It's Actually Pretty Hard To Shut Me Up

I had something silly and a bit snarky to talk about today, but then I had to take all the ornaments off the tree so we could start over with the lights.  I finally understand how lights make people insane.  We have this ornament that is a long tube, about the length of a half piece of paper, and it says "Letters To Santa" on it.  We write our lists to Santa the week before Christmas, roll them up and stick them in that tube, and shortly after Santa swings by in the middle of the night and grabs them.  It's awesome.  I took that ornament off the tree tonight and peeked inside, and there was something in it already.

I took the paper out, unfolded it, and saw this:

A gift for the big guy.

Behind that was another sheet of paper:

Dear Santa, I want to make my mom cry.

That says, "Dear Santa I have been verry good and I hope I have a verry good Christmas. Love, 2of3

PS: Do kids right to you?"

My 8 year old, my child who cannot go more than 45 seconds without asking for gum or milk or a back scratch, wrote his own letter to Santa and asked for NOTHING.  He asked for a good Christmas.  Not Hot Wheels, not skateboards, not video games, just a good Christmas.  And then he gave Santa a gift.

This is me, speechless.  And very much so in love.

I Already Have My Two Front Teeth

So the question remains...what is it I want for Christmas?  The answer?  I've already gotten it.

I live this life that is colorful to say the least, that has challenged me and pushed me at every turn and almost broken me a few times over.  I get up every day and a trudge through it, and all the while I am haunted by demons whose faces I know all to well, who always lurk in the dark corners.  They're always here, they always will be.

Sometimes I forget they're there.  Sometimes I get so used to seeing them, I start to see through them, like that cobweb in the corner by my front door that I mean to get vacuumed up but I'm just so used to it now, I hardly even notice it anymore.  And worse?  I'm starting to look forward to the times when I see it again.  For some reason, that stupid cobweb grounds me.

Anyway, enough about my awful housekeeping skills.  I find that when winter comes, when the sun just refuses to shine, when it starts raining for days and then weeks and then months on end, that's when I can't ignore those demons anymore.  Maybe they feed off the deficiency of vitamin D in my system, maybe they just like me better when I'm chilly, but this is when I'm down, so this is when they kick.

Normally, I'd be a sloppy wreck right now.  Normally, I'd be so homesick it physically hurts.  Normally I'd be slowly shutting down from the world, putting my heart into hibernation just to protect myself until May comes and the sun returns.  This year, not so much.  This year, I'm doing just fine.

You know, it's really easy to remember what's hard, what hurts, but remembering the good takes work.  It takes dedication.  I have to will myself into it, and I can't always, and maybe that's because I know hurt and pain and rage, but happy is still a foreign thing to me.  I'm willing myself into it this year.  And I have very good reason.

All around me, every minute of every day, there is inspiration.  I have, just this very week, seen true compassion and pure humanity on a level I thought only existed in novels.  I have witnessed raw courage and valiant bravery that has humbled me beyond all comprehension.  I have been touched by the human condition this week, and it's changed something fundamental about how I'm seeing my world, my life, my past and present and future.

A few years ago, when my whole world fell apart, when everything imploded, when I was left alone, afraid and just about totally helpless, a family not my own took my hand and they held it.  They held it and they didn't let go until I propped myself up, stood, and took a few unsure steps.  They stood back and they watched me fumble around, finding my own feet, and once I was ready they took me to a window and they taught me how to fly.

I owe them everything I am today.  If I let myself slide down, even a little, it will take away from what they did for me, and no one has ever done anything like that for anyone I've ever known.  I'm going to make it worth it.  I'm going to look forward in the direction they pointed me and go from there.

I'm going to languish in this feeling I have this year that there is really, truly, powerful amounts of good and strength in the world, and maybe I just have to allow myself to dwell there and not the grey, dark places I usually go to.  I'm going to rejoice in my little family, that we have each other, and not regret that I can't be home with my family, or their family, this year.  I'm going to create quiet, sweet silly traditions with my children this year, and even though we don't really have anyone to share those with, we have each other, right?  That's good enough.  That's more than I ever imagined I'd have.  I'm going to reach deep down inside of myself, and I am going to grab hold of this piece of me that wants so much to be joyous, and I'm going to hold on to it until it stands up, walks around a little, and then I'm going to let it fly.  Who knows where it will take me?

I have spent the past few days considerably happier than I've been in a long time, mostly because I've allowed my perception to change.  I've allowed myself to feel hope, for myself and for others.  I sat back last night and watched as my kids played together on the living room floor with a bunch of marbles, and I realized that I am completely, totally charmed.  I have everything I could even want, everything I could ever dream of, right here in front of me with smiling faces and smelly hair.  I know love on so many wonderful and different levels, I know joy, and nothing that has ever come before or will come after can take that away from me.  Someone taught me that this week.  Someone taught me that chocolate ice cream and pure will can cure all evils, and I will forever thank her for that.

Tonight as my daughter and I drove to the video store, a song came on the radio.  That Kansas song, Dust In The Wind?  I turned it up and silently mouthed the words to it as I looked out over a blood red sunset like we just don't get here in winter, ever, and I drifted back to the last time I'd heard that song, when I was maybe 14 or so.  My mother used to sit with her Ovation acoustic, strumming those notes and singing those words, and I would sit in front of her and drown myself in it.  My mother could sing like no other, and she played guitar like the angels.  I listened to it on the radio tonight, hearing her voice through my speakers, seeing her fingers right there in front of me on the steering wheel, and that's when I realized that something really has shifted inside of me.

I can't remember the last time I had a fond memory of my mother.  I can't remember feeling anything but unadulterated black smoky hate for her.  Tonight in the car, it just came to me.  I didn't have to will it, I didn't want to fight it.  I cherish that memory of her.  I cherish a lot of memories of her.  Most of it was unimaginably painful, but some of it was magic.  Sometimes we flew.  That's what I want to hold on to.

This year, this Christmas, I just want to keep flying.  I want this feeling that I have, the feeling of beauty and of love and the knowledge that I am not alone, that none of us are really ever alone, to keep pushing me up and up and up, until all that I can see is light.  It's possible, it's happening, and it's the greatest gift I've ever been given.

Excess Ain't Rebellion

This is the best present anyone has ever given me for anything.  Ever.

That's a Nambe bowl.  It's made from an eight-metal aluminum-based alloy, so it looks like silver and functions like iron.  You can heat it to 500 degrees, chill it in the freezer, and cook with it.  It will hold whatever temperature you get it to for hours.  It's handmade, so no two pieces are identical.  It is the most beautiful thing I own, and I want 8 bazillion more of them.

Is it practical?  Not really?  Can I use it very often?  If you call twice a year often, sure.  Could I ever afford to buy more of them?  Hells to the nos.  And I love it more than coffee, chocolate, cigarettes and Johnny Depp.  Combined.

The thing with me is that I have really excessively expensive taste.  I don't have the budget to support that taste, though, so I counter that by going super cheapskate frugal.  This arrangement works out nicely for me, and I function quite happily shopping at the thrift store when I need retail therapy, looking at price per pound rather than sticker price, and just plain old lying to myself that I don't have a thing for shiny metal bowls that cost more than spaceships.

But I do have that thing, and sometimes when the means and the timing collide, a girl has to splurge.  Which brings me to the point of today's post, excess.  Unreasonably lovely things.  Because a girl can dream, right?

First, makeup.  This is one of those things I am actually willing to cough up serious money for.  I never was before; I don't wear makeup consistently enough to waste the cash on it.  But a friend of mine is a makeup artist, and she drug me to work one day and she showed me The Light.  Once you go Saks, you never go back.

When I first started using Stila, I would take whatever tips I made in one weekend every month and go stock up on stuff.  My brushes alone cost me an entire weekends' worth of serving drunk assholes overpriced martinis.  And when my husband had a heart attack and died over the price tag, his mother sat him down and said, "Son, it's an investment.  The girl needs brushes.  She'll never have to replace those."  Yes, she totally stood up for me, bless her heart.

I alternate between Stila for fun stuff and Trish McEvoy for times when I need to be a little more grown up.  Stila is kind of shimmery and flirty, whereas Trish McEvoy is more mature and subtle.  The thing is, I could probably have bought all of the makeup I have at Target for $30 instead of the *gag* hundreds *gag* I've spent of this stuff, but this stuff lasts.  Forever.  It never dries out, it doesn't crumble, it blends because the make it and sell it in palates, it goes on like silk and stays put.  All day long.  You can't feel it, it doesn't smudge off, and it doesn't wreck your face.

See?  I am a chick.  Told you.  (PS: Stila's having a mega sale right now.  If you bought yourself wife this, this and this, she'd be all set to start at $75.)

I first heard of this deodorant on SoapBox Mom's website, and I have silently coveted it since.

Here's the description: "Enhanced with essential oils of lemon, cardamom and eucalyptus, a blend understood to help eliminate toxins and impurities. Controls odor, purifying the body and helping to keep skin dry all day. Subtle, uplifting aroma refreshes mind and spirit." Sure, my Secret works, and works just fine, and costs 1/3 of what that stuff does, but does it smell like lemon, cardamom and eucalyptus?  No, it smells like a rave.  Apparently, I'm not the only one who likes this stuff; it's been out of stock on the website for, um, ever.  I'm going to hunt it down, though, and plop it in my stocking.

Speaking of stockings, I'm really bad at stockings.  Unless you grew up with Christmas, you can't get stockings.  I put all the wrong things in stockings, always, but the one thing I like doing it putting one or two really nice things in the stocking to go with the lighter and the boxers and the socks and the box of Turtles that actually doesn't fit in there anyway.

I tossed a bottle of this in The Donor's stocking a few years ago, and now he's completely hooked.  It is the World's Best Aftershave.  This year, everyone in my house is getting a tube of this:

Origins Make A Difference™ Rejuvenating hand treatment.  Holy shit, I am not kidding when I tell you this is my new bff.  I have hand issues.  As in, they are dry and crusty and if I so much as touch water, I have to slather myself in lotion after.  My 10 year inherited that lovely trait from me, too, poor thing.  It smells like heaven; kind of florally, kind of lemony, and I was told it would even out my hand's skin tone, which I totally did NOT believe, and it so does.

Wow, this totally turned into a makeover post.  Didn't mean that.  Well, while I'm at it, how about perfume?  I don't wear perfume, partly because I'm lazy, partly because I got used to smelling like an ovulating ashtray, partly because I like to pretend I'm too cool for perfume, and partly because almost every perfume ever makes me sneeze.

I wear perfume now.  How could I not?  That is the freaking coolest perfume pack I've EVER seen.  That's Gwen Stefani's Harajuku Lovers Fragrances Coffret set.  Each little doll head slides open and there is a solid perfume in each.  They're all slightly floral in scent; some more citrus, some fainty powdery, some really bold.  But the best part?  THEY DON'T MAKE ME SNEEZE.  And since they're little and plastic, you can throw one in our purse and not worry about it blowing up while you're at work.

I can't think of any one thing more NOT like me to love, and still, I love these suckers.  Every day for a week, I've thrown perfume on.  I spend most of the day sniffing myself.  Creepy?  Slightly.  Fun anyway?  Absolutely.

And since it's Christmas and all, I'm giving one of those sets away.  If you can top "I smell like an ovulating ashtray", it's yours.  Or I'll just randomize it.  Either way.  Saturday's the cutoff, so you can have it before Christmas.

Living In a Material World

My 10 year old told me a few weeks ago that he'd done really good on his list to Santa this year.  He said, "Mom, I'm only asking for a couple of things!"  Squee, much? "Yeah, I'm only asking for a flute, a cell phone, a Nintendo DS, a digital camera and a laptop!"

Now, my initial reaction was shit oh shit fuck shit I'm screwed shit.  And then I remembered the smartest lie I've ever told my kids; Santa only brings what's truly in your heart, that he brings what will make you the happiest.  Really, borrow that one.  You'll need it someday.

Santa tends to pick one item off their humble *cough* lists and that's what he brings.  The rest is up to mom and dad.  And as a rule, Santa does not bring video games.  Santa has had a long conversation over eggnog and cookies with mom and dad (Skype, yo) and we have all agreed that video games are more of a birthday gift.  The elves hate making them anyway.  They're all wirey and circuty and the elves prefer bringing self-powered toys, like bikes and hamsters.

Santa doesn't bring laptops, either.  FOR ANYONE.  Just throwing that out there.

What Santa is totally okay with bringing is clothes, awesome toys, the occasional bike and even the errant musical instrument.  It just depends on the year.  It also depends on how easily Santa can create a theme around the gifts.  Like, one year everyone got music.  One year, everyone got bikes.  And then one year, those little boys became preteens and stopped sharing even one interest, and now Santa is scrambling.

Santa has a plan.  Santa's got a mall flyer and isnt' afraid to use it.

Now, yes; I am all about handmade gifts, and gifts made by local companies, but sometimes there's nothing that can bring a bigger smile to a kid's face than the really bad ass toy they keep seeing on tv.  See?

That is the look of a kid who just got an iCoaster.  Coolest toy I've EVER bought.  I swear, I play with the thing more than he does.  It's a roller coaster meets Magnetix meets Legos.  Dude.  Get one.

Other cool stuff that you have to get at the Big Evil Retailers?  These:

That is a Ridemakerz car.  They are cars that kids can build, customize, and drive around with remote controls all by themselves.  The kids' godfather once bought my boys cars like this, only WAY more complex.  We loved them, but I still can't quite figure them out.  These are supposedly simple enough that a kid could do it alone.  We've got a big kit coming in the mail (we couldn't wait for Christmas on that one); I'll let you know what we think.  They look RAD.

Oh, and Webkinz.  Whoever invented Webkinz can bite me.  Hard.  Right *here*.  Do you know what Webkinz are?  They are $30 stuffed animals that you have to take care of.  Online.  These freaking things are ALL OVER my house.  My 10 year old go 5 million of them for his birthday.  My 8 year old has 2.  Guess who has Webkinz on their list this year?  Guess who's mom would be really annoyed if they weren't so freaking cute?

That's kind of cute, you've got to admit.

And of course I give my kids clothes.  Because I'm too cheap to buy them nice stuff any other time of year.  They've shivered all through November and December, and I am totally waiting until Christmas Eve to bust out these bad boys.

Could I buy coats cheaper somewhere else?  Probably.  But those coats are going to last through the kid they're meant for, the kid younger than that one, and then get sold for $9.99 at a thrift store somewhere to someone who could use a great coat for $9.99, and it will still be in fabulous shape.  Gap, here I come.

Could I buy them coats from some local retailer and help boost my neighborhood's economy a little more? Sure. But if everyone stops shopping at The Gap, The Gap goes away. I don't want The Gap to go away. The Gap makes nice things, and those things last. I'll totally support them, too.

So there is it, my Mallrats post.  I'm only missing one thing from that list, and on that subject...anyone have an old flute their kids abandoned for chicks and video games?  I would love to buy it.  Santa doesn't much like asking his elves to make flutes, either.  Those little felt pads make them take up the drink.

She's Crafty, And She's Just My Type

Wanna know my most very best kept secret ever?  I totally get off on arts and crafts.  Once I was asked to make wedding invitations for a friend of mine, and I spent a week straight in the back of Archivers, loosing my mind.  It's the closest thing to 'huffing gas fumes on crack with a mouth full of glue' I'll ever get.  Don't tell anyone, though, okay?  I have something of a reputation to maintain.

Lucky for me, so do my kids.  Sorry about the crappy camera phone pictures.

My husband has boxes on boxes of his little, cute, handmade ornaments from when he was a kid.  My kids?  Not so much.  They have an assload of ornaments, but nothing they've made.  Because I suck, that's why.  This year, I'm trying to go as handmade as possible, if for no other reason, to negate some hefty therapy bills when they grow up.

The Reckneck Mommy was nice enough to walk me through the whole Garland thing last week.  We've never had garland on our tree before, so she shared with me how she and her kids make garland with beads and paint.  Because she doesn't suck, that's why.  (Gratuitous plug aside: She was nominated for a 2008 Weblog Award for a very good reason.  Vote for her here, if you're so inclinded.  Maybe she'll teach you how to shoot a deer or soemthing.)

I'm hoping to have enough to mail to some family as their gifts.  It's not looking good so far, though, but my boys are both sporting brand new beady necklaces and bracelets.  Which took them hours to make.  Oh, the glorious silence.

But that's just my kids.  As for me, well, I've got this going on.

Which, once I line it all up with a ruler, is going to look like this:

Which, once I line that all up with a level, is going to look something like this:

That's a homemade Advent calender, baby.  The kids picked their own paper patterns and my neighbor has a fucking scrapbooking mecca in her basement for finishing touches.  Funny thing; I had no real idea what an Advent Calendar was, or what Advent was, until 2 days ago.  Thank you JESUS for Twitter.  Julie Pippert explained to me exactly what the whole thing was about, and then PGoodness showed me how to make my own calendar.  I should have all three done by Christmas Eve.

See?  I told you people I'm not hot.  NOT HOT.  But in hot glue heaven, so it balances out.  Though, in all honesty, this sort of earns me back some hot points.

That's a Bûche de Noël, and I made that, too.  It took me three days and tasted like heaven.  It's got homemade caramel and buttercream in it, and more than a little Frangelico.  Everything on that tray in the very old, very grainy picture is handmade and edible.  I'm going to try really hard to make one this year, and if you're not skimming this post (yeah, right) and will spend Christmas within driving distance of me (oh, let's say Bellingham and up) leave me a comment and I'll try to make two, and I'll randomly give one away.  If I get to it.  No promises.  That bitch is hard.

As for things that I haven't, and am not about to, ruin with the best of intentions, there is Etsy.  Etsy is my secret lover.  I get lost in it's dreamy green eyes sometimes.  I have never once, however, bought anything off Etsy for Christmas.  I am an idiot of epic proportions.

In an attempt to play along with the Handmade Pledge, and keeping in mind that handmade does not always equal awesome, I hopped on Etsy to see how hard it would be to round out my list.  Cue angels signing and clouds parting.  I can't show you the stuff I found, because the recipients of said items all read this blog, but I can say this: the three people I'm buying off of Etsy for are kind of impossible to shop for, and with a basic, general search and 5 spare minutes, I had each one's present in my shopping cart.  And spent less than I did at McDonald's on lunch for four of us.

What I can show you is someone else who make very awesome handmade gifts.  Lil' Brit Knits is a Denver based hand knit website (the stuff, not the site, that would be hard to navigate through) and they have really really cute things.  Things like a backpack for my toddler:

And a knit bride and groom, who crack me the hell up and I want to send them to everyone as a wedding gift.  I could have totally used those to explain to my 5 month old why the hell mom and dad were all dressed up at a party that one September afternoon*.

She knits all kinds of stuff, practical to quaint, and since I couldn't knit my way out of a paper bag, I'm all about outsourcing that stuff.

And half of the people in yesterday's posts?  Handmade, too.  Handmade is the new black.  It tastes great, it's less filling.  Even still, tomorrow I'm going all Material Girl on your asses.  And I'm going to love it.

*Hey, it's not like I sent him an invitation to the wedding or anything, but he mumbled something about "Food Source" and insisted on being there anyway.