The 2021 Christmas Newsletter

Salutations, mon ami.

Lest you think this is one of those sweet family newsletters full of accomplishments, exotic travels, and perfectly manicured photographs, I shall remind you that I have a full sized bathtub sitting on my bed right now. I just made a drug run to Target for a sister who tested positive for the ‘Rona. And my nails are chewed down to the nubbins because, life.

Compared to the 2020 Newsletter, this one feels hazy, but slightly more constructive.

I think the photo above captures the general #mood. If there’s one thing the Covid kitten taught me, it’s that naps are good, kibble is better, and for a truly uplifting experience, nothing beats shredding an entire roll of toilet paper. Indy is over sixteen pounds and spoiled rotten. It obviously works for him.

The beloved Hubbs hired a contractor to build us a bathroom. The one I gutted almost two years ago. The contractor showed up every day with a smile, worked hard, and only swore in Finnish. He is my new favorite person. We have had bathroom parts and boxes strewn across the whole house for weeks. I cannot overemphasize the level of chaos here, but if the bathroom gets DONE, I will put up with almost any amount of it.

I don’t want you to think the bathroom is the final destination, though. No. We’ve been using the guest bathroom and apparently it was designed just for looks, not actual bathing, because now it not only needs to be gutted but ALSO the entire property because Kid #4 went and got engaged and the happy couple decided the perfect venue was, um, here.

Let’s take a deep, cleansing breath. Good.

They are mostly after the giant oaks in the backyard, but I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. A wedding means winery-quality ambiance. Mood lighting. Archways. A balcony for the mariachi band harpist. Bribing the neighbors with cake. Underground parking. They set the date for next November, so we have plenty of time to run around the place shrieking in panic. The boys took out a massive hornet nest the other day, so we are on our way!

Other than that, Kid #4 is doing fine.

Hubby, too.

Did I mention Kid #4 moved across town? No? And Kid #1 moved down from LA and took his room? Okay. Back up. They did.

Kid #5 and Kid #1 are living downstairs and it’s fun to watch a 20-year-old and a 30-year-old together. They are both passionate about art and craft magic in the basement. The elder makes a living with it, though, so it’s only a matter of time before he’s out again. I miss him already. Thankfully, the younger still has to graduate college as a mechanical engineer. It’ll be awhile, but I love that they inspire and encourage each other.

Kid #3 lives in Los Angeles and manages a Kahoots Pet Store and took her dog to the snow the other day. Communication is not her forte, but this vid clip pretty much sums up her year:

Kid #2 graduated this weekend with her “Master of Arts in Education: Learning and Technology” and has the pointy cape hooden thingy to prove it. Afterward, she and the fiancés went to see Hamilton. I’m still jealous. She’s already got teaching jobs lined up and I’m happy to say she’s staying local for the time being.

That’s all I can remember from this second year of pandemic. I kept my head down and got some books written and frankly, it’s time for a nap. We wish you peace and joy in the coming year.

More kibble.

Less panic.

All the bubble baths.

Best Gifts for Book Lovers #2

Is it time to go shopping? Need the perfect gift for someone who loves to read but already has all the books? I’ve gone shopping for you!

Honor their need for words with this baker’s dozen list of best gifts for book lovers and get them some literary loot. They’re all from Amazon because that’s where I’ve been hanging out for the last year. If you make a purchase from one of the links below, I’ll get an affiliate commission. It doesn’t change the price for you. But it lets the Zon show me a little love. Smiles guaranteed.

    1. Very punny mixology books, Tequila Mockingbird or Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margarita
    2. The ultimate Literary Insult Chart
    3. Message-flipping pillow cover when you are so close to “The End”
    4. Comfy T “Bookmarks are for Quitters
    5. Noise cancelling bluetooth earbuds so you can READ already
    6. Adjustable reading support pillow wedge
    7. LED clip reading light
    8. A bamboo bookstand for your lap with page holders
    9. Or this nifty little walnut thumb-brace book page holder
    10. A cozy quilted blanket of books
    11. A custom library stamp and your lending kit
    12. Calendar with quotes or beautiful books
    13. The bucketlist Top 100 scratch-off Book Chart

Best Gifts for Book Lovers #1

 

Every year, my family wants to know what I want for Christmas and every year I react like a deer in the headlights. Gifts are tricky little things and I am notoriously hard to shop for because, frankly, I don’t need much. I like the simple things. Think hygge, peppermint mocha, and twinkle lights.

I like wide, open space. Secretly empty closets. Peace on earth.

And reading. In that empty closet, if peace on earth is scarce.

If you love books, then you’ll love this themed gift list. They’re all from Amazon because that’s where I’ve been hanging out for the last year. If you make a purchase from one of the links below, I’ll get an affiliate commission. It doesn’t change the price for you. But it lets the Zon show me a little love. Everybody wins.

Throw on your jammies and get ready for a shopping spree!

  1. Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
    1. A Literary Tea Party Cookbook gives a nod to several books, but I’ve always wanted to throw a Mystery Tea Party. Maybe I will some day!
    2. A party-worthy murdery game
    3. Brain teasers for you sleuths out there
    4. The key to 221B Baker St.
    5. Socks, Italian wool deerstalker hat, pipe, and some ‘staches
  2. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
    1. The puzzle, “Run Away to Pemberley” the coloring book, and the book bag (other books to choose from!)
    2. Novel Tea. Get it?
    3. “Obstinate, Headstrong Girl” bracelet
    4. “Marrying Mr. Darcy” board game
    5. The scarf, the magnetic poetry, and the lip balm.
  3. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
    1. Gold Sorting Hat jewelry tray
    2. Socks because Dobby is Free
    3. “I Solemnly Swear I am Up to No Good” magical coffee mug
    4. The cozy Hogwarts scarf & beanie set, choose your house
    5. Or maybe knit or crochet your own!
  4. The Hobbit by J. R. Tolkien
    1. Candles from Middle Earth or the Shire
    2. Doormats: “Speak Friend and Enter” or “You Shall Not Pass
    3. “Not All Who Wander are Lost” moon pendant necklace
    4. Charcuterie board (never miss a Hobbit meal)
    5. One ring to rule them all, my Precious
  5. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
    1. The paperback Box Set and
    2. A spot of raspberry cordial
    3. “Tomorrow is a New Day, with No Mistakes in It” Charm Necklace
    4. “Kindred Spirit” V-neck women’s T (I love it in green!)
    5. The tea, the mug, the tea towel, and the cookbook!
  6. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
    1. Typewriter pencil cup, engraved pen, and finger puppet
    2. Flavor adventures with BBQ spice, marinade, and rub
    3. Scroll bookmark “We Are All Broken, That’s How the Light Gets In”
    4. His books on Hunting or Fishing

The 2020 Christmas Newsletter

When Covid broadsided us in March, my family members reacted each in his own way, but that didn’t stop us from doing things. Special things. Things we just didn’t see coming…like this watercolor by Kid 5.

Hubby bought groceries. He bought them until our cupboards exploded and I took his Costco card away. Then he bought blocks. Eighty-pound keystone wall-building blocks. He hid his credit card from me and he won’t stop bringing more home. Hubby is building the Great Pyramids on our hillside property with his bare hands. Obviously, he has a better chance at stopping gravity than stopping any of 2020s dumpster fires.

I picked up a sledgehammer and demolished the master bathroom. All of it. I ripped the flooring out and you can stare into the basement if you don’t mind the funny smell. I left nothing standing but the toilet, only you can’t get to it because the floor is gone. This is fine because, conveniently, there’s a toilet paper shortage. I ripped out the dry-rot—the nasty slime that no one could see, but I knew it was there—because there was a lot of it swirling in the global atmosphere that I couldn’t reach.

Some day, Hubby will stop building walls and build us a bathroom.

But this is not that day.

Kid Numero Uno, about to turn a whopping thirty years old, created a plethora of art for people. Art makes people happy. That’s a big deal in 2020. He lives in L.A. and has gone all adulty on me. He calls on the regular to make sure we’re all healthy, wears his mask, visits people outdoors six feet apart, and to really understand the level of his shocking behavior: he exchanged Christmas presents with us. This is unheard of and I’ve asked him repeatedly to take his temperature and read me the little numbers on the thermometer.

Senorita Dos Equis, on her way to becoming The Most Interesting Teacher in the World, went back to school for her master’s degree in Education: Learning & Technology. She also works in the local school district: “I don’t always zoom with kindergartners, but when I do, they take naps on camera and there’s not a thing I can do about it.” I can’t help feeling like this is some new level of Jumanji where juggling swords on a unicycle will be required. I hope she wins.

Tres Leches Mija ghosted on us. She lives less than a mile away, but the only proof she’s alive is when she sends me hilarious memes at two in the morning. Although her plans with her sidekick, Alastor the Wonder Dog, were curtailed (haha), the two managed to win ribbons (Best in Class for “Who’s a Good Boy?”) and are in training to join CARDA as a search and rescue team. He’s already snoofed up plenty of hotdogs and rescued cats from boredom, so glory is in their future.

Quatro Corazones split the year four ways: college, work, girlfriend, and a brand new car. He passed his classes. He was promoted into a full-time position at work. I’m not sure his girlfriend knows that the Toyota 4Runner is for camping and boys’ trips, but we’ll do coffee soon and talk. He had his blood drawn last week and texted me: “I blacked out. But got a cookie.” Me: “Never watch!” Him: “I didn’t, I just tilted my head for a second and I couldn’t see anything. Good news tho, I don’t do drugs.”

Me: “Whatever. Just try not to slurp up any Covid while you’re in there.”

Cinco de Mayo Mijo is currently the favorite kid because he stays home and feeds me. He rode the restaurant industry rollercoaster all year, and it taught him that food could be used to steal car keys from parents. “Mother dear, I see that you are typing sideways and about to fall onto the floor on your face. Could it be that you haven’t eaten in three days in your effort to MAKE MORE WORDS?” Then, he slips a grilled cheese sandwich with a tiny dill pickle nose and a ketchup smiley face on it in front of me and runs away with my car key. I don’t even care where he’s going. I lick ketchup from my fingers and keep typing.

These are great life skills. Why he insists on staying with college, I don’t know.

Covid-Kitty Furrybutt Smoochin’ Sugarloaf Whiskerboy is doing fine, thanks. He misses his life on the street and plays Ninja-paws in the back alley once in a while, to hone his tough guy persona. I carry my scars with pride. I want to go on record as saying, “When the animals in this family get more stocking stuffers than the actual kids, it must be 2020.”

We’re all leaning a little sideways, and that’s okay. I celebrate your own flavor of crazy this holiday season and lift a virtual cuppa with you as we farewell 2020.

It’s been one heck of a ride.

 

2019 Christmas Newsletter

2019 has been quite a year, let me catch you up!

Child Five just came into my writing lair to get the keys to my car in order to go to his day job that is usually a night job because BJs Brew House loves him. He schmoozes old ladies and brings ginormous pazookies to people and generally makes this world a better place, which is something a mother can get behind. He graduated high school in June. Like everything the kid has ever done, I celebrated with tears of joy and vowed, “We aren’t ever doing that again.”

It never gets old.

Child Five hangs out with Child Four, the two bachelors living in – let’s call it what it is – our basement. They like to style it “Man Cave” and I like to call it “The Pit of Despair” and if a cave woman ever walks by, she will agree that if a mastodon dies in the hallway, no one will ever notice. We are, neither one of us, going in there to investigate.

The two boys attend community college with lofty visions (rim shot: they are both 6’ 5”) of transferring to SDSU as Engineer majors. They sit around the table making up words for their calculus classes, like “Rolles theorem” and “left, right, Rieman sum” and “integrals”. I tell them to watch their language at the table but they don’t listen to me anymore because they are adulting now.

Adulting. This is The Way.

Did you see that coming? Quick side note that I did not see Baby Yoda coming, either, and now he must never leave and I need one for Christmas because he makes me laugh but also want to throw things and this sounds just like grand-parenting but, none of my kids are dating at the moment, so….Yoda!

Where was I?

The Middle. Child Three trains dogs. Among other career-type things. Shameless plug. Her dog is more obedient than any of my five kids ever were. It lies on a towel and won’t budge, even when you wave hotdogs under his nose. I mean, not like I tried when my daughter wasn’t looking or anything. I was happy if my kids stayed in the backyard when the ice cream truck drove by. On the other hand, her dog will also rip your face off if she says the magic word, so, pros n cons.

Child Three and Child Two, my beautiful girls, lived together in a Shoe in Ramona this year. A sweet little penny loafer that they enjoyed but will give up in a couple of weeks for closer pasture and that makes my heart happy. Child Two is sneakily educating children through the use of science and creativity (ie: fun), both on the job and through personal tutoring, and may take her talents into the school district next year. So long as she avoids calculus, we can hang out.

Child One has been orbiting our universe for so long that we think of him like Santa Claus. Maybe he’s real. Maybe he’ll show up if we leave out cookies. He’s not a holiday human, which is okay, but if he decides to pay us a visit, just know that a trap has been laid and we are ready for “Operation Santa Snatch”.

Hubby built a wall this year. Out of eighty pound blocks of cement. Then he built a deck. Out of PVC planks that are fire-proof , termite-proof, water-proof, and walking-on proof. Don’t ask. Hubby thinks retirement sounds fabulous until it occurs to him that he will be subjected to my sarcasm 24/7 and then he goes to work whistling. Which makes him both strong and wise.

Who, me?

I’ve been very patient and responsible and went to writing classes for a year to learn how to write a novel. Now I have a novel but it has to be REWRITTEN and EDITED and subjected to further SCRUTINY before it’s allowed to be born and the temptation to go rogue and self publish exactly what I think about that is dancing through my head.

Ahem.

I love my actual job. I provided excellent service to my freelance clients this year and they let me make glorious words for them. They are the warm steady glow in an office filled with strobe lights and laser beams. And a chicken.

And a wardrobe with Narnia inside.

I sit in my closet, wardrobe thrown open wide, and magic pours out. With it, I spin the straw from my emptying nest into the gold of new dreams. And everything sort of sparkles.

Merry Christmas to each one of you, and a very Sparkly New 2020.

Phobias, Fears, and Flatulence

There are certain October activities that err on the side of dramatic. Anxious, shall we say. I know perfectly normal people who will give up their cold hard cash on purpose to get lost in a dark maze full of professional actors. A pumpkin is inadequate for their anxieties. They need chainsaws. Screaming. Running. And an exit sign.

My idea of a good October activity is to let the house go for the month. I have cobwebs in every corner, dead flies on the window sills, and dust an inch thick everywhere else. Squeaky doors, mysterious footprints down the hall, slimy potions in the fridge. I don’t like to brag, but I have a 3″ slug living in my shower right now. Some people pay good money for this level of authenticity.

But really, what is your idea of scary? What is your worst nightmare? Your darkest fear?

  1. Creepy Crawlers: spiders, mice, rats, bugs, snakes, cockroaches, worms
  2. Pokey Things: needles, vampires, , splinters, dentists, bees, ticks, Inigo Montoya
  3. Squishy Grossness: blood, vomit, gore, germs, full diapers, basically anything involving a toddler
  4. Big Booms: thunder, barking dogs, fireworks, Instant pots, stereo systems commandeered by your teenager
  5. Squeezy Spots: elevators, graveyards, cubicles, holes, slot canyons, Walmart on Black Friday
  6. Stranger Danger: clowns, aliens, mimes, every Disney character in a bobble-head costume even Winnie the Pooh
  7. Location-o-phobia: airplane, ocean, bridges, space, heights, shark-nados, onstage with Dr Phil
  8. Embarrassment: pushing the “Send” button too soon, raising your hand in a meeting, farting in yoga class

And what are your coping mechanisms?

If you’re afraid of the dark (achluophobia) and going to sleep (somniphobia) because there might be a monster under your bed (teraphobia) and the dust bunnies down there are just as scary (amathophobia), you should put the mattress flat on the floor. Where the dolls can find you (pediophobia).

PS: That doll thing is real. Ask me some day about my Grandma’s house.
PPS: And also my adult children just told me that watching Toy Story scarred them for life. Let’s add another phobia:

9. Badmomophobia: the reason your kids need therapy.

Mother’s Day Hotline 2018

Good morning, and thank you for calling the Mother’s Day Hotline.

Please listen carefully, as our menu has changed.

If you are currently considering becoming a mother, please press 1.

If you are pregnant and searching for baby names, please press 2.

If you are wondering what it’s like to give birth, please press 3.

If you have a newborn and wish it came with crib notes, please press 4.

If you are currently surrounded with toddlers, please press 5.

If you are mothering elementary school age children, please press 6.

If you have children in the middle school zone, please press 7.

If your teens have made a strike towards independence, please press 8.

If you are desperate for a “mom break” by now, please press 9.

If you are considering leaving them all behind and rejoining the work force, please press pound.

If your children are grown and flown from the nest, and you want to sob hysterically because it all went too fast, please press the star key.

Thank you for calling the Mothers Day Hotline. Enjoy your toast and tea. See you again soon.

The 2017 Christmas Newsletter

Hello Friends and Family,

2017 has been an exciting year for our family! Let me catch you up!

Darling child number five is currently in the midst of basketball season, which you will always know by the fumes creeping out from under the laundry room door. He lives off of frozen pizza and tortilla chips, the building blocks of every athlete. Sometimes I nag him via text, and he will eat a fruit snack to step it up. Kid five is crushing Junior year and doing so without a girlfriend. Good job, kid five. Here’s a bacon bit.

Suave child four, owner of a quality high school education, master of sports and holder down of real live job, was denied access to his college of choice and retaliated by vowing to live at home and attend community college, laughing in the face of debt. He also laughs in the face of dirty dishes, overflowing trashcans and mountains of laundry in the hall, which isn’t funny, but is attentive and hardworking at his girlfriend’s family home where he does dishes and takes out trash which now that I think about it isn’t funny either, but what can you do? 

Exhausted kid three is, this very moment, writing the very last paper for the very last class that will finally allow her to very much graduate college. The one that let her in. And then never let her out. Because college is a racket and I refuse to give it the rant it deserves, just know that some things touted since preschool, much like Santa Claus, don’t deliver once you start adulting. Kid three is out of money, out of patience, out of ideas and definitely out of floor space.

I don’t want to talk about it.

Where was I?

Kid two. Go-gettin’ kid two lives across town with her Grammy and works with animals, tourists, and children. I’m not sure which of them gives her more grief on any given day, but she has the adulting thing down pretty well and went out and got herself a little Christmas tree and everything. Just because she travels the world at will does not mean that I am in any way jealous. I, too, have ridden a camel. Just not in Africa.

We have arrived at invisible kid one. Kid one moved to Los Angeles about three years ago to pursue his dream of not becoming a banker. He is busy exhausting every possible avenue that leads to earning an income with art. At the moment, he is becoming a tattoo master and costume designer. If I squint my eyes a little, I can see bankers with tats and some classy bit of leather swag mixed into their three-piece ensemble.

If I squint harder, I can even see kid one occasionally calling his mother.

As for the Hubby and I, we spent this busy year blinking hard as kids dashed to and fro in the earth and occasionally dashed ourselves, hoping to be mistaken for young free spirits. We juggled a lot of dirty dishes while juggling our day jobs. In December, we were blessed with new grand baby, Schubert.

He’s registered at Kahoots Pet Store in the tortoise department.

May your Holidays be Merry and Bright and may your New Year be filled with the delicious sparkle of fresh laundry on hangers.

The Mothers Day Hotline 2017

Good morning, and thank you for calling the Mother’s Day Hotline.

If you are waiting in bed for a tray of burnt toast, spilt juice, and a macaroni necklace, enjoy the following selections at leisure. Otherwise, please choose carefully.

If you are currently considering becoming a mother, please press 1.

If you are pregnant and searching for baby names, please press 2.

If you are wondering what it’s like to give birth, please press 3.

If you have a newborn and and need direction on what type of mommy to be, please press 4.

If you are currently surrounded with toddlers, please press 5.

If you are mothering elementary school age children, please press 6.

If you have children in the middle school zone, please press 7.

If your teens have made a strike towards independence, please press 8.

If you are desperate for a “mom break” by now, please press 9.

If you are considering leaving them all behind and rejoining the work force, please press pound.

If your children are grown and flown from the nest, and you want to sob hysterically because it all went too fast, please press the star key.

Thank you for calling the Mothers Day Hotline. Enjoy your toast and tea. See you again next week.