Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saying Goodbye to 2006

2006 was a good year and I have a lot of things for which to be thankful so, before I even begin to formulate my resolutions for 2007, I need to express my gratitude to a year that has treated us all so very well.

My family is healthy. My children have each grown several inches and are more and more energetic everyday. They are smart and funny and treat other people with kindness and respect. I like them as people and, if they weren't my children, I would be proud to call them my friends which, makes the fact that they are my children, all the more special.

Hugh and I have good jobs. We are not in debt and we enjoy a lifestyle that I know many people cannot. We give of our time and money and are grateful to be in a position to do so.

Our extended families are healthy and are doing well financially. We all have roofs over our heads; full bellies and the opportunity to educate our children. We are able-bodied, mentally sound and emotionally balanced. We have each other.

I have friends, real, true friends who, in the event of a great happiness or distress, would show up to join in the celebration or to offer support. That is a huge blessing, to have friends who show up. I have them and I am grateful.

I have a husband who gets me. We are not perfect people but we have grown to be perfect for each other.

I have a beautiful home. It isn’t just nice to look at, its warm and inviting, the kind of home where people gather and are comfortable and I am grateful to my husband for busting his ass over the past three years to make it so.

I like myself. I suffer no illusions as to my beauty or intellect; I am neither gorgeous nor brilliant and, that’s A-ok with me. I have fun with what I’ve got and not a lot of people can say that.

Yes, 2006 has been a very good year and I will be sad to see it go after all, I will never turn 29 for the tenth time again. My daughter will never be ten years, nor my son, eight years old, again. However, when the ball drops on 2007, I will be there, anticipating another year, welcoming the challenges that it may present and ready to offer my gratitude for its blessings.

So, goodbye 2006, you were a very good year.

Friday, December 29, 2006

I Am One Sugar Cookie Away From the Nuthouse

The entire month of December has been an exercise in gluttony for me. About the time I realized that I could not possibly hope to work full time outside of the home, care for Hugh and the children, shop for Christmas gifts, decorate the house, bake our usual goodies and find the time to take good care of myself, I tossed my carefully planned diet and exercise plan out the window and entered a life of sloth.

Falling down the stairs didn’t help either; not only did I end up with a bruised ass but, my back was in a bit of pain and exercising really wasn’t an option even on the days that I did manage to entertain the thought. Add to that the siren call of the holiday junk food and you a recipe for disaster. And, since I have denied myself nothing, I’m relatively certain that my blood type is now Sugar + instead of A- which has left me feeling sluggish, bloated and, above all, grouchy as hell.

Unfortunately, since we have been together 24/7, the children have suffered the brunt of my crappy mood. I have managed not to inflict physical harm on either of them so far but their constant squabbling is pushing me to the edge and I cannot be held responsible for what I might do if I have to referee one more fight over the TV remote. Or, over whose turn it is to take the puppy, Rowdie, out. Or over who gets to eat the last spritz cookie with the green sugar sprinkles.

OK. That one isn't much of a fight; we all know that I'm going to eat the last cookie.

It's a vicious cycle.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thursday Thirteen, Edition 2,
Thirteen “Relaxing” Things That I Have Done During My “Vacation” From Work

1. Enough laundry to clothe a small nation.

2. Cleaned and organized the Man-Cub’s bedroom including his closet. I feel lucky to be alive after witnessing the evil that lurked behind that door.

3. Mopped muddy paw prints off the hardwood floors approximately five million times (we won’t even discuss the other puppy related messes that I have cleaned up, he is just a baby after all and accidents are to be expected but, the muddy paw prints, egad, they are annoying).

4. Battled the after-Christmas sales shoppers for large Rubbermaid containers in which to store my holiday decorations. I won.

5. Tried to convince Hugh that we absolutely did need the artificial evergreen wreath that is five feet in diameter even though Christmas is over and we will just have to store it until next year. Half off, Hugh! Half. Off!

6. Watched one episode of The View and mentally calculated the slowest, most painful way for each of the co-hosts to die. That is an hour of my life that I will never get back.

7. Picked up and carted a plethora of boxes, wrappers, cellophane, twisty-ties and other paraphernalia that the kids new toys came wrapped in out of the house and up the hill to the trash can only to turn around and face another child of mine asking me to please help open his/her new toy because he/she wants to plaaaaay with it, oh please, oh please, oh please. Gah.

8. Cleaned the kitchen a thousand times.

9. Swept cookie crumbs from the kitchen floor.

10. Deep cleaned all three bathrooms, including the grout on the tile floors, the inside of the toilet tanks (I know, I have no idea, either) and the windows.

11. Organized my underwear drawer to make room for all the new things that I am planning to buy with the Victoria’s Secret gift card that Hugh gave me for Christmas.

12. Re-organized the attic so that I can store the holiday decorations in chronological order, in color-coded Rubbermaid containers that I had to rumble with the other shoppers to buy.

13. Gotten up at 5:00 every morning to take the puppy out for his morning break. Ok, fine, Hugh does that part but, I am there with him in spirit and my spirit is exhausted.

This is why I can never quit my day job; I need it to relax.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Do You Smell That?

That would be the scent of spoiled children, obviously, Santa outdid himself with the gifts this Christmas and, since The Girl squealed like a teenager being crowned Homecoming Queen when she discovered the iPod in her stocking and since the Man-Cub has been virtually inseparable from his new Play Station, I guess the Big Guy got it all right. Honestly, the only thing that does manage to pry the children away from their new electronics, is the new puppy who is the most adorable plump, wiggly example of canine cuteness ever to walk the earth, if I do say so myself. The fact that he doesn’t quite have his sea legs yet and thus resembles an old drunk when he does walk just makes him all the more adorable. You know, in my opinion.

Also, we managed to keep him a secret until Christmas morning when Hugh brought him in wrapped up in a box for the children to open. The video from that moment would be priceless if, you know; I had actually remembered to turn the camera on, gah. Oh well, we did get some pictures, which I will have to get developed soon.

Yes, developed, you see boys and girls, back in the dark ages of photography, a camera required film upon which images were captured. The film then required processing in order to develop the prints. I know its sooo archaic, what can I say? Nevertheless, don’t cry for me, for I entered the current century an hour after the dog arrived, when I opened a package from Hugh containing a digital Canon Rebel, oooh, ahhh. Now I have the best of all photographic worlds, a small digital for casual use and the super model for portraits and other special photos. So, I guess it wasn’t just the children who were spoiled although, I swear, I'm not responsible for the smell.

We could probably blame the puppy, though.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Bumble Snowmonster Wishes You and Yours a Very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Hugh Ups the Ante

The epic battle of the musical holiday clock took an ugly turn last night. Sometime between the hours of midnight and eight a.m., Hugh engineered the slaughter of the timepiece. While his hands might be clean of the actual assault, I have no doubt as to his guilt; he obviously hired the gang of misfits as contract killers.

Luckily, thanks to a little creative hot glue gunning and a wee bit of duct tape, I was able to salvage the clock. I will not let this transgression go unavenged; tonight, the clock is going under Hugh's side of the bed.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Thursday Thirteen, Edition #1

Thirteen favorite holiday decorations!

1. Santa’s from around the world. I hand painted these and they have a special place in my kitchen window every year. I hope nothing bad ever befalls them because they were a bitch to paint and I’m not doing it again.

2. Santa bubble light. I love the look of old fashioned bubble lights so I was thrilled to pieces when I found this one.

3. Dept. 56 Dickens village. I started collecting this waaay back in the dark ages that I call “college”. I generally add a piece each year which is about all that I can afford to add. Every year I get a huge thrill out of unpacking and setting up the village and every year, I need a stiff drink before I tackle the challenge of putting it back into the boxes.

4. The latest piece of the village is the carousel that I won at a charity auction. It plays both Christmas carols and other seasonal tunes but we keep the music on mute because too much of a good thing is um…not a good thing.

5. Ok, she probably doesn’t count as a decoration but, she’s still a favorite.

6. Bumble Snow Monster! I have all the characters from Rudolph but I love Bumble the best.

7. Nutcrackers. I have them in three sizes. Hugh is none too fond of the nutcrackers, I’m not sure why, it isn’t as though I would ever use them to crack his nuts (ha! dirty holiday humor!).

8. Victorian girl ornament. My younger sister gave this to me for Christmas one year and she is the last ornament to go on the tree each year after being thoroughly checked over for chips, cracks, etc. So far, so good.

9. Nativity set. Every year, the Man-Cub places the baby Jesus in the manger. He used to place him in somewhat less traditional places (I once found him on the skating pond in the Dickens village) but, the child has matured lately.

10. Five foot tall dancing Santa. Hugh likes to plug him in with the motion sensor in the on position and then hide and wait for our cat to walk by and trip it. I think three feet off the ground is the record so far for how high the cat has jumped when startled by Santa.

11. Hand made ornament that the Man-Cub made in daycare, age two. His handprint is on the back and his photo, with those yummy delicious pouty lips, is on the front. And, the cheeks, have I mentioned the cheeks? It’s a wonder that child grew to the age of eight without me just eating his face right off.

12. My new front porch. All my life I wanted a front porch that I could decorate for the holidays. Sadly, I ran out of garland and couldn’t make it all the way around this year and, the porch isn’t totally finished but, details, ya know?

13.Elves. Ok, so technically, they are neither elves nor decorations. Still; if I could somehow convince them to dress this way all season, it would be awesome. Totally weird and definite grounds for commitment to the loony bin but still, awesome!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Five More Sleeps Until Christmas Morning

It is snowing again. I was sorely tempted to be all whiney and pitiful with the “I haaate snow! I haaaate driving in the snow. Why does it have to snooow?" but, then I remembered that my younger sister has been without power in her home since last week’s freak ice storm and I was shamed into silence.

Seriously, days on end without power, can you imagine? We once went four days without cable and I thought I was going to have to resort to eating my children just for the entertainment value. A week without power, this close to the holidays? Mercy.

On the positive side, my mother is winging her way to my sister’s side even as I type this and no one can handle a crisis like my mother so; my sister will have a memorable Christmas even if they have to do it Little House on the Prairie style.

In other news, The Girl is sick. She has a sinus cold that is totally kicking her in the tail. Last night, I drugged her into a state of oblivion and Hugh had to carry her up the stairs to her bedroom. Since, at the age of ten she is all gangly arms and legs, the result was that Hugh resembled a two-headed monster with six arms, a limp and asthma as he labored up the stairs with her in his arms. Much comedy ensued.

Speaking of comedy, yesterday, in a fit of Christmas Spirit, I purchased a holiday sweater. I call it my old lady sweater since it is pretty much what all the ladies in the blue-haired set are wearing this season and I calls 'em like I sees 'em. But, in the sweater's defense, it does just scream HAPPY HOLIDAYS! so I am wearing it with pride.

And, look! It has magical powers that make me look exceptionally thin! Maybe those old ladies are on to something.

Although......on second thought, it also appears to make me look a lot like the postman on Santa Claus is Coming to Town so...

Maybe not.

UPDATE: DIA is closed due to the blizzard in Denver. My parents are stranded at the airport so, the only thing my mother is winging her way to now is a nervous break-down. Good thoughts would be appreciated.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Origins of the Blue Man Group

Friday night’s parade went well. The Cub Scout float was a big hit and the boys had a blast handing out candy to the one million and ten children who lined the parade route. Not so much fun; keeping track of the Scouts who scattered like roaches once the parade got moving. You have to give them credit for being so determined to make sure that every single one of those million and ten children each got a handful of candy but, still. Roaches.

Their determination does explain how we managed to go through approximately one hundred pounds of candy canes and Starlight mints, however and, I’m not exaggerating.

On Saturday, the kids and I made our cut-sugar cookies and, on Sunday, The Girl, the Man-Cub, Hugh and I decorated them. As usual, the kids hung in for the first hour or so before their meager little attention spans sputtered out, leaving Hugh and me to finish the remainder of the cookies. And, as usual, Hugh took a somewhat less serious approach to the decorating than I did as evidenced by;

Exhibit A: My Best Effort

Exhibit B: Hugh’s Best Effort

It’s hardly a contest, I know. After all, everyone loves the Blue Man Group.

In all honesty, I can't give Hugh too hard of a time for his somewhat unorthodox decorating skilz since, I know that I am lucky to have a husband who will sit with his family and smear frosting on holiday cookies, and not too many women can say that. So, if the price I pay for quality time with my husband is a few Smurf cookies, it's a bargain.

(But, just between you and me, doesn't my cookie rock your stockings off just a little?)

How about a side by side comparison?

Ok, fine. Smurfs rule.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Eleven Days Until Christmas and My ass Still Hurts

As impossible as it seems, the bruise on my left butt cheek has gotten even bigger. It has also changed colors and now resembles a wicked case of gangrene which, honestly? So cool! I’m not actually pulling for gangrene or anything of course because, if I had the gangrene, the butt cheek would probably fall off and, my jeans just would not hang right.

The really disappointing thing about having such an awesomely disgusting bruise is that, with the exception of my closest loved ones, no one gets to see it since, contrary to what you may have heard; I do not make a practice of baring my private parts to the general public.

Did you just hear that? It was my mother breathing a sigh of relief.

Yeah, don’t get too smug there Mom because, while I might be a paragon of virtue, the Man-Cub has a diametrically opposing view of nudity which is to say; Hey! Lets all be naked! The best evidence of this is the fact that I cannot convince him to get dressed following his baths and/or showers. Instead, he is quite content to streak around the house wearing nothing save for his froggie bath towel which hangs by its hood from his stubborn little head.

And, speaking of his stubborn little head (the, um… other one), last night, when I went to kiss the Cub before bedtime I found him sound asleep on his back with one arm thrown jauntily over his head and the other firmly planted in his underwear.

Say what you will about the little annoyances that make it hard to be a female but, could you imagine going to bed every night with the fear that your penis will just up and run away while you’re sleeping?

Because, that’s got to be what that was all about.

On a totally different subject, tonight the Cub, The Girl and I are headed to the home of one of the other Cub Scouts to help with the building of our float for tomorrow night’s parade of lights. Hugh is really disappointed that he can’t help but, he will be officiating a wrestling tournament in a neighboring town. So, it’s kind of like we are sending in the B team but, it can’t be helped and, in defense of my somewhat limited technical abilities, I am partially proficient in the use of a staple gun so, we should be fine.

Hugh will also be officiating at a wrestling tournament tomorrow night so he will miss the opportunity to participate in the parade which, I’m sure, makes him sad. I mean, who wouldn’t be sad about missing the chance to walk a mile in the dark handing out candy canes to greedy children while trying not to freeze their (already quite damaged) ass off?

Not that I’m bitter.

Really, I’m not; I actually enjoy the parade as it is one of the traditional holiday activities that we try to participate in each year which brings us to…My Favorite Holiday Things: Traditional Activities edition! Things we like to do each year to help us get in the holiday spirit including:

-The parade, obviously.

-Ringing bells for the Salvation Army, which we did several weeks ago.

-Caroling, which we haven’t actually done in several years but which is something that I would like to do again, you know, eventually.

-Attending mid-night mass, yeah, um...ditto the above.

-Taking the kids to see Santa and, since I doubt that I have too many years left in which to enjoy this particular activity, I am really glad the Big Guy found time in his busy schedule to visit our mall this year.

Thanks, Santa!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens, Two Turtle Doves and an Ass Broken on the Hall Stairs

Last night, as the Man-Cub and I were making our way down the stairs, I slipped and fell. The Man-Cub, who had been in front of me making train noises, had just suggested that we trade places so that I could be the engine. I slipped while making the move in front of him so; of course, he felt responsible for the accident and immediately broke into tears. In fact, he was in full-on hysteria mode by the time I landed at the bottom of the stairs at which point I had a choice to make. I could lie about in agony, crying and waiting for the pain to subside or I could suck it up and comfort my obviously distraught son. Since I like to think of myself as a good parent and, because I want the children to think well of me when they are picking out my nursing home, I chose the latter, jumping to my feet and embracing the Cub. I assured him that it had not been his fault and I reminded him that accidents happen, even to mommies. Particularly to mommies who are utterly spastic and who opt not to hold the handrail for fear of disturbing the lighted garland.

This morning, my entire left butt cheek is a massive bruise, radiating from a knot the size of an ostrich egg. On the one hand, I am totally bootylicious, which is rare for me as I am generally quite flat-butted. On the downside, the bootyliciousness in no way extends to the right cheek, making for an interesting side profile, think, less J-Lo and more Elephant Man, and you've pretty much got it. I am so sexy. And, you know, old. Although, I do seem to recall a time in my childhood when sliding down a staircase on my butt was considered quality entertainment.

Which brings us to the topic of today’s My Favorite Holiday Things: The Toy Edition! That’s right; following are the best gifts that I can remember receiving for Christmas as a child. I know! I am beside myself with anticipation, too.

-Wake Up Thumbelina. I got this doll the same year that my older sister got a Baby Crissy doll and my younger sister got…hell, I don’t remember, some kind of doll. I only know that because my mother took a picture of the three of us on my Aunt Pat’s couch with the dolls. I do remember the doll, however. You were supposed to lay her down on her tummy to sleep and, when it was time to wake up, you pushed the button on her back and she would roll over and hold her arms up to you. Precious. Of course, this doll would be considered a travesty today since we all know that you put babies on their backs to sleep, like duh, Mattel.

-The Barbie Airplane. This was the coolest piece of vinyl covered cardboard ever to grace the Jr. Ms. Congeniality household. I played with it until the seams split and the cardboard was so bent that the wings would no longer stay up. I loved it so much and remember it so well, I actually bought The Girl the new version of the airplane for Christmas when she was five or six. Hers came with Barbie as a pilot which was quite the promotion since, when I had my airplane, Barbie was just a lowly stewardess.

-The Barbie Country Camper. Yes, I loved Barbie. In my defense, I was completely unaware of the controversy surrounding Barbie and her plot to dumb down girls by encouraging gender stereotypes. I was like seven, people. I did wise up eventually, as indicated by my next favorite toy…

-Kelly Garrett, AKA: Charlie’s Angel. My younger sister and I played Charlie’s Angels all the time. She, being blond and blue eyed, played the part of Jill Munroe and I was Kelly Garrett. Our older sister was too sophisticated to play at such make-believe with us so we just pretended that she was Sabrina Whateverherlastnamewas and that she was away on an undercover mission. When I got the Kelly doll, my sister got the Jill doll and we were able to further our imaginations. Since the dolls were made on a radically different size scale from Barbie, we never mixed the two and Barbie became less of a fixture in our playtime.

-The Bionic Woman and her dome house. Best. Christmas. Present. Ever. I wanted that thing more than I had ever wanted anything else (except for a pony. God, did I want a freaking pony) and I was tickled pink on Christmas morning when I discovered this under the tree. The Bionic Woman shattered the last of my preconceived notions of what women were supposed to be and I don’t think I ever played with Barbie again. Really, who could blame me; the skin on the Bionic Woman’s arm rolled up to reveal her bionic parts! The skin rolled up, people.

Years later, I met Hugh. I knew he was the one for me the minute I saw this on a shelf in his childhood bedroom. Hello, Six Million Dollar Man!

Geeks of a feather flock together or, something like that.

Wow; tripping down memory lane sure has been a pleasure! Speaking of tripping, that reminds me; my ass cheek has a date with an ice bag.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Fourteen Days , Such As It Is

Only two weeks to go!

I finished up the last of my shopping while in town for my annual appointment with the lady-parts doctor this morning so, I have the peace of mind of knowing that my shopping is done and that all is well down in Cooterville. Win-win!

This weekend, I will do all my grocery shopping for our holiday meals after which I refuse to step foot into a store again until January; the crowds are getting ugly and I just don’t need the negative energy.

Plus, the credit card could probably use a break although, over-use isn’t necessarily to blame for that burning plastic smell. I mean, the card could be defective right?


Oh hey, you almost let me forget that I am supposed to be regaling you with My Favorite Holiday Things! Silly you! Since I have pretty much covered goodies, music, movies and traditions, I think I will list some of my favorite Christmas memories.

Don't worry; I promise to wake you when it’s over.

-Age 5, my younger sister and I spent the weeks leading up to Christmas playing with our Barbies under the tree. We moved the presents around to make Barbie condominiums and strategically placed our Barbie furniture throughout. In hindsight, I bet that drove my mother nuts.

-Age 4, my dad came home from work one day with the tiniest little black kitten that any of us had ever seen. Her mother had given birth to the litter underneath the stairs outside my dad’s office and had died of exposure along with all but this one tiny kitten. We named her Snowball and fed her with an eyedropper until she was big enough to eat on her own. She died when I was 23. Loved that cat.

-Age 24, Hugh proposed to me on Christmas morning. He waited until all the other presents had been opened, including the copy of Beauty and the Beast that he had purchased for me before reaching behind him to pull out the ring box so I wouldn't suspect. He needn't have worried; it was completely unexpected and my first words were “oh, shit!” Classy, that’s me.

-Age 27, The Girl’s first Christmas. She wore the most precious white romper with tiny pink rosebud print. It got completely ruined with red dye because I let her gnaw on a candy cane during my staff Christmas party and I could not have cared less, so much did I enjoy watching her enjoy that candy cane.

-Age 29, Hugh and I, upon deciding that The Girl needed a sibling, set about conceiving said sibling underneath the Christmas tree. We were ultimately sucessful and, yes, I know for certain that he was conceived underneath the tree because that is the only place that I would allow Hugh to have his way with me, such was my desire to one day tell my teenaged son that his mother got knocked up under the tree. See above: Classy.

I have a ton more happy holiday memories but, I totally heard y’all snoring, so, moving on.

This weekend I baked Spritz cookies, dipped pretzels in chocolate, rolled chocolate chip cookie dough truffles and made a pan of fudge. I also managed to get the garland up on the porch and had time to wrap the majority of my presents all thanks to the fact that Emily took the children off my hands on Saturday for a Christmas party that unexpectedly extended to a sleep-over, they were all having such a good time together.

To return the favor, we have invited Oscar and Emily to spend the night with us on Christmas Eve so that they can watch the kids open presents on Christmas day. This is something that they have not done in the eight years that we have all lived in the same area, so, it should be quite memorable. In fact, if I were a betting woman, I would wager that this Christmas will rank right up there with getting impregnated under the tree.

Care to guess why?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Because You Can’t Have a Party Without Music

And because it just wouldn’t be Christmas without carols, I give you, some of my favorite holiday tunes.

-Baby Its Cold Outside, the Ella Fitzgerald version.
-O Holy Night
-What Child Is This
-All I Want for Christmas Is You, the only song by Mariah Carey that doesn’t make me want to chew my own ears off before retching into my santa hat. Assuming I had a santa hat and, you mouth was actually big enough to reach my ears. Which it is not (no comments from the peanut gallery, Hugh).
-Silent Night
-Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
-Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
-Last Christmas
-Its Christmas (All over the world)
-I’ll Be Home for Christmas
-The First Noel
-Jingle Bell Rock
-Where Are You Christmas?
-Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
-Carol of the Bells
-Do You Hear What I Hear
-The Little Drummer Boy

There are others, of course, too many to list. In fact, I am probably one of the few people who doesn’t start gagging uncontrollably the minute the radio stations commence with the holiday line-up, no matter how early in the season; I might just discover a new favorite.

I might also be guilty of extreme sentimentality, tearing up at inopportune moments like say, while standing in the frozen foods section of the grocery store while Silent Night plays over the loud speakers. Or, when a particularly sappy commercial comes on the television.

I said I might be (shut up, Hugh).

In news not related to the holidays (wha? This isn’t a Holiday blog?), The Man-Cub has recently been participating in a wrestling program sponsored by our local High School. The program pairs First through Third Grade pee-wee wrestlers with a “buddy” from the high school wrestling team for a month or so of practice clinics, culminating in a mini-tournament. It’s a great program all the way around, the younger kids learn new skills and techniques and the teenagers come to realize, and embrace, the benefits of birth control. Win-win. So, last night we attended the mini-tournament where we finally got to meet the Cub’s buddy, Zack who seems like a good kid and is, according to Hugh, a very talented wrestler. He is also rather cute or, so I gathered from the way The Girl and her friend, Jenny, spazzed out upon being introduced to him; like, ohmygawd! giggle, giggle, giggle.

The Cub did well in his matches and I have to give a lot of the credit to Zack who was right there, encouraging and coaching him all the way. On the way out of the gym following the tournament, the Cub mentioned that he wanted to get a gift for Zack as a Thank You-slash-Merry Christmas thing and my question is; what does one get for a sixteen year old wrestling heart throb?


The best part of the evening however was the conversation that took place in the car on the way home:

The Girl: Mom? Did you remember to pick up the mistletoe?
Chelle: Crap, I knew I was forgetting something.
Man-Cub: What do you need that for?
The Girl (rolling her eyes in dramatic fashion): We have to hang it up in the doorway so that everyone who comes to the house for Christmas will have to kiss each other, like duh!
Man-Cub (scowling): That only works in fairy tales.
The Girl: What? What are you talking about?
Man-Cub: They only turn into princes in fairy tales. It’s make-believe, like duh!

*****sound of crickets chirping*******

Chelle: Cubby, what are you talking about?
Man-Cub (sighing in exasperation) Toads! Toads!

******crickets, I swear*****

Man-Cub: MistleTOADS, gah! Girls are dumb!
The Girl: Okaaayy.

MistleTOADS, ha!

That should totally be a song!

I Saw Mommy Kissing MistleToads

Must. Add. To the. List.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Happy St. Nicholas Day

Today honors the patron saint of children. It is also the birthday of my late grandpa Nick, who was, of course named for the saint as was the Catholic thing to do in his very Catholic family.

Last night the kids put their letters to Santa under their pillows and, magically during the night, they were exchanged with chocolates. The elves that made the switch left a shiny trail of elf dust in their wake, as usual.

This is merely one of the traditions that we practice in my household during the holidays and, since today is countdown day 19 of 24 Days of My Favorite Holiday Things, I will share them.

Don't get too excited, really.

-St. Nick’s day. Duh, I just told you all about it.

-We get new pajamas on Christmas Eve. This tradition started with a precious pair of candy cane striped footie pajamas with a very ruffled butt. The Girl was ten months old and she gnawed her way through that package on December 24, 1996 like the champion present un-wrapper she was destined to become. Since then, we always purchase a new pajama set to be opened on Christmas Eve. Between you and me, I cannot wait for Hugh to see his this year.

-We decorate a gingerbread house. Every year since the kids were old enough to hold a pastry bag, we have decorated some form of gingerbread creation. Last year it was a train and this year it will be Santa’s stable, complete with reindeer and a freaking pond. It’s an illness, remember.

-We read a holiday book. Hugh and I actually started this the year that I was pregnant with The Girl. We read O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi to her; this remains one of my absolute favorite memories of my pregnancy. Last year I introduced the kids to The Best Christmas Pageant Ever which, if you have never had the pleasure, take my word, check it out, it is hilarious. This year we are slowly making our way through Dickens’s Christmas Carol. The kids have a wee bit of trouble following the fancy words but they get the drift of the story so we will soldier on.

-We leave milk and cookies out for Santa. We serve them on a cup and plate set that I bought not long after Hugh and I were married. Each child picks one cookie for Santa with Hugh providing helpful advice about what Santa might be in the mood for that year. Ultimately, the plate will include the most garishly decorated cut sugar cookie from our stock. The kids remember the reindeer as well, with carrots left on the front lawn for their snacking enjoyment.

-We take a driving tour of our community’s Christmas lights. We aim for the coldest night of the season, bundle up warmly and fill a thermos full of hot chocolate. Then, we drive slowly around town, commenting on each display. Afterwards, we rate our favorites. It’s dorky, I know but, my dad started it when my sisters and I were young; apparently the disease is a trait that I inherited from both of my parents, despite the massive amount of Bah-humbugging and grouching that my father managed to do each year.

-Hugh and I engage in a silent war over a treasured holiday ornament. This one requires some back story; one year my aunt sent me a decorative holiday clock. It is shaped like a Victorian clock tower, decked for the Christmas season. Carolers gather at the base of the clock and, every hour on the hour (like, all night long), a new carol plays. Loudly. I love this clock. Every year I install new batteries, set the clock and leave it on prominent display on the mantel and every year, the children and I lay bets on how long it will take their father to turn the music off. It usually doesn’t take long. So, I turn the music back on and go about my business. Inevitably, Hugh will turn the music off, again, I will turn it back on, and so on and so on until the Christmas decorations come down and the clock is tucked back into its box where it will remain until our next go-around the following year.

-We go sledding on New Year’s Day. We started this when the Man-Cub was about two and both children were deemed hardy enough to brave the hills. Every year, without fail, one of us biffs it hard enough to cause tears and every year, we agree that this was the best year yet, the snow was the deepest, our runs the fastest and the weather the most beautiful. I will be so sad when the kids outgrow this tradition. Or, when Hugh and I are too crippled by old age to be able to enjoy it; whichever comes first.

-We take a family photograph. It doesn’t have to be done in a studio, sometimes it is just a snapshot that we take with my camera’s self-timer but, every year since Hugh and I got engaged (on Christmas day, 1992), we have documented our family on film. When I am old and gray(er), I will take down our Christmas photo album and smile at the way my family grew up and changed. I will remember our traditions and how they shaped our relationships with each other and I will be grateful for having had the opportunity to spend this time together, to make these memories.

I can hardly wait.

Well, maybe not for the old and gray part, but, you get my drift.

Monday, December 04, 2006

21 Days

This weekend was busy. I spent all day Saturday supervising the volunteers from my woman’s club as we rang bells for the Salvation Army. It was bitterly cold out and I was prepared to have several no-shows but, to my delight, everyone who signed up to ring actually showed and, for the most part, they were cheerful and happy to be there. We were assigned to four different locations throughout town and I spent the majority of my time shuttling hot chocolate back and forth to the ringers. This gave me a chance to visit with my friends and to observe the townspeople as they came and went and, I have to say, the generosity of people was amazing; the kettles were full to overflowing by the end of the day, people gave happily and without hesitation. I can think of far worse ways to spend a day.

Sunday evening, I hosted an after-hours party at one of our downtown boutiques. It was a unique opportunity for my friends and I to have the store all to ourselves and, with the assistance of the staff, we spent several hours trying on outfits and putting together new wardrobes. Each of my guests got 15% off their purchases as well as a gift bag of goodies from the store. As the hostess, I got 30% off and I took full advantage of it; I now have some nice outfits for work as well as dressier outfits for the up-coming holiday parties that Hugh and I will be attending.

Today I am working the internet, finishing up the last of my gift shopping for Hugh and the kids. Tonight, I need to make cookies and, to further get into the holiday spirit; the children and I will break out one of the holiday videos which brings us to the topic of today’s My Favorite Holiday Things segment: Television and Movie Classics.

Oooh! Ahhh! Try to contain your enthusiasm.

-Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys. This has been a favorite of mine for as long as I can remember. My mom used to coordinate her cookie baking schedule with the TV Guide so that we could watch this while decorating sugar cookies. The apple, it appears, really doesn’t fall far from the tree.

-Frosty the Snowman. Almost always came on immediately following Rudolph, clearly the networks employed scheduling brainiacs who knew a captive audience when they had one.

-Santa Claus is Coming to Town. My all-time favorite. I loved that Santa had red hair. I loved Miss Jessica’s humongous blue eyes. I even loved the annoying penguin. The Winter Warlock’s heart melting? How could you not love that?! And, every year, when my father cursed our artificial tree for his inability to properly align the color-coded branches with the correct holes on the center pole, my sisters and I declared him the Burgermeister Meisterburger. Good times.

-The Little Drummer Boy. Inevitably, the networks played this one either on Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning then, when I was a teenager; it inexplicably disappeared from the line-up. I missed it and, when it came out on video while I was in college, I mentioned how much I had loved it to the family for whom I was working as a nanny. A few days later, they presented me with a copy of it as well as copies of Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys as my Christmas gift. They were very good people.

-The Christmas Story. This movie serves as an icon of to childhood whether you celebrated Christmas or not. The unwanted gift of the pink bunny suit from an aunt? Who hasn’t gotten a wildly inappropriate gift from a relative? Licked a pole in the wintertime just to see what would happen? Accidentally dropped the F-bomb in front of the parental unit and, as a result, tasted soap? No? Just me? Hmmm. On the other hand, had my father ever come home with a lamp shaped like a woman’s gartered leg, I think I might have needed therapy. You know, worse than I do, already.

-National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. This movie was released in 1989. It is just as funny today as it was back then. Hugh relates really well to this movie. He and Clark are simpatico souls and we usually have the outdoor Christmas lighting to prove it although, thankfully, no squirrel in our tree or hillbilly cousin parked in our driveway. Well, not this year, anyway.

-Charlie Brown Christmas. AAAUUUGGGHHH! How could you not love Charlie Brown? This was one of the few holiday movies that we actually got to watch in school. In fact, to kick off Christmas vacation, all the elementary kids were herded into the auditorium, handed a paper bag containing peanuts, a candy cane, an orange and a handful of chocolate bells and told to watch quietly. At the time it seemed like quite the treat. It wasn't until I did my student-teaching in the same elementary school that I learned that the real treat was that the movie bought the teachers a bit of quiet time in the lounge to throw thier staff party.

-How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The Dr. Suess version, not that abomination staring Jim Carrey. And I'm quite certain that all the Whos down in Whoville would agree.

-It’s A Wonderful Life. James Stewart was HOT. Don’t get me wrong, the story is fabulous, it’s message is as pertinent today as it was all those years ago and I never make it through a viewing without a box of Kleenex but, still…hello, Jimmy!

Plus, I really do believe that every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.

Which, considering all of the bells that I heard ringing on Saturday, means there must have been a graduation at the Angel Academy.

And I feel pretty good about that.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Countdown Begins

Only 24 days until Christmas! Today we begin a new feature here on Ms. Congeniality, a little something I like to call 24 Days of My Favorite Holiday Things. That’s right, for the next 24 days or so, I plan to bore you into a stupor by listing the things about this season that make me go squee. I know, how lucky are you!?

Today we will be learning about my favorite holiday treats. These include things that I bake myself and a few that I bum off other people. They are presented in no particular order since I am a firm believer in not discriminating against goodies. Ready? Great!

-Frosted sugar cookies. I have the best recipe in the entire world for these cookies and they always turn out perfect, soft and tender. The kids generally help with these by rolling out the cookie dough and cutting it with one of the approximately three hundred cookie cutters that I own. They also love to help with the decorating of the cookies once they have cooled and, naturally, the amount of frosting that actually ends up on the cookies pales in comparison to the amount that ends up in their stomachs; that is the price that I pay for their help which actually makes them pretty cheap labor.

-Gingerbread men. Read the above paragraph, substitute gingerbread men for sugar cookies and it pretty much says it all. While I was never a huge fan of gingerbread as a child, I have developed a taste for it as I have aged and these are one of Hugh’s must-have holiday treats.

-Pumpkin and Banana breads. My mother made both so I grew up with an appreciation for them. I don’t make them any other time of the year so I guess they say “Christmas” to me. I like to eat slices of them warm, with a nice thick smear of sweet butter. My mom’s recipe calls for nuts but Hugh has a phobia about nuts in baked good so, I omit them in half of the batch to make him happy.

-Puppy Chow. Way back when I was the director of an aquatics facility, we used to have a staff Christmas party each year. One of my lifeguards made this and I was instantly addicted. Not addicted enough to make it myself but, addicted enough to search out friends who make it and to beg a supply from them. I am generally successful.

-Popcorn balls. My dad, the crazy ex-Texan, introduced my mother to popcorn balls early in their marriage and she has since perfected the recipe. Making the balls is a Christmas Eve tradition in my childhood home and we carry it out anytime my parents join us for the holiday. Unfortunately, my parents are headed to Washington this year so we will be ball-less (dirty). Making any kind of candy, including the syrup necessary for holding the balls together, is a skill that I simply do not possess.

-Pizzelles. I believe these are an Italian tradition. My childhood neighbor used to make them and would always make sure that we had a few at Christmas so, when I found a pizzelle maker on sale at a department store during my senior year of college, I knew that I had to have it. I generally make a large enough batch that I have leftovers for several months. They freeze very well and are quite good with ice cream. The Girl also loves pizzelles and will come running just as soon as she smells their familiar scent of anise in the air.

-Rocky Road and fudge. These are the only kinds of candy that I can make with any degree of success. My fudge recipe came from my younger sister and requires only the microwave as does the recipe for the Rocky Road, which I got from my mother. Thank god for microwaves is all I can say.

-Wassail. Way back in the dark ages, High School Boyfriend’s sister-in-law shared this recipe with me and I was hooked. Unfortunately, mine never tastes exactly like hers did but the scent of it simmering on the stovetop is enough to put me in the holiday spirit.

-Russian Tea Cookies. My 95 year old grandmother made these every Christmas that I can remember and, every year, my sisters and I fought over who got to chop the nuts in the old fashioned nut grinder and over whose turn it was to roll the balls of dough in the powdered sugar. When Grandma Molly went into the nursing home, my older sister inherited her recipe box and, in it, the secret to making these cookies. Luckily for me, we don’t fight as much as we did when we were children and she made a copy of it for me. Unfortunately, I am the only one in my house who actually likes to eat these cookies so I make the smallest batch possible. A Christmas without them would just not be Christmas.

Of course, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without everything on my list which, sort of explains the 2-3 pound weight gain that inevitably rushes in with the New Year.

But, that’s what New Year’s resolutions are for after all.