Stay Hydrated! Pace Yourself! This Post — It is LONG!

I was all set to make a giant pot of macaroni soup just now, when the boy emphatically declared, “Mom, I’m not even remotely hungry.”

(What ten-year-old boy properly uses the word remotely in a sentence?  Step aside, Bill Gates. The boy is about to grow up, and I do believe that he can give you a run for your money, which is good, because the better retirement communities, which boast of varsity shuffleboard teams, tend to be pricey, and I need a child who can afford that for me, because I’m pretty convinced that the shuffleboard and I will go the distance.  I have some athletic goals in mind for my advanced senior citizen years, and I am expecting to get a letter for the polyester retirement center leisure jacket.)

Beyond his vocabulary tonight, I was powerfully amazed by the fact that THE BOY!  HE IS NOT HUNGRY, since he tends to be a bottomless pit, as he continues to grow longer arms and legs.  (As a side note, if you’re the mother of multiple boys, how do you afford to feed them?  Because FOOD!  IT’S NOT ALWAYS CHEAP!  And they eat so much of it!)

Still, I had decided to forge ahead with the macaroni soup, and just as I was dragging out the enormous pot and plopping it down on the cooktop, Hubs sent me a text which read, “Home soon.  Not hungry.”

Well, then. I made myself a cup of chai tea, and dinner, my friends, is plum over at the Jedi Manor.  Anyone who wishes to eat now is completely on his own.  The macaroni soup has been struck down as an option, so at 8:00 tonight, when the stomachs are growling, I’ll point toward the Frosted Flakes in the pantry and feel zero guilt.

With no plans to cook anything on my immediate horizon now, I have decided to sit down at the computer and stuff a blog post full of pictures, because I have learned to resize the enormous photographic wonders that the Canon takes, and listen, people!  It wasn’t even difficult. I’d worked it up in my brain to be a hard sort of something, on a level playing field with rocket science, and then, when I tried it, I learned that anyone with a second grade education can master it.

So the pictures are small enough to open on any computer now, even if you continue to live in the world of dial-up Internet, and, if that’s the case, I just have to ask WHY?  Why do you do that to yourselves?

And yet, I remember a time when listening to the screech of the phone lines as the computer spent eighteen minutes connecting was NORMAL!  PERFECTLY NORMAL! and no one harbored any ill thoughts toward the slowness factor, because it was such an advancement over driving yourself to the library and turning pages in the leather-bound, gold-embossed books called encyclopedias.

Encyclopedias.  Which the boy has never even heard of, because they are all in the dumpster with my White Lion cassettes.

We did have a fantastic Christmas, people, regardless of the small fact that the week leading up to Christmas was a blur of energy, emotion, and exhaustion that I am trying to forever purge from my memory banks.  I have no one to blame but myself and my special talent for PROCRASTINATION, as I saved all the shopping and the baking and the Christmas-letter-writing until the last minute.

Clearly, I have some holiday goals in mind for next year, which involve buying presents in July and unraveling the tree lights in September.

Christmas Eve is always spent at our house, because, with both my family and Hubs’ family right here in Small Town, USA, it’s the only holiday where we can be in our own home.  Sister and her family, and Mam and Pa (my parents) always come over for a big pot of soup, because the Jedi people are enormous soup makers.

We are plum crazy mad about crockpots full of soup!  Sweet mercy!  Is there anything better in the winter months than that?

The boy and his cousins, L and K, were all dressed up, in anticipation of our church’s Christmas Eve candlelight service, which would be later in the evening.  The boy had been wanting a suit — a GENUINE, THREE-PIECE, COMPLETE-WITH-A-VEST suit for ages now! — and Mam came through for him.  It was wrapped up beneath the tree at her house, and as the boy began to bemoan the fact that everyone else was dressing to the nines for church, when he had no suit to dress himself in, Mam handed him a package.

And he opened it.  And lo!  The Christmas star shone upon the dress slacks and the vest and the new tie, and the boy wasted absolutely no time in getting himself dolled up for the service.

Frankly, I think he’s adorable in his suit, regardless of the fact that I’d like to cut his hair.  And also?  Little L is about to rupture the Tooth Fairy’s piggy bank, as there are not many teeth LEFT in that mouth of hers!  She had just lost yet another one, moments before she showed up at our house for ham and broccoli soup.  She was a bit worried that the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus would run into one another at her house that night and get the loot mixed up.  L wondered if she’d find money in her stocking and gifts beneath her pillow!

After we all ate dinner, the kids made reindeer food, because we have heard that houses with a good meal sprinkled outside for four-footed, flying deer always get visited by Santa first. (And first, of course, is best.)

Reindeer food, for the record, is an ancient recipe, which varies from year to year.  This year, the recipe called for corn flour, Quaker maple and brown sugar oatmeal packets, caramel flavoring for coffee, white sugar, salt, cinnamon, and crushed Ritz crackers.

Some  kids were even brave enough to (gasp!) TASTE the recipe, although they immediately frowned afterward and declared, “I have no idea WHY reindeer like this stuff!  It’s almost as bad as cat food!”

Not that we actually eat a lot of cat food around here ourselves.

The moral of this story is simply this:  The boy will taste a wicked mixture of random pantry ingredients which have been known to lure flying rats with antlers to our home, but he will not touch a red bell pepper or cucumber or boiled egg yolk with the toe of his Keen shoes.

After the recipe is measured and mixed and stirred, and then mixed and stirred sixty-four times more, it is taken outside and scattered in the driveway and cul de sac, where the reindeer will be sure to find it.

The moral of THIS story is also simple:  If you are wearing a DARK NAVY BLUE SUIT, and someone in a fancy, red Christmas dress slings a full measuring cup filled with reindeer food on you, the whole world will notice it, and you’ll require some help from your grandma and a wet rag to get yourself presentable enough to head to a candlelight service.

After the kids sprinkle the reindeer food outside, Hubs always sets out a gift for them on our coffee table.  The first few years that we did this, they always seemed genuinely SURPRISED to come indoors, with their cheeks all rosy from the cold, and find something special just for them.  Several years into this tradition, the kids are onto us.  They know what’s coming.  They WANT what’s coming.  And really?  Reindeer food was scattered in record time this year.  In fact, I have it on good authority that the shortest cousin didn’t even really get to sprinkle any, because the two taller cousins whipped the food onto the pavement with a single flick of a measuring cup, which was then immediately followed by turning the bowl completely upside down to speed things up.

Dear Neighborhood Deer, Which I Loathe Because You Eat all of my Bushes:  You’re welcome for the special Christmas Eve dinner.  Don’t count on us luring YOU into our yard with a tasty treat ever again.  Please, go somewhere else and leave my greenery alone!

Aren’t these kids stinking cute?  I may be a bit prejudiced, but I think they rock.

After quickly tossing reindeer food with absolutely no thought to where it landed, the three little punks came inside and raced for the coffee table.  Hubs was ready for them, and he had some gifts laid out.

Or rather, some TOYS were laid out.  And kids?  Well, they all seem to love toys!

There may or may not have been some serious excitement over their gifts.  And there may or may not have been some serious squealing.  And perhaps even someone who jumped up and down twice.

And then I told Hubs to just knock it off, because the toys weren’t for him.

And yes, Mam and Pa made a striking couple on Christmas Eve.

Sister and Sister’s Husband were equally as cute, and the beauty of this picture is that Sister’s Husband does not have his finger shoved up his nose, which he loves to do any time the Canon camera is swung in his direction.  Apparently he knew that Santa was watching him that night.

Eventually we all piled ourselves into the Suburban, and we went to the Christmas Eve candlelight service at our church, and lo!  I loved it.  And I may have gotten a little teary-eyed during the part where we all sang “Silent Night” together and held our candles high.  I honestly cannot think of any other event that I love more than the candlelight service each year.

And one of the best miracles of all during the church service is simply this:  My hair did NOT ignite when I knelt down to collect the service’s bulletin off the floor before the boy had extinguished his candle.  My hair came THISCLOSE to the flame on his candle.  THISCLOSE, people, and with as much hairspray as I’d applied, that could have been a monster-sized disaster at a time when all the salons that deal with hair emergencies were closed.

(And yes, I am fully aware of the small fact that most of the vertical pictures are smaller, while this one is a titch or eight bigger.  I’m still getting to know this new dot-com blog site, and I can’t decide how to load things yet.  Call this post a practice run, if you will.)

On Christmas morning, Santa, in a poor judgment call, left a chemistry set for the boy, with a label on the front of the box which clearly states that this set is meant to accompany a HIGH SCHOOL CHEMISTRY CLASS, and is, in fact, a NON-TOY item.  The boy was plum overcome with Christmas happiness when he opened it up and was granted permission from Hubs to (gasp!) strike a match and light the Bunsen burner.

It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye or ignites the house.  We covet your prayers for our little family, by the way.

Oh.  And we’re all over the protective eye gear, as well as the JUST GO GREEN slogan, because we wear our suits two days in a row, which saves on the laundry bill.

I’m not sure if the boy is ready for a science experiment or flight lessons with those aviator goggles.  Er, safety glasses.

We had breakfast at Mam and Pa’s house on Christmas morning, where chocolate-coated donuts may or may not have been on the menu.   The kids pounced on those like sewer rats pounce on the crumbs in a discarded bag of a Doritos.

After the donuts and the egg casserole and the French Toast casserole had been depleted, and the gifts had been opened, Hubs and the boy and I left Mam and Pa’s house and headed for Hubs’ parents’ house, in Small Mountain Town, which is twenty miles away from Small Town.  There, we joined up with the other gang of cousins.  This gang is significantly larger than the gang of cousins on my side of the family.

Every year, we make the kids sit on the sofa together and have their picture taken.  We’ve done it since the dawn of time with this pack of punks.  Long ago, they all used to fit VERY NICELY on the sofa, and they were all so small, there was plenty of room between them.  This year, we realized that lo!  We may have to get a second sofa to accommodate them all next year, because none of them will stop growing.

(And also?  This group of kids isn’t always enthusiastic about gathering for a group photo, but we are on to them.  We tell them every year, “No presents will be opened until y’all have sat on the sofa and smiled nicely together.”  THAT, my friends, is the sentence that works like a charm.)

And yes, this pack of cousins is every bit as cute and adorable as the other (tiny!) pack of cousins.

Try to  keep them all straight.  There’s B on the far left, and then the boy, dressed in his Christmas best.  Beside the boy, in the red, is R.  H is next, and OH MY WORD!  He just turned fifteen, which seems absolutely impossible, and he DRIVES NOW!  On H’s lap is six-year-old Miss A.  Then W and M finish off the line-up.  And yes, if you’re wondering, H is four years older than everyone else, and then the rest of the gang is a series of stair steps, with less than a year between each step.

We opened loads of gifts at Papa and Grammy’s house, and we ate our weight in holiday food.  Hubs’ sister, Aunt Pink, made a dip out of cream cheese and sausage that she jokingly referred to as White Trash Crack.  I know!  The name! It isn’t exactly a friendly term on this family-oriented blog, but that, my friends, was the name of the recipe.

And really?


That dip was addicting, like you cannot even imagine.  Aunt Pink had to make a second batch of it, because Hubs and his two brothers and all the kids and even myself could not leave it alone.

And then, blam!  After six hundred and eighteen crackers dipped in the White Trash Crack, I was ill.  As Hubs said, “That’s what crack does to a body.”  And now?  Well, the thought of that dip gives me the shivers.  I loved it huge for a couple of hours.  I cherished our time together.  It momentarily changed my life.

And now I plum hate it, on account of it ruined my gut on Christmas afternoon.

The boy opened a gift from Grammy that surprised him so much, he actually gasped out loud!  Thankfully, I figured the gasp was coming, and I was ready with the Canon.

Yes.  Yes, he was very excited.  Yes, he was very pleased with Grammy’s mad gift-selecting skills.

This is a cute batch of kids, too.  I may have already mentioned that.

(Yes, you are still right.  The vertical pictures ARE smaller than the horizontal ones.  Work with me here.  I’m experimenting with them, because the vertical ones are looking ENORMOUS if I don’t scale them down a bit.)

After all of these snapshots, can you begin to understand why we came home on Christmas evening and crawled into bed at the SENIOR CITIZEN HOUR of 6:00 PM?  Oh, I didn’t actually fall asleep until 7:30, but still!  I was plum worn out, and our family slept for TWELVE SOLID HOURS.

Twelve.  Hours.

I may have mentioned a couple of days ago that I felt like a rejuvenated Wonder Woman with incredible Super Girl Powers after all that sleep.

With all that rest, I was MOST DEFINITELY up to having the boy’s cousin W and our cute neighbor boy over on Sunday afternoon for some DRY ICE FUN!

Dry ice.  It’s the NEXT GENERATION TOY.  It can occupy 4th and 5th grade boys for hours on end.  There is no limit to the fun dry ice can bring to boys.

Of course, your kitchen will be completely covered in water and various glasses and bowls, in every size beneath the rainbow, by the time all the dry ice has been melted.  The fantastic part, though, is that when the boys use bath towels to mop up the kitchen floor, it’s actually SUPER CLEAN and looks as though the maid has been there.

(Hmm.  Maybe I should host Dry Ice Afternoons EVERY TIME my kitchen floor is dirty!)

And, while the boys played with the dry ice, we took down our Christmas tree, because DRY!  DRY!  DRY!  And also, FIRE HAZARD!  While Hubs hauled it outside and carted it off to the place where all Christmas trees end up, I swept up the pine needles.

I know that you can’t tell by the picture, but that pile of pine needles was roughly the size of a second-grade child.

And THAT, people, is how our Christmas weekend panned out.

It was really quite merry and bright, and also very lovely.


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