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Tag Archives | christmas

Letter to Santa (twice)

I ruined Caleb’s weekend morning. First I asked him to put away his laundry. (Accomplished, usually, by shoving the pile of clean, folded clothes on the chair into whatever drawer has room, a task that takes about forty seconds.) Then I asked him to pick up his soccer gear from the night before, which trailed across the apartment in the order they’d been discarded: cleats by the door, socks along the hall, shinguards on top of socks, shorts by the bathroom, jersey in the bedroom.

And then I had the nerve, the unmitigated gall to suggest that he might want to write his letter to Santa.

Caleb teeters on the verge of Santalessness.  He’s mentioned a few times, casually, that maybe there isn’t a Santa. His comments are always tossed off, indirect; it’s as if he throws the line out there waiting to see if he’ll get a response.  It may be my imagination, but I think he looks relieved when we tell him that Santa still comes to our house.  Maybe we’re each only pretending for the other’s sake, but you know? A little magic never hurts.

So in the throes of thinking that I am the worst mother ever,  Caleb wrote a letter to Santa.  Note the masterful attempt to make mommy Feel Bad:

Kid’s gonna be a novelist, I swear to god.

I told him Santa didn’t want such an angry letter and that Santa wasn’t a fan of Halo 4 (he’s not, trust me).  Caleb said fine I don’t care.  There may have been door slamming.

I waited.

Several hours later, letter number two appeared, delivered by my elven child, whose at-home wear consists of a t-shirt, black socks, and underpants.

Letter two, you’ll agree, offers more generosity of spirit:

I’ll have to check with the North Pole, but I’m thinking Santa can handle a bathrobe and Legos, and we’ll check around the workshop to see what other “random things” might be lying around. As for the XBox? Caleb’s going to have to take that up with the reindeer.



Continue Reading · on December 18, 2012 in family, growing up, Kids, Parenting

my neil diamond christmas

We’re back in New York for the holidays – our first visit home since July, when we moved.  When we left Abu Dhabi last week, the malls were filled with Christmas: fake pine trees, over-wrapped gifts, and big statues of Santa, often just down the hall from the prayer rooms.  In New York, of course, nativity scenes and menorahs sometimes stand right next to each other in the parks but for some reason—perhaps because I’ve lived in New York for so long, I find the collision of menorahs, mangers, and Santa less jarring than the collision of call-to-prayer with ho-ho-ho.

We’ve been away from New York for five months and in many respects it’s as if we’ve never left: the same buildings are still under construction, the same sirens scream through the streets; the same lines form at Trader Joe’s during peak times.  I’m reunited with my beloved iPhone (which doesn’t work in Abu Dhabi) and like all the other New Yorkers, I walk through the streets making phone calls—after all, what could be more private than a busy Manhattan street? Our wonderful community of friends has carved out time for us in their hectic holiday schedules and our conversations seem to have picked up exactly where we left off last July.

Everything is just as it was.

And yet. We no longer have an apartment in the city, so we’re bouncing around: hotel, family, friend’s apartment (thank you Carey!).  The boys look wistfully at our old building and Caleb has asked more than once why we’re not going “home.”  I can still do the city-street hustle, but at the end of the day, I’m exhausted—I’m out of practice, I guess: my life in Abu Dhabi moves more slowly than my (former) life in Manhattan.

In lots of good ways, these past ten days have been a compressed version of our old lives—but the same downside still exists: Husband points out that once again, here we are in New York, where there is so much to see and do, and he ended up having to take the boys to see “Chipwrecked,” which he says may quite possibly be the worst, most cynical piece of film-making in the history of cinema.  In New York, there are a gazillion things to do and we used to be able to do about four of them; in Abu Dhabi there are only about twenty things to do, but we can manage twelve.

Hectic schedules and singing chipmunks aside, however, being here makes me homesick…for here. It’s a strange feeling, to be homesick in the place you call home.  Don’t get me wrong –I like our life in Abu Dhabi; I like the warmth and I’m fascinated by the complexities of modern Arabic life.  It’s where I live, but I’m not sure it’s home—so you know what’s happened?

What’s happened is that this entire visit has me channeling Neil Diamond, circa 1971. I’ve got about the same hairdo, actually, and a version of his eyebrows.  Who knows. Maybe I’m actually a Jew from Brooklyn. But in any case, Neil has it pegged: “LA’s fine but it ain’t home, New York’s home but it ain’t mine no more.”  Swap AD for LA, and Neil’s singing my Christmas tune.

photo source: http://www.portclydeme.com

click here to listen to Neil (and go ahead, sing along. You know you want to)

Neil and I are connecting this post to Erica’s lovelinks. You should click over, sing a bit, read around, then come back Wednesday night to vote.

Continue Reading · on December 27, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, family, NYC, UAE


I wanted to write a post about Christmas, about family, about remembering my own childhood Christmases and feeling connected to my mom, who is out in the snowy midwest celebrating with my brother and sister and their families.  We New Yorkers couldn’t face traveling, so we stayed here, visited with Husband’s family and now apparently are waiting for a Big Blizzard, (which means the boys run to the window every 20 minutes to report on whether or not the snow has started.)

It was going to be a post not prompted by reverb10; it was going to border on maudlin, dabble in sentiment, trot out images of pajama-wearing children past and present, that sort of thing.

This is not that post. And given the “It’s a Wonderful Life” tone I had in mind, perhaps that’s for the best.

We had Christmas Eve here with Husband’s family, whose tradition was always to open presents on Christmas Eve – we had presents and laughter, and some lovely champagne – and on Christmas morning the boys waited until the ripe old hour of 6:24AM to wake us up and let us know that Santa had eaten the cookies we left him and left a note. In blue ink (which I had carefully scrubbed off my fingers before falling into bed in the wee hours of the morning).

We fobbed them off with their Santa stockings until after breakfast (my family’s tradition), and then there was the standard Christmas mayhem: wrapping paper everywhere, ribbons flying, and the inevitable package wrestling, which raises for me this question: why do toy companies make such an effort to sell us their products and then make the packaging utterly resistant to human hands? Do they think we’ll give up on one box and just go buy another one, in hopes that perhaps it was packed on a Monday by someone with a hangover?

I don’t know if you can tell from this picture, but the plastic widgety bits were actually attached with screws. We had to dig out a screwdriver and pliers just to get the damn car out of the box.

Post-gift, we trooped uptown to see Husband’s father, where the boys and their auntie played Rummikub and enjoyed some really spirited bickering over the rules. Me? I know Christmas is about togetherness but I took myself for a long walk through Riverside Park.  The air smelled like the river and woodsmoke, and it was very quiet.

Christmas is where you find it–not just the walk, but also in the deliciously fuzzy mitten-gloves (mitloves, the boys call them) that you can see at the bottom edge of this picture.

Continue Reading · on December 26, 2010 in Children, family


So the tree fell over. Full of lights and ornaments…a slow whoosh and then a whump. Ornaments everywhere, pine needles everywhere, but nothing broken–kind of amazing, given that the tip of the tree grazed a glass-fronted cabinet in the arc of its descent.

Very dramatic, no harm done. Which is how I like my drama.

Putting the tree to rights involved one of us going in search of a new tree stand at 5pm on a cold Sunday evening (thanks Husband! See reverb post #14, gratitude), and then pulling the tree out of the broken tree stand, wrestling it into the new tree stand, and then a lot of “is it straight?” “is it straight now?”  “what about now?” “NOW for god’s sake?”

The boys had no interest in re-hanging the ornaments–that was last night’s activity, part of the three-boy sleepover (using the word “sleep” here very loosely)–so Husband and I put the ornaments back and looped candy canes over the branches. It wasn’t a Rockwellian scene, by any stretch, but it was one of those moments where I felt really married.  Maybe that’s a weird thing to say, but putting our Christmas tree back together reminded me of our partnership in creating this entity called “family.” We’re not, in fact, just running some kind of odd race that involves passing our children back and forth like batons during a relay.

It’s a bit like what used to happen when the boys were younger — we’d be walking down the street and if one of them would yell “mommy,” I’d spin around, looking for the person who should be responding, only to realize a few seconds later, Oh. Wait. That’s me. I’m the one in charge.

Probably the boys will remember this Christmas as “the year the tree fell down,” and not remember any of the more deliberate stuff that Husband and I have put in place (like that damn advent calendar). And so that too, is a metaphor, for the way that family memories get made: from the random shit that happens, no matter how carefully one plans.  Our tree fell and we…well, actually we sort of laughed (mostly from relief that nothing broke and no one was hurt). We laughed and then we fixed it.


Continue Reading · on December 19, 2010 in Children, marriage

Take-All-The-Fun-Out Cookies

I needed sugar cookie dough for Christmas cookie decorating.  Had already had a morning of cooking dementia–pot of soup, two loaves of bread–and no way in hell was I making dough from scratch.  Ran to the store and got Betty’s sugar cookie mix, which actually tastes reasonably home-made (probably due to the fact that you add an entire stick of butter to the mix).

We all know, of course, that half the fun (most of the fun?) of making cookie dough is–duh–eating the batter. Betty Crocker says not so fast, whippersnappers. Fingers OUT of that bowl. Note warning label on package:

I mean really, if you can’t eat the dough, what’s the point? And what leads to such a warning being posted?  Did someone seriously die as a result of Betty Crocker sugar cookie dough?

So many questions. I pondered them all while licking the dough off the spatula.

It’s the holidays. I’m living on the edge.

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Continue Reading · on December 12, 2010 in food

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