My Not-So-Typical Christmas Tradition

Christmas.  It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.  I love the beautiful decorations, the food, the parties, the food, the excitement of opening presents, and of course, more food.

Growing up, December was always a special time for me.  We would decorate our tree on my father’s birthday, December 9, (and many years later would celebrate my son’s birth on that same day!), and then we would celebrate my mother’s Christmas Day birthday.  My grandfather used to tell us the story of how Santa Claus brought my mother down the chimney to him, which, as a child, made me extremely jealous.

Christmas was full of love and happiness.  I was blessed!

Then, the unthinkable happened to my fantasy Christmas:  I got divorced.  Not just some easy-peasy, that-was-mine-this-is-yours divorce, but the “I kind of wish he’d get hit by a bus” divorce.

In an instant, my holidays were totally disrupted.  Suddenly, I only had my son with me for the first half of Christmas vacation, after which he would go to his father’s house at noon on Christmas Day.  Then he would return home after New Year’s Day.  It was agonizing.

One day, while visiting my eighty-something-year-old grandmother, she asked why I hated my ex so much.  I explained all of the reasons, and she listened quietly before saying, “What does it matter?  You’re divorced, but you have a child that loves you both and needs you to get along, especially now that the holidays are close.”

So, I went back home feeling like a first grader who just got scolded, and spoke with my ex.  After deciding to meet at the library (so we couldn’t yell at each other), we had a much-needed, long discussion.  For the first time since our divorce, we both agreed that we needed to put aside our differences and be parents to our son.  Civility wasn’t always easy, but we did it.

By then, he had married a very sweet lady and had a precious daughter, and one day, my son made a comment of how hard it was having to split his time between his parents on Christmas.  He wanted to spend time with us all, but having a big Christmas lunch at my house, followed by a big Christmas dinner at his dad’s house was just too much for him.

So, after great thought, and a few glasses of chardonnay, I reluctantly invited them over for Christmas lunch one year.

I know, I know….I can just hear many of you now saying, “I could never do that!”  But, let me tell you, when you know you’re doing something for your child, you can literally do ANYTHING.  It wasn’t easy, and there were times during dinner that I was tempted to stab my ex with a fork…but I digress.

It worked.

And just like that, we began a new Christmas tradition.  Each year, we would all have Christmas lunch together:  my son and his sister, my ex and his wife, my parents and grandmother.  When I remarried many years later, my sweet and understanding husband accepted our arrangement like it was no big deal. He saw that it was a good thing and welcomed my ex and his family into our house like they were old friends.

A few years have passed since we shared our last Christmas together.  Our son is nearly 23-years-old, and is venturing out as a young man, with a wonderful girlfriend who I hope will become part of our family one day.  My father passed away last year, and my mother moved to live with my 97-year-old grandmother.

Christmases are different, but I will be forever grateful for those wise words encouraging us to set aside our anger, forgive past mistakes, and put our child first.

After all, isn’t that what the holidays are really about?

 

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My Other Thanksgiving List

As Thanksgiving draws closer, I realize how blessed my life is and how many things I have to be thankful for.

I’m thankful that I have a wonderful husband, great kids, loving parents and a warm house. I’m very thankful my dad’s cancer is in remission. I’m thankful for my 93 year old grandmother who is here visiting for this Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for all of my friends who make me laugh. But I’m also thankful for a lot of other stuff that never receive any recognition.

So here’s my list of “other” things I’m thankful for:

1. I’m thankful that I don’t have another gynecologist appointment for another full year, because those appointments are just not any fun.
2. I’m thankful that I have a zero balance on my credit cards. (Which means I can go hog wild at ANY MOMENT.)
3. I’m thankful for my favorite restaurants that offer take-out when I’m too lazy to cook.
4. Which makes me also thankful for whoever invented microwave ovens because when I’m too lazy to leave the house to grab take-out, I can just nuke a hot dog.
5. Now that I’m in my 40’s, I’m thankful for hair dye.
6. I’m thankful for plug-in air freshener that makes my house always smell like I’m Betty Crocker and I’ve just taken an apple pie out of the oven.
7. I’m thankful for FaceBook, because it allows me to mass-notify people of things going on in my life.
8. I’m thankful that Girl Scout cookies only come 15 to a box, so when I have a sweet tooth it’s not as damaging to my waistline as eating an entire package of Oreo cookies…unless I have TWO boxes of Girl Scout cookies, which I have done before.
9. I’m thankful that I have not had a cavity in 20 years, because I loathe going to the dentist just as much as I loathe going to the gynecologist.
10. I’m thankful I have not found any wiry chin hairs yet.
11. I’m SUPER thankful to the girl who invented Spanx so I can eat like a Sumo wrestler and still squeeze myself into my clothes without looking like a stuffed sausage.
12. I’m thankful for texting because there are just some people I don’t want to talk to on the phone.
13. I’m thankful that when I forget to take my 6 pound dog out and she accidently poops in the house, there’s not much to clean up.
14. I’m thankful that I have had the opportunity to eat Twinkies and Ho-Ho’s in my life, because my future grandchildren will never know how wonderful that creamy filling actually is.
15. I’m thankful that I live in a country where I can practice my faith and not worry about whether I’m going to get shot in the head.
16. I’m thankful for Purell. If you’re a germ-o-phobe like me, you will totally get why I’m thankful for this.
17. I’m thankful for MapQuest because otherwise I might end up in Alabama when I want to go to North Carolina.
18. I’m thankful that my step-kids don’t view me as their Step-Monster, even though my husband tells me they are a little afraid of me. Winning!
19. I’m thankful that my husband’s SUV and my car are both paid off, even though the windshield is cracked and the bumper has a dent in it from where my husband backed into my son’s truck.
20. I’m thankful for heated seats in my car so when it’s freezing cold outside, my butt is toasty warm.
21. I’m thankful for Dutch Monkey doughnuts. If you don’t know what that is, look it up and have some shipped to you. You’ll be thankful too.
22. I’m thankful that I made it to 43 years old before I had to get reading glasses.
23. I’m thankful for my high school girl friends who I’ve known for (cough) over 25 years but when we get together, we are taken back to 1986 and giggle like we are 16 years old. But then again, that could be the wine.
24. I’m thankful for the Weather Channel so I know how to accurately dress each day.
25. I’m thankful for e-bay so when I want to buy something but I don’t want my husband to know, I can sell stuff and have cash to go buy what I want.
26. I’m thankful for Clorox wipes to help my Obsessive-Compulsive tendency to easily clean everything.
27. I’m thankful that someone mixed tequila with some frozen lime juice and created the margarita.
28. I’m thankful that I have a dishwasher because I would totally hate to have to hand wash those utensils we used for our take-out dinner.
29. I’m thankful that I don’t have any other body-invasive procedures on the schedule such as a colonoscopy or anything super fun like that.

I’m sure there are a zillion other things I’m thankful of and should put on this list, but that could take all day to list and seriously, no one is that interested in my life.

But there is one more thing…I am thankful for the people who actually read and enjoy my blogs. It’s fun to write them, but it’s even more fun when people acknowledge that they enjoy them.

So, dear reader….I’m thankful for YOU.

Wiring The Technical Generation Gap


Technology isn’t easy. We all know that. But technology is extra difficult for those who didn’t grow up with it. My parents are no different than anyone else in their age group. They don’t like change, and technological change is an even harder pill to swallow.

My parents have never had a passion for technology.

I remember in the 1980’s when my dad purchased a VCR. It was one of the most technological events in the history of the Gunn household. We could actually rent movies and WATCH THEM ANY TIME we wanted. We were late to the party, but at least we were taking baby steps into this new electronics world.

The next step was to get a microwave. Regardless of the fact that it weighed 300 pounds and you could fit a compact car in there, our family finally had one.

In the mid-1990s, my parents got their first computer. It was a 380 with a 5 ¼ inch floppy drive and offered a dial-up modem that connected to AOL. (My parents still have the same AOL account.) They had a dot-matrix printer that you could hear printing from the next house over and felt like a tiny earthquake every time it would print a line. Zzzzzzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzzzzz.

But they were opening up to change and I was very proud of that.
In the early 2000’s my dad decided he needed a new computer because his floppy drive went out. By this time, mind you, there weren’t any more floppy drives on computers. Everything had moved to CDs. My dad however, had to special order a floppy drive and had it installed on his new computer. In the father/daughter world, this is known as “pick your battles.”

The next step for the Gunn household was to upgrade their internet connectivity. The Bellsouth installer came out but had one little problem: My parents still had permanently installed rotary phones….and this was 2004. I might have the only kid under the age of 30 that has ever even SEEN a rotary phone, much less talked on one. Thank you Bellsouth for helping to guide my parents into the new and high tech world of push button telephones.

Recently, we got a phone call that went like this:

“Hey Dana! Can I talk to Dale? I’m having a computer problem.”

I handed the phone to my husband (the default technical support for our family) who said, “Hey! What’s up?”

“Well, I was opening my e-mail and I got a message from someone I thought I knew, so I opened it and now my computer won’t do anything”.

Nine hours and two trips to their house later, my husband has made sure that their computer is now 100% hardened against a potential criminal attack from China. (And he did the same for my computer too!) I don’t know how families without an in-house technical support person can keep their computers running these days, but God help you all.

Recently my mother was given an iPhone by my sister and brother-in-law. We have the most fun going through her photos seeing how many times she has taken a photo of the inside of her purse, or a picture of herself when the camera lens did the “flip” feature. But I am proud to say that she has mastered texting and is even using LOL and emoticons.

And my sweet daddy is perfectly happy with his featureless flip-phone, but it was extra nice when we finally convinced him that keeping it turned on all day wouldn’t ruin the battery life.

The moral of this story is to be patient with your parents and their resistance to change and technology.

Because OUR children are going to think that WE are technology challenged when we don’t understand how teleporting works.

(These are not my parents, but this video made me laugh so much that I had to include it!)

If Your Beard Is Real, You’re Too Old To Trick-or-Treat

Tonight is Halloween. It’s truly one of my favorite holidays. I don’t like all of the evil witchcraft and Satanic stuff that surrounds Halloween, but I love hearing the sweet little voices shout out “Trick or Treat” while they are wearing flowing Princess costumes or red and blue Spiderman costumes.

Each time the door rings, my dog goes utterly insane. She has on her Halloween “Security” costume but no one gets to see her because I have to put her in the bedroom and shut the door. She is only six pounds but she is scratching at the door like a caged tiger.

I drop handfuls of candy into pillowcases or orange plastic pumpkins, or even cute handmade Halloween bags that some overly-crafty supermom made and the children happily trod off across the lawn to the neighbor’s house to collect their next bounty.

As soon as I sit down, the doorbell rings 14 times. My dog goes crazy. I get up off the couch and go to the door thinking about what little crapheads the kids at the door must be.

I open the door and look down expecting to find three-foot tall goblins. Instead, I have to look up and find four teenagers (all taller than me) saying in deep tenor voices, “Trick or treat.”

Seriously?

For once in my life I am speechless.

Isn’t there an age limit on when you need to stop trick or treating?

I drop candy in each bag simply because I’m kinda scared of them and I just want to shut the door and lock it. I have pictures of CSI going through my head and headlines for tomorrow’s newspaper:

“Local Woman And Her Dog Murdered Over Twix and Kit-Kat Bars.”

I think that for next Halloween, I’m going to make a sign for my front door that reads “Don’t knock on my door if any of the following pertain to you.”

1. If you can grow a beard.
2. If your breasts are bigger than mine.
3. If you are driving yourself through the neighborhood.
4. If you have tattoos (because you have to be 18 to get a tattoo).
5. If you are a parent.
6. If you are smoking cigarettes.
7. If you understand what the word “pertain” means.
8. If you are walking around the neighborhood with a beer, and are of legal age to drink.
9. If you are old enough to vote in the Presidential election.
10. If you have your own apartment.
11. If that stripper costume you have on is one you use at work.

And for anyone ringing my doorbell next year that matches any of the above, please note that you won’t be getting any chocolate.

You’ll be getting a box of stale raisins.

Do Your Kids Know The Importance of Manners?

This past weekend, both my step-son and step-daughter had friends stay over at our house for the night. I’ve always loved being the “kool-aid” house, where it’s always full of kids. I love hearing the giggles from the girls as they build tents on the catwalk overlooking our living room. And I love hearing the boys yelling at their video games as they try to keep from being eaten by zombies. A full house is perfect.

But one of the things that I’m always amazed by is the difference in manners between our two guests.

I was brought up by a strict military father, and “yes sir” and “yes ma’am” were always part of the vocabulary as much as “thank you” and “please”.

Is it just me or are kids not being taught good manners? When did “yeah” become acceptable? Am I being too old fashioned? I’m only in my 40’s!

I finished making dinner for our guests, prepared their plates and filled their glasses with lemonade. One guest said “Thank you” – the other just looked at me pouring his lemonade and started eating.

My husband said he could see my blood pressure rising.

After dinner, our kids know that they have to take their plates to the sink before heading upstairs to their rooms to play. Three of the kids did this. One did not. So my step-son told him to take his plate to the sink. Our guest looked at me like I had asked him to clean up dog doo off the floor.

I continually mortify my kids when we are in public and I hold the door open for someone and they don’t even acknowledge me. Before I can think, “OH, YOU’RE WELCOME” comes out of my smart aleck mouth. It’s rude! Do people just assume I’m the doorman?

Are manners becoming a thing of the past? Do parents just not teach their kids manners or is it that kids just don’t remember?

We have taught our children that people appreciate good manners.

My 13 year old step-son was late turning in a paper at his school. He is generally on time with all of his assignments so I suggested that he at least talk to his teacher. He came home from school later that day and said that the teacher told him that because he came in and politely asked if he could turn in the assignment late, she agreed…and he got an “A”.

My 18 year old son can also attest that being polite pays off. Last year after being the cause of a fender bender, Matthew called me to come to the site of the accident. At the time I arrived, the cop was writing him a ticket for following too close. He asked Matthew if he understood why he was getting the ticket, to which Matthew answered “Yes Sir.” Another question…Matthew answered “Yes Sir.”

The policeman looked at me and said “I’m going to tell you something. Because he has such good manners, I’m going to only write him a warning. It’s rare that I come across a young man such as yours.”

Matthew answered “Thank you, Sir.”

The cop smiled, lightly laughed, paused and said “You know what? Since no one was hurt, I’m not even going to write up a warning.”

And to that, I say “Thank you Officer”, and my insurance payment does too.

What do you think? Do you think it’s important to teach your children manners?

Are You A Baby Book Slacker?


How many times has your child done or said something funny and you think “I’ll always remember when he did that”? And then the following month you are wracking your brain trying to remember what exactly it was? My son is now 18 years old and I still think of funny events but can’t remember all of the details.
After my son was born I was determined to fill in his baby book with memories, sayings, firsts, etc. I think I got to month three before I became a slacker on the job. The only reason I remember what day he took his first steps is because it was my sister’s birthday. But which birthday? I don’t know because I didn’t write it down.

But that all changed, thanks to my mom.

Years ago when my son was just a toddler, my mother would often babysit him while I went to work. She was able to spend the first three years with him, often telling me some of the funny things he said or did while he was at her house.

That following Christmas I opened a present from my mother. It was a standard black notebook – the kind with the paper that has to be punched with three holes. Nothing fancy. But what was inside was utterly priceless.

My mother had written down almost every funny conversation they had, typed it all up, and gave it to us. She said that she kept paper in all of the rooms of the house and when Matthew said something funny, or something happened that she thought would be good in the book, she would write it down. At the end of the year she took all of her little sheets of paper and typed them up. (As a side note – my mom is Ninny.)

Here are some of my favorite “Matthew Funnies”, as the book is so appropriate titled:
Age 3 – Your Dad was teaching you the sign language alphabet. When he got to the letter “p”, you said “we don’t pee in the tub.”

Age 3 – The pest control man, Tucker, came to the house today and you followed him around.
Tucker: How old are you?
Matthew: (silence)
Ninny: You know how old you are. You can tell him.
Matthew: (silence)
Tucker: When is your birthday?
Matthew: When I turn four!!!

Age 3 – Your Mom: I’ve got to go to the bathroom.
Matthew: I’ve got to go to the bathroom, too.
Your Mom: Well, you’ll have to wait a minute – I’m about to pop.
Matthew: Well, I’m about to poop.

Age 4 – You gave me a kiss on the cheek and then I felt something stuck on my cheek.
Ninny: Gross, Matthew! It’s a fingernail!
Matthew: No it’s not! It’s a footnail!

Age 4 – Ninny was working on the porch when you came outside.
Matthew: I have a new wallet. Want to see it?
Ninnny: Of course I want to see your wallet!
(And you showed me a rock that was about two-inches long.)
Oh my. Where did you get that nice wallet?
Matthew: I got it in the Army ‘bout four years ago.

She did the same thing for my sister with my two nephews. This is one of my favorites:

Zachary was sitting in his dad’s lap and was running his little hand over the hair on his dad’s arm.
Zachary: Hey Dad!!! Look! When I do this to your arm, your fur lays flat.

And now that my son is an adult, reading these precious stories helps me exactly remember these events that would have been lost long ago. Those yearly “chapters” continue to give me endless belly laughs remembering “funnies” that I have already forgotten.

To do this for your family, consider just keeping a little notebook in your purse and jot down simple memories as they happen. If you wait too long, you will more than likely forget certain details. As time allows type up your notes and then you can print and give numerous members of your family your child’s “Funnies” book. It is such a personal holiday present for grandparents, parents & friends.

Remember to write down the amusing stories but don’t forget the heartfelt ones too…

Age 4: You were gazing out the window and you were lost in deep thought.
Matthew: You know what, Ninny?
Ninny: No, what, Matthew?
Matthew: I love you.