Category Archives: Christmas

It’s the Thought That Counts

Over Thanksgiving dinner with the family, I made a very important announcement.

“I will be making all y’all homemade Christmas gifts this year.”

The conversation immediately ceased. Forks were suspended in mid-air and silence reined in the dining room.

“Yeah, I’m a crafter now,” I explained to my peeps. “That means someone who does crafts.”

“I do remember you posting something about cutting and gluing awhile back,” my mother-in-law offered.

“That was child’s play,” I said. “I’ve graduated to actually sewing stuff together using a needle and thread.”

“That’s wonderful, Rima!” my mother exclaimed. She’s always been my number one fan, and she’s been pushing for simple, grassroots Christmases for years.

Just to prove how serious I was, I explained that I’d made one test craft gift already, a present for a friend’s newborn.

“What did you make?” the family wanted to know.

“A teething ring,” I said.

“That’s interesting,” my mother mused. “And you sewed it, you said?”

“Yeah, I sewed up a tube out of some fabric scraps and stuffed a bunch of wooden beads in it separated by knots. And I sealed the whole shebang off with some hot glue, which has hopefully cooled off by now.”

“Did you say, ‘wooden beads’?”

“Yeah, all sewed up inside some fabric with a big old bow I hot glued to seal it shut.”

(Contemplative silence.)

“And the baby sucks on the fabric with the beads in it?” my aunt needed some clarification.

“Right.”

“That’s kind of gross.”

“Not to mention a choking hazard.”

All of a sudden I started feeling kind of bad about my handmade teething ring. I guessed it was probably not the optimal choice for a first attempt at a sewing craft, what with it being a potential choking hazard and all. My mother was still being pretty supportive about it, but I noticed that other people in the room – such as one of the Brothers-In-Dawg – was snickering over his digestif.

“You know what?” I said. “Forget it. As soon as my friend opens the package – which by the way I handcrafted – I’m going to intercept her and throw that stupid teething ring in the trash!”

“You wrapped it up already?” somebody asked. “Like you were actually going to give it to her?”

“Well, yeah. But forget it. I’m just going to rip that teething ring right out of my friend’s hands when she opens the package and throw it out!”

“Well, wait a minute, now, Rima,” someone offered. “You don’t have to throw it out.”

“Yeah, just tell the mom it’s a hood ornament.”

Well. I ended up gifting that teething ring, after all, but I told my friend that under no circumstances should she ever give it to her child. “It’s kind of a choking hazard,” I said.

She seemed to understand.

But I’m not giving up. I already made my friend V her handmade Christmas gift, and gifts for all Jonas’ teachers’, too. I also made a funky little flower pin which Twitter confirmed looks vaguely communistic (you can see it on my sidebar), so clearly no one will be getting that. I’ve been AWOL in blogland because what I do now is just wander up and down the aisles at Jo-Ann’s crafts, stalking the other crafter ladies to see what they have in their carts.

I would share some of my creations here with you, but they’re gifts, so it’s a surprise.

But just remember, family, when you open your Christmas gifts this year: It’s the thought that counts.

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Pants on Fire

When you start talkin’ up Santa Claus to your newborn, what you don’t realize is that you’re setting yourself up for a sordid life of deceit. Keeping the magic alive involves a lot of work, and before you know it, you’re sneaking around buying gifts, speed wrapping them in a closet like some kind of Japanese game show contestant, and hiding them in places you yourself have no ability to recall come Christmas Eve night.

Because you had no foresight when you started the tradition, every year you have to buy yourself a gift from Santa or remind your husband to do it himself.

You have to make sure he wraps the gift in the specially designated “Santa” paper and labels it with a black Sharpie marker using Santa Script.

You have to remind him to dot his “i”s with a puffy heart and write his lower case “a”s in Times New Roman Sans Serif and then your husband is like, “Why don’t you just wrap and label this frikkin’ gift yourself?”

You spend so much time tracking him on NORAD and making up intricate explanations for Santa’s omniscience and magical powers of bilocation, that by the time Christmas Eve rolls around, you half believe that he’s really coming over.

You hope the reindeer find organic parsnips acceptable in lieu of carrots and debate whether they should be left on the cookie plate or the front steps.

You wonder whether it would be more believable if the reindeer left no trace of parsnip in their wake, or just the ends intact.

In the end, you break the parsnips in half and ask your husband to gnaw them down to the nubbin with his teeth.

You can’t even catch a break on Christmas morning because you have to remember which gifts came from Santa and which gifts came from you.

You have to shoot daggers with your eyes at relatives and friends who say point blank in front of your kid, “Where did you buy him that drum set?” And when they keep talking about it despite the fact that you are convulsing on the living room floor trying to pantomime, “STOP TALKING HE BELIEVES IN SANTA CLAUS OMG,” you have no choice but to tackle that person to the ground.

Despite all of this, you don’t much regret perpetrating the myth. Because you were a skeptical child who strong armed your parents into telling you the truth when you were but four years old, and now you wish you had believed for just a little while longer.

Because it is so much fun. And because as long as Santa is real, the world is a benign place where anything can happen, all of it good.

THIS THING WAS COBBLED TOGETHER BY ELVES, DAMMIT.

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Happiness is Running a Vacuum Cleaner

I’m always a little caught off guard by Christmas when it comes, but not this year. This year I have it marked on my calender and there are a lot of context clues to help me out. Like, for example, on Saturday the P-Dawg and I hosted a legitimate Christmas party where a lot of people came all dressed up.  It was very exciting because I had a good excuse to go to town decorating the house and spend the week prior cleaning, and the P-Dawg had a good excuse to set out his bottle of Absinthe.

I like to clean things and put them away. One of my favorite sounds in the world is the sound of crumbs and small plastic toy parts getting sucked up into my vacuum cleaner.  In fact, one of the hardest things for me about hosting a party is resisting the compulsion to follow my guests around with my Dyson, which never loses suction. So I’ll admit that some people’s appetizers might have been cleared a little prematurely last Saturday night, but that’s the price you pay when you put your plate down for five seconds chez Rama. All in all, though, I think everyone had a good time.

Another major clue is the fast approaching Lithuanian Saturday school Christmas pageant, during which my friend V and I will be reprising our roles as the emcees, elf Dzingu-Lingu and elf Žvang-Žvang. Our act was such a hit last year that we are Lithuanian Saturday school Christmas pageant legends. Probably everybody wants our autographs, but is too shy to ask and don’t even get me started on why CNN Europe or Lithuanian Dawn has offerred to interview us yet.

V and I are feeling enormous self-imposed pressure to make this year’s pageant even better than the last. And since me descending from the ceiling suspended on an invisible cable in a pair of red tights and elf tunic is out of the question, we struggled a bit at first to come up with something equally creative. I’m dying to tell you our brilliant plan, but it will have to wait because I don’t want to spoil it for the Lithuanians who read my blog. (Special note to Lithuanians: Please don’t get too excited.) So just keep your fingers crossed that we come up with a script by Saturday morning and don’t choke on our lines.

Between decorating and vacuuming and practicing my elf moves and a side of sitting around in my pajamas putting random things in my Amazon shopping cart only to abandon them three hours later, I haven’t been able to focus on writing Posts with a Purpose.. But I miss blogging with regularity even though I’m not sure anyone is even reading this thing anymore. Is anyone reading this thing anymore?

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What This Tree Lacks in Balls, it Makes up for in Character

This year I decided to have a grown-up, matchy-matchy Christmas tree. No multi-color baubles or foam and popsicle stick reindeer for me! I bought a basketful of overpriced monochrome ornaments and pre-approved every one that the kids hung up. When Jonas and V-meister were done, there were ornament clusters hanging like overripe bananas from the tip of every bough and only the lower three tiers were covered. After they’d gone to bed, OCD fairy swooped in and re-arranged the low hanging fruit and voila! – I had my perfect tree. Not quite catalog worthy, but still very nice.

Even so, I couldn’t forsake the mismatched “heritage” ornaments sitting in shoe boxes on the kitchen counter with their thirty plus years of memories safely shut inside. The faded and tattered trinkets that, en masse, contribute to the double-edged joy and melancholy of Christmas. As much as I love taking each one out and examining it in turn, the process is bittersweet, reminding me of fleeting childhoods and loved ones long gone.

There are the faceless ceramic newlyweds my mother-in-law gave the P-Dawg and me for our first Christmas together:

The disfigured drummer boy my husband painted as a child:

"One time, at band camp . . ."

My school picture, circa 1980:

All I Want for Christmas is a Professional Haircut and Normal Front Teeth

The photo of my grandmother with two-year-old Jonas:

I Miss Her Very Much

The bird that always hung on my paternal grandmother’s tree. We used to call her “Other Grandmother,” or “Kita Mo?ut?” because “Mo?ut?” was already taken. Can you imagine? It never occured to us to call her, “Mo?ut? Marija,” which would have been beautiful, and her actual name.  I never used to like the bird, but now it speaks to me:

"Oh, hi there . . . Other Rima"

The V-Meister’s paper doll chains:

The retro skating Santa from my grandparents’ old house:

The book ornament that was my favorite as a child, with real stories inside:

And the pine cones decorated by Jonas and V-meister’s little hands:

We hung them all, and then some, on a miniature tree in the sunroom. Our own little Nostalgia Zone.

And the children rejoiced. As far as they’re concerned, this one is the REAL Christmas tree.

They just might be right.

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