This week's Think Write Thursday prompt is about holiday spirit, and I have to admit that seems to be rather elusive this year. This has been an extremely rough year for us, and December has continued to remind us of that. I just did our Christmas cards, and was surprised at how many people have come off the list this year, as they died in 2016. Our murdered son's birthday is in December. I'm still non-ambulatory, as the surgeon's office puts it, so I can't contribute much to the daily cleaning and upkeep of the house, never mind bake Christmas cookies or decorate for the holiday. I can't even go out shopping. So, holiday spirit is pretty subdued in our house.
Strangely, holiday spirit seems to be lacking elsewhere. This is my youngest stepson's first year living with us full-time, and he's been getting used to suburban life (versus urban living). One of the things he's loved are all the lights and displays that people have in their yards for Christmas. So we picked out a few houses that usually have over the top lights and decor, and drove by one night, only to find that most of them had nothing up this year. In our own neighborhood, the flying Santa's sleigh with reindeer that one neighbor hung on a wire between his house and a tree is gone. The reindeer that used to grace our across the street neighbor's yard are not there.
When I took the youngest to his piano lesson this week, I mentioned to his instructor that he really liked the Christmas carols they have been working on, and has been practicing them more often. His instructor told me that my son has the Christmas spirit and that not too many other students do. Apparently, very few of them want holiday songs in their lessons.
I don't know why so many other people don't seem to be feeling much holiday spirit. Reading between the lines on social media, I see that a great many of my friends and acquaintances are feeling battered, bruised, and frightened since the election. I can imagine that this is making it very difficult to get into any kind of holiday spirit. In a way, I'm sort of lucky that I had surgery during the week of Election Day, because I was really, really out of it and that has dulled the impact of the election somewhat.
I don't have a solution to offer people on the holiday spirit front, but we are changing things up with my family in an effort to make Christmas a little better. My parents are coming up from Florida, and the original plan (which I was not on board with, but which was dictated to me) was that my mom was going to cook Christmas dinner in my kitchen and have total control over the entire menu. In light of the current situation, plus my mom's hatred of one of our dogs, plus the sad state of the house with the boys' attempts to clean it, plus the fact that I take up one entire couch due to my leg brace, plus there will be eight of us for Christmas dinner, I screwed up the courage to suggest to my parents that we just go out for Chinese food on Christmas Day. I expected pushback, but there was none. So, we are changing what we eat and where we eat it, and that should make the day a whole lot better than having to deal with my mom's temper tantrums about the kitchen and the dogs in our crowded and dirty house.
One good thing that has come out of this whole situation is that El Esposo and I have the start of an idea for next year regarding the kids and chores. What we have realized since I've been sidelined with my injury is that the kids have extremely different ideas about helping around the house. They range from entirely non helpful, to helps when asked, to helps without being asked. We've already promised the most helpful child a dinner at his favorite restaurant in Boston, as a reward for his uncomplaining willingness to pitch in when needed. Going forward, we decided to come up with a list of weekly chores, assign each chore a point value, and let the kids do whatever they want to do each week, to earn points. Points will be redeemable for gift cards. This way, the lazy kid(s) aren't punished, but they aren't rewarded, either, and the kids who do the work will feel incentivized and appreciated. Have you ever tried anything like this? How did it work for you?
So, that's one positive to come out of all this. Here's another - I managed to cook actual food the other day. Our dairy used to sell macaroni and cheese made with milk from their cows and cheeses from a local cheesemaker. My stepson became addicted to it when he moved in with us full-time. Before that, he never had a chance of seeing the mac and cheese because the dairy delivers on Monday and it was always gone before he came over for the weekend. A few months ago, the dairy stopped selling their homemade mac and cheese. He asks every week if they have it, and they don't. So, I found a recipe for macaroni and cheese using smoked gouda and cheddar cheeses, and I made it, and he LOVES it. He says it tastes just like the dairy's and every day when he comes home from school, he asks if there are still leftovers for him to eat. So, I'd say that was a huge success. He even took a photo of it, lol! The recipe can be found here.
It is really good!