Frosty Lives To See Another Year

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped at my parents’ house to help my Mom put away all the Christmas decorations because even though I moved out, I continue to be the backbone of the household. I honestly don’t think there is anything more depressing and exhausting than putting away Christmas decorations. I thought making Christmas cookies was terrible. Well, that task is a walk in the park compared to the chore of packing up all that Christmas spirit come January. As a stood in the Dining Room wrapping up the Christmas trinkets and Knick-knacks in newspaper, watching my hands turn black from all the newspaper ink, I started laughing about how tacky and ridiculous some of our old Christmas decorations are. Most of them are about 30 year-old homemade projects that we made in preschool that we continue to hang up every Christmas.

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One of Jane’s masterpieces I like to call “receding hairline” angel. Nothing says “Christmas time” quite like this angel with the creepy grin, who looks like it’s flying around on the prowl to kidnap some children.

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I made this one. I probably could have done a better job distributing the green glitter but IT’S CALLED ART OK YOU GUYS!

Every January we try to purge and get rid of some of these decorations, but we never do because someone always seems to have an emotional attachment to something.  For the past decade my oldest sister Maggie has been trying to throw out the Frosty the Snowman Candle but her four siblings will have none of it. I remember the first time she tried to put him in the garbage, chaos and outrage ensued throughout the house. Frosty sparked quite the argument. I thought I even heard one of my siblings yell “crucify her” from another part of the house. Yes, things got heated but Frosty stayed cool through the whole thing and Maggie lost the battle. Plus, Frosty the Snowman is my Dad’s favorite song, we couldn’t POSSIBLY get rid of Frosty!

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Frosty taunting Maggie with that big smirk on its face, knowing it will be able to enjoy at least one more Christmas.

Another time someone suggested we get rid of the “Red Ball” Christmas candle but that idea was quickly nicked due to its involvement in “Kathleen’s Candle tossing incident of 2002.” What was this incident you ask? Well, I was bored one school night and decided to make up a game where I repeatedly threw that red ball candle as high in the air in the living room as I could without it touching the ceiling. (Not to brag but I was pretty good at the game until I got too cocky). On one of my final tosses I wanted to see just how close I could get to the ceiling without actually hitting it. Well, turns out I am A LOT stronger than I may look because I threw it just a little too hard and a lot too high, hitting the living room ceiling and leaving a big, bright red mark on it. I immediately panicked because I knew my parents could be home at any moment so I stacked a bunch of dining room chairs on top of each other and attempted to scrub the red mark off the ceiling but it was not coming off. Mike Sr. and Mo Money were not too happy when they came home and saw the mark. But really, I still feel like the whole thing was kind of their fault because they were the ones who made up the rule that we could not watch TV on school nights. Had I been watching TV like all the other kids in America, maybe I wouldn’t have been tossing a candle around. Mike Sr. ended up having to repaint the entire ceiling so now the mark is gone, but my siblings like to hold on to the candle as a reminder of how dumb I was as a child.

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My sister Bridget texted me this in early December. 17 years later and I’m still getting made fun of about the red ball candle incident.

The older I get, the more of an appreciation I have for all parents at Christmas time and all the effort they put in to making sure their kids have a happy, memorable Christmas. I remember one Christmas my Mom decided to be an ambitious Santa and she made all five of her kids one of those fleece-tie blankets. We came down the stairs Christmas morning and there under the tree were five blankets, a different pattern for each of us marked with our names. We started to run towards them to see which blanket was ours. “Careful kids,” My Mom casually cautioned from the couch as she sipped her coffee in her robe, still looking a little sleepy. “I’m pretty sure I left sewing needles in a few of those blankets so be sure to CHECK FOR NEEDLES before you use your blanket. I started to check last night but then was just too tired so I thought ‘forget it’ so it’s YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to check for needles before you decide to use your blanket or put it on your bed.” Just recently we were talking about this great gift but I think it sparked PTSD in my mom. “Ugh! I am NEVER doing THAT again!” My Mom said with disgust. “I don’t know what I was thinking! I was working on those darn blankets until about 3 in the morning and then you kids woke us up to open presents around 6! That was terrible!”

Santa, I think, got a little tired over the years. Being the fourth of the five kids I began to see Santa’s steady decline in energy and enthusiasm in his response to our letters. Every year we would leave Santa some milk and cookies on the table near the tree and a note with lots of questions. In the beginning Santa answered all our questions, but towards the end there Santa got a little short with his responses. I remember writing out a long letter with some of my siblings to Santa, asking numerous and detailed questions. When we woke up Christmas morning, Santa did leave us a letter in response, but all it said was “Dear Kelly Kids, to answer your questions, I use Magic. -Santa” He also ignored my gift requests. Every year I asked for a go-cart, Moon boots and a mini trampoline and I NEVER got them. I was a deprived child. Those moon boots would have come in handy when I was trying to scrub that candle mark off the ceiling.

By the time Jane, the fifth child, was into Christmas, believing in Santa and all that fun, Santa seemed to have no time for any magic or nonsense like that. “Wow!” Little Jane said after we had just finished opening all our presents. “Santa was really good to us this-” But before she had time to finish what she was saying my mom cut her off. “Mmmm yea,” my mom said, paying no attention to what Jane was saying. “Kids, I have the receipts to all those gifts, you are NOT going to hurt my feelings if you want to return something but if you do let me know ASAP! I am NOT spending the new year in the mall making a bunch of returns like last year! But I also DO NOT want to see any of the clothes I bought you hanging in the closet WITH THE TAG STILL ON a few months from now.” I saw Jane looking very confused wondering why our Mom would have receipts to gifts Santa brought, but then she got distracted playing with a toy and her confusion turned to happiness again.

I’m sure by the time Christmas rolled around my Mom and Dad were exhausted from all the shopping, decorating, long, boring Christmas Pageants and trying to send out a decent Christmas card. I know it was a long process trying to pick a photo that hid the fact that their five kids were lunatics. Fights always broke out when we were trying to take our Christmas card photo-Someone would hit someone, then someone would be crying, etc. Then you think you get your act together and have a good photo only to realize that someone had their eyes closed. Blinking during photos is a huge problem in our family because our baby blues/baby greens are very sensitive to the light.

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Why am I in the back looking like I’m not part of the family at all but photo-bombing some other family’s picture? There was plenty of room on that step for me to squeeze in. As you can see we went with the “Turtle” theme with the turtle necks and Ninja Turtle shirt.

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Kohl’s must have been having a pre-Christmas sale on khakis, or Mo had some Kohl’s cash she needed to burn.

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So awkward that me, Maggie and Bridget showed up wearing THE SAME DRESS. What are the chances?! We all refused to change.

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Mo was a huge fan of utilizing the stairs for the Christmas card photos, no matter how uncomfortable her children were.

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I had to hold on to the railing for support after the leg injury I sustained posing for the first few takes.

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Children of the corn take 1.

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Take 2

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Mike and Mo must have thought, “Since our kids are at the most awkward stages of their lives, let’s take this year’s Christmas Card photo at 7am in the woods so they look awkward AND extremely tired.”

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Those were happy tears Michael was crying… We swear!

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Apparently I got distracted easily. Some things never change.

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Michael looking thrilled, Jane looking like she’s the host of a daytime talk show.

So after contemplating putting some of those Christmas decorations in the donate pile, I finally just wrapped them up and put them back in our Christmas decorations box. I figure we can always decide next year if we want to get rid of anything. To outsiders our decorations may look weird and tacky (because they are) but they bring us happiness, and that’s all that really matters!

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Baby Jane posing as if this was going to be on the cover of Baby Gap’s Christmas Catalog. Meanwhile I’m in the front looking like Dennis the Menace with my overalls and weird smile.

 

 

Baby Bird Flies Away Part II

Counting down, the top five things I’ll miss about living at home:

5. The Fights About the Banana on the Counter

My parents and I did not fight often in the time that we lived together, but when we did it was usually about only extremely important matters-like fruit left out on the counter. You see, my father wakes up and starts his day much earlier than my Mom. He is usually up around 4:30am and has his breakfast around 6am or 7am, then he is ready to start his day-he’s the “get up and go” type. My mom, on the other hand, likes to start her mornings off much later and at a slower pace than my father. She sleeps in when she can and doesn’t eat her breakfast until around 11am or 11:30am. My Dad’s breakfast always consists of cereal with fruit and a yogurt. He likes to put berries and slices of banana on his cereal. For some reason he never wants to use up the whole banana though, only half, saving the other half for my mom to eat with her breakfast, leaving the rest of the banana on the kitchen counter for her to eat when she is ready for breakfast. IMG_9787You might be reading this and think “Oh that’s so cute! What a cute couple splitting a banana!” BUT IT’S NOT CUTE AT ALL. Bananas turn brown very fast after you unpeel them and start to smell. ESPECIALLY when the banana sits there for a few hours waiting for my mom to eat it. This banana always bothered me because I have a very heightened sense of smell and it just grossed me out. I was patient with it for a very long time but one morning I just could not take it any longer. Thus, a small argument took place:

Me: DAD, I CAN’T TAKE THIS BANANA ON THE COUNTER ANY LONGER! IT’S GROSS AND SMELLS! CAN WE PLEASE JUST THROW IT OUT!
Dad: NO! Why would we throw it out?! It’s a perfectly good half of a banana! WE ARE NOT THROWING IT OUT!
Me: It’s not even good anymore! It’s all brown and gross! No one should eat a brown banana!
Dad: No, no. You see, all you have to do is take a knife and cut off a thin slice of where the banana was exposed to the air. Then it’s as good as new! DO NOT throw that banana out, Mom will eat it with her breakfast.
Me: That could be 12 hours from now! You know mom doesn’t eat breakfast right when she gets up! Can’t you just use a whole banana in your cereal or buy smaller bananas?!
Dad: The system Mom and I have in place works perfectly fine, there’s no need to buy smaller bananas. I don’t see any problem with leaving a banana on the kitchen counter for a few hours.
Me: And you know what’s another thing?! Why do you have to reuse tea bags and leave them on the counter?! Is it still the Great Depression?! Can we not afford tea bags?! I will gladly start picking up the tab on boxes of tea for this house if that is the case! And I don’t even drink regular tea! Only Twisted Teas.

I had gotten so upset by the banana that I just couldn’t stop. I was like a bottle that had been shaken for too long and was now exploding. Eventually I collected myself and my dad and I were friends again.

That was the first of many banana on the counter fights. Once Jane moved back home she also got involved. It was the Baby Boomers against the Millennials when it came to the banana. In the end we lost, but Mike did start covering part of the banana in foil to help slow down the browning process.

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It’s like, we get it, you’re married. You don’t need to split a banana to show people you love each other. 

4. Having Meals Together

The part I will miss about having meals together with my old roommates is not really the food, but the conversation. Whether it was at the dinner table, or at our Saturday lunches at my Dad’s favorite burger place, Pappy’s, I knew I was in for a nice meaningful conversation. Just recently over dinner, my mom was telling us a great story about how her and my dad got carded at Pizza Hut in Michigan. She was extremely angry that they got carded. She told the story with as much hatred and passion as she would talk about her arch-enemy: energy-efficient washing machines. I remember wanting to ask her so many questions (i.e. Why they were dining at Pizza Hut, what kind of alcohol they were trying to order, how were the bread sticks, did they go with the stuffed crust or regular, etc.) but I did not want to interrupt her storytelling.

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Me and Jane discussing a Pappy’s lunch. Definitely miss those free Pappy’s meals. Most conversations that happen at Pappy’s still consist of their decision to switch from Coke to Pepsi products. 

Over another lunch, my mom told a more light-hearted story about how she accidentally went to church NUMEROUS times in a span of two days (and none of those days were a Sunday, it was all during the week!) During this story I felt it was ok to interrupt her so I interjected and said, “Excuse me Mom, but have you heard the song ‘And They’ll Know We Are Christian By Our Love?'” At the mention of that song, I saw her eyes light up and she said excitedly, “Oh yes! That is a great song! One of my favorites! But I don’t think they played that at any of the masses I went to, why do you ask?” “Oh ok,” I responded, “Just wanted to be sure because it seems like you are trying to show us how Christian you are by how many times you went to church. I on the other hand, like to live by that song and show I am Christian, specifically Catholic, by my love. Ok continue with your story.” “Oh you little smart ass!” She said as we all had a good laugh. But I laughed the hardest because like I always say, no one can make me laugh quite like I can.

I will really miss these stories and conversations but the good thing is since I live so close I can stop by and hear a good story from Mike or Mo any time I want. Now that the weather is colder it seems my Mom’s favorite topic of conversation is her heating pad. Mo loves her heating pads and uses them a lot. Not so much for aches and pains, but mainly to keep warm in the house since she lives with my dad. As part of a moving gift she bought me my own heating pad and every time I stop by she asks me about it.

Mom: Kathleen, did you try that new heating pad I got you yet?
Me: No, not yet but I’m going to try it soon.
Mom: I kind of splurged and went with the nicer one for you. You know my good heating pad broke at the end of last winter?
Me: Yea, yea. No, I know, I remember-

At that point I tried to cut her off from her heating pad tirade but it was too late, she was on her way into the bathroom closet to take out her new heating pad, which she HATES, and have me feel the new, cheap material. Tragically, my mom’s favorite heating pad died at the end of last winter and she has not been able to find a good replacement. Just about each time I’ve been home since September she has found a way to bring up the heating pad, making a point to take it out of the closet and make me feel the cheap material.

Mom: Here FEEL THIS! (She says this as she shoves the heating pad in my face so I can feel the new material)
Me: Yea, that’s… that’s not as soft a material as the old one. (I say as I grab her hands and slowly and cautiously try to lower the old heating pad down, away from my face)
Mom: They DO NOT make heating pads like they used to, I even tried transferring the material from the old heating pad onto this new heating pad but it did not work. So let me know when you use yours I may get that same brand for myself.

3. Mornings With The Roommates

Mornings with the old roommates were always fun. My Dad is just a ball full of energy in the mornings, making jokes and whistling his favorite song, Frosty the Snowman, as he moves around the house. Mike Sr. thrives in the morning hours. One of his favorite morning activities is feeding our dog, Duke. It’s interesting that my Dad likes fixing hot, gourmet meals for the dog but doesn’t do that too often for his own kids. Jane and I love that our dad loves feeding Duke because it means we don’t have to do it. It was always the worst when my dad was gone traveling on business and Jane or I had to feed Duke because we were always running late.

Jane is the complete opposite of my dad when it comes to being a morning person. After about 30 alarms, Jane’s body would slowly make its way downstairs to the kitchen but I don’t think Jane’s soul got up until around noon because she was always a zombie before work.

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Who needs an alarm clock when you can wake up to your dad whistling a Christmas tune?!

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Jane’s soul-less body stares off into space while Duke waits patiently for Mike Sr. to make his hot breakfast.

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“MIKE! WHERE’S MY BREAKFAST?!”-Duke

2. Being the Backbone of the Household

Jane and I would often joke with each other about which one of us was the backbone of the household. Mike and Mo were DEFINITELY out of the running after they bought their cottage in Michigan. After that purchase their main house was old news to them so Jane and I had to run things. Jane loved to claim that she was the backbone of the house but we all know I was the clear winner. I don’t know what I’ll do with all my free time now that I no longer have to keep a household together!

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I borrowed her tan sandals in case anyone was wondering which shoes.

1. Mike And Mo

And the number one thing I’ll miss about living at home is having my parents, Mike and Mo as my landlords and roommates. I know they are technically two things but they are married and share one banana so they get to count as one. (Jane, don’t get me wrong I’ll really miss you too but I’m still a little salty from that time you abandon me for a few months to live your best life in Prague).

Sure, I will miss the free groceries, utilities and roof over my head, but what I’m really going to miss are a lot of the little things like watching Inside Edition with Mo or joking around with my Dad. So thanks, Mike and Mo for providing the best nest a baby bird could ask for. Thanks for putting up with my sarcastic comments, odd sleeping hours, goofiness, loud music and long showers for the past 27 years. I finally flew away, but I haven’t gone too far. In fact I’ll probably be back tonight to see what you guys had for dinner. You guys are welcomed at my new nest any time.

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They were kind of always exclusive with their aprons but it’s fine.

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Mike Sr., Mo and their five baby birds.