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Homestead Happenings: mixing it up

December 8, 2010

We’re mixing it up this holiday season and so far it’s all very fun and beautiful and silly, with a few breathtaking moments, like when we made a gratitude paper chain and Col said “I’m thankful the world is still alive.” This made all the adults pause for two seconds, or at least until Rose shrieked her next thankful: presents Mama! I’m thankful for presents!

Food, water, the earth and...presents!

Opening Hanukkah presents has been a little like bringing a junkie to the all-you-can-shoot heroin bar. You can practically hear the kids panting lustily as they rip apart the sparkly-dreidel wrapping paper, and then the automated adult voice pipes in over the speakers of Heroin-R-Us: “What do we do first guys? Right!, We open the card!”

Col and Rose’s cousin in Alaska sent a box full of 30 individually wrapped tiny cars, airplanes and farm animals, which was a great present, except that for the next 24 hours there was tremendous panicky confusion over who received the goat and who received the front loader. The giraffe was Rose’s for shriekingly sure, except when it wasn’t two hours later, because “the giraffe is yours Coley, give me the hippo.”

the joy of unwrapping many small and wonderful things

While the kids fought and bargained with each other, Dan and I stood around like the bystanders at my junior high who would gather and gawk impotently whenever a fight broke out. I thought of my friend Melanie who recently told me that her husband maintains that it’s best for their boys to work out disputes independently, and yet when he’s home is constantly refereeing the brotherly melees. I totally get this. Just this morning during a 5-star meltdown of Rose’s I tried hugging her, tried empathetically shouting over her screaming, “you seem really upset about having to get dressed, Rose,” and then finally deposited Rose in her room with her clothes and told her not to come out until she was calm and dressed. “I have a headache after all that screaming,” Col observed later. “Me too,” Rose said.

Because mediating over the 30 cars, trucks and farm animals wasn’t working, and neither was non-mediating, we stuffed the kids in their snowsuits and took them to the mountains to hunt for a Christmas tree. “Hop in the car you Christmas Jews!” Dan instructed.

We returned to our earth-slide, which was covered with slick snow.

Remember this from *way* back in November?

And now!

It took a few forays up north-facing canyons to find the right fir tree and to stomp out all the sour moods.

Radical snow hiker! Or that's what we told her to keep her going.

A restful moment or Rose leaves her fallen brother behind so she can have all 30 cars, trucks and farm animals.


Celebrating Hanukkah has been lovely. Even my non-jewish husband warbles out the Hebrew prayer with me as the kids light the menorah. I love the pulsing flames dancing along as we eat dinner and the pride Col and Rose take in their very grown-up task of handling fire. But most of all, I love carrying on this tradition of my ancestors. I have my paternal grandfather’s menorah, and I always think of him at Hanukkah, how he sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to Ellis Island in the 1920’s, perhaps even with this menorah in his luggage.

Dan made fantastic, coconut-oil fried latkes with local purple, pink and yellow potatoes one night for friends, which is best because if I were charge I’m likely to make some faux baked version, which no one would like, including me. I was in charge of roasting a chicken (thanks Ryan and Audrey), which is something I’ve never done which apparently made everyone a little nervous especially when the meat thermometer suddenly disappeared (found in the nick of time in the play kitchen!). Still, the chicken wasn’t done until everyone was long gone; good thing everyone was greasily full, and Dan swears he didn’t even use a little bit of deer fat.

We played dreidel, which is a great introduction to gambling for children.

There was appropriate cheating, stealing, fuzzy math and other gambling tricks.


Now that some days have passed since the opening of the 30-piece zoo/used car sales lot, the children have returned to their typical communist-style play, where no one knows what belongs to whom.

communist zoo?

And we love our tree. At Hanukkah dinner where we were all up in menorahs, latkes and dreidels, our friend John asked “So…what would you call this tree?” I thought of all the groovy, non-demoninational possibilities: the solstice tree, the winter tree, the yule tree, when Dan said decisively, “It’s our Christmas tree.” Which, of course, it is.



ps: thanks for sharing your dinner table dramas on my last post. The link to the San Juan Table column is fixed.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. Jennifer Miller permalink
    December 8, 2010 4:38 pm

    Love your beautiful and silly moments! And love your earth slide. Ours is covered with snow, too (here in NC). What fun! Blessings.

  2. Ellen permalink
    December 8, 2010 5:24 pm

    Hilarious, sweet, and moving.

  3. Chi-An permalink
    December 8, 2010 6:01 pm

    Oh, I had a good long laugh about Rose getting dressed and the screaming hurting everyone’s head. My almost-4 daughter (I can’t remember how old Rose is, sorry) has the same drama every day. Her 7-year-old brother routinely makes editorial comments about her tantrums too, as if he had never thrown a tantrum in his life and this was some new deviltry his sister had invented all by her fluffy little self just to annoy him.

    We practice secular Christmas over here. I like the gratitude paper chain very much.

  4. December 8, 2010 6:07 pm

    Snow! None of that over here. Happy Bodhi Day!

  5. December 8, 2010 7:32 pm

    Having just lit the last candle on the menorah and now trying to figure out whether any of our handful of ornaments can hang from our Charlie Brown-esque living cypress tree without knocking it over, I want to let you know how much I enjoy your interfaith holiday posts. It’s quite lovely to see another family negotiating the challenges, joys, and compromises as they come.

    Hanukkah Sameach! Merry Christmas! Happy Festivus!

  6. December 8, 2010 8:21 pm

    yes, to all of it. i’m a little too leery to opt for the xmas tree, so instead scheduled a flight for the 25th to avoid having to deal with the day & our xmas jews. but channukah has been an unbridled hit around here in our 3/4 jewish household. yay for latkes!

  7. Ellen permalink
    December 8, 2010 8:33 pm

    second comment — It is so true that mediating doesn’t work and neither does nonmediating. Often both what we try and its opposite don’t work no matter what we are trying to remedy.

    So the only thing to do, as you said, is pack yourself up and go to the mountains.

    Very wise.

  8. ike permalink
    December 8, 2010 8:39 pm

    I loved your post and how you all enjoy both holidays. The gratitude chain is a great idea.

  9. December 8, 2010 10:26 pm

    I love your tree and your menorah. I have something from my great grandmother who came through Ellis Island at roughly the same time as your grandfather. I love lying this cloth on the table for meals on special occasions-I feel connected.

  10. December 8, 2010 11:17 pm

    I love your christmas tree
    every year the jewish blood in me whispers… light the menorah even though I know pretty much nothing about being jewish… but the blood is there… so I figure one of these days, one of these days…
    and as always… love the pink leotard ;-)

  11. December 9, 2010 8:13 am

    I think mish-mash holidays are the best kind–a little of this, a little of that. And definitely the best cure for fighting kids is a long, cold hike in the snow. It’s that deprivation breeds appreciation thing again.

  12. Ashley Brass permalink
    December 9, 2010 9:20 am

    little rose always in that satin pink leotard. lol

  13. December 9, 2010 9:20 am

    Again, I find myself reading and noting the awesomeness of a sentence or a concept, wanting to remember to mention it here and I click into the comment and only remember fabulous snippits: communist play, tree names, love the gratitude chain, the caption under Rose leaving Col, the description of the menorah in luggage made me tear up. Love your writing, love coming here. Look forward to meeting one day.

  14. December 9, 2010 10:35 am

    I love the “celebrate everything” attitude! I expect my formerly-catholic-now-atheist fiance and my jewish-by-race-but-atheist self will do precisely that when he moves in. Why shouldn’t we both enjoy the beautiful christmas lights on the house, and the serene joyfulness of lighting the menorah (or which I have several lovelies to choose from)!

  15. December 9, 2010 11:16 am

    It’s fascinating to me how much I love the paticularities of your stories. When people who don’t understand social media talk to me about it and they say, “I don’t want to hear about how someone has now brushed their teeth, now they’ve done their laundry, now they’ve put their kids to bed…” I want to send them to your site.

    Because this is the poetry of what you do. It really is about the every day here. And it is soooo lovely. And it makes me think about my life more large because you focus me on the small. Nothing could make me more happy.

    I’m not exactly sure how you do it. But I’ve never been more blissful being a student.

    Thank you Rachel.

  16. December 9, 2010 12:44 pm

    I love seeing/reading about others’ interfaith celebrations in their homes. Thank you for sharing yours.

    And Dan saying “Christmas Jews” had me chuckling. Love it.

    Happy Hanukkah!

  17. Melissa permalink
    December 10, 2010 12:21 pm

    We mix it up over here, too–and because we are so close to my mom, we get to do Christmas at her place and not deal with the tree/no tree issue–and somehow it works. Just like it works that we are raising the kids in the Jewish tradition (as if that has just one meaning, right?) although I’m not Jewish (so plenty of folk would say our kids aren’t *really* Jewish)–with lots of Om Shanti in the mix.

    Leeor and I actually participated in an interfaith couples group when we were dating and it was fascinating to hear discussion about these very holidays.

    Funnily enough, Avi and I were the most reluctant to say goodbye to Hanukah this year–last night he whined, “But I want to light the candles on my men-OR-AHHHH!” Me too. So I guess we need more candle lighting rituals in our lives. I love the pure expression and feelings kids bring to these holidays, including the honesty about the presents.

    Thanks for sharing how you guys celebrate!

  18. December 11, 2010 6:21 am

    Thanks for another hilarious glimpse into your home. I was glad to see Rose and Col return to their Communist play around the Christmas tree at the end, and I’m glad you have tagged the post with “dreidel as a gateway to gambling.” I’m always impressed by the way you can both make me giggle and get me thinking about things all at the same time!

  19. December 11, 2010 10:36 am

    I’m sitting in a Communist grocery store right this very minute. Plastic banana, anyone?

    PS: Snow! Latkes! Gambling! December at your house wins hands-down.


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