I miss blogging. I’m rusty so here’s a repost as I try to jump-start myself mentally back into to writing.

Lately, (usually when I’m hopelessly lodged in traffic at the local mall) I’ve been pondering a lot over traditions of Christmas: baking, the tree, Advent wreaths, lights, Santa, gifts. Pretty much anyone that celebrates Christmas — or any holiday for that matter – follows family or cultural traditions of some sort.

Our family has derived a few traditions of our own. Christmas Eve for us usually means eating lots of food. Food that is generally submerged about 6 feet below the dietary pyramid. Our kids are allowed to open one gift (and only one) on Christmas Eve. Even if the gift sucks a little like a five pack of Hanes boxer briefs or a 16 ounce can of collard greens, too bad. There are no second chance gift openings on Christmas Eve. They’ll have to tough it out a full 12 hours ’til Christmas morning before they can even look at another present.

And on Christmas morning, our kids always spring out of bed at dawn to dig into their obese Christmas stockings. But bummer for Stella and Noah…they aren’t allowed to open any actual gifts until we are awake to join them. So of course, Ron and I take great pleasure in feigning Rip Van Winkle syndrome when they burst into our room demanding that we get up to open presents. You’d better believe that the sadistic parent in us makes sure we squeak out at least an additional 30 minutes of pretend shut eye amidst their “get up!” demands before we reluctantly crawl out of bed and down the stairs to join them around the tree.

When I was a kid we had a boatload of traditions. We’d hang stockings, and not the “fancy” stockings everyone has today. Back in the pioneer days when I grew up, we hung REAL stockings — and they were usually gold or brown cable knit knee-highs that contained a hole or two. My mom would make dozens of cookies, most containing dates or raisins (I don’t think my kids even know what a date is other than what has shown up occasionally at the door on a Saturday night for Stella). And my parents would be incredibly tricky and always “hid” our gifts in their closet — to the left, right behind my mom’s knitting basket and a stack of shoe boxes. Yah… we never found those gifts. Or tried them on. Or played with any of them before Christmas Eve.

But the one tradition of my childhood (and one we chose not to pass along to our kids) was the one my dad seemed to relish in the most.

My family opened gifts on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas morning. But first, we’d eat dinner and then head to church for the world’s longest worship service in history of the universe. And trust me…when I was 7 years old, I was more entranced in pondering the gifts waiting for me under the tree at home than I was about sitting in a pew singing about an angel named Herald who apparently was a hark (whatever that was).

After church, my parents spent about 7 hours standing around wishing friends a Merry Christmas, then we all loaded into the Monoco for the 14 hour drive home. When my dad finally turned onto our street and headed to our house, he’d sadistically dropped his speed to about 3.2 miles an hour. Then ever so slowly, he’d pull into the driveway, stop the car, and kill the motor.

“Everyone wait here!” he’d command to my brother, sisters, and me. “I need to go inside and see if Santa is still in there. And if he is, I’m going to get out my shotgun and shoot him!”

Then we’d start in with “No! No, Dad! Don’t do that! Don’t shoot Santa!”

Despite our pleading and whining, he’d get out of the car always muttering quietly (but just loud enough for us to hear) “Now, I wonder if I can find my shotgun….”

Needless to say, as I sat in the front seat of that car waiting while my siblings sat in back punching each other, I went into a general mode of panic. “Poor Santa…” I’d fearfully think to myself, “I hope he can run fast…but he’s so big.” As I stared at the house, I could see that lights were being turned on inside and imagined my dad rummaging through the hall closet for his shotgun. “I wonder if he’s still in there…,” I whispered to myself. But truthfully, the biggest worry of all was, “What if Dad shoots Santa before he can get my gifts under the tree?!

I’d stare at the picture window of our house, the tree silhouetted beyond the drapes. I could see movement. Wait. Was someone struggling in there? There was a figure standing…no…crawling around the tree. I couldn’t help wondering if Santa was being gunned down by my father in our family’s living room, toy sack and all. Perhaps what I was seeing was Santa beyond those drapes, feverishly trying to scramble across the floor away from my father’s wrath.

Christmas Eve church service was always long, but that wait in the driveway a diabolical eternity. But after what seemed like hours, my dad would finally come outside and motion to us to go into the house to see the gifts Santa had left under the tree. Each year I’d ask, “Did you see Santa?” Every year my dad would respond with, “Nope. He was gone before I could shoot him.”

Yup. This is one tradition we chose not to pass down to Stella and Noah. One that has probably saved them from years of intense Yuletide therapy.

Did your parents have any weird holiday traditions? Please comment!


Since we moved into this neighborhood a few years ago, we’ve been under an teensy bit of pressure during the Christmas season. We learned that our neighbors like to put up lights. A lot of lights. Like the kind that can be seen from a Russian satellite orbiting the earth.

There’s a little problem with this. Um…unlike the rest of the neighbors, we sort of really don’t like to put up lights. I know. I know. Bah humbug but my husband and I don’t find pleasure in standing out in sub zero temperatures with a pile of Christmas lights and a bunch of knotted up extension cords trying to figure out the “best” way to decorate our yard. I personally find sitting in front of the TV watching Seinfeld reruns with a gallon of wine in one hand and a vat of Christmas cookie dough in the other way more enjoyable. I also don’t like when people spend countless hours decorating their yards with lights, plastic angels, and inflatable Santas – then neglect to clean it all up until the following June when the snow finally melts.

Anyway, just to give you a better picture of how our street looks — when one of our friends found out where our new house was located she said excitedly, “Oh…you live on the street that puts up all of those Christmas lights every year! You must be out there for days decorating! Which house is yours?” When we explained that ours was the dark, haunted-looking house at the end of the road she said, “Wow. That’s your house? When I took my kids down your street and saw that house, I told them a bunch of pagans must live there.”

Well, hardly.

But as things go, after that comment I found myself cracking under the pressure and added a couple of (tasteful) lit trees on either side of our front door. Then last year, I painstakingly decorated a small bush with one of those light nets you basically just unfold and carelessly fling over your landscaping. This year I added a few lights to another puny bush (or maybe it’s a dried up weed, I’m not sure. I only know it’s big enough to hold a string of lights) but I’m still was nowhere near the “festive-quotient” the neighbors have designated for our street.

“You need to get Floyd down from the garage rafters,” I told Ron one Saturday morning. Floyd was the life sized (if you’re 4 years old) plastic snowman we’d purchased about 15 years ago at a home improvement store. Floyd had been stashed away high in our garage behind boxes and containers since we’d moved into the house.

Ron pulled the ladder out, climbed up near the ceiling, and retrieved Floyd. I immediately went to work, wiping the webs and dirt off of his overly-jolly face and placed him “at attention” outside near the corner of our garage. I was pretty pumped about how incredibly festive he made the small area near the sidewalk look.

The next day I when I went outside to my car, I noticed Floyd was gone.

“What the…?” I looked around panicked, scanning the driveway for his whereabouts. I headed toward the front yard where I found him face down under a large pine tree. “”Ohhhhh….The wind must have blown Floyd under the tree.” I pulled him out from under the pine, carefully brought him over to the house, and lovingly plugged him back in. “Poor guy,” I said, admiring him for a moment before I got into my car and drove away.

A few days later, same thing. I went outside and Floyd was nowhere to be seen. I frantically checked the driveway, front yard, and even crawled under the pine tree. No Floyd.

I ran around one side of the house, then the other. It was then that I spotted Floyd. Weird. How he got as far away as he did was disturbingly strange. This time, he had come loose, rolled all the way around the house, across the yard, and toward the woods that border our back yard.

A bit miffed this time, I carted Floyd across our yard, back to his spot in front of the garage, and plugged him in for the third time. As a safety measure, I moved him closer to the house hoping that he’d be somewhat shielded from the wind.

A few mornings later, Ron went out to start his truck but immediately came back inside. “Diane, you need to come here and look at this.” Even though I was still adorned in my Old Mother Hubbard-style pajamas, I followed Ron out to the driveway where he simply stopped and pointed. “He’s really starting to bug me.” Floyd was, once again loose, but this time he was lodged under Ron’s truck. Of course, he was still wearing that smug smile. “He’s a jerk,” Ron said. “He’s doing this to us on purpose now.”

I personally was sick of the guy, myself. Why weren’t other people’s Christmas decorations blowing defiantly around their yards? Why were we the only family on the street that owned a snowman with an attitude? I am ashamed to admit it, but part of me was actually really beginning to despise him.

After some discussion about accountability and consequences, Ron pried Floyd out from under his truck and dragged him into the garage. We had given Floyd a chance to shine and he blew it. I hope he enjoys spending the rest of the holiday season staring at the dark corner in the back of our garage….unless of course, he somehow manages to get loose and pulls another stunt.

Do you decorate your yard for the holidays? If so, do you enjoy it or do you do it out of obligation or “peer” pressure? Please comment!

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I know what this may look like at first glance, but I swear…it’s not what you think.

I was making my “famous” Hearty Chicken Wild Rice Soup (really, one of the only things I can actually cook) and had  a bit of a mishap. I was transferring the white sauce required for the soup to a larger pot and…kinda missed.

No worries! The moment the dog heard my bloodcurdling profanity, she knew it was the cue to run into the kitchen to see what delicious goodies I had splattered on the floor.  Fortunately, unlike the rest of the crew around here, she’s not picky and actually loves the stuff I cook up.

And will you look at that? Moments later, the floor is virtually spotless.  You could almost eat off  of it, it’s so clean and shiney (and sanitary)!  I’m actually thinking about squirting gravy on all of my windows to see if she’ll lap those clean, too.

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I’m very excited to share a guest post from my friend and fellow blogger, Christi. Her  unique perspective on life in the “burbs” keeps me glued to her blog, “One Chic Mom’s Adventures in Suburbia.”  Be sure to check it out (and don’t forget to welcome her here with a friendly comment!).

Aren’t they called “running” shoes for a reason?


Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you step off of your treadmill at the gym and two rows behind you spot some guy going at it full throttle on the elliptical machine wearing a black leather jacket zipped up to the neck!! What the hell?! Now I’ve never seen anyone having a workout in leather except for Bono in concert who is always sweating up a storm in his leather jacket and pants. But he’s a rock star! Maybe this guy is a Bono-wanna-be but come on, who wears a leather jacket to work out on an elliptical machine?

When I walked back to my treadmill to wipe it down after my workout, I noticed that the woman next to me was walking barefoot on the treadmill with her shoes neatly lined up next to the machine. Again, what is going on today?! I can see not wearing shoes if you are swimming or in a yoga class, but no shoes on a treadmill is rather odd. And yes, I have read the accounts of the new craze of running barefoot outside which supposedly helps prevent foot injuries. Ouch! I’ll stick to my sneakers both indoors and out thank you. But what is worse? Going barefoot on a nasty treadmill or wearing Crocs or flip flops while lifting weights? I’ve witnessed both at my gym. Hopefully flip-flop wearers have a good grip and don’t drop anything on a naked toe.

Since I’m being so judgmental today about what constitutes proper gym attire, I’ll just continue on with some of the odd workout wear choices I’ve noticed recently. As always, there are the gals in full make-up, dosed with perfume in their expensive coordinated workout outfits. At least they are wearing shoes, albeit costly ones. At the pool a couple of times a year some poor man who is not training for a triathlon will don a Speedo. Cringe! Then there are those folks (men and women alike) who should just not be wearing lycra.

I always love the old men who wear their running shorts mid-thigh with their white tube socks pulled up to their knees. Occasionally (usually during a college break) you’ll get some young and incredibly shapely girl clad only in her sports bra and lycra running shorts. She’s usually paired with her beefy college boyfriend who keeps the gawkers at bay. Sometimes you can spot “youth” wearing their knit black skull caps and very loosely fitting shorts with their music cranked up louder than the already cranked up music blaring on the gym loudspeakers.

One of my all-time favorites is an impressively well-endowed woman in her 30s who runs sans sports bra on the treadmill. She rolls up her tank top, tucks it up under her breasts so everyone is in full view of not only her flopping chest but her roll of stomach spilling out over the top of her shorts. Not a pretty sight, but I see her dressed like that every time so she must be quite comfortable with herself. Maybe that’s what it comes down to. What is your comfort level? Everyone’s is different but some people certainly are more out there than others. But I guess it doesn’t matter what you wear, as long as you are working up a sweat.

Now most members of my fitness club do adhere to the unwritten proper dress code, including myself. But I do have to admit that I’m one of those skinny girls clad in a running top and shorts who is frantically lifting weights to add some muscle weight to my slight frame. Yes, I’ve set myself up for this one so fire away . . .

Christianna Shortridge is a chic suburban Mom who left the rat-race and political fiasco of Washington, DC behind her when she moved to the Twin Cities eight years ago. In addition to driving, feeding, and monitoring her two independent teenagers, one high-maintenance tween, and a very barky Cairn Terrier, she is a freelance writer and owner of her strategic communications and graphic design firm: UnConventionally Yours. Christianna loves blogging about the everyday life of suburban Moms, running 5K races, tending her flower gardens, baking elaborate desserts, and climbing mountains in Japan.

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