Thanksgiving at the U.N.

Note to new readers:  Our family has taken in two (yes, we are that crazy) exchange students for the entire school year. There was no preparation and it has been an adventure from day one (read the first post). China is a 16 year old boy and Denmark is a 16 year old girl. Along with our 15 year old son (the US), our 21 year old daughter, Israel (because she lived there last year and plans to move there) and our 19 year old son Canada (because he attended 3 yrs of  high school in BC, Canada), I am the Secretary General (because, well, I always wanted to be) and we are the U.N.

Note to all:  I think I’ll only post twice this week and give myself a break. I’m working on that: excepting that I do need help and I do need a break. Things with my Mom are not going well, though I suppose they are going as expected by hospice/dying standards. She is comfortable and at peace. She is resting most of the time now and is rarely awake. However, I am spending a lot of time at Hospice House and not much time writing. Most days, I am spending many hours lying in bed with Mom, sometimes silently, other times quietly telling her things that I want to say, as the time ticks by.  Since I turned my novel over to an editor, I’m just sitting and waiting to get it back and do rewrites. I haven’t started the early holiday shopping I swore I would do. I’m not cleaning out closets that I keep saying I’m going to clean. My Husband leaves next week for a two and half week trek to climb a mountain in Chile and I’m procrastinating and sitting next to my Mom.  I’m learning to except “good enough for now.”  So, I figured maybe this would be a two post week and we call it good.  Thanks for all the wonderful words of support and concern that many of you have sent. They have meant a lot in the past few difficult weeks.

For the fourth year in a row Principessa is not home for Thanksgiving. The expense of flying across country for four days, when she will be home for a month+ in just a few weeks, and the fact that she has loads of family near her college,  has never worked out to justifying all the hoop jumping we’d all do. Same issues with Middle Man meant we don’t have him home either.  Last year we did a total nutsy leap and met him in Vegas for Thanksgiving. Hubby, Little Man and I flew out the same day as Middle Man and all met at the airport in Vegas. We saw three shows, ate some great meals and had a wonderful long weekend together, though it was terribly untraditional.  Whille all the savings made sense two months ago, I miss our kids when they aren’t home with us for the holidays and wonder if we shouldn’t have just erred on the side of traditional homecomings.

Updates from the UN:

The “honeymoon” is definitely over and there have been more clashes with increased multi-national discourse. Denmark is fed up with the testosterone levels in China and the US. Denmark and China are tired of the Secretary General’s language corrections (“but you’re here to learn English.”). The US is annoyed by too many little things, while China claims to not mind most things but ruffles plenty of feathers. All the same, all three countries have done remarkably well considering the close borders and significant cultural gaps.

The idea of Thanksgiving has been fascinating to the multi-nation consortium that our home has become. I have heard Denmark commenting to numerous Skype friends and family members about “Thanksgiving,” the only word I can make out when she is speaking Danish, which sounds distinctly like an animated choking incident mixed with the Swedish chef from Muppets.China and US find it impossible not to tease Denmark about these loud, rapid chat-isodes.

China spent the week asking frequent questions about the big, mysterious celebration that he calls “The Thanksgiving.” Each time I brought in groceries or mentioned cooking, he asked “Ma, is this for The Thanksgiving?”  “No, China those hot dogs are just plane old junk food.” When I arrived home with a twenty pound turkey yesterday, his eyes just about popped out of his head. He carried it around for a few minutes and then proclaimed, “Oh, The Thanksgiving is very good!”

 (<— Cream puffs should never be taken lightly!)

Serious International conflict came to a head this week when the Secretary General arrived home from Hospice, opened the frige and saw that her last home-made cream puff (a gift from a friend) was gone.  When she carried the empty container into the kitchen and said “Who ate the last cream puff,” China said, with a sheepish grin, “I did.”  The Secretary General had told all parties, all countries, all persons, just the night before that these cream puffs were a special gift and were the sovereign property of the Secretary General.  The Secretary General said “Are you serious!”  China thought this was funny. S.G said clearly: “I am not sure why you are laughing. If you were the US, Israel or Canada, I would be yelling right now. We do not eat other country’s treats without express permission… and never take the last one without asking!”  China was very quiet.  All parties are currently working toward reconciliation, but discussions are strained by cultural differences regarding matters of etiquette. This seems like a universal principle, but China does not agree. China has been accustomed to taking what it wants, with no concern for these boundary issues. While the cream puff making friend suggested that perhaps China should be given Diplomatic Immunity on this issue; that is not an option. We do not negotiate with terrorists. China is being watched. (and the honeymoon is over)

Denmark has been trying to teach China, US and the Secretary General a popular Danish tongue twister. The efforts are hilarious and have been met with total failure on all fronts. The Secretary General clearly can not speak Danish.

Meanwhile, China tried teaching Secretary General to say his real, Chinese name (vs the Americanized one he chose) properly: CH: Weixuan  SE: way joon CH: shhuh (or something like that) SE: shhah  CH: shhuh  SE: shhhhau  CH: can’t you hear the difference?  SE: ok, what’s my name?  CH: Don  SE: Dawn  CH: down  SE: Dawn  CH: daun  SE: Can’t you hear the difference? Détente.

All nations were excited to watch The Amazing Race these past two weeks, as it was filmed in Denmark (the country). However, there was some disappointment on the part of Denmark (the kid) when racers were asked to perform tasks that involved bunny racing and visiting sites that she had never personally seen. China said politely but with a sarcastic tone that has definitely been learned here, “Oh, Denmark is really exciting. Those bunnies are so cute.”

Denmark, US, China and the Secretary General all attended the premier of Warren Miller’s new ski movie, Like There’s No Tomorrow. Denmark was absolutely giddy and put on goggles and ski jacket. China was flabbergasted, and when the scenes of crazy ass boarders, diving down sheer mountain faces came on, we all turned to him and said:  “That’s what you’ll be doing.”  China has only been on snow once, but bought a snow board at the local ski swap this year, and plans to take lessons. The movie gave him unrealistic confidence we fear… but then, it’s been doing that to the US, Israel, Canada and the Secretary General for years. We all came out of the movie pumped for the slopes.

This week China, Denmark and US got their season’s pass to Mt Baker.  When they return home from the slopes today, we will see if China really is Shaun White.  Since Warren Miller, he has been pretty confident about snow boarding. (He has only been in snow one other time)

China came up to the kitchen about 11 AM Thanksgiving morning. Secretary General had already been cooking since 7:15 and had made two pumpkin chiffon pies (passed down from grandma and uber labor intensive), a sweet potato supreme, wild mushroom stuffing, wild rice and had a turkey just going in the oven. He took one look around and said:  “Are all of your family from all over the US coming to The Thanksgiving?”  “Nope, no family this year; just friends.” He looked around, shook his head and said:  “This is so much food! Like Chinese spring festival, for all of my family…maybe 50 people!”


(^^^Sweet potato supreme with marshmallows,  fresh cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes sans marsh.)

China has had some significant issues with the subject of homosexuality.  He claims that it does not exist in the country of China and he doesn’t understand why it is so prevalent on US programming:  GleeModern Family, etc.  Plain and simple, it makes him clutch his face, recoil in horror and groan at the TV (no joke), to both the amusement and disdain of Denmark and the US, who are oh so politically correct.  Denmark has made it her personal mission to teach him some sensitivity on this topic.  She has several gay friends and his reaction bothers her endlessly. This week, the Secretary General heard China and Denmark discussing the topic again as they came home from school. As they came in the kitchen, China said to Denmark: “I know how man-man do it (oh oh, it?), but I don’t understand what girl-girl do?”  Denmark corrected “woman-woman”, while US became increasingly agitated: “Uh, guys, could we drop this now…”  China: “How would woman-woman satisfy each other?”  (OH my!), “OH MY God, don’t ask that China!” US shouted and before the Secretary General could say Sanctions, Denmark embarked on a colorful, (though brief) and accurate explanation. US left the kitchen traumatized; China was embarrassed and informed; Denmark was sanctimoniously pleased. Secretary General remained neutral but enormously amused.

Denmark has been asked to appear on a popular Danish TV program, akin to Good Morning America. They would interview her via Skype. She has asked the Secretary General to appear in the interview too…  This could be interesting.  Negotiations are incomplete at time of press. Stay tuned for further details, as we may be taking this rodeo International…for real.

When China first arrived in our home, he made it clear that he found Dad “brilliant.”  Time and again, The Secretary General would come up with a solution to a problem or figure something out for China, but Dad was “so brilliant.” Finally, the Sec. Gen, in a moment of childish frustration stated “Mom is brilliant too, pay attention!” Several instances came up in short succession that lead to repeating those words, until this week, when China had a problem and Sec. Gen. solved it,  China smiled and said “Wow!  Ma so brilliant!”  Indoctrination of foreign minors is a beautiful thing.

(<– perhaps the best turkey we’ve ever tasted!)

In a complete departure from usual turkey roasting practices, the Secretary General followed the advice of a friend and covered the bird in bacon and cooked it in a roasting bag this year. The results were fantastic! Everyone wanted a piece of the bacon and the meat was amazing. Upon finding China picking off the pieces of bacon(something that is becoming a trend… eating what he wants, without regard for others waiting… hello, he learned nothing from the cream puff incident!), the Secretary General caught him:  “Halt! This is not the one child policies of China! Only boy is now one of several family members and needs to wait his turn. Back away from that turkey mister!”  China smiled, popped the piece of bacon in his mouth and said “but you are such a good cook Ma. ”  Add bribing authorities to the list of recent offenses.

Denmark has adopted the phrase “I am 100% certain of this!”  It is always said with a very bold voice and a distinct smugness. China rolls his eyes and it is the matador’s red cape for the US. The Secretary General has suggested that Denmark find a new way of saying: “I’m sure.”

The Secretary General took China for a haircut and convinced him to try something “edgy,” ridding himself of the youthful (read goofy) bangs he had. China loves his new style and has taken to using hair gel and a dryer to get it to spike up. Denmark and US support China’s change but concerns are rising that China will not be able to return to China in June, with these new Western ways.

As SE prepared gizzards for gravy, Thanksgiving day, China said “What are you doing ma?”  SE: “I’m preparing the gizzards. Do you eat these?” CH: Yes these are very popular in China, but you don’t eat them in America. SE: Well, obviously we do. I’m preparing them now.  CH: My teacher told me that you don’t eat such things here!  SE: Well, your teacher was wrong; and you can quote me. Actually, seems your teacher has been wrong a few things now. Maybe you can be teacher when you go back.  China grinned.

 Thanksgiving thoughts:

(<– Each year when I set my table, I remember all of the holidays before. The china was my mother’s; the glasses were my grandmother’s; the silver was given to us as wedding present by both of my husband’s grandmothers; and the wine glasses came from my mother and father-in-law. They are all with me each time I set this table.)

So Thanksgiving went off without a hitch and with much enthusiasm locally and Internationally. Israel and Canada both phoned home and made the Secretary General smile. Denmark and China were impressed with the pomp and circumstance and extensive food options. Everyone ate too much, drank too much and  laughed enough.  Good friends joined us for dinner and helped bring a lot of fun amidst a few weeks that have been exhausting and intensely emotional for the Secretary General. When taking my turn to say what I am grateful for (our “prayer” each year) there was a lot to say. I am grateful that my mother is no longer suffering and falling daily; I am grateful for these long hours with her, where I am able to sit in silence or take the time to tell her things I want to say. I am grateful for the love and support of my husband, my children (all 5), my sister and extended family and the many friends who I have come to think of as family.  I am grateful for friends who I don’t see often but who have reached out to send words of healing and kindness. There is much that I’m grateful for, as I recently posted, and there is much that I am grieving for as well. However, as cliché as it is, on Thanksgiving I give thanks for all the blessings that I have been given.


(^^ All the fixings, pumpkin chiffon pie, stuffing preparation, fun putting flowers together)

If you enjoy my posts, I would be very grateful if you would hit the “Like” link above. Even better if you “Share” the fun and pass this on. You can always go back and read previous posts by searching the “Archive”   Thanks for taking the time to read Tales from the Motherland.



About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
This entry was posted in Blog, Daily Observations, Death of parent, Dying, Honest observations on many things, Humor, Mothers, Musings, Parenting, Teens, The U.N., Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Thanksgiving at the U.N.

  1. Claudia says:

    Beautiful, touching and SO FUNNY! Great post.


  2. aliciamklein says:

    A little late reading this but thoroughly enjoyed it!


  3. Pingback: All Kinds of Mayhem at the U.N. « Tales from the Motherland


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