03 January, 2011

Fluffy Pancakes and Other Holiday Miracles

It's a new year. Shiny and bright and filled with promise, like a new school year, or a blank journal, or an empty center console in a family mini-van.

I am already ahead as this year starts. If I accomplish very little else I will feel like I have had success because...

I can make pancakes.

Now this might seem like an easily overcome obstacle for most adults who can read, have even limited physical coordination and access to the necessary ingredients for cooking. This simple task has eluded me for all of my 38 years, but I have now successfully made beautiful, fluffy, properly cooked-through and most importantly, edible, pancakes four out of the last five days (I didn't have a fail one day, I just wasn't in charge of brekkie). I can now make breakfast for the troops swiftly and easily. I fed four kids Sunday morning before 7:30am and it was a breeze. I have now mastered breakfast.

It's amazing how changing even the simplest things in life can make all the difference, to our confidence, or happiness.

On Christmas day we changed the time dinner was served. One hour earlier and Jake was able to enjoy the same, fancy, dressed-up, china, and three different wine glasses and four forks meal that everyone else had. He was able to stay the entire dinner, and finish three rounds of dessert before Descartes took him home. One hour earlier, and we had family dinner, with 14 people and Jake was able to be a part of the whole thing, and we all had a great time. Jake had a great time, because he loves being with his family.

Our holidays were lovely. Changing a few simple things made each visit with each family go smoothly, even successfully. In fact, I can't actually think of any major drama, aside from our "typical" daughter throwing a no-nap induced fit on Christmas Eve, but she's four, and it's been documented, and when she's a mommy we will pull out this photo, and remind her of all of her drama and cuteness.

The trip to Southern California for Christmas was one of the most successful we have had in years. We felt taken care of, accepted, welcomed and for the first time in a long time, I think we could have stayed a few more days. My family is filled with loving, kind people, really. I'm not even writing that just because they read this blog (Hi Mom!) They really are wonderful people, and we have had visits go okay before, but Jake is a different boy now. He's matured so much in the past two years, and it makes travel and visits much easier. He is calmer overall, and if he does get upset, he's able to calm down faster once his needs are met. And of course, we have grown up too. I worry less about what other people think, and more about how to take care of my family. I also focus more on my family, rather than my family of origin. It's hard not to fall back in to family systems when you go home, but I know that if I take care of Descartes, Jake and Lucy first, it will work out for everyone.

It really went so smoothly. My mother had everything ready to go at her house. We had the right milk, snacks and help each morning with breakfast. Our beds were all set up and the kid toys were available. And guess what my mom bought? A bin filled with smooth rocks and little army guys and small (plastic) sea creatures; Jake had his very own sensory box. It was easy for her to get done (with the help of my sister-in-law, Pinky) and the kindest gesture. Such a small thing that Jake loved, and shows just how hard every one is trying to make sure that we get to be a part of things.

Christmas eve we went to my brother's new house. It is in a very cute neighborhood, that reminds me a little bit of Toon Town at Disneyland, but it is a house filled with toys and non-breakable joy. Aside from Jake cracking off the manifold
in my brother's backyard, it was an easy, fun, family dinner.  The backyard was all set, and available for him to play in, for hours. We just moved one piece of furniture to block off some mud, and when it came time for Jake to turn in, he was able to sleep in his little cousin's pretty pink princess room, snuggled into all of those cozy rosy-hued pillows. Keeping doors closed, and breakables off the side of the table where our long-arm Larry walks through the kitchen, I didn't even have to make those requests because they know my kid now. Even the what-we-thought-was-major-but-turned-out-not-to-be-so-bad, plumbing issue was made to be no big deal, and certainly no one was angry with Jake.  We have a running joke in the family to guess who's going to ruin Christmas each year. One year my brother Gerard asked for the receipts to all of his gifts so he could return them and get what he "really wanted." Another year, my youngest brother Albert threw a little fit about how we "don't even know him" because we guessed the wrong size sweater for him, and I sort of tried to top that ruin by being upset that Descartes had not proposed to me (he proposed the next day). My sister fell into the Christmas tree one year, and missed another year entirely. So Jake tried to ruin Christmas this year, but we found the sprinkler shut-off so I'm not sure he can claim the title.

Christmas day with the other part of my family, has been troublesome for us in the past. The mix of Jake with china, glassware, and expectations led to many of us being sad. My parents have valiantly tried so many different ways to accomodate us, and this year was no exception. Their perseverance has paid off; this year it was fantastic. This was the dinner we moved one hour earlier. The other thing they did was to get a private room for our large party, which was perfect. This way the house was not "set-up" and breakable by Jake, and the mess of dinner was taken care of by a very nice waitstaff. The private room gave us some breathing space, and the patio we could access meant that we could take breaks between courses. The little kids got to wiggle and dance and we all laughed and enjoyed the very, very delicious food. It was such a luxury, and I am so grateful.

Our drive back to the SF Peninsula was easy. We left before anyone was too grumpy, packed food in the car, and were able to avoid drive-thru food for the duration. We stopped for dinner before we got home to avoid that horrible let-down of post vacation combined with an empty fridge. Then we washed some clothes and packed the car again and went to Tahoe for the week and New Year.

The gloves are 80's rocker-girl, but they are on!

What a fantastic week we had there! Beautiful snow, perfect accommodations, doting grandparents and little children who got along. I got to sneak out with the girls, and spend time chatting and sipping while gazing out at the icy lake, and later in the week, I went snowshoeing. The guys went ice fishing, and we all played in the snow.
Jake wore a hat and gloves. Jake wore gloves, and a hat! And he kept them on. Whooooooooo Hoooooooo! This is the first year he has ever kept them on. We cheered and laughed and he smiled, and all the little kids congratulated him! Perhaps it was the 20 degrees outside, or the fact that they've been working with hats at Wunderskool, or maybe Jake is growing up, and recognizes that he can tolerate some things for short periods of time. I know he heard us say that he would have to go back inside if he wouldn't wear gloves...and that boy loves to be outdoors. My sister got some great photos, and while he's not smiling in this one, he really did have a great time, which means we all got to have a good time.

We're back at home now, and I have almost finished unpacking. Jake had school on Monday, and Lucy goes back tomorrow. It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks filled with little things that have made all the difference: pancakes, room to breathe, gloves.

What a great way to start the year, grateful for these small things. I must remember that nothing in our life is static; there is room to grow and change, and even the smallest of changes can transform our family.

just in case you need a little bit of Happy Change, here's the recipe for those pancakes:

Favorite Mountain House Pancakes
sift together:
1 1/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons of table sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

add to:
1 egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 1 cup of milk
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