Tag Archives: christmas

Great Gifts………….

I am usually done by now – with Christmas shopping that is. Yep, I am one of those somewhat annoying organized people who used to make my own Christmas cards and have all my shopping pretty much done before Black Friday.

No More.

I am scrambling with the rest of the planet. Augh. Which is great because it’s 10 degrees here with the wind chill and the parking lots are full. I wish the economists would spend five minutes trying to find a parking spot at any mall in northern Virginia before they give their next economic outlook report. There’s a lot of spending going on.

Fortunately, at least our Christmas cards are sent out – I can say Christmas cards not holiday cards because I also sent out Hanukkah cards. So please don’t think I am insensitive. I bought all the cards at the store rather than making them (and not even a fancy card store) and forced allowed my youngest to help me put stamps on the envelopes.

And, woe is me, I hate giving gift cards because I think they are the easy way out. The perfect gift is out there for everyone – I just have to find it.

For my new writing gig at the Examiner.com, I wrote about the gift of forgiveness. And I am giving that this year too – hopefully I will be getting some too – but I also needs me a few things that fit under the tree and aren’t so symbolic.

This year I found a couple of things that I think are pretty cool – so I thought I would share them with you in case you are scrambling too.

The first one is for me. Yeah me! Yes, I am guilty of the “one for you, one for me” modus operandis of Christmas gift shopping.

It is this pitcher from Free Spirit Studio. I love this pitcher for a number of reasons. First of all it’s gorgeous! And the artist grows her own plants that she uses to embellish the pottery and  creates all of the pottery pieces herself.

I also love this piece because I know the artist. She is the mother of a very good friend of mine from junior high and high school. She even used to take me to craft shows with her when she was a vendor. My friend and I would spend the weekend “helping” and shopping. Mrs. Hooten definitely lit a creative spark in me.

The next one is from Uncommon Goods. It is a recycled windshield wine decanter from Colombia. Try saying that 5 times fast.

It’s tres cool because it is so uncommon (duh). Please know that this is not for your Waterford-preferring friends – it is tinted green (like a windshield might be to block out the sun) and it has bubbles and blemishes. It is also not for your friends who don’t prefer wine. Although – if they don’t prefer wine, you might want to seriously reconsider why they are your friends. 😉 It also has a little pocket to hold ice so that your wine stays cool but does not get watered down. Brilliant.

 

The only downside of these decanters is that they are kind of tallish. So they may not be great for someone with limited cabinet space. But if they drink enough wine, maybe they won’t notice that it’s kind of tallish. See, there is always an up side.

This next one is simple. Jewelry. Yeah! Jewelry doesn’t really require an explanation does it?

Just in case – it’s from Kohl’s and it’s called an inspiration bracelet. It is sterling silver and had the words “hope”, “peace”, “believe”, and “love” inscribed on the links. I am getting this for two of my dearest friends who have always encouraged me to hope, believe, and love. And they are a “peace” of me.

The last gift is for my Dad. He grew up in a teeny, tiny little town called Fort Laramie, Wyoming. The last time I was there only about 300 people lived in Fort Laramie. Even so, it has a rich history and someone took the time to write about it.

Please don’t think I am suggesting that a book about Fort Laramie would be perfect for anyone on your gift list – it’s just the idea of it. For those people who are hard to find a present for, a book about a place or time that is important to them might be just the gift that would make Santa proud.

So that’s it for now. Four down – four hundred to go. Wish me luck – I am off to find a parking space.

 

A Charlie Brown Christmas……………

About a year ago, I was decorating our house for Christmas and getting ready to move our family around the world. It was an overwhelming time and it felt a little rushed. In many ways, it is mostly a blur. Immediately after Christmas, I literally stuffed all the decorations into boxes, shoved them in the closets, and checked one more thing off my to do list. Christmas – done and undone – check. Then I began really focusing on moving my family to India.

What I didn’t realize is that almost exactly a year later, I would visit Singapore all decorated for Christmas and I would hear Christmas songs in every store. That I would buy candy canes in Singapore just because I could – they just don’t seem to be available in Delhi. And that when I got home I would just stick them in the cabinet. Because we were treeless. I don’t think I have ever been treeless. In fact, we usually put up two tress in the U.S. – one that has decorations the kids made and one that no one is allowed to touch but me. But now, all of our decorations are in the U.S. – except for a few that I bought at a craft show a few weeks ago.

My parents got divorced when I was pretty young, so I often celebrated Christmas twice. My mother’s birthday is Christmas day. It’s always been a wonderful time of year for me. After I got married, we started celebrating Christmas three or four times – just depending on how many different groups of family members were gathering together. Christmas Eve with number one hubby’s family is a wonderful, cherished tradition. Christmas morning with most of my family is magical. Then of course, we have our own party of five celebration. Throw in a few parties and some cookie baking and a white elephant gift exchange and you have yourself a Christmas season.

Well, most of that simply cannot happen when you live around the world from the people you hold most dear. Even putting up decorations seems like just going through the motions. But not being able to put up decorations is really depressing. We will be home for literally 20 hours Christmas day – the rest of the time we will be traipsing around the world. We are counting our blessings and know just how very lucky we are. But, something is missing.

Until last night. Last night, number one hubby brought home this. Now you know how he earns his status. Today after school we are going ornament shopping. We might even make some hot chocolate and sing a few Christmas songs.

Charlie Brown would be very, very proud. (For those of you not familiar with Charlie Brown – he is a cartoon character and one of his stories is about how he finds this little twig of a tree and brings it to life with love and lights. He turns nothing into magic with the spirit of Christmas.)

P.S. Someone is probably curious – so I will go ahead and answer the question now – yes, there are over a million Christians in India and they celebrate Christmas. Lucky for us! There are stores that sell trees and ornaments and decorations. It’s just that the town won’t be all decked out in red and green – it’s a big difference! But it feels better now.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas………

Singapore is a fascinating mix of several cultures – Chinese, Indian, Malays, Eurasians, and Arabs. English is the primary language – although each group uses their own language too – so there is also Chinese, Tamil, etc. English being the universal language makes getting around super easy. Singapore’s population is around 5 million and 80 percent of the people who reside there live in government flats. Our taxi driver told us that they are all the same – 3 bedrooms, kitchen, family room, balcony, and I think two bathrooms.

There is a slight “big brother” feel in Singapore – you are not allowed to bring gum into the country or to chew it (you can smoke however – I know, huh?).  Littering brings a $1,000 fine – your second offense is $2,000. Cameras line the roads and no one crosses the street until the pedestrian light says it is ok to do so. Getting a taxi is easy – you just get in a queue until it is your turn – single file, no cutting, and no bumping. All of that works together to make an organized, efficient, and very clean city.

If you come from Delhi, Singapore will seem like a little slice of very clean heaven. There is little pollution, the sun shines or dances behind a few clouds (don’t forget your sunscreen), and no one honks their horn. Cars even stay in their own lanes. And even though there is traffic, it is not bumper to bumper – it flows nicely.

Because Singapore has so many different cultures co-existing, they seem to celebrate everything. On Friday, a lot of stores were closed for the Muslim celebration of Hajj – the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. And Orchard Road (the famous shopping district) was decorated for Christmas –  Christmas music played in all the stores. It was all sorts of loverly to see all the trees and reindeer smiling along the way.

It was a little funny to be walking in shorts in the high temps and to see this snowman. He did make me smile though.

All in all, Orchard Road was a great place to visit. We found the prices to be pretty high but you could visit any store you might be missing. It’s all here.

YeS, ViRGiNia, THeRe iS a SaNTa CLauS………………..

Or at least there might be and that is good enough for me.
Bear is thoroughly confused. Yippeee.bear-in-santa-hat
Angel and Flower have no doubts whatsoever. Santa is the best.

Very long story short, Santa normally comes to our house on the night of the 23rd. This year, I explained to my kids that asking him to come early was just too much and we weren’t going to do that again.

Let the reindeer games begin.

On Dec. 24th, we went to my mother-in-law’s house for our Christmas celebration with number one hubby’s family. While we were gone – and in the middle of the day full of bright sunlight – Jolly ole St. Nick snuck into our house and filled our stockings and stuffed our tree with slippers and put a few presents under the tree. What? How did that happen? You should have seen the look on Bear’s face when we walked in the door and we saw the very full stockings. Total confusion.

It did not hurt that one of Bear’s gifts was one I refused to buy. Totally unnecessary, expensive, and no way to get it to India. Sorry, not this year. Don’t even bother asking Santa – it’s not going to happen. Hee hee. My nose was redder than Rudolph’s.

We have not talked about it – that would not be wise – he can out question me and I don’t want to slip up with my normal over-explaining things. It’s better left as confusion.

Flower and Angel were not a bit confused – they just knew Santa would never let them down. Apparently he outranks parents and can come whenever he wants. Okay.

So, as my children get older – I am thinking about the lies I have told them. The ones that were easy to maintain and the ones that were, well, not so much.

If you have young kids, think very carefully about what you tell them. You may have to perpetuate those stories/traditions for a very long time. Just as my kids are getting old enough to not believe, I am getting smart enough to make them believe forever. Minus, of course, the one child who is kind of sort of unconvinced – but is now, at least, very confused. Some of the things I know I have learned from very kind moms with older children who have shared their Santa lessons with me. Some I have learned the old-fashioned way – by falling flat on my lies.

Remember to always have Santa use a different kind of wrapping paper for his presents. Santa can write right on the paper in big fat magic marker – no tags needed – thank you Santa. Make sure the wrapping paper is hidden at least as well as the presents. Black trash bags were invented for throwing away Christmas trash.

Speaking of presents, make sure that anyone who spends anytime at all in your house knows the off-limits areas for hidden gifts.

Think about whether you want your kids to believe that everything is made in the toy shop. Sure, some of the harder to find gifts might be made there – but you only have to be asked once why Santa puts everything in boxes just like the toy store. Yep, only once. My kids know full well that Santa cannot possibly make everything for everyone. He has to shop too. (If you decide to dazzle your kids with a little toy shop magic, make sure you take things out of the boxes before Santa wraps them.)

Be careful what traditions Santa starts. One year, my kids were loving stuffed animals and so Santa very generously gave each of them two. I have it on very good authority that Santa was very tired and was way too out of steam to wrap those little critters, so he stuffed them in the tree. They looked really fabulous stuffed in the tree and there was definitely shock and awe of the magical Christmas kind when the kids discovered them. But, now every year, the big question is – what will Santa stuff in the tree. You can see why that might be a problem – every year!

If your child breaks something in March and you tell them to ask Santa for it in December. Believe me, they will remember to ask. Yes, this is one of the lessons I learned the hard way.

Think long and hard, before telling your kids that the Santa at the mall is the real Santa. They all look very different and forget it if you need to go to more than one mall in the same day – try ‘splainin that to a very logical child. This little bit of truthfulness will reward you with the gift of time and health. Those lines are dreadfully long and every other kid in them has a (very) runny nose – and their mothers think they are adorable. They are not always so adorable. You also won’t have to make yourself crazy finding the perfect outfit.

Let Santa give them something you would never in a million years give them. This makes them very, very confused.

The bottom line in all of this is that the shorter, less involved your answers are the better. Too much information is, well, too much information. And it is bound to lead to more questions.

As for me, I still believe in Santa.

Things I learned today……

If you miss the white elephant gift exchange at your book club because your son is throwing up and you have to leave early, your friends will not pick the best gift for you out of sympathy. They will take it as an opportunity to get rid of share the gift that nobody wanted with you. Even if they pretend they are really sad when you leave early and promise to take care of you and your white elephant needs. At least I didn’t get my own gift back. Whew. (thanks Jill)

You could get a pretty nice set of ornaments though. And your daughter will steal them to put on the kids tree. There is no justice in this world sometimes.

Michele makes delicious Christmas candy and I can apparently eat an entire bag in one sitting all by my lonesome. Some things are better left unshared. Yum!

When my son is sick, he likes to be waited on hand and foot.

I do not miss being a waitress. Not even a little.

You should never open a bottle of Sprite that your seven-year-old hands you. No matter how cute her smile is. Never ever.

Sprite is sticky when it dries.

There are a lot of great writers out there in the world of blog.

I would like to visit Japan.

Envelopes with silver foil on the inside don’t feed through the printer so well  – at least not my printer – and I just happen to know my way around printing envelopes. And it did not matter how many different ways I tried it. Really.

My printer has a printer cartridge latch – I did not know that – now I do – and it must be shut. I am going to have to devote some time to figuring out what this is, where it is, and how to close it. I might be breaking up with my printer.

I am glad I did not try to make my Christmas cards this year. I can barely handle printing the envelopes. You’ll see.

Costco only gave me half the envelopes I ordered – even including the ones I totally demolished. That kind of stinks.

I really miss the people who are not on my list this year. I was very sad to delete the addresses for my Grandmother and my Great Aunt. RIP.

They both passed away before Christmas last year – but apparently I did not have it in me to delete them from the list just yet. I was not super close to either one of them but I miss the possibility of getting to know them better. My grandmother was very funny and I miss that  sense of humor of hers. A lot. She was funny, sometimes cranky, and always old. It’s a great combination (especially if you don’t live too close).

A lot of my friends moved this year.

I send out way too many Christmas cards.

My family really likes staying at home in our pjs on a very cold and very windy day with nothing to do but being waited on hand and foot.

Apparently my children have no problem whatsoever sitting in front of the tv for several hours – hours upon hours – that is, as long as food and drink are brought to them at regular intervals and placed directly in line with their peripheral vision – within reaching distance.

My cats do not like to go outside on very cold and very windy days. They are purrfectly intelligent little furballs.

The cats use the litter box more when they don’t go outside. Oh goody.

A nap would have been nice today. It did not happen.

I am no where near done with my Christmas shopping, but I do have a good handle on it.

My son’s stomach still hurts. Do you think it had anything to do with the chips and dip I let him have for dinner? Maybe that wasn’t a good idea. Hmmmmmm.

I think I really am going to have to reschedule that MothER of the Year ceremony. Bummer.

My tummy hurts……………

That is what Bear said to me this morning.

And, just by the way and fyi, this is the morning that I am going to get all of my Christmas shopping done. Yep – all of it. I even have a list and coupons.

If you are a parent or ever had a parent, you might already know that these are words that most parents dread – really all parents dread these words whether they are working for a pay check or just working for the love of the job – especially on a school day – and even more so on a school day right before Christmas.

Now, Flower had her appendix out at 7 – it was an emergency – it was scary. So, I tend not to ignore tummy aches. They make me an intsy bit NERVOUS. Beyond my family’s history with tummy aches – there’s the whole throwing up thing – which isn’t so bad for the person who is just doing the hand holding – but then it has to be cleaned up – I know – GROSS! And the other option really isn’t any better.

But – TODAY – honey, really? How bad does it hurt? I dunno.

Bear crawled in bed with me – now, I have to say that was nice. He let me rub his back and his tummy and he actually snuggled – isn’t he good to me! Don’t forget he is a 6th grader so these moments are rare – and I will take them absolutely any way I can get them – even if he has to suffer a little.

We tried all the tricks – go to the bathroom – a glass of water – go to the bathroom – take some medicine – go back to the bathroom. Then he asked if he could turn on the t.v. – progress. He feels well enough to hold his head up to watch t.v. This could be okay.

Yep – then he asked if he could take a shower – he felt well enough to walk. Yippee. (Totally unrelated – It was funny that while he was in the shower he asked me if he should wash his hair. Kids ask the funniest questions – well, let’s see – it’s already wet, the shampoo is right there, you could have washed it in the time you asked if you should wash it – I’d go with yes, go ahead and wash your hair.) Then he was able to get dressed and he asked for breakfast – watch out school bus, here we come.

He never had a fever and never got sick. He just woke up on the wrong side of feeling good. But a shower, a bagel, and a couple little trips to the bathroom made everything better. He knows my cell number – I will never be more than 10 minutes away from his school – he can call me anytime and he knows that. So, later spater – I am off to play Santa.

And, one more by the way, it’s raining like crazy today – this should be fun.

And the stockings were hung…..

This year, when I think of the gifts I want to give my kids, I don’t think of what I can wrap and put under the tree. I think of confidence…laughter (not to be confused with happiness, they have to find that for themselves)…integrity…love… security…determination. Gifts I can wrap around their hearts – gifts that can seep into their personalities. Gifts that can help them understand their potential (not realize their potential, but understand that they have it, – again, realizing it is up to them) – gifts that will shape who they are going to become.christmas-sprig-with-cranberries

I am realizing that as they get older, I have a chance to mature and focus.

That is their gift to me – perspective.

This year, it’s going to be hard for us to give them tangible (translation – material) gifts. Which is a gift in and of itself. So, Number One Hubby and I decided to give them the gift of family, amazement, memories, and laughter. It is a gift we are re-gifting – a gift our families have given to us.

We took them to see Cirque De Soleil.

We went to dinner first and just simply caught up with each other. It was lovely. We had lots of time – no rushing. Then off to the circus. We were dazzled, amused, amazed, and very much entertained. We laughed the whole way home as we recounted our favorite parts and marveled at how the artists managed to do any of what they did – right before our eyes.

The circus was fabulous and we would highly, highly recommend it. But that wasn’t the gift. It was the time together. The memories and the laughter. We created wonderful memories that I know will last at least a lifetime. Maybe memories that will even last thru generations, I can hear them now…….remember when we all went to the circus…. and then, prayerfully, later to their own children, when I was your age………………………..Now those are gifts worth giving.