The latkes broke my food processor and I simply cannot eat anymore Christmas ham

by Amy  - December 29, 2014

Mix thoroughly until blended
I’m part of a mixed up blended family. My parents were divorced, I’m my husband’s second wife (which means his oldest kids have divorced parents and I’m a stepmom) and of course, my husband and I both grew up with different religious holiday traditions.

In a super simplified nutshell our winter holidays are wonderful but complicated a little stressful and of course filled with much to much food.

Do not ever let your kids set up the family photo. Seriously. We squeezed this in at my mother-in-law’s house after a holiday party the night before. We were all together for my husband’s birthday and of course another day of Chanukah. More latke’s!

Add in ex-wives, step-kids, different traditions and you almost need a guide book to make sense of it all.  I personally think we do a pretty good job of making it work. I know everyone’s holidays are a mix of crazy and hectic and I thought a look at our last few days might be mildly entertaining.

One giant multicultural party!

Before we got married my husband and I talked about our two religions and while our opinions have definitely shifted after we had children together the nexus point of agreement that we would teach them about both sets of traditions has stuck. So we participate in both Chanukah and Christmas.

When people find out we have a blended family sometimes they have questions. After the questions come their opinions. Most folks who have strong enough opinions to choose to share them (which is usually balanced by them having a shortage of self-control to keep their mouths shut) think we should choose one religion as a family and therefore we’re doing it wrong. I’ve mostly learned to keep my mouth shut. Mostly.

8 days of frying
During Chanukah we eat a lot of fried food because it’s all about the oil. For almost every night during the eight nights I  fry up some kind of latkes. Our favorite is the straight potato latkes but I also tried zuchini latkes to mixed reviews and apple to unanimous rejection.

standard potato latkes or as others might call them – hashbrowns.

My husband and his family love my latkes and while it’s a huge amount of work I do it every year.  This year we shredded so many potatoes the lid to my food processor jiggled apart and I had to hold it down for the last few potatoes.

You can read more about my latke tradition here and also I share my actual recipe.

zucchini latkes. Meh.

I will say Chanukah is fun but I’m tired of frying after 8 nights. There was one year where Chanukah overlapped Christmas … that nearly stressed me to the breaking point and now we have a no latke on Christmas eve policy … things you never thought you’d need.

Apple latkes. Gross. Which is weird because all the ingredients are delicious. I may need a different recipe.

Despite the fact that we give give give I do try to tell my kids that neither holiday is about presents. I am definitely losing this battle. But I’m giving it the good fight.

Winter birthday trauma
Adding to the chaos of our season. My husband has a late December birthday. It almost always falls during Chanukah. and He suffers from what I call December Birthday Child Trauma Syndrome (DBCTS). This is when a person feels slighted by having to share their December Birthday with another winter holiday. Symptoms include whining and buying yourself all kinds of stuff so that your family can’t figure out what to buy you as a present. Treatments include all of the following: make sure he gets birthday gifts. Never ever ask, “do you want a birthday gift or a Chanukah gift” Never  try to combine birthday or Chanukah gifts when dealing with a sufferer of this syndrome. Also the gifts must be wrapped in birthday paper not holiday paper.

The tree
My Jewish husband loves our Christmas tree. He makes sure that the first free day after Thanksgiving we’re all at the tree lot picking out a big Christmas tree. And he does the heavy lifting to get it inside and string up all the lights. He also puts the ornaments up high. His mom, my Jewish mother-in-law has admitted she loves the tree. Probably 1/4  maybe more of our ornaments are from my mother-in-law.

We definitely do not have a designer tree. Every ornament is made or accumulated over the years. Also, random things have just been designated ornaments which I’m pretty sure they weren’t to begin with. It’s all good.

Having a supportive mother-in-law is important, very important for making a blended family work.

There are many funny stories about me, my husband and our Christmas tree. We’ve had at least two trees topple over. Once we bought a tree that was much too big and too heavy to carry. Once we bought a tree that was too tall and we had to cut it off at the top. But I am always thankful that my husband supports my Christmas tree tradition.

This year we had a hilarious half hour of reminiscing all the tree mishaps led by my step-daughter who brought her boyfriend/fiance into the mix. They’ve been dating about 20 minutes so it was natural to get engaged and include him in all of the holiday events. If that relationship works out well in 10 years this could be one of his funny stories to tell.

Santa Claus
I grew up with Santa. I love the tradition of Santa and the magic behind it. But my husband was apprehensive. He had heard about kids being traumatized when they realized Santa wasn’t real. So before he agreed to be Santa I had to convince him that our kids wouldn’t be traumatized. In fact I have my doubts about the intelligence of any child who doesn’t figure this out by the age of 10 or well before. I don’t think our kids have been traumatized – at least not about this. Just like the tooth fairy and other parental magic there comes a time when you realize he has to be your parents. It’s okay – it’s still fun. We have one kid who knows and one who suspects/knows but I tell them you have to believe to receive so we’re all still playing along.

I am so thrilled that this house is not on my street. Love the lights but that has got to be super annoying.

My husband is not good at all with the secrecy of Santa Claus. At all! He slips up all the time in front of the kids – if I didn’t laugh this would make me batty.  He’ll say in front of the kids, “what did you put in the stockings?” And I’ll reply, “honey Santa fills the stockings.” When they were tiny it went over the kids heads. Now, I know they’ll understand it and that’s okay.  In the end though the elves are both our undoing. We simply cannot remember to move those little turkeys every night.

The decorations
We have a giant box of holiday books. Some Hannukah books, some Christmas books and believe it or not some blended family books. We read them during the season and then put them away until next year.

We have santa elves, hannukah helpers and this year we got a mensch on a bench. I know, it’s hilarious, right? We also have a dancing Santa and a singing rabbi to round out the lunacy.

pre icing. Not gingerbread but chocolate sugar cookies.

We’ll make sugar cookies to honor all of our traditions. We have 3 bags of cookie cutters including, dreidles, menorahs, trees, angels, santas and the ironman m-dot too.

My kids really want outdoor decorations but  so far we only have wreaths. I have no idea how to hang outdoor lights and I think the inflatable decorations are annoying. My husband did search for a giant inflatable Mr. Hanky (the Christmas Poo) which I would have thoroughly supported but we didn’t find one.

New this year our Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo ornament.

If I can get an electrician to get power to my trees in front I would love to wrap them in holiday lights. However, so far no go. Instead we take a tour of holiday lights around town on Christmas Eve.

Thank goodness it’s over
It’s a lot of work. It’s plenty of money. It’s a huge pain. But we do it. We always say we we’ll scale it down next year.  Someday we’ll toss the traditions aside for a year to take a trip to visit family or just see some snow. But for now we do it. It’s the Amy giftapalooza season. We have more holidays and more food and gifts than we know what to do with. But we love it anyway.

I hope that your holiday traditions whatever they may be were enjoyable. Next up – New Years planning, goal setting etc.

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Amy Stone (she/her/hers) is a life coach who helps adults in blended families. She is a mom, step-mom and a step-grandma. Other random fun facts include that She is a 7-time Ironman triathlon finisher and many many marathons and shorter races. She created

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