Happy Holidays from our home to yours.
Baby Bird is celebrating her first Christmas in the U.S.!
The three of us went to Enchanted Winds to cut our tree.
Want to look at more festive photos? Check out Delicious Baby Photo Friday!
For the past 35 years, on the second Saturday in December, if you add up a hundred volunteers, two thousand candles plus two thousand brown paper bags, you get one night of pure magic. The Pathway of Lights takes place at Green Lake, a small lake just north of downtown Seattle. If you go, you’ll experience an evening of urban Pacific Northwest at its best: Santa paddles his way across the lake in a kayak accompanied by Rudolf in a canoe. Upwards of ten thousand city dwellers swath themselves in REI finery accessorized with all manner of sparkly hats and blinking jewelry as they walk the 2.8 mile path that surrounds the lake, basking in the glow set off by thousands of luminaria.
The festivities include free musical entertainment, free hot cider, and this year’s event is even offering up a free full moon. Of course, this being Seattle, it’s anyone’s guess if we’ll actually see it. Depending on the year—and the weather– I’ve walked the lake and gazed at luminaria under a dusting of snow, luminaria being blown by fierce winds, and luminaria doing their best to stay lit in a downpour.
But no matter the forecast, I can’t think of a better way to welcome the winter season. Here’s how Big Papa and I get into the spirit. First, the two of us “don we now our fleece apparel.” I deck myself out in some groovy sparkly, jingly or blinky jewels, and sometimes throw on a pair of reindeer antlers for extra panache. Next, we stash a few airplane –sized bottles of Grand Marnier and Amaretto in a backpack which come in handy when we spike two cups of toasty hot cocoa that we purchase at a cute little coffee and chocolate shop a block away from the lake. Then we set out to circumambulate Green Lake.
Big Papa and I have headed out to see the luminaria almost every year since we became a duo. Last year we shared the evening with two close friends, who will be joining us again this year. Before I met Big Papa, I always made a point of going, even if I strolled solo. Because even on the darkest of days, it’s important to seek out the light, embrace what brings us joy, and—when we have the opportunity–share it with others.
2010 ended with a bang. Mid-day we were greeted with a rather large adoption-related snafu, made by our very own government: critical paperwork that included our misspelled last name, an incorrect case number, and a random adoption agency (e.g. not our adoption agency). “It’s not the holidays for us if there isn’t some excitement,” Big Papa mused.
Big Papa tells it as he sees it and he sees it pretty clearly. Last year, we spent Christmas Eve in the ER when my father broke his leg, the year before I flew out on Christmas Day (mid-snow storm) to attend the memorial for my best friend, who died days earlier, and the year before that was another Christmas Eve ER visit when my father fell and landed in the hospital. On New Year’s Day that year, we had to rent a U-Haul and move his stuff into our basement to prepare for the next move, to a new assisted living facility, when the facility he was at said they could “no longer care for him.”
I confess I was feeling pretty cocky this year. We had a completely uneventful Christmas! It was so blissful I kept pinching myself. And here we were rolling toward the New Year without a hitch. 24 hours and 2010 would be behind us. A crisis-free holiday was ours for the taking. Until today.
And so it was. The adoption zinger coincided with a day where I had to make two trips over Lake Washington to “the east side,” where my father lives in an adult family home, to collect still more paperwork in our effort to sign him up for Medicaid…by January 1. If you don’t get “piece of paper X,” he won’t qualify until February,” our nice, but letter-of-the-law Medicaid DSHS officer told me. Let’s just say that “I heart the U.S. Government,” was not how I felt as the day drew to a close.
OK, it’s true that today was just one day out of one week in a 52-week year. 2010, in its entirety, has not been a bust. There have been many blissful moments, heartwarming days, significant accomplishments, and life-changing (in a good way) events. Still, I have already put my name on the list for a smoother ride in 2011.
Out with the old
*Note: those “in the know” will laugh or cry with us; for everyone else, more details forthcoming in 2011
- Please, government officials, read the paperwork
- Please, non-government folks, read the paperwork
- When we are supposed to make one trip, we would love to make one trip
- Moratorium on ER visits for immediate family members (that includes you, Big Papa!)
- Home improvement is relegated to a tertiary activity
- We’ll pass on any more aggressive neighbor’s dogs, cats and belligerent drunken guests
- No family cars totaled by careless drivers while parked in front of our own home
In with the new
- Parenthood or bust in 2011
- We roll with the punches but there are fewer hooks and upper cuts
- Seattle and summer sunshine is not an oxymoron
- More time to smell the roses
- More roses to smell
2010: Au revoir, sayonara, adieu, auld lang syne.
Big Papa and I decided to turn the volume down on Christmas 2010. It’s the first year since we’ve been together that we’re not putting up a Christmas tree and the second time we’ve put the kibosh on presents to each other, save a few small treats in each other’s stockings. Two years ago we enjoyed our first relatively present-free holiday.
When I say we “enjoyed” a present-free holiday, I truly mean it. I confess I love gifts, both receiving and giving. And, it’s fun to see a bunch of colorfully wrapped boxes peering out from under the tree. I was dubious about the concept of going without. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised that I got so much enjoyment from getting and giving so little – at least where material goods are concerned.
Big Papa and I fall into two camps. Whereas I get into the whole shop-and-find-just-the-right-thing-for-that-special-someone holiday spirit, Big Papa feels stressed out at the mere mention of shopping for gifts. It’s not that he isn’t a generous soul, he is. But what he’s not fond of is crowds, deadlines and the pressure that can be associated the perception that gifts fulfill someone else’s expectations for a happy holiday.
I get it, and I love him, so I wanted to give going gift-free a try. We did send presents to our relatives, but since they were souvenirs we’d picked up on our travels over the year, we didn’t need to venture out and face the shopping-crazy throngs.
What really astounded me was that when I too was freed from the “obligation” to search out, buy and wrap a sack-full of gifts, I was able to focus on other facets of the holiday which are more deeply satisfying and memorable than a cashmere sweater or new pair of earrings.
Sitting down to share a meal on Christmas Eve, sipping mimosas on Christmas morning, going for a mid-day walk, or simply not doing much of anything. I remember these moments more than anything I’ve opened on Christmas Day.
This year, I am grateful for a Christmas without crisis. Last year Big Papa and I spent Christmas Eve in the ER with my father who broke two bones in his leg that afternoon. The year before, during an uncharacteristically severe snowstorm, I had to find a hotel near the airport on Christmas Eve to guarantee I’d be able to fly out the morning after Christmas. My friend Dee had passed away five days before Christmas and I flew to her memorial in Maine. And, the year before that, we spent yet another Christmas Eve in the ER when my father fell and badly banged himself up.
I am also thankful that while we may be in the final stages of painting our living and dining rooms, our shower is hooked up, our kitchen has heat and most of our major appliances are where they should be. Last year at this time, we were finishing our remodel so the stove, fridge, and dishwasher were keeping company with our claw foot tub, all in our bedroom.
Once we become parents, I’m sure we’ll reinstate our tradition of heading to the snow-covered foothills of the Cascades to chop down our Christmas tree. We’ll set up the train track to run circles around its base and there will be presents to open on Christmas Day. Still, I hope we can keep it to a dull roar and teach our child that the true spirit of Christmas doesn’t lie underneath a fancy bow. The most meaningful gifts are those you unwrap in your heart.
Note: as this post goes to press, it turns out we will have a Christmas…er…ladder after all. Thanks to Big Papa’s good humor and ingenuity!
Christmas is more than a month away. Yet while grocery shopping, even several weeks ago, I noticed that nearly every store front is festooned with a holiday theme. I grumbled to myself a bit about the fact that the ‘Christmas’ season seems to begin a bit earlier each year. When I was a kid, stores wouldn’t dream of displaying their Christmas windows until the day after Thanksgiving. Now, it’s fair game the day after Halloween.
Like most folks, I’ve come to accept that this is just how it is and, after the initial shock wears off, I walk past windows filled with red, green and glitter without giving it a second thought. It’s just part and parcel of “the season” in the States.
When I thought about this, what got stuck in my brain is how little I know about Armenian holidays, even the “major” holidays like Christmas. What we celebrate in the U.S. and how we celebrate is not what is celebrated the world over. I imagine if I was walking down Abovian Street in Yerevan right now, it would bear very little resemblance to the decorated and uber-merchandised streets of Seattle.
In Armenia, Christmas (“surb tsnund “) is observed on January 6, with Christmas Eve on January 5. While those of us in the U.S. are packing up ornaments and putting the well-loved but now dying Christmas tree out in the street, Armenians are attending church and enjoying Christmas dinner. A “traditional” Armenian Christmas dinner is not roast turkey, ham or crown roast. Instead the main dish is fish prepared with butter. Rice with raisins is also popular and the holiday meal is accompanied with red wine.
I’m down with a culturally diverse household. Big Papa and I come from distinctly different religious and cultural backgrounds ourselves. We’ve already cobbled together a bit of his and a bit of mine. Good friends of ours celebrate “ThankHanuMas,” a holiday combo that suits us to a ‘t’ as well. So, I know I’ll do my best to learn more about Armenian traditions. I want to incorporate our child’s culture into our family’s “holiday blend.”
My friends, who are married and partnered, tell me that some of their first big fights occurred over which holiday traditions to honor. Will they make the oyster stuffing just like her folks make in New Orleans or the wild rice stuffing that his family in New England likes? Should the Christmas tree be decked out in a mixture of colored lights or white lights only? Blinkers or non-blinkers? Tinsel?
I’m crossing my fingers that our kiddo will take pride in the patchwork quilt of yours, mine and ours holiday traditions. He’ll laugh when he tells his friends how, each Christmas, we set off the fire alarm when making Shepherd’s Pie from scratch (with lamb shanks not ground beef). I want him to look forward to growing Scarlett Runner Beans each summer to shell and put in Christmas Eve soup each winter. I hope he’ll revel in the northwest spirit of Santa in a kayak during our walk around Greenlake for the ‘Pathway of Luminarias’ the second Saturday each December.
As far as I’m concerned, the more traditions, the merrier. Life is richer in the mixture.
Counting the days before Christmas feels like fun as a kid. Ticktock. Ticktock. Watching time ebb away. Ten days left. Now eight. Now three. Giddy anticipation builds and you imagine the mountain of glorious goodies that await your discovery.
When THE day arrives and your eyes catch that first glimpse of boxes, wrapping paper and bows, the clock chimes. Bong. Bong. Bong! I remember well that, at that point, any further delays feel like eternity. My patience is threadbare and my ability to stave off desire has altogether disappeared. I want it all and I want it now.
The adoption waiting process feels like Christmas morning. You complete truck loads of paperwork. Every minute detail of your relationship, finances, home and value system is analyzed and recorded on some piece of paper. You pay fee after fee to the government, agencies, or lawyers. And then you wait. You have control over information up to this point and then, suddenly, you have virtually none. And the thing is, by the time you start this waiting game, you’re pretty much done with waiting.
When I engage in conversation about adoption, I almost invariably face the question, “Why did you wait to get married?” Or “Why did you wait to have kids.” I didn’t wait by choice. I didn’t consciously postpone taking part in these life passages because I wanted to.
Over the years, I was certainly no stranger to dating and I’d had a few longer relationships, but nothing that led to, “Will you marry me?” When I finally did find “the one,” I was 46. By the time we said our “I do’s,” I was 48. It was the first trip down the aisle for us both. We talked about children and our options for creating a family early on in our relationship, and had several lively debates about the direction this path might take along the way. My own biological clock had wound down at the young age of 46. Using donor eggs was a contender in our quest to become three, as was adoption. We chose adoption.
Here we are, nearly ten months past that initial decision. We are “paper ready” as they say in the world of adoption. Our pile of paperwork has been collected, notarized, apostilled, and government (ours) approved. Now we call it a dossier, and it sits in Armenia, in the process of being translated into Eastern Armenian. Then (hopefully quite soon), it will sit on the desk of the Armenian Prime Minister, the first signature of approval we need to move forward and receive our referral.
Waiting feels interminable. I really don’t want to wait any longer. I’m ready to be a mom now. Past ready. So every delay, every month that passes, every redo or stall in the process is pure agony. I have moments when I am able to be more Zen about it than others. And, I have just as many moments when I feel like a bronco ready to buck from his pen, just before the barrel race.