Goodbye Christmas, Hello Chicken

Some friends invited us to dinner on December 27th.  What are they, crazy?  Of course I said no.  I have to get this Christmas Crap out of my house!  Like, right now!

From November until December 25th, it’s a wild love affair with Christmas: parties and presents and cookies. December 26th, things start to cool off and then BAM! December 27th hits and it’s over. Get outta my house, Christmas!  Make way for the birthdays!

Darling Husband’s birthday is today and mine is tomorrow.

Switching a house from Christmas back to Non-Christmas is a horror show when your house is teeny, tiny.  Look:

Messy Christmas

The switch-over got done in time (sigh of relief) and we took Darling Husband to see The Hobbit for his birthday today.  He isn’t talking much about it and I think he didn’t much like it.  He’s a stickler for the book version and all he could blurt out was, “They took liberties!  By gum, they took liberties!”  I’m thinking this was a Bad Thing.  He didn’t look happy.

On the way home Darling Husband could not figure out what he wanted for dinner. He was still mourning all those liberties, you know. We ended up getting Royal Farms fried chicken and eating it on trays in front of the TV.  Chicken from a gas station on a tv tray and a movie that takes liberties on your birthday. Well, better luck next year.  It can’t be giant laser tag parties every year.

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Nobody leaves without singing the blues

Sometimes you plan your life and sometimes life plans for you.

Apparently Boy8 is destined to be a blues musician.  A few weeks ago he bought himself a fedora and he wears it everywhere.  See?

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For Christmas he asked for, and received, a pocket watch.  And also for Christmas Gerhard bought him a harmonica.  Turns out Boy8 has been wanting a harmonica for quite some time.

Fedora, pocketwatch, harmonica?  The boy has a destiny, people, and I’m seeing cool blue neon lights in his future.  But we’re a musical family around here.  A few weeks ago I dyed my hair red…

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…for an 80’s Murder Mystery Costume Party.  My character was April O’Neil.

Never heard of her?  Neither had I.  And neither had anyone else at the party.  Apparently she was the reporter on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoon.  It took half the party just to explain to everyone who I was supposed to be.  “Oh, look!  There’s Crocodile Dundee!  And Madonna!  And Jessica Rabbit!  And…Dustylizard….um…who are you supposed to be?”

Kevin took pictures of everyone at the party.  The first is of Darling Husband in his Teen Wolf costume.

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See Darling Husband’s chest hair?  Nothing like getting dressed and having your husband holler out, “Where’s my chest hair?  Has anyone seen my chest hair?! I can’t go to the party without my chest hair!”  After the party the itchy chest hair was flung in the back of the van only to be discovered days later by the boys.  “Aaaah!  What in the world is that?!  …Oh, wait.  It’s just Dad’s chest hair.”

Darling Husband was quietly amused that his character was Teen Wolf.  Teen Wolf probably didn’t have grey hair and wear bifocals.

And here I am in my April O’Neil costume wearing some ninja weapons for good measure.

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Anyway, for Christmas this year I asked for, and received, an Irish Tin Whistle.  With my red hair and tin whistle and Boy8 with his fedora and harmonica, I can play some peppy Irish reels and Boy8 can play the blues and we’ll have people totally confused at our expensive sold-out concerts.

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A Christmas picture for you.  This rose bush sits under an overhang outside the local library.  Water drips on it all day and then freezes encasing the buds in ice.

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Presents for the Boys in the Pet Department and Elephant “Elephant Gifts”

It’s that time of year again: shopping for Christmas presents for the boys in the pet department.

Why in the pet department?

Because Boy8 asked for teeny-tiny stuffed animals for Christmas this year.  See, for a few glorious years some brilliant toy maker sold teeny-tiny stuffed animals that could easily fit in the palm of your hand with room to spare.  Teeny-tiny lions and teeny-tiny dogs and teeny-tiny horses.  They were adorable and Boy11 and Boy8 loved them.

When Boy8 asked for another one this year for Christmas I had a bad feeling that teeny-tiny stuffed animals were a passed fad and I was right.  I’ve scoured 3 different stores with nary a teeny-tiny stuffed animal to be found, not even in the kryptonite pink girl aisles.   Yes, kryptonite.  They haven’t done it much lately, but whenever the boys used to pass the pink aisles of the toy store they would drop to the floor and crawl past clutching at their throats and gasping out, “It’s…pink…kryptonite!  Gaaa!”

So, with no teeny-tiny stuffed animals to be found in the toy department I was forced to head to the pet department and get those teeny-tiny mice filled with catnip.  Surely some Ritalin will counteract the hyper effects of the catnip and everything will even out…right?

Along with buying my sons’ presents from the pet department, I had to drum up an “elephant gift” for a cookie exchange I’m going to tomorrow.  The same thing happened last year.  I went to the cookie exchange and had to bring an “elephant gift.”  I wasn’t exactly sure what an “elephant gift” was, so I found a quite hideous elephant with a clock in its stomach lurking in a corner of my attic and took it to the exchange.  Turns out the woman who won it was delighted with it and keeps it proudly displayed on a shelf in her living room.  The other women breathed a sigh of relief that they dodged getting the elephant gift from me.

But what the other women don’t know is that I have an extensive elephant figurine collection in boxes in my attic.  No, I’m serious.  I really do.  My mother decided I needed to collect something so she started sending me lots and lots of elephants.  I used to fill the furniture of my house with them, but after a while I got bored with them and boxed them all up and stuffed them in the attic.

I just remembered about 20 minutes ago that I was supposed to bring another “elephant gift” for tomorrow.  Five minutes later I came down from the (freezing) attic with my offering for this year.  It’s brass and is a little tarnished, but it’ll do.  Obviously they secretly want me to bring elephants or they wouldn’t ask for more “elephant gifts.”

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Taken in the bathroom on the toilet. The elephant was on the toilet, not me. Why are bathrooms the only decently lit rooms in the house? Aren’t we all tired of pictures taken in bathrooms?

But just so I wasn’t totally lame, I also tossed in some very nice Christmas ornaments that I found in the (freezing) attic as well.

And now off to make a last batch of cookies for the cookie exchange and to wrap my elephant gift.  If you’re coming to the exchange and pick up a bag that feels heavy enough to hold a big brass elephant, pick another bag.  You’ve been warned.

Dishrags for Christmas, Purple water, and Roast Beast

SEVEN

Marriages can be difficult near the holidays.

For example, Darling Husband’s family opens their Christmas gifts with a big black trashbag at their side.  As the paper is removed from the gift, it immediately goes into the bag.

My family, on the other hand, goes into a frenzy of paper-ripping and throws the paper around the room, willy-nilly.

We’ve learned to compromise.  Last year, we celebrated Darling Husband’s way.  This year was my way:

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Along with a very lovely sweater that I’m wearing right now and will probably wear every day for the next month because I love it so much (hey, I’ll change the shirt under it), my mother bought me some miniature gardening tools.  I’m sure she cackled while she wrapped them.  These miniature gardening tools are a pretty accurate representation of the amount of gardening I do.

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Here is Boy7 putting together his new Ninjago Lego set.

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Here is Boy10 putting together his new Spiderman Lego set.

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And here is Man44 putting together his new Hobbit Lego set.  No, it’s not a set for the children.  It’s for Man44.

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Mom, Dad, Darling Husband, Boy7, Boy10 and I all piled into the car to head to Li’s Buffet where we would meet Gerhard, Janet and Gerhard’s mother.  And oh, the snow photo opportunities that I had to pass by!  Ugh!  Dreadful reservations.  If only we hadn’t made reservations, I could have pulled the car over and taken pictures.  The family joined in a prayer of thanks for reservations.

Next time it snows, I have to get the obligatory “cannon in the snow” shot at Gettysburg.  Every photography enthusiast who lives within a ten mile radius of Gettysburg must take the “cannon in the snow” shot.  If you don’t, the Photography Police will confiscate your lens.  The only way you can get out of taking the “cannon in the snow” shot is if you can produce a “monument in the snow” shot upon request.

But while everyone else was piling in the car, I did get this picture of the tree in my front yard.  I have no idea why the two water drops were purple.  Maybe one of those red berries was smooshed and it dyed the water purple?  Dunno.

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At Li’s Buffet, they had some traditional American Christmas Food, including Roast Beast.

Boy7 loves, loves, loves roast beast.  Boy7 usually gets his roast beast when we go to JJ’s Hibachi Buffet, but JJ’s is closed for the winter.  The woman who runs JJ’s was helping out at Li’s today (it’s the same family.)  She remembered how much Boy7 loves roast beast, so she made up a plate with a piece of roast beast just for Boy7, with gravy on the side.  Boy7 hammed for the camera.

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Speaking of ham, when I called my dad today, he said that their roast beast was of the pork variety with olive eyes, an orange slice mouth, and the tip of a carrot for a nose.

Darling Husband is still battling bronchitis and feels crummy.  So, while he “took a nap” (i.e. played games on his iPad but didn’t want to admit it to me) I took the boys to see the kid movie Rise of the Guardians.

Boy7 took a picture of me in the theater with my new zoom lens that I got for Christmas.

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Lest you think I have forgotten my love of practical gifts, I also received a new set of dishrags. Don’t get upset with Darling Husband. I picked them out myself and told him, “You got me these dishrags as a stocking stuffer.”  Normally I wouldn’t have spent the money on them.  Just because a dishrag has a frayed edge doesn’t mean it can’t clean a dish.  But being that Christmas is a major gift giving holiday and I was feeling generous toward myself, I got the dishrags.

Snot, Steak, and Picky Love

NINE

Today was our Annual Christmas Festivities with Darling Husband’s family.  Yes, those would be my in-laws.

First I must make it very clear that I have excellent in-laws.  They’re generous and kind and generally pleasant to be around, but they do have their quirks, as do all families.

They enjoy picking on each other.

But I’m used to that.  I mean, my mother picked on me non-stop as I was a kid and my Dad would often join in.  My parent’s pet name for me was snotbag, after all.  My friend’s parents gave them pet names too, but they were things like “pumpkin” as in, “We just love our little pumpkin.  She’s the apple of our eyes.”

Actually, it was more my dad who fondly called me snotbag.  My mother mostly picked on me without resorting to gross pet names.  It wasn’t cruel picking.  It was lighthearted fun picking.  Sometimes my dad would step in and say, “Sue!  Stop picking on her!  She’s your daughter, not your little sister!”

My mom is the baby of her family, the fifth, and as many babies of large families are, she’s a complete goofball.  All she wants out of life is to have fun, tell jokes, and pick on people to see what sort of amusing reaction she can get from them.  Personally, I think it’s a lot of fun to be raised by the baby of the family.  You just never know what they’re going to say or do.

For instance, there was the time when I was about 17 years old and had a ratty old shirt I didn’t want to get rid of.  My mother kept saying, “Oh, just get rid of that shirt!  It’s so ratty and old!”  Finally, one day, while she was keeping me company while I cleaned my room, she picked up the ratty shirt and said, “Here, I’ll help you get rid of it,” and blew her nose into it.  I’m not sure which of us was the most shocked.  We both stood there perfectly still, staring at each other, wide-eyed, jaws gaping.  Her expression was one of “I wonder if I went a little too far, but aw man, that was funny and totally worth it for the shock value!”  My expression was one of, “Mo-ther!  Seriously?  You just blew your nose on my shirt??”

And as babies of the family often do, she got her way.  I never wore that shirt again.  Every day was like that.  You just never knew what was going to happen.  Some of the best moments of my life have been with her.

But, even with the teasing type of picking, she never put me down.  In fact, she’s been a constant source of encouragement for anything I want to do.  If I come up with an idea, any idea at all, she’s there to look for reasons for why it’s a great idea and ways to make it work.

But the in-laws’ picking is different.  I’m not sure if it’s a Polish thing or what, but they love to pick on each other in an effort to better each other.  I mean, no one likes it when it’s their turn to be picked on, but we understand that they do it because they love you and want to help you make good choices.  And it’s lots of fun when you get to be the picker instead of the pickee.

Here’s what I mean:

There we are at the restaurant reading the menus and getting ready to order our Christmas dinner.  Sister-in-law (we’ll call her SIL) says, “Nephew13, what are you going to get?”

“Steak.”

And here we go.  No matter what that boy orders, everyone immediately tells him that “he’ll never eat all that.”

SIL:  A steak?!  You’ll never eat all that!”

Mom:  Why don’t you order something smaller.  You’ll never eat a whole steak.

Nephew13:  Yes I will.  I want the steak.

SIL:  You won’t eat the whole thing.

Mom:  You never eat the whole thing.  Pick something else.

Nephew13:  *with determination*  I want the steak and I’m gonna eat it.

Here’s his steak.

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That picture is my quirk that the rest of them have to deal with.  Poor Nephew13 wanted to dig into his steak, but I grabbed his plate right out from under his nose and started taking pictures.

Mom:  Give that poor boy back his steak!  He’s hungry and wants to eat it!

Me:  He can’t eat it yet.  It’s too hot.  He’ll burn his tongue.

Fortunately, Nephew13 has seen this often enough to know it’s best just to ride it out.  He gave a small sigh and waited patiently for the photo shoot to be over.

Here’s Nephew13 happily eating his steak.

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Everyone quickly lost interest in Nephew13 and his steak (which he did eat all of), and so the picking turned to my brother-in-law.  We’ll call him BIL.

Mom:  When are you going to take vacation time so your dad can bring you some wood?
SIL:  He lost all his vacation time.

Mom:  What?  How can you lose your vacation time?
BIL:  I didn’t use it, so I lost it.

Mom:  You should demand that time!  You need to take a vacation day so your Dad can drive down and you can help him unload the wood from the truck.

BIL:  I can’t take vacation time.  I’m the only one at work who writes the estimates.  No one else can do my job.

Mom:  Well, they need to hire someone else who can help you.  You need your vacation time!  It’s not healthy not to take vacation time.   And your dad can’t unload the wood by himself.

BIL: (going on the offensive) Well, why didn’t Dad bring the truck today, then?

After a while the vacation/wood conversation petered out and it was Darling Husband’s turn.

Mom:  You have bronchitis?!  Didn’t you get your flu shot?  You should have gotten your flu shot.

SIL:  If you have asthma, you have to do it.  Nephew13 almost died in the hospital because of pneumonia.

Mom:  Right.  When I get my flu shot, I don’t get as much congestion in the winter.

Darling Husband has learned how to deal with this. Don’t try to fight it or justify your behavior, especially when everyone else is right.

DH:  You are both right.  I should have gotten my flu shot.  Oh, what a lowly worm I am that I didn’t get my flu shot. (Ok, he didn’t actually say the line about the worm, but he sure looked wormy.)

Fortunately this time SIL and I were left alone.  She usually gets picked on for her lack of cooking skills and I get picked on for my lack of formal education.  The conversation usually goes like this:

Mom:  If you go back to college now, in a few years you’ll have your degree.  Those years will pass either way, and won’t it be better if you have a degree at the end of them?

Me:  Yes.

SIL:  Your husband works at a college.  What sort of discount do you get?

Me:  The classes would be free.  I just pay for books.

SIL and Mom:  *gasps of shock*  You can get a free college education and you’re not!  Bad, bad, bad!!!

And then I hang my head in shame and agree that they’re right.  And they are!  They’re right about all of it!

After dinner, we headed to SIL and BIL’s house.  Somewhere in the festivities, Aunt Shirley in Ohio called, as she always does on holidays, and we all sang to her on the phone.

You do not ever want our family to sing to you.  We all pick a song (this time it was We Wish You a Merry Christmas) and then everyone chooses their own tune to sing it to.  I chose Somewhere Over the Rainbow.  Then, on the count of three, everyone sings the song to the tune of their choice.

It’s very disturbing.

After that we pass the phone around and take turns chatting with Aunt Shirley.  Darling Husband doesn’t know it, but Aunt Shirley and I exchange funny stories about Darling Husband and then cackle madly.  We have the best time telling those stories to each other.

At the end of the evening, SIL revealed her new hobby to me, but I won’t tell you what it is.  She’s a little embarrassed by her new hobby, but loves it so much she just had to talk about it.  Hey, I know what it’s like to have a hobby totally take over your life.  After all, I’ve taken over 12,000 pictures since May, which is when I started counting.  Before that—who knows how many I took?

I’m not sure why SIL revealed her embarrassing new hobby to me, but I’m just the person to reveal it to.  Remember my mother and her encouragement?  Yeah, I learned a few things from her and love to encourage people in their new hobbies.  I told her that her hobby sounded awesome (and it does) and that I’m glad she’s enjoying it so much (and I am.)  You, go, girl!

Then it was time to go home, whereupon I promptly missed the last step on the staircase and fell over in a heap in their foyer.  I peeled myself up off the floor, stumbled out the door and that was the end of our festivities.

And a merry time was had by all.

When Worlds Collide: Clark Griswold Marries The Grinch

I don’t talk much about my childhood home because no one can relate to it.  I can absolutely guarantee that no one was raised the way I was raised.  No one.

Take my sense of humor times three and there’s my mother.  She’d walk into a room full of people and have everyone laughing themselves silly by the time she left.  I used to wish I could be as awesome as her.

Take a highly intelligent man who has kept the innocence and joie de vivre of a child and that’s my dad.  Sometimes you get esoteric lectures on history or science and sometimes you get the kid in the candy store.  Remember the story of how he ran through the bank and tried to vault over the velvet ropes?  His foot caught and he ended up sliding across the floor, his face squeaking on the marble.  He was 40 years old.  Yup.  That’s my dad.

One time, when my parents were newlyweds and not yet parents, they were looking over the toys in the toy department in a store.  If a store has a toy department, they will be looking it over.  As far as I know, they still do this.

There they were, looking at the bags of marbles in the toy department and one of them said to the other, “When I was a kid, I always wished I could buy all the marbles in the store.”  They paused, staring at the marbles, then scooped all the bags into their cart and bought every single one of them.  And it’s not like they did those sorts of things in their twenties and then grew up and stopped.  They still do the same thing now.  My mother is 62.  A few months ago she bought a single rubber duckie to put on the back of the toilet.  But it was lonely.  So, she bought another rubber duckie.  And another.

And now, the entire bathroom is covered in duckies.

Another example:  they like cats.  For the past 15 years they haven’t had less than twelve (indoor) pet cats.  And really, twelve is the least amount.  And yes, their entire lives revolve around tending to their “babies.”

Growing up with them, I was such a weird kid.  I honestly couldn’t sort out what was “normal” and what was “weird.”  There I was, living the way I’d been taught, puttering along saying and doing things as I saw fit, and people around me would point out, “You’re kinda…weird.”

I’d go home and lament to my mother, “I can’t even fake my way through!  I just don’t know what ‘normal’ looks like!  I honestly don’t know when I’m being weird!”  And I honestly didn’t.  It was always a shock to me when someone said, “You’re weird.”  Yeah.  School was a lot of fun for me.  (Blech.)

And holidays.  Oh, holidays!  Green dinners for St. Patrick’s Day.  Even if the food wasn’t supposed to be green, it was green—that’s what food coloring is for after all.

My parents still dye four dozen eggs every Easter.  My mother calls me and says, “We’re so sick of egg salad sandwiches, but we can’t waste perfectly good eggs!”  Then, she’ll laugh and laugh at her own absurdity.

I have a picture of my dad a few years ago dressed up for Halloween.  I’m pretty sure there was no party to go to.  He was just looking for a reason to wear his Superman costume.

And Christmas.  Ah, Christmas!  The pinnacle of the year!  The mother of all holidays!

You would think that the year that they worked at Walmart and all the Christmas stuff came out in September would have killed their joy of Christmas, but it did the opposite.  That year, my mother started decorating for Christmas in October.

My parents love to collect furniture, so every wall is completely lined with furniture, each piece so close to the next piece that they’re touching.  And every surface is jammed with tchotchkes.  Come Christmas time, all 20 cookies jars, the 15 music boxes, the hundred glass owls, the dozens of tea pots, the 40-odd tins, the uncountable number of novelty glasses from Roy Rogers and the innumerable random odds and ends are packed up to make way for Christmas Decorating.  Oh, Christmas Decorating!

It’s not like some sort of beautiful display in a store window, either.  It’s just a big, fat mix of all the stuff they like.  My parents don’t care if it matches.  They just care if they like it.  And it fills the house.  Every surface is covered with Christmas Tins, Christmas nativities, Christmas snowmen, Christmas Santa Clauses and don’t forget the Hallmark Star Trek Vessel ornaments.  My dad has all however-many-there-are of them, The Enterprise, Romulan  Warbirds, Voyager, etc, all flying across the ceiling.

Speaking of ceilings, 19 years into this, in walks Darling Husband.

Darling Husband came from a very, very normal family.  Don’t get me wrong, his Dad has a great sense of humor, and so does Darling Husband.  You guys read my blog and think I’m the one with the sense of humor, but you’ve got it all wrong.  Darling Husband can walk into any situation and make people laugh.  And not polite laughter either.  Darling Husband is a master of the unexpected comment.  He makes comments that are so funny and so unexpected, that you can’t help but let out a burst of laughter.

He even had people laughing at a funeral once.  Well, he’s done that more than once.  But this time, they were all mid-sob and bawling, when he said something so hilarious and so perfectly timed that they all burst into laughter.  And then they thanked him!  “It felt so good to finally stop crying for a moment.  Thank you.”

In my more morbid moments I think to myself, “Yes, but who will make me laugh at Darling Husband’s funeral?”  And then I have a good self-pitying cry, because there won’t be anyone to make me laugh at his funeral.

So, he’s no lightweight when it comes to humor, but there’s a marked difference between “humor” and “weird.”

When Darling Husband entered the scene, we’d been dating for only three months when Christmas rolled around.  Since my parents can’t have a Christmas tree (see twelve cats, above), he got the idea that it would be funny to buy garland, cut it into two foot strips, tape each strip to the ceiling and hang an ornament at the end of each strip.

So, while my parents were out, that’s what we did.  Darling Husband still talks with great glee about the time we covered their ceiling with the garland.  The thing he doesn’t know (and don’t tell him) is that he’s the only one who thinks that was weird.  When you already have 500 coffee mugs hanging on your dining room wall, as my parents did(yes, literally 500–my mother counted them), the garland from the ceiling isn’t that big of a deal.  Don’t get me wrong, my parents loved it.  But Darling Husband was the only one who recognized the “weird” factor in it.  To us Bensons, it was just another Good Christmas Idea to be filed away and used again in future years.

And here’s the bad thing.  Darling Husband has never been particularly fond of Christmas.  It’s just not a big deal to him and he detests the pressure of buying Christmas presents.  Detests it!  The pressure of coming up with gift ideas puts him off of Christmas.

You can imagine the difficulties in the first few years we were married, come Christmas time.

I thought that everyone handled Christmas the same way my family did, complete with the roast beast.  Yes, beast.  Not a typo.  Just like in The Grinch, my parents would make a roast beast.  It was a piece of roast beef, with olives for eyes and a piece of licorice for a mouth: roast beast.  My dad would make an elaborate show of chopping off the roast beast’s head and snicker.  My dad likes to snicker.

Throughout my adulthood, I’ve been shocked to learn that some people barely celebrate Christmas at all.  A modest tree.  A wreath on the door.  Maybe a few snowmen on the mantle or bookcase.  Three or four nice gifts.  Done.

You can understand the tension at Christmas those first few years.  Oh, the tears I shed over having married a Grinch.  Oh, the confusion for my poor Darling Husband who had no clue how to make me happy.  How could he possibly know?  He would have needed 19 years drenched in Benson Christmases to have any inkling in how to meet to my impossible expectations.

I spent 19 Christmases with my parents.  This year marks the 20th Christmas with Darling Husband.

And now that the balance is finally tipping to more Christmases with Darling Husband than with my parents, I think that finally (finally) we have come to an understanding.  I’m nowhere near as crazy as my parents with their October decorating and roast beast and general giddiness.  I’ve learned to tone it down.

And Darling Husband has learned to indulge me in my random Christmas whims.  Singing Christmas Carols for hours in the car?  Ok.  Making 6 dozen cutout Christmas cookies in a single evening?  Fine.  Tearing the house apart to decorate?  No problem.  He greets all these things with a pleasant smile on his face (which wasn’t always the case.)

Part of what’s smoothed things out for us are our children.  They’ve taken some of the pressure off of Darling Husband.  I have two children in the house who are more than willing to be whipped into a Christmas Frenzy.  I’ll take them by the hands and dance about the living room with them chanting, “Christmas, Christmas, Christmas!  Candy, candy, candy!  Presents, presents, presents!”  until we’re all so excited we Just Can’t Wait!

And….ack!  This is not what I was going to write about tonight…and this is entirely too long.  I’m stopping right here.

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Picture of the Day

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Cici’s Pizza.  I was going to write about shopping for Christmas presents and eating at Cici’s, but as you can see, things took another turn.  Maybe tomorrow…

The Office Thermostat and Eat Candy Until You (Almost) Puke

Back when I worked in an office, I was jealous of a certain group of people.

Not the CEOs.  Not HR.  Certainly not the IT guys.

Those poor IT guys.  They were like Scotty or Geordi in Star Trek.  Everyone else on the Starship Enterprise is sort of hanging out looking cool in their polyester stretch pants, but the poor guys in Engineering were always running around getting sweaty.  They were constantly being asked to do something impossible, preferably before lunch.  “How about if we get Geordi to make it so we can go back in time and kill John Connor’s mother before he’s even born?!”  “Yeah!  That’s a great idea!  Geordi, you get right on that, ‘k?”

No, I wasn’t jealous of IT.

I was jealous of the Maintenance Guys.

Maintenance Guys in office buildings will never have to worry about unemployment.  As long as the office thermostat is encased in its bullet proof box with a retina scan lock, Maintenance Guys will always be around.

Can you imagine if employers left those thermostats open to the employees to change on a whim?  If they did, the employees might actually be comfortable enough to take naps.  It’s really hard to sleep when you can’t feel your fingers, or are drenched in sweat.

In order to keep down on the costs of having to hire extra Maintenance Guys, there was a rule in our office.  Maintenance Guys would change a thermostat temperature no more than twice a week.  So, for half of the week we froze, and the other half we sweated.  Both methods are excellent ways to lose weight.  Freezing=shivering=burning calories.  Sweating=losing water weight.

Other than changing the thermostat temperature, the Maintenance Guys also changed lightbulbs and…uh…well, I think that’s all they did.  I never saw them do anything except change the thermostat and the lightbulbs.

And it looked like such a fulfilling job.  Puttering around with their ladders, opening the ceiling tiles and changing those bulbs.  Carefree.  Stressfree.  Satisfying.  A job well done.

Turns out that I was right.  It is satisfying!

As you know, my project for next year is to learn Handyman Things Around the House.  Darling Husband putters around the house doing handyman things.  Twenty years into this marriage, and I’m just now noticing the vast number of handyman things he does and I want in on the action.  For one thing, it looks like fun, and for another thing, I’ve realized that I’m pretty lame about basic home maintenance.  Honestly, I didn’t figure out how to change the thermostat in my house until about 5 years ago.

In my defense, there are five of them and they all belong to different heating systems and different vents or baseboard elements.  It’s very complex.  I had to make a schematic.  If this was the Starship Enterprise, it would have been a holographic schematic.

This past week has afforded me the opportunity to do some handyman things I would normally pass off to Darling Husband.  I repaired a broken flashlight, tightened the toilet paper holder, wheelbarrowed the Christmas tree into the backyard, repainted some chipped paint, and repaired a wooden sign with wire and needle nosed pliers.

It’s all been very satisfying.  So much so, that I’m wondering if Darling Husband is going to easily give up his satisfying Handyman tasks…

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Picture of the Day.

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We made our annual Gingerbread House today.

How to make a Gingerbread House:

Ingredients:

Graham crackers

2 things of frosting

All the candy in the house.

Step one:  using your fingers, spread the frosting on the graham crackers.  Lick fingers clean.

Step two:  using a spatula, spread the frosting around the base of the house, to make a snowy yard.  Lick spatula clean.

Step three:  open all the candy packages.  Alternate between putting a piece of candy on the house and eating a piece of candy.

Continue until either all the candy is gone or until Boy10 (who does have mild pneumonia!  Poor baby!) announces, “I don’t feel so well…I think I might throw up.”

Voila!  You’re done!

Place the Gingerbread House by the answering machine (if you own that most ancient of technologies), so that for the next week every time you listen to the messages, you can swipe the tiniest bit of frosting off the house and eat it.

Discard house after 7 days.

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