Tuesday, December 20, 2016

So this is Christmas

Do you have certain traditions that your family enjoys every year? We have several, but the majority of them are connected with Christmas:
Birmingham's German Market
  • Walking round the neighbourhood posting Christmas cards 
  • Hiding in the bedroom to wrap presents 
  • Decorating the tree while listening to Garth Brooks Christmas songs 
  • Colour coding the wrapping paper for prezzies under the tree 
  • Making dozens of mince pies and three Christmas cakes 
  • Watching a family movie with mulled wine and roast chestnuts 
  • Playing Poker, Scene-it and a host of other team games 
  • Eating a full Turkey dinner with crackers and all the trimmings
And the real family highlights: a trip to the German market (oh those bratwurst), singing Christmas carols outside Warwick castle (more wine/chestnuts), and one of the best, when the whole family walk round the local fields, wrapped up against the crisp December chill on Christmas morning. A quick straw poll had all five family members picking something different, most people torn between two or three.
Carols at Warwick Castle
I could only find a couple of tasks which weren’t fun: the annual argument about how to construct the base for the 7ft tree, and painstakingly replacing each bulb in the multi-string lights to find the duff ones. However, even for the total Christmas addicts (like me), there's always the danger when the genuinely fun activities are repeated year after year, that the novelty wears off. People may become less willing to engage, doing it out of a sense of duty/just to please, when they'd rather be playing with some electronic gadget.

Every new addition to the family brings with it a new energy, a different viewpoint. This year we're joined by my son-in-law, a Ukranian guy who’d never set foot in the UK before this month, let alone been faced with a plateful of mince pies when he entered the house.

A Winter Wonderland
He is enchanted with every aspect of our country/home and family, taking great pleasure in many things we've taken for granted for so long we rarely give them a second thought.
It’s an absolute delight to experience everything through his eyes, re-discovering the many joys this season brings.
Thank you, Artem, for helping us to reconnect with the awe and wonder of Christmas.

What about you? Do you have special family traditions? We'd love to hear more about your celebrations.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Pizza Bombs and Other Truths

The kids ate chocolate before breakfast. And we celebrated the first snowfall of the season with pizza bombs and hot chocolate with marshmallows for dinner. Oh, the kids ate chocolate as part of their after-school snack as well, because we celebrate the season with an Advent calendar that contains sweets. They also each had a jellybean after dinner. Because we have two different Advent calendars.

On the flip side, St. Nicholas, who brought us the morning chocolate in the shape of golden coins, also left us oranges, which were eaten with a balanced breakfast. For lunch, the kids ate self-packed healthy food. No treats for school meals, mama’s rules. Snack in the afternoon contained a fruit and dairy. And the pizza bombs were accompanied by fresh salad and fruit.

I try to balance it, keeping the treats just that—treats. To be eaten on rare and special occasions. But anyone who knows me knows how much I love my Lindt Lindors and Jelly Bellies. Anyone who knows me also knows the gym is essentially my “place of work.” I go for about two hours a day to get my brain in working gear so I can function for my kids at my best level. It’s had a side-effect on my body, making it leaner, more muscular, and faster than any other time in my life.

The point?

Anything taken out of context or seen without all the pieces, is not the truth. You can’t take a snapshot of my kids eating 7:00 AM chocolate and berate me for being a terrible parent with kids who have uncontrollable sugar issues. Nor can you take a picture of me running a sub-six minute mile or curling forty-five pounds of iron and claim I wouldn’t touch candy or pizza. Using one piece of knowledge to prove a point serving your own agenda is not telling the truth. In fact, I would call it lying by omission. Or just straight-up lying.

And that’s how a lot of news stories seem to be running right now. And how a lot of political figures seem to be talking. People say, “Well, you have to look at the source. You have to do your own research.” And I’m stuck there, a little glassy-eyed, wondering how on earth I’m to know what source is putting what kind of slant on any information. Clouding issues is social media—essentially anybody has a platform on which to speak their opinions as fact, and truth can easily become lost in the random murk of deception.

What happened to honesty? Why purposely print misleading and incorrect information? When you get in front of a microphone, why change your numbers or your promises, or hide your intentions? Shouldn’t we be able to trust our media? Or the leaders of our country? At what point are we allowed to collectively shout: “Enough!” Because I’m there. I’m ready. I want to know what’s really going on in the United States and the rest of the world. I don’t want information purposely sugarcoated or beefed up. I don’t want it purposely tarnished or spun with negativity. I don’t want lies. The whole picture matters more than judgements based on ratings and political rants. I want the whole shebang. The pizza bombs and chocolate, along with the gym time. Everything.