Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Close-Knit Family

Our house has 2300 square feet of space. So why the hell do we all keep ending up in the same 10 square feet every time I turn around?

Just One More Christmas Anecdote

Did I happen to mention that after opening the huge mountain of presents that overwhelmed our living room, Cassie actually ran around the house singing “I’m Getting Nothing for Christmas?”

Really, that’s what she did.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Overload And Recovery




You would not believe the sheer number of presents that got opened in this house yesterday morning. I knew it was going to be bad, because the number of giant packages we had received was already making it hard for people to get in and out of our living room. I swear, the place looked like the store room of UPS.

So many presents, so much excitement. I would have liked for things to have gone at a more leisurely pace this year, but with the kids sick so much of the time prior to the holidays, Michael and I never really got a chance to preplan and prepare, so we ended up running around in chaos like always. Ugh. Maybe next year will be different. Riiiiiight.

Cassie is old enough this year to really get into the whole Christmas tradition. We started with a delicious Christmas Eve dinner, which we ate early (Michael cooked it, Cassie helped). Turkey, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, crescent rolls... yum. Cassie ate a little bit (she’s at that age where all foods that don’t obviously look like candy are “yucky”). Then we all raced to get dressed and head out the door for 5:30 mass. Cass sat through most of mass with her daddy, although I had to leave because Sam wanted to sing... during the homily. Personally, I don’t mind missing mass. I’m Buddhist, and if I’m going to sit that long for any reason, I’d rather meditate than go through the Catholic Calisthenics of stand up, sit down, genuflect, HIKE!

But we got through church and then came home. This is where the real chaos started. I avoided the misery of buying gifts this year by shopping almost strictly online. I gave all the adults the same gift - porn (or rather, the erotica anthology I’m published in this season). However, I hadn’t managed to wrap anything. And of course, neither Michael nor I realized until we sat down that evening that we were almost out of Christmas wrapping paper. Cassie got a few gifts done up in baby shower paper. Don’t think she noticed though.

I wrapped stuff first while Michael got Cassie to bed. Then I spent all evening cleaning while he wrapped. The cats are on a ‘Bah-humbug!’ trip right now, it seems. They went to great pains to puke and poop all over the downstairs carpet (joy to the world, people). But they’re old, so these things do tend to happen. Especially on Christmas Eve.

We made sure Cassie put out milk and cookies. Sometime around midnight, after all the wrapping and the cleaning was done, Michael and I managed to sit down and ‘help Santa’ with his treats. We also put out Cassie’s reindeer food - uncooked oatmeal with silver glitter in it. The glitter is for magic. Then we each exchanged one gift, like we do every Christmas Eve. Michael gave me “Meatloaf: Bat Out Of Hell III” and I gave him a blank book with a love note written in it. The idea is that he now has one week to write a love note as well, and then hand it back to me. Then we’ll pass this book back and forth to each other, adding a love note each time until the book is full and I feel schmaltzy enough to go get another one.

We collapsed into bed around 12:30 AM. I got up four hours later and started working on some caramel pecan rolls. Yes, further proof that I am crazy. My mom always made these things and served them hot on Christmas morning, and they really are good, but they take forever to make. I promised myself that next year, I’d get my act together and make them on Christmas Eve. Of course, I also promised myself that next year I’d have all my presents wrapped the week before and we’d have plenty of Christmas paper to do it with. Michael did buy new wrapping paper this morning at the traditional butt-crack-of-dawn post-Christmas sales, so one out of three ain’t bad, right?

The pecan rolls were ready to eat by 9:30. By then, both kids had been up a couple of hours and we had cardboard boxes and wrapping paper strewn all over the house. Remember how I mentioned at the beginning of this post that we could barely get into the living room for all the boxes? It got worse, a lot worse, once we started opening everything. And it seemed like the boxes were multiplying exponentially under the tree. Open one box and find two more behind it. Open those two and find four more behind that. Open four and find sixteen. Etc, etc, etc.

Around noon I finally had to quit opening gifts to do more cooking. We had an invitation to eat Christmas dinner over at Mary’s parents’ place and I offered to make something. I made a killer spinach soufflĂ© and packed up the second plate of pecan rolls to take with us. By the time I was done, Michael was finishing up with the last package, stabbing it to death with his leatherman to prevent it from breeding any further gifts. The word disaster does not begin to describe the scene in our living room. It was at this point that I really started to feel ill. You can have too many presents, believe me.

And now for some of the highlights on who got what in this gross display of overabundance and wealth...

Cassie: She got a handmade Cinderella costume from her Grandmama. To say it’s gorgeous does not begin to describe it. She had to immediately to try it on, so we caught half a preschooler striptease act on video before Michael was able to turn off the camera. Twenty minutes later, Cassie opened up the Ariel wedding gown her aunt Khaki sent and stripped yet again. She also got a Disney Jasmine and Aladdin doll set. The dolls are dressed in their wedding clothes and look gorgeous, but the look on Aladdin’s face make me think he’s just realized it’s his wedding night and he’s not anatomically correct.

Sam: My little baby got a play saucer, one of those giant contraptions that’s supposed to keep kids entertained and out of trouble. The idea is that you sit babies in the little diaper-style seat amidst a frightful of light-up noise makers, allowing them to scream at the top of their lungs while they flail their little feet a mere inch or two above the carpet and fail to go anywhere at all. It looks like the mother ship from ET. Or maybe Close Encounters. I can’t decide.

Michael: I always try to find something that Michael will enjoy, yet hasn’t been listed on his wish list. I know, I know. Wish lists are there for a reason. But to me, it’s so unoriginal to keep checking off items on his list every time a holiday, birthday, or anniversary rolls around. So this year I decided to give him the gift of intelligent conversation. I got him a subscription to Scientific American, a magazine that looks at what’s happening in all areas of science and talks about topics like relativity and unified field theory (areas that Michael wants to do research in someday). The idea is that he and I can both read the magazine and then discuss it at the dinner table, in the car, wherever we get the chance to talk a bit. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do more than just look at an issue and say, “Oh, pretty pictures!”

Me: In addition to the Meatloaf CD, Michael also gave me sleepwear. You can tell our marriage has only gotten better over time. Years ago, he would have bought me Victoria’s Secret. This year he got me “Nightmare Before Christmas” jammies. The man truly loves and understands me. I also got the “You Can Do It!” book set (a merit badge handbook for grown up girls) from my sister, several boxes of Darjeeling tea from my parents, and the Action Heroine’s Handbook from Angie. Angie is always sending me cool stuff like that. One year, out of the blue, she sent me a psychedelic wall plaque of Ganesh. It’s still up in my dining room today. Cool!

Other odds and ends of note...

Once again, we got Trappist Monk cheese from Michael’s parents. You either love this cheese or you hate it. Whichever you decide, pray that it uses its overwhelming powers of stinkiness for good and not evil.

In addition to Cassie’s spontaneous strip tease acts, we also caught a few other interesting tidbits on tape. At one point, she was sitting with Michael while he worked on assembling the mother ship. Cassie kept putting her foot on the frame, so he responded by taking his screw driver and pretending to screw her foot to the saucer. Cassie was having so much fun she turned to me and shouted, “Mommy, Daddy keeps screwing me! Screw me again Daddy! Screw me again!”

So anyway, now that you’re done spraying coffee out of your nose, that was our Christmas. We headed over to Mary’s parents’ for dinner and had a wonderful time there. When we got home, I went to work on recovering my house. It took me two hours, but I eventually found the living room floor. Now I’m gearing up for a post-Christmas party. I’ve got a cake baking in the oven and once Sam is done nursing, I’m going to sit down with a cup of joe and one of my new books and do some reading. Hope everyone out there had a wonderful holiday, and enjoy New Year’s Day!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

16th Anniversary

December 19th was the sixteenth anniversary of Michael’s and my first date. Wow what a night! I’m talking sixteen years ago, not last Tuesday. Actually, Tuesday night was something else too. Sam screamed through most of it, refusing to fall asleep in her own crib. I of course refused to bring her into bed with us yet one more night. Needless to say, it ended up being a long night.

But sixteen years ago I had one of the best nights of my life. Michael and I barely knew each other, and probably would have run away from each other screaming if we knew what was in store for us back then. Two kids? A mortgage? Helen becomes a stay-at-home mom? Are you kidding me? Of course, it’s not as boring as it sounds. I am not just a stay-at-home mom; I'm a stay-at-home mom who writes porn and has a black belt in karate and kobudo, thereby qualifying me to write kick-ass dirty stories during naptime.

Sixteen years. Who’da thunk we’d last this long? I wonder where we’ll be sixteen years from now?

I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for Mars.

Note: Someone pointed out to me this week that I have slacked off on my ‘art-a-day’ promise. Too true. Between the holidays and the sick kids, I’ve been too swamped to draw, even at the computer. That’s not to say I haven’t been doing some creative stuff. I just haven’t been drawing. I may try today to spend twenty minutes with my sketch pad. We’ll see what happens.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Holiday Miracle

I never thought it would happen. Last night, after weeks of dealing with sick children, after weeks of having both kids in bed with us crying and fussing, last night for the first time in ages, Sam and Cassie slept through the night in their own beds!

It’s a miracle! Can I get an amen? AMEN!!

If this happens again, I’m calling the Pope.

Of course, Sam probably thinks it was a miracle that I didn’t stick a thermometer up her butt when I changed her diaper this morning.

Birth Control

To paraphrase Bill Cosby, the reason I have two children is because I do not want to have three.

On Thursday, Michael and I were actually having sex. Yes, folks with kids do get to have sex every now and then, even us. And it was good sex too, the kind you usually only get to have during your anniversary or when you buy a new car. I was in the throws of ecstasy, enjoying every moment, when Sam started to cry.

It was just a little snuffling at first. Then the snuffling turned into fussing, which then turned into wailing and finally screaming. Needless to say, it killed the mood.

I swear, on Sam’s wedding night, I’m going to call her on the phone. Six times at least. Just to make sure she’s okay.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Must Have Been Something I Said

We went to the pediatrician on Wednesday for a follow up appointment for Cassie. That makes seven visits in two weeks. The pediatrician joked that she was going to start charging me rent, I spent so much time there. I said I was just going to find an empty office space nearby and set up shop there. That way I could write between doctor visits. That led to her asking how my writing was going, and she was overjoyed when I told her I had a contract for my pornographic novel.

“Is that what you write?” she exclaimed. When I said yes, she grinned and asked if I wrote from experience.

“Oh god no,” I replied. “I’m not a gay man.”

She laughed so hard she almost couldn’t walk out of the examining room.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hair Today...

Did I mention I cut off eight inches of my hair over the weekend? I got tired of Sam ripping it out by the double handfuls.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Not Dead Yet...

To quote Inago Montoya, “Let me explain. No wait, that takes too long. Let me sum up.”

Cassie’s ear infection came with a nasty case of strep, which I didn’t know about until she’d been home five days straight. Her fever finally broke that day and she went back to preschool just in time for Sam to come down with the creeping crud. Or should I say the creeping croup? My baby sounded like she was trying to hock up a bag of wet cement all last week. The pediatrician put her on antibiotics and sent me home with a nebulizer so I could spray her in the face twice a day with steroids to open up her lungs. Not fun. However, my best friend Mary, who is a nurse, says the screaming helps Sam inhale more of the medication.

Needless to say, I got no sleep for a week straight, because if Sam couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t sleep. She ended up in my arms all night every night. The less she slept, the more tired she got, and the more tired she got, the more she screamed, and the more she screamed the more she coughed, and the more she coughed the less she slept. And on and on and on.

I had such different visions of how this holiday season would go. I had planned to spend my weekends baking and my afternoons sewing doll clothes for Cassie’s Barbies. Instead, I got non-stop screaming and endless hacking and wheezing. My peaceful holiday is shot. And since I’ve had my hands full with sick kids, I haven’t been able to do any holiday shopping for my friends. So I got nothing but love for you guys, and in the spirit of that love, let me just say this. Stay the hell away from the Madden family unless you want to die a lingering death brought on by the plague.

Merry Christmas.

Damn. I just realized I missed Bodhi Day entirely.