Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas - or is it?

Recently, Leah at agirlandaboy (one of my favorite blogs for those keeping track!) wrote about her Christmas traditions and thoughts about changing things up this year due to travel.  The comments were fascinating....  I kept going back to read more about what people do in their homes.

For better or for worse, I compare myself to others.  It's not my best personality trait, but I do it.   Is she a faster runner than me? (probably!)  How does s/he organize the pantry?  etc. etc. etc.  I think that is why I have a mild addiction to Pinterest and blogs in general.  I am curious.

Anyway---- Leah's post got me thinking about how we did Christmas when Al and I were kids, and how things have changed as we got older, but more accurately, since I got married and don't spend Christmas Eve or morning at 'home'  THE HORRORS

As kids, we used to all go to Christmas Eve Mass, presented by the children.  It was, and remains, very entertaining.  We then headed home to eat spaghetti and put the finishing touches on party set up- Mom has hosted the big family since I was in junior high.  (When we were tiny we ate spaghetti and I went to bed early knowing Santa would come.  I was exuberant, what can I say?)

Growing up, Santa wrapped our stuff in ‘santa paper’ and had different handwriting than any person's I have ever seen.  I swear, when I do have kids, my mother will be recruited for the gift tags.  Amazing!  The pile typically included two gifts per person, plus a themed stuff animal, from Santa.  My parents had a few gifts for us mixed in as well, and Al and I always got each other something at school's secret santa shop.  Stockings were hung on the fireplace, with each and every tiny little gift wrapped.  In Santa paper, of course.  Seriously.  My mom must have been cuckoo to have done that- but she did!

Being the Christmas Elf that I am, I always woke up first.  It was so early that it was still dark out.  I would sit in front of the tree for quite awhile waiting for Al to get up- or eventually would get her up myself, if she was super sleepy.  We would sit in front of the tree together looking at all the boxes and the wrapping paper and trying to determine what was in each one.  We didn't pick anything up or shake the boxes-- it was just gazing.

Once Mom and Dad were up, Al and I used to take turns opening gifts, so that we could see who got what.   I never minded alternating, although if we got the same gift, the person who went 2nd was definitely not surprised!  Oh well.

Our ‘big family’ gathering was – and remains- a free for all.  One or two people pass out gifts to everyone else seated in the room.   Al and I have taken on this role the past few years- which I enjoy! -but I sort of hate the buzz saw aspect of gift opening and sometimes wish people took turns. Then again when there are 25 people it would take hours, so maybe it’s more efficient this way?  I guess I have mixed feelings about how to open gifts with the same number of people active on a MLB roster.

I happen to know that Michael's Santa gifts were NOT wrapped which meant he and his sister had to stay out of the living room till their parents were awake. That would have KILLED me as a kid so in retrospect, I am glad ours were wrapped.

As I got older, I actually made brunch for my sister and parents.  I am not a chef.  Or even a cook.  I will bake you cookies or boil pasta but I just don't cook.  I probably could figure it out, but I have no desire. My husband enjoys it.  What can I say?  I am a lucky girl.

But Christmas was different..... I created delicious menus and was able to put my early bird self to work on Christmas morning and make breakfast while listening to Amy Grant or watching a movie.   That is one thing I actually miss now that we spend Christmas Eve and morning at my in-laws.    I miss making breakfast.  (Don't get me wrong, my mother-in-law's breakfast is fun and I am not all weepy here, just sayin')  Once we have our own nuclear family I am confident I will start this up again.

For the past few years our schedule has been as follows:
December 24: Church with my family, dinner with Michael's, play games
December 25: Morning presents with Michael's family, breakfast, presents with my [small] family, stay at Mom's for the big party, at which point Michael's family will join us again

It's sort of a whirlwind but we are lucky to be able to see both sets of parents relatively easily.

So there is a snapshot of what we have done, and what we do now.  After the requisite comparing via the blog comment section, I am still most fascinated by the wrapped or unwrapped gifts.

What are your Christmas traditions?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Meet Oliver!

Last Saturday Michael noticed a cat in our yard roaming around.  Monday evening (December 3) we went to get the mail and the same cat came bounding up to us.  He started to purr and rub himself on our legs. Then he flopped in the street and did the 'roll over show belly' pose and kept purring.  We scratched his face and showered him with attention for a few minutes and then had to go inside.

As we walked back to the house, the kitty followed us.  He was sprinting and meowing and finally reached the porch when we did.   He longingly looked at the front door.  Michael asked "Should we let him in?" and sat on the porch to keep scratching his head.

We decided this would become moot if he belonged to someone.  I called my neighbor, who is an animal lover and knows what goes on in our neighborhood, to see if she knew his story.  "He is a stray, and has been around for 3 weeks.  Various people have been feeding him sporadically and he needs a home.  Can you and Michael adopt him?"

In a moment of weakness, we let him in the house.   We opened the door and he waltzed right in.  Coincidentally, I was working late that night.  I sent Michael to the pet store to buy a litter box, bowls, and some food.  During the time he was gone, the kitty slept - on my lap! - in my office while I worked.  It was the craziest thing...  he was immediately at home and comfortable.

Since he was a stray and an orphan cat, we are calling him Oliver- or Ollie for short.  My sister wondered if that was because he had a British accent, but I can say with confidence that his accent has not yet been determined.

Oliver is the friendliest cat I have ever met.  (Not exaggerating!  It's a little bit ridiculous.  He acts like a stalker sometimes)  Ollie enjoys being held, sitting on laps, purring, and rolling around.  He is very long and lean….. muscle-y and about 10 lbs.  The vet guesses he is about a year old…. not a kitten but his ears still look too big for his face.    He is very very cute and a schmoozer - he will not leave us alone for very long b/c he wants his face rubbed or wants to flop down next to us.  The photo above illustrates his behavior 95% of the day.

We were not planning on having a cat, but he found us so we will do our best to give him a nice home.

By the way... I was totally having a deja vu moment when a stray tabby cat showed up on the porch.  If only we had a basement where he could live before moving upstairs!