Adventures in Christmas Decorating

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Welp, it’s that wonderful time of year again. You know, Christmas and holidays and trees and presents and magic. Which is great to witness in movies, but a PITA to experience.

Ok. Fine. I have a somewhat squelchy heart made of coal. (How can coal squelch? Wouldn’t that require more soggy material? Clearly mixed a metaphor or two back there. I digress.)

Anyhow. The only reason I even care about Christmas is because I want to create traditions for my children. (Ok, not the ONLY reason since I do believe Christ’s birth and its incumbent scandal is worthy of remembering and celebrating.)

I don’t particularly care for decorating and all of that stuff but my kids LOVE it and actually are old enough to remember doing things in previous years. So, because I love them, I force myself to go through with all this folderol.

Also, I am a sucker for making memories. I know. I am just overflowing with Christmas Spirit.

And since we don’t do Santa (I personally don’t like connecting an old white dude who lives in the North and knows if you are naughty or nice and rewards good kids and punishes bad kids with Jesus’s birthday because it sounds suspiciously like a draconian god and when kids find out Santa isn’t real, why would God and Jesus be real and OMG I AM THE WORST BUT MY KIDS ARE STUCK WITH ME SO TOO BAD FOR THEM), nor do I give the kids individual presents (we do communal presents from Hapa Papa and I but they get presents from family and teachers) —

breathe —

So pretty much the only thing we do is buy and decorate a tree and our bannister with a bunch of crappy shatterproof ornaments from Target, cute crafty ornaments made from their hand and footprints when Cookie Monster and Gamera were very little, and make new ornaments and crafts for the tree this year.

I quite enjoy seeing the old ornaments come out even though some are falling apart already. I guess my heart isn’t entirely ossified. (Don’t tell anyone.)

Anyhow, this is all just to say that the tree and decorating it are THE THING WE DO AT CHRISTMAS TIME in the Mandarin Mama household so even if it’s a royal PITA, I suck it up and do it because this is all we do.

Geez. I really am a kill joy. But I tell you what: I am never stressed out at Christmastime and I don’t have to find presents for the kids or anyone else other than my nephews and my mother and my kids’ teachers.

Anyhow, with that preamble out of the way, here is how our yearly tradition went this year.

1) Bought a Christmas tree with all four kids. BY MYSELF.

Seriously. This is one yearly solo with kids tradition I could do without. I hate it. Hapa Papa hates it. I may or may not have passive aggressively texted my dismay to Hapa Papa.

Good man that he is, he cleaned the house and prepped the corner for the tree and brought out all the Christmas stuff from the garage as an apology. (He also washed the cloth diapers.)

Apology accepted.

2) Had to use clippers and hand cut off more branches because I forgot to tell the Home Depot guy to trim 1.5′ off the bottom instead of the usual 8″ they do.

I have a deep stand, ok?

Try not to make that sound too dirty.

3) Put up Christmas tree and had to go out and buy new lights because I forgot that I threw out all the lights last year.

Bought lots of chocolate as a reward. Kids stole half my chocolate.

4) Put up new lights.

Realized I didn’t have the heart to toss the star last year because it is pretty but should have because I forgot it is broken and doesn’t light up so now I have to go out again and get a new star because Cookie Monster insists.

5) Successfully did not yell at kids for their help decorating the tree. After all, nothing makes warm Christmas memories quite like Mommy yelling because you aren’t decorating right.

6) Listened to Christmas music because it is Hapa Papa’s favorite part of Christmastime. I think. Either way, he is a big fan of Christmas music.

7) Last year, Glow Worm’s favorite thing at Christmas time was to take ornaments off the tree and throw them. This year is no exception.

8) My kids can make even Christmas decorating a dangerous sport.

9) Glow Worm also thinks the ornaments are toys (same as last year) and uses them as balls, food, whatever. He has been driving them around in his Little Tikes Cozy Coupe (which he also) did last year. Glad to see that the more things change, the more things stay the same.

10) And despite my alleged dislike for all the effort it requires, seeing the tree and bannister lit up every time I pass by makes me feel happy.

11) Of course, my entire house is littered with scattered ornaments and the little green hooks from which they hang.

These will conspire to trip me as our tree gets barer and barer and our floor gets more and more treacherous.

I could pick them up and put them back on the tree but then Glow Worm wins.

12) I must have succeeded in hiding my actual feelings because Cookie Monster kept commenting how I must love Christmas (or something to that effect). So yay, me!

Anyhow. May your holiday traditions be in full swing and full of joy for you and your families. Happy Wednesday!

This Seemed So Much More Fun In My Mind

My father ruined many a family outing/vacation/road trip/whatever for me. To this day, I am not a huge fan of traveling due in part, because of my father’s temper. However, in this one area, I find myself sympathizing with him now that I have children and plan events for us to attend as a family.

My father used to get so mad if we weren’t thrilled with waking up before the sun rose just so we could see the sunrise mirrored at Lake Louise, or if we just didn’t care about seeing stuff in general and just wanted to sleep in and read or whatever on vacation. I mean, now that I know how much food, lodging, and travel costs, not to mention taking those precious vacation days off, I get why he was so frustrated and angry. I get it. I really do. But that still doesn’t mean he was right to lose his temper and scream and yell at us and in general, bully us into doing what he wanted.

At any rate, now that I am forcing my own children to do stuff I want to do, I find myself reflecting a lot on his frustration, which manifested as a grown up tantrum. (How’s that for a convoluted sentence?)

Two weekends ago, I took the family to go cherry-picking in Brentwood. As long time readers know, cherry-picking is one of the things I want to do every year with the family. I remember having a fantastic time picking cherries with my parents when I was little and I wanted to pass these memories along to my children. Plus, I love cherries and when they are 50% cheaper at the local farm vs at the store, it is worth the 45 minute drive!

Sadly, this year did not quite go as planned. I was super excited to go and we went the first week the orchards were open. We packed the kids in the minivan, brought along our covered wagon, prepared a picnic, and off we went! Unfortunately, due to the drought, my favorite farm was already closed – and it wasn’t updated on the website! So, we followed a bunch of cars and parked at a different farm.

Right away, we were told that we couldn’t bring food and eat at the orchards anymore. Too many people were leaving all their trash and food at the sites and making it a health hazard. Then, when we got to the trees, they were already all stripped of fruit. Cookie Monster and Gamera were pretty excited to pick cherries, but since there really weren’t any for them to pick, they got bored. Which makes them want snacks. Which they couldn’t eat on site. Hapa Papa carried Glow Worm in the Ergo for the first time, but Glow Worm wanted me so he kept crying.

When I finally found trees that actually had cherries on them, the cherries weren’t even sweet! As I tried to salvage the situation, Gamera peed all over herself because Hapa Papa, not being used to having a baby on him, couldn’t get Gamera to the potty fast enough. At that point, I was really frustrated and mad. I LOVE picking cherries, but nothing was going the way I planned or envisioned. I wanted to throw things and be angry and snipe at Hapa Papa. I had mentally debated staying, but the kids were complaining (and Gamera was WET) and hungry and it was hot and sticky and Hapa Papa’s allergies were destroying him so instead, I huffed off, paid for the cherries, and calmed down enough to just admit defeat and take the kids home.

It was a good decision.

This past Memorial Day Weekend, I forced the kids to go hiking again (this will be our third time in two months!) and though they had a good time, it was initially not looking good. I had originally suggested we go to a trail that was closer to our house – but the trail overlaps with cows and is mostly uphill so the kids don’t like it. Plus, there are a lot of cow pies on the trail. So much so that the kids call this particular trail, “Poo Poo Mountain.” They begged me not to take them to Poo Poo Mountain. (Sorry, every time I think of this name, I burst out laughing.) Fortunately, I understood and didn’t mind the slightly longer drive to Regional Redwood Park where the trail has plenty of shade and is nice and paved and mostly flat.

I’m glad I listened to my kids and changed venues. Although I will make them go to Poo Poo Mountain again! I will prevail!

Then, on Sunday, I gathered up the kids again for our yearly visit to the local Art and Wind Festival. Every year, I take the kids and buy lots of ride tickets. Every year, I have more than half left over. Cookie Monster will only ride the train and this time, after waiting almost an hour for the train, when he finally got on with Hapa Papa, the train broke down and had to be recharged. Again, every one was hot and sweaty and although the kids initially enjoyed the crafts and stickers and balloons, all they wanted was to eat and go home.

I don’t know why I do this to myself every year. And yet, next year, I’ll do it again. Oh, who am I kidding? We’re going to do it again in June when the County Fair comes into town.

What I am most proud of, other than my dogged determination and hopeless optimism in the face of facts, is despite my utter disappointment and frustration at these less than ideal situations, I didn’t take it out on the kids. They had a reasonably good time considering how miserable they were. And for the most part, I hope that these yearly traditions, despite (or perhaps because of) the suffering I’m subjecting my poor children to, they will have fond memories of doing these stupid outings with their crazy mother.

Spring Break Fun

Every year, we pack up the whole family in our Swagger Wagon and make the trek down to LA and San Diego to visit family and friends for about 9-10 days. By the end, the kids are super homesick and we’re exhausted, but it’s always a good time. Here are some of the highlights from this year:

1) I used to stress out about when we would get to see Hapa Papa’s family but I don’t anymore. If they have time to see us, great. If not, well, we made an effort to drive to LA – they can make an effort to see us. And they do! It’s great. Once I stopped stressing out about it and started setting up meetings with my own friends and then just letting his family know our availability, things were much better. I was far less grouchy.

2) The house we rented this year was FANTASTIC!! 2 bedrooms (KEY when you have an infant), 1 bath (with tub), full kitchen with dish washer, a living room, dining area, washer/dryer, spacious front yard, and plenty of free and easy parking. WONDERFUL.

3) As usual, we met up with a few friends (quality vs quantity) and the best times were had when we were at either their house or ours. Meetings in restaurants tended towards chaos and the utter inability to hold an actual conversation.

4) Seriously, I cannot stress enough how awesome the place we rented was. I didn’t realize how stressful our last place was until we stayed in a stress-free environment this year. Totally worth the uptick in cost.

5) As always, San Diego is my favorite part. It’s the portion where I can actually call a vacation. (Everyone with small children knows that traveling with said small children is NEVER called a vacation. In fact – it is several times more work!!) We stay a few days with my dear elementary school friend, CB, and her family. She plans out all our meals, activities, and all I have to do is show up. It is MARVELOUS.

6) Of course, I also got to see some other friends in San Diego. Our yearly visits are a treasure.

7) What I found most awesome this year was my complete lack of doing anything. We saw friends and family. That’s it. No outings. No zoo trips. No sight seeing. Nada. Just seeing and enjoying people. My favorite. We’ll make a separate trip this year for Disneyland where we will see no one and immerse ourselves with four days with the brainwashing money-making machine known as the House of Mouse.

8) The trip back up from San Diego took almost twelve hours. That’s right. TWELVE. Between the three children (two of which are potty trained), we had five poop stops, (three of which were within the first two hours), two food stops, and one general rest stop. Because they’d been cooped up for so long, we stayed a bit longer at the rest stops to give the kids adequate “airing out” time.

I swear it was easier when the kids were still in diapers but we finally made it home. The kids were all asleep and transferred beautifully to bed.

9) My house was a disaster (which always makes me cranky) but I did some minor cleaning and I feel much better.

10) I picked up some parenting tricks (well, I will be attempting to apply said parenting tricks) and imparted a few of my own. This ALSO makes me very happy.

How was your Spring Break?