Make a Difference Without Breaking the Bank


give me a hopeI saw this article online at newsblaze.com and I had to share it with you here. With Christmas fast approaching (I know I am not ready either trust me) people tend to start thinking of charity more and ways that they can help others who are less fortunate during the holiday season. Newsblaze.com has a great list of 50 Ways to Make a Difference without Spending a Penny that are guaranteed to inspire some goodwill and cheer in everyone. Check it out on the site or see the re-post below.

How to make a difference without spending a cent:

1. Pass on a book that you’ve enjoyed. Write a note in the front saying what you enjoyed and instruct the next “owner” to pass it on after they have read it.

2. Instead of “googling” when searching – use Good Search and these guys will make a donation to Spreading Joy. (Use the link above that will take you there)

3. Donate gently used dvd’s, vhs tapes and video games – I’m sure Spreading Joy can find those that will love to use them.

4. Be Positive today – with the depressing economy, bills falling behind – this can really be tough, but it will encourage those around you and in the process bring joy to yourself.

5. Donate expired coupons to the troops overseas.

6. Thank a Police Officer today (hopefully NOT while you are getting a ticket!)

7. Give time to your spouse – do something together, visit a park, bookstore etc.

8. Donate household items to Spreading Joy to pass along to others in need.

9. Hold a yard sale and donate half of the proceeds.

10. Taking the 30 day challenge? Tell me about it here.

11. Baby sit for a friend/neighbor for free.

12. Serve a meal at a homeless shelter or women’s shelter

13. Encourage our soldiers. Send a free letter here.

14. Mentor someone – have you started your own business? Are you an expert in a certain field? Share that talent!

15. Donate unused craft items to a daycare or elementary school.

16. Turn in those Box Tops for Education – found on Pillsbury items. Keep these, even if you don’t have kids. There is a school near you.

17. Smile at everyone you come in contact with today.

18. Offer to let someone ahead of you in line.

19. Volunteer in a Nursing home.

20. Donate blood.

21. Donate Plasma – and get paid for it.

22. Organize a book drive – get your neighborhood to donate gently used books. Pass out a flier asking for books – giving instructions to leave them in a bag on the porch letting them know you will pick them up the next week.

23. Turn in your Campbell’s Soup Labels

24. Have a family meal at the table – talk about current events in the family.

25. Give a handwritten note of encouragement.

26. Start a Gratitude Journal – leave it out for others to see as they visit you.

27. Donate gently used magazines to a nursing home

28. <-This has been missing for a year and a half, and NO one has said a thing to me about it. LOLOLOL just realized today 10.10.10 hahhaha. I LOVE it!, Leaving it and thank goodness for bonuses.

29. Call someone who is not feeling well and talk until you make them laugh

30. Volunteer at an animal shelter – play with the animals.

31. Visit with the elderly or someone who can no longer get out as much as they’d like.

32. Pick flowers from your garden and give away.

33. Volunteer for your local church.

34. Give a thank you card to someone who has made a difference in your life.

35. Run errands for a new Mom (or someone who is sick)

36. Pick up trash you see as you are walking on your route.

37. Volunteer to read to a class at your local Elementary school

38. Write a thank you note to your child’s teacher.

39. Seek out a store manager and let them know what an excellent employee your grocery bagger was. (or cashier).

40. Donate gently used clothing.

41. Volunteer at a hospital.

42. Donate your “free items” from the buy one get one free – to a local food pantry.

43. Leave a note hanging in or on your mailbox thanking your mail carrier for always being so dependable!

44. Speak to the elderly you pass – look them in the eye and smile. We tend to forget about the great individuals who paved the way for us.

45. Say Please and Thank you – show sincere appreciation.

46. Go to Church. There are so many churches. When people get discouraged, that is one of the first places they’ll go. You can encourage so many people this way!

47. Make extra chili and cornbread muffins – and take to a neighbor.

48. Bake homemade cookies with items you have in your pantry and share with neighborhood children.

49. Donate extra blankets to a homeless shelter.

50. Give a basket of home-grown veggies.

51. (a bonus!) Host a game night with your family – eat dessert first! Turn off cell phones (ok – kids, you can leave yours on….) but spend time laughing together playing games!
There you have it – 50 ways to make a difference without spending a single penny.

 

These are great ideas, Do you have any of your own? How do you help out during the holidays? What about other times of the year? Share your thoughts (and this post)

**Remember this is not my post it was originally posted at newsblaze.com so be sure to check out the site Here!**

 

Cheers!

…Pants on Fire!!


Well…. It finally happened!! The moment every mother dreads, and most face with a thin mask of denial. Arriving to pick my son up from school today, I got called into the classroom to “talk” with the teacher….

Don’t get me wrong I have had conversations with my sons teacher before, on a regular basis actually, but these were usually during a pre-planned parent/teacher interview, or initiated by me regarding a concern or question I had about my son, or the happenings at school.

But today, as I stood outside in the snow long after the bell had rung and all the other children had fled the grounds, the doors to the school opened and there stood my sons teacher “Mrs. S”. Mrs. S is a nice woman, she has a warm smile and concerning eyes, she is a pleasant, well spoken woman, who seems to have a genuine interest in the children she teaches.

C is in 1st grade and has faced some difficulties with bigger, more aggressive children throughout the early part of the year. When my concerns we brought to the attention of Mrs.S she acted immediately and with success. She seemed to know exactly what needed to be done and managed it without any awkwardness. I happen to like her a lot. But today, as the door opened and I saw her standing with my son, who was clearly distraught, my heart hit the ground.

At that moment you are bombarded with a million different emotions at once. First I thought ” I am going to kill the little bastard that has hurt my son.” then I thought “OH-MI-GOD the authorities have finally discovered that I have no idea what I am doing as a parent and are coming to take him away.” and lastly, as I slowly walked through the doors to accept whatever fate may await me on the other side I felt like I was a child again myself, being sent to the principles office to explain my actions, lack of sense, or outright disobedience. I felt a flutter in my heart that I had long forgotten, that feeling of impending doom that only a disappointed teacher or parent can invoke…

Well, it turns out that feeling of impending doom was not being felt by me alone, my sons tears were due to the fact that he knew what I was about to hear would cause me to be the disappointed parent…

Once inside the confines of the school entrance all hell broke loose.

My son, apparently aware that his ass was officially grass when I heard what his teacher was about to say, burst into hysterics. Unfathomable, complex, and obscure screams flowed from my sons mouth as he tried to defend himself before his trial had even begun. My jaw must have been obviously gaping, because before I could even speak (to tell this little brat child who had clearly overtaken my son’s mind to shut-up) Mrs.S spoke up and said C, you need to take a minute and calm down before you try to talk.

This wonderfully gentle woman then proceeded to inform me that my handsome little angel was in BIG trouble….

My eyes wide, and jaw still inches from the ground I listened as Mrs. S explained that during class today it was discovered that my son and another child (known to be a “problem” child) had decided it would be humorous to write “bad words” on their art projects. When the teacher in charge at the time, we’ll call her Mrs. X saw the ‘profanity’ (for those of you who are wondering the offending word was PEE.. not an overly bad word in my book, but in the context and manner it was used in this case it passes for profanity. Not a school appropriate word, and C is aware of that fact!) she told them that she would be speaking to their classroom teacher regarding the inappropriate language, which of course she did….

Oh, it gets worse, trust me….

Upon hearing this news my oh-so-clever son decided that he would dispose of the evidence (using an eraser) and opted denial as his choice defence. If you have ever seen a 7 year-old try to erase something using the eraser on the end of a pencil (or any eraser for that matter) you will know that there is always a fairly obvious amount of evidence left over, no matter how hard they rub the page.

But of course, children don’t know that adults are intelligent creatures, and so my little devil angel looked Mrs.S straight in the eyes and said, “I didn’t write anything on my artwork. Mrs X must be lying!”

OH YEAH… You read that right… my son lied and tried to say the TEACHER was lying!!!!

No, no, wait…. yep you bet ya, it got even worse!

Once showing C (who at this point is probably considering himself near genius) that there are in fact traces of evidence that prove differently from what he is claiming, my angry, overzealous son burst out with, “Well, I HATE THIS SCHOOL… AND I DON’T CARE, IT DOESN’T MATTER ANYWAY, I AM MOVING AND THEN I’M NEVER COMING BACK HERE AGAIN”

Yeah, but this point in the conversation C is sobbing uncontrollably, shaking all over and is just generally PISSED OFF!!! His defence by this time????

“D (the ‘problem child’) made me do it!”

WTF???

Ummmm… people can’t make you do anything C! You have your own mind, and, last time I checked, you certainly had your own set of hands, so I am pretty sure that D did not take your hand (complete with pencil entwined) and force you to write this profanity on your paper! Right???

C’s response??? More tears, some foot stomping, and a whole lot of temper!!! I am almost positive that smoke must have escaped my ears as I stared at this child I did not recognize who was throwing a temper tantrum like a two year-old in front of his teacher, in public, for no good reason!!

Trying to remain calm I assured his teacher that there would be a long, in-depth discussion about this issue on the way home, and ‘gently’ gripping my sons arm I quietly escorted him from the building….

You have to understand, for some parents this situation might seem mild, almost laughable, but despite my humorous approach now, I was livid! C has never thrown a temper tantrum, never acted out in a way that brought attention to himself in public. He has never embarrassed me, caused a scene, or caused other parents to stare in horror in the middle of Walmart as parents do when a little brat decides to scream, yell, and throw themselves on the floor. I was blessed. In fact I have often bragged to people about how lucky I am to have such a sweet, sensitive, and understanding little boy. So for me, this was shocking!!!

During the walk home I could barely speak for fear of what would come out of my mouth. I spent a large amount of the walk controlling my emotions enough that I was able to refrain from grabbing this imposter and shaking him, begging him to tell me who he was, and what he had done with my little boy!! Once I was able to speak, I began the lecture…. My son looking at me through tear soaked eyes said “I know I am going to be grounded aren’t I?”

Grounded wasn’t the word! I explained to him how embarrassed I was, how angry I was, and most of all how disappointed I was. For the last while the bf and I have butted heads regarding my sons “sneaky” ways. My bf could apparently see things I couldn’t and through my denial I would always defend my son. I chalked these battles up to a different approach to parenting, but I now understand that my bf saw this coming. When I got home and recounted the situation to him through frustrated tears, and spurts of anger, there was no look of shock on his face, no gaping hole in place of his mouth, he simply listened to me and said “Well, now that you have caught it, it is time to start changing it before it gets worse.” Calm as a clam… just like that, I realised that my years of parenting my son and living by my “love is all we need” outlook on life, wasn’t working….

And so, all my sons brand new Christmas toys sit in a pile on my livingroom floor. He has lost use of his computer, x-box, T.V, and anything else I think of at a later date. He is confined to his room until further notice, and the only exception of the above is for the purpose of chores, amusing his sister, or eating his meals. He is to write apology letters to both teachers involved, and a letter about why lying is wrong. He is to think about what he did in the first place that was wrong, and the lie that he used to cover it up. He is in BIG trouble, and he knows it. I feel bad on some level, but the truth is, even if I have to keep him grounded until he is forty in order to make him realize that his behaviour today was unacceptable, and prevent him from becoming a very troubled youth later down the line, (it may seem a little extreme to think that one lie can lead to a life of crime, but I am not taking any chances) then so be it.

Lying children live miserable lives in my house…. lesson learned?

This Year It’s All About Me!!!


With a New Year fast approaching I can not help but reflect on years past, looking back over time can be a very depressing thing to do at times. Each year after Christmas is complete and I discover my sanity still (somewhat) intact, I set out to start my list of New Years resolutions. I am the type that makes big, extravagant, life-changing resolutions. For days I write and re-write my list of goals until it is perfect, until it reads exactly as I desire the next twelve months of my life to play-out. Each year I include important items on that list such as; write more often, complete your book, volunteer, choose a course for, and attend, college, and spend more time with my family. Each year begins with great gusto, I set out to accomplish these goals with the force of a warrior intent on single-handedly saving the world, yet each year this list of goals is quickly pushed aside for more pressing issues that require my attention, like; dishes, laundry, children, and life in general.

This is especially true of the last few years of my life, where I feel I have accomplished ‘nothing’. I know that this is not actually the case; I have moved 3 times, worked, had a baby, started to write more, loved, lost, gained, lost some more, and learned a hell of a lot from my mistakes…. but place my list of accomplishments next to my list of resolutions from the last few years, and it is unimpressive.

Somewhere along the journey of life I have lost my desire to set out and achieve great things, not that I don’t try now, but my achievements are very different at this point. The last few years I aim more to just make it through the day in one piece, rather than make it around the world in one year. I strive to have happy children, rather than make children in Africa happy. I aim for passable, rather than perfection. I still have goals, they are just simple, and often seem un-rewarding in a sense. I don’t jump for joy when I get all the laundry done, the house clean, or the kids to bed without a fight. I don’t celebrate when I manage to cook dinner without starting a small kitchen fire, and I don’t hoot and holler when I spend time doing something that I actually wanted to do. Instead I get things done little by little and force myself through each day. It’s saddening at times, I think back to years ago and often wonder what happened to that young girl with big dreams and even bigger drive? I wonder where the part of me went that wanted to achieve greatness? I know the dreams are still in me, but I excuse them at the drop of a hat… I push them aside with the justification that I have children who need me, a family to support, and responsibilities to tend to, I convince myself that my dreams are unachievable, and that is a terrible thing to do to yourself.

So this year, as I sit down to write my list I am going to remind myself that yes, although I have children who need my care, love and attention to be happy, I also need to be happy as well. I need to remember that the happier I am, the better I will be as a parent. I need to remind myself that sometimes life can wait, and that dreams (no matter how big or small) are worth at least trying to achieve. The worst that can happen is failure, and even failure is a lesson learned, thus success in some sense.

I will post my list once it is completed, and I hope others will share theirs… this year my list will consist of simpler goals, but goals that will fit ‘me’! One of them is definitely going to be “Do what makes me happy, even if it seems hard, or wrong.” The next year is going to be all about me, because I deserve at least one year of attention I think!!!

Holy Crap! You Survived! Well, So Far Anyway…..


If you are reading this post I must congratulate you on surviving Christmas!!!

Way to go!!! Woo Hoo!! You did it!!!

Wether you have a ‘perfect’ family tradition that seems to flow smoothly and freely, with little effort at all (which would mean your name is either Mary Poppins, or Martha Stewart, and you can go straight to hell!) or you were subjected to a ‘less than desirable’ family affair, you know how difficult the holidays can be! So, give yourself a pat on the back, you managed to make it through in one piece! (although for some the hangover you are suffering may be part of a bittersweet accomplishment)

In-laws, and cousins, sisters and step-parents, the gatherings of the holiday season can be overwhelming at times. (to say the least) With deep-fried turkeys, baked, boiled, and burnt. Potatoes, presents, pizza, and pie… you survived, and that is another reason to celebrate!!

Granted, you probably consumed a minimum of 3,000 calories, according to Diet Bites. That is with less than the sites listed amount of food, some of which consists of; 1 cup of stuffing, 1 cup of gravy, 6 ounces of turkey, 1 cup of mashed potatoes, 1/2 cup of Cranberry sauce, 2 buttered rolls, and 2 glasses of wine. (click the link above to see the entire list of foods and calories)

If the fact that you consumed more calories in one meal than some people do in an entire day is not stress enough, there are often presents that need to be returned. Oh don’t act so innocent… you know you hate that ugly sweater Aunt Betty got you, or that grill from Grandma Genie, you know, the exact-same grill she gave you last Christmas, you also know where they came from, and what you would rather have received. Returning these unwanted, less than thoughtful, gifts means; long lines, tired mothers with candy-high children who are eager to get their spoiled butt home to the plethora of new toys, games, and gadgets Santa left for them under the tree, grumpy, tired, and obnoxious customers arguing over return policies, and even grumpier customer services clerks arguing right back. It means congested roads, stupid drivers, and over packed malls with ‘over priced’ sales. It means not only returning the improper item, but often going out in search of something to replace it with. This also means thinking up a lie for when the ‘gifter’ arrives for a visit and asks, (while suspiciously looking around your home) “Did you like the (snot green,ugly, or useless) crystal bowl we got you for Christmas?” While you sit, sweating on the couch trying to look innocent as you figure out how to hide the new T.V. mounted on your wall in plain sight!

There is always the option of re-gifting those undesirable items that (obviously thoughtless) family members chose to present you with. If you are a re-gifter it is important that you take note, and remember ‘who gave you what gift.’ I once witnessed a very awkward moment where a re-gifter friend of mine, re-gifted a gift to the original gifter!!! Ummm… Awkward!!! With re-gifting you run the risk of looking like the ‘thoughtless gifter’ yourself as well, so it may be best to only re-gift ‘unwanted’ or ‘tasteless’ items to those which you don’t value their opinion. Also be sure you check for, and remove, any old tags from the item you are re-gifting. Another awkward situation can arise if the gift receiver opens their gift to find a tag reading ‘To: Shelly From: Jane’ and their name is Amanda! So be very careful when choosing to re-gift, it can be more tasteless and tacky than the original gift itself.

If all these thoughts don’t cause you to down a very large bottle of wine, very quickly, as you sit crying in the bathroom, door locked, and sappy music blaring, there is also the added stress of the boxing day sales, everywhere!! I could never figure out why anyone thinks shopping on boxing day is a good idea. Sure, you can sometimes find great items at alow price, but the real bargains are often found at the end of the ‘boxing week.’ For me, fighting through the crowds is not worth the couple of bucks I can save on most items. For bigger items you may decide it is worth the savings, and opt to face the fury, if choosing to shop on boxing day it is important that you are prepared for anything, because all that is crazy, out-of-control, and just plain ludicrous, can, and will, be seen while out shopping on boxing day. If you thought Christmas shopping at Walmart was bad, be prepared for the same cart ramming, fist fighting, profanity shouting chaos, times 100!! You must bring your patience when shopping on or around boxing day, it is usually best to hire a babysitter and leave the kids at home if at all possible. Strollers and large crowds are not a good combination, and it will only lead to elevated stress levels in all aspects, on all involved. You must also remember to consider how much of a deal you are actually getting before you purchase an item, be sure you know the regular price of the item, and how much you will save if you are buying it during a boxing week sale. Through years of working, and shopping retail I learned that there are many ways a store can create the illusion of savings that are not actually there. One of the most common ways of doing this is to advertise a large percentage sale (Such as 50% off) and then add the words “the original price.” When you are taking a percentage off a ‘sale’ item (or the lowest ticketed price) you are clearly saving money, but when you remove a percentage off the ‘original price’ often times it turns out that the amount you are saving is very minor, especially after you factor in taxes, and the time you spent awaiting the purchase itself. The other important factors in boxing day shopping are 1) to plan your shopping route ahead of time. There is nothing worse than driving back and forth in boxing day traffic, in the exact fashion that driving in Christmas traffic is terrible, as is driving here-and-there in boxing day traffic (perhaps worse when you factor in all the young drivers who just got cash for Christmas and are now out driving around looking to spend it) and 2) the longer you wait to shop the lower the price will be! Retail stores ‘need’ to move inventory after Christmas to make room for the new seasons items, they will do this by first listing a sale price that seems to be a good deal to quickly sell off as many items as possible on the busiest shopping day which is boxing day itself. They will then proceed to lower this sale price repeatedly until the items are sold out, and there is room for the new stock to hit the sales floor. (This is the sole reason I choose to shop at the end of boxing week. I save more money, and I don’t have the stress of miserable people, long lines, and insane crowds in tight spaces!)

The snowball of stress comes to a peak with the New Year fast approaching. If Christmas with the family, gift returns with disgruntled customer service reps, and boxing day shopping chaos wasn’t enough to drive you mad, you have one last chance of winning an all expenses paid vacation at the local loony bin with New Years Eve’s extravaganza! The beauty of this event is that you don’t have to go anywhere to feel stress unless you choose to. Opting to stay home often effects no one but you! Your friends and family will ‘understand’ that you decided to stay in and enjoy a quiet night, they will still be able to venture out enjoy the party without you… In fact, by staying in you probably provided them with hours of entertainment, and deep discussion on how much of a loner, loser, snob, baby, geek, suck, and/or bitch, you are for not showing up to start the New Year with a bang! If you do decide to go out for the night you will pay too much money for any venue you plan to attend, any daycare you may require, any dress you decide to purchase, and any beverage you choose to drink. If you opt to attend a house party, rather than a orgainized event, it is almost guaranteed that either you, your date, or one of your friends, will get way too drunk, kiss a stranger at midnight, or ring in the new year on the bathroom floor. The stress then increases with the size of your hangover New Years Day, the realisation that you are out of Aspirin and everything is closed, and the number of children who require your care and attention first thing in the morning.  

The good news is, you survived Christmas with all the chaos and the drama it entails! That is a victory you should be proud of, and once you make it through the anarchy that is the beginning of the New Year you will be set and ready for a fresh start…. Then all you have to do is choose, and stick to, those New Years resolutions!

How hard could that be, right?

After all you are a survivor!!!

 

A Family Christmas Tradition…..


Despite my long list of recent complaints, Christmas is my favorite time of year, and now that my shopping is finally done, I’ve accepted all the chaos and disappointment that holiday shopping provides, and I can officially sit down (for a few minutes at least) and relax. I can honestly say I am excited for Santa to come….

Christmas was always a BIG deal in my family. Sure, we all got together for Thanksgiving, Easter, and birthdays, but Christmas was ‘the‘ big event when I was a child.

I remember each, and every year as we got older my parents would earnestly warn us that ‘there would not be a lot of presents this Christmas’, that ‘this year was not going to be as big as last’, and that ‘they did what they could’. Yet each, and every year Christmas got better, and better. Not that it was bigger, just better, we got more useful gifts, more thoughtful gifts, not always what we asked for, but always what we needed.

As children Christmas always seemed so huge, and ours were huge compared to others I have witnessed. I remember our family Christmas tradition in detail, a tradition that  still holds strong to this day. Every Christmas Eve we would go somewhere as a family, when we lived in the city it would be skating at city hall, (or even just out for a walk as we grew a little older) and each year upon arriving home we would find two early presents from Santa, who had clearly stopped by while we were out! (I was always so angry that we had missed his visit) These early presents always held beautiful, comfy pajama’s inside, to this day Santa makes a ‘special’ stop early to deliver my children’s Christmas pajama’s. I remember how amazed and excited I was that Santa would come all that way just to bring me an early present, I felt so special, especially when I discovered that he didn’t do this for every one of my friends as well. We would excitedly adorn ourselves in these extra special PJ‘s and snuggle in as a family to drink hot chocolate, and listen to my dad read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, the same story, from the same book, my entire childhood. The pages were so worn that you probably couldn’t actually see the words anymore, but after years of reading, and re-reading, this story my father knew every word by heart I’m sure.

Sometimes it would take my sister and I hours to fall asleep, we would try our best to stay up and catch jolly old Santa Claus sneaking into our house, when we were very young we lived in an apartment and had no fire-place, we were absolutely sure we could catch him as he crept  through the front door, but year after year we would fall asleep long before he ever arrived.

Christmas day was always the same as well, my sister and I would wake at the crack of dawn and sneak out to see if Santa had come to visit yet. In the early years it was acceptable to wake our parents with excitement at such an ungodly hour, but as we grew older my parents usually prefered not to be woken until 7 a.m. During the agonizing hours before we could officially wake our parents my sister and I would pass the time searching  through our stockings, comparing the little gifts, and guessing what was contained in the larger packages under the tree. Our stockings, which I believe were the same ones year after year, were always stuffed full and bulging with useful little things that we would need; pens, pencils, make-up, hair clips, toys, treats, and always an apple and an orange right down in the toe.

Once my parents were awake the fun really started. Each year my father would attempt to get us to eat breakfast before we started opening gifts, and each year he was unsuccessful in his task. Instead he would make himself a tea and have some home-baked shortbread cookies that my grandfather would send to us. They were the most amazing short bread cookies you have ever eaten, just the thought of them makes my mouth water with anticipation… I wish my grandfather was still here to bake them now!

We would open our presents in an organized fashion, with my father handing out the gifts one at a time, I used to hate this method, patience has never been my strong point, but today, with 7 adults, 7 grandchildren, and various other participants in the house, it is far more effective than the chaos that would ensue if left to our own devices. After all our gifts were open my mother (who had started to cook the turkey at 5 a.m.) would carry on with her cooking as we all prepared for a big family feast. My grandparents would come over in the afternoon, and it would be like Christmas morning all over again.

Late afternoon would always consist of a huge feast, turkey and all the trimmings. There would be turkey, potatoes, ham, and stuffing (much like the cookies my grandfather used to make, my mother has the ability to make the most amazing stuffing you will ever taste!) Along with veggies, gravy, and cakes and cookies for desert. Usually you were so full by the time dinner was done, that you would be unable to even more, it was like a turkey coma, and every year is the same.

Sure there were years when our family would fight, argue, or suffer some other ‘family type’ drama, but my parents put a lot of time and effort in to making Christmas special for everyone.

Even now, with 7 grandchildren to cater to, our tradition lives strong. No longer does my father read ‘The Night Before Christmas’ to us, I now own at least three copies of my own that I read to my children. No longer are the presents piled sky-high, and packaged perfectly with care on Christmas morning, at my house they are slightly tattered looking and sort of tossed under the tree haphazardly, but the love, care, and family spirit is always there, even through the stress and the chaos the true meaning of Christmas shines strong in my family, and for that I am thankful!

That’s a Wrap…


I discovered late last night that any hopes or dreams I may have had about ever becoming a professional gift wrapper have now officially been wiped out entirely. Visions of exquisitely wrapped presents, beautiful bows, and perfectly folded ‘army bed sheet type’ edges are not dancing inside my head any longer, at this point I simply want these damn presents covered completely, with as little effort as humanly possible.

You see, my original perfect Christmas gift strategy was to cart all the gifts up to the mall and pay the nice old ladies to wrap them for me! It is a charitable fundraiser that the mall hosts every year. The nice ladies behind a large folding table will charge you $2-$6 per gift. They wrap them beautifully in shiny paper, with sparkling ribbon, delicate bows, and neatly written tags, and all proceeds go to a charity in need. It is a win-win situation! Yet instead of sticking to my original plan, (mostly due to the furrowed eyebrows, and head shake of disapproval I got when I mentioned this idea, you know that “nonsense” head shake people give you when you mention something completely outrageous) I sat on my livingroom floor surrounded by, what I have now decided is a ridiculous amount, of gifts and attempted to reproduce the perfect packages I witnessed the ‘charity ladies’ create with such natural ease.

The end result is shamefulso shameful in fact, that I refuse to even post a picture! Luckily there are two positive points that have saved me from bursting into tears at my total lack of wrapping talent; 1) My children will be so eager to tear the wrapping paper to shreds in order to get at the present inside, that they will not realize the gifts look as if Santa was wrapping while high on Crack!! 2) No one but my children and I will be preset to bear witness to the sad scene that will be our Christmas gifts under the tree… Luckily, most of the gifts that others will receive are going to be gift cards, and the ones that are not will now be placed easily into beautifully created gift bags. (Beautifully created by someone else)

It’s not that my lack of talent in the gift wrapping department comes as a total shock, I have never really been good at ‘hands on’ types of things, I am no good with arts and crafts, objects with small pieces, or the creation physical things in general. I can come up with the ideas, plan the outcome and the design, and they look beautiful inside my head, but unless someone else is doing the ‘physical labour’, something always seems to go terribly wrong. Perhaps it has to do with my complete disregard for paying attention to detail??? Honestly sometimes I wonder how I do anything!! Honestly, this is not an exaggeration, a car could drive itself through my livingroom and I would probably not be able to tell you what colour it was!!! Seriously, I know, it’s sad really!!

Because of this natural lack I have for paying attention to detail I can undoubtedly cross the following career options off my life list as well;

  • Lawyer – I am not a particularly good liar anyway, so it is probably for the best.
  • Scientist – I am sure that option would end very badly!!
  • Teacher – Hmmm.. don’t really care for children anyhow!
  • Accountant – Which, again, is fine because numbers scare the heck out of me!
  • Doctor – Another situation where lack of attention to detail could be a big issue.
  • Crime Scene Investigator – That’s fine because I don’t really think I want to deal with dead bodies anyway, granted they wouldn’t be much of a bother I assume, not like they could distract you from your work! (I know that was a little twisted, sorry!)
  • Baker/Chef – Not only do I not pay attention to detail, I don’t follow directions well either, so this option is also out…

And too many more to list…. (but too depressing to continue) It really is sad when you look at it that way, perhaps I should work on this issue, but I guess that would again require me paying attention to details, and that’s the issue in the first place isn’t it???? Kind of redundant really!

Anyway, so there I am at 11 p.m. sitting on my livingroom floor surrounded by all these gifts (kicking myself in the butt for buying so many awkward shaped items) carelessly attempting to manipulate impossibly thin, and fragile, wrapping paper around crudely shaped gifts with the expectation that the final outcome will in some way resemble a Martha Stewart Holiday Special creation!

My haphazard attempt was unsuccessful, to say the least, the result was a little more ‘trash’ than ‘treasure’ and 3 hours, 6 rolls of wrapping paper and 4 gifts later, I admitted defeat for the evening….  Unhappily lugging unwrapped presents back to the storage closet, cleaning up mountains of shredded paper particles, and picking pieces of scotch tape off my tush, toes, and table top. I decided that next year I would do a good deed and give something back, I would pay those nice ladies at the mall to wrap my presents perfectly, to adorn them with elegant bows, fancy ribbon, and luxurious paper, I don’t care if it costs my life savings (trust me that is not a major splurge) it is worth the piece of mind to give a beautiful gift to someone and say “Didn’t I wrap this beautifully? I must be a natural!” 

A Very Merry? Christmas


I have noticed that I am not the only one who is not in the ‘Christmas spirit‘. It seem that this year people are not feeling the joy of the season.  Yesterday for example; A nice older gentleman held the door open for me while I struggled to carry an armful of christmas purchases, (some of the last purchases I needed to make btw, woo-hoo!!) and as a friendly gesture I said “Thank you, and Merry Christmas.” The man, apparently unimpressed by my display of seasonal joy, replied “Yeah, Happy HOLIDAYS.” in a gruff, somewhat rude tone, and did not hold open the second door for me. (in fact I am pretty sure he made sure it slammed directly in my face!) WTF?????

OK, I know that it is considered “politically incorrect” to say Merry Christmas now a days. (which I think is rather stupid in the first place)  I am not an overly religious Jesus is the reason for the seasonkind of person. I say Merry Christmas, mostly because it is what I have always said. I grew up saying Merry Christmas, we had a Christmas tree, Christmas stocking, and ate Christmas dinner. You on the other hand may be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Atheist for all I know, but unless you are going to strategically place a sign on your body, complete with a giant flashing  arrow that may, or may not, ensure I see this said sign, I am going to say Merry Christmas out of habit… In fact, even if I do see the sign with the giant flashing arrow, I can not promise that I will do the “politically correct” thing and say Happy holidays, Seasons Greetings, or make reference to whatever it is that you celebrate.  Honestly, not only is it too much work, too confusing, and just plan annoying, I celebrate “Christmas” and I am not going to change that just because you are overly sensitive about your religion….. I mean, even the little Chinese man who runs the store down the street (who doesn’t celebrate Christmas and never has) says Merry Christmas to me in reply as I shop for groceries, surely you can suck it up and at least be pleasant.

You don’t have to say “Merry Christmas” back if it is against your religion, or bothers you that much. The response of Happy Holidays was not the issue with this man yesterday, it was the clear indication that he was offended by my “religious like” greeting. You can wish me a Happy Hanukkah for all I care, I will do the same to you in return, but don’t be gruff, rude, or start lecturing me about the secrets and cover-ups of the Catholic Church, the government and the brainwashed citizens of America….. because frankly, I don’t really care. I am simply being polite, get over it!!

So on that Note: Merry Chrismas (a.k.a Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, Happy Hanukkah, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel, Kwanzaa, or Bah-hum-bug)

 

Christmas Cupcake Queen


Anyone who read my other post ‘The Exorcism Of Martha Stewart’ is well aware of my lack of baking abilities. It features an image of my first attempt at baking, starring some VERY over cooked, disgusting, and almost inedible oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

So when it came time for my sons Christmas party at school I had two available options (since keeping him home sick was not one of them) a) I could trek my butt to the grocery store and purchase treats, then place them on a fancy tray and take credit for making them myself, or b) suck it up and try out this baking thing again, this time making sure to follow all instructions carefully, and pay attention to the baking time and temperature exactly.

I figured (I could use this moment as one of those ‘never give up’ lessons for my son) I would opt for number two, and I have made an early resolution to start choosing the options I usually wouldn’t choose and make some simple (ha!) changes in my life. (Besides, if worse comes to worse the grocery store is 24-hours, and there are fresh batteries in the smoke detector)

So with a goal in mind I set out for everything I would need to bake the greatest Christmas cupcakes of all time, Martha Stewart would have nothing on me after this… I ventured to the store and purchased the following list of items;

Things I need to make super great cupcakes

A box of cake mix

A tin of icing

A muffin tin

A small jar of colored sprinkles

Green food coloring

A bottle of vodka

With everything on my list I was sure to make the best cupcakes the world had ever seen. I could imagine the look on the teachers face as she looked upon my magical concoction… the other mothers would be in awe of my talent, and beg for my secret recipe, they would offer to pay huge sums for cupcakes of this caliber for birthday, christmas, and dinner parties. I would be a baking sensation, my picture would appear in every baking magazine, and I would be competing with Martha Stewart on Rachel Ray…..It would be AWESOME!!!

Once I was home, with the items spread out on the kitchen counter, and my little helper ‘C’ at my side, I set to work. First step; read the directions on the cake mix box. OK easy enough, lets see here; mix 3 eggs? 2 cups water, and 1/3 cup of oil? in a big bowl….

CRAP!!!

I didn’t buy 3 eggs! and I certainly didn’t buy 1/3 a cup of oil, and of course, my measuring cup (care of the dollar store) doesn’t have 1/3 a cup listed anywhere on it!!! Uh-oh…..

Well I learned something, a few things actually….. for starters when your 7-year-old is standing beside you expecting cupcakes it is best not to panic… in fact, it is best to act as if everything is just fine, and calmly improvise!!! Also, if you have no oil, applesauce is a great substitute…. who knew???

Don’t worry, I found a few eggs in the back of the fridge, and I am sure they were fine, I mean how long could they have been there, right? and luckily I have an infant and just happened to have applesauce on hand, as well as a baby bottle that had the 1/3 cup (which is 75ml btw) measurement on it… as for the big bowl though, well that’s where improvisation comes in… Of course I don’t own a big baking bowl, do you forget that I had to borrow a cookie sheet from my neighbour??? Why would I need a giant mixing bowl when I don’t ‘mix’ anything??? I used a big pot instead. (The box showed a picture of a blender, but I figured since I didn’t have one of those I would just stir the mix really really fast!!! Same thing right?)

With all the ingredients poured together, the oven set and ‘preheating’ at 350 degrees. I mixed that mix with all my might….and then made C mix it some more….

I greased the muffin tray with butter, and since I had forgotten to buy those little paper muffin cups, I added a little extra grease for good measure. I then filled the little muffin holes and popped them into the oven. Now it was time to wait!

I was surprised. The box said for 24 cupcakes bake 16-18 minutes. ’24 cupcakes’ I thought ‘there are 24 kids in C’s class, that means I am not even going to be able to test these super amazing cupcakes to make sure they are perfect…. Oh well, I am sure they will be fine!’ But amazingly, I had more than enough mix to make a second batch once it was time to remove the first one… so I waited. (As I waited I wondered if this was one of those times when having ‘extra’ was a bad thing. Like on Christmas Eve when you just spent 2 hours putting that toy together and there are ‘extra’ pieces lying on the floor! It is NEVER a good thing to have ‘extra’ toy pieces if you did not pay for ‘extra’ toy pieces!) I carefully watched the clock, paced the kitchen, and waited… after 16 1/2 minutes I peaked inside the oven….

Staring back at me were the most golden, perfectly baked cupcakes I had ever seen in my life! Over excited I grabbed my oven mitts and gently lifted them out of the oven, and set them to cool for 15 minutes like the package said…in big bold writing…. but now was the true test, would they easily slide out of this pan? or would they crumble and stick like over-cooked pasta????

Guess what….

They popped right out like the perfect little things they were. I don’t think I have ever felt so satisfied over something so stupid, who would have thought baking could be so exciting. (wow! I think this goes to show just how boring my life really is!)

Needless to say they were baked great and I iced them perfectly as well… I had officially baked something edible!!! I was so proud! Perhaps they were not Martha Stewart quality after all, but they were damn good, I would know… I think I ate at least 6 of them!!!! (No, I am not opening shop though, baking is far too much waiting and work for me) But with my new baking skills I thought of something, if I never make it back to Walmart to finish my shopping I could at least bake everyone some great cupcakes to help get over the disappointment of not having any gifts!!!!

 

Christmas…One Way, or Another……


Well the count down to Christmas is running full speed ahead, despite my desperate pleas to put it off just a little longer, my plot to hijack Santa’s sleigh, my insistent tears, and my constant attempts at bargaining with the Gods to end the world NOW before I have to go back to Walmart!

I would love to be able to say I am ready… but that would not only be a lie, it would be a HUGE lie. I am not even close to ready, in fact, I am not even ready to prepare to be ready!!! I would love to say that I got everything that everyone asked for, and all at a fair and reasonable price, but that would be a lie as well, I would love to say that I have the decorations up, the tree lit, and Christmas cookies baking in the oven, but again it would be a big, fat, complete, outright lie!!!

What do I have you ask???????

Nada, nothing, zip, zero, nil, nix, zilch…….

OK that is not completely true…. it’s another lie…I am a big fat liar today!!! I do have a few things. On my latest shopping excursion I did manage to purchase 4 gifts, two for L, and two for C…. you might say ‘that’s great!’ but it’s not great… they are not great gifts, actually they are kinda stupid… well 2 of the 4 are anyway….. not so much stupid, as just blah. I don’t know if it is just that I am in a Ba-hum-bug mood this year, or that the anxiety of shopping causes me to just grab the first thing I see that has some kind of use at a decent price, but when I got home I felt drained, and looking at the 4 sad little presents I had managed to purchase, I realised just how useless they really were….

So whats a girl to do???

Shop some more obviously… What choice do I have.  Usually the thought of shopping would excite me to no end. Any other day planning a shopping trip would send a thrill rushing through my body. I LOVE shopping at any other time of year, but this year, at this time, I just HATE it!!! I psyche myself up and head out with high hopes, but the minute I see the disorganization, chaos, and other bustling shoppers…I panic, grab at something, and run. Pathetic I know. I really have to get over this recent fear of shopping…QUICK!!!

So whats my plan???

Well truthfully I don’t have a plan I am just going to keep heading out nd hoping for the best, eventually I will grab something great I figure, and by process of elimination Christmas will come together dammit!!!!

Keep your fingers crossed, and wish me luck…. Lord knows I need it!!!!

The Exorcism Of Martha Stewart……


Tuesday an unexplained feeling of motherly love overcame me. I can’t explain it exactly, but I was acting a bit out of the ordinary all day. Generally I allow my children to roam free with the hope in my heart that they will safely entertain themselves for the most part…

But Tuesday was different! C was off school, the temperatures were again well below freezing and rather than confronting the cold, I opted to call the school and inform then that my son was not coming! This is NOT something I do on a regular basis, usually C is at school rain, shine, cough, or cold. I like it that way, and so does he…. but Tuesday, I was different. So with C at home, L was amused with just following him around all morning, which meant that, for the most part, I had the pleasure of some peaceful time to myself…..something that I rarely get! It must have been a side effect of the luxury and pleasure this peaceful time gave me, because as I was reveling in the solitude that is usually my chaotic livingroom, and looking at the Christmas tree I managed to purchase the other day. A tree that is a little ‘Charlie Brownish’, bare, cheap, and crooked (I managed to stay in a store long enough to purchase a tree, but not quite long enough to purchase decorations!)  and I thought to myself….

“Wouldn’t it be cute if we just decorated the tree with homemade ornaments instead of the store-bought, color coordinated heartless ones I was planning on purchasing! (Well the ones I would purchase if I could manage to brave Walmart ever again) Yes. It would be grand, cute, loving, and unique. In fact, I should gather the kids and makes some RIGHT NOW!!!”

Sure, seems like a great idea. Lots of fun, some quality time, and plenty of creativity. It is a great idea, and I am so proud of my cleverness in coming up with such brilliance, but it is not like me to desire such activities, at all!

I won’t lie to you, I am not the “arts and crafts” kind of mother. Nor am I the ‘soccer game’ kind of mother, the ‘playdate’ kind of mother, or the ‘big birthday party’ kind of mother. I don’t really like children, seriously! I don’t mean that to sound as terrible as I am sure it does, but some people have it….. I just don’t. For me children are best in small doses, here and there, when I am in the mood for them. Luckily for me, my son is well aware of this fact, and is also well aware that just because mommy is not the most active participant doesn’t mean she doesn’t love him. My daughter will catch on quickly to this fact as well, I am sure. My son is amazing at amusing himself, and happily does so most of the time without an issue. He is constantly amusing himself with his computer, crafts, drawing, or recently reading and with a little sister around now he is even more content to amuse himself, and her as well. Yes, I am lucky… I thank God each and everyday…trust me!

Anyway… So I got it in my head that C, L, and I should all make crafts to hang on the tree, (well mostly C and I, L mostly just ate the craft paper and squealed at the top of her little lungs like she often does) but, if we were going to make christmas crafts, we needed Christmas cookies!

OK, this is where it starts to get really weird, not only do I not do arts and crafts, I have NEVER baked a cookie in my life! I have never baked anything in my life! (well there was that one attempt at a birthday cake, but it went horribly wrong!) Anyway… by this point, I believed that my mind, and body, had been taken over by demons for the day… like Aunt Jemima demons or some Martha Stewart wannabe….

But never the less, I set out to bake cookies. No, not from scratch of course, I am not that clever, even when possessed by the demon of some happy little homemaker. Out of the package, on to the tray (which I had to borrow from a neighbour btw, I told you I don’t bake, I mean how sad is it that I don’t even own a cookie sheet?) and 20 minutes later I had cookies! Crunchy, (even though the package said chewy) crusty, over cooked, black bottomed, outright awful, oatmeal chocolate chip cookiesThis is why I don’t bake! But C, being the darling that he can be at times, gobbled them up and told me how amazing they were, with only a slight hint of the true pain he was feeling visible on his face!

With the baking out-of-the-way I decided that I would pop a roast in to the oven to slow cook all day, and start our little arts and crafts party… so I seasoned the roast, cut up potatoes, and popped it all in the oven on low at noon, to roast slowly all day long! (The roast turned out great btw, I managed to not burn dinner at least!) My children were looking at me like I had two heads, I am sure that I saw fear in their eyes, or perhaps it was pleasure and excitement, or wonder of where this ‘new’ mommy came from, or what the hell I was on!! I don’t know. Soon C and I were gathering any and everything we could find that would be suitable for arts and crafts, and we set to work…. 3 hours, and a few swear words, later we had a paper chain, a snowman, and a few other strange decorations….

I think that it was around this time that the Sally homemaker demon left my body, because I started to get weary and irritable, the excitement that was ‘arts and crafts’ was wearing off, and I was losing interest quickly. C must have picked up on this because he turned to me and said… “You know I think maybe that’s enough for now, we can always make more later.” Bless his little soul!

So we tidied up and that was that for the day, a great dinner, a long bath, and into bed. C was so happy to have had a “fun” day, and I guess that is satisfaction enough for me, even if I did have to suffer through a demon possession, burnt cookies, and a long session of ‘arts and crafts’. But do I think I will be having another arts and crafts fest anytime soon??? I doubt it, but you never know Tuesday…. I was different!!

(P.S. I actually had fun, but don’t tell anyone they may start to get crazy ideas about me being domesticated!)