That extra sparkle about me this season? It ain’t Christmas cheer. It’s that daggone glitter on the wrapping paper.
Seriously, wrapping paper with glitter on it should come with a warning label. CAUTION: Contents of this shrink-wrapped tube of paper contain microscopic bits of green sparkles that will stick to every surface they contact, including your clothes, hair, and under your fingernails.
Don’t get me wrong–I’m all about twinkling and shining. My collection of silver bells gives me great joy. Twinkly lights adorn cabinets tops, mantles, and doorways throughout the house. Candles glow everywhere. I love light and sparkle and shine and all the brightness of Christmas.
I just think that there should be a special place in hell reserved for the inventor of glitter. I have wrapped one gift and already I’m blinking like a Christmas tree. The Scotch tape has so much glitter dust on it, I’m surprised it even sticks to anything. The countertop has a green hue to it. Every single gift I wrap, no matter how plain the paper, will now have glitter on it. My daughter, recipient of the afore-mentioned glitter gift, will take glitter home with her and it will stick to everything in her home. That’s after it sticks to everyone who comes to my home for Christmas.
Why isn’t there some environmental commission investigating this??? Surely glitter does not decompose. Apocalyptic films have completely ignored this environmental disaster. When the planet has been nuked and life as we know it has disappeared, there will be nothing left but cockroaches and…that’s right, glitter.
Ho! Ho! Ho! May your Christmas be merry and bright.
It’s raisin bread day. And I’m hopping around the kitchen with Pentatonix “Carol of the Bells” on repeat, trying to nail my part. The KitchenAid mixer is thumping bread dough in time to the music. Maywood Man joins in with the tenor part.
Oh how they pound, raising the sound.
Who knows what the bees are doing out in the yard. Inside we’re a-buzz–humming and oooing and ding-donging away.
Pretty much everyone I know would laugh to watch us. Not that we’re singing…but that we’re bopping.
I hope the bread turns out. Distracted baking results in disasters, like that time I accidentally hit the broil knob on the oven during the last ten minutes of baking and burnt a whole day’s worth of bread making.
My “MERRY CHRISTMAS! THERE’S YOUR BREAKFAST!” has gone down in family history as the best angry outburst I’ve ever terrorized the family with.
This time, though, I actually am trying to pay attention. Ding-donging aside, I’m noting all the little things that make for good bread…the little things that are not on the PDF of my handwritten recipe that I emailed my daughter. The little things that I’ve learned in the 40–gack!–years I’ve been using my grandmother’s recipe. The little things that my daughter might not know to do and will doom her entire Christmas morning to an epic fail.
I did tell her that perfect dough is warm and soft like a baby’s butt.
I did say to add the raisins before all the flour…they blend better that way.
I did say that the bread is done when you thump the bottom and it resounds like a drum and not like a thunking blob.
Pa-rum-pum-pum-pum. (Now it’s Little Drummer Boy on repeat.)
I didn’t tell her that the perfect temperature for dissolving yeast is when the water is just hot enough for her finger to stand it without burning.
I didn’t tell her how to knead it. Or to be sure to take her diamond ring off before doing so.
I told her the perfect place for the bread to rise was in an oven preheated to “warm.”
Did I tell her to turn the oven off?
For my sake, I hope her bread turns out lest I get blamed for failing to transmit the full recipe. As insurance though, I have an extra loaf rising just for her. Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas!
post scriptum…insurance loaf to be delivered due to a case of 24 hour Bah-humbug attacking the 3 year old and preventing Mommy from attempting the bread.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m not Santa. I have played his representative at this household for …um…thirty years, but I suddenly find that my term is over. All my girls have their own little ones and, hence, have assumed the role of Santa for themselves. And all my girls have their own guys who are responsible for ensuring Christmas happiness and long life for themselves by buying the appropriate girly-pleasing gifts for them.
I am off the hook.
What does this mean exactly? Well, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I spend less on Christmas. Relinquishing the role of Santa corresponds with assuming the role of grandmother–to an ever-increasing number of grandchildren. (Insert smiley face.) Consequently, even though I had said that the grands were getting only one thing, I still zipped over to the Hereford Pharmacy to buy some cute little stuffed critters. I just couldn’t bear to give them each just a plastic thing. For toddlers you get a lot of bang for your buck with plastic toys, but on Christmas Day, when their naps schedules are all messed up, they need something cuddly to calm them down. They do. Trust me. I’m a professional. I’ve been doing this Santa thing a loooooooooong time.
There are categories of Santa presents. If I’ve told you this before, bear with me. It’s just that it’s important. Pathetic little tears on Christmas are at stake. Categories start simple. Little ones don’t even know Christmas is coming, so lights and boxes to play with are enough. Soon, very soon, categories become essential.
Category 1: Something to do. The gift has to keep them busy for at least part of Christmas Day, and preferably days thereafter. That is why six year old boys are given 1000 piece Lego sets. Anything smaller will be assembled in less than twenty minutes. This could also be called the technology category–Ipads, Ipods, Iphones, I-whatevers. I..I..I… (me…me…me…?)
Category 2: Something to cuddle. For little ones, it (hopefully) soothes them through a disrupted nap schedule. For older ones, it (hopefully) soothes them through the disappointments of the day. I failed to fill this category the year my oldest stopped believing in Santa. She went to bed in tears because she did not get a teddy bear. How was I supposed to know that it was her test item–the only item on her list that she told no one but Santa? This category continues to be important through the hormonally treacherous teen years.
Category 3: Something to wear. Initially this is more a gift to the parents than to the child. Once the school years begin, it is really important that the child have something new to wear back to school in January, preferably something that is “cool”-whatever “cool” happens to be that year. Underwear technically fits this category but, for lack of coolness, does not count. Clothing continues to be significant until the child is old enough to work at, say, White House Black Market or Loft. Once that happens, there is no reason to compete with their hefty discount. They should be buying you clothes at that point.
Category 4: Something to take to bed. This can be combined with Category 2. But usually this involves pjs. You can’t go to bed with a Lego set or a bicycle. The perfect Christmas Day ends with warm snuggly pajamas.
Category 5: A surprise. It’s no fun to only get what you asked for. That reflects a lack of creativity on Santa’s part. Some children make this a very difficult category to fill by providing extensive wish lists. A certain six year old I know thinks he didn’t miss a thing on his list this year. Responsible adults in the family informed him that even Santa doesn’t have a TV in his room.
This list is comprehensive but not complete…Santa must fill in missing categories.
So, since I’m no longer Santa, I don’t have to worry about categories. I am not responsible for their Christmas happiness. They are responsible for their own families. And they have men in their lives to fulfill their deepest longings. So all I have to do is get them a present. The happiness of the day does not depend on what I get them. What a relief! If Christmas Day is a gift-giving disaster, it won’t be my fault.
I repeat the mantra to myself: Not the Santa, not the Santa, not the Santa… It’s liberating, like when my daughters got married and I was no longer responsible for them.
Then why the extra trip out to buy stuffed animals? Santa-emeritus just knows.
Joyful images to “like” on Facebook: six year old grandson grinning the gap in his smile from his newly yanked front tooth; one year old twins in candy-cane striped pjs caught in the act of “emptying” the dishwasher and trying to escape Mom’s “wrath.”
Candlelight images pleading for us all to pray for the families of the little children and the teachers gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School for no discernable reason.
Joyful image of toddler grandson playing “peek-a-boo” in a closet.
News report of first grade teacher hiding her students in a closet, cradling their faces in her hands and calming them by saying, “Let me see your smile.”
Our perfect Christmas tree, decked out in glory, glows warmly in the background.
A firehouse, set up to sell Christmas trees but now a staging area for national media, beams Christmas red and green in the background.
Boxes of Christmas gifts pile up at my house from all the online ordering I have done.
The guidance counselor at my school notes, “Those children have Christmas presents that they won’t be opening.”
Peace on earth. Goodwill to men. As if the tragedy weren’t enough, it comes now–during the season of comfort and joy. Where’s the comfort? Where’s the joy? How can one even enjoy what one has when the pain of others is so, so hard?
My Bible reading this morning took me to seemingly random places that turned out to be not so random at all.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s from Philippians 1:2. It’s the standard opening line for the New Testament letters. Oh. It’s God’s standard opening line. Grace and peace. From God.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more… (Philippians 1:9). In an online essay (“Americans, united in horror for a moment”), AP reporter Ted Anthony quotes dear old Mister Rogers speaking on coping with tragedy:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, `Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping,'” he once said. “To this day, especially in times of `disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
Thank you, Mister Rogers, for still keeping our eyes focused on the good in the midst of evil. May love abound more and more–as we act on the grace and peace.
The people all tried to touch (Jesus), because power was coming from him and healing them all. … Looking at his disciples he said, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” (Luke 6: 19, 21) There’s that discord, tackled head on. That line about “blessed are those who weep” can sound really hollow when in the midst of the weeping. It’s like people trying to comfort the bereaved by saying, “He’s in a better place.” It really doesn’t take the hurt away. Ah…but what if the one saying it had such power that people were trying to touch him to be healed by it?
This is about when Karen Carpenter popped into my head–just a fragment of tune and lyrics. I had to scroll through my mental Rolodex to place the song.
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead,
nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on
earth, good will to men.”
It is still the season of comfort and joy. It’s just that today we are conscious of how much we need it. And, like the Who’s in Whoville, we know that it won’t come from packages, decorations or roast beast.
God rest you merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay;
Remember Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray;
O tidings of comfort and joy.
Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
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?”
“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.
This morning I had the weirdest tune stuck in my head. It was from Psalty’s Christmas Calamity, a record (yes, record!) that we had when the girls were little. The amazingly creative chorus went like this:
Christmas is a time, Christmas is a time, Christmas is a time to love. (repeat)
I don’t remember the words to the verses, but trust me the tune is really lodged in my brain. I can even hear Psalty’s nasal-toned chirpiness and his perky little choristers. (Given the number of times the girls listened to that record, it’s a wonder that the tune has remained dormant in my brain so long.)
Why, oh why, am I being plagued by Psalty? Maybe it has something to do with the little side-trip I took after Julie’s concert Thursday night. Julie’s first teaching position is right around the corner from our first apartment when we got married. After attending her first concert, I couldn’t help but drive by our old apartment. And then I drove by our first house, just a few minutes away. Both places looked so much the same that it put me in a time warp. It was strange to travel through the years and end up home in the log home in the woods.
Christmas is a time for a lot of different things. One of them is nostalgia. Even as we enjoy our traditions and continue to make new ones, pulling out the decorations and listening to the music always brings to mind Christmases past. I often think of my friend Jeanette, gone ten years now this Christmas. We spent many Christmas seasons preparing the family service at church. My Dancing Day CD reminds me of children’s chorus whenever I hear the “Donkey Carol.” My Gerald Finzi CD reminds me of one of my favorite choir concerts. And the music rotation always includes Bryan Rowe’s Advent CD.
A few years ago, when a number of Christmas stockings left our chimney mantle for new family units, I grieved as though Christmas had died. Ok, I got over that. There’s something about our new tradition involving mimosas on Christmas morning that perked me up. And grandchildren.
But I only need so much Christmas perk and Psalty’s melody could very well keep me up all night.