Simply having a … wonderful? … Christmas time. Part 3.

(Don’t miss the prior parts! It will make this make sense!)

The next morning was Christmas Day and as per usual, I woke up vaguely excited. But then I realized that every bone, and several tendons and ligaments, hurt. I began wishing I were in any other place. I was even wishing I were in school. I wanted to sleep in so there would be less of a day to go through. However, my body realized that it was a special day and was wide awake, ready to get going.  I woke up my parents and got my sister, who had finally come back from “work” and slept on the couch the night before.  Nobody wanted to go and wake up my grandparents personally so we decided to make extra noise until they woke up.  Finally, they emerged and we were ready to open presents. As my dad started handing presents to my sister and me, Mafia sat down and said, “What are you doing? We can’t open presents yet. Put them back down.”

My dad turned to him, “What are you talking about?”

“We can’t open presents until the rest of the family gets here.”

“What?! There are presents we’re giving our daughters, not presents to be opened in front of the rest of the family.”

“No, they are presents and we’ll open them when the family gets here.”

“No, the presents we open then are family presents. These are personal presents that we are opening now. You and Mom can sit and watch or not, but we’re opening these now.”

Mafia grumbled about us breaking tradition, even though opening intra-family gifts were never part of the tradition in the first place, all morning. We rushed through the ceremony just to get him to stop whining.  When we were done, we were all hungry and looked at my grandparents expectantly.   We were willing to help cook, but wanted to know what they had planned.

They looked back at us blankly.

We looked at them.

They looked at us.

“uh… breakfast?

Mafia looked at us askance and said, “We didn’t buy anything for breakfast. We can go to Denny’s.”

So, we got dressed, loaded into the car, and headed for the local Denny’s to eat our Christmas breakfast.  I discovered that nothing said “Christmas” quite like the greasy, overcooked food served by a surly waitress who was bitter that she was serving greasy, overcooked food to people on Christmas morning.

Around noon the aunts, uncles, and cousins arrived.  We went through the second present opening, no one observing order and Mafia shouting to make sure the youngest cousin, Blondie, his favorite grandchild, was not getting skipped over, even though, as per usual, her presents took up the entire expanse of one of the walls of the living.  It never failed that she easily had 5x the presents the rest of us did.  It ended as it always did, with Mafia and Blondie exchanging their special gifts they got just for each other. Afterward we had our traditional Christmas dinner – a deli tray.

Eventually they all left and I was relieved because I knew I too would soon be going home.  It was the first and last Christmas we spent like that, all future Christmases spent on our terms. I don’t really like to break to tradition. I learned a too hard lesson that when traditions are thrown out, misery takes over the reins… At the very least, you will end up with a bad back.


Simply having a … wonderful? … Christmas time, Part 2

(Don’t get lost! Read my Thanksgiving post to meet my family, and read Part 1 to get some context!)

So that night, as my parents and grandparents started to do that yawning and stretching thing, and all of the signs of impending bedtime, I started thinking…. Uhm, my grandparents may have had two extra bedrooms, but only one of them actually had a bed in it. The only other option was the floor of the second bedroom or the 1960s couch… I chose the second bedroom.  A pallet of blankets was made up.  As I laid down I realized… there was absolutely no padding between the very, very thin carpet (leave it to my grandparents to get builder’s basic) and the concrete foundation.  To this day I have a bad back and I’m pretty sure it came from sleeping on that floor.

The next day I woke up feeling like every bone in my body had settled at a right angle in the middle.  I got up slowly, cracking my back, and wandered into the living room to find out when my parents could take me to go see my friends.  I was informed by my mom that it was family time. In other words, “if I have to suffer, so do you.”  I was beginning to think I had vastly overestimated this vacation.  My only consolation was that my older sister, who lived and worked not far from where my grandparents lived, was being forced to spend the time with on too. I inwardly cackled with glee that she would have to suffer too.

My sister was more clever than I had counted on, however. That night, she slipped out after dinner, claiming that she had to “work.” I glumly went in to play my snake-eating-apples game.  When that finally got too boring, I walked slowly out to the living room – not wanting to, but having nothing else to do.  In the living room I found Mafia asleep in his Laz-E-Boy, and my parents sunk into the 30 year old sofa.  Jeopardy! was playing on TV.

“Hey, mom and dad,” I whispered. They turned to me. “Seinfeld should be on.”

Realizing I was right, my dad got up and turned the TV to the right channel (Mafia was clutching the remote control in his hands). Soon we were laughing and, of course, it woke up Mafia.

“You need to learn stuff,” he grumbled. With that, he punched buttons on the remote and turned it back to Jeopardy!  He promptly fell back asleep.

My parents and I looked at each other, dumbfounded.  Not quite sure what to do, my dad got out his laptop and took it into the breakfast room. Upon hearing the familiar “Welcome! You’ve got mail!” (Hey, it was 1997, that was normal) of his hooking up the Internet, I jumped up and said, “OH I know a fun game we can play! You have to download it though.” My dad quickly agreed. As I punched in the right URL, my mother joined us. The download window popped up. It estimated twelve minutes to download.

The game was the only thing going for us, so we watched the progress as it downloaded. 11 min 50 sec…. 11 min 45 sec… 11 min 39 sec… The seconds slowly ticked by…  11 min 32 sec… 11 min 28 sec… The three of us huddled around the laptop, staring at the screen like it was the last morsel of food on a desert we were all stranded on.  The final Jeopardy! Theme song played in the background. “Do do do do, do do do. Do do do do  Dop! Dodododo, do do do do, do do do. Dop, do do do, do do do.”

It reached five minutes! We were in the homestretch!

Wait, it still says five minutes.

Five minutes…

Still five minutes…

It’s stuck on five minutes…



“NO!” We all shouted at the screen in silence. Our hope all lost, we stared at the screen in silence.

“I’m going to look at Christmas lights,” my dad announced, bolting out of his chair.

I’m coming too,” my mom and I followed. Grabbing our coats and quickly tossing them on, we hurried to the front door. Just as we were about to reach it, the dreaded creature jumped out in front of us, blocking our path.

“Where are you going?” Wino asked in her perpetually chipper voice.

Frozen, we looked at her in terror. My dad spoke first. “Uh… we’re going to look at Christmas lights.”

“Oh, give me a second, I’ll go with you.”

“NO! Uh, no, that’s ok, you don’t have to. We won’t be long anyway.”  With that, we slipped past her, out the door, into the cold December air, and practically dove into the care. As we drove to the other side of town, which unfortunately took about five minutes, we grumbled about what a miserable idea this vacation had been.  When we got back thirty minutes later, I headed straight to bed. At that point, the rock-hard floor was a welcome friend.

I am a Christmas tree Scrooge

Driving through my neighborhood these days makes me feel like the laziest person on earth.  We have a bunch of decoration overachievers in my neighborhood where people put out these really elaborate and beautiful holiday displays — in a classy way (uh, mostly), remember my HOA. I haven’t taken any pictures of the Christmas decorations, but enjoy this set of Halloween displays (I try to make this blog timely for you guys!):




Now remember this is for Halloween. The Christmas decor gets ramped up by about 10x the light and decoration power.

Last year I was so excited to be in my first house that we went all out and really tried to decorate the place up. We still didn’t do even half of what others in my neighborhood did, but I was proud of how my house looked.

This year, I’ve just been… eh. It’s not that I don’t like Christmas, but I just don’t have the same enthusiasm for some reason. Last weekend I got out a box of Christmas decorations and put up the stocking holders, a gold glittery reindeer I love, and a ceramic Christmas tree and was spent.

Now, I’m even questioning whether or not to put up a Christmas tree.

You see, we don’t own a Christmas tree.  For the first three years of my marriage, my husband and I lived in a house my parents owned.  It’s their retirement house and while they don’t live there because they haven’t retired yet, it’s on a lake and it’s where they come to vacation.  They have a fake Christmas tree that all of us put up and decorate every Thanksgiving so I’ve never had to own a Christmas tree before.  My husband and I intended to buy one last year, but then the entire family went on vacation over Christmas  so we didn’t bother since we wouldn’t actually be in our house on Christmas Day.

This year it’s different. I keep looking for a fake tree to get, but I’m a huge Christmas tree snob and I haven’t found one that I think looks full or real enough that doesn’t cost $500. I started thinking about just buying a real tree, but then I was watching the news and they were talking about how the problem with real Christmas trees is that they can come infested with bugs and there’s pretty much nothing I hate more than bugs.  All bugs. I’m an equal opportunity bug hater.

Plus when we went to go look at Christmas trees I couldn’t find one that looked as good as the nice fake Christmas trees.  Isn’t that sad? Then I start thinking about having to hang the lights and ornaments and put out the Christmas tree skirt that I don’t even know where it is because it probably never got unpacked from the move and I don’t even know where I’d put a stupid tree in my house and I’m just exhausted now.

So now I’m facing a prospect of not having a Christmas tree.  We don’t have kids and will probably spend Christmas Day at my parent’s lake house with the family, so I’m not feeling that sense of urgency.  But I still feel like I’m a total Scrooge and loser for not having one. I’m having an existential crisis over here.

I wish I could just buy a fake tree already decorated that I can take straight from the box and put up. Does anyone know whether such a thing exists? Oh, I’ll just check Amazon.

P.S. Ha, ha, already decorated trees totally exist. Oh, Amazon, I love you.

Because I’m sure there is nothing fake-looking about a tree that you put up like this:


(image source: BrylaneHome, for all of your pop-up tree needs)

Creepy Christmas

I really didn’t think that there could be any creepier Christmas item than Elf on the Shelf. I mean, just LOOK at this thing:






Well, recently I was at my local neighborhood convenience store, turned a corner, and ran into THIS:


Double GAH!

Can you imagine opening this on Christmas morning and being greeted by this face?


I’m going to have nightmares tonight.

I’ve decided that the best use of this doll might be as a tool to whip kids into shape.

“Jimmy, if you don’t start behaving RIGHT NOW, Santa is going to bring you THIS! Now you go sit in the corner and think about that.”

It might qualify as child abuse, but I’m filing it away for when I have kids.

Dysfunctional Family Thanksgiving or how I had dinner with a guy in a skirt

The best way I can describe my extended family is that they are a piece of work. I can’t say that we’re dysfunctional in a way that people traditionally mean it: nobody *openly* despises anyone else, they’ve never gotten into fistfights or had the cops called on them, and they aren’t even mean to each other. The dysfunction is much more subtle, a disconnect between what our family is like and what they believe or pretend we’re like. I’ll probably explore this more in the future, but for today we’ll leave it at this: It’s a very odd family.

To give a little background to this post, I have to explain that my parents live full-time in another state because of my dad’s job, but they keep a house on a lake near where I live and grew up.  Most of the family is still down here, living near the lake, but we don’t see each other much unless my parents are in town.  When they are, we all congregate at the lake house.

Before I get into the story of Thanksgiving, let me introduce you to the cast of characters:

  • Mom: ’nuff said
  • Dad: ’nuff said
  • Sister: Older than me, we’ll call her “Queen”
  • Brother-in-law: Married to sister, call him “Bama”
  • 6-year-old nephew: First son of Queen and Bama, call him “Ninja”
  • 3-year-old nephew: Youngest son of Queen and Bama, call him “Han Solo”
  • Grandmother: My paternal grandmother. Call her “Grandma Wino”
  • Eldest aunt:  My dad’s older sister, early 60s. Call her “June Cleaver.”
  • Uncle: Married to June Cleaver, early 60s. Call him “Blues.”
  • Eldest Cousin: Son to June Cleaver and Blues, late 30s. Call him “Paulinator”
  • Cousin-in-law: Paulinator’s wife, late 30s.  Call her “Mirror”
  • Female Cousin 1: Daughter to June Cleaver and Uncle, mid-30s. Call her “Hester P.”
  • Youngest aunt: My dad’s younger sister, mid-50s. Call her “Big Boobs McGee,” or “BBM” for short.
  • Female Cousin 2: BBM’s daughter, early 20s. Call her “Blondie.”
  • Step Cousin: My dad’s older step brother’s (now passed) son who I have seen maybe 3 times in my life, early 20s. We’ll call him “Kilt Man.” You’ll see why.
  • Great uncle: Grandma Wino’s brother. Call him “Klaus.”
  • Great aunt: Klaus’s wife. Call her “Mouse.”
  • Sister-in-law: My husband’s older sister. Call her “Mama Liga”

So, along with me and my husband, that’s who came to Thanksgiving.

The annoying fun thing about my family is that when my parents host family get-togethers, they are literally hosting. As in, providing all the food, drinks, and alcohol. Since I’ve become a working adult I’ve tried to help out as much as I can, and my sister does too, but the brunt of the get-togethers fall to my parents.

Husband, Mama Liga, and I spent the night at my parent’s house Wednesday night and got up early Thanksgiving morning to help in the preparations.  In the grand tradition of me, alcohol was well provided for in the form of mimosas. We watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, had several mimosas, and cooked my contributions to Thanksgiving dinner: broccoli casserole, macaroni and cheese, and pumpkin pie.
A good time was had by all.

The rest of the family, minus Klaus and Mouse, arrived at about 1:00pm. BBM had her cleavage on display, Grandma Wino walked in saying “What?,” and Blues was wearing his ever-present Indiana Jones hat (he had actually just had a *minor* brain surgery the day before and he said it was to cover the big lump of gauze on his head, but let’s face it, he wore it all the time before surgery, so I’m not buying the excuse). Everything was par for the course.

My mom, God love her, did try to actually get the other families to contribute this year and asked them to bring some appetizers and side dishes. Between my grandmother, June Cleaver’s family, and BBM’s family (which represents, remember, 8 of the 18 people present), this is what they contrived to bring: olives, pickles, canned green beans, and canned corn.

The family immediately headed to the star of the day: my dad’s wine collection. Within the first 20 minutes of them arriving we went through a bottle of white wine and a bottle of red wine. As I was getting ready to go get my own glass, in walked Kilt Man. Why did I nickname him Kilt Man?  He arrived, no lie, WEARING A KILT.

I have proof:

No, we don’t live in Scotland. No, he’s not Scottish. I know enough about his family history to know he’s very, very Italian. I have no idea what the kilt was about.

Notice the jaunty knee-high socks.

Kilt-Man turned out to be a creeper. He liked to hover over me and all the other women at the party, staring at us.  My husband said at one point he was trying to look down my shirt and Mama Liga caught him trying to look down her shirt. My parents’ living room has two sofas facing each other. I was sitting on one sofa and Kilt-Man sat on the other sofa and very deliberately crossed his legs in that man way where the legs are spread open and one foot rests on the other knee. It wasn’t long after that Kilt-Man told me I looked beautiful today and about 10 minutes later that he asked for my phone number.

Naturally, and unfortunately, having a man in a skirt caused a large portion of the Thanksgiving dinner conversation to feature what, exactly, he was wearing under it. My dad asked him whether he had “drawers” on under his kilt and Kilt-Man answered. Hester P. didn’t hear the answer, turned to someone, and asked “What did he say?” Kilt-Man heard and said, “Would you like to see for yourself?” It was all very disturbing. I had a lot of wine to deal with it.

Speaking of wine, my family can go through some wine, man. Well, they can when they aren’t paying for it. Grandma Wino, in particular, is serious about it. I don’t mean serious as in she knows anything about it, but serious as in she sure does like to drink it. Right before lunch I was walking up to the counter to pour myself a glass, and Grandma Wino sped past me, pushing me out of the way, to finish off the bottle.

I looked at my empty glass, sighed, and just grabbed another bottle to open.

The sight at the end of the night of all the fallen wine bottle soldiers was very sad. I almost had to build a memorial to commemorate the multitudes of bottles that gave their contents for our bearable happy holiday.

Lunch was just ending when Klaus and Mouse showed up. Klaus was wearing a Texas tuxedo, always a fashionable choice for formal and informal events alike. Klaus is someone I only saw a couple of times in my life until last year when he decided for some reason that he quite likes my Dad and now. They. Come. Every. Time. My. Parents. Are. Down.

I’m not a big fan of Klaus or Mouse. He’s actually not really that nice of a man and is fairly unbearable because he thinks everyone loves him. Recently he showed me some really personal financial papers that he wanted (free) legal advice on, which made me very uncomfortable given that what he showed me wasn’t anything I had any business knowing, especially since I don’t practice that area of law. I think he was trying to find an excuse to tell me so I would tell my Dad and Dad would offer them money. I outsmarted them on that, though, ha.

Klaus and Mouse have a habit of coming to the house with small quantities of random food offerings. They’ve brought boxes of raisins, Ziploc bags of popcorn, and a bag of beef jerky before. I guess I shouldn’t judge too harshly, though, since most family members come completely empty handed. They didn’t bring anything for Thanksgiving though.  In fact, they pretty much just showed up, ate, and then announced they had to go.

They had to go back home so they could put up their chickens.

For serious.

Anyway, that was my Thanksgiving. There’s always crazy stuff going on with my family get togethers, but I never foresaw I would ever eat Thanksgiving dinner with a man in a skirt. And don’t give me that lecture about how a kilt is not a skirt. If you’re not Scottish, it’s a skirt.

And, furthermore:

Although I don’t have personal knowledge of what he had under there and really, really don’t want any.

So tell me, what was the weirdest thing that happened at your Thanksgiving?