The Not Pinterest Christmas

It looks like it has stopped raining finally, but the sky is still gray and the ground soggy. That makes two rainy Christmases in a row (et tu, global warming?).  It is also absurdly warm –  gonna be 75 degreees today. Am I in Australia or North Carolina?

We’ve watched few Christmas movies so far. I can’t believe I haven’t watched Christmas Vacation yet.

The lights on the outside bushes look good except for the strand on the last one because that’s when I discovered the plug for the last strand of lights didn’t fit the plug that came before. It fits the first strand, though. I thought about trying to reengineer them all but it feels too late now, so we will go with the two rows of lights on the bush. Oh well.

Daniel broke one of the lights in the window when he was waving to me when I went to the grocery store the other day. No worries – it isn’t like the front windows can be seen because of the large bushes in front of them. I alone will notice the asymmetry of two windows and one light .

I baked a lot of holiday goodies yesterday. My knees hurt. But it was  a good thing to do because the one staple I didn’t check before heading to the store was our brown sugar supply.  We now have 10 pounds of it

I mailed photo cards on Monday and Tuesday. They were hastily designed and printed on glossy photo paper at Walgreens. No matte cards from Tiny Print, Shutterfly, Zazzle etcetera. I’ve been meaning to book a family portrait for a long time, but it did not happen this year. That is why our glossy card features photos of only Daniel. That and the fact we took no decent pics with us in them. There was one possibility but it made my double chins front and center.

I didn’t go to my 20th high school reunion because see sentence above about double chins.

I had to ask my mom to help me figure out how to hang garland on our stairs and she made me 4 beautiful bows in 15 minutes.

I fail at the decorative parts of Christmas. My windows are not decorated; we don’t have a wreath (still in a garbage bag in the garage). Our elf lives with us year round.

I did buy pink poinsettias for the front porch because it is a billion degrees this year.

Maybe I don’t have it together decoratively but that’s OK.

I have a 9-ft tree whose lights seem to work this year (knocks on wood). I got out the ladder to decorate it despite my fear of heights. It is beautiful.

There are sugar cookies “expertly” decorated by an eager 6-year-old for Santa.

We’re making reindeer food today.

There are gifts under the tree and surprises hidden everywhere.

We have a Lego Christmas book to read tonight.

We get to play Santa.

And I still have 10 pounds of brown sugar 


#MicroblogMondays: Excitement

Last night, Daniel tried to put brown marker on our cat’s white fur. And that’s after he chased her up and down the stairs in an attempt to “race.” While the energy might have been the result of the sugar he consumed at the cookie decorating party we attended earlier that day, I think it is safe to say that someone is VERY excited about the holidays.

While the daily increase in excitement and energy can be exhausting for the adults (and cats), it’s sweet to see. Daniel really gets the holidays this year. And no, he doesn’t yet understand the history and meaning of the holidays but associates them with Santa Claus and presents; it is sweet and somehow satisfying to see him rip into a gift. It’s a purity of enthusiasm and delight that lasts only a short while.

And he had us in stitches over his answer to what the meaning of Christmas is: Hanukkah!


Small at the Holidays

Jimmy and I briefly looked at the calendar for November and December tonight, and I started thinking about when we would take vacation, what we were doing for Thanksgiving, what we were doing for Christmas Day, when we’d celebrate with other family members, etc.

We aren’t hosting Thanksgiving this year. I kind of enjoy hosting and having a big meal.  We’ll still make our meal a few days later, but this year it is leaving me a bit hollow. When I looked at Christmas – not as far away as we might like – everything seemed so complicated. We are trying to make our own traditions plus celebrate with both sides of the families plus not travel on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. And we’ll have Jimmy’s family Christmas a few days later when his brother and his family come to town. But everything feels so small, which is the sad truth as our family is becoming smaller due to age.

I sighed as I contemplated the calendar and the various occasions. It’s my own hang up. As an only child, I grew up with small events, often feeling apart, longing for some huge family celebration. I want the Currier and Ives holiday.

And that is my problem. I’ve wanted the huge family holiday that has been presented to us in advertising, but I know the reality is far more complicated. The rational part of me understands that while my heart feels…a bit sad and lonely…at our holidays.

I’m sure I’ll feel differently once we get into the sturm and drang of the holidays (pizza on Christmas Eve last year? Yes, no shame!), but tonight, this moment, I feel a wee bit sad.  I love our family of three, but sometimes, we feel so small.

Deep, Dark Confession

Yesterday was chilly & rainy and it snowed further south. I joked on Twitter that it made me want to start decorating for Christmas.

And then later in the day, Jimmy and Daniel both declared they wanted the Christmas tree in the house.

And I agreed. By 6 PM, November 1, our Christmas tree was in the house and working.

I know. I know. My family is the reason we can’t have nice things. We are a teensy bit from being white trash.

The truth is, the tree makes us happy. We won’t decorate it for several more weeks, but hearing Daniel’s excited gasp of “wow!” yesterday made it worthwhile. And Jimmy loves it too.

And let’s be honest. We haven’t been great at managing our time lately considering that we are always carving our pumpkins on Halloween. We are great at making plans and then life gets in the way. Better to set up the tree now and make sure it works (an issue in prior years) instead of a few days before Christmas.

So, yeah. We’re those neighbors. But I don’t care. Daniel begged me to plug in the tree from the time he woke up today. Jimmy loved seeing the lights reflected throughout the house. And I love how cozy it made everything feel when it was raw and chilly outside.

I’m a few steps away from singing Christmas carols. And we all feel so happy; what could possibly be wrong with that???

A Little Bit of Nonsense

I learned some new facts this week.

First of all, I attended mass with Daniel at his school Thursday morning, and the priest began the service by chastising the congregation for taking down their Christmas trees and decorations, especially their manger scenes. I didn’t expect to hear that, so I paid extra close attention. It turns out that the Catholic church celebrates Christmas until Jesus’ baptism day (the Sunday following epiphany). My thoughts immediately turned to my house in which our Christmas tree still stands proudly, fully decorated and lit every night. It’s not every day that I feel virtuous in a church, so I relished the moment.  So take note: if your Christmas decorations are still up, you are not a slacker; you are devout 😉

Secondly, I discovered a variety of apple I had never heard of before: Cripps. My first thought was that was a bold way for the gang to make some legitimate money and market itself. Would you have to launder money made from selling branded apples? I can see it now: “Hey, Aiden’s mom packed him a Cripps apple in his lunchbox! Wish my mom were that cool!”  It turns out, though, that Fresh Market (where I spotted the aforementioned apple) was being cheeky because the Cripps apple is better known by its other name of “Pink Lady.” When I tweeted about it yesterday, my tweetstream soon devolved into Grease references and quotes. A Pink Lady to a Cripps is quite a transformation.

Thirdly, I found a new brand of yogurt.

Quark Yogurt

Sounds yummy!

You see, I’ve always liked quarks. I don’t know why. God knows, I’m no scientist and find physics as mysterious and improbable as others would ghosts or magic. Maybe it’s the word and something delightful about the “qu” combination. Maybe there is something “quirky” about “quarks.” Maybe it’s because the names of the 6 flavors of quarks display a whimsy that you don’t often associate with particle physics. I think I need to buy some of that yogurt.


The three of us are back to work and school and our normal routine this week. Daniel and I are grumpy about it while Jimmy is less so because his “demotion” came through before the holidays, and he now gets to work at home. It’s a good change because we had discovered that some of the household tasks that give us fits – laundry, dishes, etc. – are so much easier when one of us has even a few extra hours at home during the week. While I don’t expect him to become a househusband, it is great knowing that he could do a load of dishes or run to the grocery store every once in a while. We think it will be a huge help although it’s difficult not to be a teensy bit envious as Daniel and I suit up in our school and work clothes while Jimmy gets to stay in his PJs if he wants!

I hope the first full week of 2014 was kind to you!

Christmas Magic

Santa has been here, and an excited little boy will find gifts waiting for him in the living room in a few short hours. If the cats don’t destroy them, since they apparently find the smell of new rubber from Daniel’s bike tires intoxicating!

I am going to bed with a very full heart. In fact, I almost feel like I need to cry. From happiness. From nostalgia. From excitement. My emotions are a pressure valve that needs release.

We’ve had a great day, and we are confident that our little elf went to bed quivering with excitement about Santa’s impending arrival and beginning to understand a bit about the magic we are trying to impart to him: jingling bells suddenly sounding must mean Santa is approaching! A star for his Advent tree appearing from nowhere! Seeing Daniel take all of this in and peek outside the window to see if he could see Santa was thrilling.

These are the things we dreamed of seeing and experiencing for years and seeing them is so very sweet.

I’ve also been banishing some “shoulds.” Life has been a series of dashes lately, and I’m learning it is better to spend my energy where it matters most. Our Christmas prep & decor were haphazard at best. It took us weeks to have tree ready to decorate and once it was, I had an eager helper who liked to layer ornaments three deep along the bottom third. The external lights are all slightly different colors. I didn’t get around to sending cards. And perhaps most shockingly, we didn’t have a fancy Christmas Eve dinner and won’t have one tomorrow either.

I chafed a bit at not cooking. I felt that having a nice, special dinner on Christmas Eve or Christmas was required. But Jimmy felt like doing something simple, and the more I thought about it, the more I agreed. What did I want my memories of Christmas Eve and Christmas to be? Of a meal I slaved over that tasted great for 20 minutes but took hours to prepare? Or a great day with my guys? I chose the latter.

Today we made reindeer food (enough to feed an army of reindeer). Daniel got to use wrapping paper in his garbage trucks (his dream). Our dinner consisted of pizza eaten in front of the TV, watching old-school Rudolph. Low- key and perfect. I didn’t go into Santa mode feeling exhausted & worn out. We had a great, calm evening. Later I retucked my little boy, telling him how my beloved grandfather used to call and give me Santa updates when I was a little girl (because we didn’t have that newfangled Internet and Santa Trackers!). Generational lines continued.

I could tell myself I half-assed the holidays this year, but that’s untrue. Just who am I trying to impress? What am I trying to prove? My tree and exterior lights aren’t perfect – so what? Who cares? I didn’t make a 3-course meal. So what? My little boy enjoyed his pizza in front of the TV and most importantly, a calm & present mommy.

I love Christmas and its magic. I can’t wait to see Daniel’s face when he sees his gifts. I love making magic for him.

I may half-ass some things, but we make magic like experts.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!


What War on Christmas?

Last week I read an excerpt of Sarah Palin’s book in an article on Salon (because heaven knows I’d never spend money on that drivel). The part excerpted focused on her anger about the supposed War on Christmas and the lack of “Christ” in Christmas.

I can’t handle that level of ignorance. First of all, you can’t go anywhere in this country after Halloween without encountering impressive Christmas displays. In fact, if you look closely, you can see the shelves of Christmas items hiding well before Halloween, waiting patiently for the calendar to flip to November 1. Who am I kidding? They aren’t even hidden. They are tucked in the back but hardly hidden. Secondly, I am unsure if I have met anyone for whom “Happy Holidays” trips effortlessly off their lips in an attempt to be inclusive and respectful of other beliefs (and the fact that several holidays occur within a short period of time, making “happy holidays” appropriate shorthand) compared to “Merry Christmas.”

Finally, though, how about learning a little fucking history about this faith and holiday you vow to defend and preserve?  Palin’s Christmas is very recent invention, and I think she and many others would be very surprised at the holiday’s origins and place in Christianity.

I don’t mean this to be a rant. I have an entire post I could write about my experience with organized religion and why I feel the way I do, but the crux is that very little enrages me more than the willing avoidance of facts and knowledge, items so amazingly available in this day and time.  Why would you work so hard to keep yourself ignorant? Is your faith so shaky that you cannot handle information that might threaten your beliefs? Or do you truly believe that information that comes from sources other than the Bible or the 700 Club to be suspect?


Anyway. For your reading and viewing pleasure, here are a few books and documentaries I enjoyed about the historical origins of Christmas. And you know what? Reading and watching them has not diminished my pleasure in the holiday or my celebration of family and friends, of love and thankfulness, during that time.

I am in no way saying these are some sort of definitive, historical record, but they are interesting and enlightening.

OK, I guess I did have to rant a bit. If you read or watch any of these, let me know! I’d love to know what you thought.

The Only Problem with Low Expectations…

Oh, Christmas.  The one part of Christmas Jimmy and I were looking forward to was being Santa Claus and seeing the look on Daniel’s face Christmas morning.  That assumed bright spot kept us going through ennui, a scorched dinner, disappointment, passive-aggression, depression, narcissism and omni-present illness that characterized the holiday this year.   Christmas Eve we made cookies for Santa, had a great dinner, drove around the neighborhood to see the lights, and threw out the food we made for the reindeer.  We read The Night Before Christmas before tucking in Daniel as is our tradition; once we were sure he was asleep, we set about being Santa. Jimmy and I had high hopes for the next day.

Cookies for Santa

Cookies for Santa

Santa on Christmas Eve

Santa has been here!

When we heard him stir on Christmas morning, we got up, turned on the tree and went to get him out of his room. The first thing that greeted me was an overturned potty and a naked little boy.  Cleaning up pee is always my favorite thing to do first thing in the morning!  Once the room was clean and he was dressed, we urged him to go see what Santa brought him.  And urged him.  And urged him.

Daniel wouldn’t go into the living room.  He informed us that he couldn’t and instead ran into the guest room to hide. No amount of coaxing could get him out.  We implored him.  We begged him.  We cajoled him, incredulous that our 3-year-old didn’t want to see his presents.  The more we asked, the more defensive he became, informing us that his name wasn’t Daniel.  It was Diesel.  His “I can’t”  became higher and whinier.

We were flabbergasted.  What the hell?  We had bought wonderful gifts that we thought he’d like.  We had cherished making Santa magical for him, but he wouldn’t even take a look.  We looked at each other, speechless, and feeling bad that we felt so irritated with our child on Christmas morning.

We should have expected something to go awry Christmas morning.  In retrospect, Daniel had been shy and avoiding all surprises lately; what is Santa but one huge surprise?  It was still a kick in the gut, and maybe if we felt better, we would have laughed it off.  It’s just that this part of Christmas – being Santa for Daniel – was the one thing we had thought would go well, would be a no-brainer.  It was the only part of Christmas that mattered for us.  And so Jimmy was speechless and I wanted to cry at 9 AM on Christmas Day.

We finally managed to coax Daniel into the living room, and once there, he was as excited as we hoped he would be.  The bittersweet feelings remained, though.  I felt like we were the worst parents in the world having to guilt our child into enjoying Christmas, and his initial reluctance was just one more reminder that this holiday has been less than ideal.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day

Here are a few more ways in which the holidays have continued to be less than ideal:

  • Jimmy contracted my pink eye
  • Jimmy finally was struck down by whatever Frankenvirus I have
  • I made my third trip to the doctor on 12/26 because I still felt like crap.  I was given a second dose of antibiotics and Claritin D (I’m happy to say that only 2.5 weeks after I got sick, I began to feel better.)
  • My pink eye is better, but my new supply of left contact lenses haven’t arrived, so I’m alternating between glasses that occasionally hurt my face or one right contact
  • I’ve cried twice
  • We have no energy
  • Daniel is being very 3, very contrary.  We’ve taken away toys every day and instituted a reward chart.  We have good days and bad days.  I know it’s normal, but it’s frustrating and depressing to feel like you are constantly disciplining your child and then the more you have to discipline, the more you worry you are crushing his spirit.
  • We are not enjoying this time off. Daniel probably isn’t either because he thinks we’re yelling at him all the time.

In short, what I’ve learned over the last 2 weeks is that you can accept and prepare for low expectations, but sometimes, those expectations aren’t low enough.


We’re two-thirds of the way through December 31 in my neck of the woods, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  It has been a shitty year for my family, and Jimmy and I cannot wait to see the year depart.  2012, it’s not your fault explicitly, but I have no problems blaming you.

Tonight, I will raise my glass of champagne high in celebration and joy as the last few seconds of 2012 tick by.

Goodbye, 2012.  I won’t be sorry to see you go.

May 2013 be kinder to us all.

Checking My List After the Apocalypse That Wasn’t

It appears that we have survived the Mayan Apocalypse.  Either the prophecy was a bust or I’m living in some sort of alternate universe. Darn Mayans.  It’s got to be a little embarrassing since we’ve been hearing about 12/21/12 for years and nothing happened.  Another doomsday prophecy that failed to deliver!   Since we’re still here, we need to finish those Christmas preparations after all.  Let’s take a look at my to-do list, shall we?

Crossed-Off the To-Do List

  • Christmas cards created and mailed (mostly – we ran out of stamps and have to get more, so if your card doesn’t arrive until after Christmas, my apologies)
  • Christmas shopping finished (mostly – we still need one more gift.  Fun fact: did you know that there is a limit to the amount of alcohol you can buy at the ABC store without needing a permit? Also, our house looks like an Amazon warehouse)
  • Annual holiday trek to the mall, the result of which causes us to question the future of humanity and leave somewhat enraged and quite over our “fellow man.”  There should be a holiday merit badge for surviving a trip to the mall this time of year
  • Christmas tree skirt picked up from the dry cleaners and ready to put around the tree never mind.  Skirt won’t be ready until Monday.  What’s another few days?
  • Gift cards for daycare teachers dropped off (although one had already left for the year, so she won’t get it  until 2013.  It’s the thought that counts, right?)

Not Completed

  • Gifts wrapped and under the tree.  We brought down the wrapping paper; does that count?
  • Seasonal crafts made w/ Daniel in order to imbue the joy of the season.  Um not so much.  In addition to feeling like crap this week, the light in our kitchen went out yesterday, making it impossible to see to do anything.  Jimmy had to replace the ballast in our light.  Nothing like a little home improvement over the holidays!
  • Festive holiday films watched (We started Christmas Vacation but haven’t finished it)
  • Menu for Christmas Eve dinner planned and procured (frozen pizza could work, right?)
  • Exterior illumination completed (still lacking an extension cord for one set of lights)

I feel so unprepared for the fact that Christmas is next week. Next week!  How did that happen? It’s almost laughable how not ready we are. It’s not how I wanted it to be.  I have Norman Rockwell visions of a perfect, meaningful holiday.  Usually it doesn’t pan out, but this year it’s so far from being perfect, it’s ridiculous.

I’m no Martha Stewart, but I promise we are more organized and prepared than this usually.  I chalk it up to this year, to 2012 constantly throwing curve balls.

But that’s OK.  Jimmy and I have gotten to the point where we have accepted that nothing is going according to plan or desire.  We have to accept it because we are out of time.  Christmas is next week, and we are going out of town for our first Christmas event.  The presents may not be wrapped and under the tree until Christmas Eve.  We may not get to do any of the traditions we have worked hard to create over the years.  It is what it is.  Time for me to shrug and move on.

Low expectations feel freeing too.  This year, we’ll just do our thing, and it may be more about getting through Christmas.  As long as the three of us are together and healthy (please, universe, please!), that’s all that matters.



I Want a New Body for Christmas

I have pink eye. Pink eye.  PINK EYE!  In both eyes.  I wish I were making this up.  My left eye started feeling scratchy and watery on Sunday, but I wear contacts and didn’t think too much of it.  Monday, my left eye was red and gunky, but again, I didn’t think too much of it.  Tuesday morning, though, I woke up to both eyes crusted together with nasty goo and once I pried them open, they both were red.  Angry red.  Oh lovely, I thought.

I put on my seldom-worn glasses and dropped off Daniel at daycare.  When I got home, I looked in the mirror, optimistically hoping that the redness would have faded.  Nope.  It was at that point that I accepted the inevitable: I had an infection in my eyes.

An hour at the local Fast Med, my new home-away-from-home, confirmed what I suspected:  conjunctivitis AKA pink eye. This was especially unwelcome news because I am a devoted contact lens wearer and my glasses options weren’t ideal.  I went through a rough period last year in which we couldn’t get my contact lens prescription correct, leading to major eye strain and despair on my part.  During that time I bought new glasses, and they have the incorrect prescription.  Normally they are tolerable for short periods of time, but I don’t know whether it was soreness because of the infection or who knows what, but after 30 minutes of wearing them, the left side of my face hurt like crazy.  I dug out my old glasses and while they aren’t as crisp visually, they hurt my face less.  Please feel free to laugh at me because I feel like the entire damn universe is picking on me.  I can’t go without some sort of correction because my vision is too poor.  Seriously.  I have like 20/2600 vision uncorrected.

Oh, and in case you are curious, I still have the Cold That Won’t Die.  My throat stays slightly sore, and there is so. much. snot.  I’d apologize for the snot comment but honestly, I don’t care.  As I tweeted today, there is so much sudafed running through my body, I wouldn’t be surprised if I started to make meth spontaneously. But I need to see, so I can put up with anything as long as I can do what I need to do.

old glasses and sick

Clearly at my most attractive with old glasses

However, I’m pretty pissed at my body.  I remember when I never got sick.  It was only a few short years ago.  I was immune to everything.  Now?  I think my body creates illness.  This pink eye is the last straw:  I need a new body for Christmas because my current one is clearly worn out.

Let’s see…pondering a new body… I like my fair coloring, freckles and auburn hair although I wouldn’t mind a touch more red in my hair and maybe a touch more blue in my eyes.  I would love to have perfect vision or at least vision that needed less correction.  And I could use a slightly stronger chin and a slightly less prominent nose.

I like that I’m tall, and I’d actually like to be an inch or so taller. My height and build camouflage a lot of sins 😉  I actually like my build and shape, but I would take 10 pounds off if I had the option.  A stronger immune system would be a must!  Oh, and less sensitive skin as well.

And maybe we could take inspiration from the following:

Fun fact:  I dressed up like Scully for a professor’s birthday.  That sounds dirty, but it wasn’t, I promise.  I had to put on the trench coat and collect him from his class to take him to the next part of his birthday adventure.  Oh and he was a huge X-Files fan.

Loretta Young

Loretta Young

Fun fact:  My boss at a job I worked in high school told me I resembled Loretta Young.  I don’t see it, but she’s pretty, so hey, why not.

Louise Brooks. That hair! Those cheeks!

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr: beauty & brains

I wonder what we’d get if we mixed them all together.  Maybe something frightening.  Maybe something beautiful.

I don’t really want a new body for Christmas, but it would be nice if the one I had was well.  Please?

Who would you like to look like if you had the choice?