As an adult, Christmas has been my least favorite holiday. For starters, I’m not so into the whole religious aspect. Or the wasteful over-spending on gifts no one really needs. And it’s almost not even worth mentioning the over-booking, the last-minute changes of plans, the cooking, cleaning and never-ending dish washing.
I do love spending time with family, under normal circumstances, so I’ve tried VERY hard over the past several years to just enjoy the holiday season as family time. It’s just hard when there is SO MUCH family time packed into a very few number of days, with burdensome plans and to-dos that get in the way of actually spending quality time.
I essentially married Mr. Claus; my husband is obsessed with all of the “delights” Christmas brings – gaudy holiday decorations, buying way too many presents for family members (the money spent could be used to feed and clothe a family of four for six months), 24/7 holiday music on the radio, and the unavoidable gluttonous consumption of peanut butter cookies and cheesy potatoes.
Seriously, I’m trying very hard to be a better person overall, which includes enjoying the holiday season with my family, but this year, I failed MISERABLY on all accounts. Here’s why:
Pukey McPukeson strikes: After celebrating with my dad’s side of the family, we woke up our sleeping babe around 11:30pm to begin our hour and a half trek home. This was already several hours later than I’m used to staying awake (I’m lame, I know) so I was exhausted, and my stomach wasn’t feeling so hot. Since I’m pregnant, those two factors are quite typical lately, and were no concern to me. About 10 minutes into the return trip, however, I became concerned. I needed to puke. My husband pulled over as fast as he could, and I ALMOST got my door open all of the way before puking out the side of my car. I let the rain/sleet wash away some of the puke as I wiped up as much as I could with paper towel. Mr. Grouch can’t handle puke, so he walked away from the car and was dry-heaving.
Power Outage: Around 1.30 am we got close to our house, and were greeted with an ice-covered landscape; a huge ice storm had hit our area. We entered our neighborhood and discovered that we did not have power. Many of the mature trees in our neighborhood could be seen toppled over onto the power lines. Shit. Mr. Grouch skated to our front door, heading inside the house to get supplies. Thank goodness we were able to find refuge at my parent’s house, only a few miles away.
Pukey McPukeson strikes cont…: I continued to have stomach troubles all night – I was up puking and shitting, and I had a small case of the shakes, so didn’t get almost any sleep.
Fish Tank Fiasco: Mr. Grouch’s
disgusting horrifying relatively new hobby is setting up and maintaining aquariums full of fish. I will admit, when the fish aren’t dying grotesquely or eating each other, they are lovely to look at. At this point, he’s sunk a decent amount of money into the tanks, so it would have been hard to just let all the fish freeze to death in our basement. Not to mention the fact that he likes his little aquatic pals. So, we borrowed his parent’s generator, to keep the fridge, freezer and aquarium running while we were out of power. This required him/us to come back and forth every 8-10 hours to refuel the generator.
Clearing Trees and Holes in Roofs: Our family owns several rental properties nearby. Due to the storm damage, there were many trees that needed to be cut down and removed from a few of the houses. Mr. Grouch was called in to help clear trees from four properties. At one of the houses, a tree had poked a hole in the roof, requiring that they also patch that up. I was exhausted and still not feeling well, so took a couple of naps during the day while Yia Yia Grouch helped to watch the baby. We migrated from my parent’s house to his parent’s house.
Winterizing the House: Mr. Grouch didn’t want any pipes to burst so on one of his many trips back and forth to refill the generator with fuel, he drained the pipes in our house.
Leaking Sinks: After a day of clearing trees and repairing roofs, Mr. Grouch was hoping to relax. However that plan was foiled early on when Yia Yia Grouch’s kitchen sink started leaking into the basement. He and Papou Grouch had to take apart, and then put back together, the kitchen sink.
Bulldozer Boy and The Gang: Mr. Grouch’s sister was also without power, so she and her two boys came over to join us at Yia Yia’s. Later in the evening, she went home to try to hook up a generator with her husband, and she left the kids with her parents (and us, by default). Her two kids are incredibly smart, sweet, funny. And energetic. I’ve come to the realization that while I feel like I work incredibly well with teenagers, I have zero skills when it comes to dealing with 3-year-olds. In fact, I’m becoming concerned about being a horrible mom once Baby Grouch gets to this age.
To be fair to myself, we can refer to one of her kids as Bulldozer Boy, because he’s basically a destructive nightmare, albeit in a cute little package. He raced through the house, breaking holiday decor, shaking and knocking over the wrapped Christmas presents, turning the thermostat on and off, and almost knocking over Baby Grouch, at full-force, about 15 times. He does not listen (I know, I know, he’s three; he’s supposed to act that way). I’m sure I’m not the first to exclaim that three-year-olds are scary, obnoxious little fucks.
Regurgitated Wine on the Carpet: Usually my mother-in-law and I sip on a glass of red together, at the end of the night, any time we spend the night at her house. Since I couldn’t indulge, I bought her a four-pack of single serving Merlot, so she could have a glass without having to open up a whole bottle. She deserved a treat since she was housing and feeding several extra house-guests (and let’s not forget, chasing around The Bulldozer). She hugged me, and tilted her head into my chest when I gave it to her. She needed it. She sipped one of the wines right out of the mini-bottle, so she wouldn’t have to wash one more glass.
Unfortunately, not only did I bring her the red wine, I must have also brought her my plague, because in the middle of the night, she awoke, needing to throw up. She rushed to the bathroom, and almost made it to the toilet. She covered her mouth in a futile attempt to hold back the tide, resulting in spraying merlot-colored puke all over her cream carpet. She was sick all night.
Carpet Cleaning: Yia Yia Grouch is one tough cookie, so after being up all night sick, she was up and at ’em in the morning, and was more concerned with the wine-stained carpet than her own health. I figured since I brought over the wine AND the virus, the least I could do was to clean the carpet, as best I could.
Cats: Today it was decided that my sister-in-law’s cats might freeze to death at their place, which was still without power, so the cats were brought over and they reluctantly joined the fun. Meow. Meow. Bulldozer Boy and his brother ran up and down the basement steps (the one part of the house adjacent to the room Baby Grouch was napping in), screeching at the top of their lungs that “the cat is stuck behind the washer!” and, “I need my MOM! The cat is stuck behind the pipes!” for a solid 45 minutes.
Celebration Number 2: Today was my husband’s side Christmas celebration – so all of us ate, opened presents and frolicked gaily, amidst the chaos that is family. Other than my niece falling on her face on the kitchen floor and giving herself a bloody nose, it was exhausting, but quite a lovely time. My sister-in-law introduced me to Anna’s Ginger Thins, which made the dealings with the adorable Bulldozer Boy more than worthwhile.
Late Breakfast: Okay, at this point, I started to get tired. Really tired. And, let’s not forget I’m a hormonal basket case, and then my blood sugar plummeted. Breakfast was supposed to be at 10:00, but my sister came in late, so we ate around 11.30 instead. I couldn’t hold it together anymore. This was my breaking point. My alter-ego, Irrational Bitch Girl came out. Just in time to celebrate with my immediate family. Lucky them. Once I shoved breakfast into my face, I started preparing my dish to bring to dinner at my grandmother’s later that day. On a positive note, my sister made up for her lateness with a delicious chorizo and sweet potato hash.
Cry-fest: Once at my grandma’s, we were greeted with another packed house full of people expecting social interaction. My body was in Reserve-Fuel-Mode. It was keeping my heart pumping and hands moving, but there was very little extra energy remaining for talking, hugging or smiling. My uncle leaned in for a Hello Hug, and said “Congratulations!” since I haven’t seen him since we announced our pregnancy. He then leaned in a little closer and said, “And my condolences on the losses“. I said, “Oh, it’s okay. Thank you” and started crying and had to walk away. I went over to the food table and took a spoonful of my dish. Crunch. The fucking rice didn’t cook all the way through. I was so pissed. What a waste of time and energy it was making that. I went into the bathroom and cried again. I was a mess. I cried a teensy bit more when my nephew, who has recently declared that he wants to be a priest when he grows up, performed “mass” before dinner – complete with readings from the Bible, a talk about prayer boxes and finishing with leading all 25+ of us in a rendition of This Little Light of Mine. It was beautiful. I think I scared my sister’s boyfriend with all the Emotions.
Bitch-fest: I was complaining incessantly about my shitty dish, and when I’m pissed/tired/sad I’m completely irrational. I know this, and somehow can’t always stop the blather that forces its way out of my mouth. I declared that I would never cook anything without a tried-and-true recipe, relying from that point on solely on Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens. I annoyed my whole family. I also got asked for my recipe a couple of times. Go figure.
Almost-More-Cats: My good pal and neighbor friend texted me saying that they were also having a Christmas Nightmare Scenario and were heading back to the area, with or without power. We checked, and while our side of the neighborhood just got power back, unfortunately they were still without. They panicked. They asked if they could crash at our place, with their baby and their cat. I laughed and actually welcomed the visit, as chaotic as it would be.
The thing was, I knew that when I told my friend about my Betty-Crocker-Only-Plan, she would call me an ass and we would create hypothetical scenarios about only eating take-out for the rest of our lives and we’d laugh and laugh and laugh about how stupid of an idea that really is, and I’d call myself an asshole, and that all sounded much better than the reaction given by family.You know the one, the You’re Always So Negative look of disgust, accompanied by zero laughs. Friends always seem to bring out the best, family always the worst. Maybe it’s because friends always seem to be able to decode irrational bitch-fest speak. They understand that “I’m only cooking Betty Crocker from now on” is really code for, “Holy hell, I’m so fucking tired, and I didn’t have the energy to spare on one second of anything that wasn’t worth it, and I spared 45 minutes on the god-damned shitty dish instead of on my family like I should have”.
As it turned out, my pal ended up finding another place to stay that night, so instead of laughing, I just collapsed into a heap and slept like a rock in my own glorious bed.
Today at Yia Yia Grouch’s house, we talked about how the week had sucked for them as well (their mailbox was ran over by the snow plow and Papou Grouch’s truck broke down earlier that week) and she joked that God was mad at us this year and essentially cursed our Christmas.
FRIDAY 12/27: I just woke up to the sound of Mr. Grouch throwing up. Fucking hell.
When I cleaned out my freezer yesterday, I found this Holy Butter Lamb shoved in the back. I pulled it out and put it in the fridge to use this week. An offering to the Gods. Maybe we’ll have better luck next year.
So, how was YOUR holiday season??