Thursday, December 30, 2010

Crazy for Christmas

Jennifer Huffman
Napa Valley Register
Monday, December 27, 2010

It happens once every year during Christmas, just like clockwork. I know it’s coming, but am I prepared for it? Nope.

It’s Mom’s Pre-Christmas Meltdown.

Mom’s Pre-Christmas Meltdown always occurs about 10 days before Christmas. The pressure is on. There are gifts to be wrapped, packages to be lugged to the post office (just imagine the lines!), Christmas cards to be printed, addressed and stamped, and school photos to be labeled on the back for distribution to relatives.

There are holiday parties to find matching shoes for and bake some kind of food item to bring, and decorations to hang. Someone needs a black pair of tights. Someone else can’t find her umbrella. Someone else makes it very clear to me that she hates the new shirt that goes with her new Christmas skirt.

The girls have their Christmas lists memorized, and take advantage of every moment to drop hints about the 500 things they’d like Santa to bring them. During dinner they fight over who gets to light which Advent candle and in what order. I want to scream.

Dec. 25 always seems so far away during the week after Thanksgiving. There’s plenty of time, I say to myself at the end of November. What’s the big rush?

It’s my own fault. I’m my own worst enemy during the holidays. It’s my idea that the teachers at school should get an original craft creation. I insist that photos of the girls from the past year need to be mailed to aunts and uncles. I want to give Grandmas and Grandpas and sisters and brothers just the right gift, all within a budget price range, naturally.

Who am I trying to be — Martha Stewart? Martha has an entire staff devoted to her every holiday whim. I’m a working mom with a limited budget and a glue gun. When Martha wants to make a craft, she opens up one of her craft barns. I’m squeezed onto a corner of the dining room table with piles of wrapping paper, tissue and envelopes balanced precariously on the chair next to me.

The day of Mom’s Pre-Christmas Meltdown this year, it all got to be too much.

I’m overwhelmed, I told my husband.

I put my head in my hands. How is it all going to get done? Who will glitter the homemade ornaments? Who will write clever messages on the Christmas cards?

He nodded sympathetically and patted my hand.

About three nights later I managed to finish most of the wrapping, mailing and stamping. I relaxed a little bit.

I always say the same thing at end of each Christmas — next year, I’m doing things differently. I’ll cut back. I’ll eliminate. But this year I really mean it.

In the meantime, I’m stocking up on glue sticks.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chin Face

This is what a high school student does on her Christmas break: make a video of her little sister.
Video by Annabelle.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree!

Napa Valley Register

After 22 Christmases together, my husband and I made a groundbreaking decision, one with implications that will ripple within the family for years.

We bought a fake Christmas tree. Now, I know some of you will say, ‘What’s the big deal?’ Everyone has a fake tree these days. Fake tree makers report that fake trees are better for the environment. Fake trees owners say they look better than real trees. Apparently, fake is the new real.

But we’re talking tradition here. For as long as my husband and I have been married, we’ve always gotten a real tree, with real pine needles, real sap and a real trunk.

But having a real Christmas tree is a big commitment. As “natural” Christmas tree buyers, we were always in search of the freshest tree in Napa. I’d quiz friends and coworkers about favorite tree lots. I’d study Christmas tree ads for the best deals. I’d carefully consult calendars to determine the best day to buy the tree so it would last until well after Dec. 25.

Of course, the moment we brought the real tree home, the real work began. We would nurture that tree like a precious newborn baby to prevent it from turning into a dried-up hunk of flammable pine that could potentially burn the house down.

We experimented with giant water basins. We’d monitor heater vent positions and room temperatures. I’d check for falling needles almost hourly. We even hooked up our tree to something called a Tree I.V. That’s right, an intravenous line for your Christmas tree. You drill a small bore hole in the side of the trunk and insert a rubber hose, which then allows the tree to suck water from a gallon milk jug. One year, we even had two Tree I.V.s inserted into our tree just so it would make it through the holidays.

One by one, I’ve witnessed the demise of the real tree owners within our own family. Take Grandma Tootie and Grandpa Donnie. They’ve had a fake tree for as long as I can remember. Grandma Tootie has seven fake trees, each strategically placed throughout her home with a different theme or color scheme for each, including Americana, NASCAR and only white crystal ornaments.

A few years ago, my own parents succumbed to the faux tree hype. Arriving at their house on a December day, a suspiciously symmetrical and green-colored tree sat perkily in their living room.

What is THAT, I said.

Oh, that’s our new tree, Grandma Sue said.

A fake tree? I can’t believe this. Is nothing sacred?

It’s easier, Grandma Sue said. And when Christmas is over, we just box it up until next year.

Harrumph, I said.

My husband had hinted about going to the dark side in previous years.

Let’s get a fake tree, he’d say.

Never! I’d shout. A Christmas tree should be REAL, not something you pull out of box!

Yes, I was a real tree snob.

But as the years passed I couldn’t help but notice how more and more of my friends and family had fake trees. They were everywhere. Their faux lushness taunted me.

“Feel my immortal evergreen branches,” they cried out to me.

“You’ll never have to shove a tree in the back of your minivan again,” they whispered.

“Think of your sap-free hands,” they teased.

After spending almost $80 on a real tree last year, I finally broke down last week when my husband made the suggestion.

“Let’s get a fake tree,” he said.

I barely put up a fight. OK, I whispered.

About an hour later, he was back with a giant box. Pulling the tree sections out, the branches unfolded faster than you can say Silvertip Fir. In record time, the tree was up. It was green. It was lush looking. It was pre-lit with hundreds of glowing lights. It would never need watering.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are thy artificial branches.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Christmas at the Register

Everyone has their own way of decorating at the newspaper. My favorite is the silver glitter tree (Ok, I admit the silver tree happens to be at my desk at work).
Note the plastic holly arrangement with the bottle of hand sanitizer. Because you can never be too careful with fake greenery.

Monday, December 06, 2010


Take the iPlunge! The perfect kickstand for your iPhone!
My sister in law gave this to Don for his birthday, but I "borrowed" it. Thanks Shelli!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Cutie pie

Here's Ava with a bunny at a petting zoo at our church. Like they say, "Cute as a bunny!"

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Extra! Extra!

For the first time since I have worked at the Register, we had a sign painter come do our windows. Love the "news" theme!