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. 

If Loving Santa is Wrong Then I Don’t Want to be Right

I love Sasanta1nta Claus. He’s my kind of guy. Chunky, yet self-assured. A lover of Coca Cola products. Jolly, outgoing and immensely kind – making him a perfect foil to my less than positive demeanor.

He has a flair for fashion. Could anyone else work that vintage Nordic leisure suit look as well as Mr. Claus? The white fur, the big belt buckle, those boots. He’s got it going on, plus not many people can pull off that shade of red.

His financial acumen is world-class. Just look how long he’s been in business. He’s run an amazing, magical toy operation for centuries and his overnight delivery system is still the gold standard. If he ever gets tired of the Mrs. I could be persuaded to make myself available.

Living on the North Pole would be a dream come true. I’d never, ever, have to put on a swimsuit or even expose my lower limbs and my arm flab wouldn’t see the light of day. I’d be wrapped head to toe in woolens and blankets. Think of the money I’d save on waxing – uni-brow, mustache, the rouge chin hair, all acceptable in the North Pole. I have it on good authority the North Poleans call all that excess hair ”facial warming follicles.” Paradise, I tell you, paradise.

My great love for Santa leads to a flurry of mixed emotions this time of year. I’m excited about preparing for his arrival, but I’m also exhausting myself defending his reputation and ensuring that the population-at-large is adhering to St. Nick’s high standards. Seriously, I’m two issues behind on my Us magazine reading.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a whole lot of Santa Slackers out there. If that isn’t bad enough I’m having to do battle with the Santa Slayers. Thank goodness for Pepperidge Farm Gingerbread Men and sugar cookie dough washed down with a Diet Coke chaser. If it weren’t for my high-octane carb and refined white sugar diet I doubt I would have enough energy to do what I do best this time of year – kicking some serious butt for Santa.

The one group that is really trying my patience and zapping a whole lot of my zest for the season are the Santa Slayers. These are the people who say Santa Claus doesn’t exist. Please note, if you don’t celebrate Christmas because you are of another faith. God bless, high-five your higher power etc. Also, if you do celebrate Christmas, but chose not to believe in Santa that is, indeed, your own personal business. What I’m talking about are the families that do celebrate Christmas, do not celebrate Santa and go around telling other people, specifically children, that Santa Claus does not exist. My holiday greeting for you – Shut Up!

When my son was in kindergarten I got my first up close and personal look at the Santa Slayers. It was the winter party and some children were excitedly talking about what they wanted Santa to bring them for Christmas. Another girl in the class sashays over and tells the kids (in what can best be described as the haughty, bitchy vocal tones of an under nourished 50 something Park Avenue social matron who has just found Jesus being channeled through the body of a 5-year-old), “Santa Claus doesn’t exist! Your mom and dad are liars that don’t believe in the Bible.”

I loudly gasped and sprinted over to do damage control while wearing my Santa hat, jingle bell bracelet, and battery operating glowing Rudolph nose. Another mom beats me to the table. She was the Santa Slayers mother. “Good, ”I thought she’ll take care of the problem. But, nooooo, she puts her arm around her daughter and says in a similar haughty fashion, “Yes, Santa is all made up by people who aren’t good enough to celebrate the birthday of Jesus.”

By this time two kids had tears running down their faces. I quickly blurt out, “different families believe different things and I know at our house we believe in Santa Claus.”

The other mom looks at me and shakes her head in disgust and does that very annoying tsk, tsk, thing. (Really, who tsk tsk, anymore? Even my mother stopped tsk, tsking, a good 20 years ago.) I look at her, shake my jingle bell bracelet in her face, and say, “Perhaps we should we take this outside?”

She quips back a curt, “Let’s.”

Out in the hall we go where I don’t even get the first word in (that almost never happens). Santa Slayer Sr. attempts to get all theological/psychological on me and explains how it’s anti-Christian to believe in Santa Claus AND throws in that I’m doing long-term damage to my child’s psyche.

This is where I had to tell her to shove it and confess that I’m madly in love with Santa Claus, possibly romantically, we’re both currently exploring our options. I added that I consider him a de facto member of my family and to please not forget he’s a saint. That shut her up for about two seconds. Her rebuttal was that you couldn’t believe in Santa and Jesus. I asked the biblical scholar where does it say that in the Old or New Testament?

She didn’t have a quick retort so I went in for the kill by leaning in uncomfortably close to her. Speaking in my version of a sexy voice, that unfortunately sounded like I had just chugged a Quaalude and cough syrup smoothie, I rasp, “Santa is super awesome. Don’t knock the big guy till you tried him.”

To really up the gross out factor I took my tongue and did a disgusting yet kind of sensual licking of my upper lip.  She shrieked and took off running down the hall, never to return to the kindergarten party. Oh yeah, that’s right, I taught her not to mess with my Santa.

Just to make sure she never forgets Mr. Red Suit & Black Boots every year I send her the most irritating Santa card I can find (even though I’ve moved three times since the incident). This year I found a great one at Hallmark. You open the card and Santa says “Ho, ho, ho Merry Christmas!” The bonus is that  the “ho, ho, ho” goes on for about three minutes even with the card closed. Awesomeness!

Almost as aggravating at the Santa Slayers are the Santa Snobs. Both groups are related by their deep-seated prejudiced against my chubby love bug. The Santa Snobs are the “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” Keep Christ in Christmas” do gooders. Yes, we all know Christmas is about Christ. Duh, it’s called Christmas.

I’m a believer in that we, as humans with fully functioning frontal lobes, have the brain capacity to multi-task and celebrate primarily, the birth of Christ and secondarily, the arrival of Santa Claus. My decision to include Santa into the holiday mix doesn’t make me a bad person nor does it make you a better person than me because you have a Santa free Christmas.

Yes, I know what you’re going for. You, by scolding others for their enjoyment of Santa, feel superior and infinity more pious. Oh and please, I’m down on my knees begging you, to quit pointing out that Santa can be word scrambled to spell Satan. As I’ve mentioned earlier I have a personal relationship with Santa and in no way does he have hoofs, horns, a tail or carry a pitchfork. He’s more of an extra-large Pillsbury Doughboy kind of guy.

I do have to give the Santa Snobs some props.  The whole only three gifts at Christmas thing because the wise-men brought Jesus three gifts – brilliant!  Think of the financial and not to mention the time savings with only three gifts to buy per family member (you don’t even have to get stocking stuffers) thus leaving you more hours in the day to enjoy your very merry sanctimonious holiday.

The absolute worst abuse that Santa suffers this time of year comes from his evil twin – the Secret Santa. Mr. Claus has no desire for his good name and legendary reputation to be soiled by the lackluster work of the Secret Santa. One of my life goals is to eradicate the Secret Santa practice from the face of the earth.

Presently, my two kids each have two Secret Santa week-long gift drops and my husband also has a Secret Santa, but his last two freaking weeks. Doing the gift math that means that I’m responsible for buying 30 “little” gifts and five bigger “reveal” gifts. Now, factor in the time spent shopping for the presents, multiply that by the cost of each gift and you come up with the total spent on Secret Santa presents coming in very conservatively at $250.00. Yikes and yuck!

Also, in the grand cosmic design of the whole Secret Santa universe the person who gives really good Secret Santa presents always and I mean always gets the lamest Secret Santa gifts in return. You know what Santa really wants us to do? He wants every group that does a Secret Santa to stop, drop and roll that greedy gift idea right to the nearest trash can and donate to the charity of their choice instead.

While we’re kicking Secret Santa to curb I suggest that the Santa Slackers also be deposited in the trash. I’m talking about some of the men and women who don the Santa uniform and go forth into our shopping malls and other retail establishments as stand-ins, helpers, and assistants for the Big S.C. I have no problem with the worthy individuals who take their responsibility as “Santa Lite” seriously and exercise great pride in their work. I take issue with the faux Santas that are phoning it in.

A couple of pointers that need to be included in every Santa’s employee manual.

1) Santa should not have body odor. He should only smell like peppermint, candy cane or other Christmas scents. I suggest a liberal spritzing of Febreze Holiday spray before reporting to work and peppermint altoids should be di rigueur.

2) Santa’s beard should not showcase what he just had for lunch. A pristine, snow-white beard is required at all times. (P.S. The white beard is going to make your teeth look super yellow which means it Crest Whitening Strips time for you.)

3) Work on that ho, ho, ho. It needs to be robust and friendly. A bad one can really creep the kids and the moms out.

4) Make sure your red suit is suitably rotund. No one likes a skinny Santa.  He’s immortal and not worried about his LDL cholesterol or chest pains so plump that big boy up.

5) Bring the magic. Don’t let the real Santa down or you will find yourself eternally on that naughty list or perhaps worse, me, in your face, complaining because I believe baby, I believe!

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. 

 

 

Just Say No to the Holiday Newsletter

Preview of “Fake Holiday Newsletter”Yes, it’s that time of year again when I’m afraid to go to my mailbox. I live in fear, not of my Visa bill, but of the delivery of the cutesy chat-fest that is the holiday newsletter.

And just to be clear I love receiving Christmas cards. I love seeing friends children growing up and I’m a sucker for any card that includes baby photos or toddlers with Santa. What I’m talking about is the Christmas overshare with no less than sixteen photos or perhaps, even worse someone who’s gone all artsy with publisher on their computer and sends you, a non-relative, a distant acquaintance from yesteryear, a newsletter disguised as a holiday card.

If you do a newsletter I’m begging you to cease and desist. Seriously, with social media does anyone need to hit the post office in December and mail a family novella? Let me answer that for you – no. My bitterness towards the T.M.I. Christmas greeting started more than twenty years ago.

There I was young, broke and having to buy my groceries at an Exxon station because I still had the gas card my dad had given me during college and had forgotten to collect when I graduated. I was living in a city I couldn’t afford and I was using a sewing needle to poke holes in my rent check because a coworker told me it slowed down the bank cashing it. The holes, apparently, kicked the check out of the bank scanner and required it to be hand cancelled. Yes, indeed I was living the dream.

One December evening as I’m slurping my Lipton cup-of-soup (My poverty pre-dated Ramen noodles.) I discover in my pile of past due bills a Christmas card from my college arch nemesis. This girl attempted to steal my boyfriend (multiple times – she’s nothing if not tenacious), bad mouthed me at every opportunity and lived to one up me. To make matters worse she married a mutual friend so I’m forced to see her or at the very least hear about her. Ugh. I’m thinking about all this and sighing as I open her Christmas card, hoping that she has joined the Peace Corp and relocated to Chernobyl where she’s been given a faulty Geiger counter.

No such luck, instead it’s a braggy, bitchy newsletter filled with gorgeous photos of her, her husband, their brand new house (Did I mention I was in a crappy studio apartment that made my freshman year dorm room look spacious?) and as an extra special treat their European travel pictorial. A part of me died that day. The nice part. I know, I know, shame on me for my crippling envy. But I still contend that I was the injured party. Isn’t it a bigger sin to use your holiday greeting card as self aggrandized propaganda?

I’d like to say that was the last Christmas card I ever received from her, but sadly it wasn’t. Every year I get a newsletter. Oh and they become more toxic as her family grows. Her children extraordinary. Her husband amazing. Their financial status abundant. Their travels legendary.

Where’s the goodwill towards men in dropping that in the mail? What kind of person must you be to send a card/newsletter that’s designed to make everyone on your mailing list feel like crap? No real peace on earth in that card. Do you want me to send you a Christmas card back that says yes, you win? Your life trumps mine I hope your upcoming New Year sucks big time.

Now, that I’m older, wiser and oodles more bitter I know that my nemesis’ whole newsletter narrative is a complete work of fiction or at best a collection of half-truths. That’s why this year I’m going to go where no woman has gone before. I’m going to write a holiday newsletter that tells the truth. So, here, my friends, is my holiday newsletter – unabridged and uncensored.

Dear Family and Friends,

It’s been an eventful year for the Snarky’s.  Let me begin by updating you on how our beautiful children are doing. Well, I just couldn’t be more proud of both of them. Our son is in his first year of high school. Can you believe it?  He’s excelling as usual. Just the other day I received an e-mail from one of his teacher’s that said he was falling asleep in class and because he’s always been such an amazing multi-tasker he’s not just slumbering. He’s also snoring, drooling and talking in his sleep. What a kid, I tell you! 

I e-mailed his teacher back and thanked her for the exciting update and explained that besides his skill at power napping he’s also, already, doing work for the military. What can I say he’s a great American at 14!

My brave boy is spending vast amounts of quality time doing top-secret work for a new branch of the military called X Box Halo. Through grit and determination he’s already something called a Lieutenant Colonel Grade 2 in the United Nations Space Command – 105th Orbital Drop Shock troopers, Based at Viery, Reach, Epsilon Eridani System. Impressive right? But, of course, not surprising. Remember when he was just a baby and he showed such advanced skill at peek-a-boo? We all knew, even back then, that he was destined for greatness.

Our incredible 10-year-old daughter continues to delight and amaze us every waking hour! I’m beyond excited to tell you that we’ve both have decided to stimulate our intellect by speaking to each other in foreign languages. It’s been awesome mother/daughter bonding. She can ask for $200 Ugg boots in 16 different languages and I can answer no in 16 different foreign dialects. It’s been so much fun having these verbal exchanges. We both really get into it and even the neighbors can hear us screaming!

I can, without a doubt, see her someday as the President of this amazing country of ours. Her stubbornness and “I won’t give up till I get my own way or kill someone attitude” just spells w-i-n-n-e-r to me! I, for one, can’t wait to be mother of a the President. Can you say Lincoln bedroom?

As for that super-duper hubby of mine. How can I even begin to list the ways I continue to love and even worship him. Speaking of worship, I think my husband is planning some kind of surprise for the family. I’m guessing in what little down time he has he’s been going to seminary school. My husband the minister. Wow!

Why do I think this? Well, it’s just a couple of little things, but mainly it’s when I start sharing about my day (Some of you may call it complaining, but in our house we like to call it sharing or in my case extreme sharing.) he starts praying. Not real loud or anything, but in just the tiniest whisper I can hear him praying, “Oh dear lord, dear God in heaven, please rescue me from this bond of matrimony and deliver me to a place of respectful silence where I can begin to live a life of calm, contentment for the remainder of my days.”

Isn’t that pretty? As for the matrimony part I’m sure he’s not talking about our marriage. I bet it’s means something very different in biblical terminology. He always was an over-achieving, smarty pants, that guy of mine!

Now, on to me and what’s been keeping me busy. What else, but my glorious family.  Sure, it’s a hard job and I’ve suffering from a severe case of laundry folding elbow, but it’s all worth it. I’m unbelievably excited that my in-laws are coming for the holidays. My mother-in-law is a real jewel and so funny. I wonder if she’ll get me size 2XL pajamas again this year? What a comedian, that one. Everyone knows a wear a large p,j. what, with the elastic waistband and all.

Oh and I can not wait for my big gift from her.  I totally love receiving the  Estee Lauder “gift with purchase” travel size lipstick and mascara. She’s always thinking of me even when she’s buying herself makeup. 

I would have included some family vacation photos but, we’re just so out of money, oh, sorry I meant to say in love with our house, we hate to leave it, even for a long weekend. I mean, really, can a Marriott Courtyard compare to my master suite? No way. My bed not only has a goose down comforter from Costco, but also a thick layer of  dog hair and vintage dander covering the entire bed. Talk about soft.

I’ve also started a Gratitude Journal this year – thanks Oprah – and I thought in this time of giving I’d share with you the one thing I’m most grateful for.  It seems almost everyday this year, excluding the summer months, I wrote that I was most thankful my children were in school seven hours a day.

That’s me in a nutshell, always, always, thinking about my kids. Are you wondering the second thing I was most grateful for – well, that would be vodka. But I only use it for medicinal purposes. I have that painful laundry elbow remember?

Another neat thing that’s happened this year, is that I’ve only been mistaken as my daughter’s grandmother six times!  That’s down from eight last year. Yahoo! I guess happiness really does make you look younger.

Here’s wishing all of you a joyous holiday and a fab New Year!

Much love, the Snarky Family