620At my annual “Book Club Holiday Mixer”, the conversation inevitably led to holiday traditions, and once again, I was reminded of my failings as a mother. These women are good friends of mine, but suddenly they were speaking a foreign language about some Elf on a Shelf®. Apparently he takes up residence in their homes after Thanksgiving and these devoted mothers get up every night and move him around the house until Christmas. Of course, I had never heard of this demon who watches over the family by day, then speeds off to the North Pole every night to report to Santa the family’s activities, and whether the kids have been naughty or nice. My paranoia immediately had me believing this was yet another conspiracy to underscore my inadequacy as a parent.

Are Santa and eight flying reindeer mundane and outmoded? Surely they do an adequate job of spreading joy, and generating work for parents at Christmas. Remembering to eat or throw away the cookies left for Santa on Christmas Eve, and getting presents assembled and wrapped, provide plenty of challenges for me each year. Many a late night Christmas Eve has been spent scavenging around the house, after cooking dinner for twelve people, trying to find a piece of stale Halloween candy, a hair tie, a paper clip, anything, to put in the Christmas stockings. I think Christmas is already brimming with magical mystery and intrigue. Do we really need to add one more layer of complexity to an already over-engineered holiday?

In my household I would worry he was counting the number of bottles of wine my husband and I consume every night. Suddenly I imagined this Demon-Elf’s conversations with Santa about me, not my children. “Santa, the house is full of clutter and debris. The mom doesn’t even manage to clean the kitchen after dinner every night. And the laundry is piling up. She grabs a dirty sweatshirt off the floor for her son to wear to school. And by the way Santa, that woman is so cranky every morning. You wouldn’t believe the way she barks at her husband and children.”

And what about privacy concerns? This smirking cloven-hooved troll watches over families, taking notes; maybe he even has a hidden camera. Then he scampers off to the “North Pole” each night to report every intimate detail to “The Fat Man”? This is a flagrant miscarriage of privacy and justice. Has Edward Snowden gotten ahold of this? Hey Ed, if you are reading this, time to blow the whistle on “Project Elf”, yet another of the NSA’s insidious spy rings. Good thing you are safe in the loving arms of the Russian Oligarchy, because there are going to be some really angry moms and Pinterest Pinners who will want to tear you to shreds. Please Ed, get on this – before my kids find out about this Elf on a Shelf® business, and accuse me of not loving them.

Our House to Yours12-1From “Our House to Yours” is such a classic.  If you plan to send this one, it’s important to make a big and lasting impression.  In order to achieve this beautiful card, we borrowed the neighbors beat up Ford truck. Our whole family piled in, and we posed as gardeners to gain entrance into this beautiful and exclusive, gated community. Ironically, we asked the gardener to take our family portrait. I admit, it was a little stressful hoping the people who really live here wouldn’t drive up mid photo shoot. We also had to borrow one of our neighbor’s kids, because nothing is more “de rigueur” than three or more kids, especially during the holidays.

 

Greetings Friends and Loved Ones,

It’s been one heck of a year for our family! So many achievements and accomplishments, it’s hard to know where to start, or end.  The twins, Kale and Broc (short for Broccoli Rabe), were so busy translating Harry Potter into Latin, that they almost forgot to prepare for the National Science Fair! Luckily, at the last minute they pulled together a prototype for diffusing a nuclear bomb and won handily. They are currently composing their first concerto.  It’s hard to believe they are only eight! They sure keep Mom on her toes.

ballet vintaSpeaking of toes, our beautiful daughter, Montage, was invited to join the Bolshoi Ballet.  We turned it down because she is so busy with her commercials, modeling, and acting career. Watch out Lindsay Lohan! We joke that our sweet little “Monty” is 15 going on 25!  Luckily she is still a bookworm at heart, maintaining an A+ average.

We are still waiting for baby “Itsy” to decide on a name. We are a little afraid “Itsy” might just stick as we approach our “baby’s” third birthday.  We have done such a great job remaining gender neutral with our youngest, and have put no labels on baby “Itsy” so far.  Not only will this amazing child be allowed to name itself, but it will be given the gift to determine its gender identity in a completely neutral and unbiased atmosphere.  My husband and I congratulate ourselves every day, and hope to set a shining example for others. That’s why we hired a film crew to chronicle every moment of “Itsy’s” life from birth through the present. We’ve been shopping this amazing reality TV show, but just haven’t found the right deal. Let’s just say we are “in talks” and watch for big news in the New Year! By the way, “Itsy” is already our little athlete; soccer, lacrosse, baseball, figure skating, and trapeze!

PicMonkey Collage finalAs for Mom, between working with a “Genius Coach” to help me cope with raising such gifted geniuses, all of my charity work, redecorating our home, which I like to do every other year to keep things gleaming, and honing my gourmet chef skills, I rarely have a moment of respite. Anyone lucky enough to attend our holiday party knows that I go hog wild with my seasonal decorations. Fortunately I only need three hours of sleep a night.  As for “Big Daddy”, he’s busy buying, selling, and starting companies, training for the Iron Man, attending all the kids’ sporting events and performances, and being the biggest Husky Football and Seahawks Fan ever!

We would like to wish you a joyous holiday, and peace in the New Year.  Sorry for the impersonal letter, but I’m sure you’re just dying to know what’s going on with our family, and you couldn’t possibly have kept up with all the press we receive.  Please remember the true meaning of this most joyous of all seasons, and the purest, most resplendent gift of all that God created, and selflessly bestowed upon mankind— gold Rolexes. I know someone who’s been a really good girl this year, and has one waiting under the tree!

Love,

The Achiever Family

Hawaiin PunchHere is the second  installment of “All the Holiday Cards I Wanted to Send, but Never Did”. I debated between “So Glad You’re Not Here” and “Our Family Went To Hawaii, And All You Get Is This Effin’ Christmas card”.

My husband looks particularly strapping.  The wonderful thing about stock photography is we didn’t have to eat healthy, limit alcohol, or set foot in the gym, to be swimsuit and photo ready.  Not to mention the hours of excruciating pain my husband would have to endure waxing unsightly back and shoulder hair.

As we approached our first Christmas together, I suggested sending Christmas cards. My husband said, “Oh no, absolutely not.” At first I was dismayed; had I married the Grinch Who Stole Christmas? But my husband, ever the logical one, provided his well thought out reasoning. “People prominently display the cards they receive, and there is no way we can possibly remember to send a card to everyone we know. Invariably, someone we forgot will be at a mutual friend’s house, see the Christmas card on the mantle, and feel bad that they did not receive one.”

I suddenly felt so liberated. I can honestly claim the reason I don’t send Christmas cards is because I don’t want to risk hurting anyone’s feelings. Brilliant! However; I love receiving holiday greetings, and the idea of sending beautifully crafted cards, with my children looking angelic is so appealing. This year it occurred to me that I could indeed post Christmas cards on my blog. What an opportunity to share my holiday love with all my friends, and even people I don’t know.  While I might offend people with the content, I won’t hurt anyone’s feelings for forgetting them! This December, I am featuring all the holiday cards that I have wanted to send over the years, but never had the motivation, or permission, to do so!

chain gang 2

Kids Incarcerated, that is. My son and I saw this chain gang of preschoolers at the park.  I explained to him that they were very naughty children. Their main crime was not listening to their parents.  I’m not sure what work detail they had been on that day, perhaps digging ditches or picking up litter. They were singing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” as they passed by, which I thought was a little cliché. I wonder how much the parents have to pay for this wonderful disciplinary service? It sure beats shipping the problem four-year old off to military school.  It also made me realize there really is a market for my Toddler Straight Jacket line of products. I will be offering them in an array of fashion colors and textures. I’m starting product development, and will be looking for investors soon.

tile bathroom I was a child of the suburbs outside of Portland, where everything was shiny and new.  But for as long as I can remember, I have loved older homes.  I suppose it’s the character and aesthetic I find so appealing. But purchasing a pre-depression era home typically involves renovating the kitchen, and a complete build-out to achieve the elusive master bedroom inclusive of bathroom and closets.  We were on our final renovation about eight years ago to gain a master bedroom.

Our painter was a born again Christian, which I suspect was due, in part, to his A.A. affiliation.  He was certainly a nice guy, and the most reliable painter we’ve ever hired. Dennis was a talker, and he talked a lot about Jesus. Not in a proselytizing manner, but in a “The big J.C. is my B.F.F.,” sort of way. He knew Jesus on a very personal level.  He might off-handedly remark, “I prayed to the good Lord Jesus today to ensure I could get the right paint color for you, and there wouldn’t be a big line at Daily’s Paint Store.”  I was initially taken aback by all his Jesus talk.  As anyone raised Catholic knows, we would much rather talk to his Mother, Mary. After all, she birthed him in a stable (yikes!) and raised the little tike. Raising the Christ Child could not have been easy.  Who do you give the time out to – Father, Son or Holy Ghost? When you are the mother of God, you are certainly never allowed to take the Lord’s name in vain.  That would have been really damaging to his self-esteem. As  parents, most of us constantly second guess ourselves.  Did I overreact? Did I underreact? What is the best way to address this issue? Imagine if you are raising the Christ child with his stepfather? The pressure to be a good parent must have been immense, two millennia before PEPs or parenting books could offer any guidance!

I was also a little confounded by the thought that Jesus had the time or the inclination to be concerned about my renovation.  I figured he had more important things to be concerned about. But I must be honest, imagesCAYJ7YPZ imagesCAXUDO4Zeventually I warmed to the idea.  I started to believe that Jesus  was playing a very personal role in our project. He not only cared, but had a divine opinion on whether I chose “Dessert Sonata Ombre” or “Late Tuscan Summer Corn Harvest” for my walls. By the time I had to choose bathroom tile, I was entirely convinced he wanted me to put the intricate mosaic tile behind my bath that would harken back to the holy lands he walked 2000 years ago.  Replicating the marble tile from a villa in Rome for the floors became a forgone conclusion.  Eventually my husband pointed out that Jesus was NOT paying for our renovation.  I reminded him that I had passed on recreating the Sistine Chapel on the ceiling.

As we were winding down the project, Dennis showed up on a late fall day that was threatening rain.  He insisted on painting the outside, which on a traditional Spanish style home consists of light colored stucco and very dark trim on the windows. I questioned the wisdom of such an action, on a day there would surely be rain. Dennis assured me that he had prayed to the Good Lord Jesus that it wouldn’t rain, so he could get our exterior window trim and walls painted, and move on to his next project. He felt certain the Good Lord Jesus would answer his prayer. “Very well”, I sighed.  It was simply too difficult to argue against such ardent faith, and the Lord had done such a nice job guiding my renovation thus far.  So paint he did; cream stucco, dark trim.  He was efficient, and after a couple of hours he headed out.  Suddenly, the skys opened up, and a torrential down pour made a chocolate ripple tie-dyed mess of the freshly painted exterior wall.  I grabbed my phone and called Dennis.  “Are you are aware that it’s raining cats and dogs right now?” Silence on the other end.  “Dennis, what in the world was Jesus thinking?”

JazzerciseAt our auction a few years ago, I purchased a one-month pass to a newly minted barre method studio in town. I thought it might be fun to mix up my regular yoga and running routine.

It is always a little intimidating walking into a new workout facility.  It’s as if you have “newbie” tattooed on your forehead. And right out of the gates, I committed several faux pas.  I was cheerfully greeted by Felicity, who would be my instructor that day.  The studio was impeccable and shiny. In my earnestness I marched on in, only to be scolded immediately. “No, no, no, we don’t wear our shoes past this line.” I looked down to see a white line painted on the floor, which I had crossed.  “Please take your shoes off, and deposit your neatly folded clothing in one of the cubicles, provided at no extra charge.” I was relieved to have the authorized equipment; no-slip socks and logoed leak-proof water bottle. Mercifully, they were included in the auction package.

I filled out the necessary paperwork.  In case of emergency contact my beloved husband. Yes, I have insurance.  Yes, I have a medical directive authored by a reputable attorney, signed by me, and notarized.  No, please don’t let my beloved husband pull the plug. No I don’t carry my own defibrillator. With that taken care of, I entered the studio.

I was instructed to grab a small mat and towel (this equipment was also complimentary). The towel was to be placed upon the mat, so that no part of my skin or clothing came into contact with the mat at any time during the workout.  As the studio began to fill, I wished the auction package had included a gift certificate for Lululemon.  I hadn’t realized how much workout clothing had changed in the ten years since I had last Jazzercisepurchased eight pairs of yoga pants, jog bras and tank tops at Target.  Unlike my workout bras and tops designed specifically to smash everything down with force, the new tops, pushed everything up, and in, and included varying degrees of padding.  I had to be careful not to stare in bright-eyed admiration.  Not only were these women stylishly outfitted, but they all looked like they had come straight from the salon.  Everyone’s hair was down, highlighted, and cascading in beautiful long curls and waves that appeared to be straight off the red carpet.  I marveled at the Coppertone tans they all sported during the dregs of winter in Seattle.  And as they blinked, I felt the air begin to move, generated by the fans attached to their eyelids, giving them all a decidedly “My Little Pony” look.  I wondered if their makeup was going to run once we all began to sweat.

I needn’t worry. This workout was designed to lift your bum and tone every inch of your body without ever breaking a sweat.  It consisted of really tight jerking movements and gesticulations. For the entire hour we were yelled at to squeeze our nether regions. I had a hard time figuring out how to breathe without relaxing my lungs and nasal passages, which was strictly forbidden.

I felt horribly guilty that the instructor had to spend an inordinate amount of time continuously adjusting and readjusting my posture, pulling my shoulders back, and then punching me in the belly to get me to “suck it in”. I wondered if I had internal bleeding, and I tried to explain to her that “I was sucking it in. That was as far as my belly could suck, and that Spanks were invented for a reason”.  Talking back was a really poor decision, as her wrath reigned down upon me. I felt like I was Richard Gere in “An Officer and a Gentleman”, being berated and humiliated by Louis Gossett, Jr.  I wondered if my instructor was trying to win an Academy Award, as I began looking for the hidden cameras.  Luckily she did find time to pile on some lavish praise to her star students.  A few were in training to become instructors, so they too could join the “Cult of Perfection”.  If I wanted to continue coming to this class, it was going to take a substantial investment in hair, makeup, workout gear, and plastic surgery.

I admit, the workout was fatiguing, but being of the old school, it’s just not a workout unless I sweat profusely.  I was curious what these women did to supplement this workout, so at the end of class, I asked Felicity, “What do you gals do for cardio?” Felicity looked at me with a mixture of sympathy and disdain, and like a trained flamenco dancer, made a sweeping gesture with her arm from the top of her perfectly coiffed head to her tiny waist. “Oh no! Only barre! Absolutely only barre! How do you think we get these bodies?”

 

Bumper StickerBumper stickers have long been a way to tell the world how smart you are, how subversive, or just a great way to brag a little.  In a city like Seattle, bumper stickers offer a diversion from the ennui of traffic.  I love playing the bumper sticker game in my own head; I brainstorm ideas that could really capture the imagination of our nation’s commuters.  It’s not complicated like haiku. Keep it short and snappy, yet thought-provoking. Here are a few ideas I believe to be bumper sticker worthy:

1)      My Kids Are Highly Average

2)      Bad Driver On Board

3)      Sorry, I Didn’t Mean To Cut You Off

4)      IT’s  Not Coffee In My Starbucks Mug

5)      I ♥ Traffic

6)     Global Warming, Not My Problem – This one I would affix to the bumper of my SUV and I would distribute to all my SUV driving pals.  Of course, this is meant to be cheeky.

7)     My Other Car Is A Prius – Again for the large SUV, or other fossil fuel guzzling automobiles out there. This is meant to be taken literally.

8)      My Other Car Is A Hummer – For the Prius driver with a kooky sense of humor.

9)      Jesus Saves! He Must Be A Billionaire By Now  – This is simply a lesson in compound interest.

10)    Honk If You Love Jesus – An old classic that really deserves a “revival”.  I’ve noticed a lot of drivers in Manhattan really love Jesus.  In Seattle, not so much…why am I the only one honking?

parties2Once Halloween hits, the official holiday party season ramps up, and is in full swing by Thanksgiving. And where there are parties, there are hangovers.  I think Dan Brown had it all wrong. The true Holy Grail, protected by the knights of Templar and pursued by heads of state, is the cure to the hangover.  Think about it; the symbol is a chalice, and the world’s longest running conspiracy began over wine, at the Last Supper.  Would not the knowledge to cure hangovers make someone all powerful?

As a participant-observing, cultural anthropologist, I’ve done some research on this subject over the years.  Sure, one could always abstain from alcohol or limit intake, but let’s be real here.  Quite frankly, I’m surprised that modern science has not devoted more time and energy to this malaise.  Think about the loss of productivity each and every day, all over the world, due to the “Jack Daniels Flu”.  Surely if someone cured the common hangover, they would find themselves accepting the Nobel Prize for Medicine.  Until that day, we are forced to craft our home remedies, and hide in the shadows devouring hamburgers, and French fries, accompanied by an ice cold Coca-Cola.

 

kids bath (2)Many of us have experienced vivid memories triggered by scent.  Researchers attribute this to the proximity of the olfactory nerve to the amygdala, which is associated with emotional memory.*  Science lesson aside, the feeling can often be very powerful, transcending time and space.  We smell a familiar scent that evokes a strong memory from childhood; the bubble bath we used when my sisters and I would pile into the bathtub; all three of us. My father, his early childhood through the formative years spanning the Great mr bublesDepression, was extremely frugal. We were allowed about three inches of water in our bath, but we made the most of it with lots of bubbles. No wonder our skin was dry and itched like crazy.

To this day I associate “clean” with the chemically smell of Lysol, Pine-sol and Comet Cleanser. Our clothing smelled of White King D, Fels Naptha Soap and lot’s of Clorox. My dear mother prided herself on how white her whites were. When I think of my own children and the scents they will associate with childhood, I think a musty smell will play a prominent role in their olfactory triggers.  I tend to have a 24-hour waiting period between the wash cycle and remembering to put the clothes in the dryer. Adding half the box of Bounce sheets does very little to freshen things up. I’ve given up on re-running the washing machine, because another 24-hours elapses so quickly! I just can’t break the cycle.

As for other scents that will cause a misty-eyed, nostalgic response from my children, dare I mention my car? It’s for good reason we call it “The Family Dumpster”.  The Jeep has its own special brand of decaying snacks, sweaty soccer socks, and spilled coffee with cream. It’s an all natural blend, like a Joe Malone perfume. Certainly my children won’t be able to walk near a dumpster 30 years from now without thinking of Dear Old Mum barreling down the freeway, hip hop blasting on the stereo.

* Source: 10 Facts About Memory: Scent Can Be a Powerful Memory Trigger by Kendra Cherry, About.com

© 2017 Napadaisical
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