What I did over my Christmas Vacation…

Well, first, I didn’t take pictures. I toted my camera around with me everywhere but rarely a picture was taken. I was just, well just too darn busy!


Christmas vacation officially began at 11:45 am on Tuesday, December 20 when Shelby got out of school. We brought gifts for her classmates and teachers to school that day and picked her up just a few minutes early. Jeff had a teacher workday that Monday and it was his last day before the “vacation.”


None of our holidays go off without a hiccup. We have a saying, “It’s not a Herrett holiday without drama.” Yeah, this year was not going to be the exception.


That Monday an elf sent me some funds to get Jeff a couple of Christmas presents. Which was incredibly generous and thoughtful but this elf knew I felt bad that since I haven’t had a paying job in a few months there were simply no funds to put anything under the tree for Jeff and it was her gift to me to be able to give him a Christmas present or two. I set out with both of my boys while Shelby was at school and Jeff was at work to get some things for Jeff who is the single most difficult human being to shop for. He gives absolutely no suggestions and shoots down every single one you make. This is nothing new, I’ve been dealing with it every year for the last thirteen years. It still strikes panic and fear in me near the holidays and birthday time regardless. I made some decisions quickly at the store and finished the shopping. More on what I got him and his reaction…later.


The rest of the week was spent largely loafing around and occasionally baking, watching Christmas movies and the like.


Christmas Eve came. The original plan was to go see Jeff’s mom in the rehabilitation center that day. It was still the plan but without Shelby and I. Shelby decided that now was the PERFECT time to come down with a nasty gastro-intestinal virus. We weren’t positive that a) she would make it in the car an hour and a half and b) that she wouldn’t have an episode there and become highly unmanageable. Not to mention, if she was contagious…so Jeff decided he would just take the boys and leave me home with my girl. They were late getting back and then Jeff went out for Chinese food.


Now, this is where things start to get more interesting. Before he left, Jeff set up and lit luminaries along our front walk and driveway. It was still light but getting late. Joey was outside playing with some neighborhood kids. I was inside and it was warm enough to have the windows open. The kids were across the street playing but eventually made their way to our house. Now, I probably should have told them not to play in our yard, but we have a decent size front yard and I figured it would be okay. I figured wrong. A few minutes later, one of the ten-year-olds in the group told me a bag was on fire through my front window. I raced outside and got the hose and put out that luminary (and none of the others, amazingly enough). The informant fingered one of his younger twin brothers as the culprit telling me the other child kicked the bag causing the fire. At that point, the kids were banished from our yard.


I went back inside to discover that Shelby had taken full advantage of the fact that I was dealing with a potentially very dangerous situation and gone into the refrigerator and located the ketchup and proceeded to squeeze it on her bedroom carpet. Looking at the bright side, the container was close to empty. I cleaned the carpet and at that point, rather than risk anything else happened, I did what everyone does in times of trouble: I made cookies and cream fudge. Seriously, what, you don’t do that too?

Baking was another way this holiday got somewhat derailed. I had big plans for making a lot of stuff and I well, didn’t. A huge chunk of my baking revolved around toffee, caramel and a brittle. All of those things require heating the candy up quite hot which means you need a metal spatula. Which I neglected to get…boo.


Anyhow…Christmas morning came. Joey was the first human or dog up in our house. He came into our bedroom to announce he had gotten a bike then went back into the living room to begin opening presents. Jeff promptly stopped him. Joey protested that the gift he was attempting to open was his because it had a “J” for Joey on it. To which Jeff replied, “How do you know that ‘J’ is not for Jeff?”


Eventually, the other two kids got up and we opened presents. A friend of Jeff’s from high school, the kids’ “Aunt” Sherri had gotten presents for each of them online that I was able to pick up at Wal-Mart. Shelby promptly saw the Princess floor mat from “Aunt” Sherri and took it back to her room. We had to coax her back out to even look at any of her other presents. I honestly don’t remember a lot about what the kids got (Jeff did the shopping this year) but I know both boys got RC toys (Joey got Francesco from Cars 2 and Will got Thomas the Tank Engine…I remember those because I was responsible for removing the toy packaging and putting in the batteries) and I did get Shelby a t-shirt with an owl on it that came with a cute owl hat. And of course Joey got a bike. And they all got books. And as tradition, each kid got a DVD. Shelby, our little princess and princess-lover got Tangled. Joey got How to Train Your Dragon, most appropriate for our little Swedish Viking looking boy. Will got the Spongebob Squarepants movie. We owned it but misplaced it sometime over the summer and he spent the better part of October, November and December asking to watch it, so we figured we’d get him another one. “Aunt” Sherri got the boys a Lightening McQueen lamp that illuminates from inside and some Cars “dive sticks.” Dive sticks are basically bath toys that will spray water.


I had gotten Jeff a new zip-up hoodie to go with the one he’s had for seven years that is still in good condition, a t-shirt with Snoopy, Linus, Charlie Brown, Pig Pen and Schroeder that says “It’s all good in the hood”, and some Sesame Street boxers. He actually really liked them all. Joey and Will helped me pick the stuff out and were actually quite helpful. Joey spotted the hoodie and said, “It’s like Daddy’s jacket, maybe he’ll like it, but get blue this time. He already has red.”


Jeff gave me a Snuggie with the logo from his school on it. It also came with a book light. He also bought a copy of Yes, Virginia. Even if we don’t “do” Santa, it’s a beautiful story and we enjoy sharing it with our kids.


After a later than typical brunch, we headed over to Jeff’s dad and step-mother’s house for Christmas with them and Christmas dinner. On the way over, Jeff got a call from his older brother that their mom was back in the hospital. I haven’t talked a lot about it here, but around Labor Day, Jeff took her to the ER for severe symptoms related to COPD. She was admitted at that time to ICU. After getting out she was admitted to a rehab center. She has not been out of the rehab center to go home since and was hospitalized around the end of October with pneumonia. Her hospitalization on Christmas Day was for pulmonary edema that ended up causing congestive heart failure. Luckily she was able to be released a couple of days later back to the rehab center. Any prayers you can send for her are much appreciated.


Back to the festivities though. We joined Jeff’s dad, step-mother, half-brother, younger brother, sister-in-law, nephew and sister-in-law’s father for the opening of presents. Upon arriving, Shelby located the one princess wrapping paper wrapped present under the tree and commenced to show ownership. We opened presents first which is where the biggest snafu of the night occurred. My in-laws decided it would be a good idea to allow the three grandsons (our nephew and our two boys) to hand out presents. First obstacle, neither of my boys are reading yet. Second obstacle, they will stop to open their own presents. My brother-in-law quickly stepped in to help his nephews but it didn’t get much better…eventually all the presents were opened but I have no idea what the boys got from whom. Except I know my in-laws gave them both scooters. Shelby got a Tiana doll from Jeff’s dad and step-mom (from the Frog Prince) and her uncle Max gave her a Rapunzel doll. Jeff’s other brother and sister-in-law gave her several cute outfits and a Spongebob dvd. We had recycled a gift bag from Jeff’s mom to Will for Jeff’s step-mother’s present and this caused MUCH confusion. First, my brother-in-law told Will it was his and he opened it. Immediately, my brother-in-law realized it wasn’t Will’s gift and quickly put it back in the bag and asked me whose gift it really was. I told him his mom’s and he brought it over to Jeff’s step-mother. She promptly looked at the gift tag and said, “No this is for Will!” To which Jeff and I quickly alerted her the bag was being re-used the gift was hers. We enjoyed a dinner of beef tenderloin and various vegetables. Dessert was cannolis, tiramisu (for those who don’t know, my kids and I are the only Italians on that side of the family and we had nothing to do with any of the food), carrot cake, red velvet cake and something else I don’t remember there was that much dessert. As we sat down to dessert, Will, our resident sweet tooth appeared and when someone said “Who wants cake?” Immediately answered, “I like cake!” to the delight of the entire table.


The following week was full of Jeff doing school work, Joey learning to ride his new bike and he and Will learning their scooters and Shelby loving the Spongebob books someone had given one of the boys. We also made cut-out cookies one day and fought with the new iPad Jeff’s parents had given us (as it turns out, they gave it to me…).


I also made a brand new to me recipe for the first time. Julia Child’s Beouf Bourguignon. I did it under Jeff’s watchful eye. It turned out perfectly even if I did put the mushrooms in way too early. They were delicious. It’s in Julia Child’s first collection of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Even though there are plenty of recipes in there (ie—aspics anyone yick!) that I will never make, I encourage everyone to purchase this book and try some recipes in it!


Finally, on New Years Eve, we headed up to see my parents, my two youngest brothers, one’s girlfriend and my maternal grandparents. We opened presents. I actually was able to pay better attention at what my kids got there. My aunts on my mom’s side give the kids a gift from them (there are four aunts) each year. This year each child got a fleece jacket and fleece pants. My grandparents gave each of them a savings bond and stuffed animal as well as a few smaller items. My parents got both of the boys big Geotrax sets, cowboy boots, shake and go cars from Cars 2 and some clothes. And mittens. Shelby got a Strawberry Shortcake doll that just like the ones from my childhood smells like strawberries, two photo-albums full of family pics, cowgirl boots, and an outfit matching one given to my niece from my parents. I managed to give my grandmother her first EVER Christmas sweater and one that fit her personality perfectly. My grandfather is easy, I got him two of the giant puzzle books and my favorite brand of mechanical pencils. We gave both our dads meat thermometers and special textured oven mitts. My parents gave me Toms (I love my Toms!) shoes. If you’ve never heard of this company, please visit their website. For every pair of shoes purchased they donate shoes to a child in a third world country. They also gave me a Mary Engelbreit calendar, an angel night light and pajamas. My grandparents gave us a set of new fluffy towels too.


Jeff brought Shelby home and the boys and I spent New Year’s Eve with my parents. We stayed up and watched the ball drop and had a good time playing all the new toys and visiting. We went to mass the next Morning for New Year’s and the Solemnity of Mary. The priest at my parents church currently was an associate pastor at our parish growing up. The boys did great at Mass without Daddy. We made it to the Sign of Peace before Joey squeezed my hand and whispered he needed to use the potty. Will took this as his cue and loudly announced to the parish that he wanted to go home. NOW. I scooted out with Will and Joey to the bathroom. When I came out of the bathroom with both boys, my brother’s girlfriend who had joined us for mass but is not Catholic was waiting and offered to take the boys outside to the playground so I could rejoin the congregation and receive communion. I was grateful and sent them off with her. After Mass, it was time to head home. My mom loaned me her car to drive back home in. We made it back by late afternoon.


Today is our first official back to work/school day. Jeff did return to work yesterday, but Shelby didn’t have to go back to school until today, so I slept til 6:30 yesterday. The Christmas decorations come down this Friday on the Epiphany. We don’t do resolutions but we do discuss how to do the year better than the last one. We’re making some changes in our lives, for sure, but still loving life and family and God.


And after deciding my word yesterday would be “joy” and posting, Barbara Curtis shared this on her blog.

Yep, St Valentine, joy and me are gonna make it a great year by the grace of God. Happy New Year!