Are you ready?

It is the dreaded count-down-to-Christmas question.  It is the opener for probably every conversation during December…especially among women.  On Friday, this question launched a teaching colleague into a rant on how much cooking she had to do for the holidays and how she was never going to find time to do it.  Then everyone else in the group piped up with what they had left to do.

“Are you ready?”

No! We’re not ready!  Dumb questions get dumb answers.  I think we ask the question in order to find out who is more not ready than we are.  Even those who are ready hedge their answer with, “Pretty much.  All I have left to do is…”

How ready are you?   Take the poll.

I am sympathetic toward those who reply with “buy all the presents” or “declutter and clean the entire house and decorate it.”  They fall a tad into the dysfunctional group but, hey, we all have our dysfunctional moments.  I’m the type to ransack the house for scotch tape that I was  very good about buying in advance.  And for those of you who never get Christmas cards from me, I really, really do think of you.  As for purses–Hi, Mom!  And John, save some whisky and eggnog for the rest of us.

The definition of “ready” depends, of course, on one’s stage in life.    Although I have yet to  wrap any gifts, some of which I actually ordered in September, I will do it today (ok,maybe tomorrow) because I long ago learned the lesson that things come up at the last minute.  One year it was a stomach bug at midnight on December 23.  I was helpless to do anything until midnight of December 24.  This year it is a last minute request to help one daughter watch the baby of another daughter on Monday.  Toddler of the helping daughter is throwing up today.  Yeah, this  bodes well.

The year after the stomach bug episode, I learned that being ready means making sure the husband is ready, too.  I had all my gifts wrapped and, at bedtime on Christmas Eve, asked hubby if he was planning to wrap his.  He thought he was ready because he had actually bought presents before Christmas Eve.  (There was that one year when the malls closed and he wasn’t finished shopping….he learned from that.)

Part of being ready has always been to have the house ready.  Decorations are key, but underlying the decorations is this idea that dirt should not be underlying the decorations.  One mom of young ones lamented recently that she didn’t know how she was going to get the house clean in order to decorate.  Silly mom.  You don’t clean the whole house.  You just clean the part that you want to decorate.  It’s all going to get dirty again anyway.

In getting ready, it is important not to peak too soon–or you’ll be twiddling your thumbs waiting for Valentine’s Day.  Admit it, part of the excitement of Christmas is the adrenaline rush of stress.  It’s what keeps us from a sugar cookie induced diabetic coma at the darkest part of the year.  All the running around gets our heart rate up.  You just have to know your limits.  Blinking lights are pretty, but there are easier ways to enjoy lights than having an emergency and calling 911.

However, the most important part of Christmas readiness is knowing what to let go of.  This year, I’m thinking that I need to let go of the need to be ready.  I ‘ve always looked at the Advent season as the time to prepare myself spiritually for Christ’s coming.  The need to get my heart in order dovetails, for me,  with the urgency of doing.  (Come on, get the heart right.)  But upon reflection, my heart is never right enough and no one at that first Christmas was ready.

Picture Mary going into labor with no place to stay.  Joseph wishing desperately that Travelocity existed.  Shepherds hanging out in the fields until a flash mob of angels appears.  Who is ever ready for a bazillion angels to show up singing?

Christmas happened.  It had nothing to do with to-do lists and buying presents.  It had everything to do with being present.  (Time to cue the Who’s in Whoville singing “fa-who-dor-aze.)  Jesus showed up.  I don’t know exactly when and where he’ll show up next, but I do want to be ready to be there.  He might be at the Post Office.  He might be in the UPS driver.  Or even in me.

In the meantime, there are these gifts I could wrap and some cards to address.  Where is that tape?  And do we have any stamps?

There's another roll of tape around somewhere...

There’s another roll of tape around somewhere…

Christmas Trauma

I don’t know whether my youngest daughter had the most traumatic childhood ever or whether she’s just the best at guilting me over it.  For years, she has been giving me grief for not buying a Baby’s First Ornament for her the year she was born.  Her oldest sister has a lovely  Hallmark ornament from her birth year.  The second sister has a photo ornament from her first year.  (Older sister also has a photo ornament from that year, since I went ahead and bought one for each child at the time.)  But the poor youngest child, the one of whom I took pictures but never got them developed, that child never got a Baby’s First Ornament.  And she’s never let me forget it.

This is a vintage nursery school ornament.  It's over 20 years old.  Not bad for a cardboard egg carton.

This is a vintage nursery school ornament. It’s over 20 years old. Not bad for a cardboard egg carton.

It’s not that she isn’t represented on the Christmas tree.  There are a myriad of little ornaments from Sunday school classes and dance classes.  Oops.  She didn’t get the dance class ornaments because she didn’t take those dance classes.  She was a tippy-toe walker and the pediatrician said that ballet and tap would be bad for her hamstrings.  Well, at any  rate, there is a cardboard egg-crate bell that she made in nursery school.  It is, quite frankly, not too pretty and I tried to hide it in the back of the tree once, but she noticed.  It is now displayed right in front where she can easily find it and I won’t get yelled at.

The reason I didn’t get her a first year ornament was because I was busy hand stitching her a Christmas stocking.  Her sisters at the time had dollar store basic red fuzzy stockings, but I wanted them to have special handmade stockings like I had growing up.  I started with hers–a lovely stocking with Santa’s face on it and white satin stripes on a red background.  Given my ineptitude at sewing, it’s a wonder I accomplished the task.  I admit that I did get neater and more intricate on the subsequent stockings for her older sisters, but hers was the first and I did finish it by Christmas. And she liked it.

That is, until it got lost.

Yeah.

When she was about seven.  When she was still big into Santa.

I’m reasonably sure that the stocking was mislaid among the empty Christmas boxes and discarded.  Problem is, the loss was not noticed until December 24 of the following year when I pulled out the stockings to hang by the chimney with care.

Zut, zut, et zut!

Personally, I always thought this was not too shabby for a last minute fix.

Personally, I always thought this was not too shabby for a last minute fix.

In a Christmas Eve panic, I pulled out one of the leftover fuzzy dollar store stockings and glued a felt snowman, some snowflakes and the child’s name on it.  Next to her sister’s carefully crafted stockings it looked, well, pretty crappy.   But, hey, there was at least something for Santa to fill.

Every year after, I forgot until December 24 that she had a crappy stocking.  Finally, when she was in maybe high school, I bought what I  thought was a cute  reindeer stocking at Greetings & Readings.  But when I got it home, I realized it didn’t hang in the same direction as the other stockings.  So, while it was better than the crappy red fuzz, it was not really acceptable.  Or accepted.  But we hung it up anyway until she got married and was free to start fresh and have perfect Christmases forever.

This year, I was checking Facebook and what to my wondering eyes did appear but an apology from this self-same daughter.  With a two year old and a baby, she now understands.  She forgot to order a monogrammed stocking for the baby.  I’m wondering how many years it will take her to remember to order a monogrammed stocking.

In the meantime, not to worry.  MomMom here has some spares.

2 rejected stockings

Crunch time: shopping with the kid

Tip of the day:  take a nap before going Christmas shopping with a five-year old.

That is how I survived yesterday.  After enduring the school-wide Christmas party at school (and I confess to ducking out of the “talent” show to get some planning done), I made one wish-it had-been quicker shopping stop before coming home.  I staggered upstairs for a quick nap before picking up Harper from the bus.

The kid leaps off the bus and  jumps into the car faster than I can even realize the bus has arrived.  And the mouth is already in motion: We’re going Christmas shopping!  We’re going Christmas shopping!  Over and over again.  That is, until he segues into Jingle Bells.”  The word “perseveration” comes to mind.

He switches over to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” struggling with the order of the rhymes.

You better not cry,

You better not shout,

You better not pout….

ummm…you better not shout, you better not pout, umm…

I offer to help… (It’s pout, cry, shout, telling you why… and I’m about ready to cry)

“No! No! Don’t tell me!”

This is all within the three minutes it takes to drive down the road to the house.

Back home we unload the backpack and have a little snack before heading out again.  I desperately need a cup of tea.  Harper gets a mug of hot cocoa with some marshmallows and a candy cane to stir in it.  Yes, I acknowledge that sugar was probably the last thing the kid needed at that moment, but it’s Christmas, ok?  How he even consumed it is beyond my understanding–the jabbering is incessant.

Off to shopping, we’re not even out the door when he burps.

“I just threw up.”

“No  you didn’t.  You just burped.”

“Some came up into my mouth.”

“Do you feel ok?”

I’m rethinking the wisdom to going anywhere public.  I’m envisioning an awful scene in Greeting and Readings.  But the kid doesn’t shut up.  He doesn’t sound sick.

“Erin threw up in school today.  At lunch.”

“Was she sitting near you?”

“No.”

“Well, that’s good.”

“But she threw up on the floor right next to me.”

I’m now breaking out in a cold sweat. Oh, please God, spare us from the awful-awful at Christmas.  All the way to the mall he talks about throw-up.  Why do we throw up?  How does it happen?  He is fascinated with the topic.  It’s making me queasy.

We reach our destination but it’s raining.  Harper has no hat.  I have a hood and an umbrella.  But I can’t hold the umbrella, my cane, and Harper’s hand at the same time.  Harper gets the umbrella.  I should mention that it’s windy.  Either the umbrella is going to turn inside out or Harper is going to blow away like Mary Poppins.  He likes the latter idea and tries to catch the wind.  While bouncing.  Through a parking lot of last-minute Christmas drivers.  My only hold on him is a finger through the loop on the collar of his coat.  He’s going very fast.  Did I mention the cane?

Safe inside, the goal is to shop for Mommy, but everything on his eye level is geared for him.  And there is an amazing array of candy at Greetings and Readings.  Clearly, his tummy is fine because he wants all of it.  We manage to select gifts for baby Emily, Pop Pop and Mommy.  These, dear family, are clearly what Harper wanted for you, in spite of any attempts on my part to steer him toward other items.

At the risk of ruining baby Emily’s Christmas surprise, Harper found a baby rattle shaped like a magic wand.  He doesn’t even realize how appropriate that is for the new little Princess who uses her parents as a throne.  The rattle makes a magic wand sound when you wave it.  It’s quite magical sounding.  Brrrrrrrring!  And very easy for a baby to activate.

Because it goes off at the least little movement and there is no “off” switch.

All the way to the counter it sings, brrrrrrrrrrring! brrrrrrrrring!  The saleswoman wrapping it in a box is surrounded by the magical aura…brrrrrrrrrrring! brrrrrrrrring!  Her co-workers laugh at her and swap stories of annoying gifts they’ve given in retaliation for other annoying gifts.

Harper and I walk to the car.  Brrrrrrrrrrrring!  Brrrrrrrrrrrring!  We carry the magical aura with us.  Back in the car, I turn on the radio in hopes of avoiding fifteen minutes of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

Fleas Navidog. (Thanks to Linda B.)

Just my luck…they’re playing “Feliz Navidad.”  Harper doesn’t know this one, but he catches on real quick.  Perseveration comes to mind again.  That song is like “The Song That Has No End.”

Bumpity bump down our lane, Harper sings Feliz Navidad and the magic wand croons brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring!  brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring! brrrrrrring!

Mission accomplished.  I say, brrrrrrrrrrrrrring on the wine.