow (6 months) got his own llama that I think his mama is claiming as her own. And each person got a food-themed ornament.

That’s it. It wasn’t until two days after Christmas that the kids finally got their stocking stuffers–chicken in a biscuit crackers, sour gummy worms, toothbrushes, and toothpaste.

That was the entirety of Christmas at our house. I guess the baby enjoyed playing with the wrapping paper and ornaments the most.

Being poor sucks. In the past, I managed to salvage Christmas because a friend sent me money. She was our real-life Santa for years, but she moved out of the country this year so I didn’t expect anything. I used the birthday money my dad sent me (which he always specifies to spend on myself) on the games, snacks and a Sims 4 expansion (we actually got 3 of them–Meagan paid for one and the third I used some other money I had stashed on my paypal that may or may not belong to one of the kids).

I hope everyone else’s Christmases were more merry.

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween from the sunny but very cool Pacific Northwest.

My 9yo son, Jack, as Link and my 4mo grandson, Arrow, as a wizard. I made both costumes myself.

I had no patterns so for the wizard robes, I took on of his bathrobes and traced around it then just kind of winged it. His mother added a bunch of felt starts. Then I made the hat completely on the fly, deciding to add the hair and beard last second. Barely got it done in time to go trick-or-treating.

For the Link costume, I used the version from the Windwaker game because it’s a simple design. Again, no pattern. Just measured him and sewed, hoping for the best. Turned out better than I hoped. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the energy to solve the issues with the boots covering his toes and we got a flat tire right before Halloween so I couldn’t afford to buy the pants and undershirt I found at Target.

Hope everyone had a great day and didn’t get sick on too much candy.

Happy Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day in the US, Canada, and a bunch of other countries.

Don’t forget to call up your mom (or that special woman that is like a mother to you) and tell her how much you love her. *

I wish I could, but my mother died over sixteen years ago. If I could go back in time…

So Happy Mother’s Day to my mom (who is no longer with me):

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Me and my mom in 1985 (I think–I was about 8)

And Happy Mother’s Day to my mother-in-law, Kay (who we lost in March):

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Kay and Jack (3 weeks old) in 2010

And I guess, Happy Mother’s Day to me!

(Christmas Eve 2016–trying to get a nice picture of all five of them is like trying to nail jell-o to the wall.)

*Unless your mother is/was a abusive bitch–then call the “mother” in your life–whether she’s an aunt, a grandmother, a friend, or the old lady down the street. Whomever she may be–let her know how much you appreciate her being in your life.

 

Christmas While Poor

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Me, my kids, and my brother last Christmas

Being poor sucks all year ’round, but it seems doubly bad come the holidays. If you’re Christian, or like me, an atheist that celebrates Christmas, there is a lot of pressure to give gifts to everyone and their uncle. It can cause a lot of stress when you barely have money to put food on the table, and many poor families go into more debt trying to give their children even a small Christmas.

This year is exceptionally hard for us. In 2013, my husband hurt his shoulder at work and went on worker’s comp. It’s been over a year since he worked, and since then, we’ve had to go on Medicaid and food stamps. We’re below the poverty line for a family of four, but there are seven people in our family. Our rent is over half of the disability income my husband receives, and we barely scrape by every month. If it wasn’t for the refund from my student loan that I get every two months, we’d have lost our house already. Or we’d have no lights or water.

As Christmas crept closer, the more anxious we’ve been. It’s not that we want to go all out. We’ve been poor our entire relationship, but the last couple of years weren’t as bad–we had some disposable income and were able to give the kids nice Christmases. This year is going to be bad because there just isn’t anything extra.

So far we’ve spent $30 on each child. The four younger kids each got two LEGO sets; the oldest got a Target gift card. We had to charge it to my husband’s emergency credit card (the only one we have). Normally my dad gives us $50 for each child which we use for Santa presents along with a gift from Papa, but this year he moved and can barely afford to eat so there were only be cards from him.

It’s hard. I know the kids will understand. They’re good kids and will appreciate what they get. Sure they’ll be disappointed, but they know we’re poor–we’ve never hidden it. How do you even do that? How many times have they begged for money to do something with a friend? How many times have I had to tell them to suck it up when they outgrow their clothes (thank goodness for hand-me-downs)? How many times have I had to use their birthday money to buy things for the house? They get it.

But we still want them to have something. It’s Christmas! So they’ll have their $30 gift from Santa. I’m going to pick them out each an outfit from Kohl’s which will be charged to my card to be paid off at some unknown time–they need the clothes anyway. And I’ll get some stocking stuffers using what’s left of my student loan money.

We do have a bright spot for Christmas. I have a friend online that I met through Livejournal that sends a gift for the kids every year. I’ve never asked her to do this, she just surprised us a couple years ago. Today she emailed me to let me know she’s sending a gift card this year. I cried. She’s amazing, and that will add one more Santa gift to the mix (the older kids all know that the gifts come from her–she’s our own special Santa).

I know we’re not the worst off–there are many other families in the US that have less. Things could be worse, so I’m not really complaining. The tree is up and looking all festive. My dad and brother are coming over for Christmas dinner–pork roast, yum–for our first full family get together. It’ll be a lot of fun even if the space under the tree is going to look really bare this year.

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Christmas as an Atheist

It’s that time of year again when pretty lights twinkle in the night, kids line up to sit on Santa’s lap in every mall across America, and parents struggle to figure out how to afford Christmas yet again.

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If you listen to some conservative Christians, you’d think there’s some huge conspiracy to shut Christmas down–the “War on Christmas.” As far as I can tell, this war stems from some stores asking their employees to say, “Happy Holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas” because they, you know, recognize that Christmas isn’t the only holiday celebrated in December! Apparently this is persecution.

As a minority religion-wise, I don’t get it. It’s just common decency to consider other people’s beliefs and to not insist yours is above the rest. Personally, I don’t mind either version. It seems the only people upset about what greeting is used during the holidays are the quacky Christians (not to be confused with the sane Christians).

Being an atheist during the holidays can be a challenge. First off, it’s the one time of year that bombardment with Christianity isn’t just tolerated, but expected. There are other religions celebrating in the winter? Who knew?

Luckily for me, I like Christmas. I grew up celebrating and carried the traditions to my children despite raising them in an atheist household. We have the tree with twinkling lights, Santa visits (although he’s about as poor as we are), we make cookies, have a big family dinner on Christmas Eve, and generally enjoy this time of year. I even like most religious Christmas music. God, Jesus, mangers, and wise men play absolutely no role in our celebrations. They aren’t mentioned at all; it’s completely secular–just the way Santa intended.

Deciding whether or not to celebrate a religious holiday when you don’t believe in the religion can cause a lot of stress for atheists. If family members aren’t pressuring you to participate, there’s an internal battle over your own personal beliefs. Not everyone goes through this. For me, it was never an issue. I never thought twice about doing Christmas with my kids, but I’ve known others that have struggled with the idea of giving into the Christians this time of year.

Trying to explain why I still celebrate Christmas as an atheist has been met with criticism in the past. I’ve been accused of just pretending to be an atheist since I still continue to participate in obvious religious holidays. I’ve been told I’m a hypocrite for saying there’s no Jesus, but celebrating his birth (which I’m not doing–it never comes up at our house). Generally, there is just confusion coming from Christians who can’t fathom anyone believing any differently than they.

Christmas is a family and cultural tradition for me. Although we’ve started a few traditions of our own since my kids were born, most come from things I did as a child like having dinner on the 24th, leaving gifts unwrapped to play with before Mom and Dad wake up, and stockings with names stitched on by hand. I also feel connected to the millions of other people celebrating Christmas (for whatever reason), knowing that on December 25th, most people are waking up to brightly wrapped gifts under a tree. It’s all about community–locally and globally.

Most atheists I know celebrate Christmas and other holidays from when they were children, but there are many that don’t. For them, this time of year can be aggravating with the music, decorations, and pushy Christians everywhere. For me the stress has more to do with affording a few gifts for the kids every year. With five children that adds up quickly.

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