Friday, December 12, 2008

I'm Dreaming of a Stress-less Christmas

I know I am not the only housewife that finds the Christmas season stressful, and it is sad that so many of us feel this way. Expectations are high, and there is so much to do that it is inevitable the odd mishap will occur. Like last weekend when my visiting Goddaughter (aged 6) grabbed hold of the bottom of my antique cuckoo clock and pulled it off the wall. It was a wedding present to my Grandma and Grandpa over eighty years ago. My Goddaughter was nonplussed, but her mother and I were both in tears. I just cannot understand what possessed her. Now my poor clock is sitting on the dining table, being slowly pieced back together. Thank goodness my Dad showed the 21st Century Husband how it all works inside one rainy afternoon a number of years ago. But my poor broken clock seems like a metaphor for the chaos that seems to be reigning here in the 21st century household.

The 21st Century Husband has been away on a business trip for the last three days and now he is back he is trying to address the myriad of computer problems that have plagued me while he has been away – hence the lack up updates to my blog! I am awaiting delivery of my new MACBook computer which I am assured will solve all these problems (and watch out for a new and improved 21st Century Housewife website in the New Year!) but for the moment I am really struggling to keep things current here on the site.

The 21st Century Teenager is in the middle of “mock” or practice GCSE exams. This is preparation for the state set and marked exams he has to write in May and June of next year. These exams determine his future – what he can study and where he can study it. The “mock” exams are usually a good indicator of how they are going to go. So of course the levels of stress are high.

The 21st Century Teenager and I are also trying to find a Christmas cake recipe that we all like – a challenge as none of us are really big fans of fruitcake. This is slowly becoming stressful in itself. Our first attempt – a beautiful recipe from the book Nigella Christmas for a chocolate fruitcake – was incredibly yummy in the making. Frankly I could have eaten the raw ingredients with a spoon they smelled so good. The finished result was delicious in its own way, but still too dark for us reluctant fruitcake eaters. So we are going to try another one of her recipes, this time for a “blond” fruitcake from How to Be a Domestic Goddess. It promises to be much more successful by the very virtue of its light colour. I’m just not sure when we are going to get time to do not only the dry run, but also to make the actual fruitcake we need for Christmas!

Yet in all this chaos, I am finding that the time I am spending cooking and baking with the 21st Century Teenager is a real joy. It’s something we both really love and it is a great time for us to connect and also to unwind. I am so pleased he enjoys cooking – not just cakes and desserts, but actual meals. I think one of the most important things we can do is to teach our children to prepare healthy and delicious food for themselves.

Yesterday we had the electricians in and although the results were wonderful – I finally have an electric hob (stove top) instead of a gas one! – the day itself was pure molten stress as the noise and frustration of the workmen filled the house. It was quite a complicated job, but the results were well worth it. It looks beautiful and I am finally cooking the way I like to after a year of battling with gas, which I have never got on with. I have even managed to set myself alight a few times in the past, but that is another story – and of course by virtue of the fact I am writing this uninjured you will know that I did manage to put those little fires out!

And of course, compared to the upset and chaos of last year, all this is nothing. Yet somehow the sadness from that year does still permeate the season this year, and I suppose it always will. So many people have sad things that happen at Christmastime – it is a challenge to learn how to honour the memories without allowing them to spoil the celebrations.

So in this season of Goodwill, when we are all being told that it should feel like we are living in a Hallmark card or Norman Rockwell painting, be assured that it really is not like that for most people. Having said that, our ordinary days are such luxury compared to what is being lived in most parts of the world, where people are struggling simply to survive. It reminds me how very much I have to be grateful for, and how very blessed I am. And after all, that is what this season is about.

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