December 12, 2022

welcome to our mess, censored poem lines, helper elves, & begging for gift ideas

I'm not in panic mode . . . yet. I'm hosting my side for Christmas. That's 33 people, if anyone's counting. At this point, the 22 grandkids can all basically be counted as adults minus the 3 kids in junior high. I haven't decided what I'm serving yet. 

I took photos of the mess we are surrounded by currently, but I've lost my nerve to share them. It's fine. Well, it will be fine. 
OK, I'm gonna go ahead and share: 
the current situation of my island.

My excuse for the mess? We were out of town last weekend and Reg and Curly had games the two nights prior to us being out of town. More on our trip later. 

The snack bar between
 the kitchen and the
 family room. My card
assemble station.
 Reg needs to find somewhere else
to do his homework.
Plus I've been very busy with my cards - mostly the poem part. This tradition started when Curly was born 12/19/07. I incorporated her birth announcement into our card with a rhyme. Part of is was borrowed:  ON DEC 19TH OUR 5 KIDS WERE STIRRING IN OUR HOUSE, WE SURE HOPE WE DON'T HAVE A MOUSE, etc. I go on to describe Coach bringing the older 5 kids to meet Curly and how I sent them away, NOW DASH AWAY, DASH AWAY . . . you get the idea. That poem got rave reviews, and now I write one to update everyone on our adventures and goofiness. Mini's lines do not disappoint. 

It's the earliest that I've sent my poem to the printer. Long story, but apparently the plant near me closed. The one they sent it to is running behind. Of course.

Lad requested that I remove lines that referenced his frog collection. If only he was embarrassed enough by his frog friends to get rid of them. *sigh* 

 The censored lines: 
An unusual event occurred when I was cutting fruit for smoothies in May, 
Reg spotted perhaps a raspberry on the floor, I bent to grab it, but it hopped away. 

 An escaped exotic red frog from Lad’s collection made my blood pressure soar, 
Just when you thought life at the Shenanigan house had become a tedious bore. 

If you're interested in receiving my Christmas card/ poem, let me know. Email me your mailing address at:  (my actual last name - not Shenanigan . . . if you haven't figured out my real last name, let me know and I'll email it to you) 

Is it me? Do people not send out change of address cards/notices anymore? I've had to track down new addresses, poking around on the internet. I want to tell people who move:  tell me where you live unless you're in the witness protection plan - or maybe they're in hiding, not wanting to be subjected to my poem. 

My view from the crawl space. Nothing says creepy
 like a group of kids with their faces erased.
SHAMED INTO DECORATING:  We drove home from Omaha on Monday, Dec. 5th so I didn't babysit. On Tuesday, one of my charges shamed me for not having any Christmas decorations up. I wish I had a recording of her little voice, complete with cute lisp. On Thursday, I crawled into the crawl space and pulled out all of my bins while the small crowd of young'uns watched from the basement in awe. "What's up there?" 

Faceless helper elves carefully passing
around my favorite, stained glass ornament.
A 2.5 year old boy cried about EVERYTHING that day. I joked with him that the crawlspace was where I put little boys who did nothing but cry. He got the joke and laughed, so I'm hoping not to be hit with his future therapy bills. 

The littles assisted me in opening bins, and excitedly waiting for a turn to deliver something to maybe the kitchen table or the island or the fireplace. I handed them unbreakables like a small wooden Santa the stockings or my Christmas oven mitts. Nothing like having wee
helpers motivate me to decorate. 

We bought a tree yesterday. There were only 3 trees left by the time we got there, so our tree is a tad Charlie-Bownish. A woman arrived minutes ahead of us and took the last decent tree.  I was a bit bummed but not bummed enough to drive to another tree place, since this place is already out of the way and supports a good cause.

SUGGESTIONS, PLEASE:  I've done most of  my Christmas shopping. We're buying flights for Ed and Mini to visit Tank in Ireland over their spring break. In theory this means less shopping. It's just a theory, no clue if I can follow my own instructions there. This morning I made a list of the 8 godchildren combined that Coach and I need to shop for. Ideas for teenage boys in the $25-50 range. One side has a higher spending cap. 

Last year I bought a nice scented candle for each of my sisters/SILs. We don't exchange anymore (well, Ann and Marie exchange while we all sit there, having agreed not to exchange), but I try to give them a little something. 

I'd  appreciate ideas. I considered a self-help book entitled HOW-TO-STOP-BEING-A-PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE-SISTER, but I've ruled that out.

My sisters are not into makeup, lotions, exercise,  or fine wine. They both like to read. One cooks and bakes, the other pretends she can. Ann travels. Marie tailgates. One's a nurse. One's a financial consultant, or something. I'd rather not give them gift cards. Hit me with your ideas, please. Pretty notecards? Some obscure or cute kitchen gadget? Funny kitchen towels? Look at me - the ideas are suddenly pouring out of me, maybe I don't need your help. Seriously, I'd love ideas. 

Are all of your decorations up? Do you dread decorating, because in no time it's time to take it all down? Maybe that's just me. Do you decorate alone? I do, not counting the tiny I-BREAK-THINGS helpers I had this year. 

Speaking of address updates:  do people send birth announcements anymore? Our former sitter and his wife had a baby mid-November. I finally texted him. I was worried something had gone wrong. Happily, all is well and they have a beautiful baby boy. Maybe people just post stuff on their pages and think everyone sees it. 


mbmom11 said...

I do minimal decorating, because decorations are likely to get ruined by kids and then I have to put them away. We do a live tree- even the small one we got was expensive this year- and my husband puts it in the stand, then I do the lights and the kids decorate. I do have a nice nativity set that comes out, and the Advent wreath.
I can't believe you buy presents for your sisters still. It doesn't matter what you get them- they probably won't like it anyways. (I'm grouchy this morning.) However, for the kitchen a seasonal dish towel might be cute or a mini silicone spatula- I got one for my birthday and use it every day.

Nicole said...

33 people, I am overwhelmed just thinking about it. And so many gifts to buy. I feel secondhand stress for you!
I think most people post all the announcements on social media! I don't know about change of address cards but I haven't received one of those for a decade or so.

Kara said...

We don't do gifts for our adult siblings, and only send our parents small, but meaningful gifts (for a while it was picture albums and calendars for my Mom, now it's a Christmas Tree ornament). But, in your case, maybe go local? For example there's a farm near me that does some great goat's milk soap. Get something like that and call it a day.

I managed to wrap presents for Daughter 3 yesterday. Daughters 1 and 2 are still waiting for their main present to show up to even get wrapped, and I hope they do, otherwise they're getting pictures of the presents in a box. I ordered in time, so the shipping delay is not on me.

Amy said...

I'm almost done shopping for the immediate family, just have some friends left to shop for. Our fake tree is up, but not decorated - we haven't been able to wrangle enough of the 4 kids together long enough to get it done. I might do it guerilla style - put an ornament or two on it every day until it's done. Oops, don't know how that happened! Lol! The tree just looks so sad naked...I just want it done! And the outside....I can't even think about that right now.

I would suggest gifting them a nice hand cream. It's something I never think to get myself, but I always appreciate it as a gift and my hands much better for it.

Jenny in WV said...

I have put up one decoration outside but nothing inside. Hopefully one day this week. I'm hosting a New Years Eve party / belated Christmas party for a few friends so I need to get something up! I don't really dread the decorating, it's more the moving the furniture to make room for the tree.

I've never sent change of address cards. I think I've only ever received one and that was from my aunt and uncle when they moved last year.

As far as gift ideas for your sisters: I always like getting hand soap from Bath and Bodyworks. It's kind of a generic gift, but it's also something I like, yet never buy for myself. I'm also a sucker for things like cute hand towels and doormats. What about a religious item, such as a small crucifix, holy water font, or new rosary? (I am assuming your sisters are also Catholic).

Nance said...

I have done ZERO shopping. No one has given me a single idea. I am lost. And panicking.

Our tree went up on Saturday. The boys came over during halftime of the Browns game and hung their ornaments. They both refuse to take their ornaments with them to their respective homes, but they insist on hanging them on our tree themselves. I don't get it.

Like you, I'm befuddled by the sole usage of social media for announcing births, engagements, etc. I'm not on fb or anything, so I'm perpetually (and blissfully) out of the loop. At some point last year or so, my niece finally married her long-time live-in and father of her two sons. I heard it from another niece in casual conversation.

Anyway, for the sisters, check out the website for some great spices, spice blends, and gift boxes of same. They're even running some sales right now, and they're very charitable.

Kari said...

I no longer send Christmas cards, so I'm not sure whether people send anything via the mail. That, I assume, is done through social media, which I also do not use. At least on Facebook, which I suppose is where most people are announcing things.

33 persons seems like 32 too many. I kid. I enjoy family gatherings, but that sounds more like a mini wedding reception to me. I'm an introvert, so that's not something I'd look forward to. 😂

Suzanne said...

Oh my goodness! Thirty-three people! That is quite a crowd!

I decorate for Christmas, and we are finally done and I am enjoying the lights. I like it BEFORE Christmas, before there are opened gifts everywhere.

No idea what to get teenage boys! That is a demographic in which I know ZERO people.

Pat Birnie said...

Your little helpers are the cutest - but I wouldn't ever try decorating with them; I'm sure it would have been easier alone. Gift ideas for sisters -- a friend gives the most thoughtful gifts, often kitchen gadgets or a serving tray or nice baking dish. Sometimes a gift bag with some really nice special occasion napkins, spices, good olive oils or balsamic. I appreciated those as they are things you may not buy yourself. Wow that's a big crowd. I decorated early as our first gathering was Dec 3. Our family is also large, in the 30-40 range but we always do potluck. We started that many years ago. It takes so much stress off the host.

Ernie said...

mbmom - I used to have a really fancy fabric Santa or St. Nick guy - he was fabric, long and skinny- kind of like an Amish decoration. He'd sit on the hearth. He had a long white beard. One year the kids cut his beard off. I looked at Coach and said: I'M JUST NOT ABLE TO HAVE NICE THINGS.

Oh, I like the little spatula idea and the tea towels with cute sayings are always fun. I have a few sister in laws too, Aunt Leprechaun and the one married to my brother Mike. I feel like a little something would work just fine for them.

Ernie said...

Nicole - I really thought that by now I'd have a few desserts made and in the freezer for Christmas. I'm trying to declutter a few rooms. Having college kids arrive home and dump their stuff isn't helping my cause. I need to decide what I'm serving as a main course. Everyone will bring something. At my mom's house, we've always had no less than 12 homemade desserts. Trying to keep it authentic is gonna be tough.

Yes, there are still gifts to buy too. I'm focusing on getting the cards out - hopefully tomorrow. And the house less cluttered. I'm paying my bills tonight - that'll be one pile gone. Baby steps. I'm hoping not to go into panic mode.

Ernie said...

Kara - I like the idea of good smelling hand soap. That's something I never buy myself.

We've never bought things for his parents - back in the day I made them a photo calendar, but so did my SIL and how many calendars does one couple need? My mom loved her fuzzy fleece thing last year so much, she called it her uniform. I'm getting her another one. It's by Wooly Bully.

Fingers crossed that the big gifts arrive on time. I've done the photo of a gift before, and that was before supply chain issues.

Ernie said...

Amy - The tree is in the stand as of last night. It's pathetic and small, and it still cost $170. It was for a charitable cause, but dang - the year I host Christmas we have our worst tree to date. Oh well. I wait till the college crew is home to decorate the tree. I've been gradually getting a few other things up. I even ordered a greenery garland thing with lights for the mantle.

I do like the idea of something like fragrant hand soap. I think I'll check out Bath and Body Works.

Ernie said...

Jenny - I'm decorating gradually. As I think of it, I realize I have a few wooden things in the storage room. I don't keep them in the crawl space. I should grab those one of these days.

My sisters are Catholic, but I'm sure they each have a rosary. I like the hand soap idea. I'm leaning towards that, but I can also see myself browsing the funny tea towels and getting sucked into which ones are my fav.

Ernie said...

Nance- I did a burst of shopping and now I've focused on other things, like the decorations and my cards. I need to regroup and get back into the shopping routine. I forgot that Tank shouldn't be receiving much since we are paying for his flight to Ireland for the semester, etc. The store already wrapped his stuff, so I told him he might just have to pick a few of his fav things and return the others.

I hate having to shop right now for real necessities. For example, Curly NEEDS shoes to wear with nice pants. I don't want to go stand in a long line to have her try anything on. Bad timing.

I have to wonder how we're supposed to know where people are after they've moved, if they don't send out a change of address card/notice? Learning about a niece's wedding word of mouth, after the fact? Good grief.

It's funny how your boys are hanging their ornaments on your tree themselves.

Ernie said...

Suzanne - 33 is a big group. The men of the family eat A TON. I really have to map out this meal . . . soon-ish.

I think I'm going to like having the mantle decorated once the greenery with lights arrives from Home Depot. Our tree is in our living room and with the toddlers using the family room most of the time, I don't put up a lot of stuff in there. That's our main hangout spot along with the kitchen, so I think it'll be nice to add some lights and decoration in there.

I might go with mini waffle makers for teen boys. I still need a bit more, because those are only like $10. I'm getting them for some of my teenagers.

Ernie said...

Pat - Everyone will definitely bring something for the meal, but I'll be doing most of the food. My sister, Marie, agreed to make the green bean casserole a few years ago when we were eating at my folks' house. She asked for the recipe and was BLOWN AWAY that I chopped so many onion or cooked so much bacon. She's clueless.

I really didn't do much decorating with the little people, but their interest got me motivated to get some stuff up. I did let the one little girl watch me do the village scene. Believe it or not, this is early for me to decorate.

Love those gift ideas.

Busy Bee Suz said...

People don't send change of address cards anymore. They don't send birth announcements. They don't send thank you cards. That last one chaps my azz.

For your sisters, I'm thinking of some cute Kitchen Towels, Reed diffusers, a nice serving dish or you could write a book titled HOW-TO-STOP-BEING-A-PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE-SISTER, sign and deliver.

Laughing so hard at the creepy faceless children. At least you had some help. I do it alone.

You might have to clean of those islands. At least a little bit. 😳

Personally I like the frog portion of the poem!

Ernie said...

Suz - THE FROG LINES WERE MY BEST LINES. That censorship cut me deep.

I'm working on a book like that, but it's called MY MEMOIR: READ BETWEEN THE LINES, BITCHES.

I may have just spent a ridiculously long time reading EVERY funny tea towel on a funny tea towel website and I really SHOULD have been cleaning off my kitchen counters. I now wish that I exchange gifts with everyone I've ever met, because there is a funny tea towel for everyone. Damn. I need an excuse to buy them. Half of them my sisters wouldn't even get, which made me laugh at them even harder.

Now I've done it - I've stayed up way too late and had too much fun while doing absolutely nothing. Oh well, tomorrow is another day . . . and another day closer to when the 33 family members arrive for Christmas. Maybe I should start drinking now.

Beth Cotell said...

I feel like you should have left the frog lines in the card - that's payment for allowing the frogs in your house!

Here's a link to an Amazon gift guide for teens. A blogger I follow who has three teen girls posted it but she's updated it to include a bunch of stuff that boys would like as well. It's a good list!

Ernie said...

Beth - Ha - I like your reasoning. I also don't think he'd bother reading the poem, but given the current climate - I left it out.

Oh, this might be just what I need. I have 3 teenage godsons. Plus I'm really at a loss for gifts for my own guys beyond clothes. Thanks.

Bibliomama said...

Brilliant to incorporate the babysitting kids into decorating - they must love that. Agree that little kids with no faces are super-creepy. Actually groups of little kids even with faces can be a tad creepy.
My kitchen island doesn't look much better than that and there's only four of us (sometimes only two!) so don't feel bad.
I did not think the last word in "How Not to be a passive-aggressive Sister' was going to be sister, if you know what I mean.

Ernie said...

Ali - The little people did really enjoy watching me dig into the bins of decorations. It gets a little tedious around here as I don't do as many outings when it gets cold, so I might have to make that a thing moving forward.

It never ceases to amaze me how much stuff MUST live on my countertop. I have mail slots in my new kitchen and plenty of drawers, but there is just always a layer. Since I had covid, I just moved the layer up to the floor of my room. Now I have to remember to grab the bills that I still need to pay from my bedroom. Just what I need, another added step to playing the bills.

I do know what you mean about subbing out the word 'sister', and I got a good chuckle out of that.