The Story of How I Spent the First Half of my Holidays

I’m very surprised at the response I received after posting “Christmas Card.” I received more website traffic in the three days following its publication than I had in the entire month prior. What amazed me the most was the incredible outpouring of praise, sympathy, and support I received. I didn’t know that publicly stating just how much of a jerk I am would reach so many people. I only intended to write a satirical Christmas letter. Where the rest of it came from, I don’t know. I’m told it was quite moving.

I’m especially grateful to those of you who wrote in praise of my writing abilities. You can’t possibly imagine how much of an impact your words have had on my life. Now, if any of you could kindly connect me with your contacts in the publishing industry, that would great.

Writing has suddenly become challenging. Words aren’t coming freely as they usually do. The bar has been set so high, I feel I’ll never be able to live up to the standards I inadvertently set. I can’t write moving material on command. Plus I’ve been dealing with the distraction of my children on vacation and also, there’s a “Breaking Bad” marathon on AMC.

All I can do is tell you how I spent the first half of my holidays. I can assure you, it won’t be touching and it’s certainly not exciting.

The Story of How I Spent the First Half of my Holidays:

I opted out of the holidays this year. Last year I spent the entire season wandering between gift exchanges, parties, and luncheons gritting my teeth feeling resentful that I wasn’t able to drink with everyone. It was stressful and miserable. So this time around, I opted out.

That’s not to say I didn’t celebrate Christmas. I did. I decorated a tree and made cookies and spent at least a solid hour gift shopping on Amazon.com. I just didn’t do much of anything else. I declined every invitation and event. I didn’t go to see “The Nutcracker” or drive around looking at lights. I didn’t drag my children to obligatory functions and feel annoyed at their displeasure. I bought only the items on my list and chose not to add more and more, fretting it wouldn’t be enough. I didn’t make a big production of it and my neighbors didn’t freak out like they did in “Skipping Christmas,” which is literally my least favorite literary work in the history of written script. It wasn’t planned. I spent a single day dealing with holiday chaos (as discussed in “Ugly Sweaters and Zombies…) and that was it. I just quit.

Instead I did the following:

1. Learned the difference between a cobweb and a spider web.
My daughter asked me this question and I honestly didn’t have an answer, so we looked it up. A spider web is the intricate web spiders use to catch prey. A cobweb the strands they use to get from point A. to point B., covered in dust. Is this something everyone already knew? I was pretty upset because honestly, I always thought a cobweb was only some sort of fiber made up of dust. Now I have to spend the rest of my life with the knowledge of spiders running around all over my house when I’m not looking. It seems so obvious now. I preferred ignorance in this case. This is a lot like the time I learned that oyster crackers didn’t actually taste like oysters. I spent the first thirty years of my life wondering why anyone would want to eat an oyster-flavored cracker. I’m that ridiculous. Although that knowledge didn’t scar me for life like the cobweb thing did.

2. Got really good at ‘Just Dance’
I’m far better at this game than a 35-year-old woman should be.

3. Had my annual Captain Von Trapp-related argument with my husband
Every. Single. Year. I’m not going to get into the logistic of this fight for two reasons: 1. Because it’s a ridiculous argument and you’ll side with me. 2. Because thinking of it makes me mad all over again and only contributes to further devaluing a beloved story that has sentimental value to me.

Captain Von Trapp - Christopher Plummer

(I know you’re singing “Edelweiss” right now)

4. Changed the burned-out light bulbs in all of my bathrooms
You have no idea how big of a deal this is. This never gets done. I have four bathrooms and each one has a lot of lights and I’m 5’2”. It’s too much work to do more than every 18 months. I’ve been putting my makeup on at synthetic dusk for a year.

5. Discovered that in a pinch, egg roll wrappers will work for tamales
We used to have tamales every Christmas Eve, but somewhere along the line the tradition got lost in the holiday shuffle. So naturally, when I remembered this on noon, this Christmas Eve, I decided I needed to make them immediately. If you aren’t familiar with tamales, I’ll paint you an abbreviated picture. They’re made with a mixture of corn flour and shortening (I didn’t say they were healthy) filled with shredded meat, then wrapped in a cornhusk and steamed. I know that sounds gross, but they’re actually quite delicious. They’re just a bit of a pain to make. Cornhusks are common and easily found at any grocery store. Except at noon, on Christmas Eve, this year. I drove to every store I could possibly think of without any luck. I live in Nebraska. I passed roughly fifty cornfields while driving around, looking for cornhusks. Just as I was leaving the last store, a package of egg roll wrappers caught my eye. I rationalized that the cornhusks aren’t an ingredient, they’re more of a receptacle. In theory, the wrappers would work. And I went home and made my holiday tamales in egg roll wrappers.

Tamales 1

Other than being difficult to unwrap, they did the job nicely. They came out looking like pot stickers with tamales inside.

Tamales 2

Later that evening my daughter informed me that next time I need cornhusks, I should go to her school playground where apparently, they find them scattered all over.

6. Changed all of our bed sheets
If I told you how infrequently I wash our sheets, you wouldn’t want to be my friend anymore. Please don’t call DHS on me.

7. Went both ice skating and roller skating
In summation:
It’s perfectly acceptable to leave your daughter’s room looking like this to go skating.

Ava's room

(Told you I washed the sheets!)

Being a good ice skater doesn’t make you a good roller skater.
Roller rinks have not redecorated since 1973.
Adults who go roller skating alone scare me.
I will never be cool. Ever.

Skating

(That’s me in the skirt)

8. Got this new shirt

Shirt


Well, I didn’t get it. It was given to me. By my sister. Who is awesome. I also got a sarcastic spatula from my other sister. Who is also awesome.

Spatula

9. Made the decision to stay home on New Year’s Eve
I know I have the option of stopping by the party early on. I know I could make it through without drinking. I just can’t this year. I concede defeat. I can’t continue to be the person I was before, minus alcohol. It doesn’t work that way. I know I could make it through without drinking. But that doesn’t do anything but prove a point that doesn’t need proving. I choose to stay home and watch 48 straight hours of “The Twilight Zone” with my daughter. Challenging myself isn’t necessary.

I told you it would be unexciting. Be prepared to hear the conclusion of my holiday saga soon. I know you’re holding your breath.

Christmas Card

I’m sure you’ve all seen it. The infamous “Christmas Jammies” viral holiday card.

If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, I’ll fill you in. A family of ridiculously attractive overachievers, with what appears to be a pretty nice house, put their heads together and created a video Christmas card, in which they spell out their various achievements to the tune of Will Smith’s “Welcome to Miami,” replaced with “In our Christmas Jammies.”

Here’s rundown:

They bought a new Prius V.

The daughter (7-8ish):
Completed a triathlon
Counts to 100 in Chinese
Reads advanced literature
Plays the piano
Sings

The son (age 4):
Wears superhero shirts every day
Bats his eyes and the teachers swoon
Had a featured role in a play
Began hip hop dance lessons where he is fine-tuning his emerging musical abilities

The mom:
Met Robert Downy Jr.
Had a role in “Iron Man 3”
Completed an Iron Man triathlon, which I believe was 70.3 (miles???) in 6:40

Dad:
Had a vasectomy (though I’m pretty sure a lot of men did that this year, but thanks for sharing)
Ran the same Iron Man triathlon
Also had a (tiny) role in “Iron Man 3”
Interviewed the state governor on television
Was the hilarious guy we all wish our husbands were and cut his leg doing the worm
Has taken on Crossfit
Is quitting his job as an anchorman to work with his wife

I usually steer clear of viral videos, but this showed up on my Facebook feed around eight times in the same day, so I figured I needed to check it out. For the first thirty seconds, I was horrified that anyone would create something so embarrassingly… well… completely and totally dorky. Then I got sucked in. It went something like this:

What the??? This can’t be for real. Nobody could possibly think is cool… Wait, what? How does a kid that age run a triathlon? Counting to a hundred in Chinese? No way she’s reading those books. Why don’t my kids play the piano or sing?… Look at that kid in that play. That’s adorable. He’s not a half-bad dancer…. 70.3 what, miles? How is that possible? I can’t even jog an entire 5k!… “Iron Man 3?” are you kidding me?… Oh, man… That could be used as some serious blackmail in the future, ‘You want to go with John, the kid who has two DUIs at 17, to the prom? Sure. But first let me get out this video of you throwing frozen peas at your dad’s junk…’ … So he ran the triathlon too… and also had a role in the movie…  the governor… too bad it wasn’t the governor from “The Walking Dead” that would’ve been awesome…. Look at that. That’s hilarious, I wish my husband would put himself out there like that. He won’t even go swimming… No way. I would never in a million years, be able to work with my spouse. Sorry, but we require time apart. If we tried to work together within six months one of us would be dead and the other in prison…
 
I feel so inadequate.

After watching the dancing Christmas jammies extravaganza, I started wondering what an honest holiday card from my family would look like. So I wrote one.

Christmas Card

Dear friends and family,

We hope this letter finds you well. It’s that time of year again! Can you believe it? 2013 has been quite the whirlwind year for our family. So much has happened that we’d love to share with our valued friends and relatives. I just couldn’t think of a better place than a Christmas card!

Dad is currently recovering from a serious case of bursitis, which he actively ignored for many months, resulting in several torn muscles in his legs, all the way down to the meniscus. Though he is assigned to a relatively elite mission, he has been taken off flight status indefinitely. He continues to give his all and is still going in to work Monday through Friday, though the family has absolutely no idea what he does all day. He certainly still arrives home angry! He is working toward his goal of obtaining a commercial pilot license, but his progress all but slowed to a stop due to increasingly poor weather and lack of funds. In October he made the decision to upgrade to a whole-home DVR system. It’s been such a blessing. No one in our home ever has to be in the same room anymore!

Daughter has grown so much, though she still experiences a number of age-inappropriate meltdowns. Early in the year, she completed second grade and was forced to spend most of her summer at a youth center so that both of her parents could work full-time. In August she flew all by herself to visit her cousins in Portland and came back with an adorable case of “Teen Beach Movie” fever! I tell you, we must’ve listen to that soundtrack five hundred million times! She’s presently obsessed with the Disney channel and has seen “Good Luck Jessie: NYC Christmas” an impressive six times. After a series of uncomfortable nights, she chose to make the switch from comforter to electric blanket. The results have been amazing, she has even quit waking me up in the middle of the night to complain about being cold! She’s so spirited, just yesterday I was forced to reimburse her school for a lost library book.

Son continues to grow and learn. He’s spent most of the year fine-tuning his Minecraft skills and building Lego structures that are so complex, it’s unfathomable. In August we took him to the Legoland Discovery Center in Kansas City and he upstaged a builder holding a seminar. He has so many interests, each of which border on obsession. He’s been through everything from Dreamworks Dragons to the violin! He just moved to paper lunch sacks over a traditional insulated lunchbox due to his tendency to forget them at school and eventually return home with rotten food. Most recently he’s expressed interest in dropping out of his school’s high ability learner program to free up more time for his Lego building.

Last but not least, there’s mom. She’s definitely been up to a lot this year! Her year started rough due to multiple relapses into alcoholism. She managed to drink in secret for months before anyone knew! In April she made the choice not to return to inpatient rehab, but instead attend outpatient therapy, which was extremely difficult due to work and home stress. In May she began Antabuse and thanks to being physically unable to consume alcohol without becoming violently ill, she hasn’t had a drink since. This is a genuine miracle. In September she was forced to choose between dentures or $8800 in dental work. She chose to keep her teeth and currently has an outstanding balance of over $3000 at her dentist’s office. In October she left her job to make her children and mental health a full-time career. Due to a combination of Lamictal, Antabuse, Wellbutrin, and Seroquel, she is stable and content for the first time in her entire adult life. Thanks to her life changes, she’s lost 53 pounds. She has decided to worry less about the state of her home and drop everything at a moment’s notice to take her children ice skating or play board games. Most of her free time is spent blogging about her various baking mishaps and other predicaments such as dropping a urine sample in a public place.

Happy holidays and best wishes for a prosperous 2014,

Family whose last name ends with a Z and can’t figure out how to sign Christmas cards.

Now that you’ve had a good laugh, I’ll tell you how I really feel about “Christmas Jammies.”

The bottom line is, holiday cards are tough on both ends. On the giving end, one has to decipher just where the line between celebrating and bragging is. On the receiving end, one has to remind him/herself to look at the bigger picture. It’s nice to be acknowledged and there’s nothing wrong with being proud of your accomplishments. Do some people go overboard? Absolutely. Do most people mean well? Absolutely.

If dancing around like fools in pajamas makes you happy, by all means, dance on. That’s more than a lot of us will ever have in our lives and there’s no reason they shouldn’t shout it from the rooftops. It takes a lot to offend me and pjs don’t even crack my top 100.

Here’s my real holiday letter.

Dear friends, family, and readers,

It’s been a tough year. The last few years have been tough.

I made some really poor decisions that I’m not proud of. I don’t know how to make it right, except to continue making better choices. I’ve worked harder than you could ever imagine to become healthy. Yes, I do take a lot of medication and I will for the rest of my life. I’m nothing but better for it. I am willing to admit that I was very sick for a very long time. I’ve decided to stop beating myself up because my life didn’t turn out the way I expected it to. Last I checked, my life was still in progress and hadn’t yet “turned out” any way. Despite my stay-at-home status, I have turned into an exceptionally poor housekeeper who continues to ignore housework in favor of acting like a fool with her children. In 2013, I learned to choose my children first.

Dad works hard. Period. He’s put 22 years into the military and he’s trying to figure out how to move on because like it or not, he’s going to have to quit when his time is up. He’s worried about how he will feed his family and he’s got about a year to figure it out. He’s happy and frustrated at the same time and no matter what we do, he keeps coming home at night and putting money into our bank account.

The children are fine. They are exasperating at times. All children are exasperating at times. They’re also resilient and their grades are average. They aren’t academically gifted, but their mom is just not worried about it even a little bit. She knows they have a better understanding of life than most children their age(s). They are unbelievably intelligent. They tear apart the basement to make movie sets. They forget their lunch boxes and their rooms are messy. One of them succeeded in setting my couch on fire. They are kind and hold doors open for others and always say please and thank you (to other people, not their parents). They make their mom laugh. A lot. They win at board games against adults and others often comment on their use of  “big words.” They don’t compete in triathlons. They are enough just as they are.

We are infinitely better today than we were in 2012 and hoping to say the same about 2014. Happy holidays,

Once again, the family whose name ends with a Z and can’t figure out how to sign Christmas cards

And I really am excited about the whole home DVR. Really.

 

Ugly Sweaters and Zombies: A detailed account of my attempt to recover from The Week of Infinite Pain

I have great news. I’m not sad anymore! <Insert thunderous applause here> Well, I kind of am, but I’m doing a fantastic job of repressing my feelings in hopes of being a functional human being once again. As long as no one mentions pets, we’re in good shape.

I’m absolutely bursting at the seams with nonsensical stories. And pictures. Man, did I ever shoot some keepers this weekend. I have to tell you, after the horrid week I had, which I have affectionately dubbed The Week of Infinite Pain, I welcome the craziness back into my life. Sometimes I feel as if the world saves up insanity just to drop it into my lap and the most inopportune times. Inopportune or not, I’m thankful for the ability to laugh again. I understand that coping with problems is necessary but when I have a week like last week, life gets too dark too quickly. I can only cope with so much coping.

I’m the kind of person who needs to be doing something at all times. I can’t be without some kind of goal or project. If I’m not working on something, I will pace around my house. When I am experiencing personal difficulties or having trouble handling a serious issue, the need grows exponentially. So, after The Week of Infinite Pain, I was absolutely dying for a task to occupy my mind. And so began the following series of events.

Ugly Sweaters and Zombies:
A detailed account of my attempt to recover from The Week of Infinite Pain


When I woke up on Saturday, I was pretty sure I was the most talented Christmas baker in all of time. I had a plan. It was simple. I was going to run to the store, find some adorable holiday tins, then come home and make double batches of mocha brownies, peanut brittle, chocolate fudge, chocolate-dipped crackers, raspberry thumbprint cookies, and peanut butter cup cookies, then I was going to fill the tins and label them appropriately for my children’s teachers and each of my neighbors. Also while I was out, I was going to swing by Sports Authority to register for the 5K I was set to run in the next morning and pick up some wrapping paper so that after I was done baking, I could sit on my bedroom floor and wrap all of my Christmas presents while watching “Love Actually” and marveling at how strange Andrew Lincoln sounds as a sexy British guy versus a sexy small-town sheriff caught in a zombie apocalypse. I was pretty much going to be the boss of Saturday.

loveactually4     VS    05_Flatbed_WEB - OCTOBER

One of the perks of living in Nebraska is that you almost never have to fight over parking spaces and rarely get caught in traffic, so sometimes you forget to take those factors into account. I chose to take on the intersection of 72nd and Nebraska Furniture mart at noon, on Saturday, in December. I don’t have any official statistics in hand, but if I had to guess, I’d say Nebraska Furniture Mart is the size of about five city blocks and I’m pretty sure has a sales volume that rivals the entire volume of most other furniture companies in one store. Just to reiterate: I chose to go to that intersection at noon, on a Saturday, in December. To enter Sports Authority and pick up my packet took less than a minute. To get in and out of that intersection took thirty. Thirty minutes to go about three car lengths. I used the steering wheel flip-off technique at least twenty times. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s where you put both hands on the wheel and wrap all of your fingers around with the exception of the two in the middle and effectively give the finger to everyone around you at the same time while they remain oblivious.

I rationalized that I’d probably run a little behind, but it was a weekend and I had no plans. I didn’t need to hurry. I decided to head to Super Target for the tins and wrapping paper. I chose Super Target in lieu of the one down the street from my house for two reasons. One, because I didn’t find any tins I liked at my local store and two, because I’ve shopped at that particular store so much, so often, that quite frankly, I’m getting embarrassed.

Every time I go to Super Target, I remember why I don’t go to Super Target. The parking lot was crowded, the layout was confusing, and they were out of carts. Super Target is always out of carts. I tried to look dignified cramming everything into a hand basket and walking around with an “it’s okay, I’m just getting a few things,” look, but I was extremely unsuccessful. I couldn’t find anything (because the layout of a Super Target is stupid!) and I was in excruciating pain from that ridiculous basket digging into my forearms. You know what doesn’t fit into a hand basket? Wrapping paper. I dropped the four rolls I was attempting to nonchalantly carry in my “I’m just grabbing a few things,” basket several times, each incident more painful and embarrassing than the last. And I never found any holiday tins suitable for the beautiful arrangement of assorted Christmas treats I was going to bake that afternoon.

While we’re on the subject, would someone please tell me why on earth there is a sign on the disinfectant cart wipes that says “Do NOT use on hand baskets”? What could possibly happen that is so critical as to warrant such a hostile warning? Please, someone tell me! Because from the looks of that sign, the minute a disinfectant cart wipe and a hand basket make contact a hydrogen bomb will go off. Is that it? Is the combination of a cart wipe and a hand basket the secret authorization of nuclear warfare?

I left the store knowing that I was going to have to go to the one place I hate most. Walmart. When I say “place I hate most” I’m not just talking about stores. I’m talking about all places. My reasons for hating Walmart are so numerous it would take me a month to spell them all out. I will drive twenty miles out of my way to shop elsewhere if I have to. But at that point, I had exhausted all of my options. I’d been to every store I could think of. If I wanted holiday tins, I was going to have to face my own slice of personal hell. Just in case I haven’t made it clear enough, it was a Saturday afternoon, in December and I was headed to Walmart.

If I had to estimate how long it took me to find a spot, I’d say around twenty years. Between Walmart, Chick-Fil-A, and the new Pizza Ranch, that strip mall is a regular party this time of year. I parked my car, opened the door, and headed toward the entrance, pretending not to notice a wayward cart positioned to hit the car next to mine at any moment. Then I thought to myself, “I should go back and move that. If it were my car, I’d want someone to do the same for me.” So I turned around, walked back to the wayward cart, put both hands on the handle and promptly pushed the cart back toward the store and right through the sideview mirror of the car I was attempting to protect, ripping it clean off. The temptation to jump back in the car and drive away was overwhelming, but being the decent person I am, I left a note. On a Target receipt.

I made my way inside, along with about ten thousand other disgruntled shoppers and began the arduous task of looking for the impossible-to-find tins that I had in mind but didn’t seem to actually exist. The seasonal aisles containing Christmas cards, ribbon, wrapping paper and yes, holiday tins, were so jam-packed I had to take turns with other shoppers in order to wedge my way in. When I finally got to the tins, I discovered exactly what I needed. In the cart next to mine. The shelf was empty.

And so I decided I would be the cleverest shopper in Walmart history and find tins in the craft department. As I was headed that direction I received a text and the following conversation ensued:
Husband: You will not believe what your daughter just did!
Me: -Emoticon surprised face- What?
Husband: (Long pause) I smelled something burning so I started room to room. She was downstairs with space heater up against the couch on high. The couch was smoking and smoldering! And she was just sitting right next to it, staring at the TV!
Me: -Emoticon surprised face-

Per my iPhone, that conversation took place around three o’clock. By three o’clock in the afternoon I had spent a half-hour in a packed parking lot flipping people off, dislocated my forearms trying to look casual carrying a hand basket (And whatever you do, do NOT use a wipe on it!), made a fool of myself dropping wrapping paper again and again, ripped someone’s sideview mirror off while attempting to protect their car from damage, and my daughter just. Set. My. Couch. On. Fire.

I turned my cart around (the same one I vandalized a car with) and headed for the exit, only to accidentally stumble upon some red plastic trays that would probably be a decent substitute for the non-existent-except-for-in-the-cart-next-to-mine tins. I bought ten of them. They were ninety-eight cents apiece, which was good because I needed to save up money for my sideview mirror replacement fund.

I didn’t arrive home until almost five o’clock that evening. Determined to make use of the day yet, I began baking. I made the peanut butter cup cookies, I made the fudge (to be fair, fudge literally takes five minutes and can be made in the microwave), I made the brownies (but not the frosting since they were still warm), and I started on the peanut brittle. Peanut brittle is the one holiday candy I have never made. It seemed simple enough though, since all I had to do was boil some corn syrup and sugar, add some peanuts, boil it some more, add some vanilla and baking soda.

And so I boiled the corn syrup and sugar. And then I opened my neatly organized baking cabinet, filled with every single kind of spice, flour, sugar, and nut known to man. Well, except for peanuts that is. For a few seconds I actually considered seeing what would happen if I tried to use almonds, but I decided it would probably be better to waste a cup of sugar and some corn syrup rather than a cup of sugar, some corn syrup, and a perfectly good bag of almonds.

And so I went back to the grocery store and bought peanuts. And then I made peanut brittle for the first time. And I thought “that doesn’t look right,” but I didn’t care because it was late, I was tired, and I had a 5k to run the next morning.

The next morning I headed out to Omaha’s one and only Ugly Sweat Run, along with my friend Jessie, whose name I cannot say without thinking, “It feels like a party every-day! Hey Jessie!” If you have a child between the age of 8 and 12, you probably got that. If not, just think of it as something you have to look forward to. Our team name is… wait for it… The Running Dead. I know, awesome, right?

I love fun-themed 5k’s. If you ever need your faith in humanity restored, go to an untimed 5k with a senseless theme. I’m not kidding when I say they bring out the best in people. I have yet to see any negativity in a participant, everyone is energetic, laughing, and supportive of their fellow runners. One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life was my mom running a zombie 5k this fall. I swear, at one point I actually heard the words, “Don’t touch my crotch, zombie!” come out of her mouth. No one cares what your skill level is, which is good because my skill level is “jog for a quarter-mile and then speed walk the rest”. I had such a fabulous time and was so thrilled to see that the guy who stands on the corner in a Buddy the Elf costume screaming “Santa’s coming! I know him! Saaaantaaaa!” was back. I didn’t even care that I was wearing a light shirt and it was less than twenty degrees out.

IMG_1361

DIY ugly sweater

IMG_1371

Or just come dressed as random Christmas items

IMG_1365

Justin Timberlake! Omaha is awesome!

IMG_1364  IMG_1358

See that shirt? My mom picked it out at Goodwill. It’s a junior size XS. Excruciatingly tight. I probably didn’t even need a sports bra.

It was around one o’clock that afternoon when I arrived home from my run (mostly fast walk). As usual, my home was in a complete state of disarray.

IMG_1341

See that bottle of Resolve fabric stain remover? I had to use that on my carpet after I dropped two of the peanut butter cup cookies facedown while they were still hot and melty. It would be far too reasonable for me to keep something like carpet cleaner in the house. Don’t worry, I still ate them. Really.

IMG_1345

See that package of light bulbs by the sink? The husband changed the light bulbs in our stairwell light fixture that day. Normally that wouldn’t be worthy of mentioning, but I feel it should be celebrated, as they were burned out for six months. I am not joking. Six months is how long we lived without light in the stairwell. 1. Because the two of us have a combined height of 10’7” and we couldn’t figure out how to get up there and 2. Because we’re just that lazy.

IMG_1349

This one’s a good one too. Just a knife, lying around. There was a time, not so long ago, when my children were little and I recall being slightly annoyed when we’d visit other people’s houses and they had had unprotected light sockets or breakable items within a toddler’s reach. Now I’m just that guy who leaves a huge knife out in the open. Last week I found a rolling pin on the stairs. Please don’t call DHS on me.

If you’re interested in visiting to see this for yourself, my house is easy to spot. It’s the one with the Christmas lights that stop about four feet short of the outer left wall and the improvised extension cord made out of non-working light strands. I did that all by myself. I bought two packages of white icicle lights (at Target, not Super Target) thinking, “I’m sure two nine-foot strands will be plenty.” Two nine-foot strands are not plenty. Not even close. I had to improvise the extension cord because when I went to use my regular extension cords I discovered that they did not accommodate the whole, “one prong larger than the other” thing. Apparently they were manufactured in 1974. I realized this after I already had them neatly pinned to siding. By the time I got to the four-foot deficit I decided to quit while I was ahead. Besides, there’s just something about me being on a rooftop that feels wrong.

IMG_1388    IMG_1392

I just decided I need to write a book called “Fifty Shades of Great Parenting.” That is literally the best book title ever. I’ll make sure to use the phrase “double crap” a lot in it.

Anyhow, it was around one o’clock and I decided I needed to finish up my holiday baking. I had yet to complete the frosting for the brownies, the chocolate-dipped crackers, the thumbprint cookies and of course, the new batch of peanut brittle.

It’s almost impossible for me to try hard candy. All but my first four upper and lower teeth are crowns (yet another reason drinking is bad), so I had to let my children act as guest judges on the peanut brittle. They said it tasted like glass and Laffy Taffy. That can’t be good.

I started with the mocha frosting, it’s one of my favorite Pioneer Woman recipes. I made the batch as usual but when I tasted it, it had no coffee flavor at all. It didn’t taste bad, it just didn’t taste right. So I added more coffee. And more coffee. And more coffee. It still didn’t have its signature coffee taste. I’ve made this recipe at least five times before without any issue, but for reasons unknown it just didn’t come out as it should’ve. At that point I had added so much coffee to the mix it was runny and useless anyway, so I threw it out and started over. That recipe requires five cups of powdered sugar. I’m glad I picked up ten pounds on my last shopping trip.

The thumbprint cookies were next. Just like the frosting, they’re simple, fast, and something I’ve made several times with success. And just like the frosting, they turned out wrong. The dough was so dry it crumbled in my hands. I read and read and reread the recipe. I did nothing wrong. I added another egg yolk. Still too dry. I added four tablespoons of butter. Still too dry. I added another four tablespoons of butter (which adds up to an entire stick). Not as bad, but still too dry. I ended up adding two extra egg yolks and an extra stick and a half of butter. The end result was only so-so. On the plus side, these are clearly a good choice for dieters.

Now, I think it’s important you know that while I was making (ruining) the frosting and the cookies, I was also making my children French fries. Sometimes I make my kids anything they ask for out of sheer guilt for being such a terrible parent. I’m giving my children unhealthy food out of guilt. What could possibly go wrong there? I should put that in my book.

IMG_1375

That’s right, I own a deep fryer. And I use it often.

Fries are a huge pain. You have to peel potatoes, which I am now terrified to do after a particularly deep cut I received a few weeks back. Then you have to cut them up and soak them for hours. Then you have to deep-fry them not once, but twice, working in batches. Okay, you don’t have to do it that way. Unless you want them to taste good.

By six o’clock I still had not gotten around to the (new) peanut brittle or the crackers. I was desperate for some rest. So I did what any responsible adult would do. I took my kids ice skating. For the second time in the same day, I spent hours outside in the bitter cold all in the name of fun. You see, I’m that parent. The one who says “Sure, we can sled down that hill. But that hill looks better.” So naturally, I decided the kids and I should disregard the “NO speed skating” signs posted every few feet and have a race. I was truly enjoying myself until I had the most epic fall known to man. My feet came out from under me so quickly, I could swear they were at eye level before I landed with all my body weight directly on my tailbone. It was both painful and humiliating. That’s my style.

But wait, there’s more. I woke up this morning barely able to move courtesy of my ice skating injury and I had… a bladder infection. Like I said, painful and humiliating. Fortunately, I keep medication on hand for such emergencies. Medication that has a wonderful side effect of fluorescent orange urine, which I had the pleasure of presenting to the lab at my doctor’s office. Feeling particularly embarrassed about having to place my day-glow sample on a very public counter, I stepped gingerly out of the bathroom and proceeded to stumble and drop my fluorescent orange urine sample. A specimen cup hitting a linoleum floor is surprisingly loud. I was around the corner from most of the others in the lab, so don’t think anyone actually saw. I’m sure they heard though.

Painful and humiliating. It’s my new motto.

My Sad but Promising not to Wallow too Much Post.

Long ago I promised myself I would never write anything containing negative rants or sorrow-filled poems about how deep and meaningful my transformation has been and blah, blah, blah. I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on professional writing and basically, self-centered, negative blogs that wallow in sadness (in an attempt to be profound) just don’t work. There has to be variety and the author needs to include others. Your audience will only tolerate woe-is-me posts so long before they recognize it’s recycled material. And really, who actually has moving and profound experiences every single week? Certainly not me. Unless you count getting all the laundry done in one day as a miracle. I did that last week. It was amazing.

Here’s the problem I’ve run into: I’ve had the mother of all crap-tastic weeks. And yeah, I kind of want to talk about it. If I promise to wallow sparingly and at least try to throw in some humor, will you still read my blog?

Well, here you have it, the story of my last five days. I’m not sure it serves much purpose other than satisfying the people who have requested I share it. Don’t worry; I won’t try to be insightful, but I’m going to forewarn you; even my funny story feels kind of sad today.

 My Sad but Promising not to Wallow too Much Post.

 I’ll start with a little background info before I get to this week:

I’ve decided I need to own a gun. I won’t even lie. It’s 100% because of “The Walking Dead” (henceforth referred to as TWD). I’ve spent my entire life avoiding guns and all it took to convert me was a show about the undead. I definitely need one.

I’m just going to put a disclaimer here: I will not argue on my blog. I will not debate on my blog. I do not wish to engage in any conversation (pro or con) regarding the following topics: guns, vaccinations, breast feeding, staying at home vs. working, homeschool vs. public school, politics, and/or any other controversial topic that may arise. I am pro or con or neutral on the above topics. I’m just like AA, I neither oppose nor endorse any cause. I’m not here to make you use your brain. I’m just here to make you laugh (or in today’s case, cringe).

I don’t know exactly how it came to be, but he idea had landed in my head and, as is the case with all of my endeavors, it wouldn’t go away. One evening not so long ago I marched right up to the husband (who was on the treadmill at the time) and declared my intentions. The conversation went something like this:

Me: I need a gun.
Him: …. What?
Me: I want to fire a gun. Will you teach me how? It has to be a Colt Python. That’s what Rick on TWD carries. I know that because I looked it up on Google.
Him:… wait. What?
Me: You can get a permit to purchase at the courthouse. It only costs $5.00. As long as you don’t have a felony you can get one. I looked that up too.
Him:…I thought you… hated guns…
Me: I did, but now I don’t because I want to learn how to shoot zombies. Seriously, I won’t ever shoot it at anything but a target and I’ll store it outside of our home.
Him:  (silence)… You’ve never even touched a gun, where is this coming from?
Me: I don’t know. I just decided I want to shoot one. I’m not ever going to use it, except for on a target. Claire on “Modern Family” does it.
Him: (silence)…
Me: Fine, I’ll figure it out myself.

I exited the room and proceeded to pout for two weeks, which brings us right up to the crap-tastic week that is the subject of this post. (Still trying not to wallow)

On Sunday we took our kids to see Santa at Bass Pro Shop. It’s become a tradition. Me at Bass Pro Shop is quite a sight. I do not fit in at Bass Pro Shop. Nonetheless, BPS (I’m calling it that now for the sake of brevity) has the best Santa system known to man. They give you a ticket that tells you when to return. Then you return at that time and see the man with little to no wait. It’s brilliant. Plus there are free crafts and game stations and they give you your Santa picture for free. That’s all kinds of win. I can usually enjoy my day there as long as I focus on the ginormous fireplace and the extra-awesome fish tank and try really hard to forget that the store exists mainly to supply people with the tools they need to kill stuff.

We had an hour to burn while waiting to see Santa, which both of my kids knew was not actually Santa and didn’t care much about seeing at all. I saw it as an opportunity to bring the subject up again and made a beeline for the gun section. Then I walked up to the counter, browsed around a bit, looked up at the young man behind the counter and asked to see a revolver.

Then I picked it up and got yelled at because I pointed it at his head. Twice.

Then I got yelled at because I pointed it at some customers. Twice.

And they took it away from me.

After that I decided maybe I should start with a crossbow. So I meandered over to that section and asked the man behind the counter if they had a range (they did), signed a waiver, and proceeded to shoot a weapon for the first time in my entire life. I’m not going to lie. It was pretty much awesome. As it just so happens, I’m a decent shot. Just two inches from a bullseye on my first shot.

Crossbow

Quick tangent: I’m freaking out about posting this picture, as I am extremely self-conscious of my hips/thighs/backside and this photo showcases them like a movie poster. I can tell you those jeans are about the smallest size jeans come in, but in my mind it doesn’t matter because the proportions are just them same. I once had someone tell me “You would be really pretty if you didn’t have such a huge ass.” That is a true story and it happened within the last year. And no number of compliments will ever help me forget that. It was especially great to get verbal confirmation that others are noticing the one thing I hate most about myself.

I learned that using a crossbow in a zombie apocalypse is highly unrealistic for the following reasons.

  1. Crossbows are heavy
  2. Loading a crossbow involves placing it nose-down on the floor, stepping on it and pulling back with about a hundred pounds of force
  3. Crossbows are heavy

We did eventually see get to see the Santa that wasn’t the real Santa and I even bought a sweater. The women’s department is full of exceptionally warm, inviting sweaters. They were an easy sell, given that it was three degrees outside that day.

So Sunday wasn’t so bad. Except I still don’t own a weapon. It’s like no one wants me to have one. I don’t understand why.

Monday was insignificant.

On Tuesday I had two emotionally draining appointments. I’m so over telling doctors my life story. Apparently my tendency to drop $800 on baking supplies, shelving, and groceries, then pull my kitchen apart with an unrealistic schematic in mind, meanwhile attempting to cook a gourmet meal, is indicative of some fairly seriously psychological disorders. When you put it that way it’s not nearly as fun to talk about.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter because my current doctor is leaving and unless I want to spontaneously quit taking medication and possibly die a painful death from Stevens-Johnson syndrome, I have to find a replacement. And that meant rehashing my life from birth to present. Again. And that meant being honest with myself. Again. It’s so selfish of my doctor to go on a lengthy deployment.

Then it was Wednesday.

I woke up with a psychological hangover and had planned on curing myself by composing a hysterical bit about my childhood. I told myself it was going to be a good day repeatedly. And it was, until my morning bed-making routine (which basically consists of me pulling the covers up to the pillows haphazardly) was interrupted. I heard a strange noise that sounded like a combination of a cough and a squeal. Unable to locate the source of the noise, I moved on with my to-do list.

Until I heard it again.

And again.

Eventually I followed the noise (which was becoming more frequent) to my daughter’s room. It was her pet guinea pig, Jack.

I have a love/hate relationship with animals. I’m definitely not what you’d call an animal lover. I like them well enough; I just prefer to have a single small dog versus a house full of different species of whatever my kids were into that day. The husband sees it differently. He’s content to have fish and hamsters and guinea pigs and crayfish and anything else you could possibly come up with, making noise and smelling up my house. Guess who ends up caring for these pets when the kids are at school and he’s at work?

Jack the guinea pig was a biter who seized every possible opportunity to pee on me and, to be honest, I had been complaining about him to a group of friends just a few days earlier. Not wanting a house that resembles a zoo is one thing. Having compassion for an animal is another. I have compassion. Guinea pigs are known to make quite a lot of noise, but this was a new one and it didn’t sound good.

An immediate veterinary appointment was set and I went about my day assuming we’d leave the vet’s office with a bottle of antibiotics I’d have to cram down his throat for the next week or so. Instead, they asked if I could leave him for a few hours. Everyone was friendly and nothing seemed out of place. So we went home.

I made the catastrophic mistake of telling my children he’d be fine.

As one can clearly ascertain from my previous comments, everything was not fine. Jack the guinea pig had kidney stones and kidney stones are very, very bad for guinea pigs. The vet could perform surgery, but she felt it was unlikely he would survive. I had to make the call to euthanize our pet. It’s not a call I’ve ever had to make before.  And I had no clue it would feel the way it did.

I’m a good person to have around in an emergency, despite all of my emotional issues and being extremely high-strung, I can stay calm. So I composed myself, told my children the truth, and kept it together as they waivered between sobs and expressing how (rightfully) angry they were with me for telling them he would be all right.

Just as we were preparing to return to the vet’s office, the husband texted, “How much do you show in the shared checking account?” Not exactly understanding what he was getting at, I pulled it up on my ultra-convenient iPhone app.

$2.17

That is how much I had in my account, two dollars and seventeen cents. Someone, somewhere, somehow had cloned the husband’s debit card and drained our accounts. I will spare you the back and forth, but you can just picture us calling and texting for the next hour trying to figure out how I was going to pay for having my pet euthanized. All the while, he was suffering and I knew it.

I remained in emergency mode until we were able to secure a few hundred dollars, (courtesy of the very considerate staff at USAA) and stayed that way all through the return trip and the goodbyes. The heartbreak I felt for my children was unimaginable. I continued to silently repeat, “It’s a guinea pig, Amy. It’s a guinea pig.”  I have no idea how I felt so much sadness for an animal I swore I didn’t even like a week earlier. I mean real, tangible grief that rivaled how I’d felt after losing friends. I can’t explain it. It felt as if my chest was being squeezed in someone’s hands. Taking a breath was painstaking.

We made our way home and into our beds. All I could do was sit with my back against the headboard and stare straight ahead, until my little white and tan, pancake wielding Papillon jumped up onto the bed and laid her in my lap.

And then I cried. And cried and sobbed, which is something I rarely (if ever) allow myself to do. I don’t know if it’s self-preservation or pride or fearing that if I start, I will never stop, but I will go to great lengths to avoid it. My rational mind knew I had done nothing wrong, but it became about so much more. It’s always about so much more. Once again my children had somehow suffered at my hands. How can I ever possibly make up for what I’ve put them through? There are not enough apologies in existence to even begin to rectify the damage I’ve done. The grief I felt on their behalf was immeasurable.

That is why I never let myself cry. In a way I kind of reside in emergency mode.

I have to confess to having written my children’s teachers lengthy emails about the guinea pig situation. Far, far too lengthy. I was afraid they’d spontaneously fall apart in school and no one would be able to figure out why. In my mind, I’m the only one who is capable of helping them. Oh, the irony.

I just thought of a fantastic little soliloquy to lighten the mood (enough with the sadness!). While writing about my kids’ teachers just now I thought, as I always do, about how much my daughter’s teacher looks like Katy Perry. I mean, seriously. Surely someone has to have told her this before. Whenever I’m at the school and she’s around, I can’t stop staring and wondering if they’re related. I need to find a picture. Wait. Does that cross a line? Anyway, that thought brought a story to mind:

My son has decided to love violin music. When he decides to love something, he loves it right into the ground. Fixating on various subjects and carrying on about them without regard for feedback is a hallmark characteristic of Asperger’s. In many ways it’s endearing. I love my son, as the saying goes, right up to the moon and back, and there’s absolutely nothing I would change about him…. But… Sometimes he goes on about a subject so much that I have to tune him out and nod in agreement, otherwise I would never get anything done (see, I really am a terrible parent!).

As I said, he’s decided he loves the violin and all things to do with the violin and every single composer or musician who’s ever had anything to do with a violin in the history of the world. Forever. The end. Period. (There’s a violin party at my house and you’re all invited!) And he was talking about his newfound preoccupation and I was dutifully nodding in agreement, when the following conversation took place:

Son: I really like violin music.
Me: Mmm. That’s nice.
Son: Because violins sound nice.
Me: Yes, they do.
Son: I like violin music. There is a guy and I can’t remember who it is but he can hear any song and just play it. Because he’s really good at the violin.
Me: (absentminded head-nod)
Son: I really don’t like music that’s not violin.
Me: (more head-nodding)
Son: Ms. Ashley (his occupational therapist) sometimes plays music but I don’t really like it because it’s not violin music.

(I can confirm this because last week Ms. Ashley actually used the words “He said he doesn’t like my music, because it’s not a violin.”)

Son: Have you ever played a violin?
Me: (head nodding again)
Son: You’re not listening to me. Are you listening to me? I said ‘have you ever played a violin?’
Me: No, no I have not ever once played a violin. I do not play any instrument. But if I decide to learn, I promise it will be a violin.
Son: Because I really like violin music.
Me: I know, I really know.
Son: Violins sound nice. So don’t play music that’s not violin music.
Me: I won’t, ever, I promise.
Son: I don’t like any music except violin music. And also, Katy Perry.

Ummmm….. what?

Violins

It’s Friday now and we’re okay. I’m okay. I’m just sitting here on my couch surrounded by mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup wrappers. Screw you, thinness. I’m hungry and I want to eat an entire bag of chocolate-covered peanut butter candy (that was meant to be used in Christmas cookies). When I’m done, I might just go back and lick the insides of the liners in search of remnants. Try and stop me. I dare you.

The Papillon and the Mini Pancakes

I’d like start by letting you know that I omitted the second “i” in Papillon deliberately. It’s in reference to a breed of dog rather than a butterfly (or the city of Papillion, NE which neighbors the town I live in and I’m pretty sure is actually named after a butterfly because next to the highway there’s a giant water tower with one painted on the side). I looked it up to verify and It’s correct. My spell check believes otherwise.

I can’t spare much time to write today, as my house has returned to it’s perpetual state of disgustingness and this morning I had to send my kids to school in the clothes they wore yesterday, right down to the socks. I’m such a good parent. But I can’t resist sharing a quick anecdote in hopes of brightening everyone’s Monday.

The Papillon and the Mini Pancakes

I have a little white and tan Papillon that Mr. husband and I found on the side of the road some five years ago. She was starving and covered in ticks so we baited her with cheese crackers and eventually gained her trust. She followed Mr. husband home, trotting along on his heels. I guess she feels forever indebted to him because to this day she still trots along on his heels wherever he goes and then falls asleep wherever he happens to land. Occasionally she’s awake long to hover under the feet of whoever is in the kitchen in hopes of retrieving a bite or two of “people food”. She also enjoys violently shaking a sock monkey in an effort to murder it, which I think is her life goal. She never succeeds. Eventually she gives up and falls asleep again. By eventually I mean three minutes. This is where she put it today.

sockmonkey

I have no idea how that happened.

Last night I was bagging some mini pancakes that I made for my kids on Friday morning because we ran out of the boxed kind and they were freaking out. Anyway, I was bagging them up since my kids wanted them for dinner and I let them because, whatever. I wasn’t in the mood to fight with them over food.

aintnobody

Because it’s me and I can’t do anything without making a mess, I dropped a whole bunch of them all over the kitchen floor. I felt like bending over about as much as I felt like fighting with my kids over dinner. So I just decided to let the dog enjoy a pancake supper.

A few hours later I sat down to watch “Bonnie and Clyde” on the History channel. I’m a nerd at heart and I like that kind of thing. Then I reached for a blanket, only to discover a mini pancake tucked neatly under it and right in between two couch cushions. My dog had hidden the mini pancakes. All. Over. The. House. My three-story, multiple living area, full of nooks and crannies, house.

I am currently residing in a mini-pancake filled house.

And now I am scrubbing and cleaning and folding laundry and every so often I see, out of the corner of my eye, a little white and tan Papillon trotting by carrying a mini pancake in her mouth. I wonder how many of them there are? I bet it’s a lot.

The Importance of Being Embarrassed

I think people would describe me as unique. At least I hope they would. If I’ve learned anything from my experiences, it’s that very few people actually have the ability to hurt you. I suppose when you reach your breaking point and feel like you don’t have much to lose, it’s relatively easy to see that others don’t have as much control over you as you believe they do. I was once told that when you when you allow someone to embarrass you or make you feel ashamed what you’re really doing is giving them power. In other words, the minute you make a decision based on shame or embarrassment you’ve ultimately let someone else make that decision for you.

I’ve always been on the quirky side. As of late, I’m more than willing to share that side of me with others. As cliché as it sounds, once you’ve lost everything, it really is easy to see what matters. There’s a reason that statement is common. It’s because it is common. Caring what another person thinks of me is low on the priority scale. Don’t let that statement mislead you, I’m not about to claim moral superiority when it comes to my appearance. I like compliments and I’m more than willing to aspire to them. I’m certain that anyone who knows me would say I worry about looks far too much.  It’s just different now somehow. I’m not scared of me anymore. I’m not afraid of my own personality.

Just so you know, I learned all of these lessons in rehab. So I’m likely the worst person you from whom you should take advice (or the best, depending on how you look at it). They teach lots of lessons there. I retained a lot of what I learned. Except for how to stay sober more than six weeks after I left. That one didn’t sink in. Don’t freak out, this was a while ago.

I am on a life lesson pulpit today! I’m going to have to start writing self-help books.

The Importance of Being Embarrassed

The idea for this post came to me while I was cleaning out my jewelry box (aka giant armoire). If I had to say what question I’ve been asked the most in life, my answer would definitely be “Can I see your jewelry?” People ask me this often. From time to time some of the teenage girls in my neighborhood even ask if they can borrow some. Sometimes they ask to borrow my clothes too. A number of my neighbors have informed me that (for reasons unbeknownst to me) they think I’m quite fashionable and they hope they’re as cool as me when they’re, like 35. I really hope it doesn’t mean that I’m one of those women who tries to dress two-decades younger than she is.

So there I was, with my iPod on shuffle, untangling about 1,000 necklaces and thinking about how much I like jewelry and how cool I am for someone who’s, like 35, when an ABBA song came on. I immediately felt a little wave of embarrassment pass through me. Then I thought to myself “Self, you are ridiculous. Who cares what’s on your iPod? It’s not like anyone can hear it. It’s not like anyone cares. And besides, I think there are actually like a billion ABBA fans in the world anyway.” My mind wandered a little more and I started thinking about how I feel embarrassed far more often than is necessary. I decided it would be a fabulous idea to write a piece about all of my shameful little indulgences. A lot of them aren’t necessarily all that shameful, but maybe I like them a bit too much for someone who’s, like 35.

Because there are so very many things about me that are embarrassing, I’m going to have to break it down into categories. Today’s topic will be “Movies and T.V.” Maybe next week the topic will be “Books” or perhaps even “Photos from the 90’s”.

1. “Elf”

Elfposter

This movie isn’t inherently embarrassing but the fact that I watch it at least five times every Christmas season is. What’s not to love? Will Ferrell starring as a giant guy who thinks he’s an elf? If that’s not comedic genius, I don’t know what is.

Come on, he’s a giant guy who thinks he’s an elf! He sings loudly in public! He insults a little person! He accidentally gets drunk in a mailroom! There’s nothing not to like here.

ELF

“I just like smiling. Smiling’s my favorite.”

Elf_-_At_the_mailroom-2 copy

“This place reminds me of Santa’s workshop. Except it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt me.”

2. “Boogie Nights”

Boogienightsposter

Let me first start with a disclaimer: If you’ve got it in your head that you want to watch this film based on my recommendation, you need to run through this checklist before viewing.

-       Can I handle profanity, explicit conversations, and dark content?
-       Am I okay with seeing a lot of drug use and paraphernalia?
-       Am I comfortable watching extremely graphic nudity and what basically amounts to pornography?

If you answered “no” or even “it’s slightly possible” to any of the above questions, DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE. I feel pretty strongly about making my writing accessible to a large audience and being respectful of others, so I am giving you an honest head’s up. That being said, if you can stomach the content, this movie contains some of the best subtle jokes in the history of all things funny. Or maybe I’m just sick. You should probably not watch it. You’ll be disturbed and I’ll feel guilty.

Boogie Nights 2

“Did you ever see that movie ‘Star Wars’?”
“Yeah, I’ve seen it four times.”
“You know, people tell me I kind of look like Han Solo.”

Boogie Nights 1

“That’s not an MP, that’s a YP, your problem.”
“Okay, now you’re talking above my head. I don’t know all of this industry jargon.”

3. “Can’t Buy Me Love”

Can't buy me love 1

I was into Patrick Dempsy before Patrick Dempsy was cool. I’m such a hipster. In my opinion this is the best of all the overly-predictable, attempting-to-teach-a-life-lesson, 80’s teen films out there. Maybe not better than “The Breakfast Club” but I’d call that almost more of a drama.

Here’s the deal. There’s a guy who’s unpopular and he gives a girl money to hang out with her and pretend she likes him. Then he gets popular and then the secret gets out and…wait for it… everyone realizes how shallow they are. It’s like morality all wrapped-up in a little envelope of laughs stuffed inside a VHS tape.

Can't buy me love 2

There is actually a scene in this movie where someone confuses PBS cultural hour with “American Bandstand”. For. Real.

4. “Mama Mia”

Mama Mia

Enough said.

Film Title: Mamma Mia!

P.S. Pierce Brosnan, never sing in public again.

5. “Singles”

Singles

This one isn’t bad, it’s actually early Cameron Crowe who is a reasonably skilled director. (See, I’m totally a hipster. I knew Cameron Crowe before “Jerry Maguire”. Wait, I think he was actually pretty well known at that point.) It’s just that this movie is so, so dated. It has 90’s grunge stamped all over it. If you were in high school in the pacific northwest when this came out, it was the coolest thing ever and when you grew up you were going to being defiant of social convention and live in an ironically trendy apartment complex and wear flannel shirts with ripped jean shorts and spend all of your time listening to Paul Westerberg and knowing bands that no one else ever heard of and then not liking them when they got famous because they sold out to the man and they weren’t all about the music anymore. Clearly, that plan worked out really well for me. Now I’m just an emotionally disturbed alcoholic who likes Paul Westerberg and trying to become a writer. I probably would’ve thought that was cool in high school. Wait. Maybe did turn out that way after all.

By the way, I have been informed by the show “Portlandia” that the dream of the 90’s is still alive in Portland. So if you’re still hanging onto the whole grunge thing, you might want to check that out.

Singles 2

“You’re the only guy I know who could mix Elvis Costello with Public Enemy.”

Speaking of high school kids who will eventually have their idealistic dreams shattered… I’m going to go off on a little tangent here and compose a letter based on something I saw.

Dear fifteen-year-old high school kid walking home from the bus stop in a short sleeve shirt,

In case you failed to notice, it is nine degrees outside and very windy. According to Accuweather, when you factor in the wind chill (or windshield as my daughter would say) it feels like two. Nobody looks cool when it’s nine degrees out. Put on a coat. I can clearly see you have one shoved into your backpack. You don’t have to prove anything to me. Seriously, put on your coat. I’m going to tell you a story:

Way back when I was in high school (This was before you were born, we were into the whole grunge scene at the time, you should look that up online. Also, we didn’t have the internet then, we actually had to go to the library and use a card catalog.) there was a group of guys who everyone thought were pretty awesome. Not like football player-jock awesome, more like ironic awesome. In today’s terminology, they would be called “hipsters”. Well, one day it was supposed to be less than twenty degrees outside (which is unusually cold for Portland) and these awesome guys thought it would be hilarious to wear Hawaiian shirts with shorts and Birkenstocks (which were the height of fashion at the time). It was all well and good until the fire alarms went off. I don’t remember exactly why, but there was a significant delay in our being allowed back into the building. The awesome, ironic Hawaiian shirt gang was stuck outside for around a half-hour. It was not cool. So put your coat on. Otherwise you’ll end up an emotionally disturbed alcoholic who likes Paul Westerberg. Don’t be that guy. It’s not as great as it sounds.

Sincerely,

Amy

P.S. You’re going to make fun of that haircut too. Because… wow.

6. “Good Luck Charlie”

Good luck charlie

I don’t have much to say about this show other than it’s current and that means it’s not even something I like for the sake of nostalgia. I think you’ll like the premise: It’s a family with five kids. The mom (whose name just happens to be Amy) is kind of obnoxious and competitive. The dad is kind of an idiot who does things like buying a new car then discovering that won’t fit in the garage and accidentally driving it through the wall into the kitchen, but having to leave it because the mom goes into labor (instantly, like all women do on television) and has the baby in the back of an ice cream truck.

Hijinks ensue.

I saw an episode yesterday where the dad violated one a preschool regulations by dropping his daughter off in a robe. When he was informed that he was only allowed to drop her off in daywear, he wore a kimono and the next day, a kilt. I’m not going to lie, it was funny. It was a guy wearing what appeared to be a skirt! Get it? It’s a guy wearing what appeared to be a skirt!

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Hilarious! Just hilarious!

My sister and recently I had a conversation about how there aren’t many family shows on network television anymore. They seem to have migrated to the Disney channel. Remember “Charles in Charge”, “Small Wonder”, and “Growing Pains”? Those were the days.

While we’re on the subject…

7. “Growing Pains”

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First off, I know you’re singing the theme song in your head right now. Secondly, I’m seriously considered seeing if I could buy the series on DVD.

I just looked. You can and I might. I mean, you absolutely cannot go wrong when pairing Alan Thicke and Kirk Cameron. A psychiatrist with an in home practice and a neighbor named “Boner”? Madness, I tell you.

I learned a few fun facts while looking for photos:

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Fact A: Brad Pitt once guest starred. I’m sure I saw this, but I didn’t know who he was at the time.
Fact B: “Growing Pains” made for T.V. movies were being made until 2004.

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“Remember the time I died in the den and you put whipped cream on my face?”

Side note: if you’re in need of a laugh, go do a Google image search for “Growing Pains Brad Pitt”. There are some absolutely fantastic pictures to be found.

8. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”

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I have a sudden urge to run out into the street and throw my hat into the air. Except it’s nine degrees outside and I believe we’ve already established that I don’t have anything to prove so I’m not going to.

Mary Tyler Moore + Ed Asner + Gavin McLeod + Betty White = Best show ever.

I won’t come right out and say that I intentionally named my son after Gavin MacLeod, but I certainly wasn’t unhappy about the coincidence. I’m think I’m going to buy this on DVD too. Remember when Nick at Night was good?

I just thought about Mary cracking up in the middle of Chuckles the Clown’s funeral and I literally can’t stop laughing.

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You know what? I think not being embarrassed of me is the best gift I’ve ever given myself.

Will the Real Thanksgiving please stand up?

I’ve had several inquiries as to why I haven’t posted in a while. I don’t have a clever answer.

It was Thanksgiving.

I got sick.

It was my birthday.

The universe would’ve imploded if I hadn’t got my Christmas decorations up on time.

And because it was Thanksgiving and my birthday and I got sick and the universe would’ve imploded if I hadn’t gotten my Christmas decorations up on time, my house got really, really messy. I’m not exactly sure how most people define “messy”, but in my house it means “so disgusting a call to child services is warranted”. Heaven forbid anyone but Mooooooo-ooom do anything about it. Don’t tell Mr. Husband I said that. He did do some dishes and let me stay in bed for a whole day without being asked. I hate to use the “oh you know men!” (Cymbal crash) line of jokes here, but… seriously?

As you can imagine, my time has been somewhat occupied. Actually it still is. I have at least another solid day of work ahead of me before I’ll be able to call my home livable again. And that’s by my standards. You know what? Just do yourself a favor. Never come to my house.

I thought it would be appropriate, given my lack of time to commit, to share a Thanksgiving weekend rundown. I’ll even share a few recipes, but only the ones I’ve made a thousand times and know will turn out because I want to look smart and impress you with my cooking skills.

Will the real Thanksgiving please stand up?

My need to prepare ridiculous amounts of overindulgent foods comes in handy during the holidays. Not only is marathon baking encouraged, it’s celebrated. I started my preparations around Halloween and by the time Thanksgiving week rolled around, I had an entire menu planned. In the past I’d had some pretty serious kitchen disasters involving the allotment of oven/burner time and I was determined not to let that happen again. So I did what most normal people do this time of year. I made a schedule that began on Monday and ran up to Thanksgiving dinner. Each day had a list of items I would prepare and at what times of the day I would need to cook them based on both the requisite temperatures and baking times. Standard holiday practice, right? It went something like this:

Monday:
Afternoon: Bread for stuffing (store-bought bread would be too easy)
3:30 p.m.: Toffee and other candy (utilizing white chocolate MELTING wafers leftover from previous kitchen disaster)
5:00 p.m.: Prepare six pie crusts (why make just TWO pies when you can triple the recipes and make SIX?), refrigerate overnight.

Tuesday:
6:00 p.m.: Bake only three of the six pie crusts and make homemade whipped cream 7:00 p.m.: Chocolate cream pies
11:00 p.m.: Cheesecake, 11:00 p.m., turn oven off at midnight, DO NOT OPEN DOOR to prevent cracking. Pull prime rib out of freezer at this time (remember this, it comes into play later).

Wednesday:
6:00 a.m.: Pull cheesecake out of oven
9:00 a.m.: Caramel-pecan pumpkin pies
6:00 p.m.: Deliver candy and extra pies to neighbors (looking cute in new clothes, with a smile)

Thursday:
Morning: Dough for rolls in bread machine
4:00 p.m.: Prime rib
While that’s cooking put together pineapple stuffing (which is my favorite)
Add to oven at 4:20 p.m.
While those are cooking put together baked macaroni and cheese
Add to oven at 4:40 p.m.
Add rolls to oven at the same time
5:10 p.m.: Mashed potatoes
5:20 p.m.: Pull stuffing, macaroni, rolls, and prime rib out of oven (NICE TIMING!) While those are sitting, make stove-top stuffing (I’m so ashamed) – because only Mr. Husband wanted this and he said boxed was ok because my oven can only handle so much
Gravy at the last minute
6:00 p.m.: Serve dinner

I swear. I swear. I swear. In my mind this all seemed reasonable at the time.

Here’s what actually happened (once again you’re getting internal dialog for illustrative purposes, you’ll know it when you see it because I’ll put my thoughts in quotation marks):

On Monday the kids and I made bread and assorted chocolate dipped items without incident. In fact, we even used up the white chocolate MELTING chips. Then we moved on to the toffee. The toffee shouldn’t have been an issue since I’ve made it so many times that I no longer need a recipe. I reached into my drawer to pull out my trustworthy candy thermometer only to find the lower portion shattered.

“Crap… my thermometer is broken. I’ve had this thing forever. I love this thing. It’s not too big or too small and it always stays clipped securely. Wait. Is there broken glass all over the bottom of this drawer?”

You should know that as a child I saw an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” involving someone putting ground-up glass into someone’s eggs to kill them and inherit their wealth. I’m pretty sure somehow they ended up accidentally eating them and dying. Since that day I’ve had a hysterical fear of small shards of glass. Not of cutting myself, but that I will accidentally consume them and die. It’s right up there with undercooked meat. I’m not exaggerating. Mr. Husband broke an outdoor light fixture yesterday and glass shattered all over the ground and I turned my head sideways while sweeping it up for fear of inhaling the shards and dying on my porch.

Speaking of fears derived from childhood experiences… I’ve decided you need to hear this one right in the middle of my Thanksgiving story because I just remembered it and I feel like sharing.

Once my sister’s friend told us a scary story about a murderous doll while we were camping, then I saw the “Living Doll” episode of “The Twilight Zone” and I could not even be in the same room with a doll for a year.

My grandma makes these crochet dolls:

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The one she made for me had dark hair but I couldn’t find a good picture.

It was very sweet of her and as a little girl these were super-cool, but the minute I heard that doll story she became a minion of the antichrist. I couldn’t sleep at night knowing she was in the house somewhere. I became paranoid that my insistence on hiding her away was angering her. I lost countless hours of sleep.

Until one afternoon I fell asleep in my room only to be awoken by whispering and laughter. When I opened my bedroom door I found Mrs. Scary Doll standing there looking at me, with a knife in hand. A butter knife, lovingly arranged by my mom and sister.

I am not making this up. This actually happened in my life.

There’s an upside. Even at age ten I had a fairly decent grasp on twisted humor and the knife-wielding doll cracked me up. It was so ridiculous that I wasn’t really afraid anymore after that. Although I did bring my daughter a porcelain doll from Germany last year, which I thought was adorable at the time, but now she sits on a shelf in my laundry room and I swear she watches me. Mr. Husband asked if he could put her back in the box the other day. I told him to leave her out so that the kids could still see her. Secretly it was because I was afraid that putting her a box would enrage her and she would kill me in my sleep. This is absolutely true.

So… yeah… back to Thanksgiving. You’re welcome for that by the way.

“How long has there been broken glass in this drawer? I cook with measuring cups and spoons out of here all the time! How long would it take for ingesting glass to hurt me? Wait. Do they still use mercury in thermometers? It’s fine. It’s not going to hurt you. You’ve made this enough times you’ll know when it’s done by sight.”

So I moved forward with my attempt to bring brown sugar and butter to 295 degrees by sight. I thought I was doing pretty well until my son came up from the basement and bellowed, “Something smells burning in here!” I took that as my cue to pour it out onto my chocolate layer. The minute it made contact I too smelled the burning smell but convinced myself it was just from where the flame and pot made contact. I put it in the fridge to cool.

When I moved on to my pie crusts I was struck by a brilliant idea. I decided that instead of using a pastry blender and doing it by hand, I could whip out the NINJA blender and do it that way.

In fairness, using a blender does actually work for a single pie crust. I’ve done it many times. Unfortunately it does not work so well when making six at once. Maybe it was too much flour. Maybe it was the fifty thousand cups of shortening. Whatever the problem was, it resulted in a greasy paste jammed into every last millimeter of my beloved NINJA.

Hours. I spent hours degreasing and cleaning blades and tiny nooks and crannies. Sometimes with a toothpick. That poor NINJA never had a chance. I haven’t used it since. I hope it still works. As you can guess, the crusts were unsalvageable and I was out of shortening so I went to bed.

On Tuesday I bought more toffee ingredients and some frozen pie crusts even though it killed my soul and a new candy thermometer. This new thermometer came with a little temperature guide, which I think will come in handy the next time I’m making crack and want to get the consistency just right.

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As I was preparing to do my evening baking, my son inquired about the turkey.

Here’s a recap of how this conversation went:
Son: Don’t forget to pull the turkey out to thaw. They need a lot of time.
Me: I’m not doing a turkey this year, no one likes it and we’ll just end up throwing it away. I decided it would be fun to try something different so I bought prime rib instead.

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***Crickets***
Me: Do you think you’ll try prime rib?
Son: No turkey? But it’s Thanksgiving! We have to have a turkey! (Panic ensues)
Me: If I made a turkey would you even take one bite of it?
Son: If we don’t have a turkey it’s not real Thanksgiving! (Panic increasing)
Me: Would you take a single bite?
Son: NO… but… WECAN’TNOTHAVEATURKEYITWON’TBEREALTHANKSGIVING!

Then he burst into tears and ran screaming into another room. I never even got around to baking the three crusts or the chocolate cream pies. But I was able to get the cheesecake in the oven according to schedule.

On Wednesday I pulled the cheesecake out of the oven and it looked like this:

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Then I gave it the finger. That’s right, I flipped off a cheesecake.

I was so mad at that stupid cheesecake I just put it out in the fridge and hoped it would die a slow and painful death by cracking itself into a million pieces. It was already half there anyway.

I did manage to complete all of the pies and candy (successfully!) in time to take my kids to a Christmas parade/tree lighting/fireworks extravaganza, which was completely miserable because it was so cooooooold and their feet were frooozen and apparently it “wasn’t the real Santa anyway” and “fireworks are only for the fourth of July.”

I drove around delivering candy and pies as scheduled. I only looked okay, but I was smiling.  Probably because I was so relieved to be out of the company of my ungrateful Christmas-killing children.

Here’s a visual of my desserts, I know the suspense is killing you.

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By the time Thanksgiving Day rolled around, (Which my son insisted was just a normal day, only with a fancy meal since we still didn’t have a turkey) I was completely worn out but absolutely determined to complete a perfect feast.

Mr. Husband decided to snap a few photos. This is my favorite.

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(Try the stuffing. I dare you.)

I prepared a kosher salt encrusted prime rib.

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I know you’re probably thinking this is a picture of a regular meal only fancy because it’s not a turkey. Don’t be confused. I am a brilliant chef and I decided to try something new.

And I made the pineapple stuffing that I heart so very much.

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And I made the macaroni and cheese. This recipe called for a combination of a boxed mix and fresh ingredients. Normally it irritates me to no end when I look for a recipe only to find out it calls for boxed mixes (for example, a cake recipe that lists the first ingredient as a box of cake mix). However, in this case it seemed like a good compromise. I made it using this:

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I bought it at along with my toffee ingredients. On November 26th, 2013. I wonder if I should let the good people up at Target know they’re selling expired goods? It didn’t matter much to me. I’m pretty sure this kind of stuff will last until through all eternity.

And I made the rolls. Here’s an unflattering view of me kneading dough:

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This was before I put them in the oven. They have to sit and rise, which they did (a lot) while I was creating the aforementioned culinary masterpieces.

And I mashed potatoes and pulled the other stuff out of the oven. Here’s a fun visual of them sharing my oven that I clearly never clean. I had already taken the meat out so you’ll just have to imagine that there’s a $50.00 roast covered in Kosher salt on that lower rack.

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And I finished up the other stuff and put it out on the table to look pretty.

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And I began the final step, removing the salt shell from the prime rib (not turkey). I pulled it back anticipating a perfect roast, only to find one mostly cooked prime rib with a ginormous raw spot in the middle of the upper left hand side. Here’s the problem with prime rib (not turkey), you can’t practice on something that expensive so your first run is actually your test run. My test run taught me that it’s never a good idea to put so much stuff in the oven at the same time. If we’re being honest, I already knew that. But I’m fresh out of spare ovens so I convinced myself that this time I could outsmart the one I do have. I did not.

(Remember, I’m using quotation marks for my thoughts.)

“Okay, maybe it’s not so bad. After all, prime rib is supposed to be served fairly pink. Maybe this is what it’s supposed to look like. Let me stick this meat thermometer in that spot. 120 degrees!?! It clearly read 145 when I took the temperature in the oven! Did I put it in the wrong spot? Great. Now all of my sides are sitting out on the table and they’ll be cold and ruined. We were supposed to eat around six or six-thirty and it’s seven-fifteen. Most people finished their meals hours ago.”

I pulled the thermometer out and blood gushed out of the hole it had created. Gushed isn’t an adequate description. It spurted. Like the way blood would spurt out of something that is still living. I came to the conclusion that the best way to handle this would be to turn the oven up really high and shove it back in.

A while later I pulled it out and checked the temperature. It was still bloody and undercooked in that one spot.

A little after that I pulled it out and checked the temperature. It was still bloody and undercooked in that one spot.

Repeat that for another hour.

By the time the pink spot was sufficiently cooked, the rest of it was fairly burnt but I just didn’t give one tiny little expletive anymore because it was eight –thirty at night and my guests and I were starving. Did I mention that the guest head count for this not-real-because-we-didn’t-have-a-turkey imposter meal was four? That’s four including myself. Also known as just my family.

Let me sum up the weekend in nine simple statements:
1. The meat was still too undercooked for my standards so I had to put mine in the microwave to brown. Yep. I put my portion of a $50.00 roast in the microwave. I didn’t like it. I don’t like red meat all that much to begin with.
2. The rolls rose so much that they were gigantic and spilling out of the pan and burned on top while almost raw in the center.
3. The macaroni and cheese was flat-out gross. I had to turn it sideways to drain the off the grease like it was ground beef.
4. The pineapple stuffing was overcooked and dry.
5. The mashed potatoes were okay.
6. The desserts (including that jerk of a cheesecake) were completely and totally amazing. Although I did learn that you need to slice the caramel pecan pumpkin pie before putting it in the fridge or else it will form a layer that resembles a thin sheet of ice across the top (imagine what happens when you try to cut through it). It was still good so I’m not upset about it.
7. I spent an entire week preparing a meal that my family sat and ate for just under ten minutes. I wish I could just put “THE END” here and call it a day, but there’s more to this story I’m sure you’ll love hearing.
8. I woke up at about two in the morning with a stomachache. It got a little worse but there was little I could do about it because I’m the queen of heartburn and I had long since passed up the maximum daily dose Zantac. I should be on prescription medication but Thanksgiving week of last year I freaked out and got into a major screaming match with my doctor’s nurse over a (different) medication refill and now my charts are flagged and I don’t want to go in there anymore. It’s nice how that came full-circle.

Anyhow, the stomach pain progressed until I could no longer convince myself that I would just breathe deep and get through it. I knew it was time to get up and face the horror that is known as vomit. Skip the next paragraph if you have a weak stomach.

And I puked and puked and puked. If you’ve never had the pleasure of vomiting after a (fake) Thanksgiving meal I’d highly recommend you avoid it. It’s unpleasant to say the least. I spent the next two days in bed alternating between fever and chills. No one else got it. I’m just lucky that way.

9. Sunday was my birthday but grown-up birthdays aren’t any fun so I’m not sharing anything about it except that I copied all of Ladd’s birthday meal from the Pioneer Woman website. It was good. I have roughly seven hundred pounds of cake left over.

Well there you have it, my Fake Thanksgiving in a nutshell. May you find reading it to be more pleasurable than living it.

P.S. Here are two recipes as promised. These are the two I’ve been asked for most. The story is over now. You can stop reading if you aren’t going to need them.

Pineapple stuffing: 2 cups of stale (but not too hard) bread cubes. You don’t have to make your own unless your me and you want to overly-complicate things. 3/4 cups of sugar. 1/2 cups of butter. 4 eggs. 1 cup of crushed pineapple. Use fresh, it’s a pain but tastes so much better. 1 small onion, sautéed. 1/2 cups of cubed ham. You can leave out those last two ingredients but I think they counter-balance the sweetness. Basically you cream the butter and sugar together, beat in the eggs, add the onion and ham or whatever you think will taste good then put the bread cubes in and mix. If you want it to resemble more traditional stuffing, leave it chunky. If you want to be creamier, which is better so you should do it this way, mix it much longer. Then put it in an 8×8 pan and cook it for an hour at 350. Let it set for about 15 minutes before you eat it. This recipe is my own. I made it up based very roughly on another one that I didn’t like much.

Toffee: I’ll just provide a pictorial. It will make more sense:
Put some sliced almonds on a cookie sheet with edges. Parchment paper is recommended. Cover it with Hersey bars. (My daughter thinks the word “Hersey” is “horsey”, so you can call these horsey bars if you want)

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Melt butter and brown sugar in a saucepan. (Amounts pictured, it’s basically equal parts)

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Boil it until it reaches 295 degrees.

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Pour it over the chocolate. Cover it with more chocolate and spread it around like so.

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Cover it with almonds.

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Stick it in the refrigerator and let it cool. Then pull it out and break it into pieces.

THE END