Monday, December 25, 2006

dirty, Dirty, DIRTY santa!...

Christmas has most definitely changed. That's good, because I've changed right along with it.

On Christmas day my entire maternal family meets at my grandparents for breakfast and gift exchange. With the overwhelming number of people in our family, a few years ago we decided to start a game called Dirty Santa. If you bring a gift, you play the game.

Girls: take your gift to the living room and draw a number.

Guys: go to the kitchen (rinse the plates while you're in there;)

"Number 1?"

"Who has number 1?"

"Number 1--you're up!? Where' no. 1?"

"Oh!?" Exclaims Aunt Julie, "That's me, are we starting?"

She draws a thin package, but large, nearly 3X3 in feet. She unwraps the gift, cuts away the tape, and a beautiful wall clock peers out.

Oohs and aahs from the gallery.

"Number 2? Who's number 2?" yells out an aunt trying to move the game along.

Before we know it, we've unwrapped gift certificates to Victoria's Secret, a Holiday Rosemary Evergreen tree, a S'mores maker, a massage and pedicure, babysitting and Lander's Theater tickets, gold bracelets, candles, plush towels and blankets, a Rocket blender, a Tickle Me Elmo, a Mickey Mouse hot air popcorn popper, a desktop rock/water garden, a clock/radio, and two others I can't remember at the moment.

The rules:
1. You may steal from anyone or choose an unwrapped gift.
2. Once a gift has been stolen twice, it's frozen and not allowed to be stolen again.
3. If your gift was stolen from you, refer to rule number 1.
4. The number 1 drawer gets to keep their current gift, or steal a gift at the end of the round.

So, a dirty Santa scene might resemble something like this: Erin, number 7 drawer, decides not to steal and reaches for an unopened package, which incidentally she brought. Hoping not to make a big deal out of it, she casually tells everyone, "It's just a gift certificate to Victoria's Secret, not much." Number 8, her sister Anna, steals it right away, proclaiming the gift to be worth only $15, shorting the audience by $20. Erin then steals from Great Aunt Colleen, who also took her own gift of lunch, a massage and a pedicure. Aunt Colleen steals the $35 Victoria's Secret card from Anna, who then decides to open a new present: another Victoria's Secret card.

Problem solved until the next few numbers duke it out. Tonya's sister has drawn a night of babysitting and two Landers Theater tickets. This is a hot commodity (both the babysitting and the theater tickets) in my family. Tonya contemplates stealing this from her sister, but decides to open a new gift, a hot air popper in the shape of Mickey Mouse. Her daughter Linley loves it and can't wait to get it home to use it and her new easy bake oven. So, Aunt Cathy, pleased that Whitney still has the theater tickets, steals them from her. Hearts are broken. Whitney doesn't know what to do. Discouraged, Tonya comes up with what seems like a great plan. Whitney steals the popcorn popper from Tonya; Tonya steals the theater tickets from Aunt Cathy; Aunt Cathy crashes the plan and steals the popcorn popper from Whitney. Whitney, glancing around, steals the rocket blender from her other sister Jennifer, who then steals the popcorn popper from Aunt Cathy. Aunt Cathy, not to be outdone, once again steals from Whitney, scoring and freezing the Rocket blender. Whitney, left now for the third time to choose or steal, decides upon the Tickle Me Elmo.

In the end, the three sisters come out with three great gifts. But every year, despite the merriment, despite the holly and ivy, despite the hot cocoa and the silver bells and the twinkling lights, my family gets downright evil with Dirty Santa.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

family never lets you down...

I have the best family.

People often get tired of their families coming around too often, or bugging them about life's choices or prying into their business. But one thing is certain: blood truly is thicker than water.

I am one of 17 grandchildren and I have 16 second cousins. I claim nine 'cousins-in-law'. I have four aunts and four uncles, another second cousin and her soulmate, a sister and an almost brother-in-law, a dad, and grandparents worth far more than their weight in gold. (And I'm just talking about one side of my family--the other is a whole new story!)

I'm so blessed.

That's 56 people in my circle of influence. And all of them will be toasty around grandpa's fire Christmas morning sharing breakfasts of hot sausage, biscuits and gravy, fried potatoes and red eye gravy, fried wild and tame turkey, homemade jelly from last season's harvest, and all the hot cocoa you can drink. (Not to mention fresh tomato juice--again from last season's harvest, and fresh squeezed orange juice--although growing up at grandma's my cousin's and I always preferred Tang over anything else!) :)

I was fortunate enough to spend last Friday night with two of my cousins Tonya and Whitney. They are hard core working moms with mini vans and over-the-shoulder totes that support the logo, name, and colors of their children's ball teams. Text-book mothers who have it all--and who are too blessed to be stressed about anything.

They started--literally STARTED--shopping at 9:00 a.m. Friday, Dec. 22. (This date is significant as each are shopping for a total of five kids, two husbands, two sisters, two brothers-in-law, parents, grandparents, babysitters and one dirty Santa gift, a tradition worth starting at your family get-together.) So, at noon they were lounging at Mexican Villa going over lists of places still needed to go and things still needed to get. I joined them a little after 6:00 p.m. at the mall. Accompanied by another friend, the three of them never stopped yakking and stopped only for few seconds at a time to mark off lists, calculate costs, and total number of presents per child. And although they often said, "I have enough for this NOT let me buy anything else!," they would invariably be caught red-handed finding a bargain and plead..."but it's only $11! How can I resist!?"

I dubbed myself official "assistant" shopper. I searched aisles for toy laptops, racks for pink snowsuits, shelves for flat screen TVs. I ran errands at Best Buy, back to the mall, on to Target, back to the mall, into Penney's. . . and yes, back out to the mall.

At 12:30 a.m., the ladies finally decided it was time to eat. They were going strong with 65 shopping bags each (all amazingly crammed into about six huge bags). I was dog-tired. When I joined them six and a half hours earlier, I had hoped to join them for a little shopping and a nice casual dinner at sit-down restaurant. As you can tell, not the case.

After much deliberation and a not so excited group to realize IHOP was the only place open, someone suggested Steak and Shake and the response was unanimous. Steak and Shake it would be for burgers and fries and shakes, a hearty, energizing meal before the next three hours spent clearing out the aisles at Wal-Mart.

I think they pulled into their driveways around 4:45 a.m. A few hours later, they celebrated a birthday complete with presents, cake and ice cream for one of their children, so I'm not sure anyone has had any quality sleep.

But they will all be at grandma's Christmas, and no one will ever know the difference.

And that's one reason why my family is so great.

(Now, one day soon I'll post the not-so-great things about my family, but hey, it's Christmas, can't we all just get along?)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

santa's school . . .the school of yule

Yes, even Santa Claus must take tests. Imagine sitting on his lap, with dear Mrs. Claus by his side and busy-bodied elves wandering around pretending to paint tinkertoys or molding G.I. Joes, and you ask Santa "Which reindeer is your favorite?" He doesn't answer. Because he can't. He can't remember any of their names.

Tragedy for a kid! Seriously, what Santa doesn't know his reindeer. Probably one who hasn't been to Santa MICHIGAN of all places.

I must say I am amused by this article and never realized a place like this existed, (although it makes perfectly good sense!)

I suppose the only requirements for dear old Santa would be a vivid imagination--to make up sparkling imaginiative lies, a quick wit--to respond to those trickster children who are just on the brink of believing and not believing, and a keen sense of understanding--to know when a child needs an extra angel to pray for him or her at night.

Friday, December 22, 2006

the depth of life...or the shallowness therein...

Am I ever glad I'm not in the retail business. I took my dad shopping today and we spent five hours buying a total of three gifts and a two pound bag of pecans.

The traffic made us insane. Especially when we took our secret roads we always take...which weren't so secret today.

Tomorrow we're meeting for breakfast and finishing up the shopping. I'm mixed about the whole 'shopping' experience. Colin and I, and a few others, had a conversation about Internet shopping vs. person to person shopping. "Just think of all the life you miss out on when you don't "go" somewhere to shop," he tried to convince me. "You miss hearing the Christmas carols over the loud speakers, the rude cashiers, the squealing kids who are then threatened by their parent's with 'santa's watching you,' the festive decorations, the chilly air, the lack of parking," he added. "It's all good, Ms. Daugherty. You should never want to buy ALL of your gifts online."

I'm beginning to disagree.

Online shopping seems more and more appealing than competing with rude shoppers, unfriendly sales clerks, and crowded parking lots.

However, shopping with the masses offline does have it's benefits. Today I ran into three people I haven't seen in a while--proving there's always time in my life for good conversation, good friends, and a good cup of coffee in a cozy booth.