Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Traditions And Cottage Cheese.

Since we are still a relatively young family, Jeff, the kids and I don't really have any long-standing Christmas traditions yet. Every year has been a different variation on the whole Get Together With Family, Exchange Gifts, Drink, Eat, Observe A Random Nervous Breakdown, and Breath A Sigh Of Relief When Crazy Grandma Fails To Pull A Steak Knife On Someone During Christmas Dinner.

Now that we have kids, I'm thinking that the time has come to establish some sort of tradition, something the kids can count on besides Mommy dodging questions about how Santa can enter our house through a glassed-in fireplace, how he enters homes without chimney's, and why Elsa gets any presents at all when she's been so blatantly insolent for the past month (okay, so this question I'm asking myself....I guess the answer is because she's two...because she's inherently evil...because this is finally my parents' cosmic revenge for the time I stole a box of Fruit Roll-ups and subsequently weaved a month-long web of lies, false accusations and evidence-planting before finally confessing to my crime).

When I was a kid, Christmas was filled with traditions. With things I could always count on year after year. Like advent calendars. And candle-light church services. And fighting with my siblings over who was going to get stuck with the snack pack of Raisin Bran cereal in his or her stocking while the rest got to feast on Sugar Smacks, Golden Grahams, or the Mother Of All Christmas Cereal: Lucky Charms. Seriously, this battle was waged every year....Raisin Bran was the lump of coal in our house. You got Raisin Bran, and Santa was basically peeing directly onto your head.

As we got older, our father introduced to us what became known as the Annual Check Hunt. Or, as it eventually became, the Annual Everyone Else Finds His Or Her Check Except Carrie, Who Will Ultimately Stomp Off To Her Bedroom, Ranting About Conspiracies And The Unfairness Of The Universe. Hunt.

The Annual Check Hunt was quite elaborate, now that I think about it. Our father would write a little story about Christmas, and embedded within the story were clues as to where everyone's check was hidden. Some of the clues were obvious: Race against the clock, Swept under the rug, The idea was shelved. As time went on, however, and our father got more creative (or perhaps simply crazier), the clues became a bit more...esoteric. If the story contained something about a mouse, this meant a check was stuck in the fridge, inside a wrapped slice of cheese. If the story had the word potato, someone's check was stuffed between the couch cushions. If a story made reference to the color red, someone's check was hidden in our mother's China cabinet.

Carrie usually had the hardest time finding her check. Not because the clues to its whereabouts were necessarily the hardest (though I do remember hers being in the cheese once), but because on a scale of 1 to 10, Carrie's level of patience was pretty much a negative google....Even less when my father would offer her more vague and cryptic clues as he looked on with a mixture of amusement and anxiety. And our mother's calm attempt to steer my sister in the right direction only incensed Carrie further:

My Mom: What's your clue, Car?
Carrie: I don't know, something about family legends.
My Mom: Oh, okay. Well, what sort of legends do you know about our family?
Carrie: I don't know? You're always taking about Benjamin Rush being some long lost ancestor.
My Mom: Okay. So do we have any Benjamin Rush paraphernalia anywhere?
Carrie: How the hell should I know? Do you have a constitution replica hidden somewhere? A powered wig stuffed in a cabinet? A bucket of leeches on the coffee table?* (Interestingly enough, all three of these things was a possibility)
My Mom: ...Noooo....
Carrie (sighing heavily and rolling her eyes): This is so stupid.
My Dad: What's the matter, Carrie? Not getting your whey?
Carrie: No, and Mom's just giving me stupid, annoying clues that don't make any sense.
My Mom: Benjamin Rush isn't stupid.
My Dad: Why are you telling her about Benjamin Rush?
My Mom: Because he's part of our family legend.
Carrie: Why, because some stupid long-lost great uncle said he was related to us?
My Dad: I think you're making this tuffet, er, tougher than it really is.
Carrie: Great, Dad. I guess I'm too freaking idiotic to figure it out myself.
My Dad: No, but it sounds like your patience is hanging by a thread.
Carrie: You think?

Eventually the game would boil down to Hot and Cold, which would lead Carrie into the kitchen, the fridge, and eventually into a half-eaten container of cottage cheese. Unless of course she just became so irriated with my mother, she simply gave up and stomped down the hall to her bedroom, loudly proclaiming that she hated checks, Christmas, cottage cheese, and pretty much everything else on the planet.

We developed other traditions--sneaking alcohol into the house through my bedroom window, cleaning out the fridge and playing Name That Leftover, and acting out entire plays where we each took on the role of a different family member (the first Christmas Jeff spent with my family, he had to play My Mother. That performance pretty much sealed the marriage deal for me). Each one brought my family closer. To a mental institution.

And so, my little family has some growing to do before we start getting strange. Or perhaps we're already there. Either way, establishing our Christmas traditions over the years will be a fun, interesting ride. I'm already scoping out places to hide my kids' checks. The butter dish looks like a good spot.

Merry Christmas, dear readers. Peace.

*For years our mother has cleaved to the idea that Benjamin Rush (our great-great-great-great-uncle's cousin thrice removed or something) killed George Washington with leeches. While I have found nothing online to support this theory, I will say that our mother has proclaimed all sorts of things, including that whales do not deserve to be saved from beaching themselves because they are the dummies who beached themselves in the first place. Ah yes...gotta love my mom.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Elsa's Greatest Hits

Tomorrow Elsa will be 2 years old.

While I spare you the sappy, sentimental overemphasis that I cannot BELIEVE my daughter is 2, I would like to recount a few of her shining moments over the past year (which means the time she pooped in the bathtub and then tried to catch it with a toy basketball hoop will not make the cut)....

This was her first birthday, and her first time eating chocolate cake. I kinda opened a Pandora's box here. This child eats more sugar than some European countries.  You should have seen the temper tantrum she threw on Halloween when Jeff confiscated her treasure trove of lollipops. Well, here...I'll show you....

Behold...the Tootsiepop


F*ck my life

Anyway, my darling daughter has turned into quite a little pistol over the past year. This may be because she is almost 2, and therefore about the enter that whole "I Am Going To Have Everything My Way And If You Try To Contradict Me I Swear I Will Urinate On The Carpet Every Chance I Get" phase. Or this may be because genetics are starting to take their stranglehold on her, and she is poised to be the handful that certain other members of my immediate family were when I was growing up. How my mother managed to make it through all of our childhoods without drinking a drop of alcohol is beyond me. Perhaps the combination of Smartfood popcorn and peach-flavored Diet Rite she used to indulge in while watching Matlock and Murder She Wrote have some sort of Valium-like effect. That is the only explanation to how she managed to maintain a small slice of her sanity.

Still, Baby Els does have her sweet moments. Like her first steps. Which she didn't bother taking until she was 15 months...

Or the first time she saw creepy animatronic pirates burning and pillaging a fake city. That was adorable...

Or her first beer.....

Or the first time she sat in a box. Since, you know...that's right up there with first steps...

Or the first time she helped me bake brownies. 

Or the first time she was mistaken for a boy. (We were trick-or-treating...I guess it didn't help that she was head-to-toe in Rollie's clothes....)

And I'm trying to be unbiased here when I say that Elsa is such a fun, spirited little girl, and I'm veeeery interested in what the next year with her will bring. If she's anything like Rollie was when he was two, you, dear reader, are in for some serious reading enjoyment. 

Your enjoyment is my insanity.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Pea. You're the best.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Not Couture

This past weekend Elsa and I engaged in the first of what I'm certain will be many violent, bloody battles that are as old as the invention of mothers, daughters, and those sweatpants with words woven into the butt:

We fought over her outfit choice.

My friend gave me a huge box of clothes her 4-year-old daughter had grown out of, and inside was a nightgown with The Little Mermaid on it. When Elsa saw it, her eyes lit up and her chubby little hands reached out for it in plain, unadulterated desire. All other thoughts of babydolls, boogers and dumping water from the bathroom sink into a coffee table drawer vanished as a single, obsessive idea took root and began to grow: From now on, this will be my second skin.

At first it was cute. She pranced around in the polyester gown and proudly showed it off to whoever would indulge her. Which in this house is Jeff, Rollie, and me. And the dog, but he only pays attention to her if she's either purposely dropping entire chicken nuggets onto the floor, or is preparing to climb on top of him and ride him around the living room.

That night we went to look at Christmas lights at Rollie's school, and instead of making her change into a normal, non-institutional-looking outfit for the trip, I just threw some sweatpants and a coat on her, not bothering to coax her out of the nightgown and into something sane, like a sweater with doggies all over it. She also wore a bright pink, floppy Minnie Mouse hat, because hey, what evening outfit isn't complete without an obnoxious sun hat covered with cartoon mice? Sure she looked like a crazy old lady--all she needed were a bunch of cats following her around--but she was warm, happy, and...gotta put this out there...pretty darn adorable.

When we got home, Jeff and the kids slept in a tent in the backyard (yeah, I know...probably best saved for another blog), so I just stuffed her in her sleeping bag, Ariel nightgown and all, and fled to the house where I spent a luxuriously lonely night in my bed, by myself, completely devoid of any nighttime visits from whimpering trolls. Aaahhhhh.....

The next day, however, when it was time to peel that crusty, well-worn nightgown from Elsa's little body, I was met with some resistance. And by resistance, I mean a full-blown, top o' the lungs screaming temper tantrum.

I understand her unwillingness to relinquish what she believes to be the Absolute Coolest Thing She Will Ever Wear. I myself have been known to wear the same outfit for days on end, convinced that not only was I the envy of every person who saw my cowgirl shirt with the real yarn braids hanging from it, but I was also so cute (think Shirley Temple meets Cindy Brady....although I was actually more like Cousin Oliver meets that nerdy girl in Head of the Class), that soon a TV executive would snap me up and make me into the next Small Wonder.

The thing is, I don't ever remember my own mother stopping me from fantasizing, and therefore wearing whatever the hell I wanted to achieve my dream of being a robot on a deliciously cheesy 80's sitcom. The only time my mother actually forced me to wearing something against my will, it was a green checkered pantsuit when I was in kindergarten...which may or may not have acquired a mysterious hole in the knee and was henceforth unwearable. Perhaps she learned her lesson, and from then on did not give a rat's ass what I wore, as long as I was clothed (although as I got older, I was never clothed enough for my dad's liking...he would have preferred I shop at Hoop Skirts R Us and The Turtleneck Emporium).

So maybe I shouldn't be so insistent that Elsa wear regular clothes all the time. Perhaps I should encourage her own individual style, and applaud her the next time chooses and outfit that says, Hey, I may barely be two years old, but screw the establishment! I'm gonna wear this Little Mermaid nightgown until it gets so tattered you can blow it from my defiant little body like dandelion fluff.

Besides...there's plenty of time to fight with her over much more important issues. Like not playing in her brother's pee-pee stream. This is a battle she will thank me for winning down the road....

Elsa wearing this Spring's collection

Elsa's Summer line

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Santa, The Boogie Man, And Joe Namath Walk Into A Bar...

This Christmas season has proven itself to already be very different from Christmases of yore. I feel quite ill-prepared to explain to an overly-inquisitive little boy the inconsistencies of Santa Claus.

To be honest, I'd almost completely forgotten about the magical effects of having your children believe that an obese man with a 41-inch waist and a giant sack of toys can enter your house through a 12" by 18" opening in your roof. And can be at the mall, the grocery store, the town center and your local Target all at the same time, sometimes with food in his beard, sometimes with glasses, sometimes with an entourage of groomers, photographers, and college students dressed as elves. There is nothing more magical than a 19-year-old co-ed dressed in candy-cane leggings begging scores of weeping children to smile, for the love of God, please SMILE.

In an attempt to explain this magic in simple terms, I sang Rollie Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Which is apparently quite a confusing song to a kid who's just grasping the ridiculous concept of flying reindeer in the first place.

Me: You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry....
Rollie: Why do I have to watch out?
Me: Well, not in a bad way. You just have to make sure you're a good boy.
Rollie: What will happen if I'm not?
Me: Ah-ha...listen....You'd better not pout, I'm telling you why...Santa Claus is--
Rollie: Tell me why, Momma.
Me: I am, just listen....Santa Claus is coming--
Rollie: Why, Momma?
Me: Rollie, lis-tenSanta Claus is town.
Rollie: ....
Me: He's making a list...and checking it twice...
Rollie: Momma, I thought you were gonna tell me why I have to watch out.
Me: ...Rollie, I did. I told you Santa's coming.
Rollie: ....Is he coming to get me?
Me: No, Santa Claus is nice. He's going to bring you toys. I mean, if you're good.
Rollie: ...Am I good?
Me: Sometimes. Usually.
Rollie: ...But why do I have to watch out?
Me: Be-cause...He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness--
Rollie: But I'm bad sometimes.
Me: Well then, I guess you need to work extra hard to be good.
Rollie: But Elsa's naughty sometimes, too. Elsa's more naughty than me.

Which is true--lately Elsa has found herself in Time Out daily, whereas Rollie's have dwindled to once or twice a week. And Elsa's Time Outs are generally because she hits me when she's pissed. Just like her Auntie Carrie used to do, God help us.

Me: You both need to work on being nice.
Rollie: But Elsa does more than me.
Me: ...He sees you when you're sleeping...He knows when you're awake....
Rollie: Will he come to get me when I'm sleeping?
Me: No, Rollie, he's not like the Boogie Man. He's Santa. He's jolly. He brings presents and stuff.
Rollie: Who's the Boogie Man?
Me: ...Let's sing a different song.

This went of for several more minutes, with Rollie's chief concern being that Santa Claus is coming to get him, while he's sleeping no less. Santa sees him at his most vulnerable. If Santa were a 13-year-old girl he would freeze Rollie's bra and draw on his face with eye-liner while he slept.

Which might explain why every time we've encountered a Santa, Rollie has been reticent to sit on his lap. I'm not surprised, given the Boogie-Man-esque image Rollie has of him, coupled with the Jerry Garcia beard, the hearty laugh and the velour jumpsuit...if we didn't know better, Santa would seem like a hysterical crazy person who likes to drape himself in fur and velvet. Kinda like Joe Namath, but without the pantyhose.

The other issue I've run into with Rollie is that I left his presents in the back of our car and before I could transfer them somewhere in the house where Rollie wouldn't find them (which would probably have to be the laundry basket, since Rollie is apparently allergic to putting his dirty clothes where they belong), he saw them.

Rollie: What's that?
Me (Crap): Oh, that's nothing. Just some...stuff.
Rollie: It looks like toys.
Me (realizing the Target bags are spilling their contents--Mr. Potato Head, plastic dinosaurs, roller-skates--onto the floor): Well, they are toys, but they aren't for you.
Rollie: They look like they're for me.
Me: I know they do, but they aren't.
Rollie: Can I play with them?
Me: No, Hon. They're for another family who won't be able to buy presents this year. (Okay, so I know lying about benevolence probably goes against every creed in every religion, but in all fairness to me, we have been buying presents for families in need lately....just not these ones....)
Rollie: ...Won't Santa bring them presents?
Me: Well, yeah...but we are, too.
Rollie: Why?
Me (Sigh. How do I turn this into a life lesson? Or at least get him to shut the hell up?): Wouldn't you be happy if you couldn't have any presents at Christmas and someone bought some for you?
Rollie: But I've been good this year. Santa's going to bring me presents.
Me: You think so, huh? Santa must not read my blog.
Rollie: What's a blog?

Ah yes...I suppose I will save that conversation for another time. Preferably when he's 30.

Seriously though, despite what the contents of this blog might suggest, Rollie really is a good boy. I'd say about 85% of the time (although 50% of that amount is spent in slumber). Which is up from last year by about a billion percent.

Elsa, on the other hand....She needs to pull in some extra credit if she expects to find anything under the tree.  Maybe Joe Namath will visit in the dead of night and leave her an autographed football and a well-worn pair of queen-sized Beautymist pantyhose.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Buck Stops Here...Literally

My father-in-law has become somewhat obsessed with his new DVD burner. He and my MIL have about five hundred thousand old VHS tapes, and he has added to his bucket list--right beneath inventing a robot that will simultaneously pressure wash his house and make him ice cream cones--the chore of transferring every single one of them onto a DVD. And making Jeff and I a copy for our own collection.

Some of these movies I wouldn't mind having, strictly from a guilty pleasure standpoint. Pretty Woman. The Firm. The Making Of Thriller. Some of them, however, I'm pretty sure will sit in our movie drawer like a hand-knit, three-armed sweater from a well-intentioned but clueless great aunt. Whitney Houston in Concert. Jaws III. Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot. The best use I can get out of these would be to use them as DVD decoys for Elsa--she can play with these, pull them from their jewel cases and load them into her Dora oven without me worrying that she's going to damage the movies I actually like. Nothing against Whitney Houston, of course.  I'm sure she's a perfectly nice lady.

Anyhoo, one move my FIL copied for us was Bambi. Rollie has never seen Bambi before, and yesterday while Elsa was napping and I was trying to put the house back together after what appears to be a six-day potato chip bender, Rollie needed some downtime that didn't include him discovering how many animal figurines he could hide within the branches of our Christmas tree.

I put the movie on and sat down with my laptop beside Rollie, ready to get some work done while Rollie was regaled by animated wildlife and the happiness it surely emanated.

Yeah..... I don't know if you remember Bambi or have seen it recently, but that movie is pretty much a 67-minute-long attempt to permanently destroy your child's sense of security, his belief in the goodness of man, and his conviction that skunks are stinky and should not be brought home as pets.

I couldn't do much work while sitting there with Rollie, primarily because I had to field the multitude of thought-provoking questions Rollie started asking as soon as the opening credits finished rolling. Luckily for me, Rollie's recent interest in death, animals eating other animals and the whole Circle of Life thing has allowed me to skip over some of the more basic ideas of Animal Mortality and cut right to the chase, as it were:

Rollie (after hearing the crack of a gunshot during one of the Most Depressing Scenes In Cinema History): What was that, Momma?
Me: ...That was a gun.
Rollie: Why did it sound like that?
Me: That's just what they sound like, Love.
Rollie: Why are all those animals running?
Me: ...Because a hunter is after them.
Rollie (watching with concern as cartoonish feathers fly around onscreen--the result of panicked pheasants being blown out of the sky): Why is a hunter after them?
Me: Because...he wants them.
Rollie: Why?
Me ( we go): That's how some people get their food.
Rollie (likely getting ready to ask another follow-up question, but suddenly realizing that Bambi is looking for his mother): Where'd his momma go?
Me (oh crap): Um...his mother got shot. By a hunter.
Rollie: Is she okay?
Me: No. She's not.
Rollie: Will Bambi find her?
Me (seriously about to cry, between Rollie's look of bewilderment at the very idea that a young fawn can't find his mother, and the sound of Bambi's pathetic little voice calling out for her): No, sweetheart. She's dead. But don't worry....his daddy is there, see?
Rollie (who will not be distracted with the fact that Bambi's emotionally distant, ten-pointed buck of a dad has just shown up to explain to the weeping baby deer that his beloved mommy quote, Can't be with you any longer): Why is she dead?
Me: Because the hunter shot her, honey.
Rollie: ...Is the hunter going to eat her?
Me: I hope so.
Rollie: Why do you hope so?
Me (sort of forgetting myself as I feel the anger welling at the injustice of animated deer everywhere): Because otherwise he would have just shot her for pleasure, and that's messed up.
Rollie: ...Why is that messed up?


The movie didn't get any better. After the mother eats it, Bambi and his cohorts get twitter-pated the following Spring. Twitter-pated. Aka, horny. Yeah, try explaining THAT one to a 3-year-old. Thankfully, the next scene was a pack of wild dogs chasing Bambi's love interest up a hill, followed by a raging forest fire. Whew--I dodged the sex talk this round!

Yeah, I think next time we're at our in-laws, I'm going to request a copy of The Deer Hunter. Why not just go for the full-on mental breakdown next time Rollie and I have a few hours to kill on a rainy afternoon?