Holiday Hangover

29 Dec

After weeks of shopping, knitting, sewing, cooking, entertaining, cleaning, our first Christmas in the new house was a success. Here are some of the highlights:

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As I have been known to do, I picked out a Christmas tree with zero foresight or appreciation for spatial reasoning. That’s my 10 year old for scale. And that’s the tree that ate my entire dining room. It only took two vehicles and four neighbors to get said tree into my house and upright.

hat

I made a bunch of gifts, including the above hat that I finished on Christmas night. Note to self–start knitted gifts before November to avoid frantic knitting on Christmas night.

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scarf

The final tally of homemade gifts: 2 hats, 2 scarves, 3 pairs of mittens, 6 dishcloths, 3 t-shirt quilts, and 6 bottles of vanilla extract. Not too shabby.

Then, we have just a small fraction of why you will find me living in the gym for the next year:

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Yeah…my jeans may just suffocate me due to Christmas week feasting. If the tenderloin, shrimp, and bourbon meatballs weren’t enough, we also had a giant turducken, about 100 turducken paninis, cookies, cakes, sangria, margaritas and more. In spite of all the busy chaos, we still had fun:

bella IMG_3941 IMG_3935 cycle car bear

Now, I need to sleep for a week, diet for 100 years, and dig my laundry room out from under the pile that has swallowed it.

Battling the Post-Christmas Crash—Or What Happens When a Manic Woman With OCD is Suddenly Project-Less

22 Dec

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For the past several weeks, I’ve either been knitting, sewing, or shopping like a maniac. I frantically finished teacher gifts, only to cast on for the final hat I’ve yet to complete. While we are scaling Christmas down this year (in theory anyway), I still found myself more stressed and pressed for time than I had expected. With only two days left, I’ll be cooking, cleaning, and knitting on than infernal hat with the delusional hope that I can finish it all in time.

In the craziness that pervades the Christmas bonanza, I also start thinking ahead to after Christmas. We all have plenty of Christmas traditions, but inevitably still experience that post-holiday crash. The kids are bummed that it’s over, and my project-oriented, OCD subconscious feels cast adrift with no direction or purpose. To remedy this ennui, and help alleviate the kid’s stir-crazy antics, we try to incorporate a few post-Christmas traditions so that they still have something to look forward to once their gift-a-plooza ends. Here are just a few of the small things we do:

  • New Year’s Eve fireworks—This is Louisiana, after all, and it’s our God-given right to blow crap up in the name of celebration. For $20 bucks, we can get the kids enough firepower to annoy our neighbors and keep them occupied for hours.
  • New Year’s Day Meal—This last-gasp feast includes all of those foods that superstition tells us will bring good luck and fortune in the new year. Diets are for January 2nd.
  • The Feast of the Epiphany King Cake—As the official start of the Mardi Gras season,  Epiphany is a great excuse for the first King Cake of the year. If I have time, I make it, but if not, every store around here will have one.
  • New puzzle—Now that our dining room is empty of Christmas decorations, and we don’t anticipate formal entertaining for a while to come, we get a new puzzle to work on throughout the month.
  • Selfish knitting/crafting—Now that I’ve spent months on gifts for others, I’ll cast on for that sweater I’ve been eye-balling in a Harry Potter knitting magazine. I’m a nerd like that.

So, while the next two days will probably still be full of frantic holiday prep, taking time to plan for some type of small, post-Christmas something may help ease the sting that comes from knowing that we all have to get back to the real world next week.

For now, I’m going to make a cocktail. After all, that real world ain’t coming until next week, and I think that I deserve it for the kids’ bathroom I’m about to clean.

At Least I Finished Something

10 Nov

I finished these waffle-pattern mittens yesterday. Sounds boring, right? Considering that G-Man is sick, Bear has a concussion from a scooter accident, and Bean resembles a tornado, I’d say that’s a miracle. Now, if only reclaiming my house from this mess were so easy…

The Disappearing Thanksgiving—Teaching My Kids Why Retailers and The Media Have Calendar Confusion

6 Nov

We all knew it was going to happen. The day after Halloween kicked off the retail Christmas campaigns, and from the local stores to every other television commercial, we are bombarded with holiday marketing. In fact, if you need any fall-themed décor for your Thanksgiving (still weeks away, mind you), then you’re sh*t out of luck. Those shelves have been cleared to make room for Christmas, Christmas, and more Christmas.

Apparently, unless you sell food, Thanksgiving has become the invisible, neglected, middle child of the holiday season. It’s one step away from being locked in the basement.

Don’t get me wrong–I love the holidays, and I plan ahead and craft year-round to make them affordable. I’m not opposed to anyone who wants to get the jump on their plans by shopping early, and I’m adept at tuning it out and minding my own business. However, when the retail machine threatens the core of Thanksgiving, maybe we’ve gone too far.

The Heathens seem to really have taken notice this year. G-Man is baffled as to why we are seeing so many Christmas commercials already, and both boys have heard all about how some stores will be open Thanksgiving Day from the morning news. I’ve tried to explain to them how retail works and why retailers undergo an obsessive media drive to get us to spend, spend, spend, but the boys continue to see it as nonsensical moves by confused companies who cannot read a calendar. I think they are onto something. Even as kids, they see something wrong with this picture.

Shopping on Thanksgiving? Thanks, but no thanks big box stores.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that you will never, ever, find me out of my house on Black Friday. Nothing destroys the whole “peace on Earth, goodwill toward men” vibe faster than watching normally sane people fight like Roman gladiators to be first through the doors of a store, or to snag those “limited number” deals. Retailers spend a lot of money to create that sense of desperate mania in us, and we are supposed to feel like we are missing out on something important if we don’t hurry up and participate. If that’s your thing, more power to you.

However, Thanksgiving is an important holiday. Wherever you fall on the American history opinion spectrum, I think we can all agree that a day of fellowship and gratitude is a good thing, and those two traits are often scarce in our hectic lives. Instead, many will be forced to work, and will have little to no opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families. Meanwhile, these mega-companies will continue to encourage us to abandon our tables, families, and traditions, so we can show up to their doors and spend, spend, spend some more. That’s just really kind of sad when you think about it. What is even sadder is that retailers have it within their power to avoid this. PICK A DIFFERENT DAY! They made Black Friday a thing. Then they made Cyber Monday a thing. Why not make “Second Saturday in December” a thing?!? Why does it HAVE to be Thanksgiving? I bet their CEO’s aren’t working that day…grumble, grumble.

So, that’s my soapbox for today. While I can’t stop the beast that is retail marketing, I can show the kids that we aren’t playing into it. The Thanksgiving decorations are up, and we’ll keep this month focused on learning, serving others when we can, and preparing for a holiday that is truly about togetherness. If you’ve got any better ideas, I’m all ears, but let’s save Thanksgiving from that basement, shall we?

Halloween Dinner Ideas for Normal People…With Children…Because Pinterest Has No Place in That Interminable Wait For Dark

30 Oct

Halloween is tomorrow, and if you are a big, fat procrastinator like me, you may still have time to figure out your pre-Trick-or-Treat dinner. In the hectic after-school wait until dark, I usually strive for a very easy meal that doesn’t make me feel like too much of a slacker-mom. I don’t care what those supermoms on Pinterest say…I certainly do not have time to craft a cute, themed, labor-intensive dinner that I know in reality, my kids won’t remotely care about. They are simply watching the clock until they can be unleashed on our poor neighborhood like candy-starved fiends. During this hyperactive waiting period, my kids are already pinging off the walls from excitement, so making them sit down to a big dinner would be an epic fail. Here’s some of my favorite ideas for Halloween dinners that your brood may actually eat:

Caramel Apple Bacon Panini’s

I know these sound bizarre, but they are awesome! To help balance the flavors, I added a little bit of the rendered bacon fat to the butter that I spread on the outside of the sandwich, just prior to grilling. If you just HAVE to cut them out into shapes, more power to ya sister. I skip that step.

Pioneer Woman’s Tomato Soup

This is, hands down, my favorite tomato soup recipe. I serve it with bacon grilled cheese sandwiches. In fact, this is what I’m making tonight for our pumpkin carving session. Don’t skimp on the basil.

My Chicken Tortellini Soup

You can have this one ready in 20 minutes flat, and that’s if you are a slow poke.

Smokey Mac and Cheese

This one requires a little more effort, but you can make it ahead of time and then just toss the casserole in the oven when you are ready. Carbs and protein…what more could they want?

So, these are a few ideas in case you are getting down to the wire. I understand last minute Halloween stress, because I actually had to go to three stores today to find pumpkins. Apparently in retail land, Halloween ended a week ago, Thanksgiving has been booted off the table, and Christmas is next week….sigh.

As for me, I have to confess that, this year, I got lucky. No last minute dinner scramble! Our new neighborhood rocks, and we’re are having a cul-de-sac block party. All I have do to is bring an appetizer, and other neighbors are grilling for all the families around us. I’ll whip up some Bourbon Meatballs, grab a folding chair, and let the Heathens run wild. And monitor my husband and his dry ice, special effects antics…but that’s a story for another day.

Snapshot of a Not-So-Fall Week

7 Oct

Recent days have been far too busy, but I’m not complaining…much. I am always amazed at how Fall makes me want to slow down, but life seems to get busier than ever. That’s usually when my husband inconveniently reminds me that maybe I shouldn’t volunteer or overcommit so much (School Halloween carnival…cough…cough). Despite our delayed reaction to the supposedly changing season, we did manage to start the Halloween decorations:

And so far, my husband has only electrocuted himself twice. I’d call that progress.

I also finished my first knitted Christmas gift, so maybe I’m not such a bum after all:

Mostly, I’ve been hunkered down, doing my freelance work to boost the holiday funds, and ignoring the fact that it’s still 90 freaking degrees outside. Not that I’m bitter or anything…

Things You Shouldn’t Ask a Stay-At-Home Mom

30 Sep

Throughout my many years as a stay-at-home mom, I’ve been on the receiving end of those oh-so-annoying questions that normally well-mannered people feel compelled to ask.

The most common and probably least offensive: “What are you going to do when all of your kids are in school?”

In my mind, I think: Well, let’s see…shower uninterrupted, not be embarrassed by my screaming toddler at the grocery store, have more than one room of my house clean AT THE SAME TIME, and if I’m feeling really crazy, I may just finish my first to-do list in over a decade.

Most people think that school-aged children means the end of the need for a stay-at-home mom. I kind of did too…that is, until I was a working mom, and I soon learned that between sick days, school holidays, school events, and summer vacation, my kids were not in school as much as I thought they would be. Also, the older the Heathens get, the more activities and schedules I juggle. Let’s not forget the hour and a half a day I spend carpooling, and the sentient laundry pile that stealthily reproduces when no one is watching.

But, I did knit a baby blanket for my neighbor during carpool, so that’s something:

So, the long answer is that, no, I won’t be living the life of leisure whenever Bean starts school. I’ll continue to keep this zoo running, maybe just a little better than before. However, since most inquirers don’t want my dissertation on why a return to full-time work is not practical for our family, I simply answer:

“Eat bonbons and watch Oprah.”

That’s probably what they are thinking anyway.

From those with significantly less manners, I get the next stay-at-home mom staple question: “What do you do all day?”

If they ask that, I already know what they are thinking:

Eat bonbons and watch Oprah.

I could list all of the chores, meal planning, couponing, bill paying, budgeting, errand running, carpooling, and minutia to account for my days but it’s all of those time and soul-sucking things that really eat up the hours. For example, “fold laundry” turns into fold laundry, then refold the laundry that the toddler got into and threw everywhere like confetti. Those perfectly mopped floors will need sweeping again before the afternoon is out. How about the time spent putting on then taking off the dress up costume over and over and over?

Or that hour I spent on hold with the phone company? Or all of those half-finished chores that were halted so I could chase said toddler before she throws another toy in the toilet? While the reward for this hamster wheel is getting to be here for my kids, it’s hard to measure tangible accomplishments when the room I cleaned this morning will look like a toy tornado ripped through it by the time my husband gets home.

What I do all day is awesome, essential, important, and makes our house a home. However, it’s also frustrating, isolating, often invisible, and lonely.

So, instead of letting those lame stay-at-home mom questions irk me, I think I’ll start coming up with the most ridiculous answers I can.

“What do you do all day?”

I teach Bean the fine art of combat so she’ll be ready for the imminent zombie apocalypse. The better question is, what do YOU do all day?

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