Let’s All Go to the Movies

Whoever thought it would be a good idea to go to the mall to see a movie on the day after Christmas was kind of an idiot. Oh, I guess that was me. After pulling in to the parking lot and realizing that it was waaaaay more packed than it had been on Black Friday (Yes, I went. Don’t judge.), Husband decided that was a good time to remind me that last year we went to a movie in the morning. And when we walked out of the theater and surveyed the crowd which had gone from “somewhat busy” to “violating fire code insanity,” we had remarked, “Good thing we didn’t wait until 2:00 to come!”

I glanced at my phone: 2:30.

Oh well. We were there, and we managed to find a parking spot. We had already tried to eat at Five Guys with the thought we would go to a later show, but when we couldn’t even get in the door because of the line, we thought we’d see a show first, and eat later. So in we went.

I have never been to Grand Central Station, but I’ve seen it in the movies, and this seemed pretty darn close. Some people waiting in one of several long lines, other people leaning against walls and larger-than-life ads of a cartoon baby in a suit or LEGO Batman and still others just wandering around in circles, staring up at the movie times in red LEDs, muttering to themselves. I looked up at that same movie sign, scanning it for Rogue One, and finally found the 2:50 showing. My joy was quickly dissipated, though, when the 2:50 suddenly changed to the word “FULL.” Crap. So I stood in line for 10 minutes to get tickets for the next showing, all the while wondering what the heck we were going to do in this crowded mall for over an hour and a half.

It’s not like we’re huge shoppers — especially the boys — but couple that with the fact that it was literally difficult to even move through the walkways in between the stores, and the prospect of leisurely shopping at Bath & Body Works or for God’s sake the Apple Store made me feel nauseous. We did, however, have to make an exchange at Hot Topic, so we decided to venture there. But first we had to make it through the food court.

As we tried to weave our way through the people and around the lines, I reverted back to my “mom of little kid” self and couldn’t fight the urge to grab my boys’ hands in the fear that we would get separated and never see each other again. First we walked past Zombie Burger, which had a sizable line, but at least they had organized it, and since it was at the end of the food court, had people standing right next to the wall instead of out in the walkway with everyone else. And everything was going ok — until we came to the hallway for the restrooms.

So many people were spilling out of there, and it seemed to me like they were all moving in fast motion. It was like a hose was turned on and was just spraying these people out. I honestly found myself thinking, “What is going on in there? Are they having some sort of entertainment back by the vending machines and the family restroom?” And of course these people were all swimming against the stream or trying to merge into our lane that was headed out of the food court. It was literally body-to-body contact with perfect strangers. What made it even more challenging was that half of them were also carrying trays — trying not to lose their Potato Ole’s or Mongolian beef and rice.

When we finally reached the end of the food court and could come up for air, at least for a few precious seconds, we shuffled to Hot Topic, just a few stores down. And we entered.

Have you ever been to a Hot Topic store? I don’t know if it’s every Hot Topic or just the one at our mall, but I’m positive it carries the most merchandise per square foot of any other store in the world. T-shirts, skirts, robes, pajamas, keychains, bags, Pop figures, earrings, chokers, lanyards, candy, posters — it’s all there. All jammed together. And to display all this merch, they have to have racks and display cases and shelves everywhere. It was a maze, but with what seemed like only dead ends. We could see the wall of t-shirts that Boy #2 needed to get to in order to pick out a shirt to exchange, but getting there was an entirely other matter. We tried to walk around the Pokemon display — blocked by a tween girl with pigtails and her mom. We tried to squeeze between the “Stranger Things” and Disney Princess racks — blocked again by two guys who seemed way too old to be buying a Pikachu onesie. Finally, after going what seemed to be the longest distance between two points possible, we made it to the wall.

I instantly got dizzy looking up at all of the t-shirts that were displayed clear up to the ceiling. Boy #2 hadn’t decided what he wanted, so we stood there, pressed against the wall and sweating, necks craning, trying to decide between the sloth in space, Edgar Allen Poe on a police bike and pug with laser eyes. Finally, he settled on an Alexander Hamilton one, which I would agree was a good choice considering some of the alternatives.

So here I made the sacrifice moms make, telling Boys #2 and 3 to save themselves as I fought my way to the checkout. Again, taking the most circuitous route possible, I managed to get to the end of one of two lines. There were arrows on the floor that I think were supposed to help us know where the lines began and ended, but they did not seem to actually correlate to anything related to the line or the cash registers, so we all ignored them and just picked a place to stand and wait. After 15 minutes waiting behind another middle-aged mom with glazed-over eyes and her teenage daughter who was buying a hardly-anything-there babydoll top that made me thankful I didn’t have girls, I finally made my even exchange.

When I stepped out of the store, I took a deep breath and also instinctively covered my eyes at the sudden change from dungeon darkness (I’m pretty sure they don’t have any lights in Hot Topic, or if they do, they’re always burned out) to bright mall light. I found Husband and the boys, who appeared to be having just as good of a time as I was, leaned up against the wall between Lids and Orange Julius. At this point, Boys #2 and 3 were starving and didn’t think they could wait until after the movie to eat, so we headed back into the belly of the beast—the food court.

I don’t know how you get when you’re hot and tired, but in our family, we become incapable of making any sort of decision. Such was the case here, and we stood, trying not get knocked over by other hungry people, taking turns saying, “I don’t care” when asked where we should get something to eat. I had to go to my happy place and do some inner self-talk to remind myself that we were having a fun family adventure and so I shouldn’t completely freak out on them. Finally, we went with the shortest line, which was an Italian place that curiously had no line as opposed to the other restaurants that were at least 8 people deep. The thought that it was because the food totally sucked crossed my mind, but at this point I didn’t care. I just needed something to fill my boys up and waste about 40 more minutes of time. Crappy pizza it was.

We actually managed to find a booth without wandering around hunting for 10 minutes. Out of the corner of my eye I spied a family getting up from the table and made a beeline, ready to knock over an old man or small child if I had to in order to secure the seats. (Ok, I wouldn’t really have knocked over innocent people, especially vulnerable ones like old men or toddlers. At least I don’t think I would have.) As we went to sit down, Boy #3 said, “Mom are we really going to sit here? The table’s all dirty and still has people’s trash on it.” Just sit down I said in a guttural voice that emanated from deep within, and I think Boy #3 knew that he probably shouldn’t complain again.

And there we sat, waiting until we could get into our movie at 4:15. We didn’t even chance having the boys get up out of the booth to get napkins for fear of someone else trying to hone in on their seats, so, like the good mom I am, I just told them to wipe off the blobs of pizza sauce on their faces with their hands. “But it’s all over my hands now!” Boy #3 whined. “Just keep rubbing your hands together and it will go away,” I heard myself saying.

Finally it was time. We could get into our theater, where we could at least wait in the comfort of cushiony seats that recline a little and, even though the movie eventually filled up, was still much less crowded and hectic than the rest of the mall. By the time the movie finally started, we had already eaten our popcorn, but we didn’t even care. The movie was really good, and the conversation afterward at Applebee’s, breaking down the scenes over hamburgers and hot-wings-Boy #2-didn’t-realize-were-actually-hot-even-though-they-were-called-hotwings, was priceless.

I think we’ll do this again next year.

Things That Would Only Happen to Me (and Liz Lemon): The Christmas Edition Part 1

The dog’s favorite place to be (besides running free throughout the neighborhood)

Ahh, the first day back from Christmas break. We had the usual—great times with family, nail-biting games of Life, hunting expeditions for lost Lego pieces of newly opened Christmas gifts. There were, however, several episodes that I will share, because I have no shame. I’ve gone ahead and stashed these in the “Things that would only happen to me (and Liz Lemon)” file. (It’s getting quite thick.)

We’ll start with just one story to whet your appetite. Don’t worry, there are more to come this week.

Remember that dog that I’ve told you about a few times? Yeah, the one that bit me the week before Christmas, that’s the one. Well, he’s still here awaiting trial. Or until I can find him another home. The morning of Christmas Eve was actually going fairly smoothly. But I made the mistake of specifically noting this to myself. That’s when it all went bad.

Boys #1 and #2 were helping by carrying gifts out to the van. We were heading to my parents’ house for brunch and boisterous gift-unwrapping. We were actually making good time, too, which should’ve been my first clue that something was about to go down. As I stood in the doorway, making sure Boy #2 could get to the van safely with his basket of presents, I felt something brush by my leg, and my stomach dropped. I looked out just in time to see a streak of fur tearing through the snow.

Yes, I had let the dog out.

Needless to say, the good mood and glad tidings that had previously lingered in my house immediately evaporated. I was mad at myself, but apparently not as mad as Husband was at me, as he continued to ask me the same question: “WHY did you stand with the door open? What were you thinking?”

Now, tell me how I’m supposed to answer that question. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking, at least about what I should’ve been thinking about, which is where my dog might be lurking waiting for that perfect opportunity for another jailbreak. It wasn’t until we were leaving a Christmas dinner two days later when Husband backed into his brother’s van, which was parked DIRECTLY BEHIND us, IN CLEAR SIGHT, and I continued to ask him, “WHY did you back into his van? WHY? What were you thinking?” that I think he began to understand the futility of his question. But I digress.

So we continued to load the van while we watched the dog prance through the snow and gallavant throughout the neighborhood. We knew it would do no good to chase him; he’s way too fast. And he knows every trick we try to lure him in. Despite this, I tried leaving the front door open and hiding behind it, peeking through the crack to see if he’d come inside his warm home if he didn’t think we were around. He didn’t fall for it.

I also tried leaving a trail of treats leading up to the house. He just ate them and ran. We then got in the van and drove around and around the neighborhood, periodically opening the van door and asking, “Wanna go for a ride?” The dog would psych us out for a minute, acting like he just might fall for it, and then he’d dash off to terrorize some dog stuck behind a fence.

This literally went on for an hour and a half. Sometimes the dog would stand in the front yard and me in the doorway, and we’d have a staredown. He always won.

Finally, I heard the dog barking from the house behind us, and I knew my neighbors had let him outside. I realized this may be my only chance to save Christmas, since we were basically prisoners at home until the dog came inside. We couldn’t leave him because it was so cold and knowing that he had just bit me. We couldn’t chance him running loose.

So I grabbed a blanket and tromped through the knee-high snow to the wooden fence behind our house. Sure enough, the dog was running the fence with the neighbor dog, barking like crazy. Even though he was focused on the other dog, he’s smart enough to still pay attention to what I was doing, and every time he’d run near me, he’d arc out JUST enough that I missed him when I tried to grab. But I had a plan.

Slowly I inched toward the corner of the house, knowing that trapping him may be my only hope. He took the bait and I finally had my chance. Quickly, I threw the blanket over him and pounced. (Yes, I literally pounced.) Needless to say, the dog was not happy to have been caught in a blanket trap, although I think secretly he was a little bit happy because he had ice and snow frozen onto his beard and I’m sure he was a wee bit cold. He snarled and tried to bite me, as I knew he would, but I just kept him wrapped in the blanket and carried the 20+ pound dog through the snow into the house. There was NO WAY I was letting go, no matter what he did to me. After all, Christmas was at stake!

After coming into the house, making sure all the doors were shut tight, and depositing the dog-in-a-blanket onto the kitchen floor, I picked up my phone and dialed Husband, who had been in the van with the boys for nearly 30 minutes.

“The eagle has landed,” I said (or rather, panted) when Husband said hello.

“Huh?” he asked. Apparently he didn’t get my spy humor.

“I caught the dog,” I said.

“Oh,” he said.

And we were off, me out of breath, my hair and makeup ruined and wearing jeans that were sopping wet from the knees down. We were about 45 minutes late for brunch, but we did make it. And that, my friends,  was a Christmas miracle.

When Christmas doesn’t play out like a Christmas carol

I’m trying to get into the Christmas spirit, people. I really am.

But sometimes, despite how much I love the Christmas season, it also makes me a little grumpier. I think it’s because I love it so much that I also become more easily irritable and disappointed when life isn’t playing out like it is for those in my favorite Christmas carols. Things just aren’t fa-la-la-la-la-ing like they’re supposed to this time of year, you know?

For example, my Christmas tree (O Christmas tree). How lovely are your branches. Well, the ones that still have needles on them, I should say. Oh, and only when the tree is actually still bedecked in ornaments and tinsel, unlike the other morning that I came downstairs to find a half-naked tree and ornaments strewn about the carpet. The white tinsel was pulled partly off, and the star that was perched at the top of the tree when I went to bed the night before? Lying about 4 feet from the tree. At first I tried to blame it on my kids. (Yeah, that’s what a good mom I am.) But when I finally took into consideration that I went to bed after my kids and got up before them, I figured out that they probably really didn’t do it. (I’m known for my acute reasoning skills.) So then it was narrowed down to my dog or . . . my dog. I still have no idea why he attacked the tree, nor how he managed to topple the tree topper, but it wasn’t as much fun decorating the tree the second time around, especially when I found several of my favorite ornaments as casualties to the assault.

And then there’s the whole present-buying ordeal. Don’t get me wrong, I really do love buying gifts for people. In fact, you might even say I obsess a little too much about finding the perfect gift after analyzing a recipient’s personality, hobbies, health, habits and possibly even wiretapped conversations. Just kidding. (Or am I?)

However, as my boys get older, it’s becoming more challenging to buy gifts for them, for several reasons. One is because I have to give them the same number of presents to open. I keep finding “one more gift” for Boy #3 that I had bought earlier in the year and stashed away because, at 6, he’s just easy to buy for. But that means that I then have to not only find one more gift for the nearly 9-year-old, but the nearly 13-year-0ld as well. Great. Everything he wants is either expensive or something I don’t want him to have. He may be finding single socks (Not single pairs, single socks. One sock.) wrapped under the tree come Christmas morning. Oh, and he and Boy #2 both have birthdays in January, too, so that makes it even better. Such bad family planning on our part.

Another issue I’m having with gifts is that since I’m ordering the bulk of them online, they’re arriving in the mail and then being opened by the boys. Of course, my biggest culprit is Boy #1, who just today opened a package addressed to me that contained a present for his brother because “Oh, I forgot it was Christmastime.” Yeah, because the FedEx man is at our house this much any other time of the year!

And one last unChristmas-y thing I’m dealing with: the scents of the season. As Boy #3 and I walked through the Christmas aisles at Target earlier this week, I took in a big whiff of some sort of cinnamon fragrance that was wafting through the air. “Mmm…smell that,” I told Boy #3.

“What is that smell?” he asked me.

“It’s the smell of Christmas,” I told him.

And today when I got home from work and walked in the door, the scent that hit me was not cinnamon — but dog poop. Because The Dog had, of course, crapped himself in his kennel.

No wonder poor Boy #3 was confused. Christmas doesn’t smell like cinnamon and evergreens at his house.

What about you? Is it all “deck the halls with boughs of holly” at your house? Or are you feeling just a teensy bit Grinchish, too?

How I Celebrated St. Patrick’s Day

If you read my recent post about March, you already know how I feel about St. Patrick’s Day. It’s not that I hate it or anything, I just find to be a holiday I don’t really relate to. I do, however, love to eat (evidenced by my ever-expanding waistline). So I have to say that I enjoyed attending my friend Jody’s Irish Feast last weekend. She is Irish, both genealogically and symbolically. I have to credit her for giving me something to now look forward to about St. Paddy’s Day! (Just as long as I don’t have to make green food or try to replicate her corned beef.)

Yesterday, though? The real St. Patrick’s Day? How did I celebrate?

I took down my Nativity scene and snowmen in the living room. And I started taking down my Christmas lights and garland on the porch. (Finished that up this morning.)

Isn’t that how everyone celebrates?

Seems like kind of a shame, however, considering there are only 281 days left until next Christmas. Maybe I should’ve just left them up?

What about you? How did you celebrate?

Christmas lights photo copyright txpotato
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