Sunday, December 21, 2008

Keeping Up with the Clauses

While chatting with my friend a few weeks ago, I asked her what her son (who is the same age as mine) is getting for Christmas. I won't repeat what my verbal reaction was to her response of, "a laptop. That's his big gift". Good grief, I should certainly hope so.

Every evening we listen to "Letters from Santa" on the radio, and it astounds me what children are asking for this year. Instead of dolls and trucks, the kids wanted digital cameras, four-wheelers, cell phones, and "a Wii". A Nintendo Wii is a video gaming system that costs almost $400, and that's not including games or extra controllers, which are also very pricey.

Another friend of mine was supposed to come over for lunch last week since she was going to be in town shopping. She called that morning to cancel, and said she wasn't coming after all, since her loan wouldn't be processed until the following day. Huh? I came to find out the woman was borrowing $2000 from the bank in order to buy presents.

Yesterday I was picking up a lay-away, and there was a young woman in line ahead of me. When the sales associate emerged from the back room, she and two other workers were carrying more boxes than I could shake a stick at. It was a sea of pink - all toys for little girls, from Easy Bake Ovens to Barbies to Hanna Montana swag. I couldn't help but be curious as to how much this woman's order was going to cost, especially when she needed three carts to hold it all. I'll cop to bending my ear slightly to hear the cashier tally up the toys, and I'll also cop to nearly wetting my pants when she said $948. Be still my heart. At this point I couldn't resist; "How many kids do you have," I asked her. Her answer: two. In case you're interested, that's $474 per. And that's just from one store.

The breaking point for me was last night, when I found myself wrapping presents for my dog, Bear MacDonald. Me! Wrapping dog presents! What has happened to us?

Many years ago, kids were thrilled to wake up Christmas morning to see a present under the tree. Present, singular. I doubt in the days of the Great Depression that folks were spending the equivalent of a mortgage payment on their children.

As a matter of fact, Christmas, as a holiday, has undergone a complete transformation in the years since our grandparents were young. It used to be a time for celebrating the religious aspects of December 25th, of being with family, and enjoying a nice meal if you were lucky. Gifts have always been part of the deal, I suppose, but back in the day they were of secondary importance to attending mass and celebrating family.

I'm not suggesting you should burn your tree and head to church, but one thing I have realized, after years of trying to "keep up with the Clauses", is that the best parts of Christmas have nothing to do with presents. When I walk into the mall the third week in October and see holly and chocolates everywhere, it automatically makes me cranky. Shopping has turned into hysteria, and the stress involved in making a list, roaming the stores for hours, people bumping into your cart, kids screaming - that's not fun or festive. Neither is having kids tear open wrapping paper, glance at a toy, and toss it aside to get to the next one.

I like to watch Christmas Daddies on television. I enjoy decorating my house and putting up the Christmas tree (in December, not the day after Halloween). I love to see my kids' excitement when they open their gifts, like anyone else.

However, I refuse to put myself in the hole for the sake of being able to tell my friends about the insane amount of money I spent on gifts. When the wrapping paper is cleaned up and the turkey is gone, the bills still roll in. Does it mean I love my kids any less because I don't spend as much as other parents do? No, not at all. The kids are just as happy to open something that cost $5 as they would be to open something that cost $40.

It's parents who take Christmas to the point of excess, not children. We're setting a dangerous precedent by trying to outdo one another and make each Christmas bigger and better than the one before.

I should mention, the presents for Bear MacDonald were a bone, a ball, and a bag of Snausages, purchased for about $6, at the repeated request of my children. I consider it proof that Christmas doesn't have to cost a fortune to make kids happy.

Friday, December 5, 2008

How To Live With a Woman

Talking to my other married friends, conversations about our husbands crop up pretty often. On a good day, these conversations probably include praise, and on a bad day, they probably don't.

We all love our husbands, don't get me wrong. They're great men, even acceptable roommates at times. However, there are several very common, very specific habits and behaviors with which most men seem to need a bit of guidance.

(Notice how I said most men, not all men; if the Great October Doggy Debacle has taught me anything, it's that certain groups can be extremely sensitive with generalizations, no matter how humorous my intention. Save your, "I hate you and I hope your dog eats you" mail this time, it's supposed to be funny. Jeez.)

Anyway, if a manual existed, written by wives to help their husbands peacefully cohabitate as married men, I suggest it might contain some of the following passages:

Article 9 - Wives will inevitably spend time on the phone, and certain components of these conversations you must learn to live with. These components include, but are not limited to: call duration, which is under your wife's sole discretion; due to female propensity for conversation, the half-hour long gab-fest your wife had with the same friend already this morning, is not relevant to the current phone call; your wife's index finger sticking up in the air can be translated as "please wait one minute before again inquiring as to the current location of the potato chips, unless you want me to switch fingers."

Article 22a (i)- In a recent study, it was proven that the amount of physical human energy required to lift the lid on a laundry hamper is .0035kW, roughly the same amount of energy exerted when blinking. Since the release of this data, the World Coalition of Wives (WCW) has unanimously decided that dirty laundry left ON TOP of or BESIDE the hamper, instead of IN the hamper, can, without consequence, be burned in a hole in the back yard.

22a (ii) - There shall be no return guarantee should any of the following items be left in the pocket of previously-worn jeans: paper money, coins, tissue, receipts, bank cards, screws/washers/bolts of any kind.

22b - Since exertion data is similar to that of hamper lids, cupboard doors shall be taken off the hinges and placed on the kitchen floor should they regularly be left open, hopefully serving as a reminder that simply closing them when you're done is much less tedious than reinstalling them.

Article 35a - While you will be attracted to other women, as is only natural, the following subjects should not be included in spousal conversations about this issue: Angelina Jolie, Christina Aguilera, sister-in-law, wife's best friend, any woman you work with. The following women are acceptable alternatives: Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, any 80s super model, Cindy Day.

35b - The following men are to be acknowledged as subjects women worldwide are allowed to drool over without recourse: Richard Gere, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, brooding British/Irish/Australian men, anyone who used to be/is/might someday become a Calvin Klein underwear model, former teen heartthrobs, professional athletes, selected persons in uniform.

Article 41 - It is never a good idea to discuss your wife's weight. There is no wiggle room in this clause and it is the only area of a relationship where honesty has no value. Unless a forklift is required to transport her to the grocery store or it has become necessary to physically cut her out of the house, the issue of weight should be ignored at all costs. (Note about the theory that suggests women gain 15lbs once they become comfortable and secure in a relationship. While the WCW acknowledges the validity of this theory, it is relative to the theory whereby men not only gain a few pounds themselves, but also cease performing any romantic or spontaneous gesture, usually at the same point in said relationship; hence, both are cancelled out and should not be issues of contention.)

Article 50 - The number of pairs of shoes required by any wife can be calculated according to the following formula: divide the number of pairs by the square root of the number of delicious meals you've consumed in the past year, add 14, subtract the number of recent unprovoked crying jags, multiply by the hypotenuse of her happiness, and there's your answer. Or you could just trust that she needs more than one pair for work and one pair for church, and leave well enough alone. The latter might be a wiser option, especially since you've yet to explain why you need 16 hammers.

There you go ladies, I've done my part. You might want to keep an eye out for excerpts from the rebuttal manual, though.

I feel it necessary to give credit to my friend Lianne for the "hypontenuse/square root" stuff. Though her formula was different and for another topic entirely, I stole the idea and the words and the comedic mathematics from her. I don't think she'll mind too much, since now I'm going to refer you to her very excellent and hilarious blog, the link for which can be found on the left of this page. It's the bloggideeblogblog one. Good reading.