Category Archives for "Holidays"

Paper pinecone ornament a/k/a the last time I got my Martha Stewart on in 2010

I know, I know … you’re saying For shit’s sake, what the hell, Andy? Another craft? Is Martha Stewart binging eggnog and throwing up all over your blog or what?

I’m not sure what has happened to me this December but if creativity were akin to sex, I’d be a short, uptight, quasi-OCD nymphomaniac in dire need of a twelve step program. One with all the chairs lined up just so.

Every year, we make a family ornament for Christmas. Nate came up with the idea years ago, soon after Helena was born and it’s become a holiday tradition ever since. It usually starts at the beginning of December with me singing Hey guys, what should we make for our ornament this year? Hello? Anyone? This is usually followed by a cacophony of chirping crickets and then it culminates three weeks later with me shrieking FOR GOD’S SAKE, SOMEBODY GOOGLE A FREAKING IDEA. WE CAN’T CELEBRATE JESUS’ BIRTHDAY WITHOUT SLAPPING GLITTER ON SOMETHING.

The rules are:  (1) the ornament must be relatively simple and easily completed within an hour; (2) during ornament hour, nobody is allowed to complain about anything like dinner, the color of Mom’s hair or SINCE WHEN DOES AN HOUR LAST 193 MINUTES? (3) everyone must participate in making the ornament; (4) everyone includes only those who supervise Ollie’s bowel movements so unless your friends clean up poop behind the coach, they are not participating as this is family bonding time; (5) does your cell phone clean up poop? No? Then stop texting and put it away; (6) family bonding time consists of smiley, happy faces with no hand to hand combat; (7) we all take turns completing a step in the ornament; (8) so as to avoid fainting spells or aneurysms, Mom gets as many turns as she wants if there is any threat of anything remotely resembling asymmetry about to happen anywhere on the ornament; and finally (9) no matter how crappy the ornament may turn out, it gets hung on the tree every single year, even if it means hanging it right next to Nate’s Buffalo Bills ornament on the back of the tree.

This year, we created a paper pinecone ornament and I have to say, it’s my favorite of all of our ornament so far.

Want to learn how to make one?

Too bad, you’re going to learn anyway.

You will need:

  • A three inch styrofoam egg. Make sure to ask your ten year old where they get styrofoam chickens from. When she sighs and walks away, tell her Daddy wants to know.
  • Patterned paper. We used almost two full sheets of this paper from Hobby Lobby:

  • A box of pins. We used almost an entire box of 225 ct bridal and lace pins with a simple, flat top on them. I think they’re also called dressmaker pins? Then again, I hem with desperation and duct tape so don’t listen to me because I have no idea what I’m talking about.
  • Ribbon

Now go inhale a bunch of the Christmas cookies that your eldest made with her father and which you shoved into the freezer in a futile attempt to get them out of your sight so that you would not feel compelled to instruct total strangers to go inhale a bunch of them.

Yay for cookies and futile attempts!

Ready?

Cut your paper into one inch strips. Then cut those strips into one inch squares. I happened to have a one inch square punch so I simply punched a few thousand squares out of the paper while telling myself how smart I was and giving myself carpal tunnel in the process.

Place each square, pattern down, on your table and then fold the top corners in. When you turn your square over, it will be in the shape of a little house, like so:

Do this 3,574,391 times and make sure you stop periodically to call out to the slugs in the living room GOSH, THIS IS HARD and IS THE ROOM COVERED IN PAISLEY OR IS IT JUST ME and SOMEBODY BETTER BE DVR’ING REAL HOUSEWIVES FOR ME. IS DVR’ING A VERB?

Kidding!

Sort of.

Now, take four of these shapes and pin them to the bottom, narrow end of your egg so that the top points are all touching. You will pin each of the four shapes in three places: top point, bottom left and bottom right, so that they are all laying flat on the egg.

It should look something like this except … hey! I know! Let’s pretend we live in a world where this photo is only of the bottom four pieces and not of the first two rows of pieces as well?

Hey, while we’re at it, can we pretend we live in a world where gravity is my friend and not some bitchy, vindictive hag?

You will now begin to pin the rest of your pieces onto the egg, pinning each one in two places: bottom left and bottom right. Do not pin the top points or your pinecone will simply wind up looking like a crazy patterned egg and people will ask why a chicken shit out a big blob of scrapbook on your tree.

Begin pinning your first row of pieces around the bottom four. Start them about 1/4 inch below the first four and stagger each piece so that its middle overlaps where the bottom two pieces underneath it come together.

That probably makes no sense at all but I don’t know how else to describe it and you can’t see all my frantic hand movements over here because I have no idea how to use my webcam.

Pity. I look particularly awesome today.

It should look something like this. I like to call this photo Study in DéJà Vu.

Continue pinning rows of pieces around the egg. Because the egg gradually gets wider, you will gradually use more pieces per row until it starts getting narrower again. When you are about half way down the egg, attach a long piece of ribbon which will be used to hang the ornament. Pin one end of the ribbon to one side of the egg with two pins and then do the same with the other end. I want to say that our piece of ribbon was about a foot long?

I also want to say that hot flashes suck big, fat, rancid orangutan balls.

Continue with your rows, making sure to pin them in such a way that the ribbon is eventually covered up completely.

It should look something like this.

Don’t worry if you get to a point where your rows are confusing and there is asymmetry happening EVERYWHERE and you have to slather cortisone cream all over your body and staple your left eyelid open so that it will stop twitching. Your family won’t notice and will continue on their merry way, pinning amuk all over the place, because they are sadists.

To all living creatures.

Just keep telling yourself that no one will care if anything is lopsidey and that you are most certainly going to Heaven because you have done your time in Hell down here on Earth.

When you get to the top of your egg, make sure to pin the last few pieces right up to the ribbon, cinching it so that it forms a perfect loop. Then tie another piece of ribbon around the bottom of the loop and …

Voilà!

I want to make a whole tree of these to plant in our front yard so I can have a reason to yell VOILÀ every time I leave my house. It sounds so much nicer than my typical MAKE SURE YOU TAKE OLLIE OUT TO POOP WHILE I’M GONE.

Wouldn’t an entire Christmas tree of these look just gorgeous?

In fact, I may just hang them all over my body, then roll around in some Christmas lights myself.

Then I’d be gorgeous!

In all seriousness, I cherish this tradition. We’re a blended family so it was really important to me that we have a tradition that started with “us.” Creating our family ornament has become one of the things I look most forward to at Christmas and the ornaments themselves, together with those made by my kids in school, are my very favorite things that adorn our tree.

What are some of your holiday traditions?

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This year’s cookie mix jars – who knew OCD tendencies could taste so good?

Last week I posted that I woke up crafty one morning and made some personalized hand sanitizer bottles for teacher gifts.

I woke up crafty quite a few mornings this month because I also made thirteen cookie mix jars.

As a side note, I think my husband secretly likes it when I wake up crafty because that means I’m actually excited about something and it’s morning and I’m in bed. Half the work is already done for him.

I made cookie mix jars last year too but this year, I was more color coordinated. And much more anal retentive.

Cookie mix jars are probably not the best gift to make if you are prone to OCD tendencies because truth be told, the whole process is messy and lopsided.

Just like me!

Which is weird, don’t you think? I mean, you would think that someone who likes to fold her towels with a straight edge and who, after running over a pothole with her left tire, will immediately run over another with her right to establish equilibrium, wouldn’t be messy or lopsided, right? But I drive around in an eleven year old Honda with nine month old bird poo on the window and my left boob is bigger than my right.

God has a weird sense of humor sometimes.

Or I’m just an enigma!

I tried out a couple different recipes and just so you know, it was all in the name of science and had nothing to do with it being the week before my period. I wound up using a recipe from the Launder, Fold, Repeat blog because biting into the twelfth first cookie was pretty much like Christmas in my mouth.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup Craisins
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • Recipient will need to add 1/2 cup butter (melted), 1 egg lightly beaten and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour cookie mix into large bowl and stir to combine. Beat in the butter, egg and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate thirty minutes. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until slightly browned. Cool and enjoy!

As Zoe and I layered the ingredients, we quickly discovered two things: (1) A rolled up piece of paper in the mouth of the jar worked just as well, if not better, than our plastic funnel because it was more flexible and it wasn’t covered in dog saliva and hidden under the couch with Oliver and his stash of seventeen left gloves and three pair of dirty underwear; and (2)  it was a lot easier to line up the ingredients in assembly line fashion and have one person constantly ask “You added the sugar? Are you sure? How about the baking powder? You didn’t just add the baking soda twice? Because they look exactly the same. You know that, right? So, you’re absolutely sure it was baking powder? SWEAR TO GOD ON THE LIVES OF MY FUTURE GRANDCHILDREN” and have the other respond “Please tell me I’m adopted.”

At one point, I had to take a turkey baster, a piece of cardboard and my glue gun and unleash my inner McGyver all over them to construct a device that we could use to pack down each layer to ensure everything would fit snugly into the jar.

I never felt so resourceful in all my life! And that’s coming from someone who once defrosted a chuck roast with nothing but her armpit, a butane lighter and sheer will.

This is where cookie mix jars and OCD tendencies do not mesh.

Because apparently, the Internet could not care less about middle-aged, uptight, premenopausal, lopsided women who make Christmas gifts while wearing aqua yoga pants from the eighties cinched at the waist with safety pins. Nowhere online could I find miniature levels that could be inserted into canning jars to ensure that all layers of ingredients were at precisely 180 degrees and parallel to one another.

What?

My jeans were dirty. Stop being judgy.

WARNING: The following previews have been rated TWITCHY! MY EYE IS TWITCHY! and should not be viewed by people who octuple check the alarm on their clocks, organize their cheese according to color and height, or who are prone to anaphylaxis and do not have epi pens readily available.

I don’t add the swatch of material at the top of the jar under the lid like most people do because that looks a little too homespunny for me and I’m about the farthest thing from homespun you can find because I don’t live in a little house on a prairie nor do my kids call me Ma and the last thing I churned was a stream of profanity when I discovered last week that the Whiskey River BBQ Chicken Wrap sandwich at Red Robin has 62 grams of fat in it.

WHAT.THE.HELL.

Instead, I like to just plop pretty bows on top of the jars and call it a day.

DAY!

I also attached a tag with curling ribbon to each jar.

I didn’t like how the tag looked when it was attached directly to the ribbon because hello? Have we met? So I used a jump ring instead. I happened to have a bunch of them on hand and I liked the way they allowed the tags to hang neatly and gently alongside the jars instead of sticking out at a 43.7934 degree angle.

Hello. I’m Andrea and I like protractors.

These are the tags I designed in Photoshop, printed out, trimmed and mounted onto red cardstock:

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I used the Peace on Earth kit from Sweet Shoppe Designs. Three years later and a few thousand smidges to the left, nudges to right and teensy-weensies in all sorts of different directions, I was done.

Smidges, nudges and teensy-weensies are the lot in life for those with OCD tendencies. It’s a burden but we manage.

By the way, would you mind inching over to the left a teensy-weensy? You are not viewing this in the absolute center of your monitor. Don’t ask me how I know. I just do. Even from way over here.

And here are the finished jars!

All in all, I’d have to say I’m pretty happy with them.

OH MY GOD, SOMEONE SHAKE A JAR OF PENNIES AT IT AND MAKE IT STOP.

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Dear Santa, can I please have a shiny new elf to hump for Christmas?

Dear Santa,

HI! HI! HI!

*lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick*

*sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff*

*jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump*

*hump hump hump hump hump hump hump hump hump hump*

How are you? I hope you are well and chubby. I weigh six pounds! How much do you weigh? Please say hi to the elves. And the reindeer! And Rudolph! And Jesus! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JESUS!!!! I LIKE YOUR BEARD.

I like yours too, Santa!

*sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff*

*lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick*

Jesus is really old. So are you. My birthday is January 7. I’m going to be one! If my mommy doesn’t stuff me and use me as a door draft stopper by then.

I like barking! And running in circles! And barking! And humping fuzzy pillows and my squeaky hedgehog! What do you like to hump?

Is Mrs. Claus squeaky?

*sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff*

HI MRS. CLAUS!

*hump hump hump hump hump hump hump hump hump hump*

*jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump*

I have been a ginormous pain in the ass very good boy this year. I am forgetting learning how to potty outside. I’ve been forgetting learning this for an eternity a long time. It’s fun to learn!

I pee sitting down. Mommy thinks this is weird but I don’t know why because she pees sitting down too. I know because I follow her but only until she screams asks me to get out of the goddamn bathroom.

Do you pee sitting down?

*sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff*

In the summer, I liked to go outside eleventy times a day and chase butterflies and sniff all the different blades of grass and bark at everything nothing.

ARF ARF ARF ARF ARF ARF ARF ARF ARF ARF ARF

That was me barking! I can make your ears bleed without even trying! Yay!

*hump hump hump hump hump hump hump hump hump hump*

*sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff*

I don’t know why Mommy doesn’t like nature. I think it’s awesome! And now all the nature is covered with snow! Yay! I like to play in it and make big yellow circles in it with my business. But I don’t like to poop in it. Yucky. I like to poop behind the couch. Where do you like to poop?

*jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump*

*sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff*

I hope you’re coming to our house this year! My mommy and sisters bought a stocking for me but I intentionally and with great malice accidentally ate it and I don’t think I was supposed to. I hope they buy me another one. Mommy said something about pigs flying. I think she meant reindeer, don’t you? Mommy’s probably confused. That happens a lot sometimes.

*lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick*

*jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump*

Can I have some new toys for Christmas? Ones that don’t squeak, please, for the love of God. I like to rip all sorts of things that don’t belong to me to shreds with my fangs chew my toys and now they’re getting oh-my-god-it-smells-like-corpse a little worn. And Mommy doesn’t like it when I play The Lion King by myself and stalk the garbage can and go all Animal Kingdom on used pad and tampons.

*sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff*

*lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick*

Smells like bacon!

OH MY GOD! WAIT! Can I have some doggie snacks too? Mommy doesn’t like it when I hop into the big plastic jug of pretzels from BJ’s in the morning eat pretzels.  I’m not sure why. I mean, Daddy leaves them open on the couch every night for me because he never listens to Mommy. And they make me poop a lot!

Thank you, Santa. I love you!

Bye!

*jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump jump*

*lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick lick*

XXXOOO

Oliver

P.S. Mommy says I should ask you for some new, industrial strength bowels that are manufactured so as to not release their cargo within a twenty foot radius of anything remotely resembling a couch. Gosh, I hope I got that right. Those sound like big, important words.

P.S. #2: Mommy says I need to promise not to pee all over the floor like a psychotic garden hose when I see you. Or anyone.

P.S. #3: Mommy says to bring a new throw rug for our front door, just in case.

P.S.#4: I just peed.

*lick lick lick lick lick lick lick*


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If we’re going to kill germs for Christmas, let’s at least do it in an attractive manner, shall we?

I woke up crafty the other day and I’m here to tell you that waking up crafty is like a gift from God, kind of like waking up with the ability to do fifth grade math without a calculator. You just feel smart. And sort of skinny. It’s just a nicer way to start the day than waking up, say, feeling bloated and stupid.

I immediately decided to work on Christmas presents for Helena’s teachers because that is what I do every time I wake up crafty during the second week of December. This involves me agonizing, fretting, worrying and biting my cuticles until they bleed. That’s what I do with gifts from God – I go all Twilight on them and suck out all of their fun and joy, leaving their withered, rotting carcasses in my wake.

What do you do with gifts from God?

Every year, I follow the same routine:

  1. Ask my kids for ideas.
  2. Listen to their ideas which typically consist of  (1) gift card; (2) gift card; (3) gift card; and finally (4) lottery tickets.
  3. Ignore their ideas.
  4. Post the same question on some online boards.
  5. Read their ideas which typically consist of (1) gift card; (2) gift card; (3) gift card; and finally (4) early retirement.
  6. Ignore their ideas too.
  7. Google for a couple of days hours.
  8. Settle on something 47% artsy and 49% percent crafty with a margin of error of ±4%
  9. Go out and buy three times as many supplies as I need because I’m me and as such, I’m on a first name basis with my quasi-OCD tendencies.
  10. Let my quasi-OCD tendencies have their way with me. Especially that Henry one! He’s smoking hot.
  11. Finish the gifts and call it a week day.
  12. The process, I mean. Not the gifts. I’m calling them something else. Not sure yet. I’m thinking Inglorious Bastards but Henry’s giving me grief. God, why can’t he just shut up and look hot?

I followed this tutorial from The Idea Room and can I just say how much I love that site?

I love that site!

Apparently, I can.

Don’t you hate it when people ask if they they can do something and by asking, they’ve already done the very something they’re asking to do?

I think I’ve posed that question before. But that’s OK. I probably didn’t listen to your answers.

This is what I started with. I bought four of these at Wegmans for $1.25 each. I did this three different times.

Stupid quasi-OCD tendencies.

By the way, Wegmans is now selling these for $0.88 a piece. OF COURSE THEY ARE. I should hire myself out to do Christmas shopping for people. Just think about it. If I do all the shopping for you, I can pretty much guarantee that you will get the best price in the history of ever because everything I buy on sale will go on an even bigger sale two days later. All you have to do is grab your receipts, get your price adjustments and *bam* you’ve saved yourself a boatload of time, a wad of cash and a possible herniated spine from body slamming little old people to the floor so you could score the last Snuggie in the tri-state area.

On second thought, maybe I should just hire myself out to think up more awesome ways to get rich.

The front label came off easily but the back label was apparently affixed with supersonic cement. Amy’s tutorial mentioned Goo Gone so I ran right out to Lowes and bought some and it worked like a charm. Oh, and Lowes? Why must you put this stuff up high on the shelf? Hello? Are only tall people allowed to wrestle with sticky residue? I think not. So I don’t want to hear any flak about the clean up in aisle two because if you had placed this stuff at a reasonable height, I wouldn’t have had to stack tubs of joint compound on top of each other to reach it. Just an FYI.

I took the front label from this bottle, stuck it onto a blank sheet of paper, trimmed around it with some scissors and got myself a template to use for my new label.

I are smart!

Rather than using a monogram design on my bottles like the tutorial, I opted to use some word collages that I created at wordle.net and can I say how much I love that site?

I love that site!

On the wordle.net homepage, click on “Create” and enter all the text you want to use in your wordle and then click “go.” Use the “~” symbol between any words that you want to keep together. You can control the size of specific words by how many times you use them. The more often you use a certain word, the bigger that word will appear in relation to the other words in your wordle. Oh, and here’s a helpful hint. Save your list of words in a separate word document. That way, if you’re not happy with your wordle, you can edit your words as you please and then simply copy/paste them back into the wordle.net site. Beats having to re-type all your words from scratch. Over and over and over. And over. This will save you so much time, not to mention your larynx which can be severely strained by screaming SHIT SHIT SHIT ON A STICK too many times in a ten minute period.

So I’ve heard.

On a side note, say wordle ten times fast. It’s fun, isn’t?

I obviously have too much time on my hands. Maybe I should spritz a little Goo Gone on them.

Is time sticky?

Anyone?

Here’s one of the wordles I created. See how “New York Rangers ” is bigger than “hockey” which is bigger than “slapshot?” That’s because I entered “New~York~Rangers” into my wordle six times,” hockey” five times and “slapshot” four. I chose a white background with a black font and four hours later, when I was finally happy with the configuration, I clicked “print” and saved it as a pdf file which I then brought into Photoshop and scaled down to fit my template. After I did this with all of my wordles , I copied and pasted all four of them into one blank 8.5 x 11 document, saved it as a jpg, burned it to a CD and then took it into my local Staples for printing onto a transparency with a laser printer.

Gosh, I’m out of breath from typing all of that. But trust me, it sounds a lot harder than it actually was. And I don’t say that lightly. I’m all about exaggerating how hard I work around here. It’s one of the ways I make myself sound important.

For the record, I am not a hockey aficionado or a fan of the New York Rangers. However, one of Helena’s teachers is. I’ve only seen one hockey game in my life and that was back in college and I watched it only because I was trying to impress a guy. I tried impressing until my fanny turned into an ice sculpture and then I focused my efforts into rubbing my bottom with my hands to get the blood flow circulating. I actually wound up impressing the guy but for all the wrong reasons.

I used scissors to cut around my wordle and then I rolled it up backwards so that the text was still facing frontwards (does that make sense?) and then gently pushed it into the bottle of sanitizer. It was a little tricky trying to maneuver the label against the front of the bottle without getting weird air bubbles and I’d be lying if I said that those air bubbles did not wreak havoc with Harry and his crew. But Zoe helped me smoosh them out (the air bubbles, not Harry and the gang) using her fingers and the meat thermometer that I had grabbed to stab myself in the eye and then she gave me a plastic bag to breathe into, shoved some Xanax down my throat, rubbed my back and told me I was pretty.

Thank God I have responsible kids.

Here’s the finished bottle! The other three I made have wordles with Helena’s teachers’ names on them so I thought it best not to post them in the interest of privacy. I may air our dirty laundry in public but I do have some boundaries. Sometimes they’re far away and you have to squint to see them but they’re there.

Do I even have to get into how tedious it was to tie these bows so that they were all perky and uniform?

I didn’t think so. Suffice it to say that glitter and tears were flying and Oliver ate sparkly wet dog food that night.

I love the way these turned out. I think they make great teacher gifts and now I wish I homeschooled my kids so that I could give one to myself.

Go check out the tutorial from The Idea Room and if you’ve got any questions about my take on it, let me know and I’ll try to answer them as best I can!

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Weekend regurgitation: The only wrap I like is the kind that’s served with fries and a pickle

With the exception of a few stocking stuffers, I am done Christmas shopping.

DONE.

*insert happy dance here*

If I (1) am married to you; (2) gave birth to you; (3) clean up the poop you deposit behind the couch; (4) grew up in the same house with you; (5) possess half your DNA; (6) married part of your DNA; (7) pay you to teach my kid how to break boards with her elbows and kill someone with her bare thumbs; (8) email you to thank you for being such a great teacher and tell you that if you encourage my eldest to apply to Yale or Harvard, then I fully expect you to pay for half of it; (9) email you to ask you to teach me fifth grade math so that I can review my youngest’s homework;  or (10) text your mom to schedule playdates, chances are I have a gift for you.

Oh, and if you happen to be one random girl in my youngest’s homeroom at the holiday party next week, I got you covered as well.

Next up … wrapping.

That gust of air that just blew your eyeballs to the back of your head? That was the wind being knocked out of my sails.

I leave you with the post I wrote last year on my philosophy on gift giving. Now I’m taking my droopy sails down to the basement to search our ceiling joists for last year’s Santa paper.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

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How to accept a gift without losing a testicle or two

(originally published December 2, 2009)

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We have a few rules in our house when it comes to accepting gifts, and when I say “we” I mean “I” because it is “I” who makes these rules in this house and it is “they” who break them. Repeatedly.

But I have to admit, they usually don’t break the gift acceptance rules because if they do, I am all NO SOUP FOR YOU.

If you never watched Seinfield, that sentence will make absolutely no sense whatsoever. What’s with you not watching Seinfeld anyway? Did your mama not raise you right?

The gift acceptance rules are the same for Christmas, anniversaries, birthdays or any occasion when a gift is customary. These rules apply equally to all members of this household regardless of their status as spouse, child, relative or person of interest and I mean that last one in a totally non-homicide-suspect kind of way.

However, for the sake of simplicity and because I don’t want this post to be longer than my leg hair, I will use Nate’s birthday as an example.

By the way … infractions are not tolerated. Violators will be punished including, but not limited to, a time-out, a formal written apology or possible castration. It depends entirely on what side of the bed I fell off of that morning, subsequently careening to my near death. And, on my ability to hyperbolize.

Rule #1, also known as BIG MAMA: You are not allowed to search for your gift. You are not allowed to even entertain the thought of searching for your gift. Your birthday is not an Easter egg hunt and I am not the Easter Bunny, despite the strong resemblance. I spend way too much time agonizing over color, size, style and whatnot of whatever it is I’m choosing as a gift for you to have it all ruined by some Sherlock Holmes wannabe with a bloodhound complex. Waaay too much time. Time that I could have spent watching Detective Stabler flex his tattoos on SVU or maybe even fixing dinner for you, if I happened to be in a magnanimous mood that day. So if I even think that you have been snooping, I will take your gift back from whence it came faster than you can say Bob’s your uncle. I don’t care if it’s a CD bought online or a brand spankin’ new shiny baby from my nether regions. Believe you me, I am not above walking my ass all the way to Amazon.com or shoving a baby back into my uterus.

And yes, my uterus is out of commission so that second one might have been a bad example but YOU GET MY POINT.

By the way, for anyone who actually uses that phrase in real life, what if Bob is not your uncle? What then?

Rule #2: You are not allowed to buy yourself anything for the six months preceding your birthday. You are the hardest person to buy for this side of the Milky Way and nothing bursts my bubble faster than you buying something that I already have hidden under that fugly blanket in my trunk. And nothing bursts my bubble harder than you paying twice as much as I did for that very same item because you neglected to price shop while you were in the throes of stealing my thunder.

*POP*

I typed that really loud. It is the sound of my bubble bursting.

Rule #3: You are not allowed to comment on the wrapping paper. It is not my fault that your mom and dad decided to get busy in late February and have you sometime between the turkey and the pumpkin pie. In this house, once Gobble, Gobble, Gobble is done and gone, it’s nothing but HO HO HO from here on in.

Rule #4: Somewhat related to rule #1 in that when you see your present, you are not allowed to guess it by its wrapper. How do you know it’s not really an air compressor? I am a master of deception, a phenom of illusion. You should know this. You don’t see my waist, do you?

Exactly.

Rule #5: I MEAN IT. Just be grateful it wasn’t a puppy.

Rule #6: You must give me your undivided attention for at least three minutes while I enthrall you with my recitation of (1) how I decided upon this gift; (2) how I searched for three years for this gift, even though I didn’t know you wanted it until last week; (3) how the salesman at Dick’s Sporting Goods was either lonely, insane or suffering from a skull fracture because he would not stop talking to me and insisted on following me around the putters, telling me about his handicap; (4) how I meant handicap as in “golf” handicap and not in any physical disability like a possible skull fracture; (5) how there’s nothing wrong with the salesman having skull fracture because people with skull fractures need jobs too; (6) how does the salesman work with a skull fracture? (7) do skull fractures hurt? How do you know? Have you ever had one? Then how do you know? and finally (8) how you can return my gift if you don’t like it, even though it would be a completely heartless thing to do, but don’t worry about me, I’ll just deal with it in therapy so you just go ahead and find every one of my feelings and stomp them all to bits.

During this entire dissertation, your expression must convey nothing but complete rapture. No blinking.

Your expression here? It doesn’t convey overt rapture so much as irritable bowel syndrome. And you blinked.

EXPRESSION FAIL.

Rule #7: Once I stop talking, you must smile to communicate your awe of my remarkable intuition and then profess your gratitude at having received the ultimate, perfect gift.

Rule #8: Until you finish re-finishing our stairs, you must not utter one word, nay one syllable, about the sawdust on the floor under the shelves in the foyer and please stop reminding me not to step on the stairs because they are tacky as I already know they are tacky and the reason I know they are tacky is because I remember you told me they are tacky more times than I actually care to remember. They’re tacky. Got it.

Rule #9: That I wish you a very very happy birthday and that you never forget how much I love you.

Rule #10: That you remember rule #9 when and if you ever notice a size six footprint on the stairs.

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