A Christmas Card for You

I’m going to be signing off until 2015, but I just wanted to take a moment to wish all of you Happy Holidays and a very Merry Christmas! This has been an incredible year for me, and you all had something to do with that. Wishing you lots of love and happiness!20141222093201546_0001

Oh, and Santa came a little early and brought me my very own radio spot this past weekend. You can listen to me chat about Absolute Mayhem, my kids, and self-publishing on The Michelle Esswein Show that aired on KLOU 103.3 in St. Louis HERE (I am the second guest, so start listening halfway through the show).

See all you crazy kids in 2015!

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A Re-Gift: I Am a Liar. And It’s All Santa’s Fault

It’s go time around here. And with our first (of about five) family Christmas celebrations happening this coming weekend, I’m going to pull an old post from two years ago out of my magic sack. But it’s not just any old post. It’s one of my all-time favorites. Besides, at least half of you readers weren’t even around when I posted this. So it’s new to most of you. And with one of my children knowing Santa isn’t real and the other firmly believing in Mr. Kringle without any doubts, I was reminiscing about the year when I had to work a little harder at keeping the faith alive. This is what sitcoms are made of, people. Now, off to address some Christmas cards…

•••

It can be stressful to have a seven-year-old at Christmastime. Why? Because there is questioning. A lot of questioning. You know, about that plump guy in the red suit.

I have to be honest; Grace’s prying questions about Santa make me more uncomfortable than the few questions she has already asked me about S-E-X. Questions about sex, while a little awkward, haven’t been that hard to answer. I am making sure she has accurate facts, giving her knowledge that not only makes her feel okay about her own body, but will hopefully lead to informed and responsible decisions in the future. I subscribe to the very wise motto of G.I. Joe: Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

But answering all these endless questions about Santa means I am doing the exact opposite: I am perpetrating a lie.

It all started at the very beginning of December. We were in the car, sitting at a stoplight. The car behind us caught my eye in the rearview mirror because it had those little reindeer antlers on either side. I glanced at the driver for a glimpse of this person with undoubted Christmas cheer, and lo and behold…it was an older gentleman, with a round face, a long, fuzzy white beard, and a red shirt. I couldn’t believe my luck! Last year we happened upon a reindeer in our backyard just before Christmas, and now this!

So I announced to the kids, “Look who is driving the car behind us!” They both quickly turned around, and Michael yelled, with an energy like the one that comes from eating too many pixie sticks, “SANTA!!!!!!”

Almost on cue, the man behind us smiled and waved at the kids. It was, for lack of a better word, precious. Just as I was feeling my own giant boost of yuletide glow, Grace said, a bit accusingly, “What would Santa be doing driving around here?” I explained that maybe he was making the rounds, checking up on kids, getting reports from all the Elves on the Shelves.

She was quiet for a second. “I kind of think Santa is real. But I kind of think he is a fairy tale.” Well, isn’t that just Grinchy. And then the questions began…

I know what she’s doing. I can tell she is conflicted. She wants to believe Santa is real, but that maturing brain of hers is feeding her more and more of this thing call “logic.” And she’s not so sure she likes the taste of it. Therefore, instead of coming straight out with the question of whether there is a Santa Claus, she is asking every possible question about his practicality to see how I respond.

Grace: What is Santa’s address?
Me: Just write “Santa Clause – North Pole. The post office will know where it goes because there is only one Santa.

Grace: But if no one has ever seen Santa and his workshop is secret, how does the mailman know where he lives?
Me: (crap)

What am I supposed to do? Tell her that I am incredibly impressed with her abilities in deduction, throw up my hands to the fact that I will likely soon be out-smarted, and say, “Congratulations! I think you have just about figured it out. I will spare you the last two zillion questions you were going to ask me and just confirm what you are hinting at. THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS. And your parents are liars. Merry Christmas.”

Nope. That is not what I do at all. Instead, I conspire with my husband to dig ourselves even deeper in this jolly old lie. Ladies and gentlemen, witness our deception:

Grace's Email from Santa
Grace’s Email from Santa

A few days ago, I was at the computer sending some emails when Grace asked me if the reason Santa knew all this stuff about her and Michael was because I emailed him. I confessed that I had absolutely no idea what Santa’s email address was. So Miss Smarty Pants said, “Just Google it.” I hesitantly typed in the words “Santa’s email address,” fearing that an entry would pop up saying something like “Trick your kids with this fake email address to Santa…because we all know Santa is not real.” Luckily, the first entry was an actual site where kids could send emails to Santa. And it was adorable.

Grace entered her information and her note to Santa, then hit send. A screen popped up with a message that the email was being sent…then it said Santa was reading the email…then it said he was writing one back to her. Within a few minutes, Santa’s email was ready for her to read. She was a bit skeptical that he had written it so quickly, but that doubt was soon squashed once she read the email. It was very personal and even somehow had picked up from what she had written in the free-form comment section the fact that she had a brother. I was relieved to see she seemed quite satisfied.

But apparently her wheels had been turning all afternoon, because at dinner time she informed us she had a sneaky idea. She wasn’t so sure Santa had actually written that email, or that there really was a Santa to even email. So she had devised an “experiment.” She wanted my husband to go back to the site and enter in his name, but say he was 6 years old and from Canada. By her reasoning, if Santa was real and really writing these emails, he would certainly know that Kurtis was actually an adult…and not living in Canada.

Well, *%$#@. But I have to admit, she is kind of a genius. And a little maniacal.

We knew we couldn’t talk our way out of this, so my husband agreed to do it. He went downstairs and started the email. All of a sudden, he came racing back upstairs, whipped into the family room and said in a hushed voice, “QUICK! Get on the Kindle, pretend you are Santa, and send an email to me saying that you know I was tricking you!”

OOOOOH! You handsome devil you!

But there was just one problem. I panicked, “But the site doesn’t send it to your email address! Santa’s email just pops up on the site after a minute or two!!!” But my enginerd had already taken care of that. He had unplugged the router so when they hit “send,” nothing would happen. Then when he plugged the router back in, he quickly opened his email to find this message waiting in his inbox:

Subject: Naughty, Naughty

HO HO HO! You tried to trick old Santa! I know you don’t live in Canada.

Love, Santa

P.S. Rudolph thought that was a funny joke!

I know. The tangled web of lies we weave. But I have to say, it was totally worth it to see the look on her face and hear her exclaim, “YES! The email was really from Santa!”

My Cutest Christmas Angel when she was 1 year old
My Cutest Christmas Angel when she was 1 year old

Maybe I am setting her up for a bigger disappointment when she finally does learn the truth. Maybe I am being selfish. I know that the elaborate lengths my husband and I have gone to in order to keep Grace believing are in part for us. We see her losing pieces of “little” every day. Sure, her innocence still outweighs her worldliness. But childhood starts to look different around this age. It isn’t necessarily better or worse, but change is always hard. Every parent knows that faint tug of longing that comes whenever you catch a glimpse of a photo of your child during younger years. Remember…that squeaky voice…the way that tiny hand felt around your finger…that unquestionable belief in anything that could be imagined…it was adorable.

But seven-year-olds can be pretty adorable, too. Grace reminded me of that when she took a bit of offense to Santa’s use of the word joke.

“It wasn’t a joke. It was an EXPERIMENT.”

Maybe I will remember that line when Grace finally does come to the real conclusion about Santa Claus. It was just an experiment. And to make up for her being the subject of that experiment, I will let her eat the cookies her little brother leaves for Old St. Nick. I might need a lot of cookies.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Believe
Believe

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A Cute Rhyme Takes the Guesswork Out of Holiday Gift-Giving

I don’t know about you, but I am woefully behind on my Christmas shopping. See, there’s this thing called Life, and right now it really seems to have an issue with letting me wander aimlessly down the aisles of Toys ‘R’ Us, looking for things least likely to end up being donated next year during our annual pre-Christmas toy purge.

Thankfully, there’s this little gift-giving mantra that’s been going around which might be of tremendous help to me. A friend of mine was the first to enlighten me to it. She, of course, saw it on Pinterest. Because that is where all helpful and clever and visually perfect things are born into this world. But I have since seen it floating around elsewhere on the internet, mainly out of the mouths of comment sections. So you may have heard it as well. It goes like this: Continue reading “A Cute Rhyme Takes the Guesswork Out of Holiday Gift-Giving”

My Christmas Gift To You. There Is Dancing Involved.

I wanted to make a quick post to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and to thank those who have supported this blog. This has been a big year for me in terms of Are You Finished Yet?, and I have been lucky to welcome a lot of new people to my little party here. So this is what you would have received in your mailboxes, if I had everyone’s addresses:xmascard2013

Also, my kids wanted to dance you out of the holiday season.The epic nature of their moves Continue reading “My Christmas Gift To You. There Is Dancing Involved.”

The Myth Is Over, But The Magic Remains

This is it, I thought to myself. I just had this feeling the moment was upon me. But I never would have guessed Arnold Schwarzenegger was going to be the impetus for the conversation.

On the television screen was a warehouse full of mall Santas in various costumed states, running an underground knockoff toy ring. Jim Belushi was trying to con Schwarzenegger, the desperately gift-less father, into buying a cheap replica of Turbo Man for his son.

So many Santas. So many obviously fake Santas. I could sense my daughter recognized the perfect moment of opportunity. Continue reading “The Myth Is Over, But The Magic Remains”

I Am A Liar. And It’s All Santa’s Fault.

It can be stressful to have a seven-year-old at Christmastime. Why? Because there is questioning. A lot of questioning. You know, about that plump guy in the red suit.

I have to be honest; Grace’s prying questions about Santa make me more uncomfortable than the few questions she has already asked me about S-E-X. Questions about sex, while a little awkward, haven’t been that hard to answer because I am making sure she has accurate facts, giving her knowledge that not only makes her feel okay about her own body, but will hopefully lead to informed and responsible decisions in the future. I subscribe to the very wise motto of G.I. Joe: Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

But answering all these endless questions about Santa means I am doing the exact opposite: I am perpetrating a lie.

santa's secret
To tell…or not to tell? Copley Photo

It all started at the very beginning of December. We were in the car, sitting at a stoplight. The car behind us caught my eye in the rearview mirror because it had those little reindeer antlers on either side. I glanced at the driver for a glimpse of this person with undoubted Christmas cheer, and lo and behold…it was an older gentleman, with a round face, a long, fuzzy white beard, and a red shirt. I couldn’t believe my luck! Last year we happened upon a reindeer in our backyard just before Christmas, and now this! So I announced to the kids, “Look who is driving the car behind us!” They both quickly turned around, and Michael yelled, with an energy like the one that comes from eating too many pixie sticks, “SANTA!!!!!!”

Almost on cue, the man behind us smiled and waved at the kids. It was, for lack of a better word, precious. Just as I was feeling my own giant boost of yuletide glow, Grace said, a bit accusingly, “What would Santa be doing driving around here?” I explained that maybe he was making the rounds, checking up on kids, getting reports from all the Elves on the Shelves. She was quiet for a second. “I kind of think Santa is real. But I kind of think he is a fairy tale.” Well, isn’t that just Grinchy. And then the questions began…

I know what she’s doing. I can tell she is conflicted. She wants to believe Santa is real, but that maturing brain of hers is feeding her more and more of this thing call “logic,” and she’s not so sure she likes the taste of it. Therefore, instead of coming straight out with the question, “Is there really a Santa Claus?” she is asking every possible question about his practicality to see how I respond. Grace: What is Santa’s address?….Me: Just write “Santa Clause – North Pole. The post office will know where it goes because there is only one Santa….Grace: But if no one has ever seen Santa and his workshop is secret, how does the mailman know where he lives?….Me: (crap)

What am I supposed to do? Tell her that I am incredibly impressed with her abilities in deduction, throw up my hands to the fact that I will likely soon be out-smarted, and say, “Congratulations! I think you have just about figured it out. I will spare you the last two zillion questions you were going to ask me and just confirm what you are hinting at. THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS. And your parents are liars. Merry Christmas.”

Nope. That is not what I do at all. Instead, I conspire with my husband to dig ourselves even deeper in this jolly old lie. Ladies and gentlemen, witness our deception:

Grace's Email from Santa
Grace’s Email from Santa

A few days ago, I was at the computer sending some emails when Grace asked me if the reason Santa knew all this stuff about her and Michael was because I emailed him. I confessed that I had absolutely no idea what Santa’s email address was. So Miss Smarty Pants said, “Just Google it.” I hesitantly typed in the words “Santa’s email address,” fearing that an entry would pop up saying something like “Trick your kids with this fake email address to Santa…because we all know Santa is not real.” Luckily, the first entry was an actual site where kids could send emails to Santa. And it was adorable. Grace entered her information and her note to Santa, then hit send. A screen popped up with a message that the email was being sent…then it said Santa was reading the email…then it said he was writing one back to her. Within a few minutes, Santa’s email was ready for her to read. She was a bit skeptical that he had written it so quickly, but that doubt was soon squashed once she read the email. It was very personal and even somehow had picked up from what she had written in the free-form comment section the fact that she had a brother. I was relieved to see she seemed quite satisfied.

But apparently her wheels had been turning all afternoon, because at dinner time she informed us she had a sneaky idea. She wasn’t so sure Santa had actually written that email, or that there really was a Santa to even email. So she had devised an “experiment.” She wanted my husband to go back to the site and enter in his name, but say he was 6-years-old and from Canada. By her reasoning, if Santa was real and really writing these emails, he would certainly know that Kurtis was actually an adult…and not living in Canada.

Well, *%$#@. But I have to admit, she is kind of a genius. And a little maniacal.

We knew we couldn’t talk our way out of this, so my husband agreed to do it. He went downstairs and started the email. All of a sudden, he came racing back upstairs, whipped into the family room and said in a hushed voice, “QUICK! Get on the Kindle, pretend you are Santa, and send an email to me saying that you know I was tricking you!” OOOOOH! You handsome devil you! But there was just one problem. I panicked, “But the site doesn’t send it to your email address! Santa’s email just pops up on the site after a minute or two!!!” But my enginerd had already taken care of that. He had unplugged the router so when they hit “send” nothing would happen. Then when he plugged the router back in, he quickly opened his email to find this message waiting in his inbox:

Subject: Naughty, Naughty

HO HO HO! You tried to trick old Santa! I know you don’t live in Canada.

Love, Santa

P.S. Rudolph thought that was a funny joke!

I know. The tangled web of lies we weave. But I have to say, it was totally worth it to see the look on her face and hear her exclaim, “YES! The email was really from Santa!”

Maybe I am setting her up for a bigger disappointment when she finally does learn the truth. Maybe I am being selfish. I know that the elaborate lengths my husband and I have gone to in order to keep Grace believing are in part for us. We see her losing pieces of “little” every day. Sure, her innocence still outweighs her worldliness. But childhood starts to look different around this age. It isn’t necessarily better or worse, but change is always hard. Every parent knows that faint tug of longing that comes whenever you catch a glimpse of a photo of your child during younger years. Remember…that squeaky voice…the way that tiny hand felt around your finger…that unquestionable belief in anything that could be imagined…it was adorable.

My Cutest Christmas Angel when she was 1 year old
My Cutest Christmas Angel when she was 1-year-old

But seven-year-olds can be pretty adorable, too. Grace reminded me of that when she took a bit of offense to Santa’s use of the word “joke.”

“It wasn’t a joke. It was an EXPERIMENT.”

Maybe I will remember that line when Grace finally does come to the real conclusion about Santa Claus. And then I will let her eat the cookies her little brother leaves for him. I might need a lot of cookies.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Believe
Believe

Christmas Traditions

What’s black and white and red all over? A panda in a Santa costume of course.

What? You’ve never heard of the Christmas Panda? Well, I feel pretty sorry for you. Because he’s awesome. He brings presents after Christmas, along with a feast of assorted meats and cheeses and grilled pineapple, mimosas, board game fun, and the option to attend the festivities in your jammies, if you feel so inclined.

christmas panda
Panda Day a few years ago. Michael didn’t appreciate wearing the mascot’s hat.

Panda Day is part of our Christmastime tradition. It started a few years ago with my husband’s family as time set aside to celebrate just with his parents and siblings. See, both my husband and I are blessed (and usually not cursed) to have a very large chunk of our extended families here in St. Louis, which means Christmas Eve and Christmas day are practically scheduled down to the minute. So eventually we had the brilliant idea that it was really okay to celebrate part of our Christmas AFTER the actual day. And it has turned out to be a well-loved tradition. Today was our Merry Panda Day.

deer
The “reindeer” that appeared in our backyard

On the way home tonight, I was thinking of all the Christmas traditions we are not only passing on to our kids, but also creating for our kids. I wonder which memories will stay with them, which moments are helping to write the stories of their childhoods? Christmastime is always an indelible chapter in those stories. We try so hard to create magical and perfect holiday moments for our kids to fondly remember. Sometimes those are the visions they hold dear. But sometimes magic happens even when we are not trying. For example, twice this month my kids spied a giant buck in our backyard. We are used to occasionally seeing does and their young, but hardly ever are we treated to the antlered version. And the coincidental fact that this buck made himself known so close to Christmas, and the fact that he could easily be mistaken for a reindeer by my kids, made for pure yule tide delight. Grace was sure it was Prancer checking out our roof for the best place to land on the big night. There is nothing I could have ever orchestrated to make her believe in Christmas magic more than that simple and perfectly timed sighting. Although I do think the phone call from Santa (a.k.a. our friend Bob) that comes every year does a pretty good job as well. There is always that perfect mix of fear and wonder in their eyes at the first booming sound of Bob’s voice on the other end of the line.

We would have the Christmas Panda call too, but well,…who the heck knows what a panda sounds like? That would be an awkward conversation. Besides, he is kind of lazy. He only brings presents to us, and often waits until the after-Christmas sales to do his shopping. Ah, the magic of Panda Day.

Christmas Traditions: Panda Day

What’s black and white and red all over? A panda in a Santa costume of course.

What? You’ve never heard of the Christmas Panda? Well, I feel pretty sorry for you. Because he’s awesome. He brings presents after Christmas, along with a feast of assorted meats and cheeses and grilled pineapple, mimosas, board game fun, and the option to attend the festivities in your jammies, if you feel so inclined.

christmas panda
Panda Day a few years ago. Michael didn’t appreciate wearing the mascot’s hat.

Panda Day is part of our Christmastime tradition. It started a few years ago with my husband’s family as time set aside to celebrate just with his parents and siblings. See, both my husband and I are blessed (and usually not cursed) to have a very large chunk of our extended families here in St. Louis, which means Christmas Eve and Christmas day are practically scheduled down to the minute. So eventually we had the brilliant idea that it was really okay to celebrate part of our Christmas AFTER the actual day. And it has turned out to be a well-loved tradition. Today was our Merry Panda Day.

deer
The “reindeer” that appeared in our backyard

On the way home tonight, I was thinking of all the Christmas traditions we are not only passing on to our kids, but also creating for our kids. I wonder which memories will stay with them, which moments are helping to write the stories of their childhoods? Christmastime is always an indelible chapter in those stories. We try so hard to create magical and perfect holiday moments for our kids to fondly remember. Sometimes those are the visions they hold dear. But sometimes magic happens even when we are not trying. For example, twice this month my kids spied a giant buck in our backyard. We are used to occasionally seeing does and their young, but hardly ever are we treated to the antlered version. And the coincidental fact that this buck made himself known so close to Christmas, and the fact that he could easily be mistaken for a reindeer by my kids, made for pure yule tide delight. Grace was sure it was Prancer checking out our roof for the best place to land on the big night. There is nothing I could have ever orchestrated to make her believe in Christmas magic more than that simple and perfectly timed sighting. Although I do think the phone call from Santa (a.k.a. our friend Bob) that comes every year does a pretty good job as well. There is always that perfect mix of fear and wonder in their eyes at the first booming sound of Bob’s voice on the other end of the line.

We would have the Christmas Panda call too, but well,…who the heck knows what a panda sounds like? That would be an awkward conversation. Besides, he is kind of lazy. He only brings presents to us, and often waits until the after-Christmas sales to do his shopping. Ah, the magic of Panda Day.