#3: Holiday task planning for kids

holiday matrixHa, ha, ha! Oh, you were serious? Clearly the writer of today’s sad and desperate search term is not a regular reader. I can’t even get my kids to set the table or empty the dishwasher on a normal day. What makes you think I can get them to deck the halls?

But in the spirit of shared desperation, I’ll offer these simple tasks children and teens can help with in the run-up to the holidays.

  1. Wrap gifts. Make sure they use an obscene amount of gift wrap and an entire roll of tape. Corners need not be square, the pattern on the paper need not be straight. Just tell them to go for it. That paper will get ripped to shreds when it’s opened anyway.
  2. Make bourbon balls. Oh, wait – is it OK for kids to handle bourbon in a cooking setting, or can I get into some kind of trouble for that? Not that I think they would actually drink the bourbon, but they might spill it and we do have some cats with poor judgment so I could end up on the wrong side of the ASPCA.
  3. String holiday lights. Never mind that your children are merely 4 feet tall, they can hang them at shrub height. If it disturbs you, and you want to view the lights from below, just lie down in the yard. You’ll probably feel like doing this anyway as the holidays approach.
  4. Put together that *@!#$* fake tree. Right, it looks almost real. If you stand 25 feet away and squint. Once it’s up, have them tear recklessly through boxes of carefully packed ornaments looking for the most fragile. Make sure they fight over who gets to hang them.
  5. Sweep up broken ornaments. See above.
  6. Have them learn carols to perform for your guests. They can sing in unison or, if they are over-achievers, in harmony. Not only will you be able to listen in rapt attention as they learn their parts, you can trot them out like the Von Trapps (matching outfits optional). This task is so wonderful because it is something they can do together. It will be even more fun than getting a single child to practice the piano.

Oh, the blessed holidays. I can feel my spirits rising already. Now, where is that bourbon?

 

A disclaimer: While it perhaps shouldn’t need saying, let me remind you that I have no credentials, training or certifications of any kind that would qualify me to mete out advice to anyone. This is a humor blog. If you don’t find it funny, well, that’s another issue.

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Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

ImageNo, we’re not Canadian. And it’s no longer Canadian Thanksgiving. But we’re celebrating anyway.

My family and childhood friends gather each October over a conveniently-timed school holiday to feast on turkey and all the trimmings. It’s a time-shift extraordinaire, designed to bring family together who would otherwise:

  • Be at home celebrating with the other side of the family.
  • Be stuck halfway to their destination in a freak, Thanksgiving week snow storm.
  • Spend 2-1/2 days traveling through a succession of airports for a 2-1/2 hour meal.
  • Head to Florida for the winter to escape all of the above.

It’s a great system, really. There is no pressure from the upcoming Holiday Shopping, er, Christmas season. No one is heading out, bellies bloated to get in their favorite 4 a.m. Black Friday line. And sometimes, the weather is so nice we’ve eaten outside. I can tell you, that does not happen around here in November.

If I could get others to cooperate, I would probably shift some other holidays around, too. Here’s what I’d do:

Celebrate the 4th of July in October. You can hold the fireworks at 8:00 p.m. and there are no mosquitoes to contend with.

Have Christmas coincide with Labor Day so I could do my Christmas shopping and my back-to-school shopping at the same time.

Always have obscure, national holidays fall on Mondays so we could have an embarrassment of three-day weekends. Oh, wait – we already do that.

That last one might seem obvious to some, but when you are a freelance writer, you are what’s called deadline-driven, that is to say, the weekdays and weekends often run into each other leading to the classic freelancer’s no-day weekend.

What about you? Have a holiday you’d like to shift? When would you hold it, and what is it called?

I’m grateful, really – I just forget to notice

In the past, I’ve tried keeping a gratitude journal without much luck. I start out with good intentions but establishing habit is not my strong point. In fact, the last gratitude journal I started has entries for exactly four days. And they’re not even consecutive. Ouch.

But given that this is the season of gratitude, I decided to try again. Inspired by the efforts of 30 Days of Thanks, I vowed to tweet a note of gratitude every day during November. It seemed easy enough to do, a way for me to keep a gratitude journal of sorts. For a month anyway. Here’s how I did:

Day 3 – I’m late to the game so I tweet three things I’m grateful for to catch up.

Day 4 – Remember to tweet, but feel put upon because the kids have a day off school, can’t resist adding a snarky related comment.

Day 5 – Learn a friend has suffered a loss, tweet my gratitude that I still have my parents in my life. Feel truly grateful.

Day 7 – Realize late in the day that I forgot to tweet on Day 6, but sneak in a mention of gratitude that the Vikings won. Since that means I don’t have to tell my rabid-fan sons in the morning that they lost, this gratitude stretches into Day 8.

Days 9 through 18 – Forget to be grateful.

Day 19 – Find out to my relief that I didn’t damage my husband’s skis when I ran over them in the garage. Tweet my gratitude and determine to get back on track.

Day 20 – Sick. Forget to be grateful again.

Day 21 – Get all ready to tweet a note of gratitude and then notice it’s snowing. No longer feel grateful but fake it and tweet anyway.

Day 22 -Tweet gratitude. Almost immediately, receive an email for which I am decidedly not grateful. Tell myself grateful is grateful, even if it just lasts a moment.

Day 23 – Realize I can get a blog post out of my wayward gratitude. Feel grateful but too embarrassed to actually tweet that so tweet something else.

Day 24 – Have a quiet day at home ALL TO MYSELF! Truly grateful but enjoying it so much I forget to tweet about it.

Day 27 – Really grateful that someone else is cleaning my house – don’t tweet but leave them a gratitude-saturated note of thanks.

Days 28 -30 Thanksgiving weekend. Gratitude abounds. Truly grateful for all I have. But don’t take the time to tweet about it.

My evaluation? All in all, high on intent but lacking in execution. But maybe that’s not the point. Maybe the point is to pause, even if it’s only every once in a while, to give thanks. And then get on to the business of living.

What are you grateful for today? (I’m grateful I actually finished this blog post.)

The ghosts of turkeys past

The holiday has me reminiscing about Thanksgivings past. For the last few years, we’ve celebrated quietly at home. I find it a relaxing alternative to some of the holidays we’ve celebrated.

The first Thanksgiving I hosted, with my two roommates, was an unqualified disaster. After suffering through the anxiety of preparing a turkey for the first time (and neglecting, out of ignorance, to remove the plastic bags full of innards from the interior before we cooked it), we discovered that the plumbing in the upstairs bathroom of our townhouse was leaking. The result? A huge, water-filled plaster bubble forming right over – you guessed it – the dining room table.

imageA few years later, my then-new husband and I hosted Thanksgiving for a few transplants who, like us, could not make it “home” for the holidays. My much-beloved but chronically late sister was in charge of appetizers. I had stocked up on wine and beer but had no back-up snacks. By the time she arrived, my guests were, shall we say, slightly more basted than the bird. Attempts to carve said bird resulted in a scene so brutal we probably could have been picketed by animal activists.

Fast forward a few years. Because Christmas was on a Wednesday my family was unable to gather for that holiday. In my infinite wisdom, I invited them all to our home for the earlier holiday, suggesting we celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday and “Christmas” together on Saturday. Thus began perhaps the wildest holiday weekend of all time – a huge feast followed by tree trimming, gift shopping, wrapping and celebrating again in the space of a couple of days. If you find it hard to prepare for Christmas in the four weeks that follow Thanksgiving try doing it in 48 hours.

When our first two kids were young and I was still working full-time out of the home, I found it hard to prepare for Thanksgiving at all. This included actually purchasing a turkey. One year, by the time I got to the store late on Wednesday there was nothing but tiny birds left. I actually considered cooking two until I snapped out of it. The next year, determined to get to the store earlier, I did the exact same thing, only this time the smallest bird I could buy was 18 pounds. All this for a house that contained two adults and two toddlers who hadn’t eaten more than a teaspoon full of food at one meal ever. I’ve never been able to decide which was worse (read Help me solve my turkey dilemma).

The best I can say about these Thanksgivings is at least I put food on the table (as supported by my post about the Christmas that almost wasn’t). But this year I’m going to do it right. Now if I could just find that shopping list…

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Enjoy (and pay homage to) your bird.