My Christmas “Do Not Want” List

I have no idea what I want for Christmas besides the mom trifecta of world peace, love and the eradication of disease and famine from our planet. I do thodfb611ed1d99e87277defbdda9836e41--birthday-cards-happy-birthdayugh know what I don’t want and what I will be ticked off if I get.

It’s not that I’m picky. In fact, I consider myself a low maintenance human (currently open to debate by my family) who has no need for anything flashy. No jewels or designer apparel appeals to me. The only exception I’ll make is designer cleaning appliances. Because without a doubt, one of my best Christmas presents in the history of me breathing has been my Dyson with some super over-the-top pet hair attachments.

It’s my chore bestie and I can’t imagine my life without it. Go ahead and make fun, but I’m telling you my vacuum has life changing properties. You don’t know true joy until you see its suction prowess in regard to kitty litter eradication.

In terms of what I don’t want, well I’ll stick to my top three staring with one of those DNA family tree deep probes. I just read that these kits are predicted to be one of the top gifts for Christmas. Ugh.

I get people wanting to find out that they’re half Scottish, so they can use that as an excuse to stuff themselves with Walker’s shortbread cookies to make up for lost time, but what I don’t want during the holiday is discovering I have a gene pool floating with every worst-case medical diagnosis known to 21stcentury medicine. And as a proud hypochondriac all that information would be like throwing lighter fluid on my already extensive list of ailments, I’m positive I have.

Another gift that I don’t want, or need is new freaking phone. I’ve tried in earnest to explain to my children that perhaps one shouldn’t get a new phone until the one you have is worn out or no longer compatible with current technology. I don’t think my iPhone 6 is obsolete. It’s not cracked, still holds a charge and I can text with wild abandon so why do I need an iPhone 10 that will up by cell phone bill by at least $25 a month? I’m still miffed I was shamed into parting with by precious iPhone 3 G.

But what will really trigger a conniption fit is if I, or anyone that resides in my home, gets another Alexa, Echo or other subversive spying device. I hate those things and know they’re ground zero for world-wide robot domination.

The other night I was home all alone, my husband was a thousand miles away in Washington D.C., and as I’m drifting off to sleep, I hear what sounds like a demented serial killer singing “Good night, Sherry” over and over.

At first, I thought maybe I was hearing something or one of my dogs had mastered the English language. But then I heard it again and again. I was now knocking at the Defcon 1 door of hysteria. My fist through was to flee the premises. But where was the killer? Was he or she waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs? I called my son for help who informed that was “probably Dad because he’s hooked up all the Echoes, so he can communicate remotely from his phone.” Are. You. Kidding. Me?

Yes, it was indeed my husband. Who, “didn’t mean to scare me” and “just wanted to say goodnight.” Whatever, because you not what I said goodnight and goodbye to – ever single Alexa/Echo in our home. Those spying robot overloads will no longer rule my domain and I’ll consider that the perfect Christmas present.

Christmas Crazy

12-shoppers-of-christmas

   You know what would make Christmas an even better holiday? No gifts. When I throw this suggestion up for discussion with my family I, of course, get extreme resistance. My daughter shares, “Yeah mom, there’s already a holiday like that. It’s called Thanksgiving.” And my son looks at me like he’s superior in all areas of cognitive brain function and announces, “A giftless Christmas would destroy the economy.” 

    Okay, they both may be onto something and it’s not their fault or anyone’s fault that I suffer from what could be classified as a gifting anxiety disorder. I’m one of those people who stress out, like get heart palpitations in the aisle of Toys R Us and are overcome with a level of dizziness so severe that I have to lean on a limited edition, five-foot, stuffed Chewbacca plush, as I obsessively fret over finding the perfect present. And, it’s not so much about the gift as it is about creating that unique moment in time when someone’s face is all aglow with surprise and elation over the present they just received. Think of it as a Hallmark holiday movie in slow motion with a confectionary sugar glaze. That’s what I’m always striving for. 

    If you doubt the degree of my gift anxiety let me share with you some of my Christmas crazy.

    When my son was young and totally into model railroading I would buy two of whatever train he wanted. Let me take a moment and explain to those of you (and that would be most of you) that don’t know anything about model trains. These choo choos aren’t cheap. Purchasing a Lionel Harry Potter Hogwarts Express Train Set is an investment. These trains are also fragile, as in why don’t we just let our kid drag great, great, great grandma Shirley’s antique, china tea set that survived the sinking of the Titanic around a set of metal tracks. Due to the fact that I lived in some sort of psychotic fear of the train arriving broken, getting broken, or failing to make a successful loop I would stockpile trains so I would have backups lest anything mechanical dared to ruin my son’s Christmas morning.

    Same story for my daughter expect change train to American Girl Doll. There is nothing more mercurial than an elementary school aged girl when it comes to deciding what American Girl doll she wants for Christmas. You can have her promise, pinky swear, and declare in her two page letter to Santa Claus that all she really, really, wants for Christmas is the Samantha doll. Then as you’re driving to the Christmas Eve candlelight service from the back seat of the car your now not so angelic daughter proclaims that she hopes and dreams of getting the Kit Kittredge doll for Christmas. Argh!!!

    Because I’m probably in need of some sort of pharmaceutical intervention and therapy (oh who am I kidding there’s no probably) I kept a stash of American Girl dolls at the ready in case my daughter changed her mind T minus six hours till Santa. I’m telling you I was the gift version of a Doomsday Prepper! 

    Brace yourselves because the crazy coaster is now about to take another plunge. I would hide my present hoarding from my husband. My master plan was to always secure my ERG (emergency replacement gifts) and then on December 26 brave the crowds and initiate Operation Return. It was all good until the year my spouse discovered  my “Santa’s Little Helper” cache of presents. 

    To say he wasn’t happy would be the understatement of understatements. At first, he thought I was planning on giving our kids all the presents he saw hidden deep in my closet. I believe his statement (if you call yelling a statement) was “And this right here is why we’ll never be able to pay for their college!” I attempted to calm him down by proudly explaining the method to my madness. I mean come on, I had a pretty good system going. It was all about be prepared. I even used a Dallas Cowboy coach Tom Landry classic quote on him about how being prepared means winning the game of life or something like that. How can you argue with the legendary Tom Landry? Well, apparently my husband could. 

    That was the day my gift hoarding ended. From then on I was living on the edge, flying by the seat of my pants and just going with the gift flow. I hated it. I was a nervous wreck without my EGR’s. I had no backups. There was nothing in my closet to aid in the elimination of any worst case scenarios. It was so bad I had to self medicate by eating loads of candy canes and I don’t even like candy canes. (Although in the candy cane hierarchy I will say the Jolly Ranchers rule.)

    Then something much worse happened. My kids outgrew gifts and by this I mean they no longer desired me hand selecting their presents and creating a Christmas morning tableau that would make them weep with joy. Nope. Now all they wanted was freaking gift cards. They were killing my Christmas mojo. Where’s the joy in giving a gift card? They’re not even fun to wrap. And then while I was complaining about the gift card it’s evil present twin entered the picture – the iPhone. Curse you cellular technology and your diabolical plot to come out with a new phone every blasted year. 

    Here’s the deal. In my family if you’re want a phone that’s close to $200 that’s pretty much all you’re getting except for some Christmas Eve flannel p.j.’s and assorted stocking stuffers. Where’s the fun in that I ask you in having only one little box under the tree? The whole thing made me long for the days of the Xbox and Wii. At least they had games you could play as a family. Now, I just had children staring at a screen. I swear one Christmas all I saw was the top of my kids’ heads. Not that they don’t have perfectly lovely heads, but still is it wrong for a mother to want a little more on Christmas day? I think not.

    The whole thing just exacerbated my gifting anxiety disorder. I feared my holiday spirit was going, going, gone until the ghost of Christmas Future paid me a visit. Someday down the road of life I would be a grandmother and you know what that means don’t you? It’s a carte blanche to go crazy expect it’s not called crazy it’s called being a grandma. Even better the expected societal norm is for grandmothers to exhibit excessive holiday behavior. In ten, maybe 15 years I can reboot my Christmas insanity all over again. It will be Christmas 2.0 – bigger, better and grandma sized and not a gift card in sight, at least not on my watch.

Still lookicover_1-3-21ng for that perfect Christmas present? Calm yourself because I’m here to help.  What need is a heaping helping of Snarky. Yes, my precious holiday angel  just click on one of the links and presto you can get yourself some Snarky for only, wait for it, wait for it, 99 cents!  You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read. 🙂

 

Dear Snarky – Dealing With the Thank You Note Police

dear_snarky_logo-1Dear Snarky,

My aunt is a real pain in the you know what. She spends the better part of Christmas talking trash about family member’s kids who didn’t send her thank you notes. Last Christmas she made a big thing about it and didn’t give gifts to the children that hadn’t sent her what she thought was a decent thank you for her crappy Dollar Store presents. Last year two of my sister’s kids got toothbrushes.

Do you have any advice on how to stop my aunt from ruining Christmas morning?

Signed, Not Happy

Dear Not Happy,

Nothing kills the holiday mojo like a relative hell-bent on being the thank you note police, even worse if the relative is the bearer of gifts that deal with personal hygiene. To stop your aunt from her campaign to ruin Christmas morning I would give her the one thing she desperately wants for the holidays – attention. You’re going to have to shut her down with love.

First thing Christmas morning give her a huge thank you note from the entire family expressing everyone’s extreme gratitude for all she does and what she means to you. So what if you have to maybe fib a little (or a lot) about some of her positive attributes. Remember, it’s all for the greater good.

Hopefully, this thank you note group hug will calm her down enough so everyone else in the family can enjoy Christmas. If this doesn’t work your family needs to rethink your Christmas gift giving strategies. For instance, maybe it should be suggested your aunt  make a donation to her favorite charity in lieu of giving everyone individual gifts.

*If you have a question for Dear Snarky – 21st Century Advice With An Attitude – email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com or private message me on my Snarky Facebook page.

Premature Christmas

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 8.14.13 AMIt’s taken a lot of discipline and dedication to make it to this day without giving in or being weak. Oh, how I’ve wanted to not just succumb but to throw myself in with the herd and celebrate being one of “those people.”

But, I can’t. I. Must. Stay. Strong. I’m almost to the finish line. All I need to do is gut it out for 24 more hours and I’ve done it. I’ve achieved my goal, no forget that, it’s not a goal. A goal is something you’re aiming to accomplish. What I’m talking about is so much more important than any goal. It’s about obeying your mother which you don’t approach with a half-hearted, namby pamby “I’ll try.” No, maternal obedience from an adult daughter demands, a “must do” attitude.

This steadfast compliance in the face of overwhelming temptation is why it took everything I had while buying leaf bags at Lowes to not lovingly gaze at a fresh evergreen garland with a sassy overlay of candy canes and a sprinkling of faux snow that screams Santa + Jack Frost = Best Friends Forever. You see, I was raised from a very young age to embrace one of my mother’s most fundamental edicts – thou shalt not decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving.

This used to be one of my mom’s easier rules to obey. Back in the day most folks didn’t even put a tree up until December Uno. It was downright weird to see anyone going full holly jolly before you could actually start opening a flap on your Advent calendar. This was primarily because everyone had “real” Christmas trees. Time travel back to the 1970’s and the fake Frasier Fir was so flammable some counties had outlawed it. Never mind that it looked almost as artificial as the facelift my great Aunt Ethel got in Guadalajara, Mexico circa 1972.

Once faux Christmas trees reached an authenticity level so acute that it could fool even the most discerning of squirrels the last remaining barrier to premature Christmas decor was breached. Now, it’s almost impossible to not I spy at least one neighbor with Christmas lights up in October. The neighbor might not have the lights on but they’re up and if I follow my mother’s rule to the letter that’s still a no, no.

I always admired my mother’s keen passion for keeping Thanksgiving as a separate event and not smooshing it together with the Christmas season so it becomes like a piece of chocolate in a s’more. You know how when you eat a s’more you get a taste of the chocolate, but it’s totally overwhelmed by the gooey, bulky show off that is a charred marshmallow. That’s exactly what she thought happened to Thanksgiving when you’re carving the turkey next to a fully flocked Christmas tree.

Growing up, especially as teenagers, my sister and I would delight in aggravating my mother by pointing out people in town who had Christmas decorations up early and to be truthful early to my mom was anytime before the first weekend in December. When a salacious marital cheating scandal happened to a prominent citizen my mom’s very pious response was, “Well, what did anyone except from that woman. She had Christmas up before you could even buy a Butterball in the grocery store. I’m telling you it speaks to character.”

When I pressed my mother for details about how exactly putting Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving was a moral defect. She looked at me like I had just asked if writing thank you notes was ever optional and responded, “You don’t skip over Thanksgiving just because something better in the form of Christmas is lurking all bright and shiny around the corner and you don’t skip out of a marriage for exactly that same reason. It would behoove you to remember that young lady.”

Remember it I did. And as much as I have always wanted to get started on putting up Christmas decorations early (because what woman with a holiday To Do list a mile long doesn’t want to start getting stuff done) I lived in fear my mother would find out and have a very dignified, and somewhat reserved, hissy fit. (Think of it as a long, drawn out, sigh of devastating disappointment.)

This year is the first Thanksgiving I’ll celebrate without my mother. She passed away in March. My sister called me and asked if I was going to start decorating early. I told her no way because I believe with all my heart my mom is still with us and she would somehow manage to express her disapproval from the great beyond.

“I feel the same way,” my sister shared. Then we both started laughing. My mother maybe gone but her Thanksgiving spirit or “Holiday Decoration Timeline” is still living large.

Hey, while we’re talking about Christmas do you know what you make a great gift? My Snarky book series. If you haven’t experienced a Snarky book yet may cover_1-3-21I gently suggest you give it a try like right now. Yes, my friend just click on one of the links and presto you can get yourself some Snarky for only, wait for it, wait for it, 99 cents!  You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read. 🙂

 

Crisis at the Christmas Cookie Exchange

MjAxMi1kODFkYTU5MTRkNThlZTVm_50c4e6977d8afOne of my favorite things about the holidays is baking. It gives me an excuse to feast on cookie dough. Yeah, I know you’re not supposed to because of the whole “raw egg can kill you” thing, but God bless Betty Crocker if that’s what sends me to the great beyond so be it. I’m one of those people who thinks that sometimes the dough if better than the finished product. I have a theory, well more of an ongoing research project, that the prettier the cookie the worse it tastes.

Take the elaborately decorated sugar cookie – not so yummy. The first clue the cookie is going to be all for show is that you can actually tell what it is. Of course, you know it’s a cookie, but I mean you can tell it’s Rudolph or Santa’s sleigh because the frosting doesn’t overwhelm the shape. This is a warning. It means the frosting is not buttercream. It’s the demon spawn of buttercream . . . royal icing.

Royal icing in the cookie world is like a beauty contestant  – all style no substance. And by substance I mean no rich, buttery, melt in your mouth, goodness. Do you know what’s in royal icing? Things like water and meringue powder. Does that say delicious to you? Of course it doesn’t, but people use it because it does nifty things like “harden”, maintains a “high gloss” and works like “cement.” Based on those descriptions you might as well spray your cookies with Extra Hold Aqua Net. I’m sure the taste would be about the same.

This is why I’m pro the less attractive sugar cookie or the cookie that would win Miss Congeniality (robust personality, but not that cute) in the baked goods beauty pageant. Because a cookie that has you wondering if it’s supposed to be shaped like a Christmas stocking or a vacuum cleaner usually means it’s got a delicious, overlay and overload of  buttercream frosting. That said, do not make the mistake, like I did, of taking Miss Congeniality cookies to a cookie exchange. Your feelings could get hurt.

What’s up with these cookie exchanges? I swear it’s like sorority rush or the NFL draft (which having been in a sorority and having watched the NFL draft I’m here to tell you both of these institutions have way more in common than you would think). You go into the party with your platters of cookies and then people select, maybe bid, on the ones they want to take home. Well, my Miss Congeniality cookie was the lonely girl sitting solo in the middle school cafeteria. There wasn’t one taker.

The real taste bud taser was that a woman who brought multi colored “cookie presents” was acting like she had just won Top Chef and guests were oohing and ahhing over her treats. How many Mistletoe Mojitos had these women consumed? Couldn’t they tell these squares were made out of Fruity Pebbles cereal and melted marshmallows? It was just a jacked up Rice Krispy Treat. Sure, Mrs. Top Chef had decorated each square to look like a present with a fondant bow, but that still didn’t excuse her hubris. She kept talking about the “flavor profile” of her cookies. Really? Fruity Pebbles cereal has a flavor profile? What is it red dye and palm oil?

This is when I kind of panicked. I felt sorry for my cookies and I wanted them to find a good home. So, I thought WWPDD (What Would the Pillsbury Doughboy Do)? I tell you what he would do. It would be not let a mighty fine sugar cookie made with the finest of ingredients get bested by freaking Fruity Pebbles. So, I went for the soft spot of any cookie exchange – caloric content.

The cookie exchange is quite the dichotomy. You have a bunch of women wearing Spanx, who work out twice a day and have either just finished a juice cleanse or are about to start one surrounded by their mortal enemies – carbohydrates and sucrose. So, I shared that my cookies were more energy bars than desserts. (People will eat an energy bar that has as many calories as a Snicker as long as they think it’s full of “good carbs.”) Then I backed up that claim with more fabrications. I might have casually mentioned that protein powder was mixed in with the flour and that a flax and sesame seed oil reduction replaced most of the butter.

Before you could say Merry Christmas women were putting down those Fruity Pebbles squares and going for my Miss Congenialities. Was it wrong of me to lie? Of course, but it’s the holidays and my gift to everyone was guilt free eating. Sorry, but I can’t feel bad about that – ever.

 

 

 

Globe of Gratitude Anyone?

il_570xN.288494957I know a lot has been written about the Elf on the Shelf. Pro and con, hate and love, who cares? What I want to do is, using the elf as my template, conjure up the next big toy/ parenting insanity combo.

I’ve done my research (I Googled) and hello, this elf thing is only ten years old! A decade is all it took for elf mania to sweep the country. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that a plastic elf is kicking Merry Old St. Nick to the curb. Yeah, that’s right Santa Claus, a multi-century old tradition of giving, is being usurped by an 4 inch toy with it’s own “Claus Couture” clothing line!

And not just usurped, but I fear brave readers that the shelf elf is on its way to becoming a religion. Okay, relax. I’ll concede (just so I don’t get ecclesiastical themed hate emails) that calling it a religion maybe overstating things, but for sure it has become a lifestyle choice and, as we all know, for many people that’s pretty much the same thing.

So let’s take this knowledge and get to work.

The good news, I, from my own experience of spending many, many, hours sitting in school drop off and pick up lanes, know that a lot of parents are idiots. I’m not just basing this on their lack of skill when it comes to following the proper rules and procedures for the whole kid exiting your car thing. I’m also using the visual inventory of what kids are wearing and holding as they disembark from their parent’s vehicles as another measurement of stupidity. Let’s be real here. When a six-year-old has a iPhone 6, a $100 backpack, and boots that cost twice that it doesn’t take a behavioral economist to ascertain that as parents we are not just stooges, but also highly susceptible to the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” peer pressure. In the history of mankind has there ever been a better time to market something ridiculous to moms and dads? I think not.

This means it’s go time for the next lame, yet exceedingly popular, holiday toy/cult. To achieve elf like success I’ve selected two areas of focus. One, it has to create a lot of work for the parents so complaining about the toy becomes almost a hobby. Second, and this is the big one, it has to be something that speaks to a certain breed of parents’ psychological need to compete via social media. I believe if the elf came out pre Internet it wouldn’t have had a chance. Yeah, maybe it would be a so, so holiday book, but it wouldn’t be out there kicking Claus kiester. This whole elf phenomena didn’t take off until parents began flocking to social media to show off what their elf was doing. It was then that he race was on. Not only are there cutesy, G rated elf photos, but now you can even find Elf on the Shelf porn which I believe is the universal sign of marketing success.

I have a few ideas, none of them great. The one I think has the most potential is the “Globe of Gratitude” nicknamed “GOG”. It would be a plush, stuffed, circular toy that looks like earth and starting on Thanksgiving parents would take out the globe and pass it to their children as they share what they’re thankful for. Then each night until the New Year parents hide the globe and when their kids find it every morning there’s a small present thanking them for being grateful. This could be big.  It checks off the areas of focus and them some!

Let’s break it down. It’s got the work thing covered. Imagine the hassle and expense of having to buy and wrap little presents for your kids from Thanksgiving to December 31. I can already see parents madly tweeting about being so “tired from all the Globe present shopping” (#globegifting, #gog, #gotgog?) and Pinterest pages popping up offering “quick and cute” globe gift ideas, cookie recipes and party themes. (Followed by Pottery Barn Kid’s debuting their Gratitude Globe sheet set and flannel duvet cover.) But hang on, that’s just the beginning of the social media onslaught.

You know how people LOVE to do humblebrag gratitude posts? Well, imagine all the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram competitive postings from parents sharing their kids’ precious and precocious  globe gratitudes every, single day! Forget about Kim Kardashian’s assets this would be the thing that would break the Internet.

Well, now I’ve just got myself really excited. Anyone ready to help me with this? I’ve got a $50 Southwest Airlines coupon. Toy Show here I (we) come!

Hey, Snarky friends please re-like my page on Facebook. I got hacked and had to start my page from scratch. Thanks! Click on the FB icon located at the top right hand of blog and let your friends know that Snarky is back.

 **For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you. 

 

Christmas Confessions of a Weary Mother

ae36562c66fad2ff246db4fd78613f0fIf you want to suck the air right out of room casually mention anytime between Thanksgiving and Christmas that you find the holiday season less than magical. As people are gasping for oxygen, quickly add that this doesn’t mean you don’t totally embrace the religious significance of 12/25 (this will aid in getting folks breathing again). As they’re furiously inhaling use this time to further explain that you find conquering your Christmas To Do list about as much fun as smooshing your noncompliant ab flab into Spanx. As soon as you finish this sentence watch as people flee from you in fear that your anti holly, jolly, holiday spirit might be contagious.

This is because confessing that you consider Christmas a month of hard labor is number two on the Top 10 List of Things No Mother is Ever Allowed to Divulge. This is not to say; I don’t find moments of Christmas enchanting and life affirming. What I don’t find so captivating is the 21st Century pressure to create a perfect Christmas. Did my mother and her generation feel this compulsion? No. We need to look no further then the average Christmas in 1975. Using my family as an exemplar let’s survey the facts. There was one tree, one single room festooned in evergreen finery, some outside lights strung so haphazardly by my dad, that my mother informed the neighbors it was “avant garde.” The only Christmas craft I did was shove cloves into an orange to hang in my great aunt’s closet and the presents were purchased from Sears. Meanwhile, family bonding occurred when I helped my grandma make all the Christmas cookies, marveling at how she could chain smoke a pack of Virginia Slims and, yet, not get a single ash in the gingerbread dough.

Now, compare that to the current lunacy mothers have wrapped themselves up in. I’d like to blame social media for turning Christmas into a competition or at least creating a social class of holiday underachievers but first we need to look back further, pre Pinterest, and there you’ll find ground zero for Christmas crazy, Family Fun magazine. Yep, this is where it all started. The out-of-control crafting, artisanal winter parties for children featuring an albino Rudolph made from goat cheese, pre-macerated by the molars of Malta monks, with an heirloom sun-dried tomato nose. Add in decorating your fireplace mantel with snow that’s actually hand loomed, pet dander and you have the birth of holiday insanity.

The saving grace of all this nonsense (not that I don’t think a goat cheese Rudolph doesn’t sound delish) is that a decade ago mothers could still fib about their Christmas creations. As in, “Oh yeah, for sure, the kids and I are going to start harvesting pet dander this weekend.” Today, that won’t pass muster. Oh no, in 2014, everyone is living in the show me state. You just can’t say you did something you have to produce a pictorial with catchy sayings and enhanced graphics.

All any of this has done is create Tis the Season to Be One Upping. Case in point, I don’t know of a single person who just puts up one Christmas tree. We’re in the middle of a hard-core, tree-palooza. Go to anyone’s house and there’s a tree in the living room, another in the kitchen, a ski lodge inspired evergreen in the den and a personalized, themed tree for each child’s bedroom. (And to my friend with a tree in her downstairs half bath please note I’m considering staging an intervention.) I’m exhausted just thinking about all the decorating, never mind the backbreaking labor of taking it all down, packing it away and hauling the boxes to the basement.

And it’s not just the decorating. It’s the parties. Am I the only one who ponders the fact that genteel hospitality maybe dead? R.I.P. going to a holiday party where you’re only required to bring yourself (and a little something for you hosts). Now it’s cookie exchanges, gift card tree swaps, and the worst, the very worst, the office Secret Santa because that’s just what you need on your To Do list – buy presents for a co-worker whose name you have trouble remembering.

None of this even compares to the holiday time suck that is the Elf of the Shelf. Okay, folks, I don’t claim to have the best connection to the big guy surfing the celestial byways on the fluffiest of cumulus cloud BUT I’m thinking while He might be okay with sharing his birthday with Santa this whole shady shelf elf is a no–can-do.

Did you know the phrase Elf on the Shelf, when translated from the obscure, native, North Pole language of Ydnac Enac, means More Work for Mothers? How many times have weary, almost to the point of tears, moms finally laid down their heads to go to sleep and just as they’re about to float off to the land of blissful slumber they are jerked awake by remembering they didn’t move that freaking elf? And, oh no, you just can’t move the blasted thing, to say, the dining room. You have to create an elf tableau so impressive that your Instagram picture has the potential to go viral and get you on the Today Show.

The stress from maintaining a 30-day alternate hobgoblin holiday universe is manifesting into a new disorder called elfinsomnia. This ailment is currently linked to being responsible for two out of three maternal meltdowns in the Target checkout line during the month of December.

I swear to you, even with all my grousing, I still hear the bell. You know the one from The Polar Express where if you truly believe the bell still rings for you. Except, I’m afraid it’s the alarm on my cell phone telling me it’s time for my anti-anxiety meds. On a positive note, at least, they’re red and green.

Merry Christmas!

 **For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you. 

Holiday Decorating = Marital Counseling

I donfunny-pictures-lights-house-christmas-harder-than-you’t admit to being a genius, but I’m telling you I’ve had some pretty good ideas. One of my best is that Waterparks should have on site dermatologists to scan for potentially cancerous moles. Why isn’t this being done? It’s a flesh rich, almost naked environment that is prime mole diagnosis territory. Think of the lives that could be saved! I can’t be the only person that has been behind someone in line for the Colon Irrigation tube slide and not thought, “Wow, that guy’s mole looks suspicious.” Of course, there’s always the off chance that it’s a tattoo designed to look like emerging melanoma, but still it’s not like Mr. Tattoo wouldn’t benefit from the keen eye of a dermatologist.

I came up with my newest awesome idea while at Target this past weekend. Yes, Target. I find the store very inspirational and intellectually stimulating. I was also eating Pepperidge Farm Gingerbread cookies and I think that helped sharpen my thought process. Ginger has been proven to boost the knowledge noggin. Okay, scratch that. I just checked the ingredients absolutely no ginger in the cookie. Let’s just go with the sugar invigorated my sensory stimuli. Any who, as I was munching away on cookies I made my way over to the Christmas lights. I was in need of only a single, 100 count, LED, ice white package of bulbs.

When I reached the holiday decor area I had a little trouble getting to the lights. It was jammed packed with people studying and debating their choices. Seriously, it was the Algonquin roundtable of exterior illumination. There were guys debating the superior lighting power of the C7 compared to the C9, the sphere versus the ball and if the rope light is an adequate substitution for the icicle as it relates to decorating tree trunks.

I was enthralled and was about to ask this collection of bulb brainiacs a question when the bickering started. Not, as you might think, between the glow gurus, but between the husbands and wives. There were spousal disagreements over lighting schemes. For the men, it seems bigger is better (of course). For the women, it was more of a taste issue. Why go for the C9 bulb when twinkle lights will “just look classier.”

This is when I had the stellar idea that retail stores that sell Christmas lights should offer free marital counseling the two days after Thanksgiving. Call it a humanitarian public service. A therapist could be on hand to not only act as a referee, but to impart knowledge on problem solving and maybe even do relationship building exercises using the holiday inflatable or blow up as a “yardstick of feelings.”

I have a theory about inflatables. I think they’re making up for some sort of emotional deficiency in a marriage. The more blow-ups in someone’s yard the less affection they may be getting at home. Is there anything sadder looking than an inflatable suffering from erectile dysfunction? It’s pitiful, those heaps of crumpled nylon littering a yard in fabric tombstones that might as well read “R.I.P. Good Taste.” Then when the blowups are getting jets of air shot up their infrastructure they bob and weave like they’ve got their swagger back and yet we all know it’s only a matter of time before their spirits are deflated again and again. If that’s not a metaphor for a marriage in trouble I don’t know what is.

Another holiday light themed till death do us part red flag is the wife who urges, coaxes, maybe even sweet talks her husband into climbing on a ladder, that has seen much better days, and venturing up and up and away to the tippy top of their three-story house. As the hubs is clutching a spool of commercial grade C9 lights, that act as an unbalanced load causing him to sway to and fro, he hoists himself onto the roof as the wife cheers, “go just a little bit higher” which is code for “I just paid your life insurance policy and this will be so much better and quicker than a divorce.”

And don’t even me started on the husband who asks his wife to “plug in” the lights while assuring her that the puddle she is standing in won’t matter because the “the electricity is grounded.”

You see there’s a lot of marriage angst and in extreme circumstances death scenarios involved in this whole outside holiday light thing. Imagine the number of marriages that could be rescued and second-degree murder charges averted if a counselor, therapist, or registered smile maker (they have those in California) lurked around the holiday aisles.

Target are you listening?

 

 **For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you. 

My Christmas Tree Makes Me Cry

You knoScreen Shot 2014-12-04 at 10.15.23 AMw you may have scarred your children when they refer to decorating the Christmas tree as a pejorative. For example, if something unpleasant has happened they might describe it as “being bad, but not decorating the Christmas tree bad.” It’s all because I have an illness. Really, more of a yuletide related disorder. And this disorder, as most disorders do, relates back to my childhood.

My mother was a florist and decorated people’s homes for the holidays. Her pièce de résistance was the Christmas tree. She was renowned for her ability to turn a simple evergreen into a work of art. One of the ways she showcased her talent was to throw a huge Christmas Eve party where the star of the show was the tree. Some years we had trees so large that my father had to install guide wires and drill metal hooks into the wall to hold the evergreen beast in place. This excessive dedication and devotion (i.e. mental illness; subcategory – addiction and OCD) to finding and decorating the perfect tree leached into my very soul. Every year I’m possessed with what my husband describes as a case of the “Christmas tree crazies.”

The addiction flares up when the fresh trees start getting delivered. I’m on a mission to find the tree that still has its saw scars. Last week, I hit the tannenbaum trifecta when I spied a truck at Whole Foods unloading trees that all passed my rigorous three-part sniff and needle test. For the uninitiated the sniff test requires that the tree have a robust bouquet of pungent pine aroma, with some subtle undertones of sweet sap and a slight, but rich loamy soil finish. I immediately called my husband and told him it was “go time!” He knew exactly what I meant. It’s not like we haven’t trained for this. As soon as mid November rolls around he keeps supplies in his car and is ready at a moment’s notice for “the call.”

Back in the day we would do the whole family thing and make it an outing to find a Christmas tree. But, we had to abandon that Hallmark moment when I would make the kids cry. Seriously, I couldn’t help myself. They have the worst taste in trees. You would have thought they were Charlie Brown. They always gravitated towards the evergreen underachiever. I blame my husband for their lackluster judgment regarding the Abies fraseri (Frasier Fir) because they obviously got some substandard tree gene from his family.

It gets worse when it comes to decorating the tree. They’re all tree slackers. One does not haphazardly place lights and ornaments on a tree in an effort to “just get it done.” Oh, no, there must be a tree story. You’re creating a visual imprint for the holidays. It all starts with the lights. You must exceed 1,000 lights and you start this journey by first wrapping the deep interior of the tree with luminescence using the gentlest of hands or as my mother would say, “you approach the tree as if fairies lived there,” then and only then do you work your way out towards the branches. As for hanging decorations no metal ornament hooks are allowed. What are we animals without opposable thumbs? Each ornament is tied on a tree branch with a satin ribbon.

This tree process is so labor intensive that it makes me cry almost every year. In fact, my family is still recovering from the tree trauma of 2005. I had spent h-o-u-r-s decorating the tree. My kids were still little so I let them “help” and by that I mean having them put ornaments on the tree and then moving them later. Just as I was ready to share the wonder and glory of my creation every single, freaking, light went out. My husband was called in for illumination life support, but nothing we did could get the lights to come back on. My only solution was to take all the decorations and lights off the tree and start over!

It was then that my children learned what the ugly cry is. I wailed! I’m sure a woman having a water birth in a pedicure tub at a nail salon located inside a Walmart would have made less noise. My husband, no doubt, fearing for his and the children’s safety quickly left the house under the guise of getting me new lights. I was left alone with my holiday spirit broken, weeping on my living room floor with the unlit Christmas tree casting a shadow of gloomy mockery on my pain.

It took until 2 o’clock in the morning for me to “redo” that tree. But I did it. I persevered because you can’t quit crazy especially not Christmas crazy.

**For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you. 

To stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – http://is.gd/iEgnJ (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.