Christmas morming

You might assume that even though it’s January 9th I haven’t taken down my Christmas decorations. And that assumption would be correct. I did actually undecorate my tree–a real one this year!–because it was garbage day last Tuesday and I didn’t want that fire hazard standing in my living room for one more second. So as I heard the garbage truck making it’s way down the street I ripped all the lights and ornaments off and got that sucker out to the curb in the nick of time. But since then I haven’t quite packed the stuff up. This is what I’ve been staring at every day, wishing that somehow the ornaments and lights would pack themselves and trundle up to the attic without bothering me. Kind of like at the end of The Sorcerers Apprentice when the mean wizard does his magic spell and all the brooms get with the program and clean themselves up. I just need that spell . . .

What’s really nice is that this is right in my living room so it’s the first thing you see when you walk in my house. Shame that this photo doesn’t quite capture the trillions of pine needles scattered about the floor.

Christmas wreckage


This year we decided to spend Christmas in Texas. As far as I’m concerned we are never having another holiday on the road. I’m staying at my house and if relatives want to see with us they can fill out an application and wait to be approved come down here.  India came home from college (yay!) and if everything goes according to plans, she and York will both be on missions next year.  So I wanted to be sure we had a festive holiday since it’s our last one together for a while. Which meant I actually decorated my house as much as possible. I’m not one of those people who puts junk on every surface, but I did do Christmas lights outside, which I only get around to every three years or so. You know what the secret is to doing really great Christmas lights? A hot glue gun. It’s completely brilliant at getting lights to stick to your house. I know you’ll completely forget I told you this by next year so I’ll remind you in November.

I actually hung wreaths on the door too. One wreath might be good enough for all you people, but I’m so festive that I need three! Also I really need to stain my front door (thanks to Margaret scratching the crap out of it. Dumb dog!) and three wreaths seemed the perfect way to distract from that. Kind of like wearing a low-cut bathing suit when you need to lose a few pounds–everyone is so busy looking at the cleavage that they don’t look at the hips. Pure genius.

front door three wreaths

Last year after Christmas I was at Hobby Lobby and all of their leftover wreaths were 80% off. Which meant the little window-sized wreaths were less than $3. So I counted up all my windows and bought a wreath for each one. Then, because I occasionally have flashes of brilliance, I bought the most gigantic roll of velvet ribbon too. When Christmas rolled around this year I was all set with a wreath for each window and some ribbon to hang it with.

As with everything I plan in my mind, this was much easier said than done. I wanted the ribbons to hang from the tops of the windows without there being a bow or whatever, as if my windows opened from the top, which they certainly do not. Nor did I want to drill holes into my brick or window casings. I finally figured out how to do this but it took me a lot of tries and several different methods.

window wreaths

Turns out hot glue does not work so well trying to stick things to smooth surfaces. Son of a nutcracker!

window wreath falling

But like I said, I figured it all out eventually. I’ll share my secrets in about eleven months.

You know how in the movie Elf when Buddy decorates the toy department with paper snowflakes and chains and all those sorts of things? I’ve always dreamed of doing something similar to that in my family room because it’s decorated in pastel colors and red and green don’t look very good. And I happen to think that pink Christmas decorations are vomit-y.

I set Arabella to work on the paper chains (it took her, like, a trillion hours. She’s a real slowpoke) and I got to work making snowflakes with my Silhouette Cameo. Remember how I said that sometimes I’m brilliant? I was in charge of the church Christmas party (my third time. Ugh.) and I thought ahead and decided that I’d kill two birds with one stone. I’d make a ton of snowflakes and use them for the Christmas party (theme: Winter Wonderland!) and then save them for my house decorations (in case you’re being nitpicky, I paid for the snowflakes myself). I ended up only using about half of the snowflakes in my house. Mostly because I was putting them up right until the first guests rang the doorbell. That’s always how I know when to stop decorating–when the guests arrive. (It would be really nice to not be a procrastinator.)

I feel like I can leave these decorations up for a few more weeks because they’re winterish, not just for Christmas. I also added a few touches of gold because I like gold. And plain white is just boring. It turned out not quite as festive as Buddy’s decorating job, but I still love it.

White paper Christmas Elf movie

Paper snowflakes are real brats about being photographed. They’re always turning to the side so you can’t see them all at the same time.

The secret to hanging them is fishing line and clear pushpins. Don’t bother with tape. It’s useless on ceilings. Pushpins are my best friends. I’m alarmed at how often they come in handy.

So there you have it; Christmas chez Hildie. We gorged ourselves on schnitzel and spaetzle and had a grand old time.

Who’s done with their Christmas shopping? Not me! And it’s less than a week away. But thank goodness for the internet. Not only because I can shop at 6 am before the kids are awake but because I can find pretty much anything out there.

I am a bit of an oddball and have raised my children to be rather oddball-ish too. While I generally like the fact that they refuse to wear Hollister t-shirts, sometimes it’s a big pain. My 15-year-old son York, for example, has developed a love for Feiyue sneakers (pronounced FAY-yoo-ay. For the longest time I couldn’t read the writing on York’s shoes and thought it was FYE-view. Duh). They’re are what all the Kung Fu people wear (he’s been taking Kung Fu for years). Feiyue started in Shanghai a long time ago but now they’re run by a French company and are pretty hip elsewhere in the world.  Think Chinese-French Chuck Taylors. I don’t get it, but he adores them so whatever.

Thanks to the interwebs I got York two pairs of his dream shoes for Christmas.  It tickles me that my PayPal account looks like this.

Nothing’s going to stand in the way of the perfect gift! Except for #5 on York’s list. I think we’re going to have to pass on the accordion.

I cook a hot breakfast pretty much every morning and make dinner most nights and there are some tools that make meal prep a lot more pleasant. These are gadgets that fill me with joy every time I use them. I do love a handy gadget and have bought a lot of them over the years. Most tend to take up more space than they’re worth but some are golden. I figured that Christmas would be the perfect time to tell you about my favorites, just in case you’re looking for some gift ideas for the cook in your life (or non-cook that you’re hoping to inspire).

This funky bagel cutter is a new addition to my kitchen but my family adores it. We eat bagels a lot. Like a dozen or two every week. And cutting bagels easily is a total pain, even for me. You’d think I would have enough experience to do it properly. For a while we had one of those contraptions that looks like a guillotine but it was a pain to store–it took up way too much room. I was thrilled to find the TableCraft Bagel Cutter last year. It’s a smallish knife with two plastic guides that slide over each side of the bagel. It couldn’t be easier to cut a bagel perfectly in half. Although the knife is pretty sharp I feel fine letting my kids use it. And the fact that I don’t have to be on constant bagel-cutting duty is fantastic! I just throw it in my knife drawer in between uses. At $15 it would make a great and affordable gift for any bagel-eaters you know.

bagel cutter

These Endurance measuring spoons have gotten more use in my kitchen over the last decade than anything else. Not kidding. I have used these thousands and thousands of times. They are still going strong and I can’t recommend them highly enough. $15 may seem a little steep for a set of spoons when you can get plastic ones for $5 but they are so, so, so worth it! The thing I like the most about these more than any other type of measuring spoon is that they are long and thin so even the tablespoon measurer can fit into a spice bottle. The sides of these measuring spoons are pretty straight and the bottom is flat. That’s really great if, for example, you have been using the 1 tsp. measurer for some cinnamon and then you need only half a teaspoon of salt, you can eyeball it pretty well without having to get out another spoon. That’s a lot harder with round measuring spoons. Here’s a tip: When I was growing up we kept our measuring spoons hooked together on the ring they came on. It was a complete pain–like cooking with a set of keys. I finally realized they work a lot better if they’re seperated. I don’t want to have to dig around in the drawer for spoons, though, so I keep all three of my measuring spoon sets in a little vase (actually a votive candle holder) on the counter next to my mixer.

measuring spoons

Years ago I got a Zyliss garlic press. I was enchanted by the ability to throw a clove of garlic with the skins on into my press, squeeze and perfect mashed up garlic would come out! My old Zyliss has been a workhorse (I love garlic and eat it in nearly every meal) but it only held one small clove. So I tried several other garlic presses that had larger capacities. These just didn’t get nearly the amount of garlic out that my Zyliss did. I was thrilled earlier this year to find a new larger Zyliss–the Susi 3–that combines maximum squeezability with a larger capacity.  And it’s got a handy cleaner-outer that gets the leftover peel out. I’m not going to lie to you, sometimes it takes some major elbow grease to squeeze the garlic press (especially when there are two cloves inside) but it seems to be the nature of the beast. All brands are similar in that way. Even so, this is one of those tools that everyone should have. And at around $15 it’s a great deal.

Everybody needs a good rolling pin. At some point I promise you’ll need one. Those dumb rolling pins with handles are wimpy. I’ve seen ones that are marble or metal but for my money you just can’t lose with a sturdy wooden rolling pin. I prefer the style of rolling pins that are straight across, not tapered. My favorite rolling pin came from Sur La Table years ago and I use it not only to make pies but to roll out bread dough for cinnamon rolls, to smash nuts and Oreos, and to beat my recalcitrant husband (kidding! Mister is very obedient.) Mine was $30 and was made in France (which meant I had to buy it because I’m snobby like that). Ateco makes this rolling pin that is very similar but is maple wood, not beech. The length is the same (almost 20″. It’s beautifully long!) but it’s less than $13! What a bargain!

You will certainly need a rolling pin if it’s pie you’ll be making. Too afraid to make pie, you say? Well, try out this nifty thing: it’s a zippered piece of thick plastic that helps you roll out pie crust into the perfect shape and size. When I first bought this I figured it was just some stupid gimmick. Wrong-o! It’s fantastic. Pie crust is much easier to roll out and there’s no more rolling things into a giant rectangle. Not to mention there isn’t the wastefulness of throwing away parchment every time you make pie crust. You guys, this thing costs $5. Totally worth it.

Ah, my cooking thermometer. How I love this thing. I’ve tried different styles but I keep coming back to this one. Did you know that the best way to check if bread is baked throughly is by taking its temperature? (It should be around 190°) My thermometer has been used for everything from frying donuts to making soap. My husband regularly swipes it to check the meat on his BBQ. It’s one of those things that you never knew how much you needed until you finally get one. This is my favorite style of kitchen thermometer since the probe is at one end of a thick wire and the readout is at another. It’s much easier to read than the kind of thermometer that has a readout on the probe itself (fine unless you have to stick your head in a 400º oven to read it). It has a beeping alert to tell you when the food has reached its proper temp.  I started out with a Polder many years ago. When my first one broke (I put it in my apron pocket then accidentally threw it in the washer), I got a cheaper version at Costco. Sadly I didn’t realize it was only for meat and the highest temp it measured was 200º. How dumb! I learned my lesson and got a Thermoworks which is pretty similar to my old Polder. It’s still going strong and was worth every penny of the $20 I spent.


I can’t believe more people don’t know about Bake-Even Strips! I would marry these if I could! They are the greatest secret ever for making a cake that’s totally flat on the top. They’re by Wilton and you can get them in the cake decorating section of any craft store. They cost about $9-10 but most craft stores have coupons so use one for a set of these! Here’s what you do: put the strips in a huge cup of water for a couple of minutes. Then lift a strip out and run it through your fingers to squeeze out a little of the extra water. Wrap it around you cake pan (make sure it’s a cake pan with sides that are straight up and down. The cheaper cake pans have slanted sides. Why, I do not know. Get yourself a couple of 8″ pans with straight sides if you don’t have any) and as it bakes it will insulate the outsides of the cake so the entire thing bakes at the same time and you have a completely flat cake. No more trying to even out the top of a dome-shaped cake. Yahoo!


I make cookies probably three times a week. Cookies are hands down my favorite thing to eat. And I will be more than happy to show you all the blue ribbons I’ve gotten from the State Fair over the years. So when I tell you that, next to a mixer, the most important thing you need for making cookies is a good cookie scoop, you need to listen to me. My hands-down favorite is the OXO Cookie Scoop. These cookie scoops come in three sizes. Medium is the one that I can’t live without (although the large is a nice size for muffins). It makes absolutely perfect cookies in a flash (about 2-3″ across depending on how much the dough spreads). Please don’t tell me you’re still scooping dough out of the bowl with a teaspoon! Get out of the stone age and buy this cookie scoop! I’ve used other brands and this is the best.


My mother swore by spring whisks while I was growing up. Some people listen to their mothers but I tend to do exactly opposite of what she says. So when I grew up I bought traditional whisks for my kitchen. But this is a case of mom being right: Spring Whisks (sometimes called French whisks) are simply the best. They get in the corners of containers that bigger whisks can miss, and they do a much better job of breaking up clumps; super helpful if you’re making a roux or white sauce. Although I hate to admit that my mother was right, this Spring Whisk is the best. It’s several inches taller than spring whisks you’ll find in stores–better for keeping your hands clean and away from any hot pans.

Ok, So this next item isn’t a gadget. But at less than $15 it’s still gadget-priced. It’s a bread pan made by USA Pans. I make loaves quite often and was always cursing the pans. It seemed like bread stuck to every single kind of pan–especially glass or metal ones–no matter how well I greased them. I found these pans on Amazon and ordered three. There’s no way to describe these except to say True Love. These pans are gloriously heavy and are lined with a layer of silicone called Americoat (how patriotic!). Without them even being greased bread just slides right out. Every time I use one of these I exclaim at least once, “I love this pan!!!” I’ve also bought the Pullman Pan which makes a huge, square loaf with a very pale, soft crust (perfect for sandwich bread but you need a different recipe since the pan’s bigger). It’s even more magnificent since I was always forgetting to grease the lid (a very bad thing to do). And best of all, USA pans are made in–you guessed it–America! My goal is to eventually replace all my baking pans with USA Pans. They’re that good.


Happy Baking and cooking, everyone! If you have any gadgets you just adore, please let me know!




I bought these all myself with Mister’s hard-earned cash. I get a tiny smidge of money if you buy these things from Amazon but you are welcome to get them wherever you want. Some items might be harder to find locally than others. Like that bagel cutter–never seen it in any store.

My birthday yesterday was glorious. Nothing terribly exciting happened other than that I ate so much delicious food, which is really the whole point of a birthday. And I got some lovely presents and laughed a lot.


The birds seemed especially chirpy, the clouds were extra billowy and the wildflowers looked gorgeous. I shall assume it was all for me. April is the best month for a birthday!


Last year I made this pin for my friend Tamara. She’s very modest about her birthday so I thought it would be perfect to announce it to everyone. She loaned the pin to me yesterday. And not coincidentally I was offered free dessert twice. (Of course I said yes!)  Although I did spend the first couple of hours replying in an amazed voice, “how did you know???” until I remembered that I was wearing a giant ribbon announcing the fact.


My sister made me the cutest little herb garden set. She claims not to be crafty at all but look how adorable this is! I can hardly wait for the seeds to bloom.


Did any of you read The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother? The author is an overbearing perfectionist who, for her birthday, receives some handmade cards from her elementary-school-aged daughters. She decides that the cards aren’t good enough and that her children haven’t put enough thought into them so she throws the cards back at the girls and demands that they redo them. Yikes! Who wants a gift that has to be forced and coerced (her, apparently). My kids did a lovely job with the cardmaking so there was no need for me to toss them back in their faces, lucky them!




Have you noticed I haven’t gone on one of my holiday-induced rants this season?  Normally by this point I’m up in arms about the endless concerts and recitals, stupid holiday parties, and gifts for various people that I’d rather not give.

I’m angry a lot at Christmas.

So stupid of me.

This year I decided to be zen about a lot of things.

I decided to just enjoy my daughter’s concert without composing a mean letter in my mind to the choir director asking that we not have to hear a solo by every member of the choir.

This is just not a year when outside lights are going to happen. Around here, if we want lights, it’s up to me. And I made peace with not having lights. Plus it was rainy and cold most of December. And there is no way I’m braving bad weather for something as pointless as Christmas lights.

I made teacher gifts a week in advance. I took the time to do a nice peppermint soap and didn’t rush through it as I usually do.


I said no to every party except the school parties and the ward party. I felt slightly grinchy, but one must do extreme things to survive. So, sorry friends who always have the super lame Caroling party. We didn’t really have plans already (and I hope you don’t read my blog!). Also, sorry Bunco and bookclub girls!

I spent much of the month crafting gifts. While I will probably never knit and crochet several gifts again (it was a lot of work! And there’s no way those little kids will appreciate it), it was definitely a big stress release. All that anxiety just drifts away when I make stuff. And, oh my, I had a lot of stuff to make. The little deer was the cutest. Well, so was the elephant.



I have been wrapping several presents a day. As much as I love wrapping paper, you’d think that doing presents would be my favorite. Which it is if I don’t have a stack of fifty presents staring at me on Christmas Eve. Nothing like procrastinating until the last minute to make something not enjoyable. You’d think it wouldn’t have taken me 40 years to figure this out. (You like my gift-wrapping center? It’s right in the middle of my bedroom floor. I remain, as always, the pinnacle of organization).


No neighbor gifts. This may seem like the height of rudeness but neighbor gifts are really not done here. The first year we moved in I did my usual over-the-top production (sugar cookies done all in white and silver and personalized with the names of each family member we’d be taking them to). Boy, was I surprised when nobody gave us anything back.  I learned my lesson fast and it has taken a tremendous burden off of me. Plus, it’s good for dieting.

I have really stripped the Christmas season down to its barest essentials. While this seems positively unAmerican, I get overwhelmed quickly. I don’t know why we all knock ourselves out to make this perfect Christmas experience for our children. Here is the truth: whatever you do for Christmas, your kids will love. The end. It is as simple as that. So my family can all be happy with the bare minimum, or my kids can do way more stuff and be just as happy but I will be miserable and practically homicidal by December 25th. Hmmm, that’s a hard choice.


It’s Teacher Appreciation Week! In the past some Room Moms have turned it into more of a Parent Extortion Week with requests for gift cards and hardcover books, but this year we’re keeping it simple. My kids will be doing thank you notes and these lovelies: Red Velvet cake in a jar. Yes, the cake is baked in a mason jar. And eaten from a mason jar. It’s such a cute, fun idea. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that it’s super easy. But it’s not too bad; it’s worth it. Plus these are unique and homemade and that’s my favorite kind of gift to give.

Step 1: Decide on your cake flavor. I made these for five different teachers. One hates chocolate. So I decided on Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting. For the other four teachers I also added a layer of homemade hot fudge. I usually do from-scratch cakes but I decided to make it easy on myself and did a doctored red velvet (recipe at the very end, if you are interested). Whatever recipe you use, please for the love of everything holy, make the frosting from scratch. Frosting is not hard to make and when it’s being put in a jar, the consistency doesn’t even matter. Frosting from a can is horrendous. There is no circumstance I can imagine where I would ever use it. I will get off my high horse now. But I’m serious.

Step 2: You will need glass canning jars. They can be whatever size you like but they must be wide-mouthed (that means they are straight up and down. Don’t even bother using traditional jars with the smaller mouths. They don’t work too well.) I chose pint-sized. I got five cakes out of one batch of cake batter. The half-pint sizes are nice too but are more of a single cupcake size. You’ll get more cakes out of one recipe, though, so think about what your needs are. (This picture shows all three kids of wide-mouth jars compared to a Coke can so you get a sense of size). If you live in Texas, H.E.B. has all three kinds of jars. They’re sold in a box of a dozen for about $7-10.


Step 3: The most important step. Grease those jars! You are going to be hating life if you don’t.


Step 4: Make your cake batter and fill each jar halfway. Bake at 350º for 25-30 minutes for a pint jar (no, they won’t break! Set them on a shelf in the middle of the oven and they’ll bake just fine). A great thing to use for a tester is a piece of uncooked spaghetti. Some people on the internet recommend baking cakes in a jar in the microwave. Actually they don’t taste that bad but the texture is really spongy. They do cook in about 90 seconds but they make the most hideous mess; the batter puffs up and then leaks all over the outside of the jar. It’s better to just bake them in the oven. It saves time in the long run.


Step 5: Remove cakes from the oven and let them cool completely. As they cool they’ll shrink a little bit and if you’ve greased your jars well, they’ll pop right out. While the cakes are cooling, make your frosting. Again, frosting is not hard to make; no excuses (recipe at the end). Once the cakes have cooled, cut off the weird end. (You should probably eat it as a reward for being so selfless by making nice gifts for people.) Cut the rest into two (or more) sections.


Step 6: You’ll want your jars to be nice and clean. Either wash them or get out a few more from the case that are already clean. Either way, place a piece of cake at the bottom. Top with some frosting. I suggest putting your frosting in a ziploc bag and snipping off the corner. It’s a lot neater and easier to fill up the jars this way instead of using a spoon. (I’ll leave the amounts up to your discretion.) Repeat again. If you happen to have some matching sprinkles, add some to the top frosting layer before you put on the lid.


Step 7: If you’ve completely screwed your jars up and they look terrible, don’t worry. Now is the time to pretty things up. Ribbons and bows cover a multitude of sins.

I wanted these jars to have a summery feel since it’s the end of the school year. I printed up some paper labels, cut them with a fancy punch, and ran them through my Xyron Create-a-Sticker.


There were some cute and semi-flat daisies that I found in the scrapbooking section of Hobby Lobby (they have wires on the back to attach easily to things). Adding a spoon is a nice touch, too, especially so the recipient can bust open the jar and eat their cake immediately.


Red Velvet Cake recipe:

1 box white cake mix (“pudding in the mix” variety)
2 Tbs. cocoa
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 whole bottle of red food coloring (1/3 jar of paste or gel coloring)

Mix all the ingredients together on med-high for two minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. Grease jars well. Bake at 350º til tester comes out clean. Cool completely before removing from jars.

Cream Cheese Icing:

1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened
1 8 oz. pack of cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy (about 2 minutes. It will be very dry and then suddenly will come together.) Add cream cheese then beat another 30-45 seconds. Beat in vanilla and salt.

You guys! I’m back! I didn’t want to tell you that I was going on a vacation for Christmas because I know there’s that crazy band of robbers who reads mommy blogs until they find one who says they’ll be gone then locates their house and steals everything (just kidding, Mom-in-law! This does not actually exist.) But now it’s safe to tell you that we went to Portland, Oregon to visit the extended family for Christmas (don’t worry, I’m not going to include any blurry pictures of my pajama-clad children opening presents. I like you too much for that.)

Although it was our most successful family visit to date (not once did I hiss at my husband through clenched teeth, “I cannot handle your sister for one more second!” Nor did we get in a ginormous fight where one of us seriously threatens divorce. Tempers flare around family, I’m sad to say), it was still a pain. I would not recommend taking Christmas on the road with six kids. The massive amount of luggage (clothes plus presents) was frightening (yay for Southwest and two free bags per person!) Not only that but I had to bring stockings because everyone knows those are the best part of Christmas. And you can’t have stockings without stocking holders because I’m not about to lay the stockings on the floor. So those had to come too. And then there were the gifts for the grandparents and cousins on both sides. And the birthday presents for the two cousins with December birthdays (poor, poor souls).

Let’s just say that the possibility for screwing up this Christmas was tremendous. But it was a success! I remembered everything! And Christmas was wonderful! And we got everything in eight suitcases! And I remembered to bring jackets this time (we won’t go into the Christmas of ’08 when we went to Utah sans coats. That was a fun one.)

There was a little kerfluffle when Mister told me for real this year not to buy him anything. He “doesn’t need anything” (actually, that’s true so I shouldn’t put it in quotes). So I bought him a couple of shirts and a CD (I don’t want to tell you which CD because it’s embarrassing. OK, Josh Groban. See? Embarrassing. I’m an enabler. But when I bought Josh Groban concert tickets last year I only bought one because I have my limits. And paying actual money to see Josh Groban is beyond them.) Anyhoo, I’m sure you can guess what happened Christmas morning; I had lots of wonderful presents to open up and he didn’t. And then he was pouty about it. So I had to do what all wives do when they don’t give a good present: they have to give A Good Present. A private, wifely present(s), if you catch my drift. I don’t know why it even counts since it’s not under the tree or anything. But if it gets a husband to quit complaining, it works for me.

We had a lovely flight home today and are enjoying both our our cat who just about had a nervous breakdown while we were gone, and the sinkful of dirty dishes because Mister insisted that we leave for the airport three hours early and couldn’t wait just five extra minutes for me to load the dishwasher (it’s better to just indulge his fancy for being at the airport absurdly early).

We put the kids to bed without dinner tonight (well, I consider peanuts and Sprite to be a perfectly good dinner, but they are totally spoiled and wanted something more. So selfish, right?). We’ll be spending New Year’s Eve opening all the Christmas cards that came after we left (I don’t want to throw them away already but you procrastinators leave me no choice!) and going to bed by 11 pm.

P.S. Someone please explain how sitting still in an airplane chair for several hours can be exhausting. Because I feel like I ran a marathon (OK, more like a 5K, but still.)

P.P.S. It was scientifically proven today that a Honda minivan holds twice as much luggage as a Suburban. So all you Suburban-lovers with your “SUVs are so much cooler than minivans” can suck it!

Happy New Year everyone!

Like most earnest and well-educated parents I decided that when I had children we would be “gun-free”. No shooting toys period.* (Except water guns because those aren’t about killing, they’re about laughing. And Nerf guns because, well, I don’t know. They’re just different.)

I’ve always preferred my boys to pretend to kill and maim each via hand-to-hand combat. You should be able to look someone in the eyes while you hurt them. Thus swords and knives were always fully acceptable. Bows and arrows are OK too. (Yes, I am aware that it’s possible to shoot someone with a pistol while staring at them. And it’s possible to kill someone with an arrow from really far away. We thoughtful parents don’t operate in grey areas, OK?)

My husband is a gentle soul who doesn’t care much for roughhousing or video games so York and Finn were raised in a kindly manner and were always fine with the no-gun rule. Violence is just not something they were really exposed to. They didn’t even try to make guns out of Legos or toast. I patted myself on the back for being an exemplary mother.

Everything was smooth sailing until Finn turned eight. Grandpa was in town and took Finn shopping for his birthday. They got back from the toy store with seven guns and a machete.

I may be a pacifist but I am not a meanie. The guns stayed and things have gone downhill ever since.

This year York and Finn will find these airsoft beauties under the Christmas tree (they’ll love you forever, Grandpa!):

The slogan for this Thompson M1A1 is “the gun that changed the world.” Yep, tell that to the Indians.

*For about the first three days of parenthood I actually thought it would be possible for our children to be raised with only wooden toys. The naïveté of new parents is so hilarious. We did manage to stay Barbie-free until about three years ago, though.

My husband, Mr. Jennie, does not like to be blogged about. He finds the whole idea of blogging to be egotistical and embarrassing. He likes people to think we are incredibly normal and pleasant. (Then what was he thinking marrying me, you are probably wondering. He asks himself that question on a weekly basis.)

What you may not know about Mister is that he is very funny. Oh, I’m funny too, but I like to think of myself as more of the witty sort. Mister is very silly and slapstick. He tries not to let other people know how funny he is (because being funny is fundamentally embarassing), but he makes me laugh a dozen times a day.

Mister is also the most thoughtful person I have ever met. He is just a nice, sweet guy. Some women like bad boys or guys who are total jerks. Not me. I tried to find the nicest man I could. The first year we were married I told my new husband that I wanted a fancy Coach purse for Christmas. As you can imagine, we didn’t exactly have the budget for that sort of thing (but as a newlywed that detail seemed unimportant to me).

Mister is one of those unfortunate people with a December birthday and at his birthday party our first year together, his parents handed him a big fancy Nordstrom box. He promptly gave it to me and said I should open it. It was the Coach purse. He’d sacrificed his own birthday present and told his parents to get me my fancy purse instead.

I was astounded and humbled. I would never give up a birthday present! Ever.

If that touching gesture weren’t enough, each year he has given me a present on his birthday. I guess to remind me what an awesome guy I’m married to.

This year we’ve had several dozen “discussions” on how poorly I treat every laptop I’ve ever had. How I tend to “destroy” them (FYI, breaking the screen is NOT destruction. Nor is frying the hard drive). Most recently I have had some “fragility issues” with my power cord. I may or may not have broken at least six of these things during my dazzling laptop career. Mister has had it up to here with me and my broken laptop cords (it’s really not my fault they are so shoddily made!) I will now be relegated to using the kids computer, he announced last week.

Which made his gift to me for his birthday this week that much sweeter.

At church we are doing a “friendship week”.  Everyone who is interested is given a secret family similar to theirs (in other words, some little old widow isn’t going to get stuck with us and our six kids) that they are to do nice things for all week (“nice things” usually meaning goodies).  This is so wonderfully up my alley.  First of all, I love having someone to bake for.  It gives me a several days of making cookies and bread and other such delights.  I love that.

I especially like Friendship Week because my love language is gifts.  Oh man, do I love presents.  They don’t have to be expensive presents.  As a matter of fact, I don’t really care much for expensive presents.  I really just want something tangible that says, “I care about you”;   Something that I can hold in my hands that is proof that someone likes me. Mister understood that from the beginning without me even having to explain it.  He is a stellar gift giver. He is forever bringing home flowers and little presents.  I love it and I love him for doing it. Unfortunately there have been several lousy gift givers in my life that still don’t get it, but let’s just move along.

This morning as I was backing out of the garage I spied a gift bag next to the front door,  meaning our secret family had struck again.  I was so thrilled and excited that I jumped out of the car and ran to the porch to check it out.

Without putting the car in park.  That’s how excited I was.

I still didn’t understand what I’d done even though I heard a loud boom. The loud boom of my car driving itself into the garage door. With my children inside.

Good gravy, woman.  It’s just stuff!  Relax!

But I love presents so.

If you are my secret person, thank you!  I’m still super happy even though I spent the last hour hammering the dent out of my garage door.