Adventures of a Christmas H.O.

This isn't me. It's some other H.O.

I am generally an excellent H.O. (Holiday Organizer) but this year I got sidelined with the flu right after Thanksgiving and was sick for 10 days.  My lists and plans had to wait until I could breathe and cross a room without hacking up a lung.  Thankfully I’m fully recovered (well, mostly- still have a cough), so yesterday I tackled my lengthy Christmas list, hoping to get it all done in one day.

I left the house armed with coupons, discount cards, store ads, debit and credit cards, and a good attitude (most important!) and donning a Santa hat.  I had an organized list and knew exactly what I was getting for almost everyone.  What a H.O.!

First stop, the ATM for some cash.  Next stop, Starbucks for a venti peppermint mocha to get into the right mood.  Then onto Target for electronics.

Target has a GREAT deal on digital cameras right now, something both my kids have been coveting. I wanted to see them in person and make a decision between two of them.  I hoped to beat the crowds with my mid-week, mid-morning shopping trip.  I hadn’t figured on a 6 person-deep line and a frazzled young man behind the counter who continuously got distracted because he kept getting interrupted, answering questions and helping others without completing one transaction.  After this happened 3 or 4 times I was ready to just leave when the man ahead of me barked, “HEY!  There’s a line here!  I don’t care if you just have a ‘quick question’.. get your ass to the back of the line!”

Whoa.  The man had READ MY MIND!  I was impressed and took a sip of my mocha with a holiday smile on my face.

When it was finally my turn, I asked my question (“Why is this camera $30 more than that one?  They look identical.”)  His confused look and his nonsensical answer (“uhhhh, one is red and one is silver. I’m going to help this other guy while you decide.”) left me annoyed but still patient and chanting “It’s ok..I’m a H.O.  I can do this.” in my holiday brain.

After inspecting them more closely I realized the more expensive camera had 10 megapixels vs. 8 for the cheaper one.  I made up my mind about what to get, got the attention of the clerk again, asked for two of them, then waited several minutes while he rooted around looking for them only to find out that they were sold out.  That might have been nice to know right off the bat!  Could have saved everybody a lot of time!  Grrrrr.  I suggested that he put a sold out sign in the display to save the next person the same aggravation, and he give me a look I see quite often as the mother of two preteen girls.  Kind of condescending.. a look that says, “Whatever, lady..”

But the clerk was sweet enough to call another Target for me where they had 7 cameras left, so I took my time leaving the store, sipping my mocha and picking up other odds and ends (mini candy canes for the class party, stocking stuffers, batteries, laundry soap, wrapping paper, birthday cards for my daughter) then checked out.  It wasn’t until I was in my car  and making my way across town that I realized I hadn’t crossed one thing off my list, even though I’d spent 90 minutes in that store.  Dude!!  That was more than 25% of my ‘shopping alone’ time!

Feeling more panicky now and determined to stay focused, I pulled into the lot of Target #2, grabbed a cart, briefly considered stopping at the bathroom but after looking at my watch decided to keep going, put on blinders, and headed to the back of the store.  This electronics department was busier but better staffed, with three people working who actually seemed to know what they were doing.  I waited my turn, got the cameras, two cases, memory cards, and even allowed myself to get talked into extended warranties, all with a smile on my face because the clerk seemed to really know what she was talking about.  I liked her.  She was nice.  She liked my hat .  And she thought warranties were a good idea.  I never buy warranties, ever, but maybe I should.

And then I ran into my neighbor.  “Lisa, oh my gosh!  It’s been ages!  You look great!  How are you?” and this is where I made my fatal mistake, when  I said, “Hey!  I’m fine, HOW ARE YOU?” because then she proceeded to tell me.. and tell me.. and tell me..  Meanwhile, the mocha is hitting my bladder, hard.  A couple of times I said, “I should get going” and “I’m sure you have a lot to do” and “Oh, wow, look at the time” but finally I had to say, “I need to go, I really have to pee” and she laughed and said, “Ok” and then KEPT TALKING.  It’s difficult to interrupt a person who is spilling their guts about their impending divorce, so I crossed my legs and prayed, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me wet my pants.”  Finally I had to say, “I need to find a bathroom, now” and walked away as she was still talking.  Folks, I barely made it..  One more minute and I would have been standing in a puddle.

A quick stop for food, a (not too) quick stop at Borders, then suddenly it was time to pick up Kid #1 at school #1, then Kid #2 at school #2.  Then, after a flurry of phone calls back and forth with my sister for sizes and likes/dislikes of her son, we were off to the mall.  Shopping is much slower with kids in tow.  They are under the mistaken idea that we must look at everything they want for Christmas when we’re supposed to be shopping for other people.  And a trip to the mall wouldn’t be complete for them without a visit to the pet store.  So it all took forever, but we had fun, and I finally finished.

The most difficult gift selection of the day was for my best friend.  She always comes up with the perfect thing.  She never spends too much or too little.  It’s always something thoughtful and meaningful.  So the pressure is on..  I found a lovely Lennox holiday bowl that was regularly priced at $50.  It was on sale 40% off, then with my discount coupon it ended up with a final price of $18.  I was happy until I thought, what if she returns it?  She’ll know how little I spent!  She’ll think I don’t care about her as much as she does me!  Then I was thinking maybe it was too impersonal, maybe I should have gotten her a sweater or a bracelet or a fuzzy robe or.. I don’t know.. something BETTER.

My husband thinks I’m cracked.

ANYway!  Ho, ho, HO!  My shopping is done!  Except for my husband, who wants a weight bench and weights, because, “Honey, THIS is the year I’m getting in shape!”  Whatever, honey..

Are you the family H.O.?  How are you doing with your shopping?

A (Thankful) Sunday Salon

I don’t know about you but I hate those posts where the blogger apologizes for not blogging because they are _________ (fill in the blank) busy, lazy, distracted, sick, tired, *whatever*.  So, I won’t do that.  Because really, nobody cares.

But from looking around I see it is time to dust off the cobwebs in the corners, water the plants, throw open the windows to air the place out and try to get rid of that smell of neglect.

Whew!  That’s better.  (Thank you, BOTB readers, for understanding, and for checking in with me.  I’m fine!  Just uninspired!)

At some point in recent weeks I all but stopped writing reviews.  I have all the usual excuses (busy, etc.) but mostly I’ve just not had the writing mojo.  I would sit down to write a review and the words wouldn’t come.  Now I have so many to write I may never catch up.  I’m thinking of clearing the slate and starting fresh, with the exception of books I agreed to review for others (thank you, authors and publishers, for your patience).  Has anyone else done this?  Just wiped the slate clean and moved on rather than trying to write reviews for books you read weeks ago?  (Thank you, blogging friends, for your advice in this area).

What happened to me?  There was a time when I reviewed everything I read, immediately upon finishing.  It’s much easier to write a review that way.  If enough time passes, the details get fuzzy, and nobody likes a fuzzy reviewer, right?

My aim in the new year:  fuzz-free reviews in a timely manner.

We’re looking forward to some quality family time this week.  The kids are off from school and I do not have to bust my butt cleaning my house and gearing up for company (yay!  YAY!) because Thanksgiving dinner will be somewhere else this year (thank you, Mom, for making dinner!).  All I’m required to do is show up with clean, well behaved children (ha!), a bottle of wine, and a casserole dish full of sweet potatoes (thank you, Tara, for the most excellent recipe!).   My holiday responsibilities end there.

The girls have NO HOMEWORK over the break (thank you, teachers!  I was expecting the worst!)  So we will be out carousing this week.. shopping, seeing movies, going roller skating, and just generally hanging out.  With no school projects to attend to, it will be a real break for them.  We are dying to see New Moon (even Mom’s looking forward to seeing werewolf  Taylor HOTner-all three of us are TEAM JACOB) and Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (thank you, Hollywood, for all the great movies this time of year!).  Daddy has to work (thank you, Dad, for being a great provider!), so it will be a whole lot of girl time. Hopefully there will be no drama and we will all get along.

I’m also looking forward to some reading time.  I’m reading How to Save Your Own Life by Michael Gates Gil, a super quick little guide to finding joy in unexpected places.  I need to finish Bold Spirit for a December book club discussion (thank you, book club friends, for enriching my life!).  And finally, I can’t wait to start Keeping the Feast by Paula Butturini this week (thank you, Penguin Group, for sending the book!)

What are your plans this Thanksgiving?  What are you reading?

I’m thankful for YOU.  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

The Removal of Christmas

Would someone out there like to come over and get rid of Christmas for me?  The tree and all the decorations need to be taken down and put away, and the cookies need to be tossed.  It seems my husband and I have grown increasingly lazy over the last two weeks and lack all motivation (the cookies may have something to do with that).

And while you’re at it, could I get you to take the lights off the house too?  I warned my husband that “what goes up, must come down” (and be stored somewhere) but he didn’t heed the warning.  He put SOOOOO many lights and inflatables in the yard and on the house.  Our street looked like the Vegas strip, as there was an unspoken competition between my husband and two of the other ‘manly men’ on the street over which house had the biggest and best decorations.  Men.

 The neighbors took down their decorations yesterday but our house is still quite festive looking-even though we are painfully aware that IT’S OVER.  

When do you get rid of Christmas and all the trimmings?

The Sunday Salon

We’ve made it to the last Sunday of 2008! I hope you are enjoying a relaxing holiday season with your families.

Sk8tr Grlz

Sk8tr Grlz

The last week has been a blur for us. Christmas was a wild rumpus of paper and squeals. Suffice it to say that the girls were very happy with their gifts! We’ve been eating too much and lazing around being slothful, then laughing at ourselves and vowing to do better as we discover our BMIs on the Wii Fit.

My kids got Wave Skateboards this year from their grandparents. They are different from regular skateboards in that they have 2 wheels rather than 4, and the board itself isn’t stationery- the two sides move independently of each other, so riding it requires a different motion than a normal skateboard. Watching my kids learn how to use them has been hysterical, but they’re already getting the hang of it.

Our family went to see Wicked at the Pantages Theater in LA the day after Christmas and it was spectacular! This was the “big” gift this year and the kids were so surprised. They were enthralled by the amazing singing, costumes, and sets, and by the splendor of the old art deco theater. We’ve been listening to the Wicked cd for a year so they knew all the songs. I even caught myself singing “I know about Pop uU lar” last night.

No one thought to get me a book for Christmas this year, which I found kind of shocking. Maybe they noticed the giant stack of unread books on the mantel, or the teetering pile on my nightstand. Ah, well.. I did receive two Borders giftcards though, and have already used them up!

A lot of us book bloggers are giving some thought to our favorite books of the year. I’m still working on that list, but I do have another list of books I’m most excited about reading in the coming year. Some are new and some have been out for quite a while, but here they are:

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

The Boy on the Bus by Deborah Schupack

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennet

Honolulu by Alan Brennert (March 2009)

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See (May 2009)

What do you most look forward to reading in the coming year? Is there anything I MUST add to my list?

I hope you’ve all had a wonderfully blessed year and are looking forward to bigger and better things in 2009. We are living in exciting times here in America and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. My wish for the world is peace and love, and lots of books- with plenty of time to read them!

Happy Festivus, one and all!

My bud Trish posted about Festivus, which is kicked off with the Airing of Grievances.  She states that blog traffic is down, presumably due to the holidays, so she encourages anyone reading to freely say whatever you want- air those holiday grievances, because no one is reading anyway!

So in the spirit of Festivus, an alternative holiday in response to the commercialization of Christmas, I am sharing mine.  

 1. My stupid husband threw out his stupid back. It’s not like he was a big help with Christmas or the house to begin with, but NOW he needs to be waited on and rubbed. Like I don’t have enough to do.

2. Ungrateful children. I busted my ASS giving my kid a super duper special birthday weekend, and do you know what she said to me today when I asked her to make her bed?? She said, “WHY?” I said, because it’s your room and your bed. And she said, “But it’s YOUR job!” Nice, huh? Spoiled brat!

3. Costco shoppers who leave their 3 foot wide shopping carts in the parking space of a lot that is COMPLETELY FULL, 3 days before Christmas. I know THEY are in much too big a hurry and can’t be bothered to move the cart, but now if I want to park my car I have to get out, move the cart, and then get back in before I can pull into the space. And I might be in a hurry too, you moron!!!

4. Friends who continue giving every member of your family a Christmas gift long after the friendship has fizzled out. I haven’t even seen this friend in person since she moved away 6 years ago- we don’t call each other and rarely even email- and yet the annual package arrived on my doorstep today. Now I need to scramble to overnight something to her tomorrow. We should really be Christmas card exchanging friends, not gift exchanging friends.

5. Insurance companies who take a week to approve a medical procedure for a kid whose doctor has labeled the request Urgent. Approve the damn thing so I can enjoy the holidays, and sleep at night!!

6. My successful globe trotting brother, who would rather spend Christmas taking his girlfriend to a tropical island than spend the holiday with the family. Maybe I’m just jealous.

7. People who use the speaker feature on their cell phones in public places. Or in my house. Or in my car. (My husband does this all the time and I hate it).

8. Children who play musical instruments and insist on practicing in the kitchen or living room- wherever I happen to be. (Of course you sound great, honey, but Go to your own room! And close the door!)

9. A man who’s only holiday responsibility is to buy his own mother and his wife a gift. And he can’t figure out how to do it. And he won’t even go look until Christmas Eve.

10. The 5 pounds I’m sure I’ve gained in the last 2 weeks.  And the 5 more I’ll pick up in the next week or so.

What’s bugging you this holiday season?  Don’t tell me how wonderful everything is, how joyous and blessed you are.  Give me the dirt.  Don’t forget- no one is reading.

Ho Ho HO

I swore I’d never be one of those bloggers who apologizes for their laziness and lack of blog posts- I’m not delusional enough (yet) to believe anybody truly cares that a week has gone by since my last post- but rather than apologize I’ll attempt to explain.  

Coupled with the usual holiday crazies and being a HO I’ve felt much more foggy than bloggy lately.  The time I normally spend reading or blogging (late night and early morning) I’ve spent sleeping, planning, worrying, or eating (oink).  We’re dealing with some big issues at my house and I’ve been turning to food as a crutch and a comfort from the stress, which doesn’t really matter if I stay in my bathrobe for the rest of my life but is a bit of a problem if I want to fit into my actual clothes.  I was talking to a friend about this last night at a neighborhood party- maybe friend is too strong a word- anyway, as she nibbled on a baby carrot she said, “When life gets difficult, I turn to exercise.  I always feel better after a run.”  I wanted to slap her, but instead I smiled, nodded, and excused myself to make a second trip to the chocolate fountain. 

Opening gifts OMG!  THAT"S SO CUTE!

Opening gifts OMG! THAT"S SO CUTE!

The last week has been a whirlwind of doctor appointments (4) and party preparations.  My youngest turned 10 Saturday and we had a slumber party with 7 giggly wiggly girls.  They screamed, played games, laughed, screamed, sang karaoke, went on a scavenger hunt, screamed, and ate tons of junk food.  Why do 10 year olds respond to everything with a scream?  It started the minute the girls began to arrive.  “I GOT A GUINEA PIG FOR MY BIRTHDAY.”  “NO WAY!!!”  “OMG THAT IS SUCH A CUTE SKIRT!”  “I LOVE YOUR MONKEY SLIPPERS!!!!”  “WHO WANTS TO PLAY A GAME?”  ME ME ME!!  SCREAM SCREAM SCREAM  The one thing I forgot to buy for the party was a set of earplugs for my husband and me! 

img_1626The picture is from a game my daughter invented-Pin the Lips on the Jonas Bros.  This game elicited more screams and peals of laughter than anything else they did all night.  I have to agree that the Joe Bros are pretty cute, even if Joe’s eyebrows look like they were drawn on with a black Sharpie.  The gaggle of girlies finally collapsed into sleep around 2 am.  

The next morning we took my daughter and two friends out for a round of golf.  It was a Southern California postcard kind of day- imagine palm trees against a brilliant sun, blue skies, puffy white clouds- we were very lucky as it was the only sunny day in an otherwise cold and rainy week. 

As for this week’s reading- I finished Chez Moi by Agnes Desarthe (review tomorrow) and was able to read about half of Swim to Me by Betsy Carter.  Next up- The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted and Other Small Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg.  It just seems appropriate. 

What are you reading this week?

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Looking for Suggestions

I’m looking for some help.  I’ve got an idea for a family bonding experience.  Our get togethers aren’t as lively as I’d like, and usually I’m placed at a dinner table next to my dear step-grandma, an intelligent, kind woman, who loves to tell me all the latest antics of people I’ve never met.  She gets offended if I interrupt to say, “Now, who is Randy again?” and she’ll say, “Don’t you remember?  He’s Kenny’s 2nd cousin’s husband, the one from Fresno?  With the son who is a blackjack dealer in Reno?  I mentioned him at Christmas!” and then she resumes the story as my eyes glaze over, not daring to ask who Kenny might be.

So, back to my idea.  There are 8 of us- 4 couples- ranging in age from 29 to 87.  Three of us, including the oldest two, are Japanese Americans.  The oldest couple are first generation Japanese Americans who actually remember being in the internment camps in Central California during World War II as children.  The youngest of us is my brother’s longtime girlfriend.  She is a first generation Chinese American.  4 of us grew up in California, the rest of us are transplanted midwesterners with WASP-y heritages. The women and one of the men love to read, the rest are reluctant readers.

My idea is that I’d choose a book for all of us to read and discuss.  I’d give the books out as gifts on Mother’s Day (the next time we’ll all be in the same room at the same time) and we’d discuss the book on Father’s Day.  The reluctant readers might receive an audio book.

My dilemma– what book would appeal to a group with such wide differences in age and backgrounds? Does a book like that exist?  I’m looking for suggestions.  Please let me know what you think.

My Funny Valentine

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At least my daughter remembered it was Valentine’s Day this morning!   (That’s more than I can say for her father!)  I was very touched by her little note and the massive hug and kiss she gave me before she went to school. 

Tonight the girls want to pretend that our dining room is a fancy restaurant complete with tablecloth and candles.  The menu is Bob’s favorite:  teriyaki steak, potatoes, corn, crescent rolls, and lemon meringue pie for dessert.  The girls will be the waitresses and serve dinner to Bob and me.   I still get to be the cook, though! 

Weekend Update: Spreading Some Cheer

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Living in California, it isn’t always easy to get into the holiday spirit. Some days we really have to work at it. Today I put on a cheery red tshirt and flip flops to finish up the last of my shopping. I know what you’re thinking.. flip flops in December? Well, it was 78 degrees outside. “Oh the weather outside is frightful..” somewhere else!

My kids asked if they could do a little caroling Friday night with a few of their friends. My mental knee-jerk reaction was, “No! I don’t have time! I have too much to do! I have to wrap, bake, clean, etc. etc.” But, instead, I surprised myself (and them) and said, “What a great idea! And then we’ll have hot chocolate when we come home!” The excited chatter and smiles I got back were well worth the inconvenience, and my neighbors were very pleasantly surprised to have carollers come to their doors. Even though the kids flubbed the words to Rudolph and Jingle Bells more than once, they were awfully cute (awful and cute?) and got several little treats, including gingerbread men and Hershey’s kisses. One neighbor offered singing lessons, which we politely declined 🙂

(The picture above is courtesy of the hysterical blog Loldogs ‘n’ Cute Puppy Pictures – I Has A Hotdog)

Beastmomma did a fun Pay it Forward post this past week that inspired me to do something nice for some underappreciated people at my daughters’ school (the janitor, the speech teacher, etc.). It was fun sharing with them and spreading a little cheer, but it occurred to me that I really didn’t do the Pay it Forward thing correctly. I never saw that movie, but I guess when you do something nice for someone else, you’re supposed to instruct them to “pay it forward” and continue the chain of kindness by doing something nice for another person. I just passed out homemade peppermint bark, with no instructions but to enjoy it and have a Happy Holiday. So I did it wrong.

To remedy that mistake, I’d like to Pay it Forward by sending the first 3 commenters to this post a little surprise in the mail, just like Beastmomma did (I was the lucky 3rd commenter on her post), and I ask those 3 to please pay it forward to someone else. Let’s keep spreading that holiday cheer.

I borrowed an idea from a fellow blogger, who I would happily credit if only I could remember who it was.. anyway, I thought it was such a nice idea. I filled a big red basket with all the Christmas books we’ve accumulated over the years and set it by the tree. Each night this week, my girls and I have read a couple of books from the basket and enjoyed a snack while admiring the tree. It’s such a simple way to slow down and enjoy the season with my kids. One of our favorite holiday books is How Murray Saved Christmas by Mike Reiss. It’s very witty, it rhymes, and the illustrations are great. We get some major laughs from this book year after year. 51xe4snfv6l_bo2204203200_pisitb-dp-500-arrowtopright45-64_ou01_aa240_sh20_.jpg

It’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos and craziness of the holidays. My kids have long wishlists but I know what they really want most is more time with me. I also know that will not always be the case. My baby turned 9 this week, and my other baby is 10. I’m making an effort this year to really appreciate my children and their sweetness, because before long they will be (gasp) teenagers.

So tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and I get to play Santa. Sadly, it might be the last time, since my kids are questioning and wondering and probably not really believing. They’re growing up fast. I’ll miss their innocence.

Merry Christmas, fellow Santas. Merry Christmas, everyone!