Friday, September 16, 2011

What I Shared With The Ladies - Part 3

Continued from Part 1 ... and Part 2 ...

I don’t want to go too much into parenting because that is a whole ‘nother talk and I’m meant to be talking about the life lived in your kitchen … but for me, this stuff is foundational to having a ‘happy kitchen life’ !

Life, and our purpose in it is multifaceted so I’ll just ask you about purpose in relation to being a wife and/or a mother because that is most linked to where I’m going in this talk !

Do you feel like you have a purpose as a wife and as a mother ?

I can’t answer the question for you but for me, very basically, I feel like my purpose as a wife is about creating a safe/comfortable home environment where my husband feels encouraged, built up and supported. Part of it too, for me, is about modeling a healthy marriage to my kids.

And parenting, again, very basically, is about me teaching my kids how to be adults. It’s walking with them through the various stages of childhood and teaching them, through words, but mostly through example, what they will need to know about life.

The time I spend in my kitchen is of great value to me. What happens in the kitchen and what comes out of the kitchen is such an important part of our family.

Having a healthy and well nourished family, in large part comes from what I do in the kitchen.

Teaching both of my children how to cook (and how to do the dishes !) is equipping them with valuable life skills, this happens in the kitchen.

The kitchen in my home, both as a child and now, is a hub of activity. Coming into the kitchen and seeing Mom cooking and Dad leaning on the counter, listening to them talk about their days, is one of my most cherished childhood memories. Or me, sitting up on the counter as a teenager, talking to Mom while she cooked. Or me and my sister and cousins, when we go home now and become part of ‘team kitchen’ where we all prepare meals for large crowds. Larger crowds that we have to feed in the backyard because we don't all fit around the dining room table !

This act of cooking a meal and then sitting around the table as a family as many nights a week as possible is so valuable to me. It forces us to slow down & to spend time together. We talk, laugh, sometimes cry & share the sad things.

There have been periods of time in our life (like when Masterchef is on) that we eat in front of the tv. We enjoy watching Masterchef and we made the decision to do it for that short period of time but I usually feel relieved when the season is over. I missed knowing what happened in the kids days, who was mean to them, who was nice, what they enjoyed about their days, what they hated, what such and so was wearing, why hoosie what got in trouble, what they learned, what they are thankful for ......

The dinner time interactions just don't happen as well when we are all looking at a tv instead of at each other.

When I think about the things that I value and want to build into my children, I can see that many of them were things that my parents built into us. I can also see many things that their parents built into them.

Things that are built in not because we tell our children they SHOULD but because we DO them.

Simple things like staying at the table until everyone was done eating. I remember when we’d visit my Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma liked to savour her meal, and we would gobble ours down like we hadn’t just eaten in days. But we had to stay at the table til she finished. She used to tease us when she had corn on the cob by eating one row at a time, and if we complained, she threatened to eat one kernel at a time ! She never followed through, or maybe we learned not to complain.

Because of my parents (and I dare say, because of theirs before them) ... we have we have a built in love of books, love of music, love of board games, card games & mahjong. My children have these too ...

We have a lot of family traditions. Before I share some of them with you, I want to tell you a story that I heard while preparing for this talk. The 'cutting the end off of a roast story." Have you heard it ? It goes like this ...

A little girl was watching her Mom cook a roast and noticed that her Mom cooked off the end of it and threw it away. She said "Mom, why do you always throw away the end of the roast?" Her Mom answered, "I'm not really sure, my Mom always did it so I always do. Why don't you ring Grandma and find out." So, the little girl rang her Grandma and asked "Grandma, why do you always cut the end off of the roast and throw it away ?" The Grandma answered the same as the Mom ... "I'm not really sure, my Mom always did it so I always do. Why don't you ring Great Grandma and find out." So, the little girl rang her Great Grandma and asked her "Why do you always cut off the end of the roast and throw it away ?" The Grandma chuckled and said "Oh, honey ... I did that because the roast never fit into my pan ..."

I'm not really into tradition for the sake of tradition.

Wat I want to pass on is the story behind it. It's this passing down of special things from one generation to the next that gives a sense of belonging, of being part of something bigger than just the here and now.

Did you family have traditions ? Do you carry them on ? Do you know the stories behind them ?

Advent calendars were tradition in my home growing up, when I had kids, my Mom started sending them to us … one year she sent this letter. Every year when they arrive, I read the letter to the kids and then hang up the calendars. Can I read it to you ?

A little story for my Grandchildren … Once upon a time there were three little girls who lived in a nice warm house on a nice cozy street. They loved holidays but they loved Christmas best. Christmas is clear at the end of December and it would have been very hard for them to wait, except for a special present that they got at the beginning of December every year. An envelope would come from a far away place called Germany, and inside it would be a special calendar that had doors to be opened every day. The picture on it was different every year, but there were always doors, with little numbers on them. A funny thing about this calendar was that it didn't have a door for every day of the month, it stopped, of all times, on Christmas Eve ! Every year when the calendar came, the girls' mother would hang it in the living room window, just at the bottom of the stairs. Then .... every morning, just after breakfast the girls would gather with their mother and, each in her turn, one would hunt for the little number of the day it was and, with excitement, ... open the door to see the picture inside. They would ooh and aah about the clever thing the door had revealed and would know that Christmas was one day closer. The best day of all was Christmas Eve, when there would be an extra special big door and inside they would find a picture of the baby Jesus, and would know that the next morning would be Christmas ! Well, the oldest of those little girls was your Nanny. The envelope was sent to us by Aunt Hester, my Grandmother's sister, who was a school teacher on an Army base in Germany. It was a custom that was part of the German Christmas tradition. I never knew another family who had such a special calendar in their house, it was something only our family had. Since it was so special, your Sabba and I always tried to find such a calendar, called an advent calendar, for our children to greet Christmas with, and that is why I have sent them to you, as well. Have fun waiting for Christmas, and know that you are the third generation of our family to have such a special treat. I love you very much, Nanny "

While we're talking about Christmas, here are a few traditions carried on from my childhood. We always had a tree decorating afternoon. Mom opened the big box of decorations and handed them to us one by one to put on the tree. I loved this. And NOW ... I love being the Mom who gets to hand the decorations to her kids !!

We always got to open one present on Christmas Eve. I don't remember a Christmas where I didn't wake up to the smell of hot apple cider that had been cooking in the crock pot all night long.

Mom always blasted the Hallelujah chorus on holiday mornings ! We got to open our stockings before our parents woke up and then we waited til after breakfast to open presents one by one.

My Grandparents grew up in India. One year, after they were all grown and living in America, my grandfathers mother, in 1949, at a Thanksgiving dinner made the 6 siblings promise to get together every year . They have honored their promise. Every year since then, the siblings and their families have gotten together. We spend a weekend together, eating, laughing, swimming, hugging, laughing, eating, laughing, crying ... did I mention laughing ?! There are 4 generations now and there were 80 of us together this year.

(my generation ... the third generation, this year ...)

We've lost a few of the 1st generation recently ... there are only 2 left. Every year that one of them is missing is difficult. We lost Aunt Thelma between the last reunion and the one this year. One of her daughters wrote this prayer and sent it to us just before the reunion. Her son read it as a prayer while we were all together ... I want to share it with you because to me it shows how deeply the passing on of values can run in a family ...

Thank you for the family that has come before us and that grows forward. The ones that gave us our roots and that are defining our future. Each are SO rich in values, talents, love and connection. We are blessed and eternally grateful. Help us be mindful of this blessing - so we may nurture, treasure and grow it forward. The stories, experiences and love that have brought us to today are the foundations and bridge of even greater abundance, love and joy tomorrow. Through birth, marriage and friendship our circle of family and love keeps growing and we welcome, honor and cherish this expansion of the Alley Family. Though our constellation changes, our core remains sound. Those before us emulated and taught us:

curiosity and adventure
love and respect
service to others
and gratitude.

Help us to honor these gifts and experience their fullness in our lives every day. And as we go forward, let us draw from that strength of family roots and values to make us stronger, better and more loving to shape tomorrow into an even better world for all.

This is the heritage passed onto us by my great grandmother !!

Lots of our traditions have food involved.

We have lots of family food traditions. Like pizza movie night. We do make your own pizza, rent a movie and watch it with the kids.

When I was a kid, we used to do fun and easy dinners when my Dad wasn’t home. Sometimes we would even have banana splits for dinner !!

Chocolate cake was always served on babies first birthdays because my Grandpa declared you could be part of our family if you didn't like chocolate cake !

We always got to, and my kids get to, chose their birthday dinner.

Whenever people came over we would introduce them to fun and sometimes exotic meals. Mom used to make a big pot of Moroccan cous cous with chicken and veggies in it. She’d put it in a huge bowl in the middle of the table and everyone would eat out of it at the same time.

Thanksgiving dinner was always at my grandma's sister's house and grandma always made cranberry fluff !

Don't be discouraged if you didn't grow up with traditions … because traditions can start with you !

My best friend grew up in a family with no traditions, but she and her husband have started thier own. One that I love is that they buy a special Christmas ornaments for each of their kids each year. What a collection of Christmas ornaments (and memories) they will have !

Another friend started one with her husband & son. Everyone who comes over at Christmas time get to put an ornament on their tree. I asked her why they started this ... her answer "we like traditions, it's a fun thing to do w/friends. We love christmas & it gets everyone in the christmas mood !"

One that we started in our family is the Thankful tree ...

A couple of years ago I wanted to experiment with not eating processed foods. We got rid of everything with additives, preservatives, or any sort of white flour or sugar in it. It was pretty hard. We made it from January until May, then my Grandma died and I went back to America by myself for 10 days. When I got back I had lost the momentum and a bit of motivation. We stopped doing it so strictly. But, back to January, when we started … I wanted to help the kids keep perspective. I didn’t want them to think of all of the things they weren’t able to have anymore. I wanted them to think of everything they were thankful for instead. On January 1st, we started our thankful tree. It is growing on one of the walls between the kitchen and dining room. Each night, at dinner, we would each write on a piece of paper, one thing we were thankful for and put it on the wall ... it is still growing !

I'm working my way towards the actual organizational part of this talk, but if we just get organized for the sake of being organized, all we will be is organized. Being organized is great. Having a reason to be organized, is even better .....

.... part 4 coming soon !


Sabba and Nanny September 16, 2011 at 6:52 AM  

This series started great--and keeps getting better. Keep it coming.

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