Your Ideal Holiday

After a whirlwind sub-24 hour holiday marathon where we went from one Triple F to Another (that’s a Forced Family Function, in case you’re wondering), Spouse and I had to ask ourselves what the holiday season is about. For us.

Since we’re Unitarians, sometimes it’s hard to explain to the kids where our beliefs fit into the mainstream picture.

On our way home last night, Trixie (5) had a series of questions:

  • Is this Jesus’ Birthday? (Me: Well, a lot of people think so).
  • Does Jesus get 100 presents for his birthday from Santa? (Me: Probably not).
  • What is Jesus like? (Me: I think he would be one of the nicest people you could ever meet).

You get the idea.

At least I hope you do.

It seems like every year, we barely keep our heads above water and rush, rush, rush to meet External and Internal Obligations, usually with mixed success.

One of our best Christmases was a very simple one, and it was mostly the two of us.

My intern year – 2001 – I was on call Christmas Eve.

Spouse stopped by the hospital with a plate of homemade cookies; sugar cookies cut into pig and dog shapes because they were the only cookie cutters he could find at our apartment.

It took him hours to make those cookies. They were fabulous.

He also smuggled Frenchie, our toy poodle who was the love of my life back then, in for a visit inside a duffel bag.

Call was relatively un-eventful (a Christmas miracle in itself), and in the morning I headed home for a nap.

I woke mid-morning and we opened presents in our PJs.

In the afternoon, we gorged on a retro 70s recipe crab dip – so budget busting back then – with two of our friends and drank wine while watching “The Muppet Christmas Carol.”

I realized it even back then: we were happy. Christmas felt right.

I’ve tried to capture that ever since.

Which brings me back to the question: what would the ideal holiday season look like?

For me, venue is important, but I think it could take many forms. Most of all, we would be warm and comfortable.

People would be there, family and friends, but the key would be that everyone wanted to be right there, right then.

The food would be good. We’d probably even have crab dip.

There would definitely be wine.

We would laugh a lot.

There would be Muppets.

 

 

 

 

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas

Holiday Stress was in full force last night.

Cards went out on Monday (after a marathon stamping/addressing/envelope licking session on Sunday).

On Tuesday, I was able to wrap and distribute gifts at work (after a frantic wrapping episode on Monday).

Last night our kids’ babysitter graciously agreed to stay an extra hour and help wrap gifts. (I was begging).

That hour went a long way, and with her help, I finished up on my own with all the gifts by about 10 PM.

(A glass of zinfandel helped, although the quality of the wrapping deteriorated afterwards).

MGM (7) would not go to sleep and was bouncing off the walls, even with multiple threats that Santa was watching.

Everyone was generally unhappy with each other when we went to bed at midnight.

I woke in a panic at 2 AM and remembered that I forgot to get two gifts to participate in the Yankee swap that my extended family does every year. Ugh. I hate that event. I decided to let it pass without participating this year.

Ditto the Christmas Eve potluck, which we will likely miss since we have to drive nearly two hours after work tonight to get there and are always the last to arrive.

My To Do List was circulating through my head when the alarm went off this morning. 

Spouse and I agreed that we don’t really enjoy Christmas in its current iteration, and it just seemed like a series of stressful events that culminated in Never Doing Enough and somehow failing to meet External Expectations.

I brewed coffee and silently grumbled.

Trixie (5) came downstairs unprompted at 7 AM with a smile on her face. “Good morning, Mom!”

She went on to say that she was so excited for Christmas and then asked, “Is Santa Claus really real?”

I paused before answering. “What do you think?”

Trixie: “Yes! Real! And I even saw him twice! Once he was at Pet Smart (side note: This was the worst fake Santa ever. He looked to be about 17 and was there last year to take pictures with pets. We were there to buy a new leash) and once I saw him at school!”

Her parting words: “I just love Christmas.”

I’m going to go with that sentiment for the next few days. Thanks for the reminder, Trix.

Christmas Wrap Up

So, how was your holiday?

Ours started with a harrowing drive through a blizzard to my mom’s place on Christmas Eve. The trip normally takes about 75 minutes door-to-door, but the road conditions were so poor that it was nearly 3 hours before we arrived. Everyone had already eaten dinner, too, so it felt really weird and rushed once we got there to dine on the dregs.

There was one point on the journey where it was a total whiteout and we were on a narrow stretch of road with no shoulder on either side – plus a precipitous bilateral drop – and a semi blazed by us doing about 90 MPH. Ever Patient Spouse and I looked at one another and simultaneously asked, “Was that Large Marge?”

It went downhill from there.

One highlight of all the gifting was Disney Hedbanz.

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Although it was meant for Trixie from her cousins, we all engaged in several rounds of this. The premise is rather straightforward: Each player wears a headband with a card that isn’t visible to the player (but is for everyone else), and then you ask yes-or-no questions to determine which card is in your headband. An hourglass timer is involved (Thank god!).

Example: Trixie had an the Enchanted Pumpkin Carriage card from “Cinderella.”

Something like this:

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Trixie: Am I a boy?

Me: No.

Trixie: Am I an animal?

Me: No.

Trixie: Am I hairy?

Me: No.

Trixie: Am I a person?

Me: No.

Trixie: Am I a princess?

Me: No.

Trixie: Am I a hairy animal?

Me: No.

Trixie: Am I a crab?

Me: No.

Trixie: Am I an animal with a lot of hair?

Me: No.

Trixie: Am I a hairy crab?

So, you can see how this went down. 

And now we’re safely ensconced back at Fancy Pants Ranch, where the real Christmas Miracle occurred today: The garbage truck hauled away Mt. Saint Trashmore, our towering pile of cardboard boxes, colorful wrapping paper, and assorted holiday detritus.

Until next year…

Holiday Style

What are you wearing for Christmas? Do you dress up? Or can you stay in your PJs all day?

We’re a little bit of both.

For Christmas Eve, I’m going to wear this pink sweater with sequined elbow patches from Banana Republic:

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Images from Wearwhatwhere.com

I had to pull these images from the web since the sweater isn’t on the BR site any more. I just bought it a few weeks ago, but it may have sold out.

I wish I would have bought this to pair with it:

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Banana Republic Regency Necklace

But I didn’t, so I’m going to wear an old Kate Spade statement necklace that I bought for a friend’s wedding 2 years ago:

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Kate Spade Necklace

I can get away with jeans for Christmas Eve and these Tory Burch flats.

Gift opening on Christmas morning is casual but not sloppy:

Unknown-2 PJ Salvage Camo Bottoms at Zappos

These are both PJ Salvage from 6PM.com.

The rest of Christmas Day involves a lot of to-and-fro-ing and a big family dinner that is supposed to be at 6 PM but inevitably hits the table around 9-ish.

I’m going to wear black pants (these) with this sweater in black, this Lulu Frost necklace and these new Rag & Bone boots, which are insanely comfortable if you size up by a half.

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Lulu Frost Big Bang Necklace

Lulu Frost Big Bang Necklace

Rag & Bone Newbury Booties

Rag & Bone Newbury Booties

Fingers crossed for no wardrobe malfunctions and minimal family drama. Ho ho ho!

Dysfunction Junction (Or How I Was Almost Shot in the Face Last Christmas)

I should probably be more concerned about Christmas preparation right now, but instead I’m going to a movie tonight (this one or this one) and generally goofing off. However, I will share a Christmas story today in the spirit of the holidays.

Although it can be tough to appreciate the humor in the heat of the moment, I seem to be a magnet for situations that are genuinely weird, publicly humiliating, or flat-out bizarre. 

Christmas is no exception. In fact, Christmas is in a category all of its own.

Like last Christmas, when I was almost shot in the face.

Background: My father (R.I.P.) grew up in a family with two brothers, only one of whom is still alive. It’s surprising that my surviving uncle is the last one standing, given that he smokes a hookah pipe all day long, has never eaten a vegetable, and basically has every health problem ever described.

He’s 76 now, never married, and lives alone in a house that I will kindly describe as time warped and smoky. Also, to say he is a curmudgeon is a gross understatement. 

He’s had two strokes which have rendered his left arm nonfunctional. The mobility of his right arm isn’t much better, and he uses a cane to get around.

Oh, and he loves guns and other assorted weapons.

Last year, Ever Patient Spouse and I stopped in to check on him at Christmas, since we were back in our hometown and all. It was probably 2 P.M., and I think we woke my uncle up from a nap.

Still, he was happy to see us and invited us in. We chatted a bit, and then asked him about the interesting objet on his coffee table.

Turns out, it was a miniature – and functional – cannon. 

This prompted a turn in our conversation to guns and ammo. My uncle got progressively more excited and told us to wait a minute, then shuffled off to a different part of the house.

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When he came back he was holding a huge, long-barreled pistol in his bad arm, supported by his good(ish) arm, and waving it back and forth in our faces.

Spouse and I took one panicked look at each other, decided today wasn’t the day we wanted to die, and high-tailed it out of there.

In the background, we could hear my uncle saying, “Come back, I want to show you my cross bow.”

We took a pass on that one.

What You’d Expect

No one is going to be surprised to hear that I am waaaaay behind in my holiday preparations.

So, yeah. It’s the usual.

Other than piling up boxes inside the front door that have been delivered by the FedEx guy – whose kids I am singlehandedly putting through college – I haven’t done much.

Ever Patient Spouse decorated the exterior of Fancy Pants Ranch with lights and animatronic penguins playing football (Don’t ask. Ok, ask. Every year he sets up an elaborate scene with a flock of penguins getting into some holiday shenanigans and this year they are decked out like rival football teams. There’s even a lighted goal post. This is what happens when you’re married to a mechanical engineer).

He also put up the tree last weekend (A record early for us! But history suggests that it’ll still be up in February or until it spontaneously combusts, whichever comes first. Last year’s tree made it out of the house by mid-January but was in our back yard until July).

Spouse did the lights on the tree but MGM and Trixie put on the ornaments. Now, if I had my way, we’d just have lights, zero ornaments, and no kitschy decor littered throughout the house, save perhaps an abtract, vaguely Christmas-y sculpture or some other piece of art.

But since I don’t, we have wall-to-wall items that include three different musical animated creatures (Snoopy, Mickey Mouse, and a snowman), all of which are extremely loud, get played non-stop and are annoying in different ways. Snowman is particularly irritating since he inflates and then deflates as he “melts,” and he’s been played so many times that the tinny recording of some “Frosty the Snowman” rip-off song is completely distorted and just sounds creepy. It haunts me, people.

When I was a kid, my grandmother gave me an ornament every year for Christmas, and since I grew up in the late 70s and 80s, there is an abundance of Muppets, Holly Hobbies, and Spuds Mackenzies. Instead of putting something simple and more elegant on the tree, the kids are drawn to my childhood ornaments like moths to a flame. And there is zero distribution of said ornaments. They’ve all been jammed onto two low branches that are now so heavily weighed down that there’s an ornament crush dragging to the floor.

Here’s a mid-decorating snap:

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Seven ornaments on one branch!

What you don’t see here is the elaborate train set that Mr. Mechanical Engineer also built exclusively for the children. I emphasized that last part because by “children,” I just mean him.

The train project started two years ago. It was initially billed as a tasteful circle around the tree with a small holiday train.

Currently it occupies all available floor space in our front room (the furniture is temporarily shoved elsewhere), and there are multiple trains, multiple tracks, complicated switching mechanisms, village scenes, cows, etc. And I was just informed last night that the children desperately needed several new trains purchased from Ebay, lest those deprived waifs suffer even more. Yep, they’re a regular pair of Tiny Tims.

At least those new trains will keep the FedEx guy in business.