Category Archives: Holidays

No More Trick Or (Candy-Free) Treats

When you’re a kid, it’s all about the candy. It’s Sweetarts for Valentine’s Day, chocolate bunnies and jelly beans for Easter, candy canes for Christmas, and goody bags and sweets-filled piñatas at birthday parties… all inevitably followed by the dreaded tummy ache and crossed fingers during the next dentist checkup.

And then there’s the Granddaddy Candy Holiday of them all: Halloween.

People who grow up outside the boundaries of the Land of Good & Plenty must think it an odd custom for Americans to ring the doorbell of a neighbor they’ve never met while their little precious dons a tiara or a muscle-laden costume (or a tiara and a muscle-laden costume if they live in West Hollywood) who hurls an opened pillowcase into the resident’s face and yells “Trick or Treat?” The neighbor repays this intrusion by plopping a piece of machine-wrapped candy into the overflowing bag, then the little tyke trots off to beg at the doors of the rest of the neighborhood.

When I was a kid, elderly neighbors used to hand out pennies or apples. We were told not to eat the apples, just in case that kindly octogenarian was really a mass murderer who snuck razor blades into the core. Forget that no kid would actually choose to eat the apple. With the choice of a piece of fruit or a Baby Ruth Bar, is there ever a dilemma? Also, you’d think the FBI could track down the homes of such sinister culprits, even without the use of fingerprinting or the more modern DNA test.

But the cold hard fact is – kids don’t want apples or pennies. They want the candy.

So why is it that for the past 13 years we have not offered such cavity contributors?

On August 12, 1999, my daughter Emily went to the pediatrician’s office for her 3-year checkup and instead was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This is not the same diabetes you rampantly hear about on the airwaves where you are kept in check if you just eat right, exercise and take a pill, nor part of the epidemic among lower-income children who eat the majority of their meals under the Golden Arches. Roughly ten percent of all diabetics are type 1 (insulin-dependant), rather than type 2 (adult onset).  Most people are unaware that they are two completely different diseases, and at least for the type 1’s, it is contracted through absolutely no fault of their own.

Any food Emily eats with carbohydrates requires an insulin injection. Without the shot, in a matter of days Emily would be dead.

I don’t mean to be a downer. It’s just the truth.

It was hard on me and Emily’s dad, and of course even harder on Emily. So after two and a half months of counting carbs and turning our little toddler into a human pincushion, we were faced with the horrors of Halloween.

We decided to ix-nay the andy-kay and instead purchased our Halloween treats from the biggest overseas cheap trinket organization of them all – Oriental Trading Company. You don’t just buy one or two items from this website. The objects are often ordered by the gross, which means 144, which in of itself is mighty gross.

We purchased every cheesy Halloween novelty they offered – stickers, pencils, temporary tattoos, spider rings, squishy pumpkins, glow-in-the-dark balls, bendable skeletons, plastic vampire teeth, sticky eyeballs, skull keychains, rubber fingers, orange slinkies, bubbles in black mini bottles, gooey worms, spinning tops with witches and black cats, and monster finger puppets.

We bought a ton of these toys. Well, maybe not literally a ton, but certainly dozens of gross which weighed tens of pounds. For Halloween 1999 we handed those cheap toys out in lieu of candy, and for the most part, the kids didn’t seem to mind. Then unlike the leftover candy assortment that’s usually just eaten and transformed into resentful gross tonnage that becomes fodder for New Year’s resolutions, we just boxed up the leftover toys until the next Halloween.

And the next.

And the next.

Today, a week after Halloween 2012, I’m packing up our holiday decorations and this is all that’s left of that original 1999 Halloween toy collection.

Oh, Oriental Trading Company – you have served us much longer than Nestle’s, Hershey’s, and anything the Dollar Tree could have offered. We had no diabetic comas, no rotten teeth, and we have not contributed to the carbon footprint of our planet.

Forget the last one. I meant carb, not carbon.

And unlike Nestle’s or Hershey’s, nothing expired. As for the Dollar Tree candy – that would outlast the Apocalypse. There’s nothing natural in that stuff, so there’s no ingredients that could ever expire.

Even with the terrors of Halloween, that’s kinda scary… isn’t it?

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Filed under Anxiety, Family, Holidays, Humor, Kids, Parenting

Ooh… Something Shiny!

If it’s 9:15 pm on July 4th anywhere in the United States you can pretty much guess that every warm body is going to be looking upwards. They’ll be saying “ooh” and “aah” and hoping that the couple of big explosions in a row don’t signal that the grand finale is coming, because they’ve been waiting a full year for this event.

This Independence Day, we had planned to climb up a ladder and watch fireworks from the roof of our patio because I knew my husband Tom would be pooped out and tired of crowds. Instead, I ditched him (and I am truly not kidding – he was very happy to have the house to himself) and joined some friends at the redundantly named Moorpark Park to watch fireworks.

Moorpark Park does not have a fireworks display, but it’s only a few blocks away from CBS Studio Center (AKA CBS Radford), which is home to NBC’s Parks and Recreation, CBS’s CSI New York and the syndicated television show Entertainment Tonight. Besides making tv shows, the studio also hosts an annual 4th of July event which includes food, a kids fun zone, and culminates in a huge fireworks display. The downside is, it costs 20 bucks and frequently sells out.

Most people like a good deal, but quite a few want it completely gratis. Think of Napster, residents leeching off their neighbor’s Internet service, or when the LA basin diverts Northern California’s water southward. Like these notable freebies, hundreds or perhaps thousands of people annually flock to the streets adjacent to CBS Radford to watch the fireworks for absolutely no cost. Because the studio will probably not build an incredibly tall Great Wall of China-like barrier to protect the sky above its head, the fireworks show is visible to everyone within an eight mile radius whether or not they fork over an Andrew Jackson greenback to watch. The studios are spending much more effort trying to re-build that Great Wall of China to try and keep the formerly Communist country from bootlegging all their DVDs. An unpaid sneak peek at a local pyrotechnics display is small potatoes in comparison to the billions lost in the entertainment black market.

Usually I’ll secretly embezzle a fireworks show from the privacy of my own backyard ladder (that is until we got our new roof that wouldn’t cave in), but this was my first time stealing the show with a crowd of other like-minded thieves. No one else seemed to have a guilty conscience. They weren’t discussing whether or not they should go back another day and tip the Studio City Chamber of Commerce (the organization that puts on the fireworks show), or that someone with a hint of integrity would deliberately close her eyes rather than watch without paying a fee. So like the sheep that I am, I followed. I watched. I oohed and I aawed.

My friends have been doing this for years, so they knew the best place to park the car, the spots in the park that are not blocked by building or trees, and the perfect time to arrive without being caught in a traffic jam. We spread out our blankets and waited for the show to begin. Then one of my friends turned to me and laughed.

“Wait till the cars start parking in the middle of the street.”

I had no idea what she was talking about, but she explained that because all the parking spots within a half mile were taken, that people would start creating their own parking spots in the median.

I thought she was kidding. But she wasn’t.

At 9:15, the CBS Radford fireworks show began. And so did the new parking lot.

I’m not sure exactly what was going through the drivers’ heads. Most likely they were driving their merry way when a big bright flying thing shot into their peripheral vision.

“Ooh… something shiny.”

So they slammed on their brakes. And finding no available parking spots, they stopped in the middle of the street and watched the pretty lights.

The car behind them did the same thing. And the next. And so by 9:16 pm, the entire middle lane of Moorpark Avenue was instantly transformed into a parking lot.

You would have thought that there would be a lot of angry drivers trying to turn left and were physically impossible to do so. But there weren’t. A few cars drove east or west, but one single stationary line of cars was suddenly stretched end to end for a half mile in both directions.

Major gridlock

By 9:30, the show was over, and the cars started to move, as if the colorless, smoky sky awoke them from their trance. The vehicles slowly pulled out from the median and joined the flow of traffic… which immediately stopped again. Apparently the thousands of onlookers from CBS Radford and its nearby streets all flowed onto Moorpark Avenue simultaneously and were transformed into a gridlock of monumental proportions. At that moment, a police car, fire truck and paramedic approached the nearby intersection of Moorpark and Laurel Canyon with lights and sirens blazing. I don’t know if it was a serious accident or just a fender bender, but if the line of cars was moving slowly before, it was definitely stopped now.

My friends and I strolled a couple of blocks back to our parking spots and were probably home before the gridlock moved a yard – most likely because the onlookers passed by the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles, stopped, transfixed and uttered:

“Ooh… something shiny.”

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Filed under Friends, Holidays, Humor

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Instant Gratification

When Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence and had it co-signed by our forefathers, I’m sure they all had lofty goals in mind in their quest for “the pursuit of happiness.” More accurately, “happiness” 236 years ago probably meant straying as far away as possible from anything that made people overtly unhappy – war, poverty, disease, imprisonment, death. I try to put myself in the shoes of these young Americans-to-be and wonder what would have made a citizen happy in the year 1776 compared with 2012:

Food:

1776: Americans planted their own seeds, watered and tended their farms or gardens, then harvested, prepared and cooked their food. They were happy not to starve.

2012: Americans are only happy if they can super-size their meal and get it NOW! Except for the ones on diets. They prefer to starve.

Shelter:

1776: After half a year of building it themselves, Americans found pleasure in moving into their stone, brick or wooden homes on their own homesteads.

2012: Americans are happy to pitch a tent in the freeway off ramp bushes as long as the highway patrol doesn’t see them. Other Americans are happy to live in their own homes until those houses are foreclosed. Then they are not so happy.

Clothing:

1776: Americans were happy to grow cotton, spin it into thread, weave it into fabric, cut out the fabric patterns, and then sew their clothes that they passed on from sibling to sibling.

2012: Americans are happy to buy as many clothes as possible until they’ve maxed out their credit cards. They are only happy for the first nano-second that they’re actually wearing those outfits. They’re still paying for those clothes long after the apparel has gone out of fashion, and their younger siblings refuse to wear them because they’ve gone out of fashion.

Medicine:

1776: Doctors used leeches to drain poisoned blood in an effort to keep their patients healthy and happy.

2012: Insurance companies are leeches who drain the life’s blood from those who are insured, and yet many of those patients are still not particularly healthy. Those without insurance either die, go into debt for the rest of their lives, or rack up billions of dollars in bills that the American taxpayer gets to pay. No one is happy. Well… except for maybe the insurance companies.

Education:

1776: Americans were happy to get a free education. Children learned how to read and write at an early age in public schools; however higher learning was a privilege only for wealthy white men.

2012: Although all Americans are offered a free public school education, it is often greatly criticized, and many young adults graduate without knowing how to read and write. Higher learning is available for all Americans – as long as they score 2400 on the SAT and allow themselves to go into permanent debt from student loans. Or they’re wealthy white men.

War:

1776: Early Americans from all social classes gladly fought in the Colonial War to be free from British tyranny.

2012: It’s primarily just the lower social classes who enlist in the war against Afghanistan to be free from… I’m not exactly sure, but I don’t think anyone is happy about it.

Pastimes:

1776: People found bliss in simple pastimes like reading a book or conversing with friends.

2012: Americans with jobs work too many hours and spend too much time on their commute, so they don’t have time for a happy pastime. Americans who want that job but are unemployed are too broke and depressed to be happy doing anything. Those who deliberately don’t work are the happiest of all. They watch reality tv on their big screens all day and fantasize that they’ll be discovered on American Idol, or they will be the star of the next Entorage. They like to converse with their friends by text and Facebook and badmouth all the haters out there.

Blogging:

1776: People often put quill and ink to paper to document their day in their diaries and journals, recreating their happy moments. Unfortunately, these diaries are often lost or destroyed, so their lives and thoughts are gone with them, and we’ll never know how truly happy they were.

2012: Millions of people tap away at their computers, iPhones and iPads in their web logs (blogs) bitching about their day, or how things were so much better 236 years ago. Then they hit “send” or “upload,” and it’s all there for the universe to see… forever. They might actually be happy, but posterity sees them as selfish, money-grubbing, ungrateful sloths.

Maybe 236 years from now, in the year 2248, Americans will again be happy just to have clothes on their backs, food in their tummies, and a roof over their heads.

Or they’ll look upon 2012 as the good ol’ days.

Funny how things always seem happier in retrospect.

I hope you all have a wonderful 4th of July!

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For Father’s Day, My Husband’s Wish is to Just Be Left Alone

Marc, Tom & Lina at the Saturday night Dodger game against the White Sox.

My husband Tom loves baseball with a passion, so for the past few Father’s Days, we’ve taken him to a Dodger game. It’s a perfect tradition – leave at noon for the 1:10 game, stuff ourselves with Dodger dogs, cotton candy and this incredibly tasty ice cream bites treat called Dibs, and take in some sun. It’s a bummer that Emily and Mary can’t make it since they spend Father’s Day with their dad (my ex-husband), who of course trumps step dad, but we take Jake, Tom’s mom Lina, and one or two of Tom’s childless buddies.

A few weeks ago Tom revealed to me he actually isn’t as fond of this tradition as I thought he was. In fact, it turns out that he not only hates day games (too much sun), but frankly he doesn’t like going anywhere on a Sunday, even if it does seem like fun. Apparently he would like to spend and entire day resting up from weekend fun, which basically nixes any holiday that falls on a Sunday – Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter. If he had his way he would hold Hallmark hostage until the card company switched all those big days to a Saturday. Better yet – Monday so he can get a holiday from work.

Emily, Mary & Jake at the Dodger game

This actually works out better for all of us since it means that Emily and Mary can join us. They don’t really follow the game, but they do like the food. The girls and Jake also like clapping with the organ, doing the wave, and trying to hit the illegal beach ball that gets bounced around in the stands. We brought our friend Marc, a huge sports fan (he attended every single home Kings game and three that were out of state), but he’s got a bah-humbug attitude about these activities. I was afraid that Marc was going to climb over the bleachers and pop the beach ball with a sharpened soda straw. Still, it’s always fun to go to any sporting event with someone who’s a fan of the game.

Tom had a bit of a damper for this year’s Father’s Day. He came home from work early Friday with a horrible upset stomach and it lingered on through the weekend. Although he trudged through the Dodger game, he didn’t really feel like eating anything, which is kind of like going on a cruise when you’re in the middle of a cleanse. Sure, you’ll have a good time, but the meals are a big part of the trip.

Tom & me at the Dodger game after I ate too many garlic fries

On the other hand, I gorged myself on a platter of garlic fries which were dripping in either oil or butter, and then it ended up reeking from my pores all night. Needless to say, Tom spent Father’s Day Eve sleeping on the sofa. There’s nothing like garlic sweat to really mess up an already upset stomach.

The next morning, the kids and I cooked Tom a special meal of extra-thick bacon and a huge omelet with extra cheese, or what should have been called The Clogged Artery Breakfast. I was still full from the night before, the girls we going to eat breakfast with their dad, and Jake was dying for a Poptart since it’s a treat he only gets on the weekends. So Tom was left to eat by himself, or at least pretended to eat while we were watching. With his wobbly stomach, he probably dumped it in the trashcan as soon as we left the room singing Happy Father’s Day to You.

The kids serve Tom breakfast on the sofa

The girls departed with their dad, which left just Jake and myself to celebrate Tom’s fifth year of fatherhood (sixth if you count Jake kicking around in my stomach). I figured it was Tom’s big day and he could spend it any way he wished.

And his wish?: to be left alone to watch westerns all day and play the MMO game Dark Age of Camelot with his virtual friends.

Just one funny card. No gift to open. Lina bought the Dodger tickets and I bought all the food there, and since Tom didn’t feel like eating, that pretty much means that I gave my husband bupkis for Father’s Day. Jake drew a picture of himself on a palm-size rock and made a paper tie for his dad.

Jake gives Tom his Father’s Day gifts

We gave Tom his wish for the most part. Jake played with Legos. I cleaned the house, which was so filthy it should have had cauthion tape stretched around it. Jake and I ran some errands and brought Tom some minestrone soup for dinner.

Pretty boring. But for my low-maintenance husband and his queasy tummy, it was a great Father’s Day.

The nice thing about today is that it will be very easy to top it next year.

If you’re a dad, I hope you got exactly what you wanted for Father’s Day.

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Filed under Baseball, Family, Friends, Holidays, Humor, Husband, Illness, Kids, Parenting

A Visit From the Ghost of Mother’s Day Past

Today was Mother’s Day. I woke up at 10:15 am and my first thought was, “God, I slept in late.” Then came a second sudden thought: “I’m going back to sleep!”

I rolled over and threw the pillow over my face, then heard a loud throat-clearing sound in front of me. A plump elderly woman resembling Mrs. Santa Claus was floating in front of my bed.

“Happy Mother’s Day!” the woman said. I realized that it was Grandma Flynn, my paternal grandmother, looking remarkably spry despite being dead for nearly 40 years. I jolted awake in an instant.

“Grandma! What are you doing here?”

“Why I’m the ghost of Mother’s Day Past,” she told me. “You looked like you were about to sleep away Mother’s Day, so I decided to take you on a little trip.”

In an instant, we were both hovering over my childhood home, circa 1969.  The kitchen looked like a tornado struck, with pots, pans, dishes, food and stickiness everywhere. A 7-year old me was carrying a tray of food into my mom’s bedroom, along with my siblings Tammie (6), Michael (5), and Teri (4).

“Happy Mother’s Day!” we shouted in semi-unison.

My 27-year old mom shot up and glanced at her alarm clock: 6:00 am. She stared at our breakfast: cold burnt toast, charcoal-colored bacon, runny eggs, and unstirred orange juice made from concentrate. A clump of frozen pulp spilled on the bedspread as the younger me set the tray down.

“Breakfast in bed?” my mother gushed. She took a big bite of the black toast and smiled a truly genuine smile.

“This is the best Mother’s Day ever!” she declared as she pulled us in for an enormous group hug.

My floating Present Day self turned to Grandma Flynn. “Wow. She actually ate it. Yuck.”

“Your mom was a good woman,” my grandmother said.

“She still is,” I replied.

Then Grandma Flynn brought me back to Present Day and I saw that it was still 10:15 am. No time had gone by.

“Why are you showing me this, Grandma?” I asked.

“Because it’s Mother’s Day and you just want to sleep in rather than let your children fix you breakfast in bed.”

“But I hate crumbs in my bed,” I said. “And even though the kids tell me they’re going to clean up the mess, I know I’m the one who’s going to end up mopping the kitchen. I just want to sleep in and go out to breakfast.”

Grandma Flynn shook her head sadly and started to float away.

“Wait, Grandma!” I called after her. “Why are you leaving?”

“You are about to be visited by the Ghost of Mother’s Day Future,” she answered. And then she disappeared.

A moment later, an animated Jane Jetson appeared in my bedroom and transported me in her futuristic hovercraft. We flew to a nursing home. And there I was, lying in a bed wearing really ugly pajamas. And if I thought I looked flabby and wrinkly at 49, it was nothing compared to what I’ll look like at 85.

A nurse walked into the room with a tray of cold oatmeal. “Happy Mother’s Day,” she greeted me. The nurse started to feed me as oatmeal dribbled down my chin.

“No! No!” I cried. “Please don’t let this be my future, Jane Jetson! Let me go back to present day Mother’s Day! I can change. Let me eat the burnt toast!”

A second later, a grown Emily and Mary walked through the door of the nursing home.

“Mom! You’re not dressed yet?” Mary asked, shoving me out of bed.

Emily pulled a sweatshirt over my head. “Our reservation is in half an hour!”

A moment later we were at a huge brunch buffet, joined by a grown-up Jake and a bunch of my grandkids. Jane Jetson rolled her eyes and heaved a heavy sigh.

“Oh. You’re one of those.”

“One of what?” The Present Day Me asked.

“BTR’s.”

I stared at Jane cluelessly.

“Burnt Toast Reformers,” she clarified. “One of those moms who convinces her kids that she’d rather sleep in and go out to breakfast than wake up at the crack of dawn and eat burnt toast.”

Jane Jetson guided me back to the hovercraft and flew me back to Present Day.

Then, like Grandma Flynn, she too disappeared.

I glanced at the clock. It was still 10:15 am.

So I rolled over and went back to sleep until 10:45 am.

And then I pulled on a sweatshirt and ate breakfast with my kids.

At Marie Callender’s. Where there is no burnt toast, and no mess to clean up.

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Easter: The Religious Holiday That’s All About the Candy

Jake: My Little Bunny

The evolution of holidays can be a little comical. Who would have guessed that when the Indians (AKA politically correct Native Americans) held a welcome dinner for their new neighbors – the Pilgrims – that that nearly 400 years later it would all be about grown men screaming at their flat screens, trying to urge some college boy with a pigskin to “Run! Run! Dammit! Run!”

Two centuries after a golden child was born in a barn, we celebrate with a fat man (AKA politically correct “slightly overweight male”) stuffing Hot Wheels and iPod accessories into “stockings.” “Stockings” bear no resemblance to actual socks or pantyhose, and instead are just large bags decorated with evergreens, winged cherubs, and magnified snowflake atoms.

And just 33 years after the previous event, we celebrate the rising of a dead man (AKA very politically incorrect zombie [I am so completely kidding with this blasphemy because my God has a sense of humor]) with baby ducks, fluffy bunnies, and sending children off in search of colored hard-boiled eggs and plastic ovals filled with anything that will rot baby teeth.

When I was a child, my mom would hide Easter baskets for my siblings and me. The baskets were filled with shredded plastic hay, foiled-wrapped chocolate eggs and a large chocolate rabbit. Mom was not a very good hider. The basket would be stealthily perched behind the living room drapes, on the top of a bookshelf, or underneath a dining room chair. Within seconds of getting out of bed we’d be munching the ears off defenseless brown bunnies.

My oldest daughter Emily was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 3, so I never started this sugar-filled tradition with my children since they’d be getting their fill of candy later in the afternoon. I can justify that I saved them from the bitter disappointment of realizing that the large chocolate bunny was actually hollow and not filled with fudge or creamy nougat. Or I can think that because I’m a much better hider than my mom, that my kids would be spending all Easter Sunday searching for a basket that was melting in the attic, in the cupboard that stores the mousetraps, or resting on the top of our backyard telephone pole.

With the exception of the whole going to mass thing, Easter was always one of my favorite holidays of the year. When I was a kid, we’d get together with the rest of the Flynn aunts, uncles and cousins at my grandparents’ home and all the cousins would have an Easter egg hunt. My Aunt Helen has a super-8 film of us dressed in our Sunday best as we all ran through the bushes searching for colored eggs. My youngest sister Teri was about 3 years old and the film shows her trying to bite through the shell of a hard-boiled egg. Today Teri’s a charge nurse in Riverside and has to pump the stomachs of children like herself who digest foreign objects that are not meant to be edible. I guess it was destiny.

The Flynns are now spread out all over the western states, so today it’s just my immediate family that travels to my sister Tammie’s house in Fontana for the big Easter egg hunt. Besides my 3 kids, I have 6 nieces, 4 nephews, 2 great-nieces and 3 great-nephews (including one coming in July), 5 step-N&Ns and one nephew/Godson who can’t spend Easter with us anymore because he died in a tragic motorcycle accident last year (but like Jesus – the big Easter Man himself, I believe he’s with us in spirit). We make The Waltons look like a nuclear family.

Every Easter Tammie hauls out a bin large enough to store a Great Dane, and it’s filled with empty plastic Easter eggs. The adults spend a chunk of the afternoon filling the eggs with candy while the kids decorate more hard-boiled eggs than they will probably ever eat in a lifetime. Then we hide the hundreds of eggs around my sister’s backyard, hoping that the hiding spots are not so clever that the kids will bypass them and the candy will instead be eaten by one of Tammie’s many goat-like dogs who will literally eat anything that’s not nailed down. She used to have several pet bunnies (which were appropriate for Easter), but even though they resided in a Fort Knox-like cage, they were attacked by the seemingly sweet dogs.

There aren’t any Easter ducks in Tammie’s backyard, but she does have two chickens roaming around, and for some reason the dogs ignore them. I assume that beaks present a more dangerous weapon than an adorable twitchy nose. During today’s Easter egg hunt, one of the kids found a large pile of non-colored eggs in the bushes and realized that they were not the plastic variety, but instead a hidden stash laid by the chickens. It was a little late in the day to hard-boil and stain them with vinegar-scented coloring, but they’ll probably make a nice omelet tomorrow.

Because it was a beautiful Southern California day, the kids had been splashing in the Jacuzzi so they hunted for eggs in their bathing suits. If you’re reading this from Canada, aren’t you just a tad jealous?

I am writing this blog on my laptop as my husband drives all home on the traffic-filled 10 Freeway. There are lots of other minivans and SUVs around us, filled with people like us who just spent a fun-filled day with friends and family, good food, and a fruitful search for candy-filled eggs. My kids are exhausted, which is a good thing since tomorrow ends LAUSD’s spring vacation, and full bellies and a long car ride home are sure to mean a good night’s sleep.

Now on to the next big holiday: Memorial Day. It’s a day that we honor all our country’s soldiers with charcoal and hot dogs.

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♫♪ Oh Christmas Tree! Oh Christmas Tree! You’ve Overstayed Your Welcome! ♫♪

When I was growing up, New Year’s Day was special. It was a day we didn’t have to go to school or do anything. My siblings and I would spend all morning watching the Rose Parade on tv. And it was the day we dragged our very dead Christmas tree to the curb, leaving a dense trail of tinsel and pine needles throughout our home and yard.

This year my kids had the day off school, but I still had a laundry list of chores to do. The parade wasn’t held, apparently because New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday. And we didn’t drag our Christmas tree to the curb because it wasn’t actually dead.

It’s now Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the second holiday of the new year, and that damn tree is still perched inside.

This Christmas we broke down and bought an artificial tree. I wrote a blog about it a few weeks ago and mentioned the long term cost savings, the eco-friendly advantage, and how our heavy ornaments would not be dropping to the floor as the branches became more brittle.

There turned out to be even more perks that I hadn’t thought of. There’s a large corner of the living room I haven’t had to sweep because there’s a tree covering the floor. Under the tree is a logical place to store presents that still need to be put away. And we’ve been able to keep our multicolored Christmas tree lights twinkling each night without fear of the 120 degree Fahrenheit bulbs igniting an indoor brush fire.

Without the immediate need to dash for a fire extinguisher, I’ve been putting off de-decorating the house. But like fish and houseguests, the tree has overstayed its welcome.

It’s not just the tree. It’s also the four dozen Christmas decorations scattered throughout the bookshelves and tabletops that need to be boxed up. They’re squeezing out the space of my naked pregnancy pictures (tastefully done – mostly focused on my balance ball-sized belly) and photos of my girls when they had missing teeth. There’s really no good reason for stocking hangers to be sitting idly by more than three weeks after the fat man came down our nonexistent chimney (it apparently toppled down in the Northridge earthquake a decade before we bought our house. I’m jealous every time I smell a fireplace).

We also have a growing collection of Christmas-themed stuffed animals, courtesy of my mother-in-law who seems to think that her only grandson can’t get enough of them. There’s Mickey and Minnie with Santa hats, a plethora of penguins, red ribboned reindeer, snowmen with scarves, and miscellaneous finger puppets which thankfully don’t speak on their own. Last year I stored them all in a kitchen trash bag, but the collection has grown so this year I’m going to need a full-sized outdoor trash bag – the kind that boasts about being 4 ml. thick, which is almost wide enough to measure with a ruler. I think I’m going to have to reverse vacuum the air out so all those winter animals fit.

I’m a little bummed that the tree is still up and I still haven’t bought a pine-scented candle from my friend Paula who sells PartyLites. That was the first thing I had planned to do when we bought the fake tree. The good news is I still have 11 months until next Christmas. I’ll have to ask if there’s also a fireplace-scented candle or if I should just haul our outdoor barbeque into the living room for the month of December.

I need about half a day to pack everything back up into their green and red bins, and since I don’t have any work today, I thought now might be the perfect time.

Or maybe I’ll go see a movie instead.

The next holiday is Valentine’s Day. I can do it then… although I guess that wouldn’t be very romantic. President’s Day? Easter?

If I can just postpone it until July 4th, maybe I can tell people that I’m decorating for Christmas early. After all, isn’t that about the time stores start advertising those artificial Christmas trees?

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