Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Memory 10: My Gift to Jesus

My grandmother used to have this tradition that we used to do every year on Christmas eve when we were over at her house. She had a white gift box that she placed on the fireplace, and in it, it contained pieces of paper all written by us from the year (or two) before that was our gift to Jesus. We were supposed to write down something that we would do better in our lives that next year as our gift to Jesus. We would promise to pray more, read our scriptures more, be a nicer person, think of Christ more, etc.

The following year, we would open up the gift and read what we had written and decide whether or not we had done what we said we would, and then we would write a new one. This was a tradition that never really carried over, but I still like the idea of giving a birthday present to Jesus and having it be something I will do better the following year.

This year, my gift will be to be more Christlike through and through; read my scriptures more, pray more, and just be nicer and less judgmental of people. It'll be difficult, but it's for Jesus, so I'll try my best.

Happy Birthday Jesus, and Merry Christmas to all of you!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Memory 9: Secret Santa

Every once in a while my family would pick two or three families to play Secret Santa for and drop off some goodies. When I was younger, I remember there was one time at one of the big family reunion Christmases that it was supposed to be my turn to take the basket and ding-dong ditch the house. I was too scared to go because I was afraid I'd be caught, so my aunt ended up going, and I still kind of regret not doing it.

Luckily I've had more opportunities to do it since then, like there was one time that for Young Women's we were supposed to each take turns doing one of the "12 days of Christmas" for a family in the ward. We had made all kind of stuff for them, ornaments, food, I even think we made them a tree skirt. That drop off was fun, until when I was running away I slipped in some mud and totally fell and got mud all over me.

But, one of my all time favorite secret santa dropoffs wasn't exactly for Christmas time. My freshman year at BYU, me and a few friends decided that we were going to do the "12 days before finals" for one of our favorite professors. He had had a party at his house, so we knew where he lived, and we had paid attention through the semester to see what he liked. We did crazy stuff, like we knew his favorite state was Massachusetts, so we got a bunch of things that MA was known for (Boston baked beans, the first post office-stamps, etc.). I even think we made him a mixed CD of some Christmas songs.

I was the get away car, since I was the only one in the group with a car, so I had to park down the street aways and duck down. At first, they got away with just running back to the car, but then our professor got hip to our  arrival and he started coming out and looking for who it was, so they'd have to stay hidden. He would send his son out to go look around the house and investigate. Then he started making comments in class, like he was going to set the dogs out. No one else had any clue what he was talking about, but we did. We almost got caught several times, but we didn't let that stop us.

Towards the end of the 12 days, we had 11 of our classmates write thank you notes to him or things they appreciated about him etc, and then the last day we gave him a really nice framed photo/painting (or maybe it was a figurine, I forget now). The last day, he had left a note on his door for us. Telling us that they'd really like to know who was dropping off these presents because they wanted to thank us in person. They told us to knock and stay so that we could come inside and enjoy some hot chocolate etc. I think we did decide to stay, but when we knocked, no one came to the door. So, we figured it was for the best and just left.

He figured out it was us since we took another class from him the next semester and he asked us. He told us that he was very thankful for our kindness because he hadn't been doing very well and was considering retiring and not teaching anymore. But he said that because of our gifts, he realized he needed to keep teaching because he was making an impression after all.

Favorite Secret Santa moment ever.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Memory 8: Some I Don't Remember But Are Told About Every Year*

One of these I do remember, but these other memories, my parents tell me about almost every year.

My mom told me that my very first Christmas I had gotten put in a pile of all the Christmas wrapping paper, and I got so excited that I started flinging it around and sucking on it. Here's a picture of proof:

When I was four, I had (apparently, because I have no recollection of it) really wanted a doll house. But, my mom found this girly Lego-type house and playground instead (because a dollhouse was too expensive). My parents always want everything set up from Santa, unwrapped, so that it's all cool and awesome when you first see it. My dad decided he wanted to put the house all together for me. So, my Uncle (this was one of the big family reunion Christmas years) told my dad that he should superglue it all together so he wouldn't have to build it again. So my parents and my aunt and uncle stayed up till 2 or 3 in the morning gluing and putting together this dollhouse (that I don't remember at all. Awesome, right? Totally worth it.).
Funny thing was, they had to break it apart to put it back in the tub so that we could go home with it. Hilarious.

The last one that I do remember was one year I really wanted this:
I absolutely loved that thing. It came with hot chocolate mix and tiny cups and stirrers. I made my dad put it together and then make me hot chocolate so many times, and I made him drink out of those tiny cups that he got really tired of it. But he did it anyway because he loves me. :)

*Note: Some assembly required.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Memory 7: A Christmas Gift I Remember

I know after 24 years of life, I've gotten plenty of Christmas gifts. Some I still remember, some I vaguely remember, some I still have, some have been long forgotten or have been repurposed (I'm pretty sure several of the stuffed animals that my mom now has under one of our Christmas trees were previous Christmas gifts to me). But, after thinking about gifts I got when I was really little, there was one I remember all too well.

When I was three, I got this little gem:

I used to play with this thing all the time. And I mean ALL the time. I went around the house singing any tapes I could get my hands on. I'm pretty sure it was a Bryan Adams tape and a Wham tape (but my mom doesn't think so, but I remain convinced those are the tapes). I do know I had some kiddie tapes as well, including this:
In fact, I listened to that chipmunk tape so much, that my parents got super annoyed and threw it away and convinced me that it got lost.

Oh the lies of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Memory 6: Gorky/Bernard The Elf

Remember how I talked about how my family has the tradition of the elf bringing us pajamas every year? The reason for the tradition was mainly when we were younger, so it could get us to go to bed. So when Gorky (or after The Santa Clause came out, Bernard) brought our pajamas, we knew it was time for us to go to bed because Santa was on his way.

I always loved it because the door bell would ring and we would open the door to find a basket of pajamas for all of us. We would rush outside and look in the sky to see if we could see the reindeer or sleigh that the elf had borrowed.

I always thought it was great how Gorky/Bernard always knew our sizes and the kind of pajamas we wanted. Although as the elf and us got older, sometimes he'd forget what pants were for who (read my mom couldn't remember which pants she bought for which kid). My parents got tired of the elf for awhile and would always say that the elf had died in a freak accident and couldn't do it anymore. But we'd always say that Santa had plenty of other elves to help out, so we still got pajamas anyway. When I discovered the truth about Santa and therefore the elf, I got to be the elf a few times.

The ploy would be that my mom had the basket already to go and sitting in an inconspicuous garbage bag in the garage. Then, my dad would demand that I take the trash out. I would begrudgingly take the garbage outside to the trash can and also pick up the "other" garbage bag. After disposing of the evidence, I'd sneak around to the front of the house, set the basket down, ring the doorbell and run like hell to the back of the house again. My parents would always stall for me so I'd have some time to come back inside, and my younger siblings would all ask if I saw the elf since I was outside. I'd make a big show about how I saw something so that's why I had run back in (since I was breathing heavy from ding-dong ditching my own house). They'd tell me I missed it and he totally brought pajamas while I was taking the trash out, and I'd act sad that I hadn't seen anything.

Once my other siblings discovered who the real elf and Santa was we each had to take turns being the elf. The last year when Marin found out, she got to be the Elf and we had to pretend because she hadn't gotten a turn. Now that we all know, my mom just pulls the pajamas out of her closet and doles them out to us (still confusing whose pants are for who). Ahh the joys of pajamas from Bernard the Christmas Pajama Elf.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Memory 5: Why We Have a Fake Tree

So according to my mom, when I was really little we used to have a real tree every year. But, then my parents discovered how much neater and cheaper a fake tree was, and for as long as I can remember we've always had a fake tree. But, there was one year when we decided to venture into the long forgotten world of a real tree.

I could be wrong, but I think we got inspired when we went to have Thanksgiving in Chicago with my Aunt and Uncle and we went with them to chop down their Christmas tree (I was amazed you could even do that. I always thought that was only in movies like Christmas Vacation). We decided that we wanted a real Christmas tree too, so the next year we drove out somewhere in Nowhereville, Texas to a giant Christmas tree lot to pick out a tree. We went the already cut route, and took it home with us.

Our family always decorates the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. So, that's when we got the tree and decorated it. It looked beautiful with the ornaments and lights. My mom even let my dad put tinsel on it (which she hates cause it's messy, but that's what my dad's family always did on their tree), so it made it all shiny and sparkly. The nice pine scent was in the air, and it wasn't because my mom had lit a pine-scented candle. The picture perfect, real-life Christmas tree.

The problem was that we had to keep the tree alive till Christmas. Turns out that it was a huge problem.

About a week and a half before Christmas, that beautiful, picture-perfect real-life Christmas tree was looking like a decrepit, mug-shot, dead as a doornail, pathetic Christmas tree. A ton of the needles had already fallen off, all of the branches were drooping to the ground, causing many of the ornaments to just fall off. It was pretty sad. So, we took all of the ornaments and lights off and threw the tree in the backyard and put up the fake one.

And that's why my family has always had a fake tree ever since.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Memory 4: Lights

So, as I mentioned in my previous Christmas memory, my family always goes to look at lights. I feel like this will be something that we'll always do no matter how old we are. Although, as of late we've grown cranky and impatient in our old age and have gone earlier in December so we could avoid the crowds. But there have been specific houses and lights that I remember loving to go see:

When I was younger we used to go to my grandparents' house in El Paso every other year for Christmas (it essentially was our family reunion). And every time we went down there, on Christmas Eve, we would go to this one neighborhood that would be lit up. So many people would come see it, that they made you park outside the neighborhood and walk around inside; no cars allowed. For some reason, I like walking; you can appreciate the lights for a longer amount of time and not worry about hitting the car in front of you while you are looking at them. Anyway, there was one house I loved because they made it look like the top of their Christmas tree had to stick out of the top of the roof. Favorite house, every time.

When my family moved to Plano, we discovered this neighborhood off of Legacy, called Deerfield. At the time, it was a new developing neighborhood and to try to get people to buy the houses, they decided to have everyone put up Christmas lights to get people to come. It's become a tradition ever since, and nowadays it's just kind of gotten annoying because they have carriages, limos, and buses, not to mention all the regular cars that come. Don't ever go to Deerfield on Christmas Eve in a car. You'll get stuck and be in that neighborhood for hours. Anyway, there's a few houses that I love seeing in Deerfield: there's one house that has a big window above the door with several wooden archways inside that makes it look like a castle. (This one has nothing to do with lights.) The other house is one that every year they make a snowman, a Santa, and a toy soldier all of balloons. I don't know how they do it or keep them together or if they have to redo it because the air goes out of the balloons, but I love it, every time. There's a new house in recent years that has been featured on the national news that has over a million lights (or some ridiculous number like that) and it's all set to music. It's very bright and cool, but I still like the balloons.

The last house I used to love going to actually doesn't get decorated anymore. My parents discovered it, I forget when, but we started going every year. But, about 5 years ago or so, the owners of the house decided they were getting too old to put everything up (they started in October every year taking everything out and setting it up) and stopped. But, this one house was on a corner, and every square inch of their front yard would be covered in display cases and lawn displays and lights. They had a case of penguins, peanuts characters, a flipping TMNT, some Looney Tunes characters, several Santas, angels, a few nativities, and tons of other things. This was one you definitely had to get out of the car and walk around because it would be decorated all the way up the walkway. It was intense. I loved that house. I'm just glad it wasn't mine.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Memory 3: Traditions

There are certain traditions that my family does every Christmas Eve (in no particular order):
  • Our big Christmas dinner where we have steak and shrimp and lobster and/or something else equally delicious. 
  • We read the Christmas story (you know the important one about Jesus).
  • We go out and drive around to look at Christmas lights.
  • We open one present on Christmas eve, which for me always ends up being the card one of my grandparents sent because I want to save the cool stuff for Christmas day.
  • My dad reads The Polar Express, and it has to be my dad, and he has to ring a bell when he's done. (If you've read it, you understand why).
  • We all know when it's time to go to bed because Santa's elf comes and brings us pajamas! (Although this one we've kind of altered since we know the truth, but this tradition will be better explained in a future Christmas Memory post).
And the thing with these traditions is that if we don't do these I get upset. I don't know why, but I do. Last year we went to another family's house for dessert on Christmas eve and while it was fun, I didn't want to be there that long because we had to get home to do all of the traditional stuff! Yeah, I know. I'm weird.

But one of my favorite traditions is singing Christmas carols, but not just any Christmas carol. It has to be The Twelve Days of Christmas. I think this is one my grandparents started doing, and I like it so much that I make my family keep doing it every year. (It's just not Christmas unless we sing it.) But, it's more than just singing. There are actions that go with all of the verses, and you go faster and faster as you go along so by the time you get to the 12th day, you're ready to sit down because you're tired and out of breath. I remember when I was younger singing it at my grandparents' house and watching my dad, uncle, and grandfather all constantly pulling up their pants as they performed the song. What's hilarious is we always forget all of the verses every year, so we're always stopping and trying to remember.

This one was recorded a few years ago, but here's the last verse to give you an idea:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Memory 2: A Little Humor For the Holidays

Being the oldest child, I was the first to find out the truth about Santa Clause, but I also got to keep up the charade the longest for my siblings. Sometimes it was fun, getting to help set out my siblings presents, eating a few of Santa's cookies, and filling the stockings while they had to go to bed (although, my parents always made me go to bed before they put out my gifts so it'd still be a surprise for me too).
Other times it was hilarious:

One year my brother, Cameron, was about 9 or 10 years old and he desperately wanted a scooter. But not just any scooter, a Razor scooter. It had to be a Razor and it had to have blue wheels. He had been bugging my parents for one and had told Santa in person and in letter form exactly what he wanted.

Being the dutiful loving parents that they are, my mom and dad bought Cameron a scooter from "Santa". Santa's gifts are always left unwrapped and are just placed in front of the tree. So as I helped my parents put out Santa's presents (except for mine) on Christmas eve, I noticed that there was no Razor scooter. Instead there was this:
A finger scooter.

Don't worry, the real Razor scooter was there hidden in the backyard, but Cameron didn't know that. I thought it was hilarious, but I couldn't wait to see the look on Cameron's face Christmas morning.

I wish I had taken a picture. His reaction was so funny, I about died of laughter. He held it up with this disgusted look on his face, clearly upset that Santa did not understand his request. We tried to convince him. "It's a scooter!" we all told him. "That's what you asked for, right?" "Maybe you should have been more specific." He didn't know whether to be sad or angry, so he just kind of was shocked. Then he got mad. Especially since we were all laughing hysterically.

Before it went on too long, my dad pulled out the real scooter from the backyard, and Cameron's faith in Santa was restored and he was happy again. I still look back at this memory and laugh.

That Santa has a great sense of humor.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Christmas Memory 1: Light Bulb Hell

In the period of 3 days over Thanksgiving (not counting the holiday), my family (either one or two or all of us) made a trip to Target 8 times. Six of those times were Christmas light bulb related. Here’s why:

The day after Thanksgiving is when my mom makes my dad go up to the attic and drag down all of the Christmas decorations: lights, trees, nativities, Santas, snowflakes, advent calendars and all. Once my dad brings everything down, him and my brother(s) start putting up the outside lights, while my mom, sister, and I put up the Christmas trees and various other d├ęcor inside.

Well, when my dad and brother started putting up the outside lights, several lights were out on the icicle lights. So, my dad and brother ran to Target to get some more light bulbs, thinking that it’d be cheaper to just replace the light bulbs than buying all new icicle lights (because the kind of icicle lights we have aren’t made any more). Oh how wrong he was….

As my dad started replacing the light bulbs in the outside lights, my mom and I proceeded to put up our 9-ft Christmas tree, only to discover that the entire top part of the pre-lit tree was out. My mom and I figured it wasn’t that many at the top, so we could replace the bulbs. So, we started pulling them out and noticing that it never seemed to end. So we made another trip to Target to get more replacement lights (since we ran out of the bulbs that they came with).

But, Target, it seems, doesn’t sell just bulbs, so we had to buy strands of mini lights and take the bulbs out of those strands to then turn around and put them in the strand that was out. My mom replaced all of those bulbs on the top of the tree… guess what. Still didn’t work. So she just wrapped a separate strand around the tree and you couldn’t even tell. Then… the bottom of the tree went out. So we had to get another strand to wrap around the bottom.

Then my dad realized there were more lights that were out in the icicles, so he bought a light bulb checker and more strands of lights at Target. My dad, my brother, and I spent all night checking every freaking bulb in those icicle lights (5 or 6 strands… I can’t remember now; it’s all a blinding blur). After sustaining some injuries, we got all of them to work and we called it a night.

The next morning my dad finished up checking the bulbs, made sure they all worked, and then put them all up on the house. And then after putting them all up and plugging them all in, he discovered a short in the wire because every third strand of icicle lights was out. That’s when we decided to go back to Target to get all new icicle lights. Came home and put those up, and it would appear that everything was again right with the world.

Until my mom started putting up our 7-ft, family Christmas tree… The whole middle section of that tree was out. We knew by now that it would not be worth replacing the bulbs (because the bulbs on this tree were shaped differently and so we wouldn’t be able to just buy more). So, we had to go back to Target to buy more strands of lights.

I might be missing another trip to Target somewhere in there because we went so many times that I honestly can’t even remember the individual trips. It just seems like we were just there all day. We will more than likely be buying a new tree or two at the after-Christmas sales for next year. Let’s hope this light bulb hell won’t happen again.

Oh, and guess what… yesterday, a middle section of the 9-ft tree went out. Luckily we had an extra strand of lights from a previous trip to Target, so my mom wrapped that around the tree. If another part goes out, we’re celebrating Christmas in darkness, ghetto tree and all.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Tis the Season

While it might seem like I'm a huge fan of Thanksgiving (not that I'm not), I absolutely love Christmas (there's just a time and place for it without the need to have it encroach upon other holidays). Because the past few years I've felt like I really didn't get into the Christmas spirit much or too late, I've decided to try something to get me in the mood.

I've helped put up Christmas decorations in my house, I've started buying various gifts and started thinking about others, and I've already bought stamps for my Christmas cards. (Side note: I'm totally going to send out the most awesome newsletters to go with the cards. So, hope you get one because it's going to be talked about for years to come and everyone will try to model their own after my super fantastic one. I'm just sayin'.) But here's what's going to help me even more:

Throughout the next few weeks leading up to Christmas, I'm going to blog about my favorite Christmas memories. I would say I'd do one everyday till the 25th, but I know I wouldn't be able to keep it up, and since it's already the 2nd I'll have missed a day already. So, instead of being super ambitious, I'm going to try to do a couple (or more if I feel inspired) every week. Some will be funny, some hilarious, some short, some long, and some just really sweet and spiritual. It will just depend on what I remember and what mood I am in.

I'll title the series "Christmas Memories" and then a number/subtitle so you can keep them separate from my other blog posts on general things (I've already got a couple in the works, one being my summary of my first semester of grad school.). I would start tonight, but I'm super tired and the one I want to start off with (this year's) is kind of a long, involved, but humorous, story that I'm just not ready to type up at the moment.

So, with that said, be on the lookout for my "Christmas Memories" posts. The first one I'm hoping to type up by this weekend. Woot Christmas!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

You ever have one of those days...

When one problem comes after another and it seems like it won't end and you won't get anything done because you keep having to deal with more things that keep cropping up and so you never finish what you're working on, and you can't focus because you are freaking out about deadlines and pleasing people and making sure you're doing what you're supposed to and that you're counting down the hours until you go home, only to realize that you have more crap waiting for you to do at home, which makes you think that maybe the stuff you're dealing with at the moment isn't actually as bad as you think because at least you're not having to deal with these other things only instead you just end up worrying about it all at the same time so you really don't accomplish or complete anything because you are too scattered and stressed to focus on one thing and you just want the day to be over with even though it seems to drag on and on (much like this sentence) and you just want to be at home in bed on a weekend because it means you've finished all those things you are currently freaking out about and are worry free?

Yeah, I have had that kind of day two days in a row (more so on Tuesday) now. If it happens for a third day in a row, I'm taking a mental health day or week and just staying in bed.

Can you tell I just want it to be Christmas break already?