My Top (and Bottom) 10 Favorite Christmas Songs of All-Time

As I was driving this evening, quite literally, through the holiday bustle, listening to the holiday music channel on my satellite radio, I started to daydream. Don’t worry – I stayed in my lane. But I got to thinking about all the Christmas songs I love, and, conversely, the songs for which I do not have as much cheer.

 

So, without further ado, my Top 10 Christmas Songs of All-Time (and, ahem, my Bottom 10 Christmas Songs of All-Time):

 

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee) - This song is like popcorn for your brain. You hear it in the car? You’re bouncing. You hear it at home, you can’t help but dance. It’s fun. And no one can turn the word ‘couple’ into a three-syllable word quite like Brenda Lee. I challenge you not to get a sentimental feeling.

Blue Christmas (Elvis Presley) - I’ll admit it. I was never an Elvis fan. Not young Elvis, not old Elvis, not Elvis-on-a-Stamp. I just never liked the guy. I couldn’t trust anyone whose lip curled so unnaturally. That said, I love this song because it sounds like he’s singing on top of an overloaded washing machine during the spin cycle. And who hasn’t knocked a few back at a Christmas party and channeled Vibrating Elvis?

 

 

All I Want for Christmas is You (Mariah Carey) – This is a sentimental value song. I’ve written about it a few times now. Long story short, my family ‘rings in’ the Christmas season to it every year. The season simply cannot begin without this song. That’s just a rule. And, quite honestly, there’s nothing quite as intoxicating as the first few notes.

 

 

The 12 Days of Christmas (Really, anyone. Who cares?) Why do I love this song? Because it’s so damned long. You can wander off, get a drink from the water fountain, snag a few sugar cookies, and use the restroom, all before jumping in on the next verse. And it has a way of becoming pretty funny after, say, nine, when nobody’s quite sure whether the lords are supposed to be leaping, or the pipers piping, or something should be laying eggs. And then there are the people who get winded trying to sing all the way through. It’s a good time.

 

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Burl Ives) – I love all songs – all media, actually – in which I can interject unsolicited commentary. Like a lightbulb!

 

 

Frosty the Snowman (Gene Autry) – Personally, I enjoy Frosty’s fast-paced life, the drama, the suspense. Will he melt away or won’t he? And it is a little magical to think about a pile of snow coming to life and cavorting with children. Let’s face it: We like snowmen. We just can’t get enough. (Author’s Note: The real reason Frosty was put on this list is because that’s the first record I ever owned. Once I got to this item, I realized that I would date myself by talking about the records I owned, so I decided not to discuss it.)

 

 

Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helms) - What’s not to love about this song? The bells? The guitar riffs? And it’s got a hop in it, just like Rockin’ Around the Christmas TreeHow come no one ever invited me to a hop? Or bought me a pop in a glass bottle? Or let me wear his Letterman jacket? This curdles my cold cream and gets my rollers all in a bunch. You know what? Never mind. I’m going to stay home and wash my hair.

 

Little Drummer Boy (Harry Simeone Chorale) – This one is simple. It’s my grandmother’s favorite Christmas song. She used to get all misty when it came on, and say, “Steph, ooh, Little Drummer Boy!” and she’d continue, “Pa-rum-pa-pum-pum!” with a far-off look in her eye. It does, and always will, remind me of her.

 

Santa Claus is Coming to Town (anyone BUT Bruce Springsteen) - This is one of the songs that we all learn as kids. In fact, I’ve started teaching it to my son. Because nothing, and I mean nothing, beats threats from and old man you don’t know, who has total control over whether or not you receive anything for Christmas. Nothing.

 

Silver Bells (Johnny Mathis) – I love it. I do. And it’s so melodic. Just fun to sing. There’s not much to say beyond that. Except that it’s about precious metals and shopping. How could any woman not love it?

 

 

 

My Bottom 10 (If I never heard these again, it would be too soon.)

 

 

1961 reissue, utilizing the animated makeovers...

1961 reissue, utilizing the animated makeovers for The Alvin Show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Christmas Song (Alvin & The Chipmunks) – I don’t quite know how we came to love the Chipmunk voice. I’d like to think it was carryover from the ’70’s, maybe a little residue left over there, but I’m not feeling these fuzzy little freaks. And Theodore, with that godforsaken hula hoop.  Get a real job, Dave.

 

Feliz Navidad (José Feliciano) - Okay, fine. I’ll admit it. The first five times, it’s not so bad. We don’t know the words. We make noises that resemble the words. We sound like complete fools. And once you hit the tenth or eleventh time, the madness begins to set in. Especially in a store. And you can’t turn it off in a store…

 

Last Christmas (Wham!) - Christmas heartbreak, as extolled so geniusly by George Michael. Though I was also given a Wham! record, I can’t say I was ever a fan. I was always more confused by him than anything else. I remember standing in a record store, in the mall, just staring at the cover of his Faith album. I was about nine. I had no idea what the hell he was talking about.  Hey, George! Quit your bitching! The future shall bring many conquests.

 

Do They Know It’s Christmas (Band Aid) – Another gem from 1984, where the mega rich come together to beg for money to feed the poor. You know what else you could have done? Wrote them a check. Would have saved us twenty-eight years of grief. (Love you, Bono! Call me!)

 

Happy Christmas (John Lennon & Yoko Ono) - Never a Beatles fan. I know, I know. Sacrilege. And never, ever a Yoko fan. I’m glad Vietnam ended. I truly am. It was a long and miserable time for this country. But I don’t need (or want) to commemorate it every December. I just don’t. We should leave this one to the history books.

 

Merry Christmas Darling (The Carpenters) - I just never got into The Carpenters. And a big, fat NO to every version henceforth. This song just – How you say? – sucks.

 

Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey (Lou Monte) – Never heard this song? It’s a treat. Do look it up. In the meantime, I will try my level best not to launch into a rant. This song is pretty popular around these parts, since a lot of Italians literally dropped anchor here, and count this little gem as part of their Christmas tradition. This song is about a loud, annoying donkey who enjoys kicking. And the guy swings in and out of Italian during the song. It’s a marscapone-covered train wreck. Stare at it for a little while, and then move along.

 

The Christmas Song (Nat ‘King’ Cole) – ‘Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire’ is a phrase I have no interest in hearing. Ever. Again.

 

Silent Night (Doesn’t Matter!) - Let me qualify this one. I like this song. A lot, actually. Despite my having been forced to sing it hundreds of times in fourth-grade Glee Club. I’ve forgiven that. What I hate about it is that it’s one of those songs, you know, like I Will Always Love You or The Star-Spangled Banner, that everyone knows the words to, everyone sings, and most people butcher. Some songs are best left to the pros. This is one of them. Let’s let Celine sing it. That’s why she makes the big bucks.

 

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (John Cougar Mellencamp) - This is another song I actually like. Kind of. I don’t like sexual undertones in any of my Christmas songs, as we’ve recently seen, so I’m really all set with anyone smooching Santa. My issue with this song, though, is a guy, in tight jeans, bopping his head and licking his lips, sweatily belting out the lyrics. I find it slightly revolting.

 

Santa Baby (Madonna) - When I hear Madonna attempting to purr and pout the lyrics to this song, I get an overwhelming urge to grab her lips and twist them until she cries ‘uncle’. Think she’s still into that sort of thing?

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A Definitive Guide to the Holidays: The Only One You’ll Ever Need

I know. I know. It’s the first week of October. It’s barely Halloween. You may or may not have costumes picked out, and you probably haven’t yet taken down the ‘Welcome, Spring!’ flag in your front yard.

But, since I have already received two Pottery Barn holiday catalogs (The personalized Santa sacks are already on sale. Seriously.), I figured it must be time.

So, without further ado, the only holiday guide you’ll ever need:

 

Am I supposed to buy my pets gifts?

Well, you do love them, don’t you? Like, enough not to feed them chicken by-product meal? Then buy them a few gifts. And a Santa hat with a chinstrap. And have some portraits taken, won’t you, you heartless fool?

 

Which end of the candy cane should I tackle first?

I guess it depends what kind of mood you’re in. If you’re feeling playful, I’d start with the hook. Your fellow employees, I’m sure, always get a kick out of your trout impression.

 

What color Christmas lights should I set up in my yard?

Here’s the rule of thumb: If there’s only one dealership in your state for the car you drive, use white only. More than one? Colored. But never mix them. And don’t use both blinking and non-blinking. That shit’s just ghetto.

 

Should we get an Elf on the Shelf? 

Well, let me put it to you this way: If you, say, work out at 6am for a week and then quit, no.

 

English: Christmas cookies (Left to right, top...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia

I enjoy making Christmas cookies. When should I start?

Honestly? Last month. Get on that.

 

Christmas Tree: Real or Artificial?

If you have kids, dogs, cats, rabbits, or any other type of fauna (invited or otherwise), go for artificial. If you’re a masochist who enjoys cleaning up pine needles until July, a real one.

 

Ooh! But I want a REAL tree. Should we tag one at the tree farm?

What are you, a freak? Go buy one at Home Depot.

 

When should I start listening to Christmas music?

On the car ride home from your Thanksgiving dinner. Not one moment sooner.

 

Will I *finally* get that Lexus with the giant red bow on it this year from Santa?

Probably not. Chances are, you’ll end up with a hangover and five pounds of leftover ham.

 

Gift Cards: Tacky or Terrific?

Tough question. If you like finding them on the floor of your car six months after the store has gone out of business (true story), terrific. Otherwise, tacky. Unless it’s an office gift exchange. Then it’s terrific. Especially if it’s for Chipotle.

And since we’re on the subject, should I have my Christmas shopping done already?

You’re one of those container people, aren’t you? With the containers? Lined up? On shelves? Labeled, with dates and contents written on the outside? Whatever, Overachiever. Just go away.


Nutcrackers: A legitimate component of Christmas pageantry or a way to rile up Uncle Randy after a few beers?

I can’t answer this one. To find the answer, you’ll have to look deep inside.

 

Should we open *just one gift* on Christmas Eve?

Why, that’s impossible! Santa doesn’t come until we’re all asleep! There shouldn’t even be one gift out there to open. Shame on you.

 

Christmas Caroling: Yay or Nay?

I don’t know. Do you find it awkward to be standing at your doorway, in your pajamas, in the cold, watching boogers drip down strangers’ faces as they sing Silent Night off-key? You tell me.

When should I take down my Christmas decorations?

About a month after your neighborhood association sends you that nasty email.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside, as Interpreted by Me

I’ve been heartily amused by the song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” for most of my life. I can remember standing by the record player and raising my little eyebrows (eyebrow) at the lyrics. I knew something fishy was going on there. Every year, when I hear it, I’m compelled to sit down, read the lyrics, and translate to what I think it should say, but I never do.

Tonight, however, I’m taking the plunge. In the deep, heavy snow of innuendo, to bring you the seedy subtext of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”.

Haven’t heard it? Here’s the Zooey Deschanel/Leon Redbone version, because I find her voice rather bewitching. I also like the Rod Stewart version, so if you’re so inclined, cue that puppy up instead. You can follow right along. Go ahead. Play it and read.

 

I really can’t stay*
(But, baby, it’s cold outside)**

*You have bad breath.

**Lady, that bill was fifty bucks!

 

I’ve got to go ‘way*
(But baby it’s cold outside)**

*Glee is on tonight.

**Did you hear me? Fifty bucks!

 

This evening has been so very nice*
(I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice)**

*Had it been steak, sushi maybe…but chicken? No. Just no.

**If I’m holding onto you, it will be more difficult to escape.

 

My mother will start to worry!*
(Beautiful, what’s your hurry?)**

*Your breath is bad and I don’t like you.

**I’m going to get my fifty bucks’ worth if it kills me.

 

And father will be pacing the floor*
(Listen to that fireplace roar)**

*My father is a crazy, crazy man.

**No one will hear a peep. I promise.

 

So really I’d better scurry!*
(Beautiful, please don’t hurry)**

*You’re wearing me down, sir. Slowly, but surely.

**Just stay here until my roommate gets here, so it looks like we did it.

 

Well maybe just a half a drink more.*
(Put some records on while I pour)**

*I just checked my phone. No one’s texted me back.

**You like your drinks strong, right?

 

The neighbors might think*
(Baby, it’s bad out there)**

*I’m a screamer.

**I have an entire nightstand full toys I’ve been dying to try.

 

Say, what’s in this drink?*
(No cabs to be had out there)**

*Roofies, right? Tastes like roofies.

**No one for miles.

 

I wish I knew how to break the spell*
(I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell)**

*The creepy ones have a way of hypnotizing me. It’s so weird.

**We shall start from the top and work our way down, yes?

 

I oughtta say, “No, no, no, Sir,”*
(Mind if I move in closer?)**

*But I usually don’t.

**Lace? Are those lace?

 

at least I’m gonna say that I tried!*
(What’s the sense of hurtin’ my pride?)**

*Let’s just tell them I tried, okay?

**I could destroy you on Facebook.

 

I really can’t stay*
(Baby, don’t hold out)**
[both] Ahh but it’s cold outside!!

*Is he buying this? I’m not even buying this anymore.

**This is the most sincere sentiment I will express this evening.

 

I simply must go*
(But, baby it’s cold outside)**

*Fuck it. I’m staying.

**Oh, yeah.

 

The answer is no*
(But BABY it’s cold outside)**

*Yes, fine, okay. Just make it quick.

**Woot, woot!

 

This welcome has been so nice and warm*
(Look out the window at that STORM!)**

*Might as well snuggle up, Sailor. I don’t have all night.

**You won’t be able to see it for long. Bow chicka wow wow.

 

My sister will be suspicious!*
(Gosh, your lips look delicious!)**

*Why hasn’t my sister moved out yet? She’s forty-six!

**Oops, I think I’ve been drinking your drink.

 

My brother will be there at the door!*
(Waves upon a tropical shore!)**

*My brother’s a cop.

**Yep. This is definitely your drink.

 

My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious*
(GOSH, your lips are delicious)**

*Gossip queen. Never shuts up.

**You don’t mind if I lick them whilst you protest, do you?

 

Well, maybe just a cigarette more*
(NEVER such a blizzard before)**

*Don’t smoke, kids. It’s bad for your health.

**Do I make you horny, baby?

 

I’ve got to get home!*
(But, baby, you’ll FREEZE out there!)**

*Are you still talking?

**Come join me on this bearskin rug.

 

Say, lend me your coat?*
(it’s up to your knees out there)**

*Because I left the house in a blizzard to go to on a date and remembered my cigarettes, but I FORGOT MY COAT.

**And speaking of knees…

 

You’ve really been grand!*
(I thrill when you touch my hand)**

*Let’s get this over with, huh?

**I hope you don’t need much warming up.

 

But don’t you see?*
(HOW can you DO this thing to ME?)**

*I’ve already agreed, yet you continue to talk. What the hell did you put in that drink anyway?

**Fifty bucks.

 

There’s bound to be talk tomorrow*
(Think of my lifelong sorrow!)**

*If anyone finds out, I’ll never live this down.

**Wow. I am a jerk.

 

At least there will be plenty implied!*
(If you caught pneumonia and DIED!!)**

*I could never, ever be seen in the mailroom again.

**I’m concerned about your well-being, baby. Can you feel me? Feel me being concerned about your well-being? Now, tell me, does that bra close in the front or the back?

 

I really can’t stay!*
(Baby, don’t hold out)**

*The front. It’s, ah, never mind. I’ll do it.

**Boobies!

 

(oooooooooooooo)
[Both] Ahhhhhh baby it’s cold outside!!

 

You know, one thing leads to another, and the test comes back negative, but she ends up quitting her job anyway because he taped the whole thing.

Kix Cereal Introduces New Packaging to Encourage Creative Play, Plus Giveaway!

My family and I had a blast this past weekend with a few cereal boxes. I know, I know. You can have fun with anything if you try hard enough. But these boxes were different.

New Kix Boxes Available Exclusively at Target

New Kix Adventures Boxes Encouraging Creativity, Available Exclusively at Target

IMG_2924

New Kix Adventures Boxes Encouraging Creativity, Available Exclusively at Target

Featuring bright colors and either a jungle or undersea theme, including removable animals and shapes that can be built into larger items, these boxes scratched our entire family’s itch to create.

IMG_2925

Matthew was ready to create!

I had my children each choose a character to begin. My oldest son chose a monkey, my daughter chose an octopus, and her twin brother chose a fish. With a large collection of brightly colored craft supplies, our children got straight to work creating a place where their chosen animal might live and play.

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Of course, they snacked on Berry Berry Kix to keep those creative juices flowing.

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They helped each other, gave one another ideas, and were able to put their newly learned safety scissor skills to excellent use.

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Just a touch of glitter…

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At the beginning of the project, I’d resolved to ‘stay out of it’, only helping to open or close containers, or clean up spilled glue or glitter. But, despite ourselves, neither Daddy nor I could resist the siren song of googly eyes and pipe cleaners.

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Our end result was a glittery undersea playground for my daughter (the crab was made with a little help from Dad),

IMG_2942

Maggie’s Undersea Playground

a wavy ocean scene for her twin brother (with a little help from Mom),

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Michaels Wavy Ocean

and a colorful “play forest” for my oldest son.

IMG_2944

Matthew’s Play Forest

All in all, we (and I mean all of us) had a great time creating worlds for our new friends, munching on Kix cereal throughout. And we can’t wait for the next time, when we’ll incorporate stories involving these characters at kixcereal.com, written by Soleil Moon Frye, creator of MoonFrye.com and host of the Oprah Winfrey Network DIY series, “Home Made Simple“.

The new Kix cereal boxes are available only at Target, while Kixcereal.com houses the adventure storybook series, as well as fun craft ideas, kid-friendly recipes, and creative play suggestions for parents.

Want to do some creating on your own? Simply visit the Giveaway tab on the Stephanie Bernaba’s Blog Facebook Page to enter to win one of two creativity kits (filled with awesome, colorful craft supplies), a $100 Target Gift Card (yes, really!), and one box of each flavor of Kix (Original and Berry Berry)!

My kids were excited about (and love) the cereal, the boxes, and the craft supplies, which we plan to enjoy well into the winter.

Kix truly is Kid Tested, Mother Approved (this one, anyway!).

Good luck!

 

I was provided food items and craft supplies on behalf of General Mills/Kix Cereal in exchange for this review. All views and images herein are my own. 

Eligibility Requirements: Valid email address required to enter. Entrants must be US residents, and must be able to provide a physical street address. One entry per household, please. Entries accepted until 6pm ET on November 20, 2014. Entries accepted only through the Giveaway Tab on Stephanie Bernaba’s Blog Facebook Page. A winner will be drawn by noon ET on November 21, 2014, and notified via email, the Stephanie Bernaba’s Blog Facebook Page, and at @StephBernaba on Twitter. Winner must respond via email within 24 hours or new winner will be drawn. 

Not All About That Bass: I Never Asked to See Your Ass…ets

Somewhere along the line, the world got the impression that I wanted to see its ass…ets. I’m not sure how it happened, perhaps it was how I stared, for just a bit too long, like a curious cocker spaniel, or by my somehow inadvertently conjuring all the corporeal spirits to this world, but there have been more than a few hands full of naked bits wagging in my face lately.

And not the kind I want to see.

I get that we either are, or have rapidly become, a visual society, being enticed by this food picture or that, killer boots, and island getaways. When we see something we like, I’m sure the ol’ circuit board between our ears lights up, trying to finagle ways to make ourselves part of the picture.

But here’s the thing. Ladies – actresses, moguls, recording artists, quasi-activists – I hate to disappoint you, but if you have a pair of something, lovely as it may be, I don’t want to see it. And the thing that keeps me up at night is how you arrived at the conclusion that I might.

A few months ago, there was hullabaloo about Sofia Vergara turning slowly on a revolving platform, giving the world a slow-mo look at what she’s packing. And I don’t forsake her that, uh, opportunity, but I was more tuned into her jewelry than the pull of her dress. All in good fun, they said.

And then our flexible friend Nicki Minaj, in what I can only imagine is an attempt to distract us from both her name and her music, released her single Anaconda, and there we were, once again, gazing blankly into the abyss.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Does the music come out of there, I’m wondering? Because I’m not quite sure why I need to see it.

Just a week or so ago, Ms. Keira Nightly, whom I happen to find both beautiful and talented, decided to show the world as part of an interview with Interview magazine, what she really has under her shirt, as a reaction to all the ways her body has been adulterated by photo editing software. While I applaud both her message and initiative, I still didn’t need to see it.

And this week, in the mother of all visual assaults, Paper magazine released its winter cover photos, featuring none other than our best girlfriend and confidante, Kim Kardashian, letting it all hang out, or stick out, or just kind of hover.

That’s a lot of ass for one person to handle.

Now, you can tell me I have a choice, you can tell me I need not look, need not ‘feed the beast’, but avoiding this stuff is like ignoring a total eclipse of the sun, or two babies crawling after a fluffy bunny, or an adorable tiger-striped kitten, attacking his own tail. It’s damn near impossible.

And here’s the part – as most of you already know – where I’d stick in some body-positive banter, where I’d question how in the mothertruckin’ world a woman arrives at the conclusion that revealing each and every curve of her hindquarters is a sensible choice. Or talk about how I can’t seem to figure out how I might explain this phenomenon to my three-year-old daughter, were she to ask, today or in the future, “Why that lady gots no clothes on?” Or how we became okay with singing the praises of booties in the first place.

Right now (lucky us!), we’ve got a few anthems praising the proud Rubenesque, for example, All About That Bass, which I want to like, but still, still puts emphasis on the outside. We’re all beautiful. I get it. But being focused on and praising being bigger, correct me if I’m wrong, is pretty much the same as being focused on and praising being smaller, isn’t it? What if she turns out naturally skinny? What do I tell her then? “Oh, honey, I’m afraid that you – well, you’ve got the wrong junk in all the wrong places. I’m sorry, dear.”

For now, though, I sit, as I often do, defeated, because, just like a car wreck in the opposing lane on the highway, we’re going to look. And as long as we look, they’ll continue to give us something to look at (and sing about).

Bottom line is, you may have a plumper-than-average backside, and if that’s the thing that catapults you to stardom, fine. As a thirty-six year old mother of three, though, I’m going to have to go ahead and say that I’m not your target demographic.

Now, throw a few man parts in there, and I’d be willing to talk. The biggest kicks I’ve gotten lately have been from watching fruit dangle free during episodes of DaVinci’s Demons, and that wasn’t even this season. But, let me ask you something: Where are the waist-down, 360-degree naked pictures of Adam Levine and Usher? Where are they? And why can’t I see them? And why aren’t we seeing them all over the place? Moreso, how do we make that happen?

If I have to see butt cheeks all around me, please, let them be the butt cheeks of my choosing.

Better yet, somebody write a few songs about men’s booties. That should help get the ball rolling in the other direction.

Eight Hacks to Have You Christmas-Ready by Thanksgiving (and Away from the Mall!)

I’ve been doing so well this year staying ahead of the Christmas game, I thought I might share my tips. Now, I know what you’re thinking – Christmas-ready by Thanksgiving? That’s absurd! But, trust me, kids. I’m almost done. And there’s still time for you!

 

Sneak Around  

Start a sneaky layaway at one of your usual haunts (Target, Walmart, etc…), and while you’re there for your routine essentials/groceries, tuck a few items away. You’ll have everyone on your list checked off without ever having to take an additional trip, and also won’t have to worry about where to hide all those goodies.

 

Use Zulily

So easy, and products are added daily, but you must act quickly – items run out. I’ve been so lucky with Disney/Marvel items, toys, children’s’ clothes and shoes, and even, ahem, a few things for myself. Plus, once your PayPal account is linked, checkout is a one-click process. Sometimes the items take a bit to arrive, due to the process employed to acquire the items, but you’re always sent a notification when your shipping status changes.

 

Bake and Freeze Those Cookies!

Holiday cookies, I’ve found, in my ten-plus years of baking, hold up quite well in the freezer, even when decorated and/or frosted. All you need are rectangular plastic containers with covers, wax paper, and room in your freezer. You can mix up a batch during some down time, on a weekend, or after the kids retire for the night, and they’ll be ready and waiting to be arranged right when you need them! I’ve never baked during the holidays any other way.

 

Photo Cards and Gifts in Under 30 Minutes

Sites like Mpix (my personal favorite), Shutterfly, Tiny Prints, and Minted all allow you to create gorgeous photo cards and gifts. Many of these sites also let you create and save albums and import pictures from Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites. The process cannot get much faster or easier, and you generally have your items in hand in less than a week.

 

Get to Know Subscription Boxes 

I subscribed to Nerd Block for my husband last Christmas, and it’s literally been the gift that keeps on giving. The box includes a (usually sci-fi, superhero, or comic book character) t-shirt in your loved one’s chosen size, along with plenty of collectibles and unique gifts. He loves it, and the kids do, too. Not a nerd? You can order beauty boxes, food boxes, and even pet-focused boxes. The possibilities are nearly endless.

Birchbox Beauty

 

 

Try Home Shopping

Say what you will about those sometimes-kitschy home shopping presentations, but you can order large quantities of excellent quality items for small prices – I just scored two 8-piece Lenox ornament sets from QVC for under $40 apiece. That’s less than $5 per gift, and they’re individually boxed and ready to go. Great for teachers, neighbors, hairdressers, service providers, and surprise guests. Home shopping is also great for food gifts such as chocolates and Mrs. Prindable’s apples. Best yet, you can choose the Easy Pay option, which allows you to receive your items right away, yet pay in equal monthly installments. Home shopping is a winner.

QVC Logo

QVC Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Use Credit Card Rewards

If you’re like me, you have credit card points just languishing around in your accounts, collecting digital dust. My husband and I made the decision this year to purchase gifts at sites that accept points, like Amazon.com. Sure, it requires a little creative math, and multiple transactions (for example, you can’t use American Express and Discover points in the same transaction), but you essentially don’t pay for the items at all. What’s better than that?

 

Think Outside the Box

You can get a remarkable number of tasks accomplished if you simply think outside the box. At the grocery store for food? Saunter down the seasonal aisle and check out what’s available. Running into the pharmacy for some face wash? If an item screams GIFT!, don’t make a mental note, just pick it up. Trust me. It’s faster. And the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you see your list getting dwindling will pay for itself. Take a tip from Michael Jordan and Just Do It! You won’t be sorry.

 

The only thing I can’t help you with here is wrapping. You’ll have to figure that part out yourself. But I am a big believer in gift bags. Just saying.

 

So, get out there (or stay in!) and go for it! You’ve still got time! You don’t want to get trampled on Black Friday, do you?

Good Mom, Bad Mom

Once in a while, an adult or a two will enter your personal space, excuse themselves, and proceed to share their impressions of your family.

And they temporarily convince you that your children are, indeed, the most beautiful, well-behaved seraphims, sent from on high, that they’ve literally ever seen. And you thank them, and pat yourself on the back for a moment, and continue on to your car, considering all the factors that went into that ‘excellent’ behavior, like the fact that it was almost 9pm and the kids were literally falling asleep in their macaroni and cheese.

But you take the compliments with a grain of salt, because you just know that a mile or so down the road, you’re going to be “that parent” with “those kids”, like during the Target trip where you only need a birthday gift for one of your kids’ classmates, or that ‘last stop’ you know they can’t handle, but have to get finished.

And then you wonder to yourself, Self? Are my children *literally* the most evolved three- and four-year-olds on the planet, blessed with the discipline of a thousand samurai and the enlightenment of the reincarnated, like some people say? Or are they the very embodiment of Mephistopheles, raised in vain, on a diet of molten metal spikes, sent to earth simply to inflict great suffering upon the human race?

Mother and three children, oil on wood, 38.5 x...

Mother and three children, oil on wood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s a game of extremes. And it’s rarely accurate. Truth is, people, my kids are sometimes really great, and sometimes, they’re pretty goddamned awful. Because they’re kids. And the hardest part about it is I can’t always control when each will occur. I can give you a decent statistical probability based on meals, naps, and impending excitement, but, truly, and though you may think we can, we parents can rarely totally control our children.

I know, right?!

Of course, the kids aren’t terribly affected by the awe-inspiring ebb and flow of their own behavior. And they are also rarely blamed for it.

Parents, you know who is, right?

Apologize to strangers if you will, and ad nauseam, but it won’t amount to a hill of beans. Tell them your kids are normally well-behaved, and they will chortle. Explain to them that Halloween’s a pretty big deal, and that they’ve been bouncing off the walls for three days waiting to wear their costumes, and you’re really sorry your son leaned down and gave your becostumed pug a bear hug, but it will fall on deaf ears. It’s like spitting in the wind. There’s not a whole lot you can say.

Now, occasionally, you’ll get lucky and your eyes lock with a parent of three, four, or maybe five kids, who just knows, who knows that it’s 45 minutes past naptime, or that the flashing lights of the video games, or the brightly-colored balloons lining the room, have the ability to set kids off. Or the smell of popcorn. Or long shelves of toys and trinkets lining the way to a cash register. Or any combination of items or circumstances. They just know.

They’ll give you a sympathetic nod as your husband hoists a kicking, screaming, overstimulated child over his shoulder and presses toward the exit. They know. These things happen. That’s life with young children.

Image Credit: Flickr

Image Credit: Flickr

I’d started out explaining to people why my good kids were good when they were, and, conversely, what may have gone wrong to cause them to misbehave. I put my head down, I did the ‘sad face’, I did the aggravated chuckle/head shake combination, or I just looked straight ahead and left wherever I was.

And that evening, when my kids were recognized for being so ‘well-behaved’, actually falling asleep in their dinner, I left the restaurant, called my husband, and explained to him that, “I said thank you and just walked away, because they’d probably be the first people to express their displeasure if the kids were acting up.”

And that’s the way I approach it now. I am, of course, flattered and feel fantastic about our parenting when our children are well-mannered, but I don’t take any of it to heart, because, were it another day, three hours earlier, or the day before a holiday or another kid’s birthday party, we’d be having a very different conversation.

It’s the same way if ever I choose to hit the mall in old yoga pants and a hooded sweatshirt. Scoff, scoff, scoff, they’d say. But if I went home and changed, and returned in my three-quarter length coat, a sparkly scarf, my good jewelry and makeup, and my favorite boots, I’d be regarded – by the same people, mind you – completely differently. And there might be scoff, scoff, scoff, too, but for different reasons.

Perception is reality, but we’re still the same inside.

So, when someone shares with my husband and myself that we have a beautiful family, and our kids are just the cat’s meow, I think back to the day at the dairy farm my sons stuffed a baby cow’s water bucket full with hay, then started after the chickens like a pair of voodoo priestesses. Or when my daughter demanded, loudly and clearly, outside a restroom at Macy’s “Why that lady looks like a man?”, I just laugh. And shrug it off. And maintain my humility.

Because no one knows the whole story, and they never will. My kids are good. But they’re not all good, all the time. Because they’re four and three years old. Their brains haven’t created enough connections yet to hold them back from that inappropriate comment, or the giant Ninja Turtle balloon, or the remote-controlled plane.

And someday, they’ll be well-adjusted adults, gainfully employed and socially savvy. But for today, they’ll obey in the store and then pick their noses in the parking lot. Or they’ll smile at strangers until they’re buckled into their car seats, where they’ll launch into a calculated attack for holiday donuts. Or they’ll just plain get tired, and misbehave.

And it’s okay with me.

Because, overall, my kids are good kids. And it’s too bad, if you didn’t catch us on that day, that you missed it. And it’s sad if you caught them on a challenging day, but, just like there are days I’m dressed to kill, there are others I’m dressed to be sent to What Not to Wear. They have those days, too.

My ‘good’ kids can be bad. And my ‘bad’ kids good. And we, as parents, must accept all of it.

And I think it’s best that you do, too.

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