What I've Been Reading Instead of Cleaning My House

Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Memory #3

Go back a few years, it's New Year's day and Nigel and I invite Geo and her husband out to lunch at a local Indian restaurant.

Everything is going well and then Nigel chokes, coughs, and hurls all over the table. He drinks some water and hurls again! What the heck? Nigel and Geo's husband go into the bathroom and they soon return. Everything's OK. Nigel takes another drink of water and spews water all over!

Please note that all through this little episode, Geo is horrified, her husband is helpful, Nigel is confused and I'm going back to the buffet for seconds (it's an ALL YOU CAN EAT buffet! I have to get my money's worth!).

The poor waiter has no idea what's happening. We're trying to hide the barf with napkins, less he think the delicious food is making Nigel sick.

We go home and Nigel feels OK, but he still can't keep anything down. Even his own saliva gets spit up immediately after he swallows.

Finally, he can't stand it any more and we decide to go to the emergency room. We don't have a car, so we call my nephew, Fred, to drive us to the hospital (yet again, Fred saves the day). Fred has just gotten back from the slopes, so he takes us over in full ski gear.

Of course, in the emergency room, everyone thinks that it's FRED that needs help (since he's in the ski clothes), and not the crazy man spitting into a cup.

They finally look at Nigel and realize that a piece of chicken is caught in his throat. It isn't blocking the entrance to his lungs, so he can breathe just fine, but it is blocking the entrance to his stomach, so he can't swallow anything. The doctor has to sedate him, stick a claw down his throat and pull it out.

The doctor is NOT pleased about being called in on New Year's Day (if you don't want to work holidays, you should be a teacher, NOT a doctor) and keeps commenting about how the piece of chicken didn't have a single bite mark in it. Nigel swallowed it whole.

Nigel, on the other hand, is coming out of the anesthesia and drunkenly telling everyone he sees, "It was the best Indian food I've ever eaten! It was so good. It was the best I've ever eaten!"

Hey Geo, want to go out to lunch again? (ha, ha, ha)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year's Memory #2

Our friends throw a big New Year's Eve party every year. It's a lot of food, fun and friends. It's especially awesome because you can bring your kids (don't have to find a sitter -- yay!).

One year we decided to leave a little bit before midnight because it was starting to snow. We were about a quarter of the way home when the snow really started coming down. The snow was so heavy that it broke our windshield wipers! There they were, spinning around crazily like a baton twirler in the Miss America pageant.

Since it was New Year's Eve, no place was open for us to call for help (this was before my infamous "flat tire" incident that prompted our finally getting a cell phone). At one point we parked underneath a car wash car port to wait out the storm.

We ended up driving home at about 10 miles per hour with the windows down so that Nigel and I could stick our heads out to see the road ahead. Our poor kids were freezing to death.

Yes, we did make it home in one piece (though the windshield wipers did not). Needless to say, I think we'll stay in this New Year's Eve.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Year's Memory #1

My fondest New Year's memory was when Nigel and I were first married. Our neighbors (also a newlywed couple) invited us over.

We sat around watching "Viva Las Vegas" while spraying whipped cream into our mouths (our fabulous hosts had supplied us each with a can). Later, our friend's little brother came over and read to us out of "Sein-Language" in his best Jerry Seinfeld voice.

Very low key, very casual, but oh so much fun. Just talking, laughing, and enjoying each other's company. The best way to ring in the new year.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

"A Christmas Story"

So we spent the day watching "A Christmas Story" (they were running a 24-hour marathon) and Frances' favorite part is when Ralphie is helping his father change the flat tire and says "fudge." Shortly thereafter, this conversation transpired between her and I:

"Mom, you and dad say the F-word all the time."

"What? We do? When do we ever say that?" (OK, I can totally see Nigel saying it, but me? Never)

"Yeah, but it's OK because you use it the other way. You know, like when the D-word is OK to say sometimes." (As in "damn" and beaver "dam")

"I don't get what you're saying. When is the F-word ever OK to say?"

Exasperated, Frances rolls her eyes at me and says, "You know, when you FLIP the pancakes."

I'm blaming "Napoleon Dynamite."

Visions of Sugar Plums...

Last year we started a tradition of making gingerbread houses.

OK, this is ME doing it, so I don't make gingerbread. We just use graham crackers, various candies and Dot's recipe for icing (butter, milk, vanilla, powdered sugar, food coloring).

Last year Jeffrey made a gingerbread motorhome.

This year he made the scene from "The Polar Express" where the train was breaking though the ice into the water before it got back on the tracks. Of course, in his interpretation, some of the children had fallen into a whirlpool and were being eaten by piranhas.

Now THAT's Christmassy!

Many Happy Returns

We were so spoiled this Christmas. Here's a rundown on some of our gifts:

Jeffrey made Nigel a hammerhead shark made completely out of empty toilet paper rolls and packing tape.

Alice-Grace got the Lil Luvables Fluffy Factory (it's a mini Build-A-Bear Workshop). It works amazingly well and takes NO batteries. A definite thumbs up on this one.

Frances got the Totally Me! Sewing Machine which did not work at all. We returned it today (behind another family holding the same toy and it was put on a pile of other sewing machines). She was really looking forward to learning how to sew, so this was very disappointing (though we were happy to see that it wasn't just us that couldn't get it to work).

Jeffrey must've gotten 10 Lego sets and not a single duplicate in the bunch. Plus, all the clothes given to the children fit!

Frances got the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine and realized that she can just go outside and get a cup of snow rather than shaving ice-cubes for 20 minutes. Yeah, just try that in July!

Our Secret Santa gave Frances and Alice-Grace beautiful Alexander Girlz dolls, complete with extra clothes that they sewed themselves! Now that's going the extra mile!!!

Of course, there were many more gifts and a big thank you to everyone, especially our Secret Santas.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Last night the doorbell rang at midnight. We were Secret Santa'd AGAIN! We had so many presents, it was amazing. Here I was talking about my kids getting overwhelmed with just three presents, now they each had about 10! I told the kids that Santa had to leave the presents on the porch because our fireplace was blocked by one of my nativity sets (I collect them).

My kids woke me up at 4:30 AM to open presents. I got them to wait until 5:30 AM. I then let them just look into their stockings until about 6:45 AM when Nigel got up.

We then had a great time opening presents. Frances opened all of hers first. Alice-Grace unwrapped some of hers, but didn't open all of the packages until later. Jeffrey, on the other hand, didn't finish opening his presents until 5:00 PM!!! It took him almost 12 hours to open his presents! He had to make each Lego creation and play with each Hot Wheel set before he would open the next gift. After a while, we all took naps and would wake to see him still opening presents! It was the never ending Christmas morning.

Then we went to Lorna's house and visited her family.

All in all, it was a great Christmas -- over the top -- but a great Christmas and one that we'll remember for years to come.

Oh, did I mention that I didn't have to go to work?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Spirit

I am way excited for Christmas.

Maybe it's because I don't have to work (either job), maybe it's because of all the gifts under the tree (that I didn't have to run out to buy), maybe it's because I'm loopy on Nigel's fondue (did he cook out all the wine?).

I think it's because we had a great Christmas eve of family, food and fun.

My brother and his wife (Henry and Julene) came to visit with their two adorable sons. Jeffrey was so excited to finally have some boys to play with. Lorna stopped by really quick. Our friend, Gayle, came to spend the holiday with us. We visited, ate cheese fondue, read the Christmas story, and everyone got to open one gift.

Oh, I'm so looking forward to tomorrow. Did I mention that I don't have to work?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Secret Santa

It's official. We're pathetic.

I came home from work and there were TONS of presents under the tree. We were ding-dong-ditched, obviously someone's service project. The worst part is that the presents appear to be from a GROUP of people (different handwriting, my kid's name spelled three different ways, etc.). I can just imagine that meeting:

"We need to do a charity project for a needy family in the neighborhood. Does anyone have any ideas?"

"Hey, what about Lois' family? I hear she has her nine-year-old daughter cut her hair."

"I've also heard that she's never been to Wal-Mart."

"Yeah, her husband doesn't even have a job. He just sits around all day drawing pictures."

"And they only paid $1.00 for their car."

"What? They're definitely deprived. Yes, we must help out Lois' family."

I'm sure that's how it went.

Seriously, I'm very thankful for the plenty that's under our tree that has made my kids' eyes wide with Christmas joy. I'm especially thankful because these are people who KNOW us and LOVE us. Santa came early this year and we thank you, Santa (and your many elves).

After all, this is the season of giving -- and receiving -- joyfully.

Friday, December 21, 2007

And the Band Played On

I was in my high school's marching band -- I played the oboe. I know what you're thinking. There's no oboe in a marching band! Well, my high school was very limited in its extracurricular activities, so there was no orchestra. Hence, the world's only marching oboist.

At Christmas our marching band would play in the annual Boat Parade. We would all get on a boat that was decorated with tons of lights and sail around the marina playing Christmas tunes.

Well, one year Ernie the trombone player was a little too close to the side of the boat and a little too enthusiastic playing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and dropped his slide right into the Pacific Ocean. Now THAT was a memorable Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Paying It Forward -- Some More

My sister, Myrna, gave me a phone call on my birthday. This is a new tradition she started a few years ago after our Aunt Darlene's death.

See, Aunt Darlene and Myrna have the same birthday and Darlene would call Myrna on their birthday every year.

After Darlene passed away, Myrna started calling me on my birthday every year (they're in the same month).

Isn't it great the way one person's kindness inspires us to pass it on? Thank you, Aunt Darlene.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Rose By Any Other Name...

Another big box "full slip" experience today. I went from store to store trying to find a charger that does AA, AAA, C, D and 9-volt batteries. The stores would have some of the batteries, but not the charger; or they would have the charger, but not the rechargeable batteries. I was about to give up when a salesperson suggested, "Have you tried the battery store?" What? There's a battery store? We went there and the staff was friendly, knowledgeable, and they had exactly what I wanted. They now have a loyal customer for life.

Also went to Toys "R" Us, which my mother always referred to as Toys "R" Ours. She could never get the name straight.

My friend's grandma always called ShopKo, Shop-OK.

I love people who put a "the" in front of words. Such as The Food 4 Less or The Macey's.

My kids refer to Carl's Jr. as Star Burger.

When Frances was little, she always wanted to go to Donald King -- yeah, I can't tell them apart, either (though now my kids know that McDonald's has better toys).

Dot also calls the I-Max theater The Maxi. As in, "Are you going to see the Maxi?" Very humorous when we're in mixed company.

Nigel's father used to refer to Dunkin' Donuts as Drunken Donuts.

I think the funniest was my elderly neighbors who were big "Wheel of Fortune" fans. Every night the wife would yell to her husband, "Edward, Edward! 'Oh Vanna' is on!"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Homemade Holiday

I was babysitting some children and Frances was talking about what she was going to buy people for Christmas. One of the girls I was tending looked at Frances incredulously and said, "You BUY presents? We always make ours."

Now this is a girl who was raised right.

Since I'm the baby of the family, I was always the one making the crazy home-made gifts that I know everyone hated, but they all kept them just the same.

I remember one year my mother got rid of all our decks of face cards (there must've been something in General Conference about the evil of cards or something). Now, I come from a family that LOVES to play cards. What will we do without cards?

I decided to make my own, but with animals on them so that they wouldn't be "evil." Well, I'm not exactly known for my spelling skills and at the time I didn't quite understand why my brother, Clark, loved playing "Go Fish" with my homemade deck of cards. I can still hear him giggle as he would ask:

"Do you have any Loins?"

A Christmas Movie: Take Two

When I look back on the old Christmas movies that my family did every year, I notice a pattern.

Besides filming us hanging up our stockings, my dad also filmed us on Christmas day getting our filled stockings and opening our presents. When we were really little, you could see my brother, J.D., secretly stealing candy from the other kids' stockings. As the years went by and we all got older, one thing would not change. EVERY film showed J.D. stealing candy from people's stockings! He'd be in his 30s and still stealing candy!

I shouldn't be surprised. This was the same brother who would steal food off my plate during the prayer at dinner and he would hold a fork to my side to keep me quiet while he did it.

But no one could ever hate him. No matter how mean he was to us (including cutting off Rena's hair with a pair of toenail clippers), we still loved and adored him.

Though I should warn his wife and son to hide their candy this Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ladies Who Lunch

Sometimes my husband surprises me.

Like the time I commented briefly about how much I liked so-and-so's hair. For my birthday, he had called so-and-so, got the name of her hairdresser, made an appointment for a cut and color (back in the days when I did cut and color -- now I go gray and let Frances do the cutting), and paid for it.

I always complain that my favorite Mexican restaurant with the mango salsa no longer exists. He researched on the Internet and found another Mexican restaurant that served mango salsa. Then for my birthday, he arranged for my dearest friends and family to be at that restaurant for all of us to have a special lunch together.

There I was with my sister, Lorna, my nieces Babs and Ginger, and old friends, co-workers, and neighbors. What a great time we had. From the owner who refused to take our order ("No, you don't want that. You want this. No, this is much better. Don't order that.") to my friend talking about wanting a Prozac lick in her kitchen, to Lorna knowing a little TOO much about poison -- we laughed until our sides ached.

Thank you, Nigel, for making my birthday so special and for knowing that I needed that. Sometimes you just need a good lunch with your best girlfriends to realize how lucky you are.

In the Company of Women

I feel energized, rejuvenated, inspired. Why? Because of the company of women.

The other morning I went to a delicious breakfast celebrating the birthday of a woman we all love and adore (and seems to always weave her way in and out of my life). How wonderful that someone who has never met me would allow me into her home, cook breakfast for me, and then read a book aloud to the woman of honor that left us all in tears.

So many other women were there. Some I know very well, some I know as acquaintances, some I know through blogging, and some I only know because they know my sister, Lorna. It's a good thing that Lorna is totally awesome and loved by all who meet her, because it made them welcome me into their fold with open arms and open hearts.

What a fun time we had eating, talking, sharing, hitting a boot pinata with symbolic rolls of Christmas wrapping paper, invading a neighbor's home to see her Christmas decorations (which has since inspired me), and just being there to listen to each other's triumphs and foibles.

Sometimes in the madness of going to work, taking care of my children, avoiding cleaning the house, and supporting my husband in his endeavors, I lose sight of who I am. Thank you, women, for bringing that back to me.

I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille

Back in the early 50s, my father worked in TV. Even though he soon left that job to work as an electrical engineer, he still had some of that movie magic running through his veins.

It started with a Super-8 camera taking simple films of his growing family hanging up their stockings every Christmas eve. As the years went by, we couldn't just hang up our stockings, we had to have ever more elaborate skits that went with the hanging of the stockings. Regular lamps weren't good enough, my dad had these super bright spot lights that would blind us all as he would yell, "Open up your eyes!"

Lorna's husband, Jorge, proclaimed ours "The Cecil B. DeMille Christmases." Just like real film making, we had to wait forever for the lighting to be just right, we'd finally get our skit perfect and my dad would realize that he had the lens cap still on (or no film in the camera), and it would always go over time and over budget. I would half expect to see a couple of grips eating at the Crafts Services table in our living room with the way these productions would play out.

Then in the early '80s, we were introduced to video tape. SOUND. Just like the old silent movie era actors, we were kind of hesitant and some of our skits were still done with no sound. After a year or so, we used this new medium to showcase J.D.'s band or Rena's vocal lessons. Soon, all the neighborhood kids were also involved in our movies.

My favorite Christmas film was when the entire family was struck down with the stomach flu, but we still went on with the show -- with all the kids carrying pots around for barfing in.

Another good one was when Ardale went on and on about how proud he was of Spence and how much we miss him while he's on his mission. Then we hear Spence in the background say, "Don't you mean Henry?" Oh, you should've seen my dad's face on that one.

Just like in real life, we try our best to plan things out and control everything. And just like in real life, our favorite memories consist of the times when everything goes wrong.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Upside-Down, Boy You Turn Me

M-A told me to write a blog about upside-down Christmas trees. I guess there's a new trend of hanging trees from the ceiling so there's more room for presents underneath. I checked it out on the Internet and was not impressed (if I was computer savvy, I would put some links -- but alas, I can barely figure out how to work the rat -- oops, I mean mouse). Does anyone else remember the Wilkinson Center Ballroom being decorated with upside-down trees hung from the high ceilings every Christmas? I guess they were trend setters.

It reminded me of one Christmas when my mother was musing over where to put the tree. She delights in rearranging the furniture and finding a new place for the tree each year.

Rena, Stillwell and I suggested that she should have the tree sticking out from the wall horizontally. Well, she was NOT amused. In fact, she said, "That's enough. Go to bed right now."

We looked at each other, shocked. Was she serious? Go to bed? It was about 3:00 in the afternoon and I was 16, Stillwell was 18 and Rena was 20!!! We shrugged our shoulders and went up to our rooms to bed.

Happy Hurl-idays!

A young girl barfed right by my cart where I sell candy in the mall last night. Not a little bit of spit-up, a huge puke puddle that extended about 3 feet. Nothing kills chocolate sales like the smell of vomit in the air.

Anyway, we called the mall management and told them we needed a clean-up between the candy cart and the curling iron fascists. The smarmy curling iron guy soothed the embarrassed feelings of the little girl and I gave her a plastic bag and a mint in case of future "episodes."

We put a bench over the puddle so people wouldn't walk through it. I was quite amused by the teenage boys picking up their girlfriends and trying to push them into the barf (nobody can say "I love you" like a teenage boy) and two middle-aged women who decided to SIT on the bench!

Finally, after 30 minutes (seriously, THIRTY minutes!), the mall clean-up crew came to the rescue. Happy Hurl-idays indeed!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

When Nigel and I were first married, we always had a real Christmas tree (or one that I made out of construction paper if it was an especially bad year). One year we were buying our Christmas tree at one of those home improvement places. As always, Nigel got distracted by something shiny and left me alone in the store to pick out the tree, buy it, and drag it 6,000 miles through the parking lot to the car (OK, so maybe it wasn't 6,000 miles, but I was NINE MONTHS PREGNANT with Jeffrey at the time, so it felt like it).

Anyway, after that fun little experience, I decided to buy an artificial tree. I picked out a good one that was on sale and then couldn't fit the box in my little Toyota. I had to call my nephew, Fred, and have him pick it up in his truck (I swear, I get more pathetic every year).

We had that tree for many years. Like most pack-rat Americans, our living room got more and more furniture and less and less room for a Christmas tree. My niece and her husband, Babs and Spike, offered us a skinnier artificial tree that would take up much less space. We gladly accepted and put the new tree up.

What to do with our old tree? Nigel put it up on FreeCycle and I was afraid that it was much too late in the Christmas season for anyone to want a tree. Boy was I wrong. We had at least 25 people who wanted that tree. Nigel quickly dismissed the ones who wanted it because they didn't want needles on their "brand new carpeting" or bought a bigger house with "higher ceilings" and wanted a bigger tree. Being Nigel, he picked a family who wanted to give Christmas to a woman whose husband died three years ago, leaving her with two children to raise on her own and she just lost her job. They picked it up and I must admit it filled us all with the Christmas spirit. Way to go, Nigel.

Oh, by the way, I'm having the kids decorate the house for Christmas this year. Our new skinny Christmas tree is only decorated 2/3 of the way up (as high as my kids can reach), but I'm keeping it that way.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

So one of the smarmy curling iron sales-thugs at the mall got fired for sexual harassment.

In fact, I was right there when the irate husband wanted to kick his butt.

The sad thing is, I was also right there when he was giving his sales pitch to the lady, and it was the SAME sales pitch he always gives (and the same one the WOMEN give).

Miraculously, they found ANOTHER aggressive Eastern-European smarmy guy to take his place. Where are they finding these people?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

An Open Letter to School Teachers...

I know that you want to give my children knowledge of the world around them and let them appreciate other cultures, but can you please STOP hyping holiday traditions that are celebrated in other countries?

I don't appreciate having to run to the store late at night (after working 8 hours at my main job and 4 hours at my seasonal job) to get treats to fill up my kids' shoes because the next morning is St. Nicklaus Day. I tried to explain to my children that we don't live in Germany or Austria and that we don't have a single drop of Western European blood running through our veins, but they were intent to celebrate this holiday that YOU TOLD THEM ABOUT.

I'm praying that they're not taught about St. Lucia Day because I will not torch my kid's hair on fire trying to create a hat-wreath of candles in order to celebrate ANOTHER tradition that we don't follow here in America.

Why don't you get them all excited about Ramadan? A holiday that consists of 40 days of fasting -- I can get behind that one. Why aren't you pushing that on our children? Why does it always have to be the ones that entail costumes and/or presents?

Thank you,

A very tired (and not so global) parent

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Boo to the Big Box

I hate those big box stores: Wal-Mart, K-Mart, ShopKo, Target, etc. Doesn't matter which one it is, I always have the same problems (OK, so I shouldn't lump Wal-Mart in this category since I'm proud to say that I have never in my life stepped foot in a Wal-Mart). Have you had these same experiences?

I get a flier in the mail advertising my favorite video for only $5. I go to the store and they don't have any. It isn't that they're sold-out, they never had any. The salesman tells me that only one store in the entire state got ONE copy. Why advertise it? "Oh, to get you in the store," he says.

Sure the store has TVs, ramen noodles, jackets and fishing poles all under one roof (which I think is so not kosher -- you shouldn't be able to buy milk and clothing at the same place), but just try to find some variety per item. I had to buy a full slip for my new job, so I reluctantly went to one of these hated stores. The sales girl told me they don't have any full slips, and they only had one style of half slip and it only came in one size. WHAT???

Just try to get some information from the salespeople at these places. They haven't a clue. It's either not their department or they just don't know anything. It drives me crazy -- like the salesman who told me I didn't need to measure the space in my kitchen for a new dishwasher because all dishwashers are exactly the same size (yeah, tell that to the installation guy who had to warp my counter to shove it in there).

Conversely, last night I had to get my daughter some snow clothes for an upcoming ski day. I could've gone to one of these mega-marts and gotten some cheap stuff, but since I had no idea as to what I was buying, I needed some guidance. I went to a small outdoors shop up the street and the salesman knew what he was talking about, let my daughter try everything on (including socks and long underwear) to make sure they fit and even gave me a discount at the register just in case she ended up not liking skiing.

When was the last time a big box did that for you?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Rocking Around the Christmas Tree

One of my favorite things to do at Christmas time is turn off all the lights (except for the Christmas tree lights) and crank up festive holiday tunes and dance like a crazy person. Right now my children are young enough to dance with me, but soon they'll be teenagers and absolutely horrified by their mother dancing, so I have to take advantage of all the Christmases I have left.


  1. "Christmas in Hollis" by Run DMC -- I'm sorry, but this is hands down THE best Christmas song ever! Can't wait for the Mo-Tab to do their version.
  2. "I Saw My Baby Wearing Santa's Beard" by They Might Be Giants -- my daughter Alice-Grace sings this "I saw my baby wearing Santa's bib," which makes more sense.
  3. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Bare Naked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan (I also like Bare Naked Ladies' version of the Hanukkah song).
  4. "I Pray on Christmas" by Harry Connick Jr. -- this song started my love affair with bluesy Christmas rock.
  5. "Silent Night" by Tiger Fire -- I'll admit it. I absolutely loathe the song "Silent Night" (I know, yet ANOTHER reason why I'm going to rot in hell), but I love this version because I can dance a mean "robot" to it.

Hair Apparent

I occasionally work right next to one of those kiosks in the middle of the mall that sells curling irons. You know, the one where the women from some unknown country accost you and try to force you to let them straighten and/or curl your hair? I don't know what human trafficking ring they're enslaved to, but these women sell their little hearts out (are there curling iron "pimps" out there that'll put the hurt on them if they don't make their quota?).

Anyway, I'm overhearing one of them doing her best sales pitch to the father of the girl she's curling at the moment and he asks her how much it costs. She replies, "One-seventy."


Now I hope she meant $1.70, because if I'm going to spend $170.00 on a curling iron, it better magically give me the ability to speak at least two romance languages every time I use it.

The worst is if you balk at the price, they kick you out of the chair with only half your hair curled/straightened. So now there's a multitude of women (and sometimes men) walking around the mall with very bad hair -- but not speaking a lick of Italian or French.


Because of my seasonal part-time job, I get to spend a lot of time at the mall. I work right by a women's clothing store that fills their front window with strappy, metallic, stiletto shoes. Not being a shoe person myself, I don't quite understand the allure of these podiatrist's nightmares, but their "Strumpet Trumpet" must be calling pretty loudly because females from age 6 to 106 head a bee-line to this store.

I even observed one woman who parked her stroller full of kids outside the store so she could try on pair after pair of these heels. Luckily I consider myself a "watcher of all things smaller than me," so I kept a sharp eye on them -- at least until her shoe fetish feelings were satisfied and she returned to her children.

I know they're pretty and sexy and all of that, but not after seeing all these women limping through their shopping excursions because they just could not be seen in public in sensible flats.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Feliz Navidad

Jeffrey is my Christmas baby. I remember being in the hospital and hearing all the other new moms being surrounded by family and friends. Nigel was home taking care of Frances and everyone else was busy getting ready for their holiday festivities. It was just me and my new little baby and despite my love for hospitals (sometimes I just go and eat lunch there when I'm NOT sick), I was feeling lonely and a little blue.

Then I heard it -- carolers. A small family came by with a guitar and they stopped at my door and sang "Feliz Navidad" to me and my tiny boy. It was just what I needed. Though I must admit this is NOT one of my favorite Christmas songs, I now can't hear that song without tearing up.

If you ever go caroling at a hospital, please don't forget the maternity ward.

Tradition! Tradition!

When my brother and his wife were first married, Julene asked Henry what his childhood Christmases were like. He talked about all the traditions, including getting breakfast in bed, peanuts in his stockings, putting up Christmas lists, etc. and didn't give the conversation a second thought.

When Christmas day came around, Julene surprised Henry with breakfast in bed. Henry complained, "Oatmeal! I hate oatmeal!" Julene was shocked because this was his family tradition. "No," Henry replied, "Our mom forced us to eat oatmeal so that we wouldn't make ourselves sick eating candy all day. We all despise oatmeal" (in fact, Rena and I used to throw the oatmeal out the window, Stillwell flushed it down the toilet and Spence spooned it into his sock drawer every year).

When Henry looked in his stocking, it was filled with peanuts in the shell. "Peanuts! What am I supposed to do with peanuts?" Again, Julene was confused. "But you told me you always got peanuts in your stockings." Henry answered, "Yeah, they were just used as filler so they wouldn't have to fill them with so many toys and candy" (I'm positive those same peanuts were recycled year after year).

Then Henry looked under the tree and it was filled with presents for him. Julene had given him EVERYTHING on his list. She didn't understand that our family put up lists every year, but we never expected to get the things on them -- maybe just one or two if we were lucky. Then he felt REALLY bad because he had only given Julene one or two things from her list, and she was probably expecting ALL of them!

Traditions are what make holidays great, but we should understand the meaning behind them and understand when to change them to fit our situations. I'm sure that Henry and Julene have many wonderful and new traditions they enjoy at Christmas, and I'm sure that they still laugh at their first one.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Santa's Dead

As I'm in the twilight between awake and sleep last night, I hear this conversation transpire in the living room between my two younger children and my husband:

Alice-Grace: Mom told us Santa was dead.

Nigel: What?

Jeffrey: Yeah. Mom told us Santa was dead.

Nigel: She did not.

Alice-Grace: She did. For reals.

Jeffrey: Santa is dead.

My last thought as I drift off to sleep is, "Oh Lois, you're going to burn in hell for this one."

OK, since some people were worried in my last post, let me state that Santa does come to our house, but just to fill the stockings. But for some reason, my kids totally ignore the stockings and I have to practically force them to look there. I guess Santa only counts if he leaves big huge presents. It isn't like the stockings are filled with rocks or peanuts in the shell (that's for another blog) or something, Santa brings fun stuff like Kindereggs and Pez.

So this year I've decided to steal one of Rena's traditions and have my kids play Santa Claus (since he's passed away and all). She has each one of her kids put on a Santa hat in the middle of the night and put a secret treat in the stockings. My kids seem to be excited about the idea, so we'll see how it goes.

And just for the record, I told them that St. Nicholas who Santa Claus is based on is dead.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Presents of Mind

I never know how to do presents with my kids. When they were really little, Nigel and I would just buy whatever and stick it under the tree. Frances would open one or two gifts and be done. She had no interest in anything else (Jeffrey and Alice-Grace just ate the wrapping paper). So we would put some presents aside to save for later or for their birthdays.

My friend told me that her kids get three presents each -- an article of clothing, a toy, and a book. This sounded like a good idea for us. After all, if three presents was good enough for baby Jesus, it's good enough for my kids. Well, I didn't count on all the presents from the grandparents, teachers, etc. Again, the kids were overwhelmed with so many presents and we were still putting some aside for birthdays.

Now we pick names out of a hat and each person buys ONE present for another member of the family. That seems to be working so far.

But then, last year my kids noticed that Santa never brought them presents. Oops!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Season's Greetings

I have a love/hate relationship with holiday newsletters. I love writing them, but I loathe copying them off, addressing the envelopes, and mailing them (to be perfectly honest, I still have some from last year that I haven't mailed yet -- sorry!).

Also, it seems that I'm sending these newsletters full of "fascinating" tidbits about my family's life to people who are either very much aware of what we've been up to all year or people who really could care less. So what's the point?

I have people that I send newsletters to only because they send me newsletters. Are they only sending me newsletters because I send them newsletters? It's a vicious cycle.

Also, what's the shelf-life on newsletters? Am I supposed to keep these things forever? What about the holiday photos? Keep the ones from family and throw away the others?

Rena got fed up with the stress of getting the "perfect" family photo, so last year she sent one that actually looks like her family (kids with eyes closed, looking in the wrong direction, and/or picking noses). Now that's a photo I'm going to keep!

I'm not a total Grinch. Some newsletters are great. I love Ben's "Holiday Holler" just because of the title -- I even disregard my newsletter/resume rule for it (if it's more than one page long, I don't read it). M-A's newsletters are always hilarious (and my last few have been copies of her style -- I hope she considers it flattery). I always look forward to my mother's newsletter to see how little she writes about me (She'll write three or four paragraphs on Lorna and I'll get something like, "Lois is still alive").

The best Christmas newsletter of all time was one that I received from my friend's mother. She fancies herself a poet and one year she wrote about finding a dead body in the dumpster behind her home -- all in iambic pentameter.

I was all for boycotting a newsletter this year and I almost had Nigel talked into it, but then Geo's husband brought over a huge box of art paper, including some in the loveliest shade of green which Nigel is now enamored with. He says that HE will do the Christmas newsletter. Now, if I can just find a dead body...