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.

img_6982

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.

img_6981

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!

img_7848

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.

img_c2a085c71fa4-1

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.

1623743

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.

img_7847

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

img_7839

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

img_7846

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

img_7854

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

img_7845

Children of the corn take 1.

img_7844

Take 2

img_7849

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.”

img_7843

Those were happy tears Michael was crying… We swear!

img_7841

Apparently I got distracted easily. Some things never change.

img_7851

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!

img_7850

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.

 

 

I am NOT Making the Christmas Cookies

Last week, my younger sister went back to school after being home for over a month on her Christmas break, which, to me, officially marked the end of the Christmas season. Looking back, our family’s Christmas this year was a good one, although it got off to a very rocky start. In fact, our Christmas started out no where near holly, jolly, merry or bright.

The trouble began on Christmas Eve morning. We had a smaller group this Christmas Eve with my brother in Cleveland with his wife and my sister with her husband’s family, it was just my parents-Mike and Mo, my sisters Bridget and Jane, and myself. Yes, it was another Old Maid Christmas at the Kelly house. There was still lots to do to prepare for Christmas and we were short handed with our skeleton crew. Old Maids can only do so much work! To make matters worse, when my younger sister Jane finally rolled out of bed a little after noon, we discovered she had been stricken with a “mysterious illness” which left her couch-ridden the entire day. And by that I mean she was severely hungover. We had both gone out the night before and Jane must have made a little too much merry. I guess she took Merry Christmas very literally.

005

Three Old Maids in their natural habitat-their parents home. Drinking their parents’ wine, and sitting on their parents’ furniture.

One of the things I love about Jane though is that whenever she is hungover she always denies it and instead claims to have some sort of chronic illness. “I think I have Crohn’s Disease” she’ll say, coincidentally the morning after consuming mass amounts of alcohol at the bars with her friends. Crohn’s Disease has been her go-to illness lately whenever she is hungover at home. I told her she’s going to have to start switching things up and use other diseases and illnesses, otherwise my parents are going to start catching on. I said if she was looking for suggestions for the morning of New Years Day, Tuberculosis might be a nice change of pace.

With Jane busy dying on the couch/looking up illnesses on WebMD, many of the Christmas duties fell on Bridget and me, one of which, was making the Christmas cookies. And boy, was that a chore. It’s very misleading when you see these families in Christmas commercials and Christmas movies all gathered together in the kitchen smiling and laughing, having a grand old time as they bake delicious cookies because in reality that’s not how it is at all. They don’t show you all the prep and clean-up that goes into those damn cookies. All the bowls and pans that need to be washed, the worry of accidentally overcooking or under-cooking the cookies. It’s a lot of pressure! Those Christmas cookies didn’t bring us together at all. In fact, they nearly ripped our family apart. Between the five of us at home, no one wanted to make them at all. My mom made it very clear on Christmas Eve morning that she was not going to partake in any holiday baking. “Now listen, girls” she said in a scolding tone as soon as we came downstairs, “I am NOT making those Christmas cookies! One of you kids will have to make them. I am going to make the bacon ahead of time for Christmas Brunch tomorrow and then I am out of this kitchen!”

I had never heard someone talk about Christmas cookies with such anger and hate in their voice. It was quite the rude awakening. Bridget and I both looked at each other stunned. We hadn’t even been up for three minutes and we were already in the dog house. I quickly glanced at my mom’s waistline to see if she was wearing a belt, as I was afraid she might take it off and begin beating us with it. Luckily, she was still in her robe.

691

Don’t let that sweet and innocent face fool you. Of course I’m talking about Ronald Reagan’s face on the book my dad is holding. Mo means business when she’s in her blue robe.

I’m my mother’s daughter so I also did NOT want to make those cookies. I really tried hard to negotiate my way out of doing it, to no avail.

Me: Do you really think we need to make the cookies this year? Does anyone even eat those cookies anymore? Let’s just pick up a pack of Oreo’s and call it a day.
Mom: Well we are stuck making them because Dad already made the dough last night. So the hard part is pretty much over, you girls just have to finish the rest.
Me: Oh Dad, if you started making the cookies I think you should follow through on the project and finish them. Isn’t it so rewarding being able to complete a project from start to finish? You always taught us never to half-ass anything, so I’m really doing you a favor.
Dad: Oh yea, nice try! I did my part making the dough, you girls need to pitch in now.
Me: Well we really should have sat down and discussed this as a family a couple of days ago because Bridget and I never agreed to this baking thing.

Just after I finished getting that smart ass comment out of my mouth, I turned around and fear overcame me, for I thought the ghost of Christmas past had appeared in the kitchen to haunt me. But to my relief, it was just Jane, pale as a ghost from her Crohn’s Disease or Scarlet Fever or whatever she was calling her hangover that day. Somehow she gathered the strength to pull herself off the couch and join us in the kitchen for our domestic dispute over the cookies. “I’ll make the cookies” she stated in a weak voice. “Ew, no” Bridget responded “We aren’t letting you touch those cookies with your illness. Go back on the couch, you look awful….no offense.” She added. It’s true, poor Jane really did look terrible. She reminded me of Grandmother Willow from the movie Pocahontas. Not because she was giving out great advice like Grandmother Willow  did in the movie, but because her coloring was off and she looked a little shriveled up, probably from being extremely dehydrated.

img_7616

Actual photo I took of Jane on Christmas Eve. Yes Grandmother Willow, the path home from the bar is never the easiest one. Well said.

Finally, Bridget and I accepted our fate of being the ones that had to make the cookies. We started them as soon as my mom was done making the bacon, but unfortunately for us, it wasn’t soon enough. The cookies took a lot longer than we planned and so we were running late for church. Mike Sr. was not happy. And to make matters worse, Grandmother Willow couldn’t even go to church because she was still too crippled. Mike and Mo were not happy with their three youngest children.

image-1-1

Duke was kind enough to help Bridget and me in the kitchen. If you look closely you can  even see the flour on his muzzle from baking all those cookies.(Ok but if I’m being honest he really didn’t do that much work. I mean the guy doesn’t have thumbs, he was dropping cookie sheets left and right. After that he pretty much just sat there and drooled.)

Our bad luck didn’t stop there. Since we were running late there were no seats left at church, which my parents blamed on Bridget and me. We ended up sitting in the choir loft behind a gigantic organ where we could not see or hear anything. We could have all sat in front of a wall wearing ear plugs in the comfort of our own home for an hour and had the same experience as we did during that mass. Also during the mass, my mom and dad kept suggesting that I go sit at this lone folding chair in the corner of the choir loft away from all the other pews so I could “see the altar better.” After a while I was starting to become suspicious of their suggestions, thinking they were trying to abandon me. I had heard stories of parents leaving their children at safe places such as churches or fire stations when they could no longer care for them, but I never thought MY parents would do it to ME. If they thought they could get rid of me that easy, they were wrong. I wasn’t going to fall for their trickery.

After my parents came to terms with the fact that their three youngest children will always disappoint them, they changed their attitudes and we actually ended Christmas Eve on a good note. We watched It’s a Wonderful Life and ate pizza. Bridget and I could especially sympathize with Uncle Billy watching the movie this time around because just like Uncle Billy, we also couldn’t do anything right on Christmas Eve. At least in my parents eyes.

Christmas Day things really turned about for the better though. We just figured Santa was going to bring the three of us coal this year after how mad he was at us the day before, but to our pleasant surprise he actually left us gifts! But that’s not even the best part of Christmas Day. The greatest moment was when we witnessed a real life Christmas miracle. Yes, Jane, who was stricken with [Insert any disease from the Oregon Trails computer game-Typhoid Fever, Cholera, Dysentery, Measles- really, take your pick, any will do, you just can’t call it a hangover] just hours before, made a miraculous recovery! She was totally cured!

Seeing my younger sister Jane finally get up off the couch that Christmas morning made all the trouble we went through the day before worth it. And isn’t that what Christmas is all about? I hope next Christmas is just as magical as this one was.

212

Celebrating the successful completion of the Christmas cookie project on Christmas morning.

 

Oh…Christmas Tree

All families have their own traditions when it comes to Christmas. For many, this involves going to pick out a Christmas tree. When most think of this event, happy thoughts come to mind. For my family, our Christmas tree experience is slightly different. My father has been campaigning for getting an artificial tree for the past 30 years. I don’t know where his hatred for real Christmas trees came from, but it is almost as strong as his hatred for large boxes of cereal. Each year around Christmas he mentions how he saw artificial trees on sale at some store, and each year we ignore him.

 A couple of Sundays ago we dragged him to the local Christmas tree lot to get our tree. On the car ride over his anger and anxiety were already starting to show. As the song from the Grinch came on the radio I said, “Hey Dad, wasn’t this song written about you?” This did not lighten the mood.
I wish I had a blood pressure monitor to attach to him while we made our way through the trees. I’m sure his heart rate and blood pressure were both through the roof as he turned over each tag on the tree to reveal the price. “Whoa Dad is that a price tag or a phone number am I right?!” I said as I saw his body stiffen after seeing the price tag. This did not lighten the mood yet again.
Every year our picking out the Christmas tree tradition involves my Dad and I arguing over which tree to get. This is because he would prefer getting a tree that is the perfect size for a doll house and I would much rather have a tree more suited for the average sized person’s home. After much negotiation, we decided on a tree. I would have liked it a few feet taller, and my Dad would have liked it a few feet shorter (heck he would have preferred just snapping a branch of a tree and bringing that home) but we compromised because that is what families do. After the decision my mom snapped this beautifully awkward picture. Let’s analyze this, shall we?
IMG_0413
Per usual Maggie was drunk yet again and couldn’t keep her eyes open, but she looks very happy. I look stunning as I hug the tree in my blue parka from Land’s End and my white hat from Old Navy. Sometimes it’s exhausting being so photogenic all the time. I have a smirk on my face because I have just won the Christmas tree battle yet again. And my Father… let’s zoom in a bit for this one.
IMG_0414
Here is a picture of a man who has the weight of the world on his shoulders. He is not happy and he is not in the Christmas spirit at this moment. His wife and three of his old maid daughters, who STILL live at home and STILL rely on him to satisfy their basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, have just forced him into buying an overpriced tree that he wants nothing to do with. If you squint you can actually see the money signs in his eyes. He can’t believe how much he is about to pay for a plant that will only be in the house for a few short weeks. I don’t know exactly what is going through his head but I believe at this moment he was thinking something along the lines of:
“Will my daughters ever move out of the house and leave my wife and me alone to make our own decisions on things like picking out a tree? Will I blow all my retirement money continuing to feed these fat pigs I call daughters? Should I post an ad on Craigslist offering a dowry to any man that takes them off my hands? Will Kathleen ever learn to shut her trap or will she continue to talk and talk for the rest of our time living together? My God, this is my nightmare.”
The picture was so terrible my Mom made us take another one so when we look back on it years from now we actually might think we were having a merry old time. Pretending to have fun is the most fun!!
IMG_0417

If you look closely you can see my Dad lifting his hand to reject my hug. Will anyone ever love me?

Once we got the tree home my Dad continued to point out the flaws in the tree to make himself feel better.
Dad: You know girls, this tree has a lot of empty patches. Don’t look at me when we put it up and it looks sparse. I tried to tell you.
Kathleen: Yea, well don’t look in your wallet when you need money because you just spent it all on this tree.
Upon saying this my Mom gave me the single to “stop reminding Dad how much this tree cost”. Yet again my comment did not lighten the mood. I really need to learn to stop talking.
Although things were a little tense during our tree buying experience, once we were decorating the tree everyone got into the Christmas spirit. And like any job well done, we rewarded ourselves with cake. This isn’t just any cake though, this is a christmas tree shaped cake that we decorate with m&ms. We make this cake solely for the night we decorate our tree.
Had a slice of this baby for breakfast on Monday AND Tuesday. It's just like a donut-which I had on Friday

Had a slice of this baby for breakfast on Monday AND Tuesday. It’s just like a donut-which I had on Friday

While we may not always agree on everything, cake is always there to bring us back together. Thank you, cake, for all that you do for us. And Merry Christmas everyone!