Monday, December 28, 2009

How My Kid Got a "Water-Shooting Race Track" for Christmas

I wasn't going to do it. I was dead-set against it!

But the minute Rowan looked up at me with his big blue eyes and said, “I just know that Santa will bring it for me,” I caved.

What can I say? He’s 4 years old, and I don’t know how long he’ll believe. So I decided that the magic was worth the mess.

And it totally was.

“Oh. Man.” he said when he caught his first glimpse of it. “I guess Santa really does bring you what you ask for at Christmas!”

Like I said, worth it.

And the mess wasn't so bad. Although Rowan calls it a "water-shooting race track," it's actually more like a vehicle-shooting car wash....or something like that.

Anyhoo, we set it up on a towel, and the cleanup was a breeze.

All the boys thought it was pretty cool.

And so did I.

Christmas Is Over...Now What?

For how much I complain about dorky Christmas music, I sure felt sad when the Christmas stations were back to regularly scheduled programming today. Seeing all of the boxes and bags in recycling bins on the curb was pretty depressing, too. I suppose we’ll take the tree down this weekend...and clean...


We really must find something to look forward to during the cold months ahead.

A weekend at a hotel with a waterpark maybe? Frequent trips to museums? Movie nights?

Winter is far too long.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Special Message for Santa

Five Etiquette Tips for Givers and Receivers: Tip #5

Tip #5: Do NOT forget to include batteries, industrial-grade scissors, safety gloves and Band-Aids with any gift that you give to a child!

Nothing is more disappointing than unwrapping a super awesome toy only to discover that you can't play with it until dad runs to the store for batteries.

Scratch that.

Nothing is more disappointing than unwrapping a super awesome toy only to discover that no one can even OPEN the packaging surrounding it!

Even parents who are industrious enough to crack through the sharp plastic casing and melted seams will find it nearly impossible to unwind those evil gray wires that tether the toys inside.

So, if you want to be merely polite, include batteries with your gift. If you want to be exceptionally thoughtful, also include industrial-grade scissors, safety gloves (goggles might be necessary in some cases) and LOTS of Band-Aids.*

Mom and dad (especially dad) will thank you.

*Use your judgement about whether a complete first-aid kit might be necessary.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Five Etiquette Tips for Givers and Receivers: Tip #4

Tip #4: Do NOT apologize for your gift while the recipient is opening it!

Yeah, yeah, I know how it goes. You couldn't find exactly the right thing. The store was out of what you had hoped to buy. You couldn't decide what size to choose. You didn't have enough time.

Whatever excuse explains your less-than-stellar gift, keep it to yourself!

A person opening a present should not feel compelled to console the giver before the wrapping even hits the floor. ("I understand. It's OK, really it is. Don't worry about it! I'm sure it'll be fine.")

Just hand over your gift, smile politely while it's being opened, and — when you inevitably hear "Thank you!" — muster your most sincere "You're welcome!"

(Oh, and don't forget to include a gift receipt.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Five Etiquette Tips for Givers and Receivers: Tip #3

Tip #3: Do NOT forget to wrap your presents!

This one might come as a bit of surprise to some of you. Maybe you’re thinking, “Forget to wrap my presents? Of course I’ll wrap my presents!”

For those of you confused by this tip, I have a simple message:
You're LUCKY!

Me? I once received a present wrapped in a Target bag with a red bow. On another occasion, I received a present stuffed in a paper grocery bag with no bow. I have even waited to receive a present while someone wrapped it at the last minute in another room.*

The bottom line: It happens! Just DON’T let it be because of you!

Even if you’re giving a so-so gift, wrap it in some festive paper or stick it in a cute gift bag. Presentation counts! And if you want to be green, go ahead and wrap your presents in grocery bags or newspaper. Just be sure to put forth a little extra effort (stencils, ribbon, raffia) to make it look special for your special someone.

Is that really too much to ask?

I didn’t think so.

*No, not all of these gift-giving faux pas were committed by my husband.**

**Yes, some of them were committed by my husband.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Five Etiquette Tips for Givers and Receivers: Tip #2

Tip #2: Do NOT express disdain for ANYTHING before you’ve opened your Christmas presents.

And when I say anything, I mean ANYTHING.

Do NOT say that you’ve always hated the color purple.

Do NOT say that you never wear earrings.

Do NOT say that you hate to read.

Do NOT say that you think wool is itchy and uncomfortable.


Because a little known law of nature dictates that whatever you complain about is the very thing that you're about to receive as a gift.

So while you're going on and on at dinner about the fact that Kenny G isn’t “real jazz,” your grandmother will be in tears for having placed his Christmas CD under the tree with your name on it. And when you finally open that ill-fated gift, you'll feel even worse for having said “Only old people buy CDs!” during dessert.

Save yourself this embarrassment. For the next three days, remember to hold your tongue. If you don’t have anything nice to say…well, you know the rest.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Five Etiquette Tips for Givers and Receivers: Tip #1

I might be alone on this one, but I often find it stressful to give and receive gifts.

(Yes, yes, I know. My life must be pretty cushy if this is the only thing I have to complain about. But hear me out…)

In the weeks surrounding Christmas, I can become overwhelmed by the frantic cycle of selecting, purchasing, wrapping, transporting, opening, ooohing, aaahing, sorting, returning and repurchasing. “Stuff management” simply exhausts me.

BUT, I think there might be less interpersonal stress associated with gifting if everyone followed a few simple etiquette tips. Expect to see one tip per day until Christmas Day.

Tip #1: Do NOT buy anything for yourself just before Christmas!

Maybe you’ve been eying a gorgeous sweater that’s now marked 20 percent off. Maybe that cookbook you’ve been talking about for months is finally back in stock. Or maybe you’ve just spritzed your last spritz of your signature fragrance.


Someone thoughtful might have been paying attention to your little desires all this time. And that special person will be absolutely crestfallen if you beat them to the punch mere days before the big reveal.

So resist the temptation. Even if it turns out that your loved ones know absolutely nothing about your wants and needs, you can always buy something nice for yourself after Christmas (and at an even deeper discount). Trust me.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Kid Needs the Tiny Font

This week, Rowan's preschool sent home a list that includes the holiday wishes of everyone in class. I had to laugh when I scanned down to Rowan's wish. While it appears that the other kids could easily blurt out a simple want or need, Rowan required a drastic reduction in font size.

What did he say?

"What I want for Christmas is in a book with toys and stuff that you can get for Christmas."

My guess is that the sentence should have ended with a "..." because I highly doubt he planned to end there. How do I know? I've heard this wish before:
"What I want for Christmas is in a book with toys and stuff that you can get for Christmas. It's a special car wash race track that shoots water* and then the cars land in the water. But the cars don't get wet until the end, because the water shoots over the cars until they land in the pool."
Maybe they didn't have a font tiny enough to include the whole thing?

*I know what you're thinking: "A water-shooting race track? What a mess!" Well, you'll be happy to know that Rowan now wants a Lightning McQueen race track that absolutely does NOT shoot water. I wonder if it was our most recent trip to Target that changed his mind. ("Oh my gosh, Rowan, look at this race track! It's sooo cool! Don't you think it's cool?") Hmmm...I wonder.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Life Is Funny (Shopping Is Funnier)

Oh, that poor sales girl.

She didn’t see it coming.

But I couldn’t help it!

(I promise, I really couldn’t!)

It was just so absurd.

And I’m the kind of girl that laughs (hard) in the face of absurdity.

Tell me a joke? I’ll muster a polite chuckle.

Lend me your favorite comedy? I might crack a smile.

But try to convince me — in your sincerest voice — that men need special moisturizing products because of their “unique body oils,” “masculine hormones,” and “PH body specifications,” and I will launch into a spontaneous giggle fit!

And I will ask you if you’re really serious.

And I will tell you that I’m not trying to be mean.

And I will apologize profusely for my rudeness.

And I will explain that it’s been a long day.

And I will finally win you over by asking, “Didn’t you think it was ridiculous when someone told you to say that?”

(You did.)

And you will be smiling, but looking somewhat disillusioned, when I finally walk away without making a purchase.

And I will still be giggling.

Because that’s what I do.

I can’t help it.

Life is just too funny sometimes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Shopping Dialogue

If you see Kyle and I at a mall between now and December 25th, expect to hear the following conversation:

Angie: “What about this? Wouldn't this be nice?”

Kyle: “I don’t’ know.”

Angie: “Don't you like it?”

Kyle: “I don’t know.”

Angie: “Do you think [s/he/they] would like it?

Kyle: “I don’t know.”

Angie: “I mean, I like it…but do you think [s/he/they] would even like the same things that I do?

Kyle: “I don’t know.”

Angie: "What kind of stuff would [s/he/they] get excited about, anyway?"

Kyle: "I don't know."

Angie: “Oh my God... How is it even possible that I’ve known [her/him/them] for almost my whole life, but I still have no idea whether [s/he/they]'d even like this?”

Kyle: “I don’t know.”

Angie: “Isn’t that almost depressing??”

Kyle: “I don’t know.”

Angie: “I feel overwhelmed... Do you think we should we get it or not?”

Kyle: “I don’t know.”

Angie: “This is just too hard, isn’t it? Do you want to get a latte or something while we think about it?”

Kyle: “Yes.”

I hope your Christmas shopping is going better than ours is!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Fell and I Did Get Up

Rowan and I got caught in an interesting little role reversal tonight.

We were just about to watch Elf as a family, when I bolted up the stairs to grab my slippers before the opening scene. Not being the most graceful person on earth, I rolled my foot, twisted my ankle and somehow landed on my back. On the steps.


I must have made a rather loud thud, because Rowan soon was running upstairs to see what had happened.

"Mama, what are you doing?!" he asked.

"I fell," I responded. "I twisted my ankle and hit my back."

"Get up!" he demanded. "I can't tell if you're hurt unless you move around."

"No, I don't think I'm really hurt," I said. "I just need to lie down here for a second."

"Mama, sometimes I fall down and cry because I think I'm hurt," he continued. "But actually, I just scared myself. If you get up and move around you'll be fine."

So I did. And I am.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Is anyone else getting good mileage out of the Santa thing this year?

I sure am!*

Well, I am now. On Sunday, I was worried that I had uttered my last effective "Remember that Santa is watching you!" for this season. Rowan simply looked at me and replied, "You know what, mama? I think you're just trying to trick me into doing what you want me to do."

Uh oh.

But then, on Monday, I received a gift in the form of a horrifyingly strange and propagandaish claymation classic! I honestly have no memory of watching Santa Claus Is Coming to Town as a child. Maybe I suppressed its wacky plot deep into my subconscious. I mean, you'd think I'd recall such memorable characters as the repressive Burgermeister Meisterburger and the evil Winter Warlock. And who could forget Topper, the jubilant helper penguin?

Did I mention that the plot is completely insane?

In case you're wondering: YES, I am rather horrified that this movie is now the basis for my son's understanding of the St. Nicholas legend. But I don't care right now. Rowan has been on his very best behavior since Monday evening, so I'm not complaining.

I think it was this final scene that clinched it:

Thank you, Fred Astaire!

I plan to show this scene to Rowan any time I sense that the "magic" is fading.

*Please note: Officially, I am opposed to bribery, threats and all other conditional parenting tactics. Officially. Just so we're clear.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Home for the Holidays

I've decided that the only way to get my house clean is to host a party.

Seriously. Without a looming deadline and the risk of total embarrassment, we might never address that pile of clirty clothes that collects in our bedroom.

What? You've never heard of "clirty" clothes? Well, imagine a sweater that you've worn only once after washing it. It's not exactly clean...but it probably isn't dirty, either. You could totally wear it again...but if you needed to round out a load of delicates, you'd throw it in the washing machine while you had the chance.

The wishy-washy status of clirty clothes leads to some strange logic and behaviors at our house. We seem to believe that clirty clothes don't deserve to reside with the clean clothes in our drawers and closets. But we don't want such items mixing with the truly dirty stuff in the hamper, either.

So, naturally, clirty clothes end up on the floor.

Yup. We're weird.

What was I talking about again?

Oh yeah, parties! So far this fall and winter, we've hosted Rowan's birthday party, a Halloween party and — just today — a tree-trimming party!

Both sides of our family joined us for a day of Christmas fun! I served egg bake, caramel rolls and fruit for brunch. Mmmm.

I put a pretty poinsettia on the table, along with two rather bizarre electric candles that I got on clearance at Target. They flicker and smell like apple cinnamon. A little odd, yes, but at least they didn't singe the poinsettia leaves or burn the kiddos.

After each of us ate at least three caramel rolls, we trimmed the tree! Maddox liked to be lifted up high to reach the top branches, while Avery preferred the "every ornament on one branch" approach to decorating. Rowan made sure to comment on the beauty and significance of the ornaments, each of which he assumed was given to us a long long time ago, when he was very little.

When all the ornaments were up, Rowan placed the star on the top of the tree!

True story about our tree: I bought it when Rowan was just two months old. We were living in our first house at the time, and Kyle was being a bit of a grinch about Christmas (and, more specifically, about setting up a real Christmas tree). So we packed Rowan into the car and drove to Menards, where I picked out a perfectly lovely artificial model. When the salesman told us that the tree I had chosen was out of stock, I started crying. No joke. I was a total mess of frustration and new-mom hormones. In the end, the guy sold us the display model for 20 percent off and gave us the lights and garlands for free!

I bought a candelabra to put in our fireplace this year. Less messy than a real fire, that's for sure.

Our Advent calendar is Rowan's favorite Christmas decoration. Why? Because it's filled with chocolates, of course!

The finished room, all warm and cozy for Christmas!

And to conclude this post, I give you a gratuitously adorable photo of B-Rex and Chuckles (Kyle's nicknames for Breck and Charlie).

Here's wishing you a wonderful season filled with family, friends and fun!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

An Outsider's Perspective

A woman almost made me cry at Chipotle today.

The place was crazy busy, so I was rehearsing my order in my head to avoid becoming flustered. Rowan, of course, was doing his best to distract me. Dancing his "funky dance," he was belting out a made-up song about beans and cheese. ("Beans beans, oooh yeah, cheesy cheesy, oh yeah...")

"I just love him," came a voice from behind us. "Your son. I just love him."

I turned to see a woman behind me positively beaming at Rowan. "Thanks," I responded, trying not to seem a little creeped out. "I kinda like him too."

"That's such a wonderful age," she mused, still staring in Rowan's direction, but clearly lost in memories. "I miss when my son was that little."

She went on to tell me that her son is a teenager now — still wonderful, of course, but much more serious and independent. "I had to smile as we walked in," she continued. "You said, 'Are you listening to me?' And he said, 'Mama, I'm running and jumping and listening to you!' I just love it! Soak up every second. It goes by so fast."

By the time it was my turn to order, I had tears in my eyes and couldn't remember if I had wanted the carnitas or the barbacoa.

I felt guilty.

To be honest, I hadn't even noticed Rowan's endearing response to my question. So focused on the task at hand, I had just wanted him to listen...and stand still...and be quiet.

As I was taking my receipt, Rowan said, "Mama, I think we should get a cookie after this, because my tummy will be so full of healthy food it won't even notice a treat."

Immediately, I glanced at the woman behind me and smiled. She was still beaming.

Sometimes it takes a stranger to make you realize how precious life is, how fast time flies and how much you have to be grateful for. So thank you, Chipotle customer lady. I gave my son even more hugs and kisses (and a cookie) tonight because of you.
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