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‘Holiday Fodder’ Category

  1. Crappy Valentine’s Day

    February 20, 2011 by Wendy

    Valentine’s Day used to be my favorite holiday. Ever since I was little, I loved everything about it—the conversation hearts, giving and getting the tiny little cards folded over and sealed with a heart sticker, pink frosted cookies and the heart-shaped boxes of waxy chocolate pieces filled with orange or pink fluff.

    Then, as a married grown-up, it was fun to do cute little romantic things like have a picnic dinner in the living room or a hike in a pretty spot and give each other corny cards. (We always thought it was too mundane to go out to dinner at a nice restaurant just because everyone else was.) Whatever we did, it was always fun and romantic.

    And then we had kids.

    When they were babies and toddlers, it was just nuts and I don’t even remember what we did for Valentine’s Day. It got worse as soon as the twins hit school age.

    That’s when Valentine’s Day became a job. There were cards to write for the entire class (times two), class parties to plan and help out at, cutesy breakfasts to make, little treats to tuck in school lunches and special dinners to prepare.

    I remember when the twins were in kindergarten, we took a 10-day trip to Walt Disney World at the end of January. Knowing it would be Valentine’s Day when we got back, I had them work on their Valentines on the plane on the way there. All the flight attendants were so impressed, and kept coming by to comment on how cute the girls were, and what a great mom I was for having them work on them so early.

    I was pretty impressed with myself, too, having packed the class list, the two sets of cards, the pencils, stickers, etc.

    I don’t know what happened to that mom.

    Fast forward to seven years of Valentine’s Days later, with our third daughter now in kindergarten, and all I can say after this Valentine’s Day is:

    I suck.

    Maybe it’s the fact that Little Miss is the second go-around for me, or maybe it’s just that life has become too busy, but that mom on the plane who had it all together? She must’ve taken a solo vacation this year, ’cause she was nowhere to be found this year.

    Several weeks prior to the holiday this year, Little Miss’s teacher sent home a note instructing parents to help their child make a mailbox out of shoebox, and to not write individual names on the Valentines, so as to make delivery easier and more efficient during the class party.

    Knowing how difficult it is to prod a 5-year-old to write 26 Valentines, I intended to get an early start, buying the Valentines a full three weeks ahead of time.

    That doesn’t mean we wrote them out that early.

    No, we waited until the weekend before, during which there was a birthday party, double-header basketball games, grocery shopping and a bunch of other weekend tasks thrown in. By Sunday night, Mommy lost all her patience after the 149th time of telling Little Miss to stay at the table until all the Valentines were written. Plus, Little Miss liked the ones she picked so much that she wrote out six for herself, which meant now she didn’t have enough for everyone in the class so she had to borrow some from her sisters, but then we discovered those had Bible verses on them and because you never know if that will offend somebody these days, I had to run out to CVS to buy another box. (I would’ve let it go, but I had to run out anyway because we were out of Scotch tape, which we needed to tape the Valentine pencils and lollipops to the card.)

    Earlier in the week, Twin B helped Little Miss decorate her shoebox. The first-time mom of seven years ago might have looked in dismay at the crooked patches of pink construction paper, bubbled up from way too much glue, and the “Happy Birthday!” stickers and hand-drawn peace symbols on top of the box. But the practical mom who’s been there, done that, cringed just a little and thought, “Well it’s just going to get thrown away anyway, what’s the difference?”

    When I walked her into the classroom the next morning to help her carry in her box and Valentines, I saw the difference.

    The back table was already filled with boxes that I might buy at a fine stationery boutique if I ever had a need for such a box. There was the large round hatbox adorned with Marabou feathers and pink glitter, another box had the child’s name spelled out using cutout letters each mounted on a stick, another was covered in a scrapbook layout of photos of the child. And here was “ours:”



    Already feeling bad for my numerous “FOR THE LAST TIME, CAN WE PLEASE FINISH THESE VALENTINES BEFORE I REALLY FREAK OUT” outbursts, I felt even worse walking back to the car. “At least I put red bows in her hair today,” I thought to myself.

    I came home and told the Mr., describing in detail all the fancy boxes, and all the presents piling up on the teacher’s desk. (We gave her a giant Hershey’s kiss that said #1 Teacher, which I thought was nice until I saw the elaborately wrapped gifts, flowers, plants and chocolate-covered strawberries other kids were bringing in.)

    “So what?” said the Mr., who incidentally, had taken the day off to spend with me only to find out that I had to volunteer later that day at the class party. “There’s no value in that! Do you really wish you would’ve spent hours putting feathers and glitter and crap on a box, just so she can bring it home and throw it away?”

    Well, yes, I kind of do.

    I sulked about it for a while, vowing to do better next year. Later, we went back to the classroom for the party, where the teacher got annoyed because the other room moms and I didn’t know how to make a bouquet out of the pile of paper hearts, pipe cleaners, doilies and tissue paper she left out for us while she was in a meeting.

    Even my rocket scientist hubby–who came to the party, because, well, we were spending Valentine’s Day together— couldn’t figure it out, so there. Sheesh.

    The party was chaotic and stressful, the kids were all wound up and sugared up, and we were glad when it was over.


    Just as the bell was about to ring, and the kids were all lined up at the door holding their fancy mailboxes stuffed with Valentines, I noticed something in Little Miss’s cubby: The gallon-sized Ziploc bag full of all of her Valentines carefully taped to the pencils and lollipops sitting there, just the way I left it in the morning. They never got passed out. I wanted to cry. No, I did cry. In a mad scramble, we started handing them out to kids as they were filing out the door, stuffing them in as many hands, backpacks and boxes as we could. Some kids got two or three, some kids got none at all.

    All that prodding, all that erasing, all that taping, all that yelling. All for nothing.

    But then after we got home and I was emptying her backpack, I saw a pink foam heart stuck to a pink lace doily  peeking out of her folder.

    “Aww, did you make me a special Valentine?” I asked Little Miss. But then I turned it over:


    “I love you Cheerio!” it said in her kindergarten scrawl. Yup, it was for the dog.

    The dog—who, in the chaos of everyone coming home and sorting through all their cards and candy—somehow got a hold of the paper heart bouquet that Little Miss made. The complicated craft that we room moms apparently couldn’t figure out was now a pile of soggy, shredded tissue paper lying in the middle of the living room floor.

    I found this hilarious.

    Wanting to salvage what was left of our day, the Mr. suggested we all go on a long bike ride in the desert. I ran into a cactus and got a roofing-nail-sized thorn embedded into my thigh, but that bike ride turned out to be the highlight of my Valentine’s Day.

    When we got home, the Mr. threw some lovely tenderloin steaks on the grill, and by total accident, one of them came out into the perfect shape of a heart, which we enjoyed by candlelight as a family. So it turned out to be a pretty nice Valentine’s Day night.




    I got a bad stomachache from the rich meal, after spending all week eating only salads, turkey and fruit. But it didn’t end there.

    When I put the load of laundry I had just washed into the dryer, I discovered that I had washed the Mr.’s cellphone that must’ve been in his shorts pocket from the bike ride. It’s been nothing but a dead black screen ever since.

    And that was my crappy Valentine’s Day. If anyone sees that mom on the plane patiently helping her daughters make their Valentines, please tell her to get her sorry butt back home. Her family needs her.

  2. Can We Ban Halloween?

    November 16, 2010 by Wendy

    I hate Halloween.

    There. I said it.

    Isn’t that bad, coming from a mother of three children? Shouldn’t I be reveling in this kid-centric holiday, planning and making their costumes weeks in advance, like a good mom does?

    But no, I kind of dread Halloween beginning Oct. 1.  Maybe it’s because it’s the first sudden flurry of activity after the long summer and stressful start of the school year. Suddenly, the calendar becomes packed with school parties, fall festival and volunteering, plus trying to decide on three costumes and then gathering the supplies for them all. I’m just never quite ready for it when it hits.

    But the main reason I’m so anti-Halloween is because the traditions that go along with it (eating ridiculous amounts of sugar and celebrating all things evil and gory) are the opposite of everything we try to instill in our children all year long. Trick-or-treating is the WORST. Think about it: We are forever warning our children about Stranger Danger, and yet, we take them out in the dark of night (and sometimes on a school night!) and goad them into knocking on strangers’ doors and taking candy from these strangers. And even though we’ve all had it drilled into our heads since we were little that strangers put razor blades and drugs in the candy, we’re all, “Go on, sweetie, go knock on that door and hold your bucket out, and remember to say thank you!”

    Every year, while the girls and their cousins are knocking on some random door, there I am at the end of the driveway, going “Who came up with this tradition? This is terrible. We’re making our kids go knock on some pervert’s door and letting them take candy from them! It’s so dumb! Halloween should be banned!”

    And every year, there’s my Halloween-loving sister, going, “Oh, get over it, ya Scrooge, it’s tradition!”

    That’s not to say we don’t get into it or celebrate it. The twins have always chosen their own costumes, and they’re almost always homemade, which is saying a lot, as I am not a lover of crafting. In past years, they’ve been sushi, an ant-infested picnic table, cotton candy, an ice-cream cone and a bubble bath, winning prizes in the costume contests almost every time. (Score for the non-crafty mom!)




    This year, because they were too indecisive (Twin A), or procrastinated too much (Twin B), we kept it simple. Twin A was a “spa girl” and Twin B was a gypsy, both of which were easy to put together with stuff we already had around the house. Little Miss decided months ago that she wanted to be Snow White, which was even easier, since we already had the costume from previous years, and only had to buy a new wig:




    I do have a lot of fun helping the girls dress up, but I admit it’s probably one of very few things I won’t be too sad to see them outgrow. The tween twins are almost there, but not quite yet. They still had fun dressing up and trick-or-treating this year—especially when we hit the house where the nice old man always hands out money instead of candy. (They know his house—it’s the one with the Bentley parked out in front.)

    Every year, I get into Halloween less and less, putting up fewer decorations and barely glancing at those little booklets for fun ideas. In fact, this year, I didn’t put up a single decoration, other than the tiny pumpkin Little Miss brought home from her field trip to a farm. Thankfully, Little Miss is afraid of anything remotely creepy, therefore I get a reprieve from getting the boxes of decorations down (I only have two) and stretching those pesky cobwebs all over the house. The scariest decoration we have is a pumpkin with a sensor on it that says, “Boo! Did I scare you?” when you walk by. She has nightmares about that thing so there is no way it’s coming inside.

    The twins weren’t quite that skittish, and we got into the holiday more with them. Every year since they were toddlers, we would drive more than an hour away to a farm with a pumpkin patch, where we’d let them pick their pumpkins, and I’d take a million adorable pictures of all things fall. Then we’d come home, let them dig the gunk out, and I’d make roasted pumpkin seeds. But for some reason (usually due to poor planning and lack of time) we haven’t gone, nor have we even carved pumpkins for the last two years. I know, lame.

    Lucky for us, my sister is the complete opposite. She lives for Halloween, and is one of those who decks out her house both inside and out as much as most people do for Christmas: skeleton-bone streamers, bleeding pictures, ghosts, monster footprints, spider webs, rats, life-size hanging ghouls, rattling skeletons, creepy snakes, screeching cats. Come October, her house looks like one of those Halloween superstores.

    And she carries the theme into her menu for the evening. This year she made “feet of meet” (foot-shaped mini meatloaves, complete with mangy toenails made from Brazil nuts), pizza that looked like candy corn, some kind of bloody punch, mashed potatoes with green-olive eyeballs, witch-finger cookies and rolls with finger hot dogs sticking out. You get the picture:



    Clearly, that’s why we go there every year, plus she has a better neighborhood for trick-or-treating.We don’t get a lot of trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood and never stay home on Halloween night.

    Especially not since the time two years ago, when just as we were getting ready to leave, our doorbell rang. “Don’t answer it, I don’t have anything!” I said. But it was too late. The girls opened the door and there was a hayride-load of about 15 kids holding their pillowcases and buckets open expectantly. The girls and Hubby ran to the pantry in a panic and came back with handfuls of stale Easter candy and—wait for it—conversation hearts. I’m still mortified.

    That night, we came home to find our pumpkins all smashed up all over the yard. We got the message: Our “treats” sucked and we’d been “tricked.”

    I guess that’s what happens when the kids find out who the neighborhood Scrooge is.

  3. Say “cheese!” Please? Puh-lease??

    January 12, 2010 by Wendy

    As a Christmas gift to our parents this year, my sister and I decided to get our total of six kids together for a professional photography session so that we can give their grandparents a nice framed photo of all the grandkids together. We had done this nearly four years ago and it was a complete disaster. In fact, getting professional photos taken of just my three alone in any combination has always been some kind of disaster.

    The first time we tried to take the twins for their first photo session, when they were just three months old, it was a disaster. We had gone to Kiddie Kandids in the mall, and because the photographers (a k a the bored teenagers working the cameras) couldn’t magically get two babies to cooperate at the same time, we spent the entire day at the mall, trying for a photo for a while, then walking the mall to calm them down, then unsuccessfully trying again, taking nursing and changing breaks, trying again, walking the mall, trying again, etc. This went on for six hours before the photographers suggested we come back the next day. We did, and it was nearly as bad. Plus, they ended up catching a nasty cold from the photographer who kept sneezing in their faces. Looking at that photo today brings the whole awful day back and makes me hate the mall.

    Another time, when it was just Little Miss at 18 months old, she toppled off the silly prop chair they put her on, hit her face on another prop and suffered facial lacerations that took two weeks to heal before we could come back again. (Not to mention her puffy, tear-and-snot-stained face.) No amount of retouching could have fixed that disaster.

    When we took all the kids (my three and my sister’s three) to another studio four years ago, it was even worse. Getting six kids—which then included two infants, one sleeping, one awake—to cooperate was impossible and the photographer hated us. He was this surfer dude who just kinda stood there staring at us, like he was waiting for us to pose the kids. Meanwhile, I’m thinking he should be doing something other than standing there with his camera propped up on his stomach, checking his watch. He could’ve, I don’t know, grabbed a feather duster and made a silly noise or something to make them laugh or at least just crack a half-smile for one shutter click. With no direction, the kids were getting bored and restless and then silly, then the babies started crying.  The guy was all, “Hey, I can’t help it if your baby is crying, what am I supposed to do, they’re your kids.”

    Then he got all offended when we didn’t like his prop suggestions (like put the babies in a creepy Rosemary’s Baby bassinet) and became downright rude to us. My sister ended up crying in the bathroom, which prompted me to ask him to try to be more patient, to which he said, “I don’t know what kind of magic you think we can do. We’re not miracle workers here.” (Those were his exact words, pulled straight out of the letter I ended up writing to the corporate headquarters of Portrait Innovations.) Yeah, that’s right, I said the name. Your photographer was rude and should go back to taking pictures for Surf Dude magazine or wherever he came from. And our kids don’t need “miracle workers,” anyway.

    So when my sister suggested we do this again this year, I ca-ringed.

    “Come on, the kids are older this time, it’ll be better,” she implored after I expressed my resistance and dread.

    But she knew of someone who did child photography on the side, and we decided an outdoor location would be better than a studio.

    “Fine, I’ll do it,” I told her. “But I’m not doing the rolled-up jeans and white shirt thing.” (She always suggests that for these things.)

    So we chose an area near our home that’s surrounded by greenery and pretty architecture, ringed by upscale boutiques and restaurants. In other words, not the kind of place where the patrons appreciate six hyper kids running around (it was a Friday afternoon, the last day of school before fall break) and being fussed over and yelled at by their two stage moms.

    It all started fine, until boys being boys, one of them turned over a lid to one of those in-ground meter boxes and discovered a black widow. Like, a real black widow with the telltale red hourglass on its stomach:


    There went the boys’ attention span for posing, and the two littlest girls began shrieking when they heard the word “spider.” It was cool to see (the spider, not the shrieking girls), and I took this photo, which my sister blew up into posters for the boys’ rooms. They loved it. The very cute photographer, whom we suspect had a date waiting, did not love it. Once we got everyone’s attention again, it all went downhill from there.

    Trying to get all six kids to cooperate, maybe smile or at least appear normal, all at the same time was impossible. One or two were always looking away, or squinting, or blinking, or making a ridiculous face, or had swollen allergy eyes or messed-up hair. See for yourself:





    The nephew in the red sweater? That’s the one I call the “photo bomber,” now that I know “photo bombing” is a real thing. There are sites all over the Internet where people post their photos crashed by one of these “photo bombers,” or people who purposely try to get into other people’s photos and ruin them. He does this all the time, and it really annoys me, but little did I know he was onto something. There he is doing his thing in the third photo down. And so is some other random kid. We don’t know him. Apparently “photo bombing” is catching on quickly with the young.

    I just noticed that said nephew is completely missing in the first one. Where did he go? Probably “photo bombing” some other family taking holiday photos. I also just noticed my husband’s legs in that one, and some other guy’s legs on a bench in the others. (Where’d you find this “professional photographer” guy again, sis?)

    At one point, the photographer said to me, “Family gatherings must be real fun in your family, huh?” Even though he had somewhere to be, he was a lot more patient with us than rude surfer dude.

    Then it was time to move on to the next spot. That produced even worse results:





    Yeah, now those are some quality Christmas card photos! Posing six restless, bored, hungry kids straight into the sun does not make the best photo op. And check out “photo bomber” in the second one. I don’t think anyone was saying, “Say cheese!” but they sure weren’t saying “Shout out a random song!” either.

    Next, the photographer decided to pose everyone by a pretty waterfall. Seriously? A waterfall? With these monkeys? The whole time, three of the six of them were begging to climb it. In their holiday finery. Yeah, right, kids. So this is the best we got out of them:





    Lots of shots were taken here, but this here folks, this is the best of the worst. I challenge you to find a photo worthy of enlarging and framing. Silly faces, eyes closed, mouths open, and Twin A chooses now to be fascinated with the effects of hair gel in the “photo bomber’s” hair? All I can say is, thank goodness for digital photography.

    Although it didn’t really do us much good. At the end of the session, the photographer gave me a flash drive with 381 photos. When I got home and downloaded them onto my computer, I realized that not one of them was usable, at least not in the way we intended. For her Christmas card, my sister was able to find a nice one of her three alone (before we arrived at the scene and encouraged the chaos, apparently), and for mine, I used a snapshot that I had taken of them after the photographer escaped—I mean, left. I think we chose this one for our parents’ gift:


    It’s nice, but I can just see “photo bomber” struggling to try to stay composed. Just look at his clenched fist.

    The adventure didn’t end there. After all that energy was forced to be bottled up, the kids—OK, the boys—couldn’t take it anymore. While we were all busy gathering up all of our stuff (and I was busy trying to take my own pictures), the boys somehow found the utility box for the whole complex. This is where it gets a little fuzzy. All I know is that they were flipping switches that probably shouldn’t be flipped, and the next thing we know, thousands of Christmas lights suddenly come on. They may or may not have been on a timer and it may or may not have been just coincidence that it happened when they were flipping these switches, but let’s just say it wasn’t even near dusk yet, and I’m pretty sure the lights should not have come on for at least another hour.

    It was then that I noticed a rather large man in a chef’s outfit, standing outside one of the upscale restaurants, arms crossed, staring at all of us.

    “Let’s GO!” I said to my sister, who was either oblivious to or just accustomed to the commotion.

    “I’m hungry,” she said. “Wanna go to dinner at one of the restaurants here?”

    “Uh, no,” I said. “Do you see that guy over there?” I said, gesturing with my eyes at crabby chef man. “Does he LOOK like he wants us in his restaurant?”

    And then we left, exhausted, cranky and hungry. And that was just the grownups. The kids had a ball, once the photo session was over.

    Now fast-forward to Christmas Day, when everyone was over at our house. The kids were instructed to wash their hands before dinner, and I had to grab my camera when I saw them all piled up in the bathroom:


    That photo turned out to be better than the 381 photos taken a few days before. Well, except for “photo bomber’s” goofy expression. And the ever-present bikini top on Little Miss.

    I just picture my parents, admiring the photo we did choose, hanging on their wall, having no idea what it took to get that sorta cute photo. We should have brought the camcorder instead. A picture is worth a thousand words, but a video of this day? Now that would be a novel.

  4. The Card Nazi

    December 28, 2009 by Wendy

    cardThis year, I almost ran out of time to send out our annual holiday card and newsletter. Almost. But I had the cards made, picked them up, wrote the newsletter, printed it on pretty paper, and got them ready to send just in the bare nick of time. To expedite the process of actually getting all 114 out, I enlisted the family. After all, the card is from Us, and should be sent out by Us, right? So I gathered the troops, placed them strategically around the kitchen table and gave everyone their orders: Twin B was the return address and stamp putter-onner, Twin A was the address label putter-onner, I was the newsletter folder and card stuffer, BK was the sealer (with a sponge and water, no spit, gross), and Little Miss was to put on the envelope any kind of random Christmassy stickers that she could find around the house.

    “Uh, do you know that she’s putting Trader Joe’s stickers on these?” asked BK.

    “That’s OK, it’s quirky and campy. Besides, they’re Christmassy,” I said all casually and nonchalantly, as if that’s how I am about our cards.

    We had Christmas music playing, and it was festive and fun.

    Until I turned into the Card Nazi.

    “Who put that stamp on upside down?” I said, in a scary Exorcist voice, as an envelope made its way down the assembly line. “We cannot have this! If you’re going to be part of the process, we need to have strict quality control here!” Yes, I said that. (Although it really wasn’t Exorcist mean, but bordering on Kate Gosselin mean.)

    And then:

    “Oh my gosh! All those address labels are crooked! You have to put them on straight, like this!” I said, getting all hot and sweaty.

    And then: BK had the idea to make some hot tea for us all and serve it with some freshly baked shortbread cookies.

    “Are you kidding???? And get all that shortbread grease on the cards????” was my response to his kindly offer.

    I was Kate Gosselin.

    But these were our Christmas cards we were working on!

    The thing is, I do take time with our card, selecting the right pictures, and then carefully wording our newsletter so that it doesn’t come across as braggy or boring. We all know those holiday newsletters get a bad rap. There are actually websites and blogs devoted to the Bad Holiday Newsletter. Really. I don’t look too closely at them, though, for fear of seeing one of mine on there.

    I actually love receiving a newsletter, and am a little disappointed when I open a card and there isn’t one. I also love seeing the photos of everyone’s kids, and how cute they are and how much they’ve grown over the year. But that’s me. When I deposited those 114 perfectly sealed, almost perfectly stamped letters into the mailbox, I cringed a little, knowing that there are people out there who don’t feel the same way as I do about them. And that’s OK if they are met with a sigh, an eye roll and an “oh, please,” before ending up in the recycle bin. I just don’t want to know about it. Or see it on a website someday. In the words of Rachel Zoe: I. Would. Die.

  5. Do you hear what I hear?

    December 8, 2009 by Wendy

    At our house this time of year, it’s all Christmas music, all the time. Although we have a huge arsenal of Christmas CDs, ranging from the classics and the classical (Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Handel’s Messiah) to the cheesy (Christmas with the Brady Bunch, of course!), we usually default to listening to the local radio station that plays holiday music around the clock from Thanksgiving to Dec. 26.

    It can get really annoying.

    This year, they started way before Thanksgiving, so we were pretty much done with it by the time we put the tree up. For six weeks, they play the same continuous loop of songs, over and over and over. At least The Hippopotamus Song seems to have been knocked out of the loop this year. Hallelujah.

    But there are still plenty of other offenders, like Wham’s Last Christmas,  Jessica Simpson’s Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree and anything by Air Supply or Aaron Neville.

    On a positive note, listening to this music ad nauseum has opened up plenty of interesting dialogue in our household. Once, during the annoying Wham song, Little Miss asked, “He gave her his heart? How could he do that? Did he wrap it up and put it under the tree? And then she gave it away? Why would she give it

    How do you answer that?

    It was easier to find an answer the other day while driving in the car and Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You was playing and Twin B said, “I don’t get it. How could she not want presents under the tree and instead just want some guy for Christmas?”

    I laughed and said, “Someday you’ll understand.” But inside, I was going, “Yes! That’s my girl. She doesn’t get it!” She shouldn’t get it. And I hope she doesn’t get it for another 10 years. No, make that 20 years.

    And yet, yesterday when I asked Little Miss what her favorite Christmas song was, she said, “the one where the girl sings all I want for Christmas is you.”

    We’re in trouble. Why couldn’t she have just said the super-annoying Chipmunks song, like a normal 4-year-old?

    But the song that has opened up the most discussion, at least between BK and me, is Dan Fogelberg’s Same Old Lang Syne, the one about the exes meeting in the grocery store on Christmas Eve.  I used to love that song. Until one day I really listened to the words: “I went to hug her and she spilled her purse, and we laughed until we cried.”

    Come on! Would you really laugh until you cried over a spilled purse, especially during the awkwardness and surprise at running into an ex? OK, maybe if something embarrassing like a tampon fell out, but still, unless you’re a sixth-grade boy, even that’s not funny enough to invoke tears.

    But then it gets worse: So they drive around looking for a bar, but nothing is open so they go to a liquor store and buy a six-pack and drink it in her car. Meanwhile, I’m thinking, she said she was married to an architect, so isn’t it a little shady that she’s sitting in a car drinking beer with her ex on Christmas Eve? Obviously, she had run out to the grocery store, so doesn’t the architect wonder where she is by now? (Although, she was in the frozen foods section, maybe looking for ice cream or a Lean Cuisine, which doesn’t exactly indicate dinner for two, so maybe there are problems.)

    At the end of the song, the beer is gone and their “tongues were tired.” I’m sure I’m taking it too literally, but tired, slack tongues is just a gross image. I mean, have you ever heard anybody say their tongue is tired? But even worse, BK pointed out that after they down the six-pack, they both get in their cars and drive. “In the snow and rain,” added BK. “Drunk. Nice.”

    Now I don’t like that song anymore.

    That’s not the first song BK has ruined for me. I used to love The Piña Colada song by Rupert Holmes. I always thought it was such a cute and clever story until BK pointed out to me, “Neither one of them is happy in the relationship and they’re totally trying to cheat on each other! What’s cute about that?”

    Well, he had a point. But at least they didn’t drive after drinking the piña coladas. And I still think it’s a clever song.

    I think for the rest of the season, it’s best if we stick to songs like Carol of the Bells and Linus and Lucy.

    No words.

    So what holiday songs drive you to drink? You can add your comments by clicking on the little caption bubble by the headline of each post.

  6. The magic of Christmas lies…on the roof?

    December 2, 2009 by Wendy

    Last Christmas was the last year the twins believed in Santa Claus. At 10 years old, they were probably among the last of their peer group to do so—or at least to admit to us they’d done so. The questions started coming about two years before that, after hearing some “there is no Santa!” rumors being spread by some of their savvier third-grade peers.

    The first year, I denied such rumors, always with a shocked, “Why would they say that? Of course there’s a Santa Claus! Do you think I have time to wrap all those gifts in the stockings and under the tree?” They continued to believe, always making sure on Christmas Eve to leave a plate of cookies, a note and a glass of milk for Santa, along with an extra plate of carrots for the reindeer. Santa would always write back in scrawly handwriting, solidifying their belief.

    But when they became skeptical of the other lies we parents perpetuate, namely the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny, I couldn’t lie. The tooth fairy idea is cute, and I didn’t mind them believing that each tooth she took from under their pillows in the night served as a building block for her giant castle in the sky. (Is it in the sky?) Plus, she stimulates the economy with her cash gifts. But the Easter bunny? That’s just downright creepy! I mean, come on, why do we let our children believe that a person-size rabbit walking on two legs creeps around their house at night hiding the eggs they painstakingly colored, leaving behind a basket of candy and junk?

    When they kept believing in that nonsense, I would say to BK, “Come on, how could these two gifted, straight-A students really believe that a giant rabbit comes into our house at night? That’s just weird!”

    Therefore, when they did finally become the least bit skeptical, I had no hesitation admitting that it was made up. I’m pretty sure they knew that, but didn’t want to admit it for fear of not finding money under their pillow with each lost tooth or not getting those Easter baskets full of candy and junk every Easter morning. (I did the same thing to my parents.)

    But Santa was a different story. I didn’t want that belief to go away. When the questions really started coming during the past year, I would always borrow a line from The Polar Express: “Remember, the magic of Christmas lies in your heart.” That vague line saved me so many times, and hey, it wasn’t a lie. If the magic of Christmas lies in our hearts, then I still believe in Santa! (I must admit, last year at the mall, Santa walked past us on his way to break and my sister and I both teared up and stared at him like he were, well, Santa Claus!)

    So last Christmas, sensing their ever-deepening skepticism and knowing this was probably the last year of Santa for them, I came up with the idea that we leave the scooters “Santa” was getting them up on the roof. We’d leave a note on the fireplace saying that their gifts were too large to fit down the chimney, so they had to be left on the roof.

    BK loved the idea. (Yes, sometimes he likes my ideas.) So on Christmas Eve, after we returned home from midnight Mass and tucked the excited kiddies into bed, he gamely set up the ladder at 2 a.m. and climbed up, wrapped scooters in tow. But even BK couldn’t have predicted that for the first time in forever, it would rain on Christmas Eve and continue to pour all night long. Luckily, we had the forethought to put the scooters in plastic bags, so we figured they’d be OK.

    The next morning, we did the traditional stocking opening. Sometimes they’d slip up with an excited, “Thank you!” to us when they opened one of their little gifts, whether it was packaged underwear or toothpaste. (Santa has always been practical when it comes to stockings in our house.) “Don’t thank us, it’s from Santa!” we’d say, not wanting to confuse Little Miss, who was busy tearing the paper from her stocking gifts into tiny shreds and sprinkling them like confetti all over the house.

    When they found the note, they exchanged that “twin look” they give each other and then couldn’t contain their excitement: not for what was potentially on the roof, but just the idea of going up on the roof. They love to do that, and for obvious reasons, the opportunity doesn’t come up too often. So there we were, in the pouring rain, BK leading the girls up the slippery ladder. I’m pretty sure our neighbors never saw us because Child Protective Services never came to our door that day.


    Doesn't everybody climb the roof on Christmas morning to open gifts?


    Finding their soaking wet gifts.

    scooters 2

    "Is it what I think it is???"

    scooters 3

    "It is! Can we try them up here?"

    There in the pouring rain, 12 feet above the ground, they opened their gifts. Then they asked if they could scooter on the roof. The very slippery roof. Thankfully, BK had the sense to say no, and eventually they came down, although the ever-cautious Twin A always takes about an hour of coaxing before she’ll set foot on the ladder for the descent.

    And yet, after all that, they later admitted that they knew the scooters were really from us.

    Santa had left the building.

    The good news is, he’s still here in the mind of Little Miss, and now we have two extra co-conspirators to help us perpetuate that belief for a few more years.

    At least I think so. Yesterday, she asked how a baby gets in a mommy’s tummy. She’s only 4.

    When did you break the news about Santa to your kids, or if you haven’t yet, when do you think is the right age to shatter their illusions? You can add your comments by clicking on the little caption bubble by the headline of each post.

  7. Only in Arizona

    November 29, 2009 by Wendy

    turkeyThis is what Thanksgiving in Arizona looks like. We don’t all wear our bikinis, but Little Miss insisted. Then they all went in the water, which was actually freezing. They didn’t care.


    A couple days later, we found this cute little deadly diamondback rattlesnake all snuggled up in our back yard. Snakes are supposed to be in hibernation right now. But if the kids are in the pool on Thanksgiving, why wouldn’t the snakes be out?


  8. We are thankful today for…

    November 26, 2009 by Wendy


    Today is Thanksgiving. When we host it at our house, we do the go-around-the-table-and-say-what-you’re-thankful-for thing. This year, I’m not hosting it so I’ve assigned everyone in our family to write me a list of what they’re thankful for and we’ll do it blog-style this year. I’ll go first (and these are in no particular order):

    • My awesome husband (Mr. BK), and everything about him.
    • My extraordinary daughters. (Mr. BK doesn’t like the overuse of that word “extraordinary,” but I think he’d agree they’re worth the exception. They are above ordinary.)
    • Our health and our togetherness on this day and every day.
    • My parents and my in-laws, all of whom are alive, in good health, and live nearby. I am thankful our children still have all four grandparents in their lives.
    • My sisters and my sister-in-law, each of whom fill a different spot in my life, and each of whom text me, email or call me daily with all kinds of news from the silly (“Nicole Richie had her baby!”) to the serious (“The pediatrician said it’s swine flu!”).
    • Imitrex.
    • That I have the skills, tools and resources to put a healthy, home-cooked meal on the table every night, even if I don’t look as pretty or as smiley as Giada.
    • Cute shoes that come in wide widths for the unfortunate soles belonging to Little Miss and me.
    • My friends scattered across the country and beyond, any one of whom I can call at any time about anything.
    • Whole Foods.
    • The iced mochas with Truvia and Lactaid that Mr. BK makes me every single morning, no matter what, even when he has to leave the house at 5 a.m. or is late for a meeting.
    • Water.
    • That we’ve so far survived the economic crisis, job intact, despite the pay cut and longer hours.
    • That when the swine flu hit our house as we suspect it did earlier this fall, it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, like it was for my poor little nephew, who ended up in the hospital with what he called “the slime flu.”
    • That my mom taught my daughters to sew this summer.
    • That it doesn’t stay 115 degrees in the desert all year long.
    • MAC Lipglass.
    • That I haven’t vomited since 1999.
    • That my kids rarely vomit.
    • That my husband never vomits, unless alcohol is involved. But that was 1997. And in college. A few times.
    • The library, and that it’s still free, except for all of our late fees.
    • My hair (not that it’s anything special, but whenever I do get mad at it, I think of all the people who lost theirs from cancer and who would be happy to have it).
    • That the 15 minutes is almost up for Jon & Kate, Speidi, Octomom and Susan Boyle. (I know, she has a great voice, but come on, could anybody really listen to an entire album of hers?)

    Mr. BKs list:

    • I am thankful to have my own health and to have healthy family surrounding me. To hear about the medial hardships that some have as part of their normal routine… from chronic conditions to swine flu makes me thankful to be shielded from that burden. Why do I still complain so much?
    • I’m thankful for my harmonious family life. I am so pleased with our marriage and the way that our kids are. I love our warm environment, our open communication, the way we talk to each other. So pleased. My heart swells to think about it.
    • I’m thankful to be employed doing things that I enjoy. And I’ve said many times that everything that I have to do is great, but the schedules take all the fun out of it. Still, I am thankful to have the career that I have.
    • I am thankful to be born in the United States of America. I am fascinated by our country and how well we have done in our short history. Such a unique, sensible, good nation.
    • I am thankful for sharp kitchen knives and the way that the people who use them (Wendy) make explicit efforts to follow my “knife rules” to keep them that way.
    • I am thankful that Wendy cooks great food from Monday through Thursday of every week. It is also endearing that she quits making dinner every week in exhaustion and exasperation at the whole effort that starts on Sunday. We all love to congratulate her on her weekly retirement party every Thursday night.
    • I am thankful that Wendy and I are on the same team for so many things. We have been competitive (and argumentative) since I think back in high school, but that’s no problem when we’re on the same team.

    Twin A’s list:

    • My family.
    • Happiness and peace.
    • Faith.
    • Education.

    Twin B’s list:

    • Mommy, Poppy, my sisters, Nonna, Nonno, Grandma, Grandpa, Zi-Zi, Uncle Corie, Aunt Laurie, Uncle Sal, Aunt Cheryl, Uncle Kim, Nicholas, Anthony, Gianna, Aunt Barb, Uncle Jay and all of my friends.
    • My school.
    • The Big Tree by the Road.
    • The Little Tree with the Swing by the Driveway.
    • God and Jesus.
    • My stuffed animals.

    Little Miss’ list:

    • My Barbies.
    • My stuffed animals.
    • My doctor kit.
    • My Play-Doh.
    • My baby dolls.

    Your turn: What are you most thankful for this year? You can add your comment by clicking on the little caption bubble by the post headline.