10 Things I Learned Over the Holiday Weekend


What I Learned Over the Holiday Weekend. By Paula (age 37 3/4).

1. Teenagers, in general, get a bad rap.
We entered my aunt and uncle’s house on Thanksgiving Day and found ourselves smack-dab in the middle of a very large group of teenagers. What’s the collective term for teens? Herd? Gaggle? No matter. The point is, they were everywhere I turned. When did all of my cousins’ kids grow up, I wondered. And seriously, how old does that make me? Well, considering I remember watching news broadcasts about the birth of my cousin’s “miracle triplets” when I was a sophomore in college…and they are now seniors in high school…you do the math.

What I couldn’t get over after spending the day hanging out with so many pre-teens, teens, and soon-to-be-post teens was how awesome these kids are. Outgoing. Polite. Funny. Respectful. Grounded. I kept thinking to myself, “Man, I hope this runs in the family! There may be hope for my boys yet!” Really, though. How often do we hear about how self-centered, disrespectful, or lazy this generation is? I think sometimes the people who are labeling kids this way just aren’t looking hard enough. On Thanksgiving we had teens visiting with us “old folks,” initiating board games with their older aunts, uncles, and cousins, and washing the dishes without even being asked. A few of the kids even took it upon themselves to create a paper turkey, with blank feathers left out for everyone to fill in with something they’re thankful for. How cool is that?

2. You know your friends are true when they don’t get mad at you for standing them up at 4:30 a.m in the Target parking lot.
So, first I was going to go with my friend Kara to Toys R Us at 11:30 Thanksgiving night to get in line for when the doors opened at midnight. THEN I called her back and said I’d decided to skip Toys R Us and would meet her at Target at 4:30 in the morning instead.

And THEN I overslept. And nearly missed my 7 a.m. breakfast date with Kara and our other friend Jody. I felt bad for standing up Kara and ignoring the various Tweets and texts they had both left me. But instead of being irritated or upset, they told me I must’ve needed the sleep and then proceeded to shower me with good-friend attention and advice.

They get me, accept me for who I am, but sometimes tell me things I need to hear. This is why I love them.

3. After refraining from eating crap for several weeks and then eating crap again, crap tastes pretty darn good.
I was doing really well at staying away from the pop (“soda” for those of you not from Iowa), sugars, and empty carbs. And I’m pretty sure I’d lost an inch or two. But then came Thanksgiving, which this year coincided with a visit from my “Aunt Flo.” Deadly combination. I became a human vacuum cleaner of anything even remotely edible that contained chocolate, salt, bread, peanut butter, regular butter, or Worcestershire sauce (Curse you, Chex Mix!). Hence, the pants are not fitting quite as well this week as I suffer the aftermath.

4. My kids are not afraid of snakes.
My in-laws, being the kind souls they are, came up this weekend to help us paint our family room and kitchen. (I say help “us” paint, but I’m fairly certain you wouldn’t find one of my fingerprints on any of the brushes or rollers.) So my parents took the boys from Thursday evening until Saturday, which was perfect for everyone involved (except possibly my parents). When I picked up the kids, they each had a photo of themselves—with a snake wrapped around their neck. Did they go to a circus, or maybe the zoo? I wondered. Nope. When I inquired about the slithery creature, I was told matter-of-factly by Boy #1: “Grandpa accidentally stepped on it in the basement so he brought it upstairs.” Oh. Of course. Note to self: Never go in my parent’s basement EVER AGAIN.

5. Walls look sooooo much better with a fresh coat of paint.
Although I had grown rather accustomed to the blue scribbles in the bathroom, the spaghetti sauce splatters in the kitchen, and the brown “don’t ask, don’t tell” smears that mysteriously appeared in random wall locations (no more than 3 foot high), I have to say that they will not be missed now that they are permanently covered in warm tan paint.

6. If you come home from a quick trip to Home Depot and find that your kitchen table is mysteriously gone, and upon inquiring on its whereabouts you are told, “Funny story…” just know that “funny” could mean several things, from “hilarious” to “not really funny at all.”
Another lesson learned: Do not stand on the kitchen table to reach that spot that needs painted on the ceiling. Especially if the leaf is in the table. And if the table is 10 years old. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), I did not witness the table breaking under my husband’s weight. When I left, the table was intact in the kitchen. When I returned a half hour later, it was in pieces by the garbage can outside. So we are now eating on a short rectangular table I had snagged at a sale our school district had a few years ago. It has lovely gray metal legs and a faux-wood top besmeared with a large red stain. I bought a Christmas tablecloth for it, which does hide the stain but does not hide the fact that the table slopes sharply to one side, so much so that whoever is sitting on the east side has to be careful that their plate doesn’t slide into their lap. It really is a classy look.

7. You are allowed to throw away socks that have holes in them or haven’t seen their mates since the late 90s. Really.
This is one of those “I did not know that” moments I experienced this weekend as my poor mother-in-law was trying to help me dig out my laundry room floor, as well as the floors of the boys’ bedrooms. She kept finding socks everywhere. Socks with holes, socks with stains. Socks with Snoopy carrying golf clubs. Socks with Long Duck Dong from 16 Candles. Socks that would barely fit a 6-month-old. It seems I have a little problem with holding on to socks. Because you never know when you might need a pair of lime green socks with a small hole in the toe, or when you might find that mate that went AWOL two years ago.

So we threw socks away. Lots of socks. Nearly a whole garbage bag full of socks. And I have to tell you—it felt good.

8. It is possible to have too many clothes and yet never have anything to wear.
This is closely related to #7 above. Along with holding on to socks, I also am trying to get over an obsession of holding on to the boys’ clothes. Because I have three boys, you know, which means I shouldn’t have to ever buy clothes for the younger ones, right? Well, I am here to tell you that this little plan to be frugal can backfire. And you can end up with a basement full of clothes that there’s no way one boy could ever wear, not to mention the fact that since I have boys, many are stained, ripped, or otherwise maimed.

My mother-in-law helped me break this bad habit, as well, smartly pointing out that since there is not only a four-year difference between Boys #1 and #2, but also a huge size difference, the chance of Boy #2 wearing Boy #1’s old clothes in the next decade is not favorable. So I’ve bagged up lots and lots of clothes, and I’m only saving the really good clothes, and no more than can fit in a dresser and closet at one time. And you know what? Yeah, it feels good too.

9. There’s something comforting about a homely little Christmas tree—especially when it’s free.
On Sunday I managed to get our Christmas tree up—not decorated yet, but up. This tree was Husband’s grandmother’s tree, and it has seen its share of Christmases. But instead of sneering at its crooked trunk or finding frustration while trying to hide the inevitable gaping hole between branches, I have learned to embrace this tree the past few years. Not only has it saved us the cost of $50 each year for a real Christmas tree or at least $100 for a brand-new artificial one, it has provided us with smiles as we think about all the memories it holds in its fake needles and as we remember that just like this tree, none of us are perfect, but we are all beautiful in the eyes of our Maker. It’s our very own Charlie Brown tree, and I have a feeling we’ll be putting it up until all that’s left is one branch bending under the weight of a single ornament and wrapped at the base in a well-loved blue blanket.

10. Your weekend is not complete unless someone is puking in your bed on Monday morning.
That was Boy #3. In our bed.

Aaaaaand, the vacation is officially over.

Hope you learned a lot over your long Holiday weekend as well!


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