Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Cards

I'm not sure if my mother sent out Christmas cards. It is entirely possible that she did without my noticing. I don't remember them being as big of a deal as they are today. When we were first married we would go to the store pick up a box of cards and send them out. We tried to pick out a style that was nice but we didn't really put too much thought into it. If you think about it, the greeting card industry makes millions each year off of something that most people read once then throw away. Unless it's a Christmas card, then it gets used as decor on a door for one month.

After we had children we thought it would be nice to include a picture of our kids with the card to show how they are growing. Then it became a family picture. Then it became a family picture card. After all who doesn't want a picture of the family? Why it's a gift in itself! While I'm sure that all those people who live out of state or just out of town are curious as to how the children are growing. And those old friends want to compare how well they are aging as opposed to you. I'm not sure they need the 5X7 picture cards we send out.

It started out as we needed to get a family picture done every year to show how the kids are growing and for sentimental reasons. Being that I bought the girls a new dress every year so they needed their picture taken in it. As time has gone on it's gotten to be sort of a game. For the last few years I have resorted to theme pictures. After all my oldest is in high school, I have no idea how much longer I'm going to get away with this family picture day. For me family picture day has become my Christmas of sorts. For one day each year everyone looks nice and has a smile on their face at the same time. That is my joy. Seeing my family happy, even if they have to fake it to get through a picture. Any mother will understand what it takes to pull this off. Especially a parent of a teen.

The first year we did the theme was actually by accident. It was becoming increasingly more difficult to come up with outfits for five people that would look cohesive in a picture. I was shopping with a friend and things were just not coming together like I had hoped. But at this particular store they had these hats. Fedora's actually, they were black with white pin stripes. They were SO cool. I kept going back to them. My friend said she thought I should do something with the hats, but I just couldn't figure it out. Then like a tidal wave it hit me. We should all wear black and white. Oh even better we should be the mafia! How much fun would that be? So that's what we did. I of course am not a card carrying member of the NRA and had never let my kids even play with toy guns. So I had to go to the dollar store and buy fake plastic ones to use as props. So that year our cards said Merry Christmas from "The Family".

The next year we had to figure out what to do next. How do you follow that? People started asking the question. What is the theme this year? So I had to think fast. I had no idea what I had started. So what was big last year? Twilight's New Moon of course. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Bella, my hubby Edward of course. Followed by one daughter as Alice, the other Rosalie, and my son was Jasper. If I wasn't too old and had, had time I would have attempted to give birth again so we could have had an Emmett. I was also wanting to use the neighbor's German shepherd to play our Jacob but was outvoted. Nevertheless the photographer we have is a genius and the "Twas Twilight before Christmas" card was very cool.

This year I actually figured out very early. We have been working on updating and remodeling our home all year. So the theme was easy. Actually almost too easy. At least one would think. You would think that borrowing five tool belts would be an easy task. It actually was not. In fact I didn't get them all pulled together until about two days before our pictures. We have also now not allowed the theme to be released until the cards have been sent out.

So as you can see, what started out as a simple let's take a family picture and maybe put it in a card has now turned into a double sided 5X7 full color picture card. These things are not inexpensive. When I say they are a gift in themselves? They truly are. By the time I get done with these things I can't afford to buy you a gift. These cards are expensive enough but then you have the postage. Good golly, if that hasn't gone up. I joke that when I was a kid all you had to do was whistle for a horse and they would deliver your mail. All it cost you was maybe a drink of water from the well to the driver. While that is a complete exaggeration, we didn't use the pony express it still didn't cost 42 cents to send a card. I'm pretty sure it cost about 20 cents for a postage stamp back then. This doesn't sound like much till you figure you send out about 50 card. That's an extra $11 it now costs to send out cards that I could use to buy Lego's for my kid for Christmas. All because in this little place in the back of my mind I know that my time to do this in going to come to an end. My kids are growing and getting older. In four years my oldest will be gone to college. Sure she'll come home for Christmas the first couple of years but if she is like her father and I the time will come when she will be home for Christmas and then gone back to her life. She won't have time to come home for pictures. It will be too "lame" for her to participate.

It will be the beginning of the end. She, then her sister, then her brother will all think they are too old for a family Christmas picture much less a themed Christmas card. Then what? I'll be back to those boxed boring cards from the store. Longing for the time when the cards weren't just cards they were a snapshot in time. A small remembrance of days gone by and how things once were. What would our pictures be with just the two of us? Just two people who are happy together but wishing they had those days back, where the kids got into figuring out themes and were around for the family picture. Although I do wonder if once they are grown and married if the Family Christmas Card will mean as much to them as it means to me now. I hope so. I can't wait to see what they will come up with.

Parties, Parties, Everyone...

This last week I hosted an Open House. I don't often entertain. In fact it's rare at best that I have people over. It has nothing to do with being anti-social. It has everything to do with the fact that it stresses me out. The thing is, we live in our house. At any given time there are dishes in the sink, laundry to be done, school papers on the counter, you can barely tell that my refrigerator is white as it's covered in pictures and papers. Somewhere along the way I got it into my head that if you have company over the house should be perfect. Or at the very least as clean and tidy as completely possible. Why I believe this as fact is beyond me, but it's what I think. I can no sooner change this idea than I can stop the hands of time and rewind to the time before my crows feet appeared. (Seriously, when did these show up?)

In my ideology of the "perfectly" clean house, I should also have a spread of food that will keep people coming back. One at a time of course as I'm really uncomfortable in large groups. This is quite difficult for me also as some of you will know, because I am no Martha Stuart. I'm more of a Chef Boyardee kind of girl. The Schwann's man feeds our family. Mostly because if there is a way to mess something up in the kitchen I will find it. Case in point, for this event I borrowed a teapot. I don't own a teapot but I do think they are a good idea. I got the water in the teapot so scalding hot that I burned my hand when I went to pour it into a cup. Fortunately with some cold water, I was fine. I have very little patience so I tend to cook things faster than I should because I have a hungry family and they want to eat, like yesterday. Fortunately for my party guests it was a Tastefully Simple party. This of course means that there was to be Tastefully Simple food with of course some Schwann man food in there as well to fill in. Because of course the only way I think people will come to my house is if I bribe them with food. I also have chocolate.

I guess we all have our quirks. I'm scared to talk to large groups of people. But individually I can talk until ... forever really. Plus I don't think people will visit me unless I offer bribes of food, even though everyone knows I don't cook. Somehow I think the best alternative to this scenario would be for me to have visitors and they bring the food with them. I can offer beverages a rather large library of Young Adult books to borrow, and HBO. It's not much but it's what I have. I also currently have eight episodes of Glee on DVR if that will draw in a crowd.

As a child I can only remember my mother hosting parties at the house a few times. I had a few birthday parties there but most of them were at the park as I'm a July baby. My graduation party was there as were maybe three fourth of July parties. But mostly we didn't have company. My step father didn't like people over and I suppose it wasn't worth the fight.

No, slumber parties were not in my childhood. I went to friends houses mostly they didn't come to mine. So when I had my girls it became very important to me that they should have slumber parties. When they were younger I did my best to give them the best slumber parties I could come up with. I believe I had as much or more fun than they did. I guess I'm more comfortable with kids than adults. Kids don't generally care if things are out of place and they are easily bribed with pizza roll ups and popcorn.

The majority of adults that I know are quite excellent cooks. The church I attend I believe is filled with professional singing chefs. It's quite a lot to try and live up to. Not to mention the fact that the houses in my neighborhood look to all be professionally landscaped. Another skill I didn't acquire. I'm not sure where I fit into this mix. I don't have much to offer. I'm incapable of cooking homemade soup. When I sing it scares small animals and children. At present I have four bushes that are dead in front of my house. My ice tea comes in a gallon jug and I have no idea how to make a good cup of coffee. I'm not even sure how to order one properly at Starbucks. I have figured out a good mix at the local gas station that is both delightful and inexpensive.

So everything went well with the company. There was a steady flow of people. Not everyone came at one time which helped with the anxiety and I did have candy cane cocoa to offer which was a hit. I found it in the local Walmart in the cocoa isle. I being the kitchen literate person that I am had no idea that you could buy a container of cocoa mix that didn't come in envelopes in a box. Perhaps I should "entertain" more often, I may learn more of what is offered in my local grocery. It was nice to be able to visit with friends. Perhaps next time it will just be a come drink some candy cane cocoa party. Hopefully they won't run out as what I had for the party is long gone.