Flu-zee

Apparently, spending nearly all of last weekend in my pajamas was a premonition.

On Monday morning, I became a productive member of society, who is a joy to be around and who no longer needed to be criticized as being a lazy, good-for-all-the-nothing.  I showered and curled my hair.  I sent my children to school and made a couple of beds.  I did a couple loads of laundry, and made a grocery list that was heavy on fruits and vegetables and salmon because #januarygoals.  And all morning long, I kept telling myself, “Hmm.  I am catching a chest cold.”  This was all good and wonderful, because FOR THE RIGHTEOUS LOVE!  I’ve already had a solid three colds already this winter, and WHEN DOES THE HEALTHY PEACE SETTLE IN?  Isn’t it time to let my field lay fallow for a year of rest?  I picked Thing 2 up from school, and we went into Walmart, where we really did buy all the fruits and vegetables, even though my five-year-old suggested candy and Legos and bubblegum.  I stayed strong.

By the time I had hauled in all my grocery sacks, I realized that I was chilled straight to my bones, which was to be expected because it was below zero on Monday.  Welcome, Winter.  Welcome, with your freezing temperatures and your dadgum illnesses.  I put my groceries away, made hot tea, and sat in front of our fireplace, because I still chalk a gas fireplace up as the biggest marriage win of my entire married life.  Hubs wanted a real fireplace, with real logs.  I begged him for a gas fireplace, with fake logs and a remote control.  He held strong.  I pleaded.  He finally conceded, because he was building a garage that was three times the normal garage size.  Neither one of us has ever regretted the fact that we can walk inside our house, push a button, and have a roaring fire in one second.  There’s no need to go all Charles Ingalls and make one from a felled tree, that takes a sweet forever.

By 5:00 on Monday, I was asking Alexa what the symptoms of influenza were.  In her computerized voice, she let me know that all of the flu symptoms were the same symptoms I had.  Especially since I’d just clocked myself as the possessor of a genuine 101.8 degree fever.

By 5:15, I was at the walk-in clinic.  I have no medical background beyond Grey’s Anatomy and ER, but I was fairly certain that the interns of Seattle Grace Hospital would have wanted me to start Tamiflu quickly, if I was an influenza victim.

Which, as it turns out, I was.

Which is why all of our grocery budget for the rest of January went to my local pharmacy, to secure flu-fighters.  Which is why expensive salmon is now being traded for the dollar menu at McDonald’s, because #brokejanuary.

I have basically been in pajamas every since Monday night.  I have sat in the big chair in the living room, under a blanket, with a straw in a can of 7-Up and a cat on my lap all week.  If not for the feel-bad DIAGNOSIS, that had me alternating between freezing to the point of hypothermia, and sweating like a pink pig at an August fair, when the Tylenol kicked my fever aside for four hours, I’d call THAT #januarygoals.

Sledding, Sledding And More Sledding

If there was ever a weekend when my goals were met, it was this one.

The boy went to a basketball game at the high school on Friday night, while I put Thing 2 to bed at 7:30.  And then I was in bed myself at 7:53 on that Friday evening.  I told Hubs, “Don’t hate me because I’m in bed already.”  He answered me, from his post at the foot of the bed, where he was wrapped from head to toe in a fluffy, FLUFFY blanket, hanging his head over the bed’s footboard and watching a documentary on DID HITLER REALLY DIE WHEN THE HISTORY BOOKS CLAIM HE DID, and said, “Don’t hate me because I’m tucked into my fuzzy blanket for the night.”

We have become a sad sort of people, but if this is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

On Saturday, I stayed in my pajamas until 1:00 in the afternoon.  Lest you think I was completely slothful, please note that I did two loads of laundry, ran the dishwasher, made all the beds, picked up 32,000 Lego bricks, and dealt with a giant pile of cat barf, in between sitting in the living room, reading a book.  I did eventually put on real clothes and curl my hair up with the hot rollers, because Hubs and I were meeting two other couples for dinner at a local bar and grill.  We ate thick burgers, talked nonstop and laughed our heads off, and let me tell you this:  We were out so late, we nearly shut that bar down on Saturday night.

So, you know, we were totally home by 8:15.

This morning, we went to church in real clothes, and then we came back home, where I put my pajamas back on.  In other words, I spent the entire weekend alternating between my nighttime pajamas and my clean, daytime pajamas.

Hashtag, WeekendGoals.

But, back a couple of weeks ago, we DID wear the real clothes… under the big coats and snowpants… and we went sledding with friends.  When Small Town, USA gets some snow, we like to take advantage of it.  Mostly, I prefer to take advantage of it by turning my gas fireplace on and making another mug of chai tea, but whatever.  Occasionally we have to be civilized socialites and make an appearance in polite society… in jeans and real shirts.

One afternoon, we went sledding with Vivian and her mom.  And by sledding, I mean that Vivian’s sweet mama and I sat on a snowy picnic table at the top of the hill, drinking piping-hot, coffee-flavored-milk, while we tried to keep our rear ends from freezing.  We talked our heads off, solved half of the world’s problems, and had a wonderful time while our little people slid up and down the hill… over and over and over again.

Even though the mamas were a wee bit chilled to their bones, our children were worn out, and THAT was the entire purpose of our sledding excursion.

Come, thou Bedtime… we are ready for you.

A couple of days later, Small Town’s temperatures took a turn for the worse.  The mercury in the local thermometers plummeted straight to the bottom, and struggled to get to the FIVE DEGREES mark.  On top of that, the wind decided to blow.  For those of you from Miami and San Antonio, this is a mathematical equation known as a WINDCHILL.  It’s something we Yankees have.  When the wind is blowing X miles per hour, and the temperature is Y-freezing-degrees, then the FEELS LIKE temperature turns into NEGATIVE SEVEN.

So OF COURSE that was the day my friend Amber texted and said, “Are you up for sledding this afternoon?”

We are not wimps up here in the North.  We can endure FEELS LIKE MINUS SEVEN, and… as it turned out… we endured it for ALMOST AN ENTIRE HOUR!  Now, I could barely push the button on my camera, and we mamas struggled to talk, as our teeth were chattering like crazy, but our little adrenaline junkies were actually HOT and some of them ASKED TO UNZIP THEIR COATS.

Let’s see your kids do that, Miami!

Clearly, it was another day of wearing the children out good and proper, as this was an even bigger hill for them to climb up.

We had a few wipe outs that day, too.

Our children are trained in sledding etiquette to TUCK AND ROLL, and we mamas never even bat an eyeball at their crashes.

Eventually, I had no feeling left in my hands or my face, Amber couldn’t feel any part of her legs past her knees, and Theresa was daydreaming about a cup of coffee big enough to be called a soup bowl, so we rounded up our kids, forced them to all smile for the camera at once, and called it an afternoon.

A few days later, the mercury AND the windchill were back up into the double digits, so we went sledding with Thing 2’s buddy, Evie.  The day was practically a SPRINGTIME day, compared to our last outing with the sleds.

Evie’s mama suggested that we go to the LOOOONG hill, which is also called Mount Wearthemout.  Christmas vacation is not a time to scrimp on physical activity!  For every You Tube video those children had watched on OTHER CHILDREN unwrapping THEIR Christmas gifts and demoing them for a video audience, they had to climb Mount Wearthemout six times.

I should just say right here that Evie is a fashion queen, who gives Princess Kate’s wardrobe choices a run for the money.  Her mother claims that she will go through seven clothing changes each morning, before she decides on an outfit for kindergarten, and lo!  A day on the sledding slopes is NO TIME to dress ugly.  Evie came bedecked in her winter finery.  Meanwhile, Thing 2 simply said, “I’m wearing what my mom made me put on before we left.  If it wasn’t for her, I would’ve shown up here in a pair of gym shorts and a T-shirt that was three sizes too big for me… and I’d also be wearing my light-up cowboy boots with socks that came up to my knees.”

I’m fairly certain that Evie quickly caught on to the purpose of Mount Wearthemout, as she lamented the fact that this hill didn’t have a chairlift to take them back to the top.  Her little engine was chanting, “I think I can!  I think I can!  I think I can!” as she kept pulling that sled back uphill.

I won’t lie.  An afternoon spent sledding does a remarkable thing to a child, come bedtime.  All that fresh, cold air and all that uphill hiking are just what the doctor ordered.

Unless, of course, he ordered that you simply spend an entire weekend indoors, in your pajamas.

Happy Sunday, y’all.

We Are Back To The Grind After Christmas Break

Well, nothing shouts out WELCOME BACK TO SCHOOL AFTER TWO FULL WEEKS  OF CHRISTMAS VACATION quite like THE WIND IN THIS BLIZZARD HAS PUSHED THE WINDCHILL TO MINUS EIGHT, SO WE WILL BE HAVING INDOOR RECESS FOR EVERYONE.

If you have no idea what a gym filled to capacity with kindergarten kids, 1st grade kids, 2nd grade kids, 3rd grade kids and 4th grade kids, all at once, looks like, then you may have been slightly wiser in choosing your career than I was.  When a 4th grader lobs a basketball across the width of a gym, in a no-bounce pass to a classmate, and there are thirty children between him and that classmate, and the ball knocks a 6-year-old in the head and flattens him, suddenly a job in accounting sounds very reasonable.

Except, after reading an online news article today entitled THIRTY-FIVE TERMS PEOPLE OVER FORTY DON’T UNDERSTAND, I now know I should just have typed out “v reasonable,” because that’s how the cool kids are doing it these days.  I had no idea, y’all.  V is the new VERY.  I’m clearly late to the party, but I have every intention of using this term properly now, so that I can move back to being a cool kid.

“Hush!  No snacks right now.  Dinner will be v soon!”

“How much did I spend at Target online, honey?  Not v much.  Not v much at all!”

“I’m gonna need some v creamy coffee, v quick-like, if you want me to keep my v good mood rolling.”

Anyway.

Suffice it to say that two long days of back-to-back PE classes pretty much wore me out this week, because I was just coming off a vacation where I simply made another cup of coffee, regardless of the time of day, and sat down to read a stack of Christmas cards whenever I felt a little run down over the past two weeks.  That wasn’t possible this week in the gym, seeing as how all the Christmas cards are over now, and it’s just back to another eleven straight months of glossy Walmart ads, credit card statements, and envelopes telling me YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY ISN’T GOING TO PAY ANYTHING TO THIS DOCTOR, SO TOOT THE PARTY HORN REAL LOUD LIKE, BECAUSE THIS ENTIRE BILL IS ALL YOURS in our mailbox.  I am always plum excited to take the Christmas tree down and vacuum up the pine needles, as we embrace all the newness and hope and raw possibility that January brings, but I am NEVER excited to see the end of the Christmas cards rolling into our home.

But… it is what it is.

Back during Christmas break, when times were easier and no one had a gym full of fifty-eight kids at once for recess, my aunt and uncle mailed our family some Christmas steaks from two states over.  Hubs and the boy were downright thrilled over this package that was dumped by the Fed Ex man on our doorstep, because MEAT.  Thing 2 was excited about the package because it came with dry ice in the bottom of the Styrofoam cooler.  I knew that we were INDEED dealing with REAL DRY ICE, when I reached inside to grab the insulated package, only to find that it was, in fact, NOT insulated.  There I was, holding an enormous chunk of dry ice in my bare hand, with nothing but a paper-thin layer of cheap plastic between us.  The blisters on my finger were a big indication of how much fun this was, because the folks who write guidelines for handling dry ice aren’t messing around when they type out in total caps lock, WEAR YOUR SKI MITTENS FOR THIS.

Thing 2 had only HEARD about dry ice, from his older brother, and he was thrilled to FINALLY be able to participate in playing with the stuff and get THAT checked off his life’s bucket list.  He was a touch leery about it though, once he realized that I’d nearly frost-bitten my right index finger to the point of death.

The boy was hauled out of bed by a screeching Thing 2 (“Get up, Bubbie!  We have dry ice!  Get out of bed!  It’s almost noon, and I need your help to use it!”), and he got the ball rolling, in his bathrobe and bedhead, which was his daily outfit of choice over break.

Once Thing 2 realized that, HEY!  THIS ISN’T AS DANGEROUS AS THE ADULTS IN MY LIFE HAVE LED ME TO BELIEVE, he was all set to play with the stuff for the next ENTIRE HOUR.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Thing 2 had fun, especially if the slopped water all over my kitchen floors were any indication.

I’d even go so far as to say he had V BIG FUN!

Y’all have a v good weekend, now.

The Night Of The Christmas Concerts

Thing 2 has Ear Infection Number Six Million, Seventeen Hundred and Ninety-Four.  It’s every bit as grand as you can imagine, if you can imagine a kindergarten boy who walks around with his head tipped sideways, so that his ear rests on his shoulder, in a hunchback sort of way.  And, even though he is still up and running wild and causing all sorts of delicious mayhem around the house, every now and then he must pause, drop to the floor and howl out his discomfort, like a coyote whose foot is caught in a steel trap.

This is all fine and dandy during the daytime hours, but then last night, I put him to bed at 7:45, because MAMA NEEDS TO BREATHE FROM ALL THE COYOTE HOWLING and LORD, BLESS YOU.  I was in my own bed at 7:59 on a Saturday night, exactly like my twenty year old self was afraid would happen in my old age.  I am an utter disappointment to my twenty-year-old self.  And then Thing 2 got out of bed one hundred times between 7:59 and 11:55 PM.  Lord, have the mercy!  He finally conked out cold, with a fuzzy slipper sock pressed up against his ear, at FIVE MINUTES BEFORE CINDRELLA’S CLOCK CHIMED THE MIDNIGHT HOUR, and I was wide awake, wound up on the adrenaline of ARE YOU EVER GOING TO FALL ASLEEP AND STAY IN YOUR BED AND LET YOUR OVERLY-WORKED MOTHER CRAWL BENEATH HER OWN QUILT?  Of course, I also felt EXTREMELY SAD for the little man, because DADGUM IT ALL!  Ear infections are wicked, nasty awful.

No matter.

I’m learning that being a mother basically means you are constantly tired, and then you complain to your other mother friends about how tired you are, and then you listen while they complain about how tired they are, and then you all drink heavily-creamed coffee and pretend that you’ve got a game plan for dinner, when, in fact, it’s probably just going to be Round Seventeen of Fruity Pebbles Night, because of ALL THE TIRED.  And also because Fruity Pebbles are GLUTEN-FREE, and the children will eat them!

Anyway.

Way back LAST YEAR, when the December calendar page was marked all over and covered with BE HERE AT THIS TIME and BE THERE AT THAT TIME, BECAUSE THIS IS THE CRAZY MONTH OF DECEMBER, the boys had their school Christmas programs… AND!!!!… they both fell on the exact same Tuesday night, because of WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS.  Thing 2’s elementary school’s program was at 6:00, while the boy’s band concert was at 7:00.  We shuffled our cards and dealt ourselves a hand that involved telling Thing 2’s music teacher, “Thank you for letting the kindergarten kiddos sing first.  We will listen to them, and then we are pulling our kid out and ditching the rest of your gorgeously choreographed program, to race across town and find seats in the high school’s miniature auditorium for our second program of the evening.  Thank you for understanding that Thing 2 will have to miss the ending song that has every kid in your school on the stage, at the exact same time.”

We pulled it off, people.  It made for a very crazy, out-of-breath sort of night, but LAND’S SAKE!  We did it!  Hubs and I, and Mam and Pa and Grammy and Papa and Aunt Pink (who was in town for Christmas) and Sister and Cousin L, all flew around together, as we spent the night concert-hopping.

The boys got all dressed up beforehand.  The boy’s band instructor requires her band members to wear black-on-black this year, which means the boy must have a black shirt, black slacks, black tie, black socks, and black shoes.  It’s a total BLACKOUT.  Any dress code violation results in being dismissed from the stage and finding out that you’ve basically flunked band and will never become a successful college graduate, and you may end up living in a van down by the river.

After I had ironed the boy’s outfit, I began rummaging around in Thing 2’s closet, when he promptly came into his bedroom, threw himself onto the floor in a manner that would have made Scarlet O’Hara herself stand up and applaud, and bawled, “I don’t want to wear clothes like Bubbie is wearing!”  Because… heaven forbid that Thing 2 should dress up!  His idea of dressing up involves putting on a fresh pair of sweatpants out of his dresser, that don’t have a hole in one knee, and adding a clean Under Armour T-shirt that doesn’t have half of his lunch spread out, clear down the front of it.  He’ll even add his light-up cowboy boots to the ensemble, if he must REALLY dress up.

Thankfully, Thing 2’s elementary school’s music teacher is a dear, DEAR friend, and her requirement for the program is simple: “Show up looking nice.”  And while some kids did come in their bow ties and their dress slacks and their polished shoes and their gorgeous ringlet curls and gigantic hair bows, I was able to get my younger son into a pair of khakis and a freshly-washed Under Armour polo without any tears.

I marked it down on the calendar as a PARENTING VICTORY.

Dear Under Armour, thank you for making shirts with collars and saving our lives.  Your company is the wind beneath my wings.  The end.

I don’t think there’s ANYTHING that warms a parent’s heart more than seeing a group of kindergartners walk out onto the stage of an auditorium to line up and sing the Christmas songs they’ve spent all fall rehearsing with their beloved music teacher.

Our kid made sure to check out the lights, even though no other classmate felt the need to examine them.

He also found Hubs’ parents on the opposite side of the auditorium, and THAT required an enthusiastic wave.

The auditorium, which is ENORMOUSLY ENORMOUS, was packed to the gills and had entered the point of STANDING ROOM ONLY, as the crowd broke the long list of fire codes in seventeen places.  We gave up our seats to some elderly great grandparents, who had come to watch the program, and we stood along the wall on the opposite side of the place as Hubs’ parents, where I could get my camera lens pointed right at Thing 2.

When the little tots were finished with their songs, OUR SON felt the need to raise his hands in a victory salute… and then…

… he took a bow…

… by himself.

He is never one to waste an opportunity on the stage, as he’ll always go for the applause he feels like he’s earned.  I just wish that he was easier to spot in a crowd.  (*insert maniacal mad scientist laugh here*)

This second son of ours does not lack the self confidence.

After the kindergartners had exited the stage, Hubs and I chased Thing 2 down, so that we could grab him and head off to the boy’s band concert.  I did manage to get a picture of him with his teacher, though.  This girl deserves every ounce of praise, as she is truly using the spiritual gift God gave her and teaching a room packed with kindergartners.  She is full of patience and wisdom, grace and love, kindness and joy, and we cannot imagine a world in which Thing 2 wouldn’t have her for his own teacher.  She is a blessing to us.  She is, in fact, AN ENORMOUS BLESSING to us, straight from Jesus, Himself.

We rushed out of Thing 2’s concert in a whirl of heavy winter coats, as we navigated icy sidewalks in a rush, to zip straight over to the high school for the band’s performance.

The boy is musical.  I know that I’ve mentioned it eleventy-hundred times on here before, but he gets ZERO of that musical talent from his parents.  He defeated the odds of having a mom and a dad who can’t carry a tune in a bucket, and who don’t understand the difference between sharps and flats.  He rose up above his non-musical heritage, and he can play the HECK out of the clarinet and the piano and the saxophone.

The boy is also what is commonly called a PHOTO AVOIDER.  When he sees me in the audience, pointing a telephoto lens from a Canon straight at him, he ALWAYS looks the other way and pretends that he has no idea who that woman in the audience is.

I’m sure the Lord will forgive him for this offense.

BUT!  Lo!  That Tuesday night, my firstborn saw me with that camera from his spot on the stage, and he SMILED STRAIGHT AT ME!  I was so stunned at this opportunity, that I nearly missed the shot for the photo he was blessing me with!

He’s a handsome little punk, for sure.

The high school kids did a marvelous job with their band concert, and we rolled home about 8:45 that night.

We had done the impossible, as we pulled off two Christmas programs on the same night.  THAT is a Parenting Victory, for sure!

Happy Sunday, everyone.

Christmas Day 2018

We are now the proud owners of an Instapot, because LET’S BE BANDWAGON FANS AND JOIN THE NEW KITCHEN APPLIANCE CRAZE.

Except we’re a little late to the party, because I have friends who have been Instapotting (Can I use it as a verb?!) for months now.  Hubs came home one evening this past summer and announced that one of the guys in his office had made them all Instapot oatmeal, and it was THE BEST — Lo!  THE VERY BEST!! — oatmeal he’d ever had.  This probably has everything to do with the fact that he’s had nothing but instant Quaker oatmeal with maple and brown sugar and the occasional sugared-up dinosaur egg since he married me, twenty-two years ago, and he has forgotten what the real oatmeal of his youth tasted like.  I am all about the instant breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Hubs insisted that this oatmeal was the real deal, and that it involved REAL APPLES, HONEY!  REAL APPLES, AND NOT THE DEHYDRATED APPLE FLECKS YOU PASS OFF TO THE CHILDREN IN THEIR MORNING OATMEAL PACKETS!  And then this fellow at work continued to ruin my life — the life that finds no joy in cooking dinner, because it involves COOKING — as Hubs would come home and say, “Randy made jalapeno macaroni and cheese in his Instapot for us!  Randy made more oatmeal for us!  Randy made sausage soup in his Instapot for us at the office!  RANDY BOILED WATER IN HIS INSTAPOT AND WE ALL CLAPPED, BECAUSE RANDY IS AN INSTAPOT MASTER!”

So Mrs. Claus, who was tired of hearing how successful lunches at the office were going, told her elves, “Make an Instapot happen.”  And, just like that, come Christmas morning there was one sitting beneath our dehydrated, drier-than-the-sand-in-the-Sahara tree.

And now Hubs is the master of those steel-cut, raw oats, that are mixed with the real apples (And not those moistureless apple specks!) and the real cinnamon!  And Hubs is the master of sausage and potato soup!  And Hubs made us a delicious shepherd’s pie!  And Hubs cooked potatoes in precisely four minutes, which we turned into one fantastic potato salad!  And Hubs made Thai food in the Instapot!  So basically, Hubs is happy with his Instapot, and I am happy that Hubs is trying all these new recipes, as I sit back and pretend I have no idea how to operate a dangerous piece of pressure-cooking kitchen equipment, so please… continue with all the cooking, Husband.

In other words, this Instapot is the gift that has just kept on giving… to ME!  Especially since I am typing this blog post RIGHT NOW, AS WE SPEAK, while I’m eating a bowl of piping hot, leftover sausage and potato soup!

Shall we wrap up Christmas now?  Because it’s already January 3rd, and who even cares any longer what happened on our Christmas Day?

After we’d stripped our fire-hazard tree of all its lovely decor before 9 AM (which is surely an American record) and hauled it out to the curb, with absolutely zero remorse, we vacuumed up the 400 gajillion-bazillion pine needles and then loaded ourselves into the car and drove across town to Mam and Pa’s house, for breakfast.  Mam didn’t make the world’s best oatmeal, but what she did make were the world’s best cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs and sausage patties.

And then she turned the children loose on the gifts beneath her tree.

Thing 2 could not EVEN BELIEVE that Mam and Pa knew he wanted a light-up race track, with the cars that have working headlights!  Apparently, he had forgotten that he’d only asked for that track six thousand times between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

We have had the configuration for every NASCAR course in America built out on our living room floor since Christmas morning, and those little cars-with-the-real-working-headlights are still racing strong.

Apparently, Cousin K had also forgotten that HE had asked for a candy-making machine six thousand times over the last month, too, because he was so surprised to find one beneath Mam and Pa’s tree!

This was also the gift that keeps on giving, because kids who are thrilled with a candy-making machine will MAKE THE CANDY, and then they want everyone to TRY THE CANDY, because they want to hear you proclaim them to be the best chocolate master since Willy Wonka himself.

Cousin L got a REAL ring, from a REAL jewelry store, and her six-year-old sister decided that she must be married now.

The boy got a fancy silver ID bracelet from that same jewelry store.  It has his name engraved on the front of it, in case he forgets how to spell it.  It also has a sweet message from Pa and Mam engraved on the back, and he loves it.

The Oonies were incredibly popular with the kindergarten crowd.  SO POPULAR, in fact, that Mam ended up with more Oonies balloons floating around her house than she could possibly count in a day, as those tots created all kinds of inflatable animals and creatures and argued relentlessly over WHOSE TURN IT WAS TO PUMP THE NEXT OONIE FULL OF AIR IN THE MAGIC MACHINE!

And here they all are.  All five of them.  I know I’m prejudiced, but I do think they’re all darling.

After we were thoroughly stuffed with breakfast and had hung out at Mam and Pa’s house all morning, we loaded ourselves up and drove twenty miles out to Grammy and Papa’s house, for more gifts and dinner.

It’s our yearly tradition to make the rapscallions on this side of the family plunk themselves on Grammy’s sofa for a group photo BEFORE they can touch a single gift.  We have done this their entire lives, and they all know that NO ONE RIPS THE WRAPPING PAPER UNTIL THE PHOTO IS DONE.  Every single year, Grammy frames one of these group shots, and then she adds it to her collection of framed Christmas pictures, which she lines up on a shelf in her house.

Sadly, big Cousin H was not able to come home for Christmas this year, as he is now twenty-two years old, a college graduate and the owner of a REAL LIVE CAREER, WITH A REAL LIVE PAYCHECK, AND A REAL LIVE HOUSE.  Since he just started this job in AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT STATE, without consulting any of his aunts to see whether or not they actually approved of him moving away for THE OPPORTUNITY OF  HIS LIFETIME, he couldn’t get the time off to drive home for Christmas.

Never you mind that.  His little sister (Cousin R) received in the mail for her December birthday a lovely gift from her big brother.  It was a fuzzy blanket, with his picture emblazoned across the front of it, and he MADE SURE he was OVERLY ATTRACTIVE in that snapshot!  He wore out-dated, floral Bermuda shorts and a sleeveless shirt, with boots and then he posed with his rifle.

I don’t understand why Ralph Lauren didn’t snap him up for the runways, after seeing that outfit.  Cousin R brought the giant blanket with her, and we put Cousin H in the picture!  My only regret is that I don’t have a snapshot that will let you see the floral shorts and the boots with that camo top and gun.

The teenagers were all delightfully good about giving me ONE super cute, smiling snapshot from each of them, before they cut me off.  But listen!  I had just gotten a new PORTRAIT camera lens for my camera from Mam and Pa, and I was in desperate need of PRACTICING with it!

Of course, I’m prejudiced, but I think the cousins on this side of the family are every bit as cute as my sister’s kids are, too.

God blessed us richly with the cousins.

And those cousins gave Thing 2 a hat that pretty much sums up his life.  It’s from the Nashville Predators, and it will become this little boy’s new nickname.  SMASH sums him up PERFECTLY.

Grammy and Papa seem to know the boy well, as they supplied him with a new watch AND a couple of new irons for his golf club set.

Aunt Pink got the girls long, fleece, footie pajamas…

… to match HERS!

And then Grammy and Papa had Thing 2 cover his eyes, as they wheeled (Yes!  WHEELED!) in HIS gift.

He was one happy little stinker, especially when Cousin M kept loading his dump truck up with wads of wrapping paper and discarded boxes for him to haul.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a house where a full-sized dump truck is being driven by a five-year-old, but it’s pretty dang exciting.  People were scrambling the rest of the night to grab furniture that was toppling over, as Thing 2 floored the gas pedal and JUST DROVE.  He was happy to fill the bed of his dump truck with WHATEVER the big kids gave him to haul, and he only begged us a thousand different times to take it outside in the two-foot snow drifts, so that he could drive it on the highway and get some real work done.

He also asked Papa if his truck had come with a blade to put on the front of it, so he could actually plow folks’ driveways.  Thing 2 is ALL ABOUT DOING REAL WORK.  Hubs and I hope that he keeps this desire to work hard at manual labor when he’s sixteen and can actually dig sprinkler trenches by hand for us when we need one.  Sadly, Papa did not add a blade attachment to the gift package, which is a shame, considering that Thing 2 is embarrassed by Hubs’ SMALL snowblower and was DESPERATE to use his dump truck to clear driveways this winter.

This truck has also been the gift that keeps on giving, as Thing 2 has used it in our driveway, to haul snow away, which he loads by the shovelfuls into the bed.

And THAT, y’all, was our Christmas.

We waddled home, after eating well, and put our boys to bed.

Y’all have a good Wednesday evening.

 

Christmas Morning 2017

Today was a lot more productive than yesterday.  Unless, of course, you define productive as WE SAT AROUND THE HOUSE IN OUR PAJAMAS ALL DAY, READING BOOKS AND PLAYING VIDEO GAMES ON OUR PHONES.  Hubs swears that he has no regrets over yesterday, even though I posted on the World Wide Web that he played a game on his phone until his phone died.

TWICE.

His phone died TWICE playing that game.

Also, my fit bit said that I took 739 steps yesterday.  I know that a lot of fitness gurus will read that and, with shocked expressions… with their eyebrows raised clear up into their bangs… yell, “I get 739 steps IN MY SHOWER every morning.”

Dude.  I didn’t TAKE a shower yesterday, so CLEARLY.

But this morning, we thawed the Suburban out, as she’d been sitting in our driveway for a few days, completely unused.  Thing 2 and I shoveled her out, warmed her up, and off we went to hockey practice.  And then we ran errands and popped into Walmart for a humidifier, because the static electricity in my hair is going to push me right into a convertible car, in a very Thelma-and-Louise-style scenario.  We cleaned house and did laundry and YES, FELICIA!  We were productive members of our society today, because the boy helped me clean out my walk-in closet.

WE GUTTED AND CLEANED A WALK-IN CLOSET.

Commence the clapping.

Also?  Well, I texted Hubs at lunchtime today to let him know exactly how my day was going.  I simply texted, “Can you clean chicken pox off with soap and water?  Why do they call it chicken pox?  How do you get rid of chicken pox?  Do chickens actually get chicken pox?  Can I have three cinnamon rolls after I eat lunch?  Why are a lot of cinnamon rolls not good for kids?  What if they’re gluten-free cinnamon rolls?  Why aren’t a lot of gluten-free cinnamon rolls healthy for kids either?  What kind of oven do we have?  Where is the oven fan?  What kind of oven fan do we actually have?  How do they put light bulbs in ovens?  If your whole family dies, who puts you in that box in the ground, if you don’t have a mom and a dad to do it, and you died, too?  What are spark plugs?  How many spark plugs do we have?  What do spark plugs do?  If you have a lot of spark plugs, does your car go faster?  Who made Legos?”

I finally had to tell  Thing 2, “Please.  For the love!  Go talk to Alexa!”

An hour later, Alexa hollered out, from her little round, computerized home, “Please!  It’s time for you to ask your mother all these questions!   You’re burning up my central processing unit!”

And then I looked at the calendar to count how many more days are left before Christmas break is over and kindergarten gets started back up.

Anyway.

Our Christmas Day was a busy one.  With all of our families in town, we open gifts at our house, hop over to Mam and Pa’s house for breakfast and more gifts, and then drive out to Papa and Grammy’s house, for dinner and more presents.  It makes for a busy day, but I can’t imagine spending it without all of our family around.

Thing 2 already has three toy train sets.  Santa Claus brought him the Polar Express train last Christmas, but what Santa Claus failed to do was ACTUALLY READ THE DIMENSIONS ON THE TRAIN HE WAS ORDERING OFF AMAZON.  Santa THOUGHT he was buying a small train last year, but when that small train arrived, he quickly found out that each train car was the size of a black lab dog.  And there were four cars.  And the track took up half the living room.

Throughout the year, Thing 2 talked each of his grandmothers into buying him OTHER toy trains, because, according to his five-year-old brain, “A boy can never have too many trains.”

Which is what he told Santa THIS Christmas.  Santa vehemently disagreed with him, because Santa zeroed right in on the Mom Look, which said with the eyes, “ENOUGH WITH ALL THE TRAINS!”  And then Thing 2 never quit asking for a remote control train that BLOWS REAL SMOKE, because none of the other three BLOW REAL SMOKE.

Which… you know… made it entirely different than all the others.

So Santa, in his last-ditch effort of sanity, before he just toppled over in exhaustion, had the elves make a smaller train, and YES!  It blows real smoke out of the engine.

Thing 2 was up at 5:55 on Christmas morning, which was nothing short of a miracle, as the kid SLEPT IN.  I was sound asleep at 5:55 on Christmas morning, dreaming, when I heard the screech.

“COMEHERECOMEHERECOMEHERE!!!!  EVERYONE GET OUT OF BED!!!!  GET OUT OF BED!!! SANTA CAME!!!  HE CAME AND THIS TRAIN BLOWS REAL SMOKE AND THIS IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!!!!!”

I wish we had surveillance cameras in the living room that could have captured the excitement, because all we got to do was HEAR IT play out from our bedroom.  Santa and Mrs. Claus high-fived each other in bed, because WHAT’S ONE EXTRA TRAIN SET, WHEN IT HAS BROUGHT THAT MUCH JOY TO A LITTLE BOY?

And yes.  It blows real smoke.  What Santa and Mrs. Claus did not realize was that real smoke coming out of a toy train smells a lot like a pile of plastic that has caught fire.  It’s a smell that Scentsy is incapable of masking.

All the blesses.

Thing 2 wasted no time getting his teenage brother out of bed, because IT’S CHRISTMAS!  IT’S CHRISTMAS!  WHY ARE YOU STILL IN BED WHEN IT’S CHRISTMAS?!

Even the cat was a little disgruntled about being hauled out of bed with all the shouting.

And so…

… as millions of families were doing about that time…

… we opened our presents to one another at 6:00 on Christmas morning. Our friends, Keith and Carrie, get the boy a Sasquatch gift every year.

Every Christmas.  Every birthday.

This year, Carrie sent him a turquoise Under Armour golf polo, which looks amazing.  The boy loved it, but, after unwrapping it, he sighed and said, “I’m only SLIGHTLY offended that this wasn’t a Sasquatch thing!”

The boy also got some cologne from Abercrombie, so that he doesn’t SMELL like a Sasquatch (or like a toy train that blows real smoke, for that matter) around the ladies.

Thing 2 also asked Santa for “an Under Armour shirt with a hood,” and Santa felt like this was a much more reasonable gift, than a fourth remote control train set was.

It should be noted that Thing 2 ALSO asked Santa for a “real snowblower.”  We HAVE a snowblower, because our driveway is long and steep, and shoveling it is something that’s best done by a high school wrestling team, which is trying to get a cardio workout in.  Sadly, Hubs is no longer a high school wrestler, and we are now old folks who need a snowblower.

Last month, when Thing 2 was getting his hair cut, he asked the stylist if she had a snowblower.  She said that she did not, and that she was stuck using a shovel on her driveway.  She asked him if HE had a snowblower, and he replied, with a straight face, “My dad has one, but it’s so small, it’s embarrassing when he uses it.”

WHAT?!!?!!

People!  Hubs’ opinion on all power tools, vehicles, barbecues and major kitchen appliances is simply GO BIG, OR GO HOME.  Our snowblower is NOT small.  It’s a decent-sized contraption that puts others to shame.  When I told Hubs what his boy had said to the hair stylist, he said, “Well.  Now I have a snowblower complex, and I’m afraid to use it outside.  My heart hurts a little that Thing 2 is EMBARRASSED BY MY SNOWBLOWER’S SIZE!”

Needless to say, Santa’s feelings were hurt about the whole snowblower conversation, and he DID NOT bring a real one to Thing 2.

But what Santa DID bring was a new PHONE to the boy.  The boy’s smart phone was moving into the antique stage, as his parents insisted for months upon months… upon months, “If you want a new phone, then… by all means.. spend some of your very own money and buy one.”

The boy doesn’t like to spend his own money.  The boy hoards his own money.  Hubs and I are proud of this trait of his.  What we were not happy about is that we could never get a hold of the boy, when he wasn’t home, because his phone’s battery was constantly dead.

CONSTANTLY…  ALL THE TIME…  DAY IN AND DAY OUT…  DEAD.

His battery was ready for a museum, because LOOK HOW OLD IT IS, and he was forever telling me, “I’m sorry I missed your text!  I used the calculator on my phone in calculus class and the battery died before second period.”

Santa and Mrs. Claus felt it was TO THEIR BENEFIT that the boy have a phone with a battery that had some staying power, and that, in a nutshell, is why the boy got the phone of his dreams on Christmas morning.

He was a little surprised.

Okay.

He was A LOT surprised.

He can use the calculator and snap chat away and listen to music and watch an endless string of You Tube videos and text and text and text some more, and… at lunchtime… his battery is still at 83%.

His mother his happy.

He now has zero excuses for losing touch with his parents, while he’s out and about.

And then, at precisely 8:45 on Christmas MORNING…

… THIS happened:

The driest Christmas tree in the history of Christmas trees was disrobed, dis-lighted, disinherited, and taken out.

She left enough pine needles on my floors on her way out the door to assemble another twelve foot tree from scratch.  You would not even believe the extent of my rejoicing to have that DRY MONSTROSITY GONE.  I felt relief… and I sang songs of merriment over that thing being tossed alongside the driveway, to be taken to the recycling bin later.

And then… after the floor had been vacuumed and everyone had showered, we piled ourselves into the car and drove over to Mam and Pa’s house on Christmas morning for breakfast.

Y’all have a good Tuesday evening.

 

Happy New Year!

They say that what you do on New Year’s Day sets the tone for the whole year.  If that holds true, then we are in for an entire year of being Pajama Slugs, with a side order of fried eggs and several cups of heavily-creamed coffee, because RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU EVEN SHOWERED TODAY.

That’s what I thought.

Everyone else did, except me.

I embraced New Year’s Eve with a migraine the size of Saturn.  My friend, Katie, hosted a shampoo party, because Pampered Chef and Tupperware are so YESTERDAY, and also OVER WITH.  This, apparently, is the new thing… organic shampoo that is life changing.  To prove it, our adorable friend, Christa, who is a former-hair-stylist-turned-homeschooling-and-ranching-mama-who-now-sells-shampoo-on-the-side promised to wash everyone’s hair at Katie’s house with this shampoo, condition it, blow dry us, curl us, and send us out for a very merry New Year’s Eve party, full of glamour and cocktail dresses and CAN I HAVE YOUR PHONE NUMBERS?, whether or not we even decided to buy her line of hair care products.  Plus, Christa baked homemade snickerdoodle cookies, because there’s nothing she can’t do, from changing tires on horse trailers to teaching her kids intricate algebra problems to giving a haircut that would make Julia Roberts stand up and slow clap for.

I went to the shampoo party, ready to embrace the upcoming new year with VOLUME and LIFTED ROOTS and CURLS FOR DAYS.

And then a migraine hit, right before it was my turn for the shampoo, which sent me straight home to bed.  I have some dignity, and I didn’t want to dump a belly full of snickerdoodle cookies straight into the shampoo bowl.  Katie, in her instinctual way to take care of people and nurture them, offered me everything from hot tea to Advil to essential oils aimed at easing headaches, but nothing was going to help, short of my bed.

And it was there… in bed… that I stayed… until this morning.  I welcomed in the new year with a cup of coffee today at 6:30.  It was the lifestyle that just made twenty year olds cringe, as they turned to their boyfriends and said, “Promise me you’ll never let me grow so old that I can’t overcome a migraine and dance the night away on New Year’s Eve.”

Today was spent, gloriously migraine-free, but in my pajamas.  And lest you think it was only me leading a lifestyle that screamed out, “I AM THE STEREOTYPICAL ADULT, WHO MAY OR MAY NOT BE LIVING IN MY PARENTS’ BASEMENT AND PLAYING VIDEO GAMES ALL DAY,” please note that Hubs downloaded a game app to his phone this morning, over his cup of coffee, that is the current version of the old PC game we played in the 4th grade, The Oregon Trail, where everyone died of dysentery before they reached the fertile soil of present-day Portland.  (Or perhaps it was only ME who was perfectly terrible at leading a wagon train of expectant digital characters halfway across the continent, and ended up in shallow, unmarked graves in present-day South Dakota.)  Hubs played this game so long this morning, his phone battery died DEAD.

Exactly like the dysentery intended for it to do.

Meanwhile, I read a book and remained productive by frying eggs for breakfast, doing two loads of laundry, reading some more of my book, and… eventually… putting a roast and carrots in the oven, because LET’S EAT DECENTLY ON NEW YEAR’S DAY, SHALL WE?

Help us.  We fell into a rut of DOING NOTHING today, and we can’t seem to get back up.

Anyway.

Our Christmas vacation has been a blur of days exactly like this one.  I’ve had to stop and ask myself more times than twice, “What day of the week is it?”  And let me tell you, THAT is a glorious thing.  After so much BUSY… BUSY… BUSY, it has been wonderful to know that, after Thing 2 wakes us up at 5:00 in the morning (Because heaven forbid that we should oversleep on break!), we really have nowhere to be, except in the kitchen for coffee.

By Christmas Eve morning, our tree was so incredibly dry, it’s a miracle the fire department hadn’t slapped us with a fire violation sticker on our front door.  Hubs and I decided to take the crunchy, seven-foot-tall piece of tinder down, right then, on December 24th, because all the pine needles on the floor were about to cause me to suffer from a mental breakdown.  Both of the boys protested this idea VOCALLY, with volume and tears and WHERE WILL SANTA LEAVE OUR STUFF TONIGHT?  So, in the name of being UN-Grinch-like, we let the tree stay for another twenty-four hours in the house.

Hubs and I always have Sister and her family, and Mam and Pa, over for dinner on Christmas Eve, and we always go to the candlelight service at church.  It’s honestly my favorite service of the year, because ain’t NOTHIN’ can compare to being in a darkened church, at night, with our candles lifted high to sing Silent Night and marvel over the fact that Jesus decided He’d go through with it all, by starting out as a little baby boy in a stable manger.

Thing 2 and his five-year-old cousin, Little H, sat together in our row of seats, where they proceeded to fold and refold and FOLD AGAIN thirty-seven tithe envelopes.  In reality, it probably didn’t make that much noise, but when you’re sitting right smack beside two overzealous paper folders… IN CHURCH… it sounded exactly like this:

Lord, bless the lovely folks around us, with our nonstop folding of all the paper and the envelopes and the asking, out loud in the middle of the service, for stamps with which to send off our “mail.

The boy and Thing 2 even managed to clutch their candles without setting the entire church building on fire, which we chalked up as a Christmas miracle.  This has everything to do with the fact that Thing 2 decided to WAVE HIS LIT CANDLE, back and forth like a cigarette lighter at a Grateful Dead concert, because, “LOOK, MA!!  THE FLAME IS MOVING!!!”

This is Thing 2 and one of his closest little buddies.  They were both so hopped up on Christmas excitement after the candlelight service on Christmas Eve, they could barely stand it!  I could barely stand how incredibly cute they both are!

After church, we came home to a pot of taco soup in the crockpot.

God has placed us in a “time such as this,” and my time, thankfully, involves the crockpot and Germ-X in a pump bottle.  Thing 2 expressed his utter dislike of ALL THINGS TACO SOUP-LIKE, until he was told, “Oh, that’s fine.  You don’t have to eat, but remember… there are no presents for little boys who do not eat their dinners.”

He ate an entire, heaping bowl of taco soup, in record time.

And then the cousins made reindeer food.  They’ve always done this together, over the years.  They’ve mixed and stirred and talked about what to put in it, to lure the reindeer straight to our house, before they take it and dump it outside for Dancer and Prancer and Rudolph to find.  I’ve never been able to break it to them that the wild turkeys and whitetail deer have pounced on that dessert scattered all over the driveway before they even close the door behind them, when they go back inside.

This year, I hauled everything out for the MAKING OF THE REINDEER FOOD, and was met with two teenagers and a pre-teen, who all said, “Pass.”

Pass.

On the reindeer food.

And this is where I sit down and sob out my grief of HOW ARE THESE CHILDREN GROWING UP SO QUICKLY?!

Thankfully, we still have Thing 2 and Cousin H, who are bonafide reindeer food chefs.  They discussed the recipe for a bit.  Do reindeer like flour?  Powdered sugar?  Colored sprinkles?  Is Donner allergic to gluten?  Can Vixen have dairy?

And then the chefs got down to business, like they were on a Food Network cook-off, under time restraints.  They measured and they mixed.  They stirred and they whisked.  They asked to borrow the Kitchenaide mixer and were shot down with an emphatic NO.

Do you see my island counter right there?  Yes?  The floor held 3,000% MORE oatmeal and flour and sugar.

Afterwards… when Thing 2’s belly held more blue cookie sprinkles than the red bowl did… those two tots took their finished snack outside and flung it all over my driveway.  There are no pictures of this, because it was all done and over with in exactly 0.008 seconds, because PRESENTS!!  PRESENTS WERE NEXT!

Hubs and I always get the kids a Christmas Eve gift, and they all know it’s coming, right after the reindeer food has been scattered.  I threatened to cut the three big kids off from these gifts this year, because they took no part in the recipe-making, but… in the spirit of Christmas… I gave in.

We gave fourteen-year-old Cousin L a little tiny disco ball.  She immediately fired that battery-operated contraption up, so that it flashed colors all over our living room, like a 1978 rollerskating rink.  Half the adults in the room found themselves in danger of a light-induced seizure.

Bedtime was a breeze on Christmas Eve, because we simply told Thing 2, “Santa doesn’t come when little boys don’t stay in bed and go right to sleep.”

And that’s how Hubs and I celebrated our first night in months, when we didn’t have to deal with shouting, “Get back into bed!” and “Go to sleep… NOW!” three thousand times.  That, in itself, was Christmas present enough for me.

Afterward, we made sure that the lights on our tree were OFF, OFF, OFF, so that there would be no house fires in the middle of the night, and we all went to bed.  We all knew that the kindergarten kid we live with was going to make it an early morning…

Happy New Year’s Day, y’all!

The Drip

THING 2: “Oh, man! We sure had fun sledding, didn’t we, Vivi?”

NARRATOR: “The kids DID have fun sledding. Indeed, they did. But Vivi would suffer some stress until Thing 2 got a Kleenex for his nose and made that drip GO!! AWAY!!”

I Don’t Mean To Brag, But Our Tree Is A Lot More Dry Than Yours Is

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

I mean, really.  It is.

Our Christmas tree is as dry as overcooked cornbread muffins, which have been left out on a picnic table at a rest area in the Sahara Desert.

For thirty-seven weeks.

It looks a lot like Clark Griswald’s tree, if you want the honest truth.

We have watered that tree with everything we have, funneling enough liquid into the tree stand to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool… twice.  Our tree just slurps it all up, in one greedy gulp, and whispers, “It’s just a little eczema.  I just feel the need to… you know… scratch these itches and shed every last pine needle I have, as I gear up for a naked Christmas.”

I need to run a humidifier in our house, because I’m afraid we’re simply one “I DRUG MY SOCKS ACROSS THE RUG AND SHOCKED THE COFFEE TABLE IN A LITTLE ZAP” away from lighting the entire Lodge Pole Pine up in an indoor bonfire.

Y’all have a good Sunday evening.  I’m just going to wrap this post up here and go set a pitcher of water next to the tree.  You know, in case we need to buy ourselves five minutes of time before the fire department gets here.

Using Excessive Force To Make The Arrest

Thing 2 and I ran into his “recess teacher” at Walmart this afternoon.  She gave him an enthusiastic wave from across the aisle, and said, “Hello, Thing 2!”  My boy tried to hide his head a little bit, but then he reluctantly looked straight at her, returned her greeting with a little smile, and gave her a shy wave.

We moved on down the aisle, with my red flags flapping in the breeze of MOTHER’S INTUITION.

As I pushed Thing 2 around in the cart, I asked, “How was recess today?”

He said, “Oh… fine.”

I said, “Did you stand on the wall today?”

Thing 2 nodded.  “Yep.”

I said, “Should we talk about it?”

Thing 2 said, “We were playing Cops and Robbers, Mom.  And our recess teacher has no idea how you play it RIGHT.  She thinks you just have to tag a robber and send them to jail, but she doesn’t know that sometimes a robber fights and doesn’t GO to jail, so then you have to tackle him.  And she just yells, ‘NO TACKLING AT SCHOOL!’  But if a robber won’t listen to the cop and go nicely to jail, then you HAVE to tackle him.”

I asked him, “Did you stand on the wall by yourself?”

“No.  Four of us stood against the wall… for tackling robbers too much.”

I asked my boy, “So what did you learn about this?”

And, people, I was hoping beyond hope that he would say, “MOM, I HAVE FINALLY TURNED A CORNER IN MY LIFE, RECEIVED ENLIGHTENMENT, AND I LEARNED TO FOLLOW RULES!”

But no.

Thing 2 looked at me with his big brown eyes and said, “I just learned that our recess teacher has no idea how to play that game the right way!”

So now I’m just trying to decide if this situation should be paired with a glass of white or red wine tonight.