Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas Cheer, 2016 style

I find that Christmas continues to evolve as my boys get older. When they were little, Husband and I would brace ourselves for the inevitable early-morning wakeup call, as the gleeful munchkins would bound out of bed raring to go for their goodies, unable to contain their excitement for even one more minute. (Which is why we quickly developed effective strategies to distract them for a few precious moments...while the COFFEE brewed. Festivities, fun, fa la la--AFTER Mom and Dad swallow some caffeine. And really, this is an important Life Lesson that we felt it imperative to communicate, due to its widespread and long-term applications, if you know what I mean...)

And speaking of their gifts, they used to have no problem whatsoever providing us with ideas for what they'd like to find under the tree. We merely needed to stick to the list--and embellish with a few surprises, based on knowing what they liked to play with--and all would be well. With the teenagers, however, I swear it was like pulling teeth to get them to commit to anything they wanted. Now, don't get me wrong: I recognize that, in a way, this is a positive thing. At least they're not demanding all the latest gadgets and gizmos and...whatnot, right? But let me tell ya, it did add an extra layer of...challenge...to shopping.

As far as the a.m. ritual goes, there were...ahem...let's call them Treaty Terms to be delicately handled before the big day. Specifically, Riley worked to pin down his brother as to exactly when he could be expected to emerge from is lair...um, "room". You see, like me, my younger son's eyes open at approximately the same time every day, as regulated by his internal clock. His sibling, however, is not only capable of sleeping later, but also likes to lounge in bed...watching sports highlights on his phone...for quite some time before joining the rest of the world already-in-progress.

Therefore they agreed to a reasonable 9:00, as the hour when Riley would be permitted to enter the sanctum and roust the layabout--without any unpleasant repercussions (which were left unspoken, but could include...I don't know...being pelted with empty food wrappers dug out of the bottom of your backpack? Yeah, I've seen the evidence, and that could definitely happen...).

So, after all the preparation and anticipation...and negotiation, the big celebration day arrived. One welcome consequence of the delayed start time is that I was able to enjoy not one, but TWO whole cups of java in total peace, before being called upon to interact with my beloved tribe. (Trust me, this can only improve the outcome, for all concerned...) And then, the unveiling of packages commenced. For Husband--who believe it or not is even WORSE at making suggestions for what to get him--this usually involves an assortment of fancy snack foods obtained with great delight by the boys and me from field trips to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. (I'm not kidding--when I directly asked for his input on the subject, his sole response consisted of one word: MEAT.)

This year we selected such delicacies as: Sriracha potato chips, salt and pepper pistachios, honey sesame cashews, wasabi ranch peas, and pretzel crisps flavored like "everything" bagels. Oh, and I decided to take him literally at his word, and thus bought several pounds of ground bison, for him to make burgers for the carnivores on Team WestEnders. (He was absolutely delighted...pffftt...MEN!)

When it was my turn to reveal something, imagine my...bafflement...as I pulled out this little gem:
Um...thanks, guys? Riley reacted to my expression immediately...by skillfully throwing his father under the proverbial bus: "It was Dad's idea!" (Well played, son..) Meanwhile, the other two were holding their sides, in paroxysms of laughter for a few moments before Husband could pull himself together enough to explain, "I saw this in the store, and thought that since Riley loves frogs, it would remind you of him...every time you looked in the sink!" (Suuuure...)

The next items I unveiled were equally perplexing--silicone-coated tongs and a large bamboo fork--until Husband again helped me out, "For when you're making your zucchini noodles and you need to turn them, because you're always worried about scratching the ceramic finish on the pans with our metal utensils!" Well....that actually makes a lot of sense....and while perhaps not terribly...warm and fuzzy?...is nevertheless an eminently practical....and thoughtful...present. (Also admittedly kind of hilarious...and 100% guaranteed to get you mentioned in the blog...you're WELCOME...and just remember that you brought this on yourself!)

Next, whattya say we do Riley, who still retains some of his adorable childlike enthusiasm for the holiday, and can't wait to unwrap his haul. One of his presents, however, was neither a secret, nor placed beneath the evergreen: since he's the only one of us who actually follows the NHL at all, Husband got tickets for the 2 of them to attend a game in January. Otherwise, Derek (with my help) and I managed to come up with something unexpected...and very, very purple, as you can see. (Now, please don't ask me why this child supports a college in Texas, because none of us have a clue...but he's a fan, so we go along with it.) And to round it all out, a goalpost for kicking a football in the front yard--one that's NOT held together by duct tape and pleading--which promises to be a lot more entertaining in the long run than the one he has to reconstruct on a daily basis!

Finally, we have Derek, who requested things that were entirely in character for him, such as a University of Maryland t-shirt. ("Hold on just a second", I cautioned, "Don't you have TWO of them already?" "Yeah, but one is so worn out that I can only use it for sleeping", he rationalized. Oh...kay...at least that's easy!) Also a Pittsburgh Pirates hat (which is deemed acceptable only because they're in the National League, and therefore not rivals of the Orioles), a new basketball to replace the one that is legitimately shredding since he uses it so much, and FIFA 17 for his (thankfully newly-repaired, fully-functioning, and returned just in the St. Nick (ha!) of time for his vacation) PlayStation. So, predictably, my eldest son has 3 major sports covered in his Wish List. (Yeah...who couldn't see THAT coming?)

In the end, everyone was pleased with their pile....and after a fortifying breakfast, had the rest of the day free to take advantage of their new possessions....driveway basketball....extra-point practice...virtual soccer...a bike ride on a local trail, utilizing my new mirror and bell (not previously mentioned, but which I actually had asked for--imagine that!)...and grilling! And with that, happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

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