Dec. 29: All about Christmas

I’d like to start this post by sending out birthday wishes to people I failed to say “happy birthday” to on Facebook over the past few days because I’m a big loser-y friend. Also, these people deserve extra recognition because they have some of the suckiest birthdays in all of the possible birthdays:

  • waiter-holding-huge-birthday-cake Jen E
  • Stephanie
  • my brother-in-law, Chris
  • Lisa H-S
  • Fancy Lori™

Here’s your cake. Sorry, you’ll all have to share.

bahhumbug I know everyone was talking about SIMPLIFYING this Christmas, but you know what else is pretty great? Getting spoiled rotten. And even better, spoiling someone else rotten. That’s what ended up happening in our house, and each of us loved every minute of it. Soooo… simplify all you want. Maybe the Manullangs will try it next year.

In most other ways, though, Christmas was slightly less festive for us than it is most years.

Our Christmas season is always exceptionally long because we compile holiday music that goes out with a lot of our cards, and sometimes I start gathering those tunes in July. My kids have grown accustomed to hearing “Let It Snow” long before they’ve even dreamed of a day off school. Because of this, I don’t always love listening to Christmas music non-stop from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. In fact, sometimes hearing it makes me Scrooge-y. Not Grinch-y—I don’t want the music to go away, I just don’t want to hear it for, like, A MINUTE IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK OMG IMMA KILL SOMEONE. At least one local radio station plays Christmas music 24/7 from mid-November on, and sometimes it’s all just a little much, y’know? I’m not sure exactly why, but this year it bothered me more than it has in the past.

Victor was sick and energy-less for the first two weeks of December, so our holiday decorating—which is always a family affair, just like the Bible says—was delayed. Jack and I put up exterior lights in mid-December, more for our neighbors’ sake than ours. I put out all our plush singing snowmen but didn’t bother battery-ing them up. And we didn’t even decorate our tree until December 21, which was so late we considered not doing it at all—but ultimately, decided Christmas morning just wouldn’t be the same if we weren’t gathered around a tree. I usually decorate all over the house. This year it just didn’t happen. I had the Christmas spirit, but when it turned mid-December and our house looked decidedly un-Christmas-y, I really just wanted to enjoy other people’s efforts, not my own. I think the kids were feeling that way too. I suggested we go to Zoo Lights or the PIR display, and their response was “why?” Pfffftt. I tried. (Kinda.)

It was the evening of the 25th when I looked at the tree and thought, “Yep, this has been up long enough.” And on the 26th, I undecorated it. I put away all the Christmas gift bags and wrap. I put away the snowmen (and only had to remove batteries from this year’s). The stockings, which were never really hung by the chimney with care anyway, have been boxed up. Christmas is D-O-N-E done.


Pretty much the only thing that happened as it does every year was our Christmas card. Here’s the letter we sent:

Dear friends and family,

Honestly? This year was kind of craptacular. I mean, we’re all still alive, but, y’know, just barely.

Victor turned 50 in July. As expected, he immediately began to fall asleep amid crowds of people, yell at kids to get off our lawn, and misplace his teeth.

Katie is now (pause for effect…) in high school. She took out her ear buds long enough to be a counselor for Safety Town last summer. In February, she’ll turn 15 — she’s both eager AND the right amount of nervous about driving. She’s in her seventh year of piano, and loves being in a high school choir. Feel free to ask her any question — she knows everything, or at least more than anyone else in our house does. Oh, and apparently we embarrass her constantly. Teens are FUN.

Jack, 13, played football again this year. He and his buddies are the best players in all of history. The constant phone calls from NFL scouts have become annoying, and now they’re going to have to compete with the NBA; Jack recently started playing in a basketball league. As the refs can attest, he was a natural at picking up his latest language: trash talk. We pretend he doesn’t belong to us more often than I’d like to admit. Personally, I’m most proud of The Boy’s budding chef skills — he loves to prepare entire meals for us and his friends. He’s still taking piano lessons, but he wants you to know he hates them.

Katie and Jack went with their grandparents and cousins to California for a family wedding this summer. They made time to visit three theme parks, much to our envy. Victor and I will eventually forgive our kids for going to Disneyland without us, but these things take time. (Oh, and we also regret missing Elissa’s wedding. Of course.)

My clumsiness continues to know no bounds; I broke my ankle in May and spent the rest of the year in a cast and/or humiliating physical therapy sessions. I’m convinced that physical therapists are nothing but sadist pranksters. Also in the category of “stuff that sucked this year,” my ongoing cancer testing took us on the least fun roller coaster ever. More scans and pokes will happen in January, and with them we hope for more definitive answers than we were given in 2014. The up-side is that, thanks to my excessive exposure to radiation, our house glows even without Christmas lights.

We adopted a sweetheart of a beagle in June. Maya was rescued from an abusive situation, and we feel honored to give her the love and comfort she deserves. Lucy is happy to have another critter with which to share the blame for the ongoing destruction of The House of Manullang.

After years of making gemstone jewelry for myself, I started sharing more widely by selling it online. Intrigued? :) I’m at

Other things we had the privilege to enjoy: my new, not at all ancient-sounding great-aunt status (“former step-great aunt,” if you wanna be picky AND I DON’T) … a book reading/signing with the always-delightful Armistead Maupin … trips to see Sonya’s family … being a top fundraising team at our fifth Relay for Life … seeing our niece/cousin, Abby, perform in Pippi Longstocking with Bellevue Youth Theater … a huge party celebrating Vic’s 50th … floor seats at the Justin Timberlake concert (thanks, Sher!) … trips to Mother Mary’s … and local productions of The Producers, Dreamgirls, and Fiddler on the Roof.

As always, I share a few of the things said in or around our house this year:

“We stocked up at the liquor store across the California border. It’s not Disneyland, but if you ask me, it’s still one of the happiest places on Earth.“

Jack: “Dad’s a wifey boy.”
Me: “What’s that?”
Jack: “It’s like a momma’s boy. He does everything you say.”

“No, of course I don’t mind taking Jack to practice today. Totally unrelated, but have you noticed that all of his football coaches have blue eyes?”

[An impromptu Frozen singalong? Don’t mind if we do!] “Hey, where’d the kids go?”

ER doc: “What happened?”
Me: “My Danskos tried to kill me.”

“Well, the surgeon didn’t actually use the word ‘bionic,’ but I’m sure that’s what he meant.”

Dina: “Let me know if you need anything.” 
Me: “I need a walking cast and a house with no stairs.” 
Dina: “I have a cane and a tent.” 

“Today a physical therapist, whose pants were clearly on fire, told me I am ‘very graceful.’ I laughed so hard, I fell off the balance ball, hit my head on the stationary bike, and while pulling myself up off the floor, got to second base with the patient on the leg press.”

K&J challenged each other to say three words that describe their mother. Katie says right away, “She’s pretty, awesome, and tough” (I sooo ? that poor blind girl). Jack thinks for way too long and finally says, “Do they have to be *nice* words?”

“Inspired by my unfortunate lunch out today, my new band name is Pube Sandwich.”

As 2014 closes, we feel more grateful than ever for family and dear friends. Our hope is that you’re spending the holidays with people you can tolerate, and, if not, that you have easy access to the quantity of alcohol you require. AND: may the coming year be your best one yet. 


(and Vic, Katie, Jack, Millie, Lucy, and Maya)

And the photo card that went out with the letter:


So, that’s it for the 2014 Christmas season. It came and went. We loved the Christmas-y part, but the rest sorta sucked and we’re ready for 2015. Bring it on.


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