Christmas Eve Blues

I wake up this morning early with a little tremor in my brain. It’s Christmas Eve and there’s a lot to do. 

I duck out of the house as soon as I wake up, without even a cup of coffee. I head to Whole Foods to get food for Christmas Day and the weekend. I’m alone so this is AWESOME. 

I start by getting some eggs from the breakfast bar. Eggs are among my favorite foods, but Jesse’s allergy means a strictly egg-free house. So I sneak them whenever I can. Today’s Whole Foods eggs are, unfortunately, rubbery. Don’t I deserve tasty eggs today? Is that too much to ask?  Bah. 

I get everything I need, and I even bump into a couple mommy buddies and chit-chat a little. But I can’t really enjoy the conversations as much as I’d like. In the back of my mind I’m counting the hours I have (OCD style, over and over again) to accomplish everything on the menu today, and I’m subtracting the minutes I’m losing as I indulge in pleasant conversations with people I wish I could actually spend some relaxing time with. Bah. 

From Whole Foods, I drive to Michaels to pick up art supplies for Nick’s gift and some stocking stuffers. Nothing I want is on sale. There are sale signs everywhere. Everything in Michaels is on sale today except for the fourteen items I buy. Bah. 

While I’m in Michaels, Jesse calls me to ask if we’re going to finally get our outdoor lights up today. Otherwise Santa won’t find our home. I ask her to put Daddy on the phone. I ask Anthony if we can get the lights up. “We’ll have to see,” he answers grimly, “we’re cleaning the house right now.” Bah. 

I feel completely grinched and also I feel a familiar incoherent rage seething up inside me. By the time I get home, it’s a roiling little sun burning in my head. I don’t even remember much about what goes down, but it climaxes in me yelling at Anthony about being grinched. Even as I blow, Jesse and Nick begin mocking me, silently mimicking my gesticulations and jawing. I don’t look at them because apparently I’m enjoying my wrath and I don’t want to laugh. Instead I march into the bathroom as I holler about how Anthony never-ever-ever apologizes to me for anything. EVER. By now everyone knows I’m a ridiculous human being. My raging sun fizzles out as I hear Jesse and Anthony  laughing at me while I pee. 


Everyone makes nice after that, and much kissing and snuggling ensues. I head out again with Nick to shop for gifts for Jesse and Dad. He already knows what he wants to get them. First stop, Trader Joes. Nick wants to get Anthony the GIANT bar of chocolate, mommy it’s GIANT and the biggest chocolate ever and I know daddy will love it and maybe he will share it with me.

We go to Toys R Us next for a little robot Nick wants to get Jesse. As we walk through the parking lot, Nick orders me to STOP. He’s spotted a huge flock of seagulls on the wing. He watches them, frozen and mesmerized, for a good two minutes. I’m patient, because I’m enthralled by my child, who gives wild seagulls priority over a toy store. 

We finally walk into the shop. We find what Nick wants in two minutes and then spend 25 minutes waiting in line, next to all the little candy products. Mixed in with them innocuously are some small Advil containers. I point them out to Nick. “Why do you think they sell medicine here for grownups who are having headaches?”

Nick doesn’t even have to think. He starts to fondle the candy choices. “Because of this, mommy.  Can I have this? Can I have that? What’s this? What’s this? What’s this? Can I have this?” 

Clever boy. 

We turn on the radio as we drive home. “Feliz navidad” is playing and I start to bellow along. Nick speaks plaintively from the back seat. “Mommy please stop. Can we turn off this song?”

“Why? You don’t like it?”

“Nooo… I just don’t want to think about you dying right now.”


“Nick, what are you talking about? It’s a Christmas song!”

“Then why does he keep singing ‘at least mommy died’?” 

When we get home, Anthony has finished setting up our outside lights before taking off with Jesse for some more shopping. My eyeballs turn into pink puffy hearts. It’s a zero-bah moment. 

Nick starts watching Pocahontas II, which I can’t possibly understand, but then I remember the bike shop closes early and we have to go get Jesse’s ninja bike. Nick grumbles his own “BAH” but comes along anyway. We rush home to hide the bike and he settles back into his movie. 

Life moves smoothly from there, and even Jesse’s occasional penis moments don’t ruin things. I make a cranberry walnut quick bread, and Korean spicy chicken stew for dinner. The kids seem remarkably calm as the evening winds down. But then suddenly and inexplicably, Nick comes to realize that Santa is coming TONIGHT, not tomorrow, and he goes berserk.

We heat up mince pies for the ‘rents and Santa, hang the stockings, and try to watch White Christmas. As Rosemary Clooney and her sister sing their duet, the kids embellish with random comments and a variety of wiggling and fussing. 

But no matter. It’s Christmas Eve, so it’s time to celebrate the gift of children — of my children. 

They remind me to care about the future of our world; they bind me to the magic of childhood; they teach me how important silliness is to a healthy soul; they love without limit. 

So here’s my Christmas wish for me and you: may your day be merry and joyful, with unrelenting giving and the laughter of children (no worries if you don’t have any with you — laugh like a child and that counts).  May you have the opportunity to eat way too much food. And may your heart be bah-free for 24 hours. 

Or at least 12. Don’t tax yourself too much. It’s the holidays. 

Grumpy about the construction project (F#**ing trim)

I’m installing trim today. A lot of wood is stained and sliced via the table saw to the correct widths. All I have to do right now is cut side casings to length and nail them in place.

It took me over an hour to install just three pieces today. The first piece went in easy. The second piece, I cut wrong. Too short. A wasted plank. I got it right on the second try. The third piece, I needed to notch out some wood on the trim to make space for the little thingy that the doorknob latch thingy goes into. I think you know what I’m talking about, right?

This would not be necessary if we were using standard trim, but no, we’re making it ourselves to meet our own personal ego specs. In order to do this, we had to buy one of those worksite table saws. All my life I’ve wanted a table saw, except for right now. I don’t want a table saw right now because I’ve used a lot of cutting power tools recently and, frankly, they frighten me. We got the table saw anyway, and I actually used it, despite the story our babysitter told us about some man who cut off the tips of all his fingers on a table saw min her parents’ basement.

We ripped plank after plank over the weekend. During most of the work, I was filled with a steely mix of terror and courage which kept my hands from shaking too much. I took many deep breaths, which helped keep the panicky feeling at bay.

“Steely” might be an exaggeration. Maybe a softer metal alloy is a better metaphor.

On the up side, the way I felt at the end of each day — emotionally and physically exhausted despite very little physically demanding labor — was a good reminder of what Jesse feels like most days because of her anxiety. She really is steely. Raw fear will wipe you out.

Anyway, the notch: first I tried the router because it already had this little chamfer bit in the chuck. (I just like saying “chuck” and “chamfer bit” in the same sentence. There’s a little chamfer bit in my router chuck, baby, you wanna stop by?) That didn’t really work despite a lot of fiddling and testing, so then I got out the good old hammer and chisel and had at it. Success, though it looks like a beaver sharpened its teeth on our casing now. Then I installed that bloody piece of wood but I forgot to stain the now-bare wood that was exposed by the notching, so I had to grab a little rag and try to shove some stain in there in the little space between the casing and that little doorknob latch thingy.

Don’t tell Anthony; maybe he won’t notice.

Things got a little better after these initial pains, so I’m working along smoothly now, except I got hungry so I’m eating lunch as I type this.

So far I’ve used the miter saw, nail gun and pancake compressor, and router. I’ll probably have to throw one or more power sanders into the mix at some point, and that will just complete me.

Done eating. Back to work.


staybandoning in place

I’ve been doing a lot of stuff for the past 37 days and apparently none of it involves writing a blog post. Which sucks for me personally, because it’s so therapeutic, but does allow me to take care of real things going on around me. Like family visits, Thanksgiving, a Christmas tree, finishing construction on the house…

Shit like that. 

Nick keeps telling me, “mommy, I need some more love.” But honestly, a new iPad game or Dunkin’ Donuts treats seem to be perfectly adequate substitutes for him. 

Jesse glumly told me today that I’ve abandoned our family Christmas traditions this year. She added that I need to get some exercise and lose weight. She looked at me hopefully as she said these things, but I couldn’t muster the rise she was looking for. 

Both kids are obviously resigned to getting no real attention from me these days. 

Other people talk about enjoying staycations–and holy crap, thank you autocorrect for changing that word to “stagnation”! Autocorrect is in sync with my head tonight for a change. 

Staycations really are a stagnant notion in my opinion. I can’t imagine much that would be more oppressive in my blissful domestic life than staying home with my kids for an extended time, recreating… At home… Like we always do. 

I can top the staycation. I’ve embraced a new stay idea, which I call staybandonment. I have staybandoned my kids for the past six months as I deal with our home renovation. I’m here in the home with them, but they are totally reliant on their own devices and I’m useless to them. And also they’re stuck here, because I’m too busy working here to take them anywhere.

I guess I should feel guilty, but today I’m choosing not to because Jesse said something really unexpected to me. “Mommy,” she announced cheerfully out of the blue, “today has been a great day!” 

I can’t remember the last time my down, anxious, OCD-addled, self-loathing child was so upbeat.  

And as for Nick, well, he’s Nick and he’s resilient. Daddy took him out to dinner and played with him, and his cup seemed well-filled as he fell asleep in my arms tonight, his eyes drifting shut peacefully as I kissed his sweet forehead. 

Well then. Carry on, my little staybandoned spawn. Keep up the good work. 

I’ll take the heroes, please

A couple days a week, I take Jesse out of school for two hours in the middle of the day so she can breath freely and regather herself, as she continues to push her way through the roadblocks erected by OCD.  Today I took her to Whole Foods for lunch. As we noshed on our pizza and sushi, the TV in the eating area was running some talk show on Fox. I have no idea what it was called, but it was four makeup-clad women with pushed-up boobs blathering away with a great deal of energy. Thankfully, we couldn’t hear the audio, but subtitles were running.

Needless to say, in our Roku-based, ad-free, streaming world, my kids and I are almost never subjected to this sort of torture. Jesse stared unblinking at the screen for a while, and slowly her mouth stopped chewing. Then she turned to look at me, a little puzzled and incredulous.

“What are they doing?”

I didn’t quite know what to say. “Talking. It’s called a talk show.”

“What do they talk about?”

Uh… “Stuff. I dunno.”


Uh… “Because I guess people think it’s fun to listen to them talk about stuff.”

A numb silence descended on us for a moment. Jesse started eating again and watched the screen. “Who are they?”

Uh… “People who want to be famous.”

Are they famous?”

“I don’t know. I guess so.”

I thought about it a moment. “What do you think would make a person famous, Jesse?”

My little monster/angel thought about it. “Maybe… a hero. Heroes should be famous.”

My heart started humming. I looked at my sweet thing. “What other kind of people do you think might get famous?”

“Someone who rescues animals and people.”

My heart started dancing. “Who else?”

“An inventor. Someone who invents amazing things. Like medicines that save people.”

Rainbows appeared and rays of sunlight shined on my soul. “Who else?”

“Someone who discovers a new species, now that would make you famous!”

I tried not to cry as my eyes gazed at the beautiful face of my child, my first-born, my mirror, no longer distracted by the garbage flowing through the television screen in my peripheral vision.

I couldn’t even voice my cynicism as I pondered how wrong she is about fame. I didn’t have the heart to tell her.

But she shouldn’t be wrong.

Let’s stop vilifying and glorifying the sick, psychotic, desperate people who revel in killing, taking, judging, condemning. Let’s stop worshiping at the altar of the weapons they use to do it. Let’s stop giving so much air time to people who want to be heard just because they want to be heard, but who don’t give a shit about the message they deliver. Let’s put alleged physical beauty where it belongs in the pantheon of things that matter. Like lower, much much lower on the scale of things.

Let’s find the heroes, the rescuers, the healers, the inventors, the seekers. Let’s celebrate them. Let’s fill the airwaves with 24-hour coverage about them and make them famous. Maybe our lost souls will look to them and find a better way out of the darkness. Maybe we can use the power of all that untapped goodness to start making some changes around here.