Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year in Review

My Facebook year in review was like a dark comedy. I knew I wouldn't share it -- I didn't even want to see it, but Facebook was bound and determined to force me to acknowledge their creation. However, once I saw how amusingly morbid it was, I kind of wanted to share it but feared my friends wouldn't see the humor since they love me.

Hey guys!

It was a great year, thanks for being part of it!! 
Remember when my dog died? Remember when my dad died? Remember when my grandpa died? Remember my vacation? (cue animated streamers)

Come on. That's funny in an awful way.

I read a few articles about people who were saddened by their year in review videos and although I know how they feel, I also know when you've had a year like that everything in the whole wide world is a trigger anyway. It's not Facebook's fault.

The other day in Target, I saw a wine called "You Handsome Devil" which reminded me of something my dad used to say (about himself), and my face crumpled without warning into ugly, uncontrolled crying right there in the wine aisle on Christmas Eve, much to the bewilderment of (myself and) the wine re-stocking guy who tentatively offered his assistance in choosing a pinot grigio.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking, "I will go crazy if I have to think of any of it for even one more second." Then I try to figure out if I'm already crazy.

Every quiet moment is spent in mental creation of my own year in review, every scene from every angle revisited again and again; half documentary, half horror film. So I spend a lot of my time leaving no room for quiet moments, which is probably why my brain likes to wake up in the middle of the night to say, "Hey, remember that horrible thing you were trying not to think about earlier? We could do it now!"

My year has traumatized me. Without a doubt, it was objectively the worst year of my life. I also had additional heartache left untold here since not every story is solely mine to tell, so suffice it to say, 2014 can SUCK IT. SUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK IT. Suck it. Suck it. Suck it. God, I'm glad to see it go even if I feel like it's stealing a piece of me with it. I will never be the same again, and that is exhilarating and terrifying.

And despite all above evidence to the contrary, I also had a pretty good year.

(I sound even crazier than before, don't I? Now you're concerned.)

I like who I am, even if I don't like what I've gone through. I love what I do, even if it doesn't always ever pay the bills. I have incredible friends and people around me, even if I am not always an incredible friend and person back. I'm happy, even though I'm sad. I'm a great mom, even though I wish I was better. I know things that I am fortunate to know, even if I would rather not know. I feel relief that with the storms brewing and the wind whipping and the rain falling, I have kept a tiny little flame going somewhere and the fact that it's still lit proves that everything will be alright. Ish.

Goddamn Facebook for not making a movie about all of that.

No worries, though. Next year my year in review video will be awesome.

(But I still won't share it because they're boring.)

May we all have 2015s worthy of the Facebook algorithm's artificial excitement. Thanks for being part of it!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas by Netflix

Every Christmas I start the season full of plans of things I want to make sure we do. Christmas tree lightings, city parades, light displays, Santa meet and greets, and this ridiculous thing to make up for the lack of cold weather in Florida where they shoot soap from streetlights downtown and pretend it's snow.

Then I find that I am too busy, too tired, or remember that we all hate stuff like this. Then I feel guilty for being too busy, too tired, or hating that stuff.

(But seriously, our parade sucks and the only fun part of the soap snow is watching kids try to catch it on their tongues.)

So this year we've kept it festive in our favorite way, which involves snuggling on the couch dressed like slobs. Here's what we've been watching on Netflix:

Scrooged: I love Bill Murray and have fond memories of watching this when I was young. I didn't even bother to check the rating and was surprised by a quick nip slip and some questionable content. I later found out it was PG-13. Still worth it.

Christmas with the Kranks: I read this book a long time ago, but I think it was called something else then. I thought it would be lame because I knew what would happen and because Tim Allen is a little lame but this is my favorite holiday movie of the year. There's a chance that's because I've seen every other one 8 trillion times but I really think this was entertaining and funny. I also love the idea of canceling Christmas and going on a cruise, which might have influenced my interest.

Nightmare Before Christmas: I have seen it a million times and I don't think it will ever get old. We have the DVD and I loved watching the behind the scenes details about how they made it; I think no matter how much technology/animation changes, I will forever be amazed by this movie.

The Muppet Christmas Carol: Big Kid loves the Muppets, Sesame Street and anything Jim Henson and I love that about him. This was a fun follow-up to Scrooged, even though it lacked nipples and required near constant commentary from him. 

So, see? We've been super busy this holiday season, it's been hard to cram it all in, but we manage. In related news, I skipped sending out Christmas cards and I don't even feel bad because I've been so busy celebrating Christmas that I just couldn't get to it, and I'm sure everyone will understand.

Isn't that the real reason for the season? Not to wear pants more often than necessary? Or am I mixing up my life goals and reasons for seasons again?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


A few weeks ago I got an email from someone who disagreed with me and instead of being all, "YOU ARE NOT THE BOSS OF ME AND WHAT DO YOU KNOW ANYWAY?!?" I was all, "You know what? You are absolutely correct. Thanks for reaching out and bringing this to my awareness, I'm going to take your advice," like a real, live grown-up who didn't even make up any derogatory names for the other person.

He wrote to tell me he didn't like that the header said "I know why hamsters eat their young" and didn't think it fit anymore now that the kids are older, and he was 100% right.

When my kids were babies and toddlers, I secretly, and sometimes not so secretly, wondered why the hell people thought motherhood was so great. Yes, I loved my kids with all of my heart but I felt like if there had been an actual certification required in order to become a parent that I wouldn't have passed. I love other people abundantly but I'm not always great about doing for others, and holy crap does it take a lot of doing. And yeah, logically you know that going in but the reality still managed to surprise me. There was also some initial panic about where "I" had gone, that I was 100% the mother of these people now and wasn't sure if there was any old Ashley left anymore. It was lonely and yet I was never alone.

(NEVER ALONE. NEVER. NEVER. EVER. Not even to poop. Not even then.)

As I get older, I have just come to realize I'm not a baby/toddler person. Friends announce pregnancies and I think, "Oh man!" before remembering congratulations are in order. People ask if I want to hold their baby and I want to reply, "Do you need me to?" because otherwise I'm good with just watching them do it. Parents on Facebook proudly share first steps and I can only think, "Your life's about to get so much more exhausting." Don't get me started on three year olds. Biggest jerks in the world.

But goodness do I love ages 4.5 and up. I love kids (unless they're knocking on my door at 8:30am on a Sunday to ask if my son can come play, but who could love kids like that?) I love their perspective on the world and the innate creativity that goes hand in hand with imagination. My sons are such cool people and I enjoy every ounce of that now. I am never alone even when I am, because I have them and because they are a part of me, and that's the part of motherhood that makes cleaning up pukefests worth it.

I'm so glad new mom me didn't have access to a time machine so she could urge herself to think long and hard about this whole motherhood thing. I wish current mom me could go back in time with a case of wine and some reassurance to that version of me that had a 3-year-old and a newborn. Poor her!

I know exactly why hamsters eat their young, and I know why humans don't.

So long story short, I changed the header and I'm glad someone pointed out that I'm wrong.

(But let's not make a habit of it.)

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Great Elf on the Shelf Break-Up

The elf on the shelf--it began easily enough: a flurry of  imagination and excitement, visions of a new avenue to pave with fond family memories. And so year after year, this delightful little visitor would show up to make mirth, merriment and messes in my home during the busiest of seasons. His antics were great fun, and all of the labor that went into his amusing tableaus was absolutely worth the joy it brought.

Eventually, it was less fun though.

So many December nights of sleep interrupted with a start--had he moved? What would he do next? Did he have to?

So many tired mornings where his creativity was awarded with a cursory glance and barely a comment before the day began.

So many craft supplies. Glitter can kiss my ass, for real, yo.

And so this year, when thinking of Christmas, Harold Hubert Piggybottom was no longer a tradition that made me light up with holiday excitement. At all. There was some mention of his possible arrival from my 8-year-old and I listened with trepidation to these requests, and tried to gauge their sincerity. My 11-year-old was media blackout-style quiet at any mention of Santa or elves, his silence saying more than words could.

I wondered if the ELFS program was a good idea. I wondered if we could un-enroll. I wondered if our Christmas tradition had the potential to ruin Christmas for one of us. I wondered if Santa answered adult wishes, namely the one where he doesn't send a miniature terrorist to my home to create more work for me every single night. I wondered so many things because that is what my brain does, wonders and wonders and wonders.

And then Christmas magic happened.

We arrived home from having after school ice cream to find a package on our doorstep.

 Both kids started cheering that it must be Harold, since the package was so festive and had his name on it, and I was really nervous for what was to come next.

Once the sack was opened, a balloon floated out with a scroll tied to its end. The scroll said:

Season's greetings! For years now, you have been outstanding members of the E.L.F.S (Elf Live-in Foster Service) program: always willing to share your home, accepting and patient even with one of our more challenging elves, and a shining example of good behavior to Harold Hubert Piggybottom, aforementioned challenging elf. We are so fortunate to have children like you welcoming the magic of Christmas in such an intrusive, and often messy, way. We have learned so much about your family, culture, and the lives of modern children through your participation--and, let's face it, we got a lot done without Harold around. If you think he's challenging for a few weeks, imagine what we deal with the rest of the year! You have been amazing hosts.
 Anyway, we are honoured and excited to announce that this year marks a very special occasion for the McCann brothers. Due to your kindness, diligence, respect for others, and believing natures, you have both been awarded an honorary elfship and have graduated from the ELFS program. What does this mean, you ask?

Well, in order to qualify, nominees had to be in the top 5% of children for good behavior this year. That's WORLDWIDE! You scored in the 96.7 percentile collectively, which is extraordinary. Congratulations on your secured places on the nice list!

(Please open the enclosed gifts before continuing.)

At this point they paused and opened the boxes.

And found silver coins nestled within (within Easter grass, which is STRICTLY forbidden in this house, even more so than glitter. Seriously, Santa?).

There was some hushed awe as they flipped them over in their hands and marveled at the weight. I continued reading:
 These silver coins are tokens from Saint Nicholas himself (currently known as Santa Claus--modern times forced an image re-branding). In the days of olde, he used to leave tokens like these in the shoes of children to spread the spirit of magic, joy, and love every Christmas Eve. Your job as honorary elves is to continue to practice the spirit of kindness and giving to spread peace on earth. It is essential that the children on the good list help establish our future through their strong leadership skills and we know the McCann brothers are up to the job.

(Yes, it's real silver. Try not to pawn the spirit of Christmas, though, okay? Santa hates seeing these things on ebay.)

Your honorary elf names are Tippy Tannerick Trueluck and Chip Chaseton Chariot. We don't expect you to put that on your driver's license or anything; it's a designation similar to when the Queen of England knights rock stars, and does not afford you lodging or employment at the North Pole.

I'm sure you are wondering what this means for your friend Harold Hubert. Well, we are also proud to announce that other than an "accidental" incident with a silly string machine (please note: we are no longer gifting silly string or any variation thereof due to its high flammability rating), his behavior has been exemplary. He has been nominated as community leader and will be the co-pilot for this year's present drop, which is a great honor. His excitement is infectious, we are all hopeful and optimistic about his new role!

Harold loves you both and has vowed to verify your names on the nice list each year, but I have to confess that as of now, Harold isn't allowed near the lists so I'm not sure why he promised that. But maybe one day, right? (Note to self: double check the security of the list vault.)

One last thing, your confidentiality in this matter is of the utmost importance. If other children knew about this honor, their behavior may be influenced for the sake of a prize which is not true niceness, so we ask that you not share this exciting news with your classmates or online. You may tell adults, as most have lost their magic and may not believe you anyway, which is an unfortunate symptom of growing up. As honorary elves, we know that you will become the type of adults who help keep magic alive.

Thank you for inviting us into your delightful home. Please continue to make life magical. Harold Hubert Piggybottom will always live on in your hearts and will be watching...from a safe distance. Have the merriest of Christmases, this year and always.
"Wow," I concluded. "This is insane, I've never heard of anything like it. The top 5%? Wow, you guys, congratulations. That silver coin is amazing."

"I'm pawning mine on eBay," Big Kid stated, as I gave him a look he ignored.

"Dude, this is a collectible. You sell it on eBay and you'll get the value of the silver but if you hold on to this thing, bro, it's gonna be worth a ton of cash some day. I wonder when our elf is coming?" little kid said.

My heart sunk a bit. I thought the message had been clear. "Uh, I don't think an elf is coming," I picked up the scroll again. "It says you've graduated, I think that indicates that you've moved beyond needing an elf--"

"Well, that's sad." His face fell.

"But you got the silver," I reminded him.

"Yes!!" His smile returned. "Now I will get silver every year, probably with a different design on it. That's a pretty good deal."

"Well, I don't know. I'm not sure you get the silver every year."

"Oh, I'm sure that I do. It's like a special club. Where you get silver every year."

"Hmm." Okay, I reminded myself, it's a small price to pay.

"I'll sell mine on eBay every year," Big Kid said again.

"Then I bet you won't get more than one because it said not to sell them on eBay," I said, with a hard edge in my voice. He smirked at me.

"Now I KNOW Santa is real because there is no way parents could get their hands on a collectible like this," little kid said with wonder in his voice, turning the coin over in his hand again before shining it on his shirt. "It's going to be so hard not to tell the other kids but I don't think we should, bro. But I don't think anyone in my class is in the club, because they would've told me. Mom, can I write Santa a thank you note?"

I told him he could. I wanted to write him one as well.

It said:  

Neither child liked their honorary elf name. The silver has been mentioned a few times since the arrival of the package, but the elf has not.
And that's how we broke up with our elf on the shelf. Our time with Harold was magical and I don't regret it--I'm just happy the relationship ended before the magic did.

Click here to read more about our life with Harold Hubert Piggybottom.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Me for the Holidays

Is it too early to drag the Christmas tree to the curb?

What if I haven't decorated it yet?

I kind of hope it will catch on fire but, clearly, it would need to be outside for that to work out well.

Could someone just wake me up in April?

(I was originally going to write February but decided that was too soon.)

Maybe Christmas every single year is just too much.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Tiny Farm Co. Winner

So, I thought for sure Rafflecopter would automatically update to tell you guys who the winner was, because it did that in the past and I didn't love that at the time, but I was counting on it this time.

It didn't do it this time. SORRY.

I'd love to blame them but it is more than likely entirely my fault.

The winner was Autumn and I will email her so she can start smelling delicious ASAP.

A huge thanks to The Tiny Farm Co. for the awesome stuff, their patience with me, and for enticing me to shower often. Everyone appreciates it.