Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas is a time for giving back

My husband's family has a great way of celebrating Christmas.  They are a large traditional divorced family with fantastic family occassions on both sides.  My husband has 2 parents + 2 step parents + 3 grandparents + 3 sisters, 2 brother-in-laws & 3 nephews + 1 Uncle, his wife and their 2 grown kids.   Plus me and the little monkey.   We are a blessed family and in need of little. 

Every couple of years we do a family ski trip and enjoy some time together in the fresh air. The 3 oldest kids (spouses and their kids) usually get a condo for the entire time, and the parents and grandparents split their time so we get to enjoy both sides of the family. No matter where the family is celebrating they have some great traditions for young and old. The kids usually have a bit of a show - singing or dancing for us. Oma usually does her felt puppet "Christmas story" and of course we have lots of songs and hymns.

You can image buying gifts for that large of a crew would be a lot of work.  So they like to focus the holidays on the togetherness, the occassion, the food and photos (we have more than our fair share of shutterbugs) - not the gifts.   We all get gifts for the kids, of course.  But then we draw names and each person buys a gift for only one other adult on each side of the family.  This lets us focus on our time together and not spending a lot of money or time on gifts (although my husband usually still buys lots of fun German treats - he says he isn't technically cheating as they are meant for everyone's stocking).

Charitable giving also has an important part of their Holidays.  A few year's ago we gave a goat in Opa's name to a family in South America.  As 2009 has been a tough year for many the family decided that there would be no adult gifts at all. The family drew names and donated to a charity in that person's name.   

So hubbie and I decided to do the same with my family this year.  We have told everyone over 13 to expect small fun holiday gifts and then we were giving the rest of our Holiday budget to charity.  Since Vancouver has the highest child poverty numbers in the country we decided to make our donations to:

In spirit of full disclosure we did do a special gift for Daniel's Omi who flew us out to Calgary as a surprise for the family this year.  She gave us the gift of time with our family, so we put together a nice little memory of her Great Grandson. But as it technically won't arrive until January we didn't really cheat.  Since she doesn't read my blog this should be a nice surprise when it arrives.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Follow Friday

So last week I missed my follow friday blog, as I was stuck in rural Alberta in a snow storm with dial up... yeah I know "do I want some cheese with that whine?"...

This week I thought people might be looking for practical organizational advice - unless you are one of those people who finished your Christmas preparations in August.  My friend Christa Wagner is a professional organizer, and a fantasticly upbeat outgoing lady.   Her most recent blog is about Holiday Organizing for Practical User - particularly relevant to those of us who have left most everything to the last minute. 

Christa is a busy lady, who blogs almost daily with practical tips & advice for us busy people trying to organize our homes, lives and meals.   And if you need more than just advice check out her Savvy Solutions website.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Perils of a Big Surprise

So over the weekend we flew to Alberta as a surprise for my hubbie's family.  His grandmother really wanted us there for her Christmas dinner (this is the year everyone is going away for Christmas so family dinners were scheduled earlier).    So she decided to fly us out as a surprise.   

Surprises are always somewhat complicated - what is the cover story/what are the real details/who knows/who can't be told for any reason?????  But for us the surprise was further complicated by social media, forgetfulness and the weather. 

Who was in on it?  Omi, me, hubbie and his father (as this was a celebration with the mom's side of the family we felt he would be a good reliable conspirator) 

#1 - Social Media Silence

Why social media?  While my hubbie's family couldn't be told, his friends could.  But hubbie didn't think he needed to tell his friends it was a surprise, as they don't talk to his family.  He forgot about that big melting pot of friends and family... facebook.  So I kept getting facebook wall questions about our trip.  Thankfully they all got removed before they were seen. 

Then there is my affection for twitter.  After I tweeted about waiting on the phone for West Jet for 2 hours, it occured to me I would have to go into "twitter radio silence" about our trip.  Now my brother and sister-in-law aren't super active on twitter, but they might notice if I was tweeting about a trip to Calgary.   And since I tweet about almost everything it was hard to keep my big mouth shut for 2 weeks.

#2 - The car seat

Got to the airport and as we were checking in we realized we had left the car seat in the car... which had by now left and was driving home.  PANIC!!!  Now my sister-in-law (SIL) in Calgary usually has an extra seat... but we can't call her or we'd give up the surprise.

So my father-in-law had to stop and buy us a new car seat on his way to airport to pick us up.   Now we really didn't need a new car seat, as we already have 2 at home.  But he didn't have time to rent one and couldn't figure out a viable lie to get the one from SIL.

So with our brand new car seat we were driven to Red Deer, met by Omi and then drove out to her place at the lake.  Got settled into the house... realized how dreadful the dial-up internet was and waited for people to start to show up the next day.  But they didn't!!! 

#3 - The Storm

A huge snow storm hit Southern Alberta on the Friday and highways were closed or labelled critical. 

Now what do you do when you are stuck inside in a snow storm?  Go online is likely a common answer.  Besides it being painfully slow, I also couldn't bitch about the weather or the family will figure something out.  So what do I do?   I gloat about the Vancouver weather of course!   Hey I had to do something... Mommy boredom mixed with a toddler going stir crazy is a bad mix. Something had to be done.

#4 - The Dinner

The big dinner was planned for Sunday and the fingers were all crossed that the weather would clear. It did. But then the family started to talk about car pooling... well that would 'kill' our ride back to Calgary.   Again we couldn't ask anyone to leave space in their car for the 3 of us and our luggage.   Thankfully Omi talked them out of that without giving anything away (that woman really does lie well on the fly... kind of scary reall).

#5 - The Surprise

Hubbie's mom arrive at the house a few hours before the dinner.  Omi told her she was babysitting a neighbours kid and we let the little guy run into the room.  She stared at him and said "Boy does that little kid ever look like T".  Then I stuck my head out and my MIL's jaw dropped to her knees.  The best part of a surprise is when it is a real surprise.  Same went with her husband as he arrived from the car a few moments later.

The rest of the family was met at the restaurant with similar surprise and excitement.  I can't believe that Omi had done such an excellent job at lying that there were even gifts for us there (she had told everyone she was coming out to vancouver on Dec 26th for the holidays and to bring our gifts with them.... she really really is a good liar). 

Dinner was fantastic. Seeing everyone was fantastic.  Omi was so happy with everything.  Plus because of the storm she got to spend a very intimate weekend with her great grand son. 

As for us. Thankfully we were able to squeeze our stuff (split between 3 cars) and ourselves back to Calgary, where we had a little after party at my SIL's house.  It really was a lovely Christmas family celebration.  

And then we realized bear and bunny got left behind at Omi's house.... but that is another story.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bright Nights Vancouver Tweet up

I think our little guy is big enough to enjoy the Christmas train at Stanley Park this year. So I'm trying to organize a tweet-up.   As the train sells out early, I thought it would be good to organize and purchase tickets early. 

Please indicate in the comments below if you are interesting in coming, the time that works best for you,  the number of adults/kids over 2 and if you are interested in purchasing advance tickets as a group or will arrange your own.
  • Date - December 18th (alternate date Wed December 16th)
  • Time - Meet at 4:00 and get tickets for the (a) 5-5:30pm slot or  (b) 5:30 - 6pm slot.   We can visit the children's farm and other attractions until our time comes up. And those that are working can still meet up with us before the train time slot.
  • Cost: $8 adults (+1.6 convenience fee) and $5 kids 2-18 and seniors (+1 convenience fee)
As tickets will sell out quickly for a Friday night I suggest we try to buy a group of tickets in advance - will need to confirm numbers for advance tickets by Monday Dec 7th.  Then if others decide to come along last minute, they can take make arrangements for same day tickets. 

Update Dec 7th - So I left the advance ticket purchase too late.  It was looking fine before I left for the weekend trip to rural aka 'dial-up hell' Alberta.  But yesterday 5 and 5:30 were gone.  Going to try through ticketmast phone line one last time today, but likely I'll be purchasing tickets at noon on the 18th at the box office (they keep a good chunk of tickets for same day sale).