Saturday, December 29, 2012

Table for Two

Eight of us--and all's right with the world!
Steve and I will ring in the first two weeks of 2013, utterly alone. After many years of constant household company, NO ONE will be around in early January. Sheridan and Ya-Jhu, who have been (to our delight) living with us since their marriage, are off to Taiwan for another wedding celebration, this time with her family members who could not join us here for the ceremony  in June. They invited Julie to Taiwan as well, and Julie, who has been working feverishly to save up travel money, can afford to go. Evan and Rose will welcome the new year in Washington DC, no doubt at a fun party; likewise PJ and his girlfriend Kylie at Millersville University. 

And this is just a sneak peek at the future. One of these days, everyone will be gone for good. No more ferrying to piano lessons and soccer games. No more cooking vats of food for a ravenous multitude. The decibel levels around here will decrease dramatically. It’ll be just us aging lovebirds, puttering around a suddenly huge house. Thanks to our clever financial strategy (oh, wait, we forgot to develop one!), retirement for either of us isn’t an option. We won’t have the pleasant distraction of golf vacations and cruises. No, we’ll continue working forever. Oh, well, at least during our daytime hours we’ll have interaction with the outside world. But what of those looong evenings and weekends?

I have to confess: I am nervous. What will Steve and I have to say to each other, after almost three decades of discussing mainly child-rearing issues (“Whose turn is it to change the baby’s diaper?” “It was yours, an hour ago— now you have to change the sheet too!” ) Will mealtimes begin to replicate the ever-lengthening dining table between the couple in Citizen Kane, as we have less and less to communicate?  

We felt lucky to have had seven years of wedded bliss before beginning our large family, felt  we’d had our “couple” time and were basically set forever in that department. We’d figured without this attenuated other end of married life. Mind you, we get along fine (most of the time); it’s just going to be a huge adjustment. 

And it starts right now. We'll be home alone on New Year's Eve.  I feel oddly shy, and will find myself putting on makeup and dressing carefully for our solo dinner that evening. I'll peruse the New York Times for witty/insightful talking points.  I remind myself that this is the same man I fell in love with at age 17, who has held my hand through the darkest of days. Yet he seems a bit of a stranger to me at the moment, and probably I to him. 

This snowy December night, we’ll light a fire and spend time reminiscing. But I hope we can also dream a little about our future, with anticipation instead of melancholy, as we begin a brand-new chapter in a well-loved book.  The Story of Us.  

Just the two of us...and it's OK

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Have Yourself a Mayan Little Christmas

Don’t know about you, but I’m approaching December 21st with relief. No more trips to the mall for last-minute gifts! No more mall, either!  The fact that we have only one pathetic little clump of outdoor lights in one big tree outside will no longer matter.  The unwritten and unsent cards—no worries! If the world has to end, what better day than tomorrow? I’m probably as ready as I’ll ever be to arrive at the Pearly Gates (considering I keep committing the exact same sins over and over and I’m not optimistic about change), so bring it on!

I never have been completely ready for Christmas, but sometimes my lack of prep has been comical. As just one example, for years I was included in a neighborhood cookie swap.  I am not exaggerating when I say that I never began baking my cookies until the midnight before the party at the earliest. One memorable year I was an hour late for the festivities because the cookies were still in the oven. Nothing says stress quite like racing to an event that late, holding limp bags of hot, crumbly cookies. For some strange reason I was dropped off the invitation list eventually. Whew!

Working in a church means there’s Advent/Christmas craziness too. During the critical week when most people are shopping and decking halls, I am always running a prayer center which requires my constant presence in church daily until 9 PM. I sit in the narthex and stew about what isn’t getting done at home. And now it’s (supposedly) less than a week until our big day (Christmas Eve). By tomorrow, Meg the secretary has to assemble 800 bulletins for 5 different church services. And things could be better for the 4 PM pageant at this point: my Innkeeper just resigned, and I haven’t been able to find a live Baby Jesus.  Arrggghhh!!  

 But wait! Maybe we’re all off the hook! Those prescient Mayans ended their calendar  at December 21,, 2012, which to many people automatically means it’s The End, period (and not, perhaps, that the Mayan civilization ended before anyone could update the calendar). 

So what am I doing today?

 I’m avoiding chores like crazy, because I’d hate to clean the house if it’s all coming to a screeching halt tomorrow. What a waste of energy and furniture polish THAT would be!  I plan to consume a 10,000 calorie dinner. I will go to bed without flossing (who needs teeth in the afterlife)?

Seriously, though…

 I want to look back on today and know I spent it doing things I loved to do, with people I loved. Prophecies and prognostications aside, we none of us know the End of the Story. Only God does. Meanwhile, I hope I can remember to cherish my life, every minute. And as I pray and pray for the grieving families in Newtown, I give thanks that I am lucky enough to have my kids to hug, even if it’s just for today.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Magic Passport

Sher and Ev in Paris
Feeling somewhat Orelandbound this afternoon…you know, the feeling that you are stuck in your little corner of America, making an endless loop of work, grocery store and home—with a trip to the mall a wild-and-crazy adventure. Been awhile since I’ve left the greater Philly area. Been awhile since I’ve had my passport stamped.

The Seyfried children all own passports with multiple stamps. They have been to: France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the UK, Thailand, Singapore, Brazil, Uruguay, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Guatemala. Though these travels were completely self-funded, the kids know they are still lucky to have had these chances to see so much of the world at such young ages.  They may hail from Oreland, but they have never been Orelandbound.

"Yum, Yum," said the Thai termites

Seyfried Passport Follies include several stories of loss. Sheridan used his passport as basic ID for years (he is still driver’s license-less) without incident. Now that he has a photo ID, he’s lost that precious book. Luckily he discovered this early enough to re-apply before he and Ya-Jhu take off for their meet-the-relatives trip to Taiwan later this month. When Rose spent a year in Thailand, she put her passport in a wooden box for safe keeping.  MUCH to her dismay, when she opened the box, the passport had been (horrors) munched on by hungry Thai termites! Evan is currently on vacation in South America, and left his passport in a taxicab in Montevideo. God and the taxi driver were good, however, and man and book were swiftly reunited.

I didn’t own a passport until I was 43. I’d seen a decent amount of my own country, but none of others (except pre-passport Canada). Since childhood, I’d longed to see the world, but it was, it seemed, not meant to be. My mom had had similar yearnings, particularly to see Ireland. Mom died without a passport, alas, and I’ll always be sad we didn’t make sure she got on that plane. 

The ground was broken by my trip to Jamaica in 2000 with Rose and sister C, and not long after I went on mission trips to Central America. My worldview has expanded drastically. I still long to go to Europe, Asia and Africa…and now I dare to hope I will live to accomplish my goals. 

My advice to the passport-less? Invest in one if you can! The world is out there to be experienced, and it is a crime to be forever Orelandbound (or its equivalent). You truly never know what opportunities may open up for you to travel far, and it’s smart to be prepared. My Steve is applying for his first passport, and I think it’s a wonderful statement of optimism.

This late-fall evening, I pull out my passport and dream of journeys yet to come, future stamps from Spain and Scotland, Tanzania and Vietnam. I feel hopeful and excited, and a whole lot less Orelandbound. 

Rose in Jamaica May 2000
This late-fall evening, I wish you the same hope and excitement. Send me a postcard, if you think of it.

Monday, November 26, 2012


One of my athletic offspring
The day after Thanksgiving, as is the Seyfried wont, was time for some vigorous outdoor exercise. As described in my very first blog post one year ago, the exercise usually takes the form of a brisk hike. This year, because of time-crunched schedules, the gang opted to head to the neighborhood park instead. Basketball and Frisbee were on the menu. As the others grabbed sneakers and sports gear I, as usual, prepared to bring a book and sit on a bench while my clan did my exerting for me.

My children’s powers of persuasion are considerable, however, and my al fresco reading just wouldn’t cut it this year. No! I had to dust off my sneakers (well, first I had to locate them) and PARTICIPATE. Mind you, this is a woman who has literally never played either game in her entire life. Basketball was a total mystery to me, and as for Frisbees: whenever and wherever they were flung, I automatically ducked.  “Don’t worry Mom, none of us are that good,” Rose tried to reassure me.  But I knew quite well that “not that good” in their universe is “1000% better than me” in mine.

Patience was the watchword as Sheridan showed me—and showed me—and showed me, the wrist flick that would send the Frisbee soaring in the right direction. Turns out, once I stopped ducking, I could actually catch the thing. I just couldn’t throw it to save my soul. PJ was a bit of a showoff, catching the disc behind his back, then spinning it clear across a field. Next to him, my attempts to get that #@%%&## Frisbee airborne were totally pathetic. It occurred to me that I’d be better off just walking over and handing it to him. Lo and behold, though, after the jillionth try, I started to get the hang of it. 

Giddy from my unexpected success, I proceeded to the basketball court. On the opposite end of the court, Steve and Evan were playing very intense one-on-one.  Back over in the baby pool, so to speak, my only goal was to make one basket.  One basket and I’d be thoroughly satisfied.

Well guess what, sports fans? 12, count ‘em, 12 baskets! Where is that video camera when you need it? Even as I accomplished this feat I couldn’t believe I was doing it. But my aching muscles the next day attested to the fact that the miraculous had indeed happened at the East Oreland playground.

The kids were generous with their praise, and for the first time in my life I felt vaguely athletic. Mind you, I don’t intend to follow up on what was clearly beginner’s luck. Unless the family REALLY pushes, I’ll stick my nose back in my book and let THEM exercise next time. Because it was unsettling, this late-day discovery that I might not be completely uncoordinated.  If I’m not the klutz I always identified myself as, then what other assumptions of mine might be wrong too? 

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Not a scene from my childhood!
This Thanksgiving will be a happy one, with all six of my kids (Yaj is my third daughter) home, at least for the day. I will enjoy hosting this year, and am looking at cookbooks and food blogs for special dishes for vegetarian Julie.  I’m actually toying with making an Indian style meal (India Indian, not Native American—though that would be fitting), stuffing the bird with naan bread and cashews, seasoning it with garam masala, etc., just for a change. We shall see.

 Thanksgiving is a big deal to me, as it never was in childhood. Mom’s hatred of all things culinary made this foodie holiday particularly irksome for her. Hours of labor produced a really dry turkey and a fabulous (not) green bean-mushroom soup casserole. Add a can of cranberry sauce and that was about it. One year Mom forgot to serve the green beans entirely; she later found the casserole dish on the dryer (yeah, I don’t know what it was doing there either).  At table, our conversation quickly deteriorated into the SOF (same old fight), with me mad at Mo who was mad at C, Dad stonily silent and Mom angry enough for all of us. Ah, good times! 

Thanksgiving with international guests
 Since marrying Steve, and especially since the children came along, I was determined to make it a festive day. We usually had company. The college kids knew that they were always welcome to bring people home.  One memorable Thanksgiving when Evan was at the Naval Academy, he brought four friends to stay the entire weekend. They were Naval exchange students from Romania, Thailand and Cameroon. I thought it’d be fun to make some of their native dishes. So the meal featured Thai shrimp and lemongrass soup, Romanian zacusca and an African dish called fou-fou, which I found really bland, but the Cameroonians loved it.

 Twice in recent years we’ve hit the road for our turkey dinner—once to Rose’s in Boston and once to Sheridan’s when he lived in New York City. In Boston we cooked together at Rose’s friend Mary’s house, which was a lot of fun. Sher’s year to host, I asked what I could bring. “How about the turkey? And maybe some vegetables? And maybe some dessert?” he replied.  Sheridan’s contribution ended up being some wine and a roll of paper towel (our “party” napkins).  We teased him about “his” dinner for quite a while. 

 After supper we play charades and pick names for Secret Santas. I feast my eyes on my wonderful family, aware of just how lucky I am.  I wish I remembered to make every day a “Thanksliving” Day, but in the bustle of life I often forget to be grateful. Maybe this year I’ll do a better job. 

So thank you, God. Thank you for the gift of my life and the amazing people in it. May I never take it for granted.

 I wish all of you a very happy holiday spent with the special people in your lives.