The Story of How I Spent the Second Half of my (never ending) Holidays

I had planned to start my new year, new me, routine today. You know, the one where you get up on time, exercise, and dedicate your day to aspiring to be something bigger and better, while practicing newfound patience with your children.

The universe had other plans.

The current outdoor temperature is -10 degrees with a wind chill of -36. In layman’s terms, it’s too damn cold for school. I hope I’ve established a rapport of a loving parent and no longer need to qualify complaints with the I love my children more than words… but… preamble. So today is the last time I’m saying it: I love my children more than anything…but, the past two weeks have been comprised of nothing but overindulgence and refined sugar. Myself needs some quality time with myself.

I’m presently writing from the comfort of my own bed, behind locked doors, listening to “That is MY PAINTBRUSH, I own it!” “No it isn’t, it’s OURS!” It’s not that they’re fighting over who gets to use the paintbrush, they both have one in hand; they’re just establishing paternity. I’m questioning how likely I am to come up with any usable material. But I’m surrounded by near-illegible notes I’ve taken on envelopes, post-its, and even Christmas cards. It’s time to write.

The Story of How I Spent the Second Half of My (never ending) Holidays

Because I made it through the whole what’s-in-this-box?, are-you-Santa?, I-can’t-sleep-I’m-too-excited!, jumping-all-over-in-anticipation!!! phase relatively gracefully, I figured I simply needed to continue doing what I was doing. It worked well at first. Then the merriment cooled and there were no impending gifts and the whole we-can’t-do-anything-because-we’re-broke-from-buying-you-so-much-crap phase set in. Then the fighting set in. Then the indoor painting and crafting and roughhousing began. Two days ago my daughter spilled bright green paint all over the carpet in her bedroom. What did she do? She put up a sign. She took the time to draw an abstract of a guy falling in pastels. She covered everything but cleaning it up.

wet floor

I did what I could to make the vacation fun and memorable for the kids. I put forth my best effort. But a shoestring budget, frigid temperatures, and limited available indoor activities weren’t enough to stifle our increasing cabin fever. Like I said, I did what I could. Here’s what I accomplished:

1. Took my daughter to an indoor trampoline park
One night not so many days after Christmas, the husband took my son to see the latest installment of the “Lord of the Rings/Hobbit” movies, based on books I can’t like no matter how hard I try. This left my daughter and I alone, unsupervised. Our plan was to pick up new shoes for both children (which we did), stop by Target for New Year’s Eve snacks (which we also did), and head home (which we did not). Somehow, while standing in the middle of the JC Penney shoe department, we decided it would be a good idea to run by a local indoor trampoline park called “Defy Gravity,” for some quality mother-daughter time. I wasn’t dressed appropriately and driving home to change seemed like a lot of work, so I bought some sweatpants on the spot.

I can’t aptly paint you a picture of the “Defy Gravity” experience. I can show you the photos from the website, but they don’t do it justice.

Trampolines

It’s loud and crowded and on particularly busy evenings, it smells like a 6th grade boys’ locker room. The body odor was overwhelming. Being the good sport that I am, I overlooked the stench and put on my special jumping shoes (I suspect these are wrestling shoes). They were sweaty. I mean sweaty like a pre-adolescent boy had worn them minutes earlier. Sweaty like the armpit of an NBA superstar. I wanted so badly to complain or at least exchange them for another pair, but jump sessions are timed and expensive, so every minute you spend remedying a shoe-perspiration situation, is a minute you paid for and didn’t get. My daughter also noticed how wet her shoes were. If an eight year old notices, they’re seriously disgusting.

If I owned “Defy Gravity,” I’d rename it “Defy peeing a little every time you jump.” Trampolining after birthing two children has made me a prime candidate for a career as an Enablex spokesperson. Not to mention, I was the only parent participating in lieu of sitting on a cozy bench in non-sweaty shoes. I tried to explain the peeing issue to my daughter, but she only stared at me with a confused expression. One day she will call me and tell me she understands. I look forward to it.

In fairness, it was pretty fun after I got past the ambiance. I discovered I could both jump over my daughter’s head and do a pretty fantastic backflip. The next morning I discovered I could get a really, really sore neck and shoulders from jumping over my daughter’s head and doing backflips.

P.S. When I went on the website in search of a picture, there was a link that said “Trampoline Ninja,” so I clicked on it. All it said was “Trampoline Ninja: Coming Soon!” What???

Also, I’m completely in love with the sweatpants. Best $9.99 ever spent.

2. Discovered that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are white guys
I always pictured Biggie Smalls singing “Thrift Shop.”

3. Lost my “Horsey’s Kisses”
I noticed at some point during the holidays that my daughter had quit saying “Horsey’s Kisses” and started saying “Hershey’s Kisses.” I suspect her being able to read had something to do with it. I don’t typically struggle with remorse over my children growing up, but this one hit a little hard. It was my favorite mispronunciation. Although it is also pretty amusing when your kid says “They made us go out on the playground today and it was only twenty degrees, not even counting the windshield!”

4. Had a 30-hour “Twilight Zone” marathon
These are the snacks we purchased on our way home from defying gravity in (sweaty) wrestling shoes:

Day 1

We did pretty well overall; my son bailed after approximately 15 minutes, knowing he would likely (literally) die of fear if he watched any longer. My daughter made it as long as I did; I’m impressed she had it in her. Here’s the 24-hour point:

Day 2

(Keep in mind; this is a basement, I’m very aware of the poor décor)

The plan was to watch for 36 hours straight, but when episodes with creepy dummies and serial-killer dolls started popping up, we unanimously voted to end a bit short of our goal. 1. Because she was getting scared, and 2. Because I didn’t want to be woken up every two hours as a result of her being scared. Also it allowed me to sleep in my own bed and watch the last hours of the “Walking Dead” marathon over on AMC. Win.

5. Signed up for a class on earning income from online writing
I’m making this business for-profit; I’m going pro.

(I really wanted to put This shit’s goin’ pro above, but decided it would be tacky)

6. Read Stephen King’s “On Writing,” cover to cover in under 24 hours
My sister sent me this book a few years back and it ended up disappearing in a cabinet among all of the other books I intended to read. Over the break I had dedicated some time to researching literature that might be of use in my quest to become a renowned, professional author. When “On Writing” was recommended, I remembered I had it stashed in the house. Unfortunately, I must’ve stashed it a little too well because I was completely unable to locate it. I dusted off every book I own, looked under beds, and cleared out closets. I haven’t exactly declared it lost yet, just M.I.A., but don’t worry; my book of Chuck Norris jokes is safe.

I ended up downloading the Kindle edition using a gift card that my other sister gave me. I’m an awful sibling.

I have a newfound respect for Stephen King’s work. The book was engaging and extremely beneficial. He imparts technical skills, but is practical in his stance on creativity. His views on plot, symbolism, and writing as a whole are very much in line with my approach.  I laughed out loud at how familiar I am with the experience of reading something and thinking “I can write better than that! I already have!”

I’ve always seen myself as a non-fiction writer or possible columnist, writing more editorial-based pieces. Yet after completing “On Writing,” I gained a desire to write a novel. It seems doable. I’m concerned with grammar and formatting though. As you may have noticed, I take a lot of creative license when it comes to dialog, paragraph, and sentence structure. I recently realized I have been using punctuation in quotation marks incorrectly. Oops. That scares me more than fine-tuning my writing abilities.

Initially I leaned toward a non-fiction piece, more relating to my own life, but gradually drifted into the realm of real-life fiction. The idea of writing about someone like me with coinciding experiences is alluring. I suppose similar to James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces,” but having clearly established the work as fiction.  I’m asking for input from readers for the first time. What would you prefer? Seriously. Opinions please!

It’s funny, while I was in a residential treatment center myself, I actually thought about “A Million Little Pieces,” from time to time and how so much of it was implausible. Too bad it wasn’t marketed as fiction in the first place. It was a good read.

If I wrote a book, would you read it?

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

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Or just come dressed as random Christmas items

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Justin Timberlake! Omaha is awesome!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.