Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas, Christmas Time Is Here....

My son has many ideas for Christmas merry making.

Ryan: "Let's go to Lowe's and buy some stuff for outside. My friend has deers that move and a blow-up that looks like a snow globe. Also, I saw polar bears. Also, we've never had a blow-up Santa or Snoopy. And did you see the house that has blinking lights around the WHOLE ROOF??"

No, I didn't, son. But don't let that stop you from giving me things to feel bad about.

Ryan: "Let's go to Michael's (arts and crafts) and get a new thing for our village."

"Let's go to Target and see what decorations they have."

"Let's decorate outside."
"Let's decorate inside."
"Let's make Christmas cookies."

When it comes to Christmas activities, Ryan is good for shopping expeditions. Spending my money is one of his favorite activities. After that, his feeling is: participation optional.
We went to Lowe's the week after Thanksgiving, and it was out of everything but a
pink light-up deer.

Ryan: "I'm not a girl. Let's go."

So we went to Michael's and got the last of the lighted candy canes.

Ryan: "This isn't enough! We HAVE to go to Target. We SHOULD HAVE done this BEFORE Black Friday. Everybody is out of EVERYTHING!!"

Ryan Salfino, retail analyst.

Target yielded a fe w more items, enough to keep Ryan happy. My kids know we're never going to be a destination holiday house. We'll never have moving trains, disco icicle lights dripping from the roof and a synchronized musical
light show on our front lawn. Not as long as I'm drug free, anyway.

We get home and Ryan says, "Okay, let's put this up, Mom."

By "let's," Ryan really means, "Have at it, Mom." Because when you're 10, you've got bigger fish to fry. Like Xbox "Black Ops." What 5th grade boy has the time to deal with tangled lights, extension cords, timers, tangled lights, frozen fingers, duct taping exposed outlets, #@*! tangled lights?

Ryan: "Call me when you're plugging in the candy canes."

Me: "Where are YOU going?"

Ryan, running into the house: "Well, Dad was working before so I couldn't go on Xbox, and all my friends are on it today so I just wanna see...."

Ryan Salfino, delegator.

A few days later, when there was a break between pouring rain and freezing temperatures, I got Mike to bring in the massive tubs of Christmas decorations.

My sister and I had a long conversation about how we're both cutting back on how many decorations we put up. "It's too much. What's the point?"

Two days later... all the same stuff plus a few new items are up.

At the end of Day Two of Christmas Decorating, I was wading through empty tubs, putting away the hammer (a ubiquitous Christmas tool), the screw drivers (really, don't ask) and bringing all the extra decorations downstairs to decorate my office space, when Ryan catches me in a near-down moment.

Ryan: "When are we doing Christmas cookies? Can we go to the store and get stuff for oatmeal cookies and gingerbread cookies and...."

Me: "Why don't you help me put this stuff away and decorate the basement?"

Ryan, running up to the attic TV: "Wait. My friends are on Xbox and I have to just do this one round and then...."

WE will start the cookies any day now....

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Holiday All Over & Over & Over Again

I just want to kick this off by saying I like hosting Thanksgiving.

Sure you end up going to the grocery store about three to seven times a day leading up to The Big Day. Sure you end up going to extortionately priced alternative grocers, in a desperate effort to avoid the hellishness of going to the grocery store to the masses. And, sure, you inevitably end up forgetting a few things, like butter. Or beer. But it's all okay, 'cuz it's Thanksgiving! It's fun to keep going back to the store.

Truth be told, the only thing that makes all those trips bearable is the fact that the kids -- and by that, I mean Ryan -- are in school or in bed when I go. Nothing like blindly throwing items on the checkout counter, mindlessly and frantically bagging them -- making half an effort not to crush something with cans, bottles or a 20-pound turkey -- only to find yourself unloading two kinds of ice-pops, some cheddar pretzels and a power toothbrush when you get home.

But Thanksgiving was great. I had most of my family here. Later, we Skyped for the first time, reaching out to Mike's mom and family out in California.

The next day, the leftover party began with Cara breaking out some stuffing and apple compote for breakfast. Lunch was turkey and bacon sandwiches. Except for Ryan, who had the less traditional open-face grilled cheese and bacon. Still more turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and assorted root vegetable dishes were re-heated and consumed over the course of the long weekend.

By Monday, I wanted it gone. And I had this great idea that I could just layer whatever was left into a baking dish, top it all with mashed potatoes and call it Thanksgiving Shepard's Pie. Everthing gets mixed up on the plate anyway, right? How quaint! How clever!

"How to ruin perfectly good leftovers," Mike said.

It might be hard to believe, but Ryan wasn't into it, either. He started circling the kitchen around 5 p.m., when he could smell something cooking that didn't have that familiar and pre-approved pizza, pasta or burger scent. I knew what was coming, so I attempted diversion tactics, using one unpleasant task to distract him from what he'd immediately deem a very unpleasant and unwanted meal.

Ryan: "What's for dinner?"

Me: "Do your homework."

Ryan: "Really, what are you cooking?"

Me: "I'm just re-heating something. Do your homework."

Ryan: "I want cheeseburgers for dinner. Dad can make them."

Me: "Maybe tomorrow. Just do your homework before you get STRAIGHT F'S, for GOD'S SAKE!"

Full disclosure: My end of that probably went on a little longer, and the semantics may have been a teensy bit stronger.

But when dinner was being put on the table, Ryan went in full Ryan mode.

Ryan: "WHAT!?! WHAT IS THIS???? I'M NOT EATING IT. (Turning calmly belligerent) I'm just not. I'm having a burger."

See, Ryan doesn't like turkey, mashed potatoes, carrot souffle, stuffing, gravy, etc., etc. He also doesn't like his food to touch. He'd still be using toddler divider plates if we didn't chuck them out. So to him, this was a heinous act on my part.

Me: "Sit down. It's this or nothing. And you can go to bed."

That got him to the table. Where he carefully picked the turkey out of the rest of the happy mash-up, making a face like he was dissecting day-old, West Texas road kill. For 10 minutes, he masterfully avoided all root vegetables, including the mashed potatoes, and complained bitterly about his fate.

Ryan: "I can't believe you're making me eat this. I could have just had a burger. Who would ever eat this? Look at it: it's the Devil's grave!!"

Thank you, my son, for warming my heart. I think I'll relay this oh-so-very-tender moment to one of those family groups that's forever promoting the importance of sharing dinnertime with your offspring.

When Mike finally recovered from doubling-over with laughter at Ry's keen hilarity, he cleared the table. And scooped the rest of the concoction into the garbage can, posthaste. Good thing he did: I was ready to resurrect the dish that night in a vengeful tour de force to be known as "The Devil's Grave 2: In Your Sleep."