Christmas Come and Gone…

In the history of Christianity and the modern world (and without thinking about it too hard), I can not for the life of me come up with another single day for which there are so many preparations, so much forethought, such grand anticipation, and so much egg nog.  The planning, the lists, the shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking, stamping, mailing, decorating… all for ONE SINGLE DAY.  And it happens every single year!

I get it.  I really do…  I am trying to hold true to the real reason for the season, while still making special memories for my family.  Don’t overdo it, but don’t make your kids feel like freaks because all they got from Santa was an orange.  I mean, I read John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas.  I get it.

This year, I approached Christmas with calm.  I figured I’d aim for yin and things would all balance out in the end.  I had sprained my ankle in a freak (okay, slightly drunken) slippery, gravel road incident on Thanksgiving, so I had an actual reason not to do a lot of running around anyway.  I worked hard (fortunately, it didn’t take much) to keep the joy of Christmas in my heart every day and to spread that joy to all* I met.

(* Except for that one lady in the parking lot near Homegoods.  There was a bit of a car jam at the traffic light and she didn’t wish to wait.  In the meantime, my cell phone rang and I answered it manually before switching to Bluetooth.  The red light lasted for, oh, about a decade, so her impatience just kept mounting and mounting.  She directed it all at me and screamed through her windshield, “HANG UP YOUR PHONE!  I AM CALLING THE POLICE!”  I was like, “It is a red light.  I’m not even driving.”  So she all-caps yelled at me again.  I may have misplaced my yin a little when I yelled back at her (just like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman), “Fine!  You’re calling the cops?  Great.  Tell them I said, ‘Hi’!”  Then I laughed out loud and mouthed to her, “You do see the irony in the fact that you are PICKING UP YOUR OWN PHONE to call the police and tell on me for being on the phone, RIGHT?”  And then the light turned green.  Merry Christmas, Lady.)

It has taken a full week for me to recover from my family’s awesome Christmas.  And it truly was awesome.  I am a very lucky girl.

Today is New Year’s Day.  It is the day that represents starting over and clean slates and all things NEW.  I am not a big New Year’s Eve partier anymore, so I usually wake up early on January 1st and I get to enjoy all of the newness by myself for a little while.  It is one of my favorite mornings of the whole year.

So, here for your enjoyment is the Swiger Family Christmas card for 2014.  I know I’m a whole week or so late, but it does say, “Happy 2015” on the back.  Technically, I guess I am scootching in on the tail end.

Swiger 2014

Swiger 2014 - back

But I’d like to think that I am actually sneaking in at the beginning of the NEW.  May 2015 bring you joy and hope and lots of opportunities to live the life that makes you happy.

Wish me luck for 2015…


This Is Stan

Early in December I had my first encounter with a fan.  It was exciting.  Then it wasn’t.

Sheepdog and I brought all of the kids to have breakfast with Santa at our neighborhood clubhouse.  We go every year, even though the older ones complain about having to wake up early and put makeup and nice clothes on (duh… because everything after November 1 becomes a potential Christmas card photo-op).  Stop your griping and moaning and sit on the nice man’s lap, but anyone who is thirteen or older has to sit kinda off to the side.  Anyway…

The kids told The Big Guy what they wanted for Christmas and we made the ornaments and we ate the eggs and bacon and donuts and we smiled for all of the pictures, so it was time to go.  As we were herding the kids, I saw the new editor of our neighborhood newsletter across the room.  I asked Sheepdog if he would mind getting the kids into the car and told him I would be out right behind them.

I said goodbye to Mr. Editor and thanked him for another wonderful event, but first he introduced me to a new neighbor.  Well, first he told me I was “difficult to edit,” but that is beside the point of this story.  He told me the man’s name and then told him mine, followed by “she writes an article in the monthly newsletter.”

There was a pause followed by recognition.  The man said very nice things, but he didn’t make a lot of eye contact.  I was uncomfortable for a second, but then it dawned on me that maybe he thought of me as an actual writer and this was my first experience with an admirer of my blog, someone I did not know prior to publishing.  For just a second, my mind was whirling with dreams of celebrity and fame and universal accolades and recognition.  At almost the same moment, Sheepdog was finally done gathering our charges and putting on their coats and hats, so he paged me as he headed outside.

“Stacy, I am putting the kids in the car now,” as the door closed behind him.

Still smiling inside my perceived fame bubble, I started to excuse myself and tell the man that it was nice to have met him when he stammered out with palpable excitement, “Wait.  Was that Sheepdog?”

“Yes.  That was my husband.”  Snap back to reality.

“No way!  That was Sheepdog!  I love him.  He is awesome!” said the man, this time with lots of eye contact.

I guess he wasn’t my biggest fan.  Pop went my own fame bubble, especially when he added, “Sometimes I really feel for that guy…”


Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Happy 2013!

Hello, friends!  Oh, how I have missed you all.  And I have missed writing my stories, but you know the drill… December is a big, fat, hairy beast.  And it defeats me every single year.  It is my white whale (Call me Five Baby Mama).

I did my best to make our holidays uncomplicated, yet memorable.  Full of quality family time, but not so much that we feel the need to move to a deserted island with no forwarding address afterwards.  I did the planning and decorating and shopping and wrapping and delivering in small increments all month long so I wouldn’t be stuck down in the basement at 2AM on December 24th with nothing but scotch tape holding my eyelids open while I tried to assemble some crazy plastic contraption with more parts than there are letters in the Chinese alphabet.  But December still got the best of me.

The kids started getting sick back at Thanksgiving.  I have hand-outs from our pediatrician with the following titles… the stomach flu, croup, infectious mononucleosis, and pneumonia.  Fortunately, there was no cross-contamination and everyone got their own special disease.  Trust me, that did not happen by accident!  And they were all sick at different times, so the “sickiness” seemed to last forever.  A big shout-out to Kid B for staying healthy!

Then came December 14th and my heart broke so hard and loud that I felt it on the outside of my body.  I don’t normally watch the news because it feeds my anxieties in a very unhealthy way, but no one could escape the horror story.  My tears did not stop falling.  They still haven’t.

Then came Christmas Eve and our new family tradition of Chick-Fil-A and peppermint milkshakes, and our old traditions of Sheepdog re-telling the story of Jesus’ birth and me reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and putting out a note and cookies for Santa.  Our Christmas morning was full of smiles and hugs and Skype and wrapping paper and joyful noises.  We are very, very, very blessed.

Kid A asked Santa for a vintage typewriter for Christmas.  The Big Guy delivered an awesome one with keys en Espanol

Kid A asked Santa for a vintage typewriter for Christmas. The Big Guy delivered an awesome one with keys en Espanol.  Click, Clack, Moo (egg nog).

Then, since I couldn’t manage to get out of it, we had Christmas dinner for thirty people at our house.  No, I’m not kidding.  We had to find thirty places for thirty heineys to sit and eat.  And we managed to pull it off!  So on the night of December 25th, Sue, Tom, Bonnie, Joe, Tooker, Josh, Stacy, Ellie, Braden, Molly, Abby, Cal, Cam, Keri, Charlie, Foster, Luke, Nora, Rob, Kelli, Wilson, Phoebe, Mallory, Quincy, Brandon, Becky, Brady, Cooper and Eden all listened (most without giggling, although Brandon always fails at this) as Reverend Bob gave the blessing.  Then we sat down and ate together and laughed and shared stories and memories and made some new ones too.

And speaking of holiday memories… one of my biggest projects this December came in the form of a request from my dad.

Many, many years ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, he fell deeply in love with a girl named Sue Speed.  He loved her so much that he asked her to marry him when they were just nineteen years old.  And being a dumb boy, he did it in a fairly unplanned, unromantic way… in the backseat of a car, with his pregnant teenage sister and her baby daddy up front driving.  In the middle of the Cardiff Circle.  Luckily, Sue Speed loved him back so much that she said YES anyway, and they have been together ever since.

But my dad has always regretted not having proposed with more style (partly because my mom tells him he should).  So, this Christmas he had my cousin Ashley design my mom a fabulous new ring, with both old stones and new ones too, and he asked for his daughters’ help in planning a new and improved proposal that would knock her socks off.  And we did it.  We gathered together as many old (and some new) pictures of our family’s Christmas memories and I put together a DVD that showed them off and then featured our Top 10, with Number 1 being the lame proposal (which we so fabulously re-created using Rob and Kelli as “Uncle Bobby” and “Aunt Janice”), and at the end my dad turned to the camera and asked for a re-do.

We played the DVD on Christmas Day when all thirty of us were gathered together and at the end my dad walked over to my mom and re-proposed.  He got down on one knee and talked about everlasting love and still getting excited to see her when he was driving home from work every day and it was sweet and romantic and my mom thought he was nuts.  Luckily, she still loves him back so much that she accepted once again.

So, here for your viewing pleasure is the fruit of my labor and a peek into our crazy family antics…

And then I recorded the new proposal…

I am so proud to be a part of this big, goofball family.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Here’s to happiness and health in the new year.  Wish me luck in 2013…

The House Where Christmas Threw Up

Let me start by saying that I am a modified Christmas traditionalist.  I believe in starting my shopping closer to December than August, and I make most of my purchases online.  I believe in putting up my fake Christmas tree after Thanksgiving.  I believe in putting money into a Salvation Army bucket every time I see one.  I believe that the Elf on the Shelf was cute and funny for one or two seasons max; by year three I wanted to take it out back and rub its face in some yellow snow.  I believe in Angel Trees, but I’m not even getting Beats by Dr. Dre headphones for my own kids.  I believe in opening my door for carollers, as long as they show up before we are in bed for the night (porch light on vs. porch light off… it is common sense, people).  Of course, I believe in Santa.  I believe in making (and eating) Christmas cookies together as a family while listening to Frank, Tony and Barbra singing the Christmas classics.  And I wholeheartedly believe that your decorations should reflect the way that you feel about the holiday season.

So my guess is that these people in my neighborhood hate Christmas.

Why else would they have all of that stuff in their front yard?  Is is a joke?  Maybe.  It is pretty funny.  Are they doing it ironically?  I just don’t get that hipster nonsense.  But maybe their next-door neighbors get it, because this is what is decorating their front lawn…

Only 18 days left until Christmas!  Hang in there, friends and neighbors.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…