Thursday, 14 February 2008

A change of heart

Don't you love that occasionally reading about the lives and families of other bloggers can sometimes bring about a small change within your own? I've found reading Mary-Beth's Salt & Chocolate blog to be like gentle exposure-therapy over the last week in shifting my negative feelings about Valentines Day. I'd always disliked the day - in the past for me it has held connotations of 'Clinton Cards romance' and a sensation of being part of a herd that unsettled my idea of spontaneous feeling. But somehow I feel a bit differently now. Reading about Mary-Beth's valentine's family traditions: the melted crayon heart wedges for the little ones, the valentine treasure hunts and the special foods she had created, made me realise that, consciously or unconsciously, she was creating the most wonderful memories for her children and also cementing their sense of what it meant to be a member of their family. Her children will no doubt remember these wonderful Valentines celebrations for years to come, while in contrast, I realised that although my children will no doubt remember us as a family for lots of other (hopefully lovely!) things, they won't look back with fondness on how Mummy and Daddy didn't celebrate valentines day because they were rather excellent at sticking to their stance about defecting from any supposed commerciality....and looking at what a wonderful week Mary-Beth and her family and so many other bloggers were having (and how very uncommercial), that suddenly felt like a real waste of an occasion, because for me one of the largest parts of being a parent is the desire to create memories for my children.

Zebra-girl had her first ever day off school today - she was a little shivery this morning and her teacher said that she looked like she could do with a day at home. Once home she warmed up quickly and was coaxed back to her normal self watching a video and then later snuggled up on the sofa together with Dinosaur-boy as I read them Roald Dahl's Esio Trot. Over lunch I asked her whether they would be doing anything for Valentine's Day at school. She looked at me blankly and asked: What's Valentine's Day? (perhaps her teacher felt the same as I had previously done). I'll skip the intermediary bit, but during the course of my explanation and our subsequent conversation it was decided that we would prepare a secret-surprise Valentine's Day party for Daddy.

Out came the flour, butter and eggs and the fun began. Zebra girl insisted that she wanted the icing for the cakes to be red...under the guidance of her rather infectious enthusiasm, I poured more and more food-colouring in, until I lost my nerve, worried about her needing another day off school just to come down off the ceiling...so the result is a pinky-orangey-eugh-sort-of-coloured icing. Once iced they looked so awful that I gave the children permission to go wild with the decorations as I thought there was no way we could attempt to bring these ugly cakes back from the brink. So how wonderful to see the designs that they came up with: still lurid, but oddly vibrant and pleasing to look at.

While the cakes had been slowly rising (oh dear, still adjusting to the new oven in terms of baking timings) we made Peppermint Creams - this is my favourite thing to make with them - it feels like they've had the fun of play-doh and baking in one hit (particularly wonderful as the thought of play-doh makes me feel like hyperventilating as I know that no matter how much matting one puts down, it still manages to cling to the carpet in tiny little pellets that resist being sucked up into the Hoover).

After we'd washed up we started making some decorations to hang.

Then something to stop Daddy in his tracks as he came through the dining room door (with a message from Zebra-girl written on each heart).

And then a happy hour was passed using a small heart stamper to create a trail for him to follow from the front door.

The children requested to wear party clothes for the occasion of the actual party, and once suitably attired, we laid the table for dinner, lit candles and then turned off all the lights and hid in the dark listening for the key on the lock. Their eyes glistened with excitement and my lovely husband made no mention of the weird u-turn I had made on celebrating Valentine's Day, and got straight on with admiring every aspect of the party that they had prepared for him. But now they're in bed.... and I am writing my blog and Ian has gone out to the garage to his little sound-proof box to record some guitar...because there's only so much conversion one can do in a day...

23 comments:

  1. How lovely. You have a wonderful way of writing. I too despise play-doh, under nails, in the ridge of the table, yuk. My distaste makes me feel like a very bad mother. However I discovered number 3 playing with it today and I remained calm! Your party sounds like it was fun, more fun, but now you're done! Esio Trot is great. I love the Twits too.

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  2. What a lovely idea, one that I am sure your children will indeed remember for years to come (they may even remind you next year to do something similar). We are of the same ilk in this house, we both dislike the commerciality of it all and the "pressure" to get a card or flowers or both. I have been in Manchester for the past two days, and on my way home when stopping for petrol, the very sad looking flower stand (it was about 6pm at this point) was still swarming with men who were picking a "forgotten" bunch of flowers. However, last year I much preferred nothing - but then a small book called "guess how much I love you" (I am sure you know it having children), with an inscription saying happy Feb 26th which I received after K went on a casual shopping trip in town to get stamps! This year however he too broke with tradition, as I arrived home from my long journey to a hand made card! Perhaps there is something in the air!

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  3. What a lovely day! I always feel a bit wierd about Valentines but one year I stayed with American friends and they spent the day doing things as a family and even gave me a card and pressy. first time I heard of this way of celebrating. I didn't have a Valentines today but I did a very special posting on my blog for someone who really should be remembered not just on this day but all days.
    anyway, i am wondering, becasue of the kind of language you use and how you do your blogs if you are a therapist or involved in the psychological prof at all?
    Finally if you are or you aren't I see that the org RelaxKids.com do aromatherapy playdough and this might be loved by your children.

    katie x

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  4. Glad you found a way to make it meaningful for your family Florence. Those peppermint creams look delightful - perhaps you'd consider posting a recipe?

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  5. What a wonderful day and evening! I think we may have to have a special 'for Daddy' party just so we can do all the cool stuff you did.

    No playdoh in this house, ever. I can't stand the smell of it, the feel of it, the look of it. Blech. My poor children! LOL

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  6. Everything looks so pretty! It sounds like you all had a really lovely day at home. The peppermint creams look fabulous, in the photo's they look so smooth and tactile. I'd love the recipe, I think O would love making them. We had a baking day yesterday too, but it was a batch of chocolate brownies for 30(!) people plus children for a birthday celebration we are off to this afternoon. O was in charge of bashing up the white chocolate, so quite a lot of it disappeared into her tummy (and all over her face, dress, jeans etc etc!)

    Thank you for your lovely comments on my blog yesterday! I'm so glad you enjoyed your day too.

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  7. That sounds like the perfect, spontaneous day! A new family tradition...

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  8. Fantastic - perhaps once I have children my bitter heart will melt too :)

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  9. Oh how fantastic! V Day is a bit low key in our home too but we do get each other a little something but the boys aren't really involved. I'm completely inspired by your ideas though now and have squirreled lots of ideas away for next year. Good on you for entering into the spirit. Love isn't commercial and you all celebrated it in a very special, personal way. Perfect!
    Stephx

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  10. the peppermint creams look lovely, and I'm glad you had a lovely valentines day!

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  11. I love it when we hi-jack and subvert a commercial holiday for family gain. Hooray for you!

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  12. When you have teenagers Valentines Day is quite important. Don't say I didn't warn you!

    I love the idea of the trail of little hearts and the surprise party - what could be more special for Daddy coming home to his family.

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  13. What a lovely celebration you had with your sweet family. It always surprises me when people dislike Valentine's day--to me it so sweet and fun. I'm super flattered that I've inspired you, even in a small way.

    I've always wanted to make peppermint creams (or at least since seeing a recipe on Kiddley a year ago!) I was just thinking about that yesterday. Yours turned out so cute.

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  14. I found your blog through Lisa's u-handbag blog and have enjoyed reading it these past days. Those peppermint creams sound delicious. Here is the link to the Kiddley recipe Mary Beth mentioned. peppermint creams

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  15. What a great day it turned out to be! I like the idea of Valentine's Day being about the family rather than just couples. We don't do anything for it as it is my boyfriend's birthday so we have birthday celebrations instead!

    Those peppermint creams look beautiful. I think you should try them with rose water - imagine the gorgeous smell!

    I popped over after you left a message on my blog - love all your posts and photos. Off to do some archive reading now!

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  16. How wonderful. I admit I always felt the same about "made up" commercial holidays - but this year I've read so many wonderful and non-Hallmarky blogs that I now feel a bit mean.

    And a surpise party - gorgeous!

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  17. I am laughing re the comment about aromatherapy play-doh. How about lavender so they get so relaxed and just look at it, or sleep beside the play-doh! I'd like that!

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  18. What a great story! Sounds like a perfect Valentine's Day.

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  19. Oh Florence you have such lovely ideas. We never do anything for V Day, and the older you get, the worse it seems. How sad is that. Perhaps we should start planning for next year.
    Love to you all.
    Hazel
    xxxxx

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  20. that sounds lovely - I have been reflecting on the whole thing too and realsed that in the states V day seems to be much more "inclusive" than here. Now some might say cynical marketing (as I might when wearing my cynical hat) but I think a lot of my detestation (is that a word?) of the event comes from that horrible feeling of being left out if you were a child/teen who didn't get one - the pressure, the disappointment, the terror, the horror, the envy, all horrible emotions to foist on already vulnerable kids...but I like the idea that seems to prevail stateside of giving valentines to all and sundry (my sister sent me a card - To my sister - happy V day which made me very happy!) I gave my gals some of my handsewn hearts which they are now proudly hanging on their bedroom doors...so in many ways I hope it gets more inclusive here too, before they hit their teens and feel that horrendous foreboding sense of doom!

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  21. Now that's what I call a celebration of love!

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  22. Ugh can't stand playdoh, in fact the lid got left off a tub of the stuff the children were given so it went hard, can't think how that happened!
    What a lovely tradition to start and a special memory for you all.

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  23. What a lovely, sweet family party. Love this post~

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I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x