Look what Santa gave me!

A few weeks ago I wrote a Christmas wish list.  It was a big o' list of stuff that I knew that I wouldn't get.  But what's that they say about being careful about what you wish for?

Wish 1.  The desire of exercise:  Okay, I still don't have the desire to exercise, but now I have someone to help to change all that.  This year I gave a Christmas present to myself--I hired a personal trainer.  I haven't started yet (next Monday I'll start 3 days a week with her) but I have a feeling that this trainer is going to give me exactly what I'm lacking--the motivation to get off my butt and exercise, which means I might actually get wish 7: The body of a 20-year-old.

Wish 2.  A Tahoe Hybrid:  When I put this on my list, I NEVER thought that I would actually find it under my tree, but there it was!  I love my new car.  I love that there are times that I can't even tell that it is on when it is in hybrid mode because it's so quiet.  And most of all, I love that I have a husband that gave up having a new car so I could have one instead.

For wishes 3-6 and 8-12, I didn't quite get what I wanted, but pretty close.

There's no puppy, wish 3, in our future (which is probably a good thing) and the maid service, wish 4, will also have to wait.

Syndication, wish 5, is still a long ways off, but my friend Kristen gave me a few contacts for some newspapers back home.  It might not be syndication, but having a friend that believes in your abilities and talents is almost as good as national syndication.

A floor that will always stay clean, wish 8, and a manicure that will last forever, wish 9, didn't exactly come true, but it came close.  Without being told, the Golfer got out the vacuum and cleaned the floors both upstairs and down and he also gave me a spa gift certificate to get my nails done over and over again.

My kitchen didn't suddenly get bigger, wish 6, but the Golfer and I are in talks to possibly remodel the it in the near future.  We could really use wish 12, buckets of cash, to make it happen, but my New Year's resolution to buy less stuff might help in saving the money to make my wish come true.

Wish 10, having children who will listen, was crazy thinking on my part, but they've been so busy playing with all of their Christmas presents they've been little angels lately.  They're not listening any better, but they're not acting up and causing problems either.

And finally, wish 11, my diamond earrings, are still on the list.  I'll continue to keep hunting around and wishing for the best and obviously, wishing for what you want works so I'm not about to stop now!


Better late than never...

Dear Santa,

Much like everything else this holiday season, I am behind schedule on writing to you this year.  You probably won’t get this until after Christmas, but I thought it might be nice to have something to read once you get home.  Perhaps it will give you something to do during the commercials while relaxing in your La-Z-Boy, watching football. 

Which reminds me, did you get the Slanket (the blanket with sleeves) that we sent you?  I thought it would go nicely with the Clapper that we gave you last year.

I’m not sure why, but the holidays really snuck up on me this year.  Maybe it was the excitement of the presidential election or perhaps it was the chaotic economy and all of the “Going out of Business” sales going on right now.  If it weren’t for my kids’ constant reminders, Christmas would have come and gone with me being none the wiser.

I’ve gotta tell you, there wasn’t much Christmas spirit this year.  I remember how when I was a kid the air was filled with electricity during the holidays, and it wasn’t just from your neighbor’s gigantic light display. 

No, the electricity was something more.  It came from everyone around you.  You could look around and see people smiling for no apparent reason.  You could hear parents humming their favorite holiday tune in the grocery store.  Children’s laughter was everywhere and people seemed genuinely excited about the holidays.

Not so much anymore.

Maybe it’s because I’m all grown-up, but people sure have gotten grumpy.  Did you notice an increase of names on your Naughty List this year?  For your sake I sure hope the price of coal has come down like the price of gas.  

The kids seem to be their normal, sweet, Christmas selves—it’s the adults who are becoming more and more difficult to deal with.

Take this lady at the mall the other day.  While waiting in a long check-out line, I watched as she moved to cut right in front of everyone.  A saleswoman behind the counter said something to her about cutting, to which she replied, “But I’ve been waiting!”

Apparently, she was more important than the rest of the people who had been waiting.

“We’ve all been waiting,” I said trying my best to smile through gritted teeth.  The lady only glared at me with a look that had nothing to do with Christmas cheer.

Then there was this lady at the post office.  I was waiting in line to use the automated postal center, and of course the post office was crazy.  It was the last day to guarantee Christmas arrival (you know how that goes) and to top it off, one of the two automated computers was broken, making the line take twice as long.  But, I had no one to blame but myself for having waited until the last minute to mail my packages, and being irritated by the long lines wasn’t going to make the line move any faster. 

A lady wearing a red sweatshirt covered in jingle bells standing behind me thought otherwise.

“Is that one broken?” the sweatshirt lady asked.  This wasn’t a nice question that she was asking.  The tone in her voice was rude, irritated, and filled with venom that just happened to be directed at me, the first one in line. 

“No, we are all just standing here for the fun of it!  I’m having fun.  Aren’t you having fun?” I asked her.

Most of the people in line laughed.  The sweatshirt lady didn’t.  For a minute, I thought she might beat me to death with her over-sized package.  Crazier things have happened in post offices.

So, I know that Christmas is over and that you’re tired and all tapped out, but I was wondering if I could still put in a gift request.  It’s nothing that has to be wrapped or placed under a tree.  Think of it as a New Year’s present, something to benefit all of us in 2009. 

In the New Year, could you please give everyone a little more consideration?  You know, something to help us all be more courteous towards one another?  Yes, Santa.  We need a little kindness, right this very minute.

And if you could do something about all of the long lines during the holidays, that would be great.  They just might be to blame for much of the crankiness going on.

Oh, and thanks so much for all of the presents for the boys.  Once again, you outdid yourself.  Hugs and kisses to Mrs. Claus and the elves.

Love, Mama 

©2008, Stephenie B. Freeman

Update on the Cheese

Some of you have been wondering how the Cheese is doing.  Thank you for all of your good thoughts and well wishes.

After 10 days, the Cheese is doing great.  The above picture was taken about 3 days after the surgery.  (The "Get Well" cookie basket was from Godmommy Christie--such a special surprise.) It's hard to tell much of a difference in this picture.  His eye is still pretty swollen, but is no longer bruised like it is in the picture.  

At the post-op appointment, the doctor was very happy with the outcome and said that he was healing very nicely.  He says that it will take a while for us to see the full effects--having to wait for all of the swelling to disappear, etc. but we can already tell a difference.

The trick with congenital ptosis is that it is very difficult to correct.  We've known this since the beginning, so for us any little improvement that will help his eye sight and make him feel better about himself is huge.  The Cheese has said that he can see better out of his right eye which is awesome to hear.  This won't be his last surgery--he'll probably have to have a couple more in his life as his face grows and changes.  The good thing is that it won't have to be any time soon.

The surgery day itself was...well...okay.  He was fine until he started to wake up from the surgery.  He was pissed!  His eye was swollen shut and he thought that it was covered with a patch or something.  He hates wearing a patch (something that he's had to do since he was a baby).  It was the only thing that he was worried about during the whole surgery.  "I won't have to wear a patch will I?"  So when he woke up and couldn't see, he thought he was wearing a patch and started to reach up and grab his newly stitched up eye lid.  

And trying to explain the I.V. in his arm wasn't easy either.  To top it all off, he was in a lot of pain.  He was screaming, crying, trying to rip everything off of him and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it but continue to say, "It's okay, baby.  You're okay.  You're okay."  

Yeah, uh huh.  That didn't really help.

But then, once I was able to pick him up out of the bed and hold him, things started to get better.  Only a Mama can make it better sometimes.  "I don't like this place," he told me.  The nurses laughed and said that it was okay for us to go home.  He was pretty pitiful the rest of the day, but he was willing to keep his ice pack on and stay on the couch to be catered to.  By the next day, he was up doing all of his normal 6-year-old things.

But let me back up.  The day before the surgery, before heading to Disneyland, the Cheese had his pre-op appointment.  Pretty standard, no big deal.  Did we have any questions?  Here's when you show up, here's what will happen.  Blah, blah, blah.  The Cheese just sat there, the only question being, "Will I have to wear a patch?"  No, no you won't have to wear a patch.  They didn't scare him with things; just kept it light, which we really appreciated.  

And then the nurse said that they had a surprise for the Cheese.  I figured that it would be a sucker or a sticker, you know, your standard doctor visit treat. But instead they gave him the cutest little teddy bear dressed in doctor's scrubs.  "This is what Dr. Goldberg will look like tomorrow," she said.  The Cheese just smiled and hugged him tight.  Now, my oldest isn't a big stuffed animal fan, but in that moment, hugging that new bear, I could see his whole body relax--teddy bears are comforting for a reason.  

The program is called Make Surgery Bearable through the Jules Stein Eye Institute (where the Cheese had his surgery.)  People can donate to give pediatric patients a new teddy bear prior to having eye surgery.  Each bear is only $10, which isn't very much to give a child some comfort before going into surgery.  In the spirit of the season of giving and making a difference in the lives of others, here is the link for the sponsorship form to donate a teddy bear.  All you have to do is print it off and mail it in with your donation.  It's such an easy way to make a difference and show a small child a little love (and their parents too.)


Weekly Column: Christmas happiness can be yours for only $19.95

©Stephenie Freeman

Grown-up Christmas lists are generally filled with wonderful requests; expensive wishes that we hope to find under the tree or parked in the driveway.  But those aren’t the sorts of gifts that we are encouraged to buy. 

Television commercials are filled with all sorts of junk for sale, especially all of the “As Seen on T.V.” merchandise that seems so popular this time of year.  It’s the stuff no one could possibly want; stuff that no one would want to find under their Christmas tree, in the driveway, or anywhere else for that matter.

And it’s the stuff that sells, and sells, and sells. 

Chia Pets have been around since 1982 and in those 26 years they haven’t changed their commercial one iota.  Why would they when the varieties of Chia animals continue to sell so well?  “Ch-ch-ch -chia!”

There’s also the Clapper.  What a handy little device this invention is, never mind the fact that it can be controlled by barking dogs, coughing, and loud household appliances.  But when your Aunt Pearl hears the jingle, “Clap on (clap, clap) clap off (clap, clap)...” before you know it she’s ordered one for everybody in the family. 

Just pray that you never get a bad cold.  You’ll be up all night turning the lights on and off.

A new one on the market is the Ove Glove.  They look a lot like cheaply knitted gloves that your grandmother bought at the Dollar Store, but claim that they won’t catch fire even if they are exposed to an open flame.  So the next time you pull out your blow torch to sodder something, rest easy.  This “five-fingered mitt” (versus the six-fingered kind) will protect you.

There’s the ShamWow!, a glorified towel that claims to hold 20 times its weight.  I’m not sure what 20 times the weight of a small yellow towel is, but supposedly it’s enough to dry off your car, your boat, and your shaggy dog all at the same time.

That’s pretty impressive, but I wonder how the ShamWow! would hold up against two young boys and a kitchen sink sprayer?  I’d like to be sure that I’m getting my $19.95 worth.    

There is something called a Slanket which is nothing more than a blanket with sleeves.  Why anyone needs a blanket with sleeves is beyond me, but someone somewhere is being kept nice and warm from all the money they’ve made selling thousands of Slankets.  Makes me wonder if someone is out there inventing a pillow with pants?   

But the best “As Seen on T.V.” item that my boys are asking for, and my personal, hands-down favorite, is the Burp Gun.  The Burp Gun does exactly what you think it does:  shoots ping pongs balls while making burp noises “providing hours of uninterrupted fun.”

What mother wouldn’t be fired up to plunk down twenty bucks for that?  I’d pay $100 for some uninterrupted fun, regardless of the bodily function noises. 

I fear that the older I get, the better the chance of finding one of these “As Seen on T.V.” presents under my tree.  It seems that as you age, the harder you become to buy for, hence the need to explore the creative side of gift giving. 

Prime example: trying to buy a gift for your father.  You’re tired of always giving your father a book, or a CD, or a picture of your family, having to sit there and watch him pretend to be excited when he opens it.  So mid-November you start to stress about what to buy for him.  There’s nothing at the mall and online searches have rendered fruitless. 

And suddenly, right there in between “Young and the Restless” and the noon news is a commercial with a fast-talking guy with a mustache wanting to sell you something called the Forearm Forklift.  It dawns on you how handy this would be when you have to move into your new house next month and you realize that it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

These “As Seen on T.V.” items might not be so bad after all.  Someone somewhere is making some good money off of all of this so-called junk.  So, after giving it some thought, I know exactly what I want for Christmas this year.  I want someone to give me an idea for an invention that I could sell on T.V. for $19.95.

Too bad the Burp Gun idea is already taken.       

The Merriest Place on Earth!

No place is decorated for the holidays better than Disneyland...

Even Cinderella's castle was covered with snow...

The Golfer and the Cheese enjoyed riding the rockets in Tomorrowland...

Screaming on the Mad Hatter's Tea Cups...

You have to see the Big Guy when you go.  It never gets old...

Reindeer Roundup.  The bottom of the sign tells you that they are in flight training.  Love it.

This time of year, there's another Big Guy that you have to go see...

Even though there was a long line, Santa chatted it up with my boys. He was such a good Santa, but I wouldn't expect anything less...

My new favorite family photo. Look how cute the Santa is!  He's all smiles as if he's really enjoying all this!

If the Christmas decorations at Disneyland are great, then the Christmas parade is fantastic!

Dancing gingerbread men...

Dancing snowmen and snowwomen...

Even Donald was all dressed up...

And the classic marching soliders...

Merry Christmas from the Merriest Place on Earth!!

Mother Nature hates me.

Do you ever breath a sigh of relief? I did. Just now.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been crazy busy. I've been to Target at least 40 times. I've been to the post office three times in the last week to mail packages. I've had my parents come to visit, celebrated my husband's birthday, gotten a new car, had the dogs groomed, gone to a fabulous dinner with my husband's staff and colleagues, and last night I even went to see the musical Wicked (which was excellent by the way!)

Sure. I get it. Everyone's busy this time of year. All the people reading this (and I'm sure there are thousands) could give a long laundry list of everything that they've been doing to get ready for the holidays.

But I've been in a serious rush to get everything done by today. Tomorrow we head down to UCLA for the Cheese's pre-op appointment. It's finally time for his surgery (this will be surgery #3.) So I had to get everything done. Get it finished and behind me before heading to the hospital on Friday.

So as of 3 o'clock today, I was able to breath a sigh of relief. I had done it. Gotten everything done with time to spare. No more packages to mail. No more presents to wrap. No more wondering what to buy...whoever. School's officially out for us, which means no more lunches to pack or homework to do for a few weeks. All I have to do is sit back and focus on my child, cater to him while he heals, and enjoy the week before Christmas.

When does that ever happen? Never.

Tomorrow, after the pre-op appointment, we're heading to Disneyland for the afternoon (a little pre-surgery treat.) We're all excited. There's nowhere that will put you in the Christmas mood better than Disneyland with all of their wonderful decorations, songs, parades, and fireworks show set to Christmas music.

There's just a little glitch.
You know how I'm always complaining that it never rains here and it's never cold? Well, today it's about 40 degrees and raining outside. I've been wishing for this kind of weather. The kind of weather where you can actually build a fire in the fireplace and feel winter in your bones while you cozy up on the couch to watch a good movie. I love that it's dark and deary outside. I just wish it didn't have to be this way when we have plans to be outside all day at an amusement park.

Well, come hell or high water--I'm not sure what that old saying means exactly, but I just no when someone says it, they mean serious business--we are going to Disneyland, dammit! I've worked my butt off to get everything done so we could spend the day at the happiest place on earth, and my little boy, who will have his eye lids cut on and adjusted on Friday has been looking forward to it for weeks.

Yeah, uh-huh. We're going.

Bundle up, kids and put on your rain boots. There's a mouse dressed as Santa waiting to see us.

Snow Day! Sort of...

It doesn't snow where we live. Ever. Okay, I take that back. It snowed...briefly...when we first moved here, but I don't think it can be called snow if it melts the minute it hits the ground. (Neighbors were outside with their cameras taking pictures. Cracked me up.)

Not that it snowed that much back in Oklahoma, but at least there was the possibility of it snowing. Out here, unless you live up in the higher elevations, you aren't going to see any snow. That is unless your home owner's association brings a truck load of it in for you.

A couple of weekends ago we had a Snow Day at our HOA clubhouse. It might have been a sunny, 70 degree day, but my boys were bundling up to play in 10 tons of snow.

Our neighborhood is a pretty good size and is mostly filled with young families. Kids are everywhere. Prime example--during Halloween there were kids and families all over the neighborhood, a fire truck from our local station drove slowly through the neighborhood handing out candy to the kids, and I handed out 10 bags worth of candy. I loved every minute of it. It was one of the reasons that we picked this house.

There was no doubt that Snow Day was going to be a blast!

Ten tons of snow might sound like a lot, but put a couple hundred kids and their parents in a 5 x 20 foot area and things are going to get a little crazy. Obviously they tried to spread it out as best as they could, but put an entire neighborhood in a really smal space and things are going to get a little testy.

Snow balls were flying everywhere. Trying to take pictures, minding my own business, I got hit several times with snowballs. The worst culprits? The dads! They were having way too much fun and really didn't care who they were hitting as long as they were hitting someone. Kids of all shapes and sizes were crying from being hit in the face. Concerned mothers tried to soothe and dry their children's faces while the dads continued to lob snowballs high in the air.

Sooooo typical.

When it comes to things like this, I am very much a girl. I am much too precious to be hit by a flying ball of ice. And you want to really piss me off? Hit my babies with that frozen ball of death.

This was the Monkey's first real experience with snow (he was a little baby the last time he was around snow.) I didn't want him to hate it, killing our options of ever going snow skiing. Luckily, he learned quickly to hold his own and I learned to get out of the way and let them have their Snow Day fun.

"What the hell is this stuff?"

"Oh, I get it. You're supposed to throw it at Mommy!"

(please notice the dads in the top of this photo...yeah, they really need to grow up and let the kids have their fun, but from the smile on my child's face, it doesn't seem to be bothering him.)

Don't you love the green grass growing up through the "snow." It's a winter wonderland in southern California.

Don't you love the snowball flying over his head? That's good picture takin' right there.

After the snow ball fight, we headed over to the two inflated bouncers for a little high jumping fun, listened to the traveling carolers serenading the chaos, and enjoyed some hot cocoa and cookies. The big guys himself was there with his wife, but we opted out of sitting on his knee seeing as we had just done that the day before.

I did think it was nice that he showed up considering how busy he is this time of year. I told the boys that he was the one that brought the snow. Snow fresh from the North Pole is oh so magical, don't you think?

I've got to admit, it was a fun morning. I could have done without the snowballs in the face, but that's just part of the whole experience. Next time I'll know to put down my camera and pick up a ball of shaved ice instead.

Weekly Column: Tradition Junkies

©Stephenie Freeman

I’ve created more family holiday traditions than I have the time or patience for.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Grinch who has trouble understanding the meaning of Christmas or a Scrooge whose egotism makes him miserable in the midst of everyone else’s joy. I’m nothing like Ralphie who is only interested in getting his Red Ryder BB gun or Bing who only seems to be dreaming of a white Christmas and dancing with Danny Kaye.

I am like one of those holiday movie characters too overwhelmed by the Christmas chaos she’s created to be able to enjoy the holidays. If there is one holiday movie character that I identify with, it’d be Clark W. Griswold from the movie “Christmas Vacation.”

Clark only wants to give his family a fun, old-fashioned, family Christmas, but ends up driving himself crazy in the process. But Clark cares enough to give his family only the best during the holidays. Traditions are important to Clark. He understands that they are truly what make the holidays special.

And spiked eggnog. Heavily spiked eggnog makes it pretty special too.

Christmas seems to bring out the "traditionalist" in all of us. We grow up doing special things during the holidays that we feel compelled to carry on. But much like Clark does in the movie, I’m currently facing holiday tradition overload.

My children love the holiday traditions that I’ve created for our family. Throughout December they can’t wait to see what new tradition tomorrow will bring. Like addicts, these little tradition junkies look to me each day for their fix.

“What will we do today, Mom? Decorate a gingerbread house? Bake cookies for the neighbors? Drive around and look at lights? Make homemade ornaments? Feed the homeless? Feed the birds? Stuff the turkey? Stuff the stockings? Stuff ourselves? We need more, Mom. Give us more!”

And like most enablers of addicts, I find myself giving into their demands. They need their holiday high and I’m there to give it to them.

We make sack lunches for our local homeless shelter and drink hot cocoa every Christmas Eve. Every year I buy the gingerbread house kit, and every year I try my best not to lose my mind as my children destroy my kitchen. These traditions are just a few of the many, none of which my children forget about from year to year. If traditions are about creating memories, then ours are doing an extraordinary job of it.

The problem that I personally have with these traditions is that they are in addition to all of the required holiday celebrating. Decorating the tree is a given and having lights on the house is a must. And Christmas just wouldn’t feel right if there weren’t presents to hide and trips to the mall to see Santa.

No, our holiday traditions are extra; just one more thing to add to an already long list of holiday “to-dos” forcing me to consume lots and lots of spiked eggnog and homemade fudge just to make it through the day.

Somehow, the spirit of the season encourages me to face the next tradition-filled day head on. Just yesterday, my son busied himself making a lovely wreath out of green construction paper, red glitter, and lots and lots of glue.

“We should do this every year!” he told me.

Instead of running out of the house screaming, I felt that rush that every tradition junkie gets when a new tradition is born. It's kind of like the rush you get when you eat a lot of sugar, but instead of gaining weight, you gain lots of memories instead.

Like Clark discovered by the end of the movie, traditions really are worth the chaos. Most of the time they cost more, take up more of your time, and never turn out as perfect as you hoped. But when I am old and gray and my boys are off creating their own family traditions, I’ll have my memories of our family holidays to keep me warm.

Oh, and lots of spiked eggnog. And maybe a nice red wine. And some Irish coffee would be good too…

'Twas two weeks before Christmas...

© Stephenie B. Freeman

‘Twas two weeks before Christmas and all through the land
The parents were trying to meet their kids’ every demand.
The lists had been written, on Santa’s lap they had sat
They knew exactly what they wanted, there was no denying that.

Their stockings won’t be big enough to hold all of their stuff
Looking at everything I’ve bought, it certainly seemed like enough.
But then the Sunday paper comes with all of its flyers
Who knew they could attract so many young buyers.

The reminders how constant, the lists how they grow
How children get this greedy, we parents will never know.
So with the children at home being watched by a sitter
I left to go shopping—no time to be a quitter.

Away to the mall I flew like a flash
Tore through the toy store wishing I had brought some more cash.
Then what to my wondrous eyes should appear?
But the last gift I needed—a talking Buzz Lightyear.
With a small yellow tag, marked down to a cheaper price
Finding something on sale during Christmas definitely felt nice.

More rapid than eagles I flew to the checkout line
It was starting to get late, almost a quarter past nine.
The line barely moved as I continued to wait
Seems that someone needed a price check for a toy on aisle eight.

Looking at the parent in front of me, I couldn’t believe what I saw
A cart piled with toys reaching at least three feet tall!
There were Legos, and board games, and Star Wars galore
More Barbies and Webkins than any girl could ask for.

“Wow,” I said. “Someone at your house has been good.
Your kids are sure lucky. Mine tried the best they could.”

“Oh no,” she replied. “These aren’t for me.
These toys are for kids who won’t get anything under their tree.
I volunteer at a local shelter. It’s a wonderful place.
It’s so rewarding to bring a smile to a child’s young face.”

“We do this every year,” she told me. “My kids and I.
It’s best to teach about giving when it’s for someone less fortunate you buy.”
I thought for a moment about the greedy munchkins living at my house
And suddenly I felt no bigger than a mouse.

The lessons at my house that had been taught
Were about how the better you are, the more you got.
Topics like being generous I had forgotten to mention
Lessons on giving back hadn’t gotten much attention.

At last checking out, with the toys in my sack
I started to wonder how my family could give back.
I walked past a bell ringer on my way out the door
I gave the last of my change, but knew I needed to do more.

I said not a word, just sat in my car feeling sick
Knowing I needed to think up something and think it up quick.

“You could do the same thing,” a voice whispered in my head.
I suddenly felt relieved and had nothing to dread.
There was still time to do it, to teach the power of giving
We would head to the shelter so my kids could see how other people were living.

So the next day we headed out, with our car loaded with toys
Some for girls, but a lot more for little boys.
“We’re taking them to kids,” I told them, “who don’t have very much
Special things like skateboards and Play Stations and Gameboys and such.
There are children in this world whose blessings are few.
I bet that is something that you never knew.”

“But why,” my son asked, “are we giving this all away?”
I suddenly knew that this lesson would take more than just one day.
Arriving at the shelter we went straight to work
I unloaded the car and then turned with a jerk.
A man working there thanked us, I said I hoped we could do more
And wished them all a Merry Christmas as we headed out the door.

But I heard the little voice in my head say as I drove out of sight,
“Good job, Mama! You’ll sleep better tonight!”

©2007, Stephenie B. Freeman

Weekly Column: Plenty of reasons to still believe

© Stephenie Freeman

It’s easy to believe in things when you’re young. There’s no logic, just magic. No reasoning, just trusting.

Children are some of the most trusting people on the planet. They’d have to be to believe the crap that we tell them.

Believing becomes a little easier around the holidays. We want to believe that the elves can make all of our toys. We want to believe that the reindeers can fly all the way around the world in one night. We want to believe that the inhabitable, desolate North Pole really is the home to a jolly old man who will make all of our wishes come true.

Unfortunately, at some point in our lives we stop believing. The magic fades and we become boring grownups that logically reason our lives away.

I’ll never forget when I was bombarded with the cold, hard truth. It was Christmas Eve, circa 1980. I was unable to sleep. I wondered into my mother's bedroom only to find her standing on a stool getting down all of my presents from the hiding place in her closet.

Just as I was saying, "Mom, I can't sleep..." she started yelling.

“Get back to bed! Hurry! Get back to bed!"

Her reaction said it all.

As parents, we all know that our children will eventually figure things out. Whether someone bursts the bubble for us or we figure it out all on our own, there will come a time when common sense replaces the magic. I just wasn’t prepared for my child to be bombarded with all of the cold, hard facts at such a young age.

Driving carpool the other day, I asked one of the kids if she had gone to see Santa yet.

"I don't believe in Santa," she told me. "My mom and dad told me he isn't real."

If I could have, I would have jumped out of the car and stopped the world from rotating so I could have time to figure out what the hell just happened.

I didn't have time to do or say anything before my child yelled, "Yes he is! He is too real!"

"No he isn't," she said again. "Santa isn't real."

I tried to change the subject, but the kids weren't having it. We were stuck at a red light that seemed like it was never going to change; only giving these young debaters more time to argue.

"He is too real," my son said again. I had never heard him speak with such passion about anything before. "Santa can make all of your wishes come true," he told her.

My heart was both melting and breaking at the same time.

With a calm tone she replied, "Your mom and dad give you the presents. Not Santa."

Okay. Now I was getting angry, which totally felt unnatural considering that the person that I was getting upset with one of the sweetest little 5-year-olds that you could ever meet.

“Well, I believe in Santa,” I told everyone in the car. For the first time in all of my carpooling days, the car was silent.

“Santa’s magic is real. I’ve seen it myself,” I told them.

My son started to smile and even I knew that I was telling the truth.

You see, I’ve seen Santa’s magic. I see Santa’s magic when I watch my sons’ waiting in line to see Santa at the mall. I see Santa’s magic in the way they look at Christmas lights. I see Santa’s magic when they sing, “Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Santa’s real and living inside my children’s hearts. What’s not to believe?

Finally arriving at the school the kids started to hop out to run to class, but I told my son to wait for a minute.

"Sweetie, it's okay if she doesn't believe. What matters is that you do. If you believe that Santa is real, then that's all that matters. Okay?"

"It’s okay, Mom. I know that he's real."

I smiled and tried not to cry as I said, “I know he is too.”

Santa might not be the reason for the season, but at our house we still believe.

©2008, Stephenie B. Freeman

I hope this adds to your enjoyment of the holidays.

"Clark, the little lights aren't twinkling."

"I know, Art, and thanks for noticing."

Just another day on the course

We live in the suburbs where I mindlessly go about my day doing the things that women all over the world are doing. There's nothing special about going to the grocery store, hitting Target, or standing in line at the post office, but it's my life and I enjoy it. At least that's what I keep telling myself in my daily meditations.

My husband's existence is quite different, however.

Every day he drives down into L.A. to work. He exits on Sunset Blvd. which takes him past Bel-Air and Beverly Hills to get to work. Most days, the weather is a constant 70 degrees and he is but a short drive to the beach.

Yeah, his life doesn't suck.

Usually he is on campus during the day unless he has to be at the golf course with his players or traveling to a tournament somewhere fabulous. The university does not have its own course (as some do) so instead they have to play at area courses like Bel-Air and L.A. Country Club. Yeah, I don't feel sorry for him either.

So yesterday he had to stay at work a little late because he had to meet someone at Bel-Air: Rocco Mediate. Now, if you aren't a golfer or aren't married to a golfer (having spent many a Sunday afternoon watching the PGA Tour on television) then that name might not mean anything to you. In a nutshell, he is a very, very good player. A few months ago he was in a sudden-death playoff with Tiger at the U.S. Open (the tournament that Tiger played with basically a broken knee.) Unfortunately for Rocco, Tiger won, but Rocco earned a lot of fans by giving the best player in the world a serious run for his money.

Anyway, my Golfer had (emphasis on the word had) to go meet Rocco yesterday. This is pretty cool when you're a golfer. So there they were, chatting it up on the putting green, when up walks Dr. Phil. Dr. "This ain't my first rodeo" Phil was there to play a little golf. No biggie. Just another boring day on the golf course. They visited about Phil's golf game, how he could use some lessons from the Golfer--you know, just the usual golf course banter.

Uh, huh. And to think, the highlight of my day was only paying $1.82 for gas.

These aren't the first brushes with Hollywood that the Golfer's had. He's had drinks with Chris O'Donnell, held Dennis Quiad's cell phone for him, Pete Sampras wants to play golf with him sometime, and during dinner he sat near--close enough to touch--Robert Redford!

Ladies, now, I think you'll agree with me. This just isn't fair. My husband doesn't even get how good looking--and in Mr. Redford's case incredibly handsome--these men are. And where am I when my husband is meeting all of these good looking men?

I'm right here blogging about it to you guys. There's something pitiful about that.

Looks like I finally need to pick up the game. I'll just tell my husband that I want to learn to play to be able to spend more time with him.

Think he'll buy it?

Maybe I should ask Dr. Phil.

What Thanksgiving looks like at our house.

Thanksgiving was fairly uneventful for the California Freemans. Just the four of us. We didn't even bother to get out of our pajamas before having our Thanksgiving lunch, which was nice since we simply moved from the dinner table to the couch.

The Cheese actually tried everything on his plate this year--an absolute first. He didn't like any of it (beside the chicken leg and the jello salad) but at least he's learning to try.

What a good lookin' bunch! See that blank wall behind my husband's unwashed hair? That's the blank spot that where I want a certain wine cabinet/buffet to go. If Santa loves me, he'll wrap it up and put it under the tree for me.

The Monkey gnawed on that chicken leg until there was nothing left but the bone. For a child who's basically been a vegetarian for the last 3 years, he's turning into quite the carnivore.

Daddy and the boys worked on hand-print turkeys to send to all of the grandparents this year. The Monkey was thankful for airplanes, Geo-Trax, and food. The Cheese was thankful for Bionicles, God, and people.

Up in the loft I put a small tree for the boys to decorate all by themselves. They were fired up to do it first thing Friday morning. (Notice we are still--yet again--in our pajamas.)

I tried my best to refrain from helping (i.e., butting in) but there were some small ornaments that needed to go up top. I was just being helpful. And amazingly enough, I've stayed away from the tree. It's totally unbalanced with multiple ornaments on one limb, etc., but I've left it alone. Mama's tree is the "breakable tree" downstairs.

I've gotta admit, the tree is pretty damn cute. They are so proud of it and it's such a special little tree with all of their home made ornaments next to several ornaments from both the Golfer and my childhoods.

The best part? Putting the topper on the tree. Who needs a dumb ol' angel or a silly star when you've got Santa to put on top.

The best Christmas trees are the one's decorated with love.

Weekly Column: What a tree!

©Stephenie Freeman

Like a lot of people, I’ll be busy this weekend decorating my home for Christmas. The Halloween candy is half gone and the turkey bones are in the trash which means it’s time to get busy and hang a little tinsel on the tree.

I think the kind of Christmas tree you have says a lot about you.

Are you real or fake? Are you full and round or are you skinny and scrawny? Are you decorated by designers or have your kids gotten a hold of you? Are you glitzy, covered in fancy ornaments or are you simple, with cherished homemade ones from your kids?

I think our family tree is a little bit of all of the above. Well, except for the real part. Our tree is about as fake as they come.

As a kid, our Christmas trees were always flocked. They were real trees, but they were always covered in thick, white foam that my dad would spray on in the garage that would make them look fake. This left me very confused as a small child. Did it matter if we watered it? Covered in all of that flock, would anyone know the difference if it dried out? It was all very confusing and the mono-chromatic, shiny gold ornaments that covered it from top to bottom only made it worse.

I grew up with a Christmas tree that looked like it belonged to Donald Trump.

Regardless, I loved going to buy our tree. Around the first of December, we’d find the strip mall parking lot with the tree lot that seemed worthy of our forty bucks.

It was hard to pass by the Charlie Brown trees. Like puppies at the pound, I wanted to take each and every one of them home. They looked so pitiful; it was hard to think of these poor trees sitting in the parking lot all season. I’d walk by each one whispering, “Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll find a good home soon” and tried my best not to look at the wood chipper hidden behind the tree seller’s truck.

After lots of looking, we’d find a tree that wasn’t too big or too scrawny. And after a precarious ride home and a short battle with the tree stand, our tree was finally ready for the big event.

My mom made sure that the lights went on first—small white ones. My grandmother’s tree however—a tall, dry, scrawny version of Charlie Brown’s—always had those fat multi colored bulbs that were supposed to be for outdoor use only. I would sit, quietly unwrapping presents, waiting in fear that the whole thing might go up in flames at any second.

Lucky for us, it never did. The only thing on fire was the egg nog which had a little too much whisky in it.

This year we’ll have two Christmas trees in our house. One of the trees will be known as the breakable “do not touch” tree. The other tree will be for the kids to decorate however they want, which means I won’t have to stay up late redecorating the tree after the kids have long gone to bed.

Last year, I got caught in my tree redecorating.

“Mom, what happened to the tree? It’s not the same.”

“Oh didn’t you know? Sometimes Santa’s elves come and change things around so Santa won’t break anything when he brings in his big sack full of your presents. You wouldn’t want Santa to be unable to deliver your presents because of a few broken ornaments do you?”

My boys didn’t go near that tree again until Christmas morning. Even then they asked for permission before getting too close.

I can’t wait to see what they’ll do to their own tree this year. When it comes to tree decorating, people usually fall into one of two camps, either the “less is more” camp or the “bigger is better” camp. Unfortunately for me, my children fall into the “if bigger is better, then humongous is fabulous” camp.

It’ll take all of my motherly willpower not to sneak in there in the middle of the night to redecorate it, but I wouldn’t want to get into trouble. If I’m not careful, Santa might not bring me what I want for Christmas this year.