First, I picked a date for hot cocoa and wish lists. I set the counter up as I might for a craft project by putting out pencils, erasers, colored markers, catalogs, whole punches, etc.
Second, I showed each of the kids how to start a letter to Santa.
Third, I let the kids draft out their long lists of wishes. They could put anything (and as many things as) they wanted on their lists - no editing or shoulds allowed from mom.
The lists were very long and included big deals such as Guinea Pigs, slide projectors, new bicycles and skateboards, as well as little deals such as lip gloss and candy.
Finally, and this is the magical part, I asked them to take their long lists and to choose something for their head, (books or knowledge-based learning), something for their heart (an animal to love, athletic equipment), something for their hands (yarn for knitting, blocks, or projects to build and cook), and something for our home (a family game, a supply of fancy paper, new pastels).
As the children made trade-offs, I talked to them about balance and about happiness being a sign of a person using many of his or her gifts throughout a lifetime. They seemed to understand the connection, but expect a lot of discussion, negotiation, even some disappointments...
Finally, they wrote up their edited lists on a fresh piece of paper to Santa and decorated it. If there was anything either of them felt really strongly about including (in addition to the 4-Hs), we would just keep talking about it. I even asked them to add one wish for someone else . . . to integrate the idea of charitable giving.
This approach to how to make a Christmas wish list takes time and some thought. But it can help ease the blind consumerism the tradition can bring ... while transforming it into a mini plan.
I like that the kids are learning simple consciousness about their wishes, something I still practice myself. And while they won't get everything on their lists, they deal with the disappointments before Christmas morning. That makes "a little room" for the spirit of Christmas to come in.
The affections deep
The clean-up easy
The leftovers keep.
Should the family without
Need a little of yours
May you find the will
To give something, of course.
May our earth spin lovely
Extended in space
May the story of harvest
Bring a welcomed grace
To those far away
from our table this day
may their lives be felt
through the words we say.
Thank you! we are grateful
We are grateful for life.
Thank you! we are grateful
For this day of less strife.
Soldiers and preachers,
Politicians and press
Gather at the table
Take this rest.
Child and mother
Farmer and cook
The day of Thanksgiving
Is here - go. Look.
Let go of drudgery
Let the meal be a feast
On tastes and smells
For the smallest, the least
Serve love, forgiveness
Good pie, good wine.
In these uncertain times.
And tomorrow when memories
are all you can hold
Loosen your grip
And let life unfold...
There is much to learn
And so much to do
Believe in life's goodness
As it comes to you.
posted by Coco Kraft Thanksgiving morning 2007
Dear Coco, sweetheart, listen up:
I have been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for thirty-five years. When I was younger, I used to complain and get nervous - like "performance anxiety" nervous - but then I figured that if I looked good and wore fantastic lip gloss most of the party, it didn't matter that the old bird tasted like shoe leather, or that the cran slid out from the can to the counter then rolled off onto the floor while the creamed corn solidified on the stove top.
On Thanksgiving, if I looked good, and felt confident, it didn't even matter that the old chips and family dramas were being sanded down (again) with glances and comments in between courses... It was all just to be expected on Thanksgiving, after all. (aside: "Harold, pour me a little more Sherry, would ya sweetheart?")
But since I cannot tell a women in her forties how to look good ... she's got to do that for herself ... I can give her a secret lift for her turkey dinner: saucy gravy.
Like lip gloss does for me, saucy gravy on a dry turkey dinner, adds heat, dresses it up, adds a touch of flavor on the tongue, and helps camouflage inevitable flaws:
Into the pan with the drippings add a half-stick of butter and melt over medium-low heat.
(I put the roasting pan right on the stove top...)
As it heats, scrape the caramelized fat from the pan, stir.
Add a scant 2 Tbls. of flour
Cook it up until it is about to brown
Add water, 1 1/2 cups
Simmer down, way down.
Season with salt, pepper and brandy.
If the sauce isn't glossy enough, add more butter.
Make sure the gravy is served very hot so at least there is a chance the other stuff won't seem so cold as you serve your big table. Apply a fresh coat of your own lip gloss before sitting down. Smile.
With love and admiration,
Village Elder (from New York, New York, USA)
I found this quote from Humberto Maturana and had to share it. It is very dense and difficult to get. Please try a couple of times before giving up... Then I challenge you to write the same idea in a Haiku or less.
"When one puts objectivity in parenthesis, all views, all verses in the multiverse are equally valid. Understanding this, you lose the passion for changing the other. One of the results is that you look apathetic to people. Now, those who do not live with objectivity in parentheses have a passion for changing the other.
So they have this passion and you do not.
For example, at the university where I work, people may say, ‘Humberto is not really interested in anything,’ because I don’t have the passion in the same sense that the person (who has) objectivity without parentheses. And I think that this is the main difficulty.
To other people you may seem too tolerant. However, if the others also put objectivity in parentheses , you discover that disagreements can only be solved by entering a domain of co-inspiration, in which things are done together because the participants want to do them. With objectivity in parentheses, it is easy to do things together because one is not denying the other in the process of doing them."
Humberto Maturana - Interview 1985.
Perhaps I should have lounged around today - gone shopping, sat on the couch with Oprah, read, enjoyed how much prettier my home is than my cube at work.
But this week our annual book fair starts. Since I volunteered to run it (again) with my favorite team of ladies (last year) I will not be sitting (at all) until more than $15K worth of $2.99 children's books are sold by Friday evening.
How's that for a healthy transition and giving yourself room to stay in the present? More like what happens when two fronts meet...
On the bright side, it is amazing how we moms can (and do) express aspects of our identities by sequencing in and out of various roles.
Last week I was polishing data, this week I am hauling an enormous polar bear skin and skull in my trunk. They are props for the World Wildlife Fund's polar bears and puffins presentation at Book Fair (Blizzard!) kick-off.
Last week I wondered where to have lunch with colleagues, this week I am wondering what to pack for lunch.
Last week I worried about my colleagues in transition, this week I am worrying that my kids are going too fast on the cool new pedal car our Dutch neighbors loaned them.
It is unexpected that as I write this post, I feel my tone shift from viewing my at-home mom work as part folly, to viewing it, more rightly, as just as good a place as any to practice my talents and interests.
No, I am never paid. I will never like that. But when I arrived at school yesterday and friends that I had only seen in passing since last year stopped to catch up and give me hugs, I felt so lucky to be a part of both worlds. Even my kids came running toward me with arms outstretched when I surprised them by being there at pick up.
I think it is just fine that I am back here for a while.