The Longest Shortest Days

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh, I wish I had a river
I could skate away on

River, Joni Mitchell

Is it horrible to love the saddest Christmas songs? River in particular kills me, and it has been in my head the last few days. I will tell you one of the best-kept secrets about this song. While I love the original, there is a very obscure and exceptional cover of it (hear me out) by — I kid you not — Robert Downey, Jr. My uncle found it years ago and put it on the family’s Christmas play list. It’s stunning and heartbreaking, and totally worth listening to if you want to weep into your spiked egg nog.

But the truth is, I love Christmas songs in general, not just the sad ones. I like the cheesy ones, the corny ones, the classics, and all (ok, most) of the rest. Give me your Band Aid, your Stevie Wonder, your Bruce Springsteen, your Darlene Love. But you can keep The Waitresses — sorry, and you can’t convince me otherwise. I wrote about my favorite Christmas songs a while back, when this blog was a baby — I suspect some of the YouTube links from that post are broken or redirected by now, but you get the idea. And then there is the debate over Mariah’s song. Do I love her music generally? Absolutely not. But the reality is that, years from now, my kids will remember the month of December as the period of time each year when I drove them to school with the car windows down and blasting All I Want for Christmas is You, much to their abject humiliation. Every day, that’s the December ritual. Well, it was the daily December ritual in The Before Times, when they attended school in-person every day.

As much of a cynic as I am in general, I am also a huge fan of the Christmas season, and I try to prolong it on both ends as much as possible. I want the real tree up just after Thanksgiving, and I want it to last until after New Year’s. I make sure the Sirius XM holiday stations are programmed into my favorites, as I ride around with the antlers and red nose on my car. I like to plan the menu for Christmas dinner and, at the expense of my sanity, host 20-30 people. I always let my kids eat the chocolate from their Advent calendars with breakfast every morning. I look forward so much to watching my daughter perform in The Nutcracker and taking the kids to Radio City to see The Rockettes and the Rockefeller Center tree. I love having my favorite people here for a cookie baking party of sheer Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer chaos every year. I torture myself combing through the online holiday card designs to pick the right one. And, more than anything, I can’t wait to be with my loud extended family and perform our 12 Days of Christmas ritual to cap off the festivities every year. It all exhausts me to no end, but I am so sad when it’s over and it’s a tough transition back to real life for me.

Needless to say, none of that is happening this year. And while it’s way less stressful not to have all of these holiday responsibilities, it turns out it’s also way less joyful and exciting. I know that the spirit of the season is not dependent on what you have, how many people you see, which cocktail parties you attend, or how many stand mixers you have simultaneously buzzing in your kitchen. I know it’s about being with those who mean the most, who will thankfully be right here with me. But, if I’m being honest, it’s also OK to mourn this shitty way to end this shitty year.

I’m told that Monday was the shortest day of the year, which seemed unbelievable at best since these short days are some of the longest — with five people testing the limits of each other’s sanity (and the strength of our wifi network) while all attending school and work online from this house as darkness falls before 5PM. My kids have been really very good overall throughout all of this, and I am firmly in the pep talk phase of the pandemic now, reminding them that we have to slog through the winter months ahead to start to see things hopefully, slowly resume with some normalcy. We will get there, I keep telling them. Then they see friends on Tik Tok and Face Time hanging out in large groups or going to sleepovers. They know every family has different rules. And they know, for us, why we are strict and what it means to us to follow the guidelines. But man, it’s exhausting to be the bad guy over and over in an age of social media and constant online documentation of everyfuckingthing their peers are doing.

Can we just, for a minute, look at where we are? I know we are all sort of numb and used to the new normal in many respects, but sometimes I think about how batshit crazy it is that we’re living in some dystopian novel or really bad made for TV movie with a global pandemic. Do you remember how patently insane it seemed when Italy first said they were closing down their country in March?

Shortly afterwards, when the stay at home order began here, we received a note from my youngest child’s school principal, where she encouraged all of us to collect toilet paper cardboard rolls during the few weeks we’d all be out of school — so then the kids could bring them into school when they returned, use them for projects, and count them up as a fun way to quantify the time spent at home. The reality is that we never got to set foot in that school again, and my son graduated Kindergarten from the drive-through car line in June. Afterwards, I went home and finally threw away the pile of toilet paper cardboard rolls that I had continued to collect for months, out of habit and long past their intended usefulness. Time was already bent, and that was six months ago.

Think of all the things, at this time last year — at Christmas 2019 — none of us could possibly have believed were in store.

What if I had told you at this time last year that, in a few months’ time, you’d have a preferred face mask for when you leave the house, and maybe even a bin near the front door where each family member keeps their clean masks? Would you have believed me if I told you that you’d get used to how your glasses fogged up with a mask, and that kids would know enough to roll their eyes at people who don’t properly cover their nose with the mask? Would you have laughed if I told you that I’d soon discover where to shop online for protective gear specifically made for tuba players — like bell covers and masks with mouth openings for playing instruments? Could you have imagined adding in daily temperature checks and completing COVID forms to attend school or sports? Had you ever heard of a drive-by birthday celebration for a child?

It was all unimaginable. And now it’s so normal.

And what if I had told you at this time last year that, by the time 2020 ended, 300,000 Americans would be dead from this virus — and that, worse still, some people would somehow find that number to be an acceptable threshold so they can prioritize their personal freedoms over a public health emergency? I’m not sure about you, but I will never get used to scrolling through social media and encountering people in my community — or even in my extended family — diminishing this situation, talking about how those who are ready should get back out there and live their lives while the rest of us follow the guidance. Or seeing these people hiding behind dubious conspiracy-laden posts by suggesting it’s “something to think about” to suit their choices.

I honestly don’t know if there could have been something more unimaginable than this type of reaction.

Back to Christmas, though. <Channels spiked egg nog essence to find calm and to reset.>

This was supposed to be one of the Christmas years when everyone was coming home. My sister in England was going to be here with her husband and my little niece, but you can imagine how that’s looking for any prospect of us seeing each other remotely soon. My dad, who I haven’t seen in two years, was going to be here this Christmas too. Not happening. My cousin just had a baby and we were going to try to see her too. Nope. These are just a few of the many stories of the sidelined get togethers and dashed traditions everywhere that just cannot be.

My daughter has the Christmas gene like me. She willingly belts out the Christmas songs with me in our kitchen and in the car and she has had a running countdown since sometime in late November. I bought a bunch of baking supplies, we have been making our favorite Christmas cookies, while trying out some new recipes. It’s great to do this just with her, especially now that she can clean up the baking aftermath, but we both talk about how we miss the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer Chaos of the annual cookie party with 20+ people mixing dough and eating the candy baking supplies while waiting for a free oven spot. She didn’t get to do The Nutcracker this year and wonders if she missed her only chance to perform the Chinese Tea dance for her age group.  We watched the Rockettes special on TV and talked about how much the Dance of the Wooden Soldiers defies gravity, but it’s better in person at Radio City. All of these things are small as isolated differences, but together they feel like a collective big shift on top of a nine months of ongoing shifts.

The reality is that I have always felt a deep, self-imposed sense of obligation as a parent to make this season feel special for my kids. This year, I don’t know if I’m succeeding. Will Christmas Day just feel like another Blursday here at home, but with nicer clothes, fancier place settings, and showers for all? Maybe we’ll put the family Zoom up on the big screen for the occasion, and surely we’ll go for yet another walk around the neighborhood as we do most days. It’s just one year, I tell myself and them. It’s fine. The Christmas songs will be playing loudly, and that will feel like the most normal part of the holiday here.

So, for those of you about to celebrate the strangest Christmas ever, after the most unimaginable year ever, I see you. For those staying home and having a very small and sideways celebration, thank you. Merry Christmas to you and yours, and play the Mariah song if you need a little something extra with that spiked egg nog. Trust me.


2020 tree

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The Last Sixth Birthday

I could do a whole post for my youngest in the “You might be the third child when….” theme. You know the ones with the long lists that induce familiar nods across the parenting spectrum. I could cite all the examples of how ha-ha-ha these various incidents showed that we have the stereotypical third kid challenges. Almost no photographic existence of him in the house (or anywhere off of my phone). No baby book in sight.

Or, maybe, when you didn’t know your third kid lost his first tooth until you saw him throw it in the trash, not knowing it was even loose. Why did he throw it in the garbage? Oh, because he didn’t even know about the Tooth Fairy.

In my defense, he lost this tooth like almost two years earlier than my older two ever did and there was no disgusting-dangling-tooth drama. It just happened one day. Also, yes, I went into the white trash bag and found the equivalent of a needle in a haystack so he could have his Tooth Fairy moment and I could feel less like a dumpster fire (no pun intended) of a parent.

So now it doesn’t sound quite so bad that it has taken me almost four weeks to get around to writing this birthday post.


Anyway, I’m here now, at my keyboard, feeling terrible about this lapse. You know what didn’t help? This, last night, at bedtime:

“Mom, you’re my favorite person in the world.”

I’m not even kidding. This kid is either the absolute sweetest person I’ve ever known, or the greatest emotional manipulator in the history of children.

I’m going with the former.

Aidan KF 2

While not without the moods and impatience that come with his age, he is the child who asks me to lie down in his bed with him most nights as he wraps his arms around my neck, who reaches out for hugs multiple times a day, who declares his love for me unprompted and randomly.

Add this to the stark contrast of two tweens who alternate eye rolling and sighing at me, and this youngest child just makes me smile.

Six seems so old for him. Past any clothing sizes with a letter T after them, past pre-school traditions, past needing everything done for him.

This is the kid who is dressed and ready, discussing the day’s plans, and basically reprimanding his siblings for not being equally prepared each morning. He calls his brother and sister — six and almost four years his senior, respectively — “the kids,” as if to remind everyone who is basically in charge.

“Mom, I called the kids to come up for dinner but they’re not listening.” <insert exasperated shrug>

“Mom, I’m not sure, but I think the kids are watching something inappropriate on YouTube.” <pronounced sigh>

“Mom, I’m ready to go but the kids literally can’t find their shoes. Unbelievable.” <raises hands in the air in disbelief>


Aidan mask



This last year was a big shift for all of us when I went back to work for the first time in eight years. I have to remind myself that while the change felt seismic to me in many ways, it had to be odd for my kids too. In some respects, they seem to like having our routine changed up with a babysitter sometimes, but there are other times when my youngest in particular wants to know why I can’t be home with him, or why he has to go to after care at school until I’m finished working.

And that’s hard. But change is good, right? Seeing a parent do something to improve herself is important. Wait, I’m talking to myself here. You get the idea. I appreciate your silent agreement and support from the other side of the monitor.

My six year-old has a mind of his own. There’s no wavering, no looking around the room to see what other people think, no hesitation. He’s in or he’s out, and good luck getting him to change his stance. He wants to be seen, be heard, and be counted in the plan.


Aidan skating

Aidan ice pop

He will start Kindergarten in September, and I am torn between not believing it at all and knowing this is exactly where he should be. He loves to be with friends, create intricate stories, and side-eye anyone who’s not following the rules.

Aidan school JK

He loves being around his siblings and their friends, and craves being in on their jokes and interests, although ideally he’d really just like to convince them to play Bey Blades instead while making up stories about ocean animals. Recently, he has been saying that he wants to share a room with his 12 year-old brother, which is a negotiation whose terms may require a UN-level ambassador. As much as I love the idea of them being close, I don’t know that a six year-old should be hearing about the Ancient Roman testudo battle formation, recaps of middle school group chats, or jokes from The Office with any regularity.

It’s in those moments that he does, in fact, still seem so small as my older kids veer towards adolescence and all that comes with it.

Aidan Green Bay

Aidan beach Turks

This kid. He has my whole heart, even if he couldn’t get a birthday post remotely close to on time. He doesn’t care. He just wants to give out hugs and charm the hell out of all of us.

Happy (extremely belated in writing) birthday to my sweet, sweet boy.

Aidan stratton

Aidan bowtie

Aidan KF

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I’m here tonight to accept my award for Best Slacker in a Blogging Role. I’d like to start by thanking space and time for conspiring against me to write at even minimal intervals at this point. It really takes special forces to make me stop doing one of the few things I’m okay-ish at. I’d also like to give a shout out to laziness, daily chaos and the black hole of laundry for allowing me to achieve this distinction. Really, I couldn’t have done it without you. Also, huge thanks to my short-term memory for briefly forgetting my own blog’s password; without you and your sidekicks, anxiety and panic, this truly wouldn’t be possible.

Who am I wearing? Oh, my leggings are by Gap, circa 2015.

Now that we’ve dispensed of the formalities, let’s discuss what finally brought me back here. My oldest child went ahead and turned eleven on me today. Eleven.

It’s only appropriate that, as I spend the day reflecting back on his birth, I am bombarded with media images of Duchess Kate presenting her newest addition to the world. The similarities between us, after all, are striking — the class, confidence, fashion, fresh hair and make up upon exiting the hospital. If. Only. I’ll refrain from adding yet another meme on this subject to the Internet, but I’ll just say that my seven-hours-post-partum style could be best described as Don’t Tell Me How Many Stitches I Have meets I Plan to Shower Sometime Before This Child’s First Birthday.

But somehow I pulled it all together, eventually, and raised a small human. The first time I wrote a birthday entry here for him was when he turned four, in my early blogging days. I made him a stegosaurus cake that resembled an armadillo doubling as a cautionary tale for diabetes. He schooled me on its anatomical inaccuracies, rocked his pre-school party and handed out Thomas-themed favors. It was the best I could do — I hadn’t yet been ruined by the domestic pressure cooker and fault-identifier known as Pinterest. Those were simpler baking and party planning times.



Fast forward seven years. This weekend, I’m taking a group of boys to see the new Avengers movie and then to grab some food, which I expect they’ll consume in metric tons while telling fart jokes and comparing YouTubers. Happily, Pinterest has no place in the life of an eleven year-old boy’s party.

And these boys — his closest friends over the last few years — will finish elementary school with him in June.

I was in pretty firm denial about this, until I sat through parent orientation for middle school one night last week. It was all very informative and well-presented, even in the mystifying absence of paper bags for hyperventilation. I mean, middle school? What fresh hell is this going to bring? (Working on my optimism).

It’s hard to believe that this child will leave behind the place where he has attended school since 2013. Hard for me, anyway. I can admit that familiarity is my jam, and that I’m not remotely great when it comes to accepting major changes. Instead, I totally excel at worrying disproportionately about things over which I have no control, so fearing this whole upcoming transition is firmly in my wheelhouse. I’ve been training for years to do this.

It will be fiiiiiiiiiine. This is my mantra.

(It’s the only one I’ve got and so I’m sticking with it.)

I should note here that my son is completely and authentically non-mantra fine with all of it. Mostly because he knows there will be an actual cafeteria in middle school (see ya, packed lunches). And because he has grown tired of the non-fiction section of his current school library.

Yes, my Historian in Residence is still at it. While WWII remains his favorite period, there has been some broad diversification lately. What would breakfast be without a tutorial on the Roman Empire’s testudo battle formation? And a simple Spring Break meal in EPCOT’s Mexico pavilion wouldn’t be complete without shaming one’s parents for not knowing the difference between and Aztec and Mayan temple.

{Mr. Ruyzam, I know you never thought I’d say this, but I’m so deeply sorry for not paying attention in AP History in 1988. I can see now that I was wrong and that maybe truancy should not have, in fact, served as my greatest achievement of junior year. Had I known I would raise a budding historian and spend time researching which battle re-enactments we can attend this summer, I would have worked harder. A little. Ok, I probably would’ve at least attended class.}

Where books and facts are my son’s everything, he is navigating a world in which sports reign supreme as the social currency of boys his age. While his peers play in about 3,384 travel leagues, he’s happy wielding a sabre at fencing lessons or playing his tuba (although it nearly outweighs him — perhaps a more athletic pursuit than we all realized). He wants to talk about the news and understand the world around him. His imagination is vast, and his curiosity deep. What opportunities all of these traits will present to him remains to be seen, but he has confidence in what he knows and what holds his interest — which is more than I could say about myself at his age.

As with everything, he will be the first of my kids to show me what this next stage of parenting entails. We’ll cut our teeth on it together and he will both benefit and suffer from my inevitable mistakes, some of which I’m sure will be the butt of ongoing jokes for years of family dinners to come. It will be his journey and his experiences that shape what comes next. Even though he is becoming more independent in so many ways, he is still young enough to need us in a million more.

When he was born, I set up an email address for him in his name (I did the same for all three kids — and none of them know about it yet). A few times a year, I forward family photos with notes from me. And I always send an electronic copy of the newspaper on his birthday. It felt like this curated time capsule for the last decade, and soon I have to think about handing it over to him. It always seemed so far away to think it would be his to open, use and shape with his own notes and interests and contacts and identity, but like everything when it comes to our kids — it snuck right up on me.

And so, eleven is here. For him, eleven is more sneakers than fashion. More indoors than outdoors. More funny than exasperated. More evening than morning. More questions than answers.

And equal amounts of push and pull. As it should be.

This child is unique and compassionate. Strong willed and confident. A puzzle and a delight. And a distinct privilege to call mine and to show me the way. As always, he teaches me more than he can possibly imagine.

Happy birthday to my sweet, sweet boy.





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2016 Exit Strategy

“What does this song mean? My whole life, I don’t know what this song means. I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot?’ Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?” — When Harry Met Sally

And if that’s not the least confusing thing that happened this year for you, then congratulations.

Holy shit, 2016. You need to go. My name is Kim, and I’ll be your escort to the damn door. You’ve had your fun and now it’s over — please proceed to the nearest exit.

Listen. I’m not one of those people who likes to wish things away. Generally, I like time to slow down and leave its proper mark of remembrance, because often times — especially when I look at my kids — I find it going by way too fast. But the marks left by this year feel more like gut punches and side kicks to the head.

Does anyone else feel like the world has lost its damn mind? Seriously. Lost. Its. Mind.


I am a news junkie and I think it’s affecting my state of mind to merely read a newspaper (yeah, the old school print ones) or just browse the headlines on my computer. Forget the comments on social media — I mean, we should all have meds just to read those. Aleppo. ISIS. Disasters. War. Human rights violations. It’s so, so much to take in.

How lucky am I to live right here?

Lucky, indeed. With caveats. Because, even here, without bombs and terror and war, things are very, very shifty. There is no denying a deep divide in this country right now. A big Us Versus Them mentality on both sides of the political equation, and it’s getting to be very precarious. The way in which people speak to each other is not civilized disagreement anymore — it’s a venomous hatred of the other side’s beliefs, and it’s not like anything I can recall happening before. This divide is wide and deep and more than a little scary, I think. While it may have been brewing of years, 2016 took us in a very new direction.

And the stuff in between that will be memorialized in the year-end news — the pop culture icons we lost (I can’t even), the movies we paid to see, the words we added to the dictionary, the books we read and the shows we watched. They are all marks of how 2016 played out in its most innocent form. Would these be the things someone would find in a time capsule about this year? Or will the exhausting headlines of how we all started treating each other be the hallmark of what we leave behind?

Yes, we have our health and our home and our family and all of the things we need. Way more than what we need, and I am beyond grateful. Sure, I could bitch about 2016 having my husband lose his job, or two kids getting Celiac, watching a close friend and a family member both fight cancer, or crazy relatives who dig in their heels for the sake of being jackasses — but what’s the point? That’s run of the mill stuff of life. The stuff you take on the chin and incorporate into your days and move on. I have no airstrikes over my head and no military in the streets and no hate crimes at my door step.

It sounds dramatic, I know. I’ve been reading too much news.

I could unplug — and maybe I should — but what good does it do to bury our heads in the sand? To not stand up when civility is fainting all around us. To look away because it’s easier. I don’t think my brain can re-wire itself to un-see and un-read what this year has brought. Sometimes I wish it could.

I’m so sorry, did you think this was going to be a sweet little nostalgic post about this year’s milestones and next year’s resolutions? Actually, so did I. Whoops. But when I conjured up this year in my head, all of this flew out instead.

And there were those sweet, sweet moments, for sure. The insanity of my kids and who they are, who they’re becoming, consumes my days and is the gratifying/maddening/hilarious/frustrating bold print of my time. Their new interests and ideas and mishaps punctuate all that we do in my house, as they should. Their laughter and arguing and sass and bad knock-knock jokes are the soundtracks of our lives. And the hideous world events, the collapse of whatever else has fallen this year, are all there in italics and footnotes to shape what I do for them and how to guide them. Their story is the most important one, but it is inextricably woven, even remotely, with the headlines they are often too young to read.

I hate odd numbered years and, more specifically, prime numbered years. They feel unsettling and like bad luck to me. But hey, if a perfectly even year like 2016 can make this much of a fucking mess, then I think I’m going to have to just look 2017 square in the eye and deal.

And by deal, I do mean not bury my head. Not watch the fainting of civility. Not look away.

The real trick is not getting too consumed. Because I could spend all day enraged and exasperated over every headline, but there are board games to play and holidays to celebrate and growth charts to update. Cupcakes to bake (gluten free, of course). Homework to check. Lives to plan. Curveballs to duck. This is where I’m most needed — both feet firmly planted at home, with a constant, diligent eye on the outside world.

And lest you think I’ll spend tonight rocking in a corner while mumbling about the end of days, don’t worry. There will be a house full of friends with champagne and laughs and none of this gloomy talk. I may be a little serious these days, but I know perfectly well how to be the person who doesn’t kill a party. And party tonight, we will — to celebrate the high points of the year and wish for better days ahead for everyone. I hope that your glasses are raised and full tonight as well, and spent with those who make you happy for all of the good. Because there is still so much of it.

Will we work it all of this out in 2017? Nope. I think we all know it’s going to get worse before it gets better. But I do think the better comes from you and me and all of us who don’t bury our heads. All of us who know the next chapters can be better than the current one.

In the meantime, 2016, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.


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Do You Have a Disney World Problem?

There are two kinds of people out there: those who have a Disney World problem and those who do not.*

(*and, technically, there is a third kind: those who don’t yet know they have a Disney World problem)

My name is Kim and I have a Disney World problem.

You might know people like me and roll your eyes. You might swear this will never be you (and maybe it won’t — but I’ve won bets with far worse odds before).

Or, you might email me and ask for my help in planning your trip, which I’m happy to do (as long as you aren’t rolling your eyes at me).

How do you know if you have a Disney World problem? It’s a little different for everyone, but for me, it sort of looks like this:

  • It means that I’m booking a hotel about seven to eight months in advance.
  • It means that I’m at my computer at precisely 6am exactly 180 days before arrival to secure dining reservations.
  • It means that, last night, at the stroke of midnight, I was back on the computer to secure my FastPass reservations at my earliest opportunity for rides and attractions, with a priority list and Plan B in hand.
  • And it probably means that I will be thinking about how to plan my next trip there before I leave the WDW property on this year’s trip.

Other tell-tale signs include seeking out and commiserating with other like-minded Disneyphiles — perhaps comparing notes on FastPass selections and meal reservation strategies. I know who my people are. And there is always someone who knows more — like a Yoda of Disney planning.

But let’s just address the real question here: What the hellllllll?

Let me be clear, friends. I do not know what I’m packing in my kids’ lunch bags tomorrow. I have no idea what they will be handing out for Valentine’s Day later this week. And I certainly have not started to think about any of our plans for March.

But, damn it, I’ve known since October where we’re eating one meal a day for an entire week this April.

I know. I knowwwww. It seems insane.

Most people who know me don’t take me for a Disney World person. I can see that. For starters, I don’t sing aloud or dress with animated characters on my shirts. Also, I hate crowds, I have very little patience, require SPF 6 million, and am known to be more than a touch cynical.

At first blush, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

So, how did this happen?

And, (I can hear the fear in your voices) — can it happen to you? *GASP*

Yes. Yes, it can.



The truth is that I wasn’t born this way, and the road to having a legit WDW problem was gradual and almost imperceptible. I’ve been conditioned over time by two things that have gone hand in hand at WDW: experience and failure.

I started off all breezy with my first trip to WDW, when my kids were just three and one (and a non-existent third). It was a little side trip from my mom’s place in Florida while we were visiting her. We had a hotel for two nights and a couple of loose dining ideas. We figured we’d just play it by ear. We’d just see how it goes. We’re not Those Crazy Disney People.

I never say this, but: LOLOLOLOLOL.

The ultimate WDW rookie mistake.

Because you know what doesn’t work? Winging anything at all with young kids in a theme park among tens of thousands of other people.

Here, let me explain.

Raise your hand if your kids are exactly zero of these things in a theme park environment:

  • Breezy
  • Patient
  • Reasonable
  • Well-rested

Raise your hand again if your kids are likely to exhibit most/all of these traits in a theme park environment:

  • Sensory overload
  • Hot
  • Hungry
  • Exhausted

See?! We’re more alike than you thought!

And so, what I quickly figured out was this: The only way to turn a WDW trip from a series of kids’ meltdowns to an actual fun family vacation that’s worth the expense is to plan the absolute shit out of it.

As a result, I have a few guidelines that I live by when planning our trip:

  • I want to stay as close to the Magic Kingdom as possible with minimal bus rides to the parks. Because Disney Magic does not include making your kids behave on public transportation.
  • I want to be able to sit down for dinner. Inside. I don’t need a steak by any means, but please do not make me spend 52 minutes standing in a buffet line with my kids, while balancing 16 trays and knowing that I’m paying $25/kid for them to eat a few grapes and possibly some Mickey-shaped pasta.
  • In the camp of Well, That’s Fucking Obvious: I want to not stand in a 240-minute line for the best rides. It’s such a joy to navigate kids through the zig-zag ropes in the blazing Florida sun. Please don’t climb on that. Please don’t remove the rope from the chain. Please don’t step on that person. Please don’t.step.on.that.person. Yes, just another 127 minutes. Please don’t climb on that. Translation: I can stay at home for free if I want to see my kids totally lose their damn minds.

So, guess how many of those things you can do by winging it? You get the idea.

Wait, let’s address the naysaying for a sec.

Oh, but that’s no fun to have everything planned. It’s sooooo stressfullllll.

That doesn’t sound like a vacation at allllll.

How can anyone even enjoy that?

I’ve heard it all. Haters gonna hate. That’s because they’re on the 45-minute line for the buffet while I’m sitting down with kids’ menus in one hand and a glass of cold white wine in the other.

If you think this sounds miserable and distinctly un-vacation-y, let me reassure you that flexibility has not gone off to die while we’re on this trip. Nobody is running a stopwatch or issuing a fun quota — I promise. In fact, apart from some of the must-do items, we invariably move a bunch of plans around once we’re there to accommodate whichever unexpected and inevitable situation arises with kids.

The plan is actually just a framework of which parks we’ll visit on which days, with our top choices for rides FastPassed and a place to have dinner. You can only get three FastPasses upfront per day, so we’re not talking about a regimented minute-by-minute walking path for the day here. Yes, we make unexpected stops and unscheduled decisions. Yes, there’s room for ice cream. Yes, there are many hours spent just swimming in the hotel pool, which means many pretty cocktails with little umbrellas for me.

But I’m not giving up my dining reservations unless some serious shit has gone down or I’ve made some unforeseen scheduling error.

Do I love sit-down meals with three kids under nine? Not especially. Some days, there’s a clear element of OMG-we-should-not-eat-in-public. And it’s not about wanting to eat anything particularly fancy. It’s more about needing the oasis of a reserved table in the air conditioning once a day to break from the crowds and madness. It’s a great re-charge.

Also, there’s an odd environmental phenomenon that occurs within WDW. The whole of Central Florida experiences a synchronized ravenous hunger spell at about 4:45 every day. All of the people on WDW property. Everyone around you. So, in that moment, go ahead and have a look at the spontaneous dining options and then at the hordes of the famished — and then do the math (fun fact: the average number of people in the Magic Kingdom on a single day is 53,000). If you decided, in the name of being breezy, to just wing it, I applaud you and sincerely hope your number of buffet line minutes is less than your age times 12, or that maybe the street-side turkey leg the size of your skull has enough sauce on it. Hopefully, as our kids get older, we’ll have more flexibility with this and less “we will die if we don’t eat within everyone’s picky specifications right this second.”

Outside of where we want to eat, there are considerations to make about which parks to hit on which days. Average crowd levels, Extra Magic Hours (when the park opens early/closes late for those staying on WDW property — translation: way more crowded) and can we make it in time for Rope Drop?

(Rope Drop: The moment the park opens its gates first thing in the morning. Also known as the only thing my family is ever early for in the history of everything. The later you are after Rope Drop, the bigger the lines.)

Ok, and if I’m being honest, there is some sick satisfaction that people like me get from knowing the system, getting the reservations we want and working every possible cog in the WDW machine (What? The Child Ride Swap? This is legit? Yes, it is.) Every year, there’s something I didn’t know before and I add it to my grand planning insanity. I’ve come too far now to go back to winging it. And it’s silly not to pay this information forward. As I type, I’m helping two friends plan their inaugural WDW trips and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have their initial itineraries mentally planned out for later this year.

I wouldn’t even call my Disney Problem that severe. I’m more in the moderate-to-intense camp. There are many true WDW ninjas who vacation among us, and you probably wouldn’t know just by looking at them. In everyday life, they might be doctors, yoga instructors, stay-at-home parents  or waitresses. But once they start planning that trip, it’s a whole other gig. Plenty of folks have a walking plan optimized for the day and know the exact order of the rides they’ll pursue. They stuff enough snacks and well-packed coolers under their strollers to be able to avoid the sit-down meal. They have children who pass out in said strollers (mine never have). They know where to stand for the parades and which side of Main Street, USA to walk along to get to Cinderella’s Castle more quickly.

And others wing it, either knowing or not knowing the consequences. It’s true that once your kids get older, there’s a lot more give in the plan. I’m not there yet. But even when that day comes, I think old habits will die hard. You’ll still find me on my laptop 180 days beforehand at 6am.

OK, maybe 6:15.

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The Ghost of Christmas Renovations Past

Do you do that thing when, faced with an insurmountable and beyond overwhelming to-do list, you instead choose to do something entirely unrelated and pretty much unproductive?

No? Just me?

Because it’s after midnight as I’m typing this, and trust me when I tell you that the amount I have to do to make all the Christmas magic happen is insane.

Oh, speaking of insane, welcome to my home. The place where I impose silly Christmastime traditions like home renovations on impossible timelines. In 2014, I almost had to ask my carpenters to stay for Christmas dinner to get our front porch finished in time to allow guests to walk through an actual front door instead of shimmying in through a side window (because it’s the little things that make you feel welcome).

It was a highly stressful time. Who the hell would repeat these mistakes of the past? What kind of self-punishing fool would decide to “just upgrade the powder room” and then maybe have things sort of domino while insisting that all will be fine to host 30 people for Christmas?

<looks around to see if anyone else can be blamed>

It’s cool, though. We still have two weeks to go. Let me show you that we really don’t have much left to do.

Here, you’ll see that our living room is ready to greet our friends and family in full Christmas decor. Clearly everyone will pick up on our festive theme upon entering our home. In the far end of the photo, you’ll see our dining room – the place where we will gather to cherish our holiday meal together and form a lifetime of memories.


Before you become concerned about the dining room, let me give you a closer look.


The only real question left is whether to use the white or cream placemats. These decisions can be stressful.

I’m also thinking that maybe I just spotted my kids’ homework under that tarp.

But in terms of logistics and necessity, do not worry. The new bathroom is definitely on track for completion.


Just a few final touches and it will be ready to go! I really should get the Christmas hand towels into the laundry since I’ll need them any day now.

And, you’ll be glad to know that, despite all evidence to the contrary, I actually have extremely low blood pressure. So there’s room for error before I stroke out completely.

Say it with me: “It will be fiiiiiiine.”

Now say this with me: “I love wine through a straw in the daytime.”

There’s a reason I like you guys so much.

And this brings me to my deflection strategy. Here’s a truly microscopic sampling of what I could/should be doing right now:

  • Wrapping gifts
  • OK, fine – buying gifts
  • Moving an elf
  • Eating the chocolate in the kids’ advent calendar
  • Deciding if eggshell really is the right finish for the bathroom paint
  • Buying a lock and hinges for a new door
  • Accepting that my two year-old recognizes Home Depot as “the orange cart store,” or possibly as a play date
  • Finding a reputable mediator to use with my contractor when/if this renovation ever ends
  • Wondering if, with global warming trends, outdoor seating will be feasible for Christmas dinner
  • Using parental forensics to determine which kid’s fingerprints are in the wet hallway paint
  • Imagining where the fuck to put a Christmas tree in any of the scenarios shown in the above photos (we’re thinking front porch)

Nope, nope, nope.

I decided that a much more engaging use of my time would be to make a flowchart. See, I’m in the middle of sending out my holiday cards and am having my annual crisis of conscience over where to make the cuts in my list. I err on the side of ruthlessness but maybe I’ve been hasty. Perhaps it’s time to spread some additional cheer. Because going back to the post office this week would prove that there is a worse place to be than in my own home, and that would bring me more comfort than spiking my coffee.

holiday card flowchart final


Yeah, you’ll need to zoom in. Sorry, it’s late and my Edit Image skills are not up to par right now. I’ll try to tweak it next time I’m looking to avoid any and all responsibility.

So, in the spirit of public service, I hope you’ll find my flow chart both useful and timely. To be clear, this assumes you’ve already made basic decisions about your list. If you’re looking for advice on whether or not to cut out your parents or neighbors, I’m probably underqualified. This highly scientific approach that I’m advocating is really for the gray areas. The ones you and your spouse might not agree on. The ones that test the boundaries of your holiday spirit. The ones that make you question just how you want to use your last holiday Forever stamps.

If nothing else, I hope I’ve made you feel better about your holiday preparedness levels. And if your gifts happen to be wrapped and you’re looking for some amazing holiday deed to perform in the name of humanity, please drop by and I’ll pass you a paint brush. With wine and a straw.


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The Cyber Monday Virgin Report

You guys, I’m a little scared.

I’m scared that if I move my eyes off of this computer screen, they will begin to suffer withdrawal spasms and not be able to focus on actual real-life things that aren’t preceded by a blinking cursor or surrounded by the words SALE, TODAY ONLY, or CART.

I blame Cyber Monday.

It was my first time really embracing it, and I think I got a little carried away.

I never cared about Cyber Monday before. Pffffft. People, please. I have spent years pretending to be a writer on the Internet. I know how to waste hours at a time in front of a laptop. I don’t need an incentive to stray from any remaining shred of domestic responsibility.

But I had one big item I wanted to buy for my husband – and since I rarely come up with a good gift idea for him before December 23, I had to act on it. The thought of dragging a two year-old to any retail destination during the holiday season brought up feelings of terror and despair, so I figured I’d just have a look-see on the Target website to get what I needed. I’d be done in five minutes, tops.

I’m not a LOL kind of girl, but this might have to be an exception.

Over the next few (two? three? seven? space and time got weird) hours, here is a sampling of the thoughts that went through my head:

  • Oh, well, Target’s website crashed. I guess it’s not meant to be.
  • How many open browsers is too many to compare prices? 8? 12? Plus my phone? OK and the iPad?
  • Holy shit, this is sort of addictive.
  • My wrist doesn’t normally hurt. Is Sudden Onset Holiday Carpal Tunnel is a thing? I would Google it, but I don’t want to close my Toys R Us, Best Buy, Amazon or windows.
  • Seriously, the Target site is still down?
  • Is there a closet couponer deep in my soul?
  • “Oops, something went wrong?” Huh? Target, that’s not how you tell grown humans who are missing real-life obligations in order to score a deal that your site is messed up today. Remember when “Expect more” was your jam? How do we get back to those days?
  • Did I somehow skip lunch? What time is it?
  • Why do I never know my passwords? And who set up these security questions about the mascot of my middle school? That was 1986 – I don’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning.
  • Who am I shopping for again? Who needs a gift? What else can I get? Who is my holiday grab bag person? How many teachers are in my life this year?
  • Oh, hold the fuck up. I need those boots. Merry Christmas to me!
  • Where the hell is the Cyber Monday Groupon code for the nearest massage to fix this wrist pain?
  • Exclusions apply? What exclusions? Areyoukiddingme?
  • My cart is empty? What do you mean, the item is no longer available? DAMN IT, TARGET!
  • Do we have any Visine in the house?
  • Is Monday almost over?
  • Is it normal to see images of shopping carts when I close my eyes?


Screenshot 2015-11-30 23.30.41


I think I get it now, the whole Cyber Monday thing.

The thrill of the chase is pretty great, especially when one can be seated firmly on one’s ass during said chase. Win/win. In the end, I got about 50% of my holiday shopping done, with only short-term damage to my retinas and wrist.

Too bad I never got the item for my husband, although my new boots should be here tomorrow.


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A Guide to Luxury Holiday Seating: Teen Edition

So, you might think that my lack of recent blogging means I have been immersed in some highly unproductive habits. Like perhaps celebrating the long overdue demise of pumpkin-everything season as we finally usher in the glorious Month of Peppermint. Or, maybe tying my own hands behind my back as to not engage in any online discussion of the current roster of presidential candidates. Or, possibly overseeing an overly ambitious home renovation that quickly spiraled from “Hey, our powder room looks dated” to “Do you think the house will still be stripped down to the studs for Christmas dinner?”

(Spoiler alert: Probably. Stay tuned.)

In short, although I have not been writing, I have been productive as hell. If hell is where pumpkin drinks and renovation timelines come to die.

And here we are, suddenly in the midst of all things holiday related. Yes, it’s the season of gratitude, and posting about gratitude, and posting about why people post about feeling #gratitude and #blessed.

While I count my many blessings in my head instead of in public list and hashtag formation, it’s hard to reconcile all of the sadness of current world events with our seasonal consumerism – it feels shallow and vapid sometimes. I’m not saying that my kids will be presented with a photo of an adopted heifer under the Christmas tree, but I am making a concentrated effort to find a balance.

This attempted balance is not easy with the shock-and-awe seasonal catalog approach that lands in my mailbox every day and tests even the most resolute observer of local recycling codes.

Old habits die hard, don’t they? No, no, not a longing for Yule Log programming circa 1982. I just can’t stop analyzing the absurdity of some of our favorite kids’ retailers.

Now, to be fair, I had sort of promised a while back to take on the inaugural issue of Restoration Hardware Teen because, come on. How do we just let that go? And then, between the out of control home renovation plans and making sure all of the dark chocolate from Halloween found its way to my secret stash, a few other writers beat me to the punch on RH Teen, and rightfully so.

And so, rather than re-hash what has already been beautifully covered, I’m going to move on. Well, in just a minute.

Can we first just talk about The Versailles Settee?

Classic 18th-century Louis XV chairs – originally designed to fend off drafts and keep the household porter warm – were the inspiration for our settee. With its grand dome, lush upholstery and gracefully carved feet, it provides a cozy and elegant retreat.

Classic 18th-century Louis XV chairs – originally designed to fend off drafts and keep the household porter warm – were the inspiration for our settee. With its grand dome, lush upholstery and gracefully carved feet, it provides a cozy and elegant retreat.

Well, wait, hold the phone. Now that I’ve read the official product description and I understand that this is going to serve as a $3500 European History reference point, well then that’s money well spent, don’t you think? How else would today’s teen know exactly what an 18th century French porter faced?

Not ready to drop that much cash but still concerned about where your teen will rest his or her precious bottom? Luckily, RH Teen will let your kid slum it in the $1700 Orbit Chair (if astronomy is really their focus over that pesky French history).


Or, if they’re *really* grounded, send them to time out in the Tye Butterfly Chair in Mongolian Lamb (just $649).


Can you just hear it now? The exasperated texts?

“Uh, yeah. My mom seriously made me sit in the Mongolian Lamb chair and ‘think about what I did.’ WTFFFFF? She is the worst. It’s like prison here, but not as cool as OITNB.”

(Is that even what they would say? Or am I like the Smith Corona version of teen texting?)

I figured this focus on luxury teen seating was strictly a RH phenomenon. But, like a Christmas gift from the blogging gods, the never-count-us-out marketers at Pottery Barn somehow blessed my shamefully-unmonogrammed mailbox with their latest offering for teens.

And, friends, I am so glad that they did. Before you finish entering your credit card info to finance the Mongolian Lamb Chair of Shame over 24 months, first consider the PBT seating options. Because they are not fucking around.

You know those PBK mini “everyday” armchairs that lots of small kids have with their names stitched into them? (Ahem, I’m totally guilty of purchasing one.) I am starting to see that this was really the beginning of the problem. Why, let us create personalized, plush seating for the toddler set. And then, let us not regress for one single moment, ever, in offering them size-appropriate lounging options as they grow.

It’s an evil genius scheme that enables parents to rationalize the $159 Owl Fur Critter Beanbag – when, really, it’s the gateway drug of high-end tween seating.

And am I the only one who finds the woodsy creature theme sort of creepy?


(Side note: I spy at least eight wrapped gifts and three hot cocoas just waiting for the kids to arrive home from a tough day of sitting in terribly hard/not-ergonomic school chairs.)

I have to step back for a minute and just frame all of this PBT madness. It is 100% my own fault that I am surprised by any of this. Because anyone who views this cover and goes on to express shock on any level is really just missing context clues by a wide mile.


Is this a personalized re-creation of Frozen for the teen set? Like Anna and Elsa’s perfect American cousins tackle snow shoeing? Or are they hanging at their parents’ Norwegian chalet for a long weekend while their SAT tutor prepares their cocoa? It’s hard to say.

And in what is perhaps the most jaw-dropping display of setting one’s extra piles of cash on fire this holiday season, I give you the PBT Kick Back Recliner Speaker Chair ($699).


The perfect place to kick back for gaming, movie watching and music listening. Features a built-in audio system with Bluetooth, four speakers and a subwoofer.

The perfect place to kick back for gaming, movie watching and music listening. Features a built-in audio system with Bluetooth, four speakers and a subwoofer.

No word yet on when the throw pillows with #entitled will be back in stock to add that certain decorative punch. The Coke is a nice cross-branding touch, though. I guess an iced soy latte doesn’t look as good in a bottle.

But please say that you read the official product description. Because, if nothing else, it will serve as the only reason I’ll ever have for the word subwoofer on my blog. And I can’t let that chance just slip away.

OH, but for the love of all that is holy this season, do not confuse this chair with the Got Game Speaker Media Chair, which is compatible with various video game systems. (And, don’t worry, also has a subwoofer.)

Are we sensing a theme yet? Should the teens sit? Where will they sit? Are you equipped to seat them in the manner to which they’ve grown accustomed? Why are they standing? What is wrong with your home?

I don’t want to act like RH and PB didn’t include other items in their holiday catalogs. There was plenty of decor and luggage, too. And, just when I thought kids these days were growing up too fast, my heart was warmed not only by my spiked Sunday afternoon coffee, but by seeing a sweet stuffed animal available for tweens.


Oh, never mind. It’s a speaker that’s fully compatible with all phones, tablets and MP3 players. And, it’s made of “supersoft faux fur.” Not soft. Supersoft.

And, from a utilitarian standpoint, with all of the emphasis on seating, we cannot expect these kids to walk all the way across the Norwegian chalet to retrieve their own snacks or beverages. Pffffft.



The retro cooler to the rescue.

Look, I know I don’t have teenagers yet, so who am I to judge? Maybe this will all make perfect sense to me in five or ten years and I’ll be all, “Go to your room and sit in that Mongolian Lamb Chair until I tell you to come down here. If you need your mini-fridge re-stocked, let me know.”

It’s reasonable to think that I may be out of touch with any minor over the age of eight. And, truth be told, if my piss-poor attitude in my own teen years is any indication of what karma is going to throw my way as a parent, I’m probably screwed.

But, still. I’d like to go on record as saying that my future teens will survive in standard home seating. If anyone is getting a chair with a subwoofer and a bedside fridge, it’s me.





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Lessons Learned Over Winter Break

Greetings from the ongoing wreckage of Hurricane Christmas!

If all goes according to schedule, I should have all remnants of this holiday cleaned up just in time for July 4th.

I used to think that today — the first “real world” day of back to school, work, etc. — was the most depressing day of the year. HOWEVER, this year, while I am sad to leave the revelry behind, my opinion has evolved and today is not so bad after all.

back to school

In fact, as I sit here, typing in silence, I do believe there’s an unfamiliar feeling creeping up on me. Why, it’s joyful solitude. Holy crap, I’M ALONE. (Well, until the baby wakes up.) I am not fulfilling a snack request or mediating an argument or thinking about the next activity we can pursue to keep everyone from going insane.

I am sitting. The TV is on a channel of my choosing. The coffee I am drinking is still hot, without the assistance of a microwave.

But I did love the break, in the way that we look back on all things frenetic and wish we had enjoyed them more. I had lots of family around. Everyone stayed healthy. I even pulled off a pretty good Christmas dinner for 20 adults.









And I learned a few lessons along the way.

1) The period of time that constitutes winter break is not analogous to the normal space/time continuum. It’s like dog years meets the big bang. Or something slightly more science-y.

2) A very reliable meat thermometer makes all the difference between stress-free holiday dinner prep and the hostess yelling, “We are SO having Chinese food next Christmas! DO YOU GUYS WANT LO MEIN WITH CHICKEN OR PORK?”

3) New addition to the Ninth Circle of Hell: Any and all airport pick-ups on the Sunday before Christmas. Bonus points if you brought a kid along “for a quick ride” who didn’t use the bathroom before you left the house.

4) There is no existing scale on the market that self-destructs into flames after producing your January 1 weight. (Hellooooo, product development opportunity.)

5) Forget North Korea’s threats. The real terrorists are the folks in China who package children’s toys.

6) How to set yourself up for failure: Trying to create a photo book of your entire year (OK, your previous 2.5 years) on the last day possible for holiday shipping. Disregard if you enjoy a) picking through 6,772 photos in one sitting and b) a slow, steady descent into blindness.

7) If you play a YouTube video of a previous New Year’s Eve in Times Square for your kids well before midnight, they will not know the difference. (Pro tip: Just conveniently stand in front of the screen when they flash the year 2014 or 2010 or 1977.)


8) Do not bother buying new toys for toddlers.


pots and pans FTW


pots and pans 2

9) There is no limit to the amount of princess accessories my daughter will wear simultaneously.

princess dress up

Or at any time, day or night (“I didn’t want my ice powers to freeze my bed.”)

ice powers by night

10) Above all, listen up: NEVER, ever play Cards Against Humanity with your dad. Unless you are already in therapy — then, consider doubling down on your weekly sessions.

I hope you and yours had a great holiday!

Now, back to reality we go. I have a lot of clean-up to do by my July 4th deadline.



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Tidings of Discomfort (and Joy)

Turns out there’s a fine line between thriving and cracking under pressure.

I truly love Christmas. I do. But I am willing to admit, with 15 days to go, that I maaaaaay have taken on a tad more than I can handle. Am I excited to have 25 people over on Christmas Day? Yes! Honestly, I am. On any given day, I’d rather host a holiday and keep my kids at home than spend multiple hours in the car. Because what else says joyful and triumphant like averaging 4 mph in traffic while mediating arguments over Frozen vs The Lego Movie for vehicular DVD entertainment?

But wow, the big day is coming fast and I’m not as prepared as I’d hoped to be at this stage of the game. This may have something to do with our latest home renovation project veering way off schedule. Our original completion timeframe was scheduled for mid-November, and yet, here we are — living in a construction zone with, among other setbacks, an erroneous front door that is far too narrow and actually more suitable for a doll house than a home where adults reside. Until the right door arrives (estimated delivery date: anyone’s guess), you’ll just have to enter sideways if you eat one too many crescent rolls. Unless you are an American Girl doll or a Barbie — then please, come on in. I can then serve you out of tiny toy teacups the size of thimbles just to keep the experience going.

At least I was making very good progress with my holiday shopping. I use the past tense because I had, until today, a complete and total false sense of security that came screeching to a halt when I took a few minutes to actually look at my purchases to date. And there, on the floor of my bedroom, was bonafide scientific proof that 1) it’s easier to shop for a girl than a boy and 2) I should never shop while undercaffeinated. With my daughter’s gift pile (I use the term loosely — these are all small gifts) looking about four times bigger than my son’s, I knew I was setting up some serious therapy discussions for his teen and adult years. Time to kick Operation Even Out the Gifting into high gear. Oh, except for the baby — at 18 months old, he will not know the difference. He loves playing with my Tupperware so much that I’m considering getting him his own set and calling it a day. Shhhhhhhhh. If any of you tell him he was under gifted, I will Photoshop the hell out of Christmas 2014 to prove you all wrong.

But guess what I got done early? For the first time EVER, I knew well in advance what to buy for my husband. I mean, apart from the obvious front-runner, this was a true Christmas miracle. I purchased. I had it delivered. When my friends discussed in stressed out tones what to get for their husbands, I nodded calmly and told them I was done while buffing my nails. And then I had an extra venti peppermint mocha because I earned it. The stress of finding something for him was alleviated before the first weekend in December.

Until he came home the next day and declared he would be making the very same purchase as something “we need for the house.”


I had to come clean and ruin the surprise.

Moving on, I’d be lying if I said feeding my 25 Christmas guests wasn’t on my mind pretty much 24/7 at this point. Yes, I have some ideas. And the problem, really, is that the black hole of Pinterest has about four million more ideas that render what I considered traditional to be tired and just outdated. Ham? Prime rib? Pffffft. If you’re not infusing your stuffing with kale and serving a signature cocktail, does it even count as dinner on the Internet?

Now, there is one area where I have excelled (versus my own historical performance): My holiday cards. Imagine my complete shock when I placed my order last week and was offered options like standard shipping and others that did not involve a 670% premium for shipping via time machine. AND: I have already purchased all of my stamps. That means no physical altercations this year at the Post Office, which is a huge time saver.

Speaking of efficiency, as I prepare to get those cards out the door, I am going through my annual process of chopping down the recipient list. Not to be mean, but just to be prudent. My traditional (but sometimes modified) rule of thumb is this: If I haven’t heard from you at all since last year’s card and we’re not related, then sorry. In the paraphrased words of the Seinfeld Soup Nazi: No card for you! Happy holidays and godspeed. Your kids look adorable on Facebook, and keeping our relationship strictly at the Zuckerberg thumbs-up level is ok with me. No hard feelings.

My husband, on the other hand, is less ruthless. Put another way, he would be ok with sending a card to everyone we’ve ever known since the dawn of time. It’s really a nice thought. And that’s because he’s way nicer than I am. But you know what he’s not? The person who is sending all of the cards. It’s a discussion every December.

There are a few other people I won’t be sending cards to this year. They are on my Holiday Shit List. Like the aforementioned Pinterest Overachievers. Also, the inventors of Common Core Math — because just when I thought math couldn’t get any more painful, touché! Let’s not forget Kay Jewelers, anyone who got a Lexus with a red bow like the commercials and all members of The Trans-Siberian Orchestra (do they play that music strictly to induce cardiac events?). Oh, and the manufacturers of my new front door. It’s a door, not a planet — let’s get moving here.

In the end, of course, the holiday season is not really about any of these things. The gifts, the cards, the menu, the state of my house. Most people won’t remember what I served and what my cards looked like. OK, but they will probably joke for years to come about my dollhouse front door.

The truth is that this year I have a lot more family members coming to visit who aren’t usually here for Christmas anymore, and it’s making me excited and nostalgic and thrilled and sad at the same time. It reminds me of the years we all had Christmas together — before people moved away and the crowd was always big and loud and crazy. It only recently occurred to me that every family has a golden era of sorts when it comes to holidays — a stretch of years, whether it’s a handful or a decade — when everyone is in good health and everyone travels home and nobody misses it. The years when all of the holiday snapshots, literal and figurative, are captured. And you can’t possibly know during those years that you’re all in the midst of that golden era and that it will become the standard to which you hold your holidays in your mind and heart for years to come. It becomes the time you look back on so fondly (family drama and all) and wish you had held it more dearly while it was here.

And while I won’t have every family member here, it’s going to be very close. Closer than it has been in years. It’s going to be special to me.

So maybe it’s easier to worry about food and cards and gifts.

Maybe it’s easier to stress about the size of the front door.

And maybe, in some respects, it’s better to be immersed in the crazy prep phase than to think about how infrequently these times actually come along.

(Still, I’m cutting the card list way back.)


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