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.





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.


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:


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…

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:

photo (3)

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.