More and more, the success of my Christmas holiday is determined by how little I have to do to accomplish it.  I don't care about the gifts, or decorating, or traveling, or attending parties... I just want a few stress-free days in what is otherwise a stress-filled year.  C'mon, Santa, that isn't asking too much is it?

This year, I insisted I was actually taking off the two weeks off I had while my office is closed.  Usually, my time off goes something like this: I spend days writing out instructions for What To Do If Something Breaks While I Am Gone and even though everyone has received those instructions multiple times in the past and has printouts taped to their walls (I know because I taped them there and no one ever throws anything away), moreover, everyone all has the exact same information in an email from the last time I was gone (I know because no one has ever deleted even the most insignificant email in the past ten years and can easily call up the advertisement for a great deal on a Toyota Camry that was going on in 2002, yet can somehow not find an email from me titled "How to Send An E-Newsletter."  I give the interested parties additional face time training on how to follow the steps in the email.  I ask if they have any questions.  They say no.   I bid a fond farewell to one and all and about sixteen hours after hugs, well-wishes, and promises not to bother me on my vacation are made, I get a call from someone who was not paying attention during the Orientation While Alice Is Out Days and asks me one of two things: 1) something that is clearly outlined on the list attached to their wall, or 2) something that could totally wait until I return.  But then because it's just easier to do it now while I understand/remember what's needed than to have a Giant Pile of Crap To Do And Figure Out waiting for me on my desk when I return, I pull up my email and log into the office remotely to do it.  Then while I'm there, I see nine other things that are really easy to do right now and I could just finish, rather than adding them to the Giant Pile, and while I'm doing that, six more emails come in that fall into the same category and before I realize it that can of worms I've opened has spilled and suddenly, there are worms crawling through the ductwork of my house.  And now I've racked up about six and a half billable hours on this vacation day, which I will not go back and turn into a work day because I'm already into my Use Or Lose Leave and I might as well just pretend I got some time off, either way, it works out the same.

But I digress.

This time, it was different.  

It was twenty-eight hours before someone texted me with an emergency that totally could have waited two weeks.

But I'm getting better about how I deal with that kind of thing and I spent about five minutes confirming that yes, that probably was spam you got and you can just ignore it, then I went back to bed.  

What moxie.

Some of that moxie might have been the food poisoning Santa brought me for Christmas, but either way, I feel I made a stand. Yay me.

The rest of the week has been spent doing crafts with The Caterpillar.

 Great way to use up old magazines, by the way.

Airing my grievances.

It's totally ok, the lights are NEXT to the Festivus pole, not ON it.

And readying the house for Santa.

When I was a kid, I was a crazy early riser on Christmas morning.  I can't remember a Christmas I slept past three am and then didn't just watch the hours DRAG by minute by minute, bored out of my skull because I hadn't prepared enough books or games for me and my brother to play quietly in my room.  It was torture. Finally, unable to bear it anymore, we'd sneak down the hall in the dark and try to spy what Santa had brought.  One of us would be the scout, then run back and report. Then a few minutes later, the other would try to make it out with perhaps better luck.  I have no idea why we didn't just get a flash light, or hell, turn on the light.  Our parents were asleep.  But it was all a part of the experience.  At least until that Christmas when Santa brought a parakeet, and my brother accidentally tripped on the cage and that damn bird SQUAKSQUAKSQUAKED and woke up the entire house and scared the living crap out of the both of us. 

We totally deserved it.

But you know what? Christmas started early that year.

I've always been a bit surprised that my kids didn't pull the same stuff at Christmas and actually slept in until around six. Which isn't late, I grant you, but at least it's their normal daily waking up time.

But this year I counted on it and they didn't.  

Because kids always disappoint you.

Just kidding.  (not really)

No, this year, I'd gotten very little sleep the previous two nights and was hoping to grab a couple of hours when The Caterpillar woke up around 12:30. The KingofHearts put her back to bed.

Then she woke up at 3:00.

I put her back to bed.

Then 3:30. 

The KoH put her back to bed.

Then 4:00.

I finally threatened her and told her to go to her room or I'd find that Elf on the Shelf that we don't use and have him tell on her to Santa.  

So at 4:15, she woke up her sister and then they were both up.


They stayed in their room talking (like we couldn't hear that) while The KoH hoped against hope to go back to sleep for a few minutes, and I, still incredibly sleepy but now unable to stay in bed any longer because that's just how I roll, went outside to try to get a photo of the Christmas tree from the yard.  What I did get pictures of was two naughty girls sneaking around the house and trying to view what was in their presents.


I finally went in and scared them back to bed, but instead they went to our bedroom and bounced on the waterbed until The KoH relented and got up too.  So at 4:45 am, Christmas came just the same.

Santa brought them socks, which he hung by the chimney with care.

I stubbornly insisted on building a fire in the fireplace, by the way, even though it was 76 degrees in the $%^& Fahrenheit.  Then I had to open all the windows to keep from sweating my behind off in my flannel pjs.  Because dammit it's Christmas!  Last year when we didn't have a fireplace, it was snowing on Christmas day.  This year I'm having a fire in the fireplace, I don't care if it's 98% humid outside.

The Caterpillar got an entire bag of pistachios, which she cradled like a baby for more time than was actually acceptable.  

But eventually, she started to enjoy the presents... or at least the boxes of other people's presents.

Frankenstein's monster lives.

The Dormouse did NOT get a phone.  That's a blog post for another day, but suffice it to say her mom is a mean old witch who never ever ever wants her to have anything good and 12-year-old me totally would have agreed with her.  She did, however, get a camera.  Because every time she asked for a phone and I said, "What do you think you need a phone for?", she said, "Take pictures with it."


She was fairly good-natured about her lack of a phone, I must say.

The Caterpillar received yet another gift that I will regret, but at least this one isn't Legos.

Oh I'll still be stepping on all the pieces of this, but they'll be a lot easier on my feet than Legos.

Legos are the Al Queda of a barefooted parent's existence. 

The Dormouse got this nifty thing, which I thought was pretty cool at first until I realized all it really does is turn fruit into a game controller.  Here's hoping she can actually learn something with it eventually.

 Oh and I finally, FINALLY, got their 2015 Christmas ornaments.  

This year with the new yard, we have spent a ridiculous amount of time with trees.  Cutting dying trees down. Worrying that trees will fall on the house.  Making sure trees don't fall on the house. Chopping wood.  Burning wood. Building things with other parts of the wood.  The KingofHearts has plans to use a few of the trees we had to have taken out as building materials for a shed, but until that happens it looks like a life-sized Lincoln Log project is going on in our yard.  

A few weeks after we cut down several of the trees and they were still sitting in the yard, I was staring at some of them, and said to The KoH, "Cut me off some of those branches in thin slices."


 "Because I want to use it."

"Um... okay... which branch?"

"One a little bit bigger than the size of a glass."

And then he started to smell what I was stepping in and the Underland traditional coaster was born.

Since then, I spent about a quarter of my brain power trying to figure out other ways to use the lumber that is both growing on and lying around my property.  We all have.  There are trivets in the works, as well as a host of other ideas that may or may not turn out to be useful or valid.  But we feel good about this level of living off the land, especially since the Great Hickory Nut Gathering of 2015 turned out to not really be practical in making hickory nut butter.  I don't know how the squirrels eat them.  There is much more effort that goes into opening a hickory nut than there is edible nut inside.  You know what hickory nuts ARE useful for? Burning in the fire.  That's about it.  So at least we won't freeze.

Anyway, it seemed only fitting that the Shortlings' Christmas ornaments this year had something to do with trees. 

Here is The Caterpillar's.

 And here is The Dormouse's.

They were only mildly impressed with them, but these are the kinds of ornaments that I love now as an adult - ones that were created from some unconventional material and totally stand apart from all others.  So I'm hoping these stand the test of time. And unbreakability.

Tonight, we are heading out to a Christmas after party.  I'm baking pie. This, after my favorite Christmas Eve tradition backfired on me and I brought a raging case of food poisoning home from the Chinese restaurant, which I'm only just recovering from.  Serves me right for using Yelp to pick the best-reviewed restaurant in the area.  Next year, I'm just going to the first hole-in-the-wall I see.

It's as stress-free as we get.