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.
Without even a trace of irony, even. There might be new and interesting Christmas decorations to admire, I was told.
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:
- It involves Being Around Other People, which is–even under the best circumstances–sketchy as heck
- 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”
- 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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
What unique holiday traditions do you have? Leave a comment and tell me about them!
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.