5 Family Holiday Traditions I Bet You Don’t Have

Here in the Nostrikethat household Christmas Traditions are serious business.

While I have blocked out most of my childhood, my memories of Christmas day focus on getting clothes with the gift receipt attached (you know, in case you want to take it back) and going over to one of my aunt’s houses so all of my dad’s sisters could take turns making my mom cry.

When I met the Eventually-To-Be Mrs. Nostrikethat, however, I learned why that “T” was capitalized.

When I went with her and her family on vacation for the first time to the beach we visited one of those year-round Christmas Stores.

In July.

Without even a trace of irony, even. There might be new and interesting Christmas decorations to admire, I was told.

In July.

Long story short, my “Low Effort” Christmas tradition ran headlong into “It’s the Great Christmas Buildup, Charlie Brown!” and lost miserably. Let’s face it resistance requires effort, which I am not about.

In the many years since, we have started building our own family traditions. Christmas lights eventually became my thing. Could be the Baltimorean in me (the city that gave us John Water’s Hairspray) but I like’em big, bold, and blinking. This year as I was standing on a ladder in the dark in 20 degree weather I found myself contemplating the silly traditions of our family.

1. The Holiday Food Trough


This time of year Mrs. Nostrikethat starts making Nuts-N-Bolts from the Hallowed Family Recipe (which I think came from the Chex box in 1967) and it tends to just sit on the stove until it is all gone which normally takes about a three minutes and thirty seconds.

I have tried to “preserve it” and put it in some sort of plastic container but then the heathens just eat the container. Hannibal in particular eats like a great white shark with a tapeworm and we usually find him diving in the trough, Scrooge McDuck-style.


2. Death March of Holiday Cheer

A few years ago we thought it would be a great idea to go into Washington D.C. to see the holiday sights.

Cue hearty laughter

Oh, to be slightly younger and idealistic again!

This was remains a bad idea for three crucial reasons:

  1. It involves Being Around Other People, which is–even under the best circumstances–sketchy as heck
  2. D.C. in the winter tends towards cold and windy. Faceman, if not closely supervised, dresses with a disregard for the weather that borders on “Call CPS that boy is an orphan”
  3. Any excursion into the city involves a certain amount of walking, and my children’s legs have all atrophied from being driven in an assortment of minivans to swim practice. Were we actually in Atlantis we would have this thing down, but on dry land it’s a lot like putting a family of penguins on a treadmill: a whole lot of squawking and very little walking.

I am blessed with an almost terminally short memory, though, and so every year I manage to convince everyone to give it another go because This Time It Will Be Festive.

“No you can’t take my picture. No I won’t turn around. This is lame. I’m cold.” Festive, yes?

Speaking of festive…

3. Multi-Colored Dog Poo Admiring

I have previously written of New Dog and how much of a suck-up he was. As it turns out, he also has an intestinal track of cast iron and the grazing habits of a goat in weinerdog form.

A weinergoat, if you will.

Thank you, Internet, for not letting me down when I googled "weinergoat". Via http://nathanpaulsen.weebly.com/
Thank you, Internet, for not letting me down when I googled “weinergoat”. Via http://nathanpaulsen.weebly.com/

This time of year our backyard starts to take on vibrant hues that are not so much natural as they are “Made in China”. How or why he has not yet ruptured a spleen I cannot say, but I am deeply thankful to him for reminding me of my place in the universe on a daily basis as I play “What the hell did he eat?

I cannot help it that Legos are so crunchy.

4. Group Sloth Mode

For as much as I try to be no effort, our weekends start to fill up once we get past Halloween. Between birthdays, swim meets, and trying to stay out of the house enough so we don’t all get on each other’s nerves, we keep moving.

By the time December rolls around we’ve all kind of had enough and Group Sloth Mode kicks in. The other day I came home from work to find the other 5 members of the family plus dog on the couch watching TV. It only took a little bit of adjusting to make it 6 plus dog.

It looked like this, only our couch is gray.
It looked like this, only our couch is gray and not red and a couch not a bucket.

5. The “We’re-Not-Buying-Presents-For-Each-Other” Game

Every year since we’ve had kids, the Missus and I have promised each other that we’re not going to buy each other presents. Every year, I get a little excited because I think finally I can be done with the ruse of Christmas present buying.

Cue hearty laughter

I am not a gifty person. The stuff I want is 1) expensive and 2) not in the budget, so I either do without or put it in the budget. It’s money that I’ve earned for the family, so it’s only logical that I just direct it where I want it to go.

Mrs. Nostrikethat, on the other hand, is genuinely delighted by both giving and receiving. This is because, as I’ve been told, her love language is gifts, which means under no circumstances are you allowed to take the “no presents” promise at face value. I mean seriously, what the heck were you thinking?

It’s taken me several years and a couple of near-divorces but I might have the rules to this game finally figured out. The objective is to pretend that you’re not going to buy the other person a present long enough to lull them into a false sense of security, then at the last minute find a small but thoughtful gift that shows just how completely and totally you understand the other person. Appropriate choices are:

  • A small splurge item mentioned in passing between 5 and 7 months ago
  • Chocolate, but not the kind you buy at the airport gift shop because that’s obviously a “oops forgot to get a present” present
  • Something thoughtful, if you think like a woman

Under NO circumstances should you get:

  • A Starbucks gift card
  • Fancy soap
  • A bathrobe

As long as the other person isn’t me, you can then expect to receive an equally thoughtful Christmas present in return, thereby validating that you were correct in not listening to your mother and you didn’t marry a clueless self-absorbed narcissist after all.

via giphy.com



What unique holiday traditions do you have? Leave a comment and tell me about them!


The best way to lose your job

This has been an unusual year for me in the world of work.

After having a successful first year with a company, I started the second year full of promise in a new role that I thought was going to be a great fit. For a variety of reasons, things didn’t work out the way I had hoped. I still have very fond feelings for the company, the people, and the product, but the gap between what I was being asked to do and the resources I was given to do it was too wide to be overcome by hard work and enthusiasm alone.

As the pressure to produce gradually increased it became apparent that my “new role” was a solution without a problem and there was a clock ticking for me to find a new job. So I looked for work, but not super aggressively because I was still getting paid, and still sort-of trying to accomplish the impossible. Along the way I was sleeping in, exercising, spending a lot of time with the kids, and writing.

Some weeks I would do, at maximum, an hour’s worth of actual work.

The checks kept coming, and I kept doing the same things. Summer came, and I did maybe an hour’s worth of work a month.

I knew the end was coming though. It had to. No one was this nice.

When the end finally did come in August, it was a relief. It was the shortest layoff conversation I’ve ever had.

September was really nice, all things considered. We had enough money that I could put off looking for work for a little while longer, so I did. I wrote a ton of posts. Got started on my book.

Fortune smiled on me again when a lunch led to a phone call which led to coffee which led to an interview which led to an offer to start at the beginning of November. So I did. Happy ending.


In this holiday season of reflection and introspection, I have plenty to introspect on. I am grateful that I’ve written something that was read over 50,000 times (and it was over 2500 words too, so everyone who says long form writing doesn’t work on the Internet can suck it). I’m excited that I was featured on Freshly Pressed twice. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to spend the past year closer to my family than they would probably want, helping with the car pools, making dinner, and just being there.

I started writing in a large part because I was desperate to create. Along the way I learned a lot about myself and who I really was. I have always been a “live to work” kind of guy, and this past year really made me question that assumption. Now that I am working again (and substantially more occupied) I have a new set of assumptions to question around how to balance my competing priorities of work, family, and self.

I used to think roller-coaster years were the anomalies. Now I’ve seen enough years to know that every year is full of ups and downs. All you can do is hope your ride stays on the rails and doesn’t get stuck.

Thanks for riding with me.

I’d love to hear your stories of being lost and then found too! Leave a comment and share.

Keep doin’ what you’re doin’

It’s that time of the year again.

My Facebook feed is full of posts telling me to “slow down”, “relax”, and “this one trick will make you click this article”. As we race towards the winter solstice here in North America, bloggers everywhere start cranking out 500 word pieces of faux transcendental spiritualism telling me that I’m too busy, my kids are too scheduled, and I’m going to die alone and friendless unless I Focus On What’s Really Important In Life, like generating ad impressions for Buzzfeed.

No one ever said on their deathbed, “Gee, I wish I worked more.”

Know what else no one ever said on their deathbed?

“Gee, I wish I spent more time cleaning up other people’s messes.”

Hello, my name is Mr. Nostrikethat, and I Schedule The Crap Out of My Life and the Lives of My Children.


Well technically, Mrs. Nostrikethat Schedules The Crap Out of My Life, but she does it with My Complete Approval.


The not-so-subtle crushing burden of guilt from these articles is that we are spending too much time in our cars driving our children to soccer/irish dance/swimming/volleyball/mui thai and not enough time “making memories” or some crap that presumably involves reclaimed popsicle sticks and ethically sourced flannel.

I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret.

I like it this way.

You know what’s worse than being busy? Being busy with a bunch of crap you have to do not want to do.

If we don’t plan to get out of the house, it means we end up cleaning. Usually constantly, because if everyone’s home the kitchen doesn’t stay clean for more than 15 seconds before someone comes in looking for a snack and leaves crap everywhere and HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU HEATHENS TO PUT YOUR DISH IN THE DISHWASHER OH YOU’RE GOING TO GIVE ME LIP BECAUSE IT’S CLEAN WELL GUESS WHO JUST VOLUNTEERED TO EMPTY IT MR. LIP-GIVER.

When I was younger there seemed to be a nearly limitless set of possibilities for what I could do. The day I realized that there was absolutely zero chance that day that I was going to get up and hike the Andes in Peru to see Macchu Picu was the day I accepted that my world had shrunk. These days, my universe of possibilities looks something like:

  • Clean something dirty
  • Fix something the kids broke
  • Fix something I broke
  • Walk the dog
  • Run myself
  • Make food for one or more people
  • Eat food
  • Go shopping for more food
  • Have a cup of coffee
  • Take everything out of the garage, and then put it all back in again

It’s not so much a routine as it is a well-worn trail through the overgrowth of life.

Unfortunately, a post called “Keep doin’ what you’re doin'” isn’t likely to be a viral smash hit, so we get to endure more of these posts until we get to the week before Christmas, also known on the Blogger’s calendar as The Week of the Year’s Best Lists, because there is absolutely no irony in writing a blog post telling people to get offline and spend more time with their family.

In fact, I’d probably write my own counter-retort, but I’m too busy.

That garage isn’t going to empty itself.