Tis The Season

It is possible that I am feeling a little bit…Christmassy.

I spruced up my window boxes which made me very happy.

I have a copy of Gene Autry’s Christmas Carols on hold at the library.

I outsourced my Christmas card pictures to Leslie, and they were simply too gorgeous for words when they came back. (Follow that link to see more.)

I am almost done with Christmas shopping, just have to fill my Amazon cart a few more times.   I got so many good deals this year, I’m way too proud of all the free shipping codes I dug up.

I am finishing up an old school photo album (with real pictures!) I am putting together as a gift and it’s been a lot of fun to work on.  I think I am going to make one every year.  It was surprisingly easy (and cheap) to whip through Picasa, flag a bunch of pictures, upload them all at once and click “order.”

I am not sure how I got to be the mother a child this…gangly.

Our advent calendar has been filled and is all set to go.

I am conceptualizing the fattening snacks for Christmas Eve, and the New Year’s Eve fancy dinner.  Very exciting.

I’m also just noticing that a stocking is the perfect shape for a giant bottle of booze. I know what Santa is bringing me this year, and it rhymes with “gin”.

Late at night I watch House Hunters with one eye while I flip back and forth between complex word documents and depressing budget spreadsheets, and the weight of all the presents I want to buy but can’t afford to buy starts to stack up.   Erik talks me down, usually just by using a combination of the magical words “credit cards” and “January.”

We all have colds and Baby Girl is doing this thing where she doesn’t sleep and nurses all the time and we take turns telling ourselves that it’s teeth or a Wonder Week or gas, and Eli has been waking up at night again, but we’re all warm and fed and we’ve got all the frozen burritos that money can buy and I loved tonight’s episode of Glee a lot, so we’ll just ride this wave for awhile, and hope we emerge with our heads above water.  Come January, and all that.

 

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Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Thank you so much for all your thoughtful, wonderful, kind comments telling me that I’m not a giant Grinch after all.

I am not sure why it takes me so long to figure these things out sometimes.  I think, for some reason, I expected Christmas traditions to happen  organically.  For a perfect magical Christmas to show up along with the rubbermaid tote of Christmas decorations and it never occurred to me that it was something I needed to actually CREATE  for myself.  I think I’ve been trying to order Christmas from Amazon.com, and it turns out they don’t sell “perfect Christmas” in a box after all.

It has been me and Erik for a long time now, and so just following along with our old family traditions was simplest.   But now we have kids and somehow that’s when it got more confusing.  Luckily our kids are still very young and so even though we’re still in the figuring out stage, that means we get to decide, still, what we want to do with this holiday. Is this even making any sense?  Christmas is in flux, I guess, is what I am saying, and we can still change it and meld it and we can do whatever we want to do!

I think I got caught up in the idea that the more presents I stuck under the tree for Eli, the more fun Christmas would be for him, and for us.  And that’s totally not true. In this case, less really is more.

For clarifications sake, when I say Eli got a lot of presents last year, I mean, no exaggeration, that he got between 40 and 50 things.  This was…excessive.  And overwhelming, and stressful for everyone.  We’re not going to repeat that this year.  (Even though no matter what I do there is STILL a voice in the back of my head shouting “HE NEEDS MORE PRESENTS” for reasons I just can’t explain.)

But lo! We have a plan.  I always feel better when I have a plan.  And even though half of me still wishes “Retreat to a desert island” was in the cards this year, it isn’t, so instead, I present to you, The Christmas Plan:

1. Get all the Christmas shopping done on one weekend.  Even better, on one day, leaving one present left to buy on a fun outing with 1. one of my favorite people and 2. a gingerbread spice latte.  And then after that, STOP.  NO MORE SHOPPING.

2.  Fill the advent calendar I made last year with fun “stuff” to do with Eli.  And blog it! Get ready for that tidal wave of excitement, ya’ll.

3.  Limit what we buy Eli  to 4 things from us.  This will be a Leapster, Duplos, Markers, and an art jar.  He’ll get one thing from Santa which will be a Fisher Price MP3 Player.  He’ll also get stocking presents but I am going to try to make it things like pajamas, play doh,  a copy of Chicken Run, soap, socks and other useful or consumable things, rather than crap no one wants that will just get thrown out.  Plus he’ll also get presents from grandparents, cousins, the neighbor, our friends, etc.  From his grandmother I believe he is getting the only thing he really asked for which is a cash register.

I think this is probably still too much stuff.  But baby steps, right?  Stuff I know he’ll use while entertaining himself is a gift to us all, you know?

4.  W will open Christmas presents Christmas Eve, with fun snacky fattening drinks and appetizers and desserts, but no big Christmas dinner.  (Instead we’ll do a fancy New Year’s Eve dinner). And then we’ll drive around and look at Christmas lights.

5.  Christmas morning will be for stocking opening and a one present from Santa, and then we’ll go to Dim Sum and then for a hike or a bike ride.

6. I am going to try to listen to as much Christmas music as possible, which always puts me in a better mood. I need to find the NPR schedule because I love all that pretentious choraly type Christmas music.

And that’s it! I know Eli and I am guessing he’s going to have way more fun with the 25 Advent Calendar activities that he would have being overwhelmed by 45 presents.

 

 

 

Grinchey

I had this big post planned in my head about how much I hate Christmas.  About how torn I feel between all the different versions of how Christmas is supposed to be.  Of how the thought of a Christmas where the parents get each other nothing while showering their children with so many gifts that the kids leave the room, overwhelmed, of how that makes my skin crawl.  Sprinkle in a liberal dose of musing about how my childhood and my parents attitudes towards the holidays left me totally screwed up and that’s what I was going to write about. And then I was going to ask for help to try to fix this.

When I think of a good Christmas, for some reason, I think of a casual Christmas eve with hot chocolate and treats and sitting around the living room opening a few nice things.   Maybe with a roaring fire that no one has to clean up the next day and that doesn’t evince 18,000 time out threats.  Some nice wine or champagne or something and some chocolate and maybe some really fattening bread based food items.  And then the next morning we wake up and go to Dim Sum or something and then go on a hike and that’s it.  Mellow and no big deal, and no sitting around looking schlumpy while a four year old opens more presents than he knows what to do with for six hours on Christmas morning.

Not surprisingly, Erik doesn’t want to do it that way, and so we’re sort of at an impasse.  For some reason the “traditional” Christmas where you get a years worth of toys and things and sit in a cramped living room surrounded by vast piles of wrapping paper, that Christmas seems unbearable to me this year, but I don’t know how to explain correctly why or how to persuade Erik that it’s ok to tone things down, to do the Christmas Eve thing, to break with that idea of Christmas morning and the piles of gifts and the letdown afterwards.  I don’t know how to explain why that makes me feel like a schlumpy old lame loser.   I have no idea why when I think of this, this year, every single time I think of it, I am overwhelmed with ick , and so frustrated I want to give up.  There are tears behind my eyes because of the frustration, and I have to talk myself down from booking a vacation to somewhere they’ve never even heard of Christmas.  I can’t explain the pervasive sense of dread.

(Seriously, I think I might be off my rocker, but this is just how I feel.  Also, I guess I am writing that post anyway, huh.)

Every time I think of things that might help, I feel defeated.  I really like Emily’s idea of an Advent Calendar with fun things to do as the prizes, rather than candy. I bet Eli would love that.  But for some reason I am afraid to try. I am afraid to fight this current, in case I fail.  Maybe that’s what my Christmas Eve thing is about – it feels hopeless to do anything but check out of the process completely.  Because otherwise I don’t know why I am having such a hard time with this.

I guess we’ll try the activities calendar.  I am going to try to DO more things (train rides, shopping in stores rather than online), while buying LESS things.  I am going to give away things we don’t need to Toys for Tots.  We’re going to make cookies and decorate a gingerbread house and I’m going to set up a treasure hunt with a Mr. Potato Head at the end.   We’re going to drive around and look at Christmas lights, and get a Christmas tree, and I guess this year I will experiment with doing all these Christmassy things and hope that with enough Gingerbread Spice Lattes I feel better about the holidays.

I also hate writing about this because I feel like it’s just screaming “Christmas sucks for you because you don’t volunteer your time and go to church you’re making the baby Jesus cry you ungrateful wretch” and I can only say that I have done those things and they do not help.  I have been to the most midnighty of midnight masses and it doesn’t help.  And I have a five month old baby and right now volunteering just isn’t at the top of my list.  Also I am a terrible person so you have to factor that into consideration.

I don’t even know where I going with this. Mostly I just want an excuse to buy a Mr. Potato Head.  And also to announce that I am giving it one more shot, with the holiday cheer, but I remain, as always, highly dubious.

The Final Menu

I’ve got one more trip to Trader Joe’s to make, and I have to track down some ham hocks, but I think this is the final version of our Thanksgiving menu:

breakfast:

cinnamon rolls, fruit salad, coffee, mimosas

Snacks:

crackers, cranberry covered goat cheese, relish tray with pickles, black olives, and gardiniera

Dinner:

brined turkey

mashed potatoes

gravy

southern style green beans (this is what I need the ham hocks for)

brussell sprouts with pancetta and garlic

Martha Stewart’s Sweet Potato Biscuits

Pioneer Woman’s Buttered Rosemary Rolls

Cranberry Sauce 3 Ways (canned whole berry, canned jellied, home made chutney)

Green salad with spinach, croutons, radishes, and home made ranch dressing

Sausage stuffing with apricots and chestnuts

ambrosia salad (that’s the stuff with the marshmallows)

Dessert:

pumpkin pie

pumpkin cream pie with ginger snap crust

and cheesecake with caramel apple topping

and misc fancy chocolates

I feel kind of bad that we’re not having those little white creamed onions and that I am not also making macaroni and cheese but I think that’s more of a southern thing, for Thanksgiving?  I know people who can’t imagine Thanksgiving without collards and mac and cheese but as long as I have my mashed potatoes and my favorite stuffing in the world, I am good. Chestnuts for the win.

I just read in some cookbook that people like to get all het up about what is dressing and what is stuffing, but mostly the word dressing was invented because the word “stuffing” was considered sort of gauche, and now I can’t help laughing at this and picturing someone just cramming stuffing into a turkey’s back end.  Stuffing!!!

Thanksgiving seems to be one of those holidays where people get really defensive about the RIGHT kind of food, and I honestly can’t imagine relinquishing control enough to ever have Thanksgiving anywhere besides my house or my mother’s house for the rest of my life.  Regardless, when I hear about turkey cooking methods that don’t involve brining, I get irrationally angry, so maybe it’s just me that’s all touchy about how Thanksgiving just ISN’T right if you don’t serve that weird jellied cranberry sauce that comes out of the can with the ripples down the sides.

I also get paranoid about having enough Thanksgiving left overs.  In fact I suggested to Erik that I would cook two turkeys, if he wanted.  We haven’t gone that far, but he did get a 21 pound turkey.  BTW, my sister has once again named it for me.  This is why I love  having a blog, because I can check back and see that three years ago the turkey was named Brangelina.  This year, Erik told Annie that our turkey is a boy, and Annie said “Oh! Malcolm.  Malcolm Jamal Warner.” So there you go.

Also, I spent all of Saturday ironing things and conceptualizing the table setting, which is one of my favorite things to do ever.  I must admit I think this years table might be my best ever.  (white table cloth, orange runner, white plates, pink orange red paisley napkins in silver napkin rings, white and pink cake stands, and “place cards” consisiting of alternating at each place a lemon, mandarin, or pomegranate, with a lemon leaf pinned to the fruit on which I have written each persons name in chalk marker.  And maybe some candles. )

 

 

 

Gobble, Gobble

You don’t hang out around the house in leg warmers, a turkey hair clip, and a fur coat?  That’s really too bad for you.

P.S. Doesn’t she look long suffering in this picture?  You can practically see her thinking “Seriously? A TURKEY hair clip? Am I to have NO dignity?

P. P.S. Thank you to Molly Cheung for the loan of the white fur.  Just in time for some truly fabulous Christmas photos.

The 2010 125 Things Under $25 Gift List

My super huge super cheap Christmas gift list is up over at Style Lush today!  Go check it out and find that perfect thing for that person who has everything and wants nothing.  Or just buy something for yourself. Ah, the Christmas spirit. I’m still…looking for it this year.

As I was deep in the middle of link hell working on this list last week I remembered that three (or was it four?) years ago this list is how Maggie and I became friends.  When she needed help finding presents on the cheap she emailed me and the Under $25 gift list was born.  And now we’re friends! And isn’t that the greatest gift of all?! Awwwwwwwwwww.

 

Fix You

I would never choose to run.  If I could be skinny and never exercise, I’d pick that, which is just ridiculous, because NOTHING focuses me and calms me down and takes the edge off my stress like a run in the morning.  I just feel like I leave a little something out there, and I am better for it, for the rest of the day.

And often I have my best ideas and my most clear thoughts as I am slogging along that same three mile loop, or when I am walking Eli back and forth to preschool.  Somehow this is when everything else backs away and at this point those 45 minutes are the closest thing I have to therapy, so I am not sure why I don’t appreciate them more. I am not sure why I don’t want to run, when it’s so obvious how much I need to.

Often as I am walking a to pick up Eli from preschool, I feel a pervasive sense of dread, especially on high pressure days where I know he won’t want to do something they have planned.  I wonder if I am doing the right thing, and of course I think of my own childhood, all the times I made my brother pay for something at the grocery store because I was too shy to speak to a cashier, of how I hated to talk on the phone, of how it often felt as though my mother just couldn’t stand this intensely shy part of me, how she demanded I shake hands with adults and look people in the eye and how we somehow ended up with a relationship where I couldn’t tell her that I didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t wear pink elastic waisted cords to Outdoor School in the Sixth grade.  And then I wonder what books I should be reading, if it’s wrong to try to fix a shy child, if Eli is having fun at preschool, if he hates every minute of it, if he’s just the way he is or if I should be demanding he shake hands and look people in the eye, and I hope he doesn’t remember hating school, because I hated day care and after school baby sitters so much that I can still remember intensely how awful those hours were as if it happened yesterday.

I don’t want that for my son, I really don’t, and I will do the  best I can to make sure that doesn’t happen.  He does need to do some things he doesn’t want to do.  And I am very glad that I am now able to look other people in the eye and stick out my hand and introduce myself.  I am grateful for my mom’s voice in my head every time I meet a new person, for that instinctual reaction she drilled into me.  But the other day as I was walking to preschool to pick him up for the Halloween Party, as I relived my childhood and cycled through all that dread all over again in that thirty minute walk, I realized something.

I cannot use my son’s childhood to fix my own.

I can try and try and try, but it will not work.  My childhood is done, and what will be will be.  I can learn some things from it, but nothing I can do now can change what was.  And I think it might be time for me to move on, and to figure out how to not be a mom and also at the same time a miserable five year old stuck at day care.

I cannot use my son’s childhood to fix my own.  Wow.  Mind blowing.