Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Merry McRoadtrippin McChristmas

Considering I had been watching Hallmark Christmas movies since the afternoon of October 31st, to say Christmas snuck up on us this year would be a straight-up lie. But no matter how it happens, once it's over, it always feels like, whew! That was fast! And this year was no different, even though preparations didn't near meet the level of last year. But no matter - we all enjoyed the holiday and that's what really matters. We enjoyed it so much, here we are talking about it in February!

For starters, I didn't make any cookies or make treat-deliveries to any neighbors because I'm pretty sure they hate me, feel sorry for Jacob that he's married to me, and can hear me yelling at my children. So I thought my gift to them would be sparing them our traveling circus. And Santa didn't seem to mind the Reese's Peanut Butter Trees and the on-the-verge-of-going-bad apple slices we left for him and his reindeer.

 Christmas presents from Grandma and Grandpa!

 Ohhhh the tree was definitely a challenge this year!

 Our Third Grade ornaments, always together and always near our "Future Mr. and Mrs. 2009" ornament.

And of course this gem, from our First Grade. Mine is currently with my parents.

Captain Adorable, reporting for Christmas baking duty! Although since I did none, he was most likely getting ready to "help" me pull out some fish sticks.

 I did, however, do some Christmas Drinkin'! Here, (a) Jack Frost is nipping at my nose at my friend, Paula's, now-annual Christmas party.

 Us ladies like our Jacks!

 Paula and I totally shop at the same Wal-Mart.

 They said, "Do what the teenagers are doing now!" Clearly I know exactly what that is.

 Although we had a "light" Christmas this year, we mainly stuck to tradition because that's what makes the holidays fun. Here we are with our Dashboard Dinner to drive around and view the town's Christmas light displays on Christmas Eve.

The face of a child who thinks she just saw the real Santa Clause flying around in the sky on Christmas Eve.

 Our very own Griswolds in Billings!

 Griswolds, we are not! Hashtag: winning!

 You can't tell but even the dogs came with us to see the lights.

Gifts from Santa.

"Santa" thought Zoey would think "his" note was cool, so after "Santa" had a few beers, "Santa" spent a good 30-minutes on the masterpiece, then "Santa" was thoroughly disappointed when Zoey barely noticed. Fuckin' kids.

Nice List or Naughty List?? Who can tell?

 The Monster High Pony she asked for from Santa, which is pretty much a Satan action figure (and which she promptly forgot about in favor of fighting with Holden over his light-up, musical, made-for-a-one-year-old toys).

A boy and his dogs.

Santa (aka Grandma) came through for Louis, too.

Catching squirrels that are just handed to you in pretty wrapping is so much less work!

Mr. Squirrel fulfilling his destiny.

This crazy, stretchable stuffed animal that Grandma Sally found just happens to be something advertised on TV, AND comes with a workout and dance DVD.

Holden decided Zoey's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sneakers were for him, and the stuffed Charlie Brown actually was for him. I think they kind of look alike... :-)

Zoey wasn't sure what this was but was SURE she was going to love it; *this* being what I know from my childhood as a "Skip It." Skip It was - what I can ascertain from the always-informative box - purchased, or something, by Twister, so now it's called a or other. Whatever, it's a fuckin' Skip It.

Hat - check; Montana-based - check; car-themed - check!

Also a throwback to my childhood (and my mom's, I think), is the Loom. Here I'm trying to show Zoey how to do it even though my memories of doing it are about as clear as a vague dream.

She's a smarty and was able to figure it out, she's just not very patient, like most people, which is probably why *I* stopped Looming in the first place. And going to the gym.

Looming is serious business.

Our Very Merry McIntyre McChristmas McDinner.
Our holiday plans didn't go beyond opening presents on Christmas morning, then heading up to Jacob's parent's house. But about halfway there, in true Montana White-Christmas fashion, the car started smoking. We pulled into the next rest stop where Jacob tried to determine what was wrong, as three White, seemingly American people stopped, did their business, stole a glance in our direction, then went on their way. It was at about the same time two Middle Eastern truckers asked if we were ok that Jacob discovered what was wrong but just needed one specific tool to get us back home (a minor repair was still needed, which obviously couldn't be done Christmas day). They happened to have the tool, gave Jacob moral support as he ghetto-rigged his pants belt around something under the hood, then they headed on their way as we headed on ours. During the 25-mile drive back home, I lamented that I a) had zero plans for dinner; 2) even if I had an idea, nothing was thawed out; and D) I hadn't bothered to run the dishwasher since I don't like leaving the house with appliances running, so even if I had an idea, or something thawed out, I had nothing to serve it on.
We considered driving through McDonalds but decided against it, and ultimately discovered later that they wouldn't have been open anyway. Not like the Chinese restaurant, though, which was busier than we had ever seen it. We drove by to see the parking lot full of cars, and waited on the phone for take-out for close to 20-minutes.

We did make it to Columbus about a week later, which had yet another set of obstacles.

 After safely making the 40-mile drive to Grandma and Grandpa's house, with the car acting appropriately, we were halted less than a mile from their house because recent snowfall plus high winds covers up small roads not maintained by the county. Jacob's dad was out there with the plow, but with the snow so thick, deep, and iced-over, he'd get stuck after clearing away only a little; plow, plow, plow, dig out. Plow, plow, plow, dig out. And since the snow was so thick, deep, and iced-over, me and the kids had little to do but wait in the car and blast Mariah Carey's Christmas album. And Zoey learned the art of peeing outside, like a true Mountain Girl.

This Christmas was different, the same, happy, and of course stressful. I de-McChristmas-ed the house a few days later, way before New Years, which is just another day around the McIntyre household.

I did, however, continue to get lost in Hallmark movies.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

"Life is Short; Eat Dessert First"

Someone somewhere sometime ago said something along the lines of it being the small things that shape who you are. Looking back, I realize it was two childhood friends - one who would shut her bedroom door and let her parakeets out of their cage, and another who had a giant rooster that chased and pecked children - who sparked my intense fear of birds (I have yet to reach my fear of butterflies epiphany), and a random kitchen magnet emblazoned in my mind that I constantly find myself returning to: "Life is Short; Eat Dessert First."

A present from my mom's mom to her, I didn't understand it until Mom explained, "It means that you never know what is going to happen next so you should do the good things first - dessert."


Mind. Blown.

So while it's not necessarily what I'd refer to as my "life motto," it was this year's Thanksgiving theme; what I like to call Dessertsgiving.

All homemade, Bitches (including the kid, if you can spot him in the picture)! Our Halloween McJackolanterns turned into that pumpkin pie, I made Apple Crumble (which turned out to be my best yet and can no longer be called Apple Crap), brownies, both plain and with candy canes inside, and carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. And what compliments dessert better than booze and hot cocoa? Ummm, nothing!

I also bought some vanilla and Butter Pecan ice cream to accompany but we got distracted and full from everything else.

Growing up, Thanksgiving was always a big holiday, filled with smells of yummy deliciousness and screams at the TV. As Jacob and I have gotten older, and thus more adult-er, Thanksgiving has turned into just another Thursday. I do, however, put out some decorations, and - although I've been watching Christmas movies since Halloween - refuse to put out a single Christmas decoration until December.

These are by far my most favorite fall decorations of them all.

And I do make it a point to cook a bird of some kind. Our family is a tad small for a giant turkey, and my leftover options aren't as expansive as with chicken, so that's what I made. Zoey was a little disappointed we weren't having turkey until I reminded her that she's had chicken the last three Thanksgivings, and we're especially honoring the turkey because we spared one; our own little Presidential Pardon.

I also made green bean casserole (with homemade cream sauce and fried onions!) because it's my favorite, and roasted sweet potatoes because they had been sitting on my counter and I didn't know what else to do with them.

And then we had a little more turkey and ham.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Drink n' Treating!

Just like I never thought I'd think football was part of the fun of fall - or that I'd even think there *were* fun parts of fall - I never thought I'd enjoy one of the pinnacle points of the season: Halloween. But if I've learned anything from my countless hours of Hallmark Channel viewing, it's that nothing makes you appreciate something more than experiencing it through your children's eyes.

Oh, and booze. Booze makes everything better. But I learned that simply from being a parent.

 I never imagined I'd even acknowledge Halloween, much less actually decorate. But I think it has more to do with me loving the Dollar Tree.

 I bought this pumpkin to kick off the season with various pumpkin-flavored foods - breads, coffee creamer, etc. But Zoey had other ideas...

 So, we gonna carve these, or not?

Dear Adult Zoey and Holden, Please do THIS...

 Aside from Trick or Treating, I hadn't considered any other Halloween-themed activities. Mer asked me if we were going to carve pumpkins and I was like, "Meh." I asked Jacob about it and he said, "I like it, and the kids would think it's fun," so I bought two pumpkins, and envisioned Holden playing with the goopy insides. Instead, he wanted no part of it, playing with his toys on the floor, while Zoey was quickly distracted and ran around the house with bat wings she made at school that day. Jacob was outside with a gentleman he sold his truck-topper to, so I sat on the floor and carved the pumpkins by myself. They sat out on the stoop for a couple of days before I cut them in half and threw them in the oven for future Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

A freakishly MONSTROUS stack of pancakes.
While exploiting the kid-friendly aspects of the holiday is enjoyable for us parents - free candy, silly decorations, the one day a year you can wear jammies in public and not be ridiculed (yes, people of Wal-Mart, we are judging you) - we've also found ways to adult-up the day, like our now-annual tradition of Drink or Treating.

It started back in 2011 when Meredith and our book club friend, Whitney (of the happy, yet crazy house), suggested we take our similarly-aged children Trick-or-Treating. The house we were living in at the time was in a neighborhood not conducive to the occasion, and Mer's neighborhood really goes all out for the holiday, so that's where we trekked, dogs with their cooler backpacks included. We've since moved to my (new/different) neighborhood, Cooler Dogs still included, and now us adults look forward to it just as much as the kids.

 Zombie Debbie and her Exorcist Pumpkin. When she arrived, I said of her costume, "Let me guess, you're a Mom!" Oh, I'm just so clever...

 Hot Dog Mummies, this year with my homemade biscuit dough.

 Coffin Quesadillas (suck it, Pinterest!)

 Spider Donuts

 Eliza, the Fairy without wings, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a witch of some sort. A+ for creativity!

 Debbie brought some face paints so Zoey became the Butterfly Ninja Turtle. And for the rest of the night, every 10 seconds she'd rip off her mask and ask the person standing nearest to her, "Is my butterfly face paint still on?!"

The Drink or Treating Crew! Mark, Mer, Me, Jacob, Andy, and Debbie. And the Coolers, Kona and Boone.

McInTurtles in a half-shell! Turtle Power!

We all had a lot of fun this Halloween, and I legitimately can't wait for next year; Holden will be older and able to participate more, making my future holidays filled with even more kid-fun. I'll take that over the gruesome parts of the holiday any day.