The highs and lows of Christmas 2020

Christmas is always hard for me. Having a second teenager, a houseful of kittens and brand new budgie chicks helps me escape a lot of the pain that surfaces during the holidays.

And no matter what I try, I can’t escape it. Instead, I work to minimize it.

And every year it gets a little easier.

It’s 9:30 pm now— I am listening to Rachmaninov on my brand new AirPods and at first I was very disappointed to discover that they didn’t have buttons.

Imagine my shock when I discovered they automatically turn on and off when I place them in my ear and take them off. And so far they don’t fall out as easily as the cheap ones do. (When I saw cheap I mean cheap— I got my previous set for $10 at Family Dollar. I had no problems with my $10 set either except I broke pieces off of them within the first couple days).

So to continue writing about my holiday backwards, teenager #1 received kitchen tools from teenager #2 and a new hand mixer from my mother-in-law. She’s baking banana bread now.

Apparently piles of cookies and fruitcake aren’t enough for her.

I’m journaling, blogging, and about to watch another episode of The Tudors. I can’t believe Vale of FURR’s Norse Pride is going home tomorrow— and I am bringing three other kittens to the adoption fair as well.

Fern-Edie is doing well in her new home. And I am starting to hyperventilate a little thinking this might be the last night my bed looks like this:

Vale and Loki

As I came up to my bedroom to start the animals’ night routine, I noticed all three budgies were out. Mama Wink showed me that all her eggs had hatched and I watched her clean shell off her newest chick. We hope to name them Yule, Winter and Christmas if they all survive. I hope they do.

Other highlights of Christmas:

  • The big Christmas mission for the teenager’s mysterious package earlier this week was… her varsity jacket!

YouTube: Teenager opens her varsity jacket

  • We listened to some non traditional Christmas carols extremely loudly in the car. Including “The Christmas Tree’s on Fire.”
  • I earned a place of honor in this year’s Christmas Grace, “Thank you, Lord, for keeping us safe from Corona, well except for Angel.” Ever burst out laughing during a prayer? Now I have.
  • I was asked to make the broccoli for Christmas dinner. My step mom doesn’t trust anyone else with the green vegetables I guess. I sautéed them golden brown in butter with sea salt, too much multicolored peppercorns (I grabbed the wrong jar— oops!) and herbs de Provence.
  • Christmas was much smaller than usual because of the pandemic, so my stepmom decided we would get fresh cut steaks from the butcher. She even ordered one for my brother’s dog. And she wanted to grill them. The temperature dropped drastically while my dad was at the grill and then all the steaks went up in flames. I learned that a good blue cheese dressing can cut the taste of charcoaled steaks.

I guess the last thing I’ll mention is that the teenager got a pet play pen which will come in handy for our work with Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. Of course, I’ve discovered it houses cats and teenagers.

It’s a pets’ Christmas

Today has been a peaceful and special Christmas Eve. Unwrapping presents with Mimi before breakfast. Breakfast via the Dunkin Donuts drive through.

Breakfast on Christmas Eve was $6.66 before tax

But the best part of the morning was when all the kittens vacated my room. Mama Periwinkle (Wink) let me see her baby chick! I see there is only one egg left— and I’m still not sure if there is a younger chick in there under the older one.

Periwinkle and Peek-a-Boo (Boo-Boo) were bonded females, and even now Boo-Boo seems to protect her “sister” and guard her nest. Yo-yo is a devoted father, but the three birds seem to be raising the family together.

Around lunch time, we video-called the teenager’s grandparents and both teenagers opened their gifts. Teenager #2 cried when upon discovering that my mother in law bought a custom made ornament personalized with name, the year, a musical staff and a drum. The fact that practical strangers were able to discern that many little personal details became a little overwhelming.

But the biggest moment of my Christmas Eve was finally escaping the clutches of Covid enough to deliver Fenrir of the Norse Pride aka Fern aka Fern-Edie now to be Edie to her FURRever home through Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. The fact that one of my favorite people adopted her certainly made it even better.

Because she went home with a friend, I made a little care package to introduce the two of them.

And I also gave Nala a Christmas gift. After a nap on my shoulder. The gift—A new bell to replace the one she brought with her from Bird Mania. She broke the clapper out of her old one. She’s already unwrapped it, played with it, and rung it for me.

Yuletide whirlwind

Yesterday was the winter solstice— Yule— and the great convergence of Saturn and Jupiter that may have been the Christmas Star of Christian Heritage.

Sugar Cookie and Candy Cane Hershey Kisses

My neighbor Jan and I went on a Christmas season road trip to pick up a package. I wasn’t sure I could make the 90-minute drive alone.

I am grateful to live in such an old fashioned neighborhood that I know what neighbors will have adventures, which will grab me groceries, and who won’t mind grabbing me a coffee.

We stopped at Target and I got my annual bag of Candy Cane Hershey Kisses and treated myself to the new Sugar Cookie Kisses. They have real bits of cookie inside and the white chocolate kiss tastes like icing.

When I got home, the teenagers drove me over to Dollar General and Twin Rivers Music. Dollar General to get the pickle Doritos that are apparently a Dollar General exclusive and Twin Rivers Music for valve oil, a mouthpiece brush, ukulele strings and kazoos.

Teenager #2 thought her kazoo was broken, so teenager #1 had to teach her how to play it (which she did while driving the car!).

YouTube: Christmas Kazoos

YouTube: Review of Sour Pickle Doritos

In honor of Yule, and to celebrate the longest night of the year, I let the teenagers unwrap their stockings (which included some traditional stocking stuffers and some non-traditional items). A lot of make-up, gift certificates for Hyperion Salon and Lucha Bella skin care, candy and snacks, and activity books.

Teenager two got her first paint-by-water book which I bought for her because it featured Sponge Bob. I also got them coloring books of cosmic cats and uni-creatures and a robot faces sticker book.

YouTube: Dumping the stockings

Lunchables Dirt Cake

Activity Books

Teaching the Art of Paint by Water

Review of Oreo Candy Canes

We ate too many of my mother-in-law’s cookies and finished the bag of Doritos so I shouldn’t be surprised that I gained more weight.

Today is a new day and it feels like a clean start thanks to the energy of Yule and I feel a little stronger and more like myself, though still very easy to exhaust.

I got up, cleaned up after one set of cats, shoveled the path for a heating oil delivery, saw my friend Gayle, loaded the dishwasher and started a load of laundry. I tried to pick up some garbage from the house strewn with wrappings and about 5 loads of clean laundry.

Then I worked with Nan by phone. The Fluffy Norse kittens decided to join me on the sunporch and, of course, climbed the Christmas tree.

Fern-Edie in the Christmas Tree

I got the laundry out of the washer and hung it, and teenager #1 made me an egg sandwich, even though by then it was noon.

I tried to clean up the bathroom. Started the dishwasher. And came up to check on the birds.

YouTube: Do we have baby budgies?

And we have one tiny bald, baby budgie!

I am so terrified I will do something to hinder Momma Wink from taking good care of her eggs and baby. I’m especially worried everyone isn’t getting enough to eat.

So finally that brings me to Nala— she’s afraid of something and it might be the parakeets. She’s barbering badly.

Shake and Bake, confetti dessert, holiday cheer and a Covid test

I have hardly gotten out of bed today — I’m exhausted, my body is achy, my joints are locking up, I am lightheaded and my eyes burn.

This could be the ramifications of sleep deprivation and forgetting to take my allergy and blood pressure meds for two days. It could be a cold. But it could be Covid.

The teenager made authentic straight-from-the-box Shake N Bake chicken— which she thought was novel but paying $3.50 for a plastic bag and some breadcrumbs struck her as ridiculous.

On the other hand, the no bake confetti dessert I bought at the Grocery Outlet was scrumptious.

The animals, as they tend to do, noticed I didn’t feel well.

I called my doctor and they asked me to go for the Covid test at the hospital— there’s a drive through tent outside. Only 3 cars were in front of us. The attendent did a great job of swabbing my nose. Now if I have Covid, a doctor will call me Saturday. If I don’t, no one will contact me.

And of course I will need some sort of note to return to work.

And the two teens decorated the tree and to celebrate they started their 12 days of Christmas advent calendars a little early.

Some silly videos:

Unboxing

Opening the first day

Hunting the pickle

An uncomfortable Tuesday

Firstly, my headline is misleading as it is Wednesday already.

Tonight my body aches. Everything hurts in a bad way. And I was dizzy and lightheaded— in a weird way, like my head was clogged with fluid and my body was dehydrated (which I am not).

I only “picked” 120 at Stitch Fix’s Bizzy Hizzy tonight and I am frustrated by that. That’s 2.5 carts less than last night which is almost an hour worth of work.

Now, mind you, I was working in W most of the night which is 750 steps from the “garage area” and if I hustle I can cross in 1 minute 30 seconds. But that adds 3 minutes per cart, which easily accounts for 45 minutes. If I follow my own logic, this means if I were stationed closer to the garage I might have easily reached 136, which would have pleased me.

Bizzy Hizzy

It is 1:30 a.m. now and I am continuing season 4 of The Crown. Now, considering how much my body hurts and the fact that my fingers and feet tingle as if they were asleep, something must be wrong with my circulation. Is my blood pressure too low?

So I thought I deserved a salty snack. The teenager had hijacked my new bag of tortilla chips, and left me with the stale broken crumbs in the cupboard. Her grandfather had brought potato chips but I didn’t see those in the cupboard.

But I found a cup of Little Caesar’s cheesy jalapeño dip and thought that could revive the stale chips.

And as soon as I got them to my room, foster kitten Loki spilled them. Onto my floor. I almost cried.

Speaking of The Norse Pride, here they are after their vet appointment declaring them free of ringworm. In this photo— believe it or not— they think they are hiding from the vacuum.

Tonight I listened to a podcast on Tudor fashion, the final segment of “Do Not Harm” on Wondery. I recommended it to one of my social work interns. I can’t wait to discuss it with her.

Earlier in the day, the teenager went with my father and found our Christmas tree and helped me have a steak dinner before work. I also took my homemade beef broth out of the crock pot and packaged it. I have a cheap man’s beef stroganoff planned for tomorrow.

Weekends that are weekends

It has been ages since I had a weekend that felt like a weekend. A weekend without trying to catch up on chores. A weekend without “Sunday scaries.” A weekend without working overtime or getting up early for one thing or another.

As a matter of fact, I slept until 11 this morning, which, when you consider my new bedtime is between 1 and 2 a.m., is not unreasonable.

The teenager made me coffee and brought me a pain au chocolat from Lidl (which is still too soft and not crispy, flaky enough to remind me of real French croissant but far better and cheaper than most American attempts).

I spent some time with my cockatoo, Nala, and many cats and kittens not to mention with my daughter.

Speaking of Nala, she bit my phone screen protector and I’m not sure if she got a shard of glass in the camera or she broke the lens, but my selfies are hazy now.

Teenager #1 wanted to drive today so we ended up at Shoprite, Pet Valu and Starbucks. I haven’t had a Starbucks in ages and I decided to try the Nitro Sweet Cream Cold Brew but ended up a tad distraught that apparently Nitro does not come with ice cubes. It’s room temperature-ness did not appeal to me.

We found lots of goodies at Pet Valu with their going out of business sale— exotic canned cat food, a myriad of treats, lots of parakeet food and a little something for Sobaka for Christmas.

I received an AmEx offer spend $15 at Sonic get $5 back so we went, as Sonic is one of the teenager’s favorite places. The food was kind of awful and they only have the drive thru open so they misheard our order so our total after tax was $15.23. I probably won’t get my special offer.

To hear us talk about our foodie adventures click here: YouTube: Sonic Shenanigans

We ran into one of our favorite couples at ShopRite— We’ll name them C&F. They both have much respect from my daughter and I because they are super intelligent, easy going people who found each other and “overcame” some life obstacles that I pretty much would label as the realities of our American society. I feel like if they were ever two people who earned every success in life it was C&F, and I am so lucky to have met them and have them in my life and so proud of their children and commend them for being great parents. And to think— I have known C since before she got married! They were a little shocked to hear the teenager can drive since we all met when she was six.

Anyway. So after all that and a meal at Sonic, the teenager and I came home. She put the groceries away. We wrapped some holiday gifts. And finished our hair.

Amazing in Lavender

And then while I did laundry— I have surrendered to the idea that laundry will never be “caught up” again in this house— she started construction of the holiday village.

After Christmas

During the last two days I read most of the grant archive at work.

At lunch time, I received a text from my daughter that she shouldn’t be left home alone. She saved a field mouse from our cats and built it an enclosure.

I suggested she find one of the lids. Well, honestly I told her to put the damn thing outside but… she doesn’t listen.

After work, I met my neighbor at Three Birds Coffee House but I was disappointed the birds were on vacation. The lemon verbena tea was delicious.

And I came home to a house still in the throes of the Christmas Bomb, disaster from one end to the other. I picked up a bit, opened a beer and let my new roomba vacuum the kitchen.

Gayle came for supper and we all shared a candy apple.

Our candy apple review

After dessert, the teen and Gayle colored the giant cardboard submarine.

And then the teen discovered the mouse had escaped.

Never a dull moment.

Christmas Bomb (part 1, at home)

Good morning and Merry Christmas to those who celebrate.

My teenager asked me to open her presents last night so I allowed it. Why not? She’s a teenager so it spares me waiting for her to get out of bed in the morning.

So I’m enjoying a cup of coffee, after trying to pick up all the wrappings, thinking about my friends far and wide that I miss.

My daughter bought me these lovely winter boots, which are nice and warm and toasty but I am very glad I don’t have to test them in snow today. She also bought me penguin socks and replaced the teapot she destroyed a couple months ago.

She melted a Le Creuset teapot. Really. She did.

Her main Christmas presents included a calligraphy set (she’s always commenting on how she wished she could make fancier letters) and a subscription box from Universal Yums.

Of course, there are some junky fun gifts, some candy and some activity books.

But I didn’t expect the fun that came from these three stocking stuffers:

Christmas Shenanigans

Scaring the Cats

Christmas Eve 2019

I started my Christmas Eve morning trying to make the house presentable for my mother’s Christmas visit, but I also treasured the silence and stillness of the house.

The teen got up early and finished her advent calendar…

The final window

My mom came down around 10, and the teen and I had made Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and some fancy break-and-bake cookies.

We exchanged presents and my mom left after about 45 minutes and took the teen to her father’s apartment. Apparently, he had intended to have my mom over for a tour and despite the fact that we’ve been separated six months she still hasn’t visited.

My day was pretty quiet. I did some laundry and loaded the dishwasher and tried to unclog the bathtub drain. At 2 pm, I realized I hadn’t really eaten so I ordered Dominoes.

I hung out with my three budgies (they do love to fly around my head) and watched two episodes of Jonathan Maberry’s graphic novel, now a series on Netflix: V Wars. I took a writing workshop with Jonathan more than a decade ago when he had just published his first (maybe two) novel(s).

The teenager just read my signed copy of Ghost Road Blues for her independent reading in English. She didn’t enjoy it. She then purchased his later book, Rot and Ruin, and devoured the whole tome in two days.

VWars definitely held my interest for the episodes I watched but I think I need to turn to something more uplifting for holiday viewing.

The teenager is with her dad and paternal grandparents.

She should be home soon. She wore her new dogs and cats in Christmas hats sweatshirt, complete with blinking lights. We opened that gift on Saturday when my friend and very talented nail tech Beth came over to see my tree and have some wine and cookies.

The teen’s ugly Christmas sweater

Holidays often bring a lot of anxiety for me, and this year has had its moments. But sometimes you just have to remember to be kind to yourself and do what seems right for you and your family.