“Lets compromise and do things my way”

December 28, 2009

We had an exciting Christmas this year, the first that Ryan and I tried to balance time between both of our families.  By exciting I mean exhausting and I learned something interesting about myself: I’m not that good at compromising or sacrificing my family’s traditions.  Heck, I was raised by a lawyer, compromise to me generally means, “come on now, lets compromise and do things my way.”

Example: When Dad and I used to negotiate curfews it went something like this:

Me: I’ll be home at 1:00
Dad [either glancing up from the paper or lightly out of breath from a run in the snow]: Nope, you’ll be home midnight.
Me [annoyed and rolling my eyes because everyone else's parents were just waaaay cooler than mine]: Come on Dad, pleeeease.
Dad: Fine, your curfew is now 11:00
Me: No fair!
Dad: Perfect, we’ll compromise and make it midnight. That way, we’re all happy!

I certainly learned from the best…

What does this have to do with Christmas? Well, when Ryan and I decided that we would split the holiday between our families, we decided to spend Christmas Eve with my family, spend the night there, and then wake up and drive to Ryan’s parents house.  We are lucky because unlike most of our friends, our parents live within an hour of each other, so it does make logistics a bit easier. But to be honest, when I agreed to the arrangement, I was considering spending Christmas Day with Ryan’s family to mean that we would show up around 2:00 or 3:00, after spending a lovely morning opening stockings and gorging on breakfast at my parents’ house (which would be my “compromise doing it my way” solution).

Enter the actual compromise.  Ryan assured me that we would NOT be getting to his house in the afternoon.  We would be setting the alarm clock for 6:30 am in order to get there as everyone is waking up.  My plan was ruined.

On Christmas Eve day we headed down to my parents house.  Both my brothers were back in town (yay!), and we met up with another family to walk the beach out at Prouts Neck.  It was stunning and if I could figure out how to post pictures on this, I would.   Clear day with the waves breaking on the shoreline, the ocean looking bluer than normal for this time of year, but freezing all the same.  The weather was warm enough for me to strip down to my sweater. We collected rocks to use as place settings for the upcoming feast (my little brother, age 23, only spelled 2 names wrong this year).

Went back to the house, downed some sausage soup (you’ll notice a trend of excessive eating in this post). And some of my dad’s home brew that can only be described as the country-time lemonade of home brews (he literally just mixes a powder with water and lets it sit…). When Dad asked Matthew (my little brother who is in a brew club at Yale and took a course on brewing this year) what he thought, Matt complemented him with, “well, its liquid”.  But it was actually decent and we all drank up.

Later in the evening came the mandatory once-a-year church service, where we were entertained by the most charmingly out-of-control cow (I think) in the Christmas pageant.  The little boy was kicking all of the shepherds and angels as the minister tried to ignore them (and our not-very-well-stifled laughter) and continue with the message of peace on earth.

Then come my favorite part about Christmas: Beef fondue with our cousins! People ask what we do for dinner at Christmas Eve and I can’t help but to laugh.  This year we had 12 lbs of beef for 14 of us, 2 of which are babies (adorable!) and obviously not eating, and one on a practically no-fat diet.  That means 12 lbs for 11 people.  We let ourselves down this year, there was about 3 lbs left over.  But, while the food is exciting, it is the crazyness that has ensued in years past that bring back fond memories.

For example, when I was about 10 and we were still in my parents old farm house and my grandparents still came (they now spend Christmases staying warm in South Carolina), we had a nerf war on Christmas Eve.  Now, I don’t mean a lets-see-whose-gun-shoots-further nerf war, we had a 3-on-3, shooting people in the face, no-surrender type of nerf war.  It only ended when my older cousin Christopher and I were stuck in the upstairs bathroom with my dad holding the door on the other side, so Christopher attempted to hoist me out the window onto the icey roof so I could “escape” and the come back to rescue him.  Dad heard what was going on and let us out.  Or, maybe it ended when Christopher brought out his nerf bazooka that warned “don’t point at any living thing” and proceeded to shoot Matthew, with a force that knocked both of them to the ground.

Aaahh, family.

We had a great, although much mellower (thankfully) time this year.  Ryan did well, only spilling a 1/2 bottle of redwine onto the white table cloth after everyone had left.

The next morning, we jumped out of bed, I jumped into the shower and then back in pjs, which is what Ryan assured me everyone would be wearing at his house.  My parents wanted us to open stockings and a few presents before we left, and I was thrilled to see that they had even given Ryan a Maine fishing license in his stocking – something we had been getting for years and basically solidifies his acceptance in to the family. (ok, so we are dorks, but what are you going to do?).

Then the Ryan ripped me from my family and we jumped into the car to head up to Harrison.  (I’m not toooo dramatic, right?).  I have honestly never seen so many presents under such a big tree.  In all fairness, there were a lot of people there (aunts, uncles, grammy, cousins, etc..).  I was most impressed with the fact that everyone gave really good presents.  I don’t mean really expensive presents, I mean useful presents; presents that were clearly a perfect choice for who they were given to, and a reflection of who they came from.  Ryan’s mom knows I’ve been a little stressed about cooking, and gave me a “cooking with 5 ingredients” cookbook – which is great because I feel like I’ve been given permission to cook solely with Cambell’s soup and frozen veggies (including tatertots). Ryan’s mom (Ruth) is a Christmas junkie (I’ve never seen a grown woman get so excited, it is rather refreshing), and giggled for about an hour after she got an electronic snow-globe that sang Christmas carols.  We also got coal (no joke!) to heat our house – which was amazing!

After many hours of opening presents and eating a new (to me) treat call Twists, we went down to Long Lake and skated for about an hour.  Some jerk (I feel much stronger, but am keeping it mild) had torn up the ice with a motor bike, but fortunately there was some perfectly smooth spots farther out.  Ruth is partially blind from being shot in the eye as a teenage so can’t fall.  When her and Ryan’s Dad first got together he developed a sort of walker-type thing for her to use on the ice, it is so cool! There are even hockey stick-ends on it so that she can pass a puck around.  They are pretty resourceful, to say the least.

Although I was ready for a nap when we got back, we had 3 lbs lobsters waiting for us, and steamers! (I’m guessing you’ve noticed the food-theme).

By the time Ryan and I got back to our house we were exhausted, and full.  I had a great Christmas Day (ssshhh, don’t tell Ryan), but when I called to check in with my family, and they were sitting around the table and I could hear the laughter bubbling over the phone, even though my mom did her best to insist I hadn’t missed a thing, I still wished I could teleport there immediately.

I’m not sure how we will continue to do holidays in the future, but we had fun this year.  I’m glad I didn’t force Ryan to miss Christmas with his family (my initial plan), and I had fun, and appreciate, being wrapped up in their family activities. But, I was sad to miss my family’s Christmas Day activities.  And, I’m not sure how to reconcile all of that.  Probably by compromising…

Welcome to my adventure

December 23, 2009

When I first moved to Stoneham Maine, a tiny town snuggled up in the White Mountain National Forest, we had a mouse problem.  It was a VERY rainy spring, and all the mice in our valley (Shirley, although we call it Happy Valley) decided that since I was taking to scrubbing the house down in an uber-maniacal fashion, the best way to put me over the edge was to move in.  At least that is what I was convinced of: the conspiracy of the mice.

When Ryan took me to the Paris Farmers Union to get traps, I really, really, wanted have-a-heart traps.  The mice, although I couldn’t stand finding their shit and food strewn everywhere (mostly in my favorite quilt), were actually quite cute.  Plus, I was positive we only had a couple.  I told the guy at the counter what we were look for, and he laughed the kind of big, friendly yet you-don’t-have-a-clue laugh as he said, “And then what? After you catch them you’ll just drown them right? [not exactly the response I was expecting...] Its easier just to kill them right off.”  His blue jean overalls jiggled in laughter over his 250+ lbs frame.

So, armed with 6 kill-on-the-spot traps, we went home.  And proceeded to catch 20 mice over the course of 48 hours.  I guess there were more than just a few…

While relaying this story to my Mom, who is significantly tougher and more competent than I, she suggested that I should be writing all of this down in a diary.  She has suggested this before during other  times in my life, while traveling and doing Teach for America down in Texas, but I’ve never been disciplined enough.  But now, 6 months later, we’re mouse free (I think), and I’m finally coming up for air after moving in, settling into a new job, etc.  So, the day before Christmas Eve, when it is guaranteed no one will read my blog, here is the first entry into the adventures of living.  Or something like that.


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