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Friday, December 21, 2007

It's a...


The gift that keeps on giving…in a good way

By Karrie McAllister

It’s that time of year; I’ve got presents on the brain. And I’m reminded of the importance of choosing the right gift every time my four-year-old son pushes the button on the animated singing snowman he received last year. (Worse yet, I was the one who bought it for him!)
Trust me, hearing a fat, wiggling snowman sing “Play that Funky Music White Boy” multiple times a day is a stark, yet funky, reminder that you should think before you give.
It’s the same old challenge this year, trying to come up with just the right present for just the right person. And in my book, the perfect gift should have the following characteristics:
It should be meaningful. You should be thinking about the person you are giving it to, and find something special just for them. For example, if my son was not into disco dancing, the snowman would not have suited him. But unfortunately, it does.
It should be quality. There is nothing worse than opening a gift and having it break coming out of the packaging, so make sure the gift is sturdy enough to withstand the giftee. Unfortunately, our wiggling snowman has proven it’s strength through THREE sets of batteries.
And speaking of batteries… A perfect gift either does not require them or comes complete with the expensive little buggers. There’s not a parent out there who cringes at the thought of the enormous costs of AA’s, C’s and the dreaded D’s.
The perfect gift should be fun and enjoyable. Personally speaking, as pretty as fancy jewelry is, it’s not on my Christmas list. It’s really not the perfect gift for me (although it usually doesn’t require batteries) because I don’t get much enjoyment out of putting earrings in that I have to be in constant danger of losing and that I won’t be able to see unless I’m looking in the mirror. The disco snowman, in this case, would sadly be a better choice!
And finally, the perfect gift should tell that person how much you love and care about them. Isn’t that really what a gift is all about? In this season of giving (and over-giving, and tipping and over-tipping) we tend to lose sight of the real purpose of giving gifts. It should be a “want to” and not a “have to.” And as much as I didn’t want to, I bought my son that horrendous electronic doo-dad because I wanted to show him how much I really love him.
But this Christmas I think I’ve done a pretty good job giving everyone on my list something really special. It even came early so I’d have a lot of time to get it wrapped up for the holiday season.
In fact, she came three weeks early, in early December, clocking in at a whopping six pounds and thirteen ounces—my biggest baby yet. And not that I’m going to stick a bow on her head, but I’m pretty sure my family is very happy with the gift they are receiving in the newest McAllister member.
Not only that, but she rightfully meets all of my criteria for the perfect Christmas present. She’s special and meaningful. She’s healthy. She requires no batteries. (Diapers, yes, but thankfully no batteries!) She’s going to be a lot of fun once she gets her days and nights straight, and I’m sure she’ll provide us with a ton of enjoyable stories through the years. Last but not least, she’s bringing even more love to our family, and I’m so happy to have her here. She is a gift that will keep on giving, and can satisfy even the pickiest of Christmas lists. Better yet, she doesn’t have a button that makes her sing “Play that Funky Music White boy” and a carrot nose.
Yep, the perfect Christmas present.

C is for Cookie, and it’s good enough for…THEM!

By Karrie McAllister

At any given Christmas function, you will find me and my mouth full of sweet teeth lingering with a large cup of coffee right next to the dessert table. Easter has it’s chocolate, Thanksgiving has it’s pies, and that’s all well and good. But those holidays have nothing on Christmas and all of the joyous cookies that come along with it.
Yes, from cutouts to those little nutty ones you have to stick your thumb in to make a well for the jelly, I love them all. Even the peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kiss so delicately pushed into the center, which I really don’t like, I’ll eat anyway. Why? Because it’s Christmas and I love sugar and getting fat doesn’t count before January 2nd.
However, with cookie in hand, there is one line that will stop me in my tracks and lock up my throat like I’ve eaten a McNugget shaped like a chicken head:
“My kids made those cookies!”
I’m all for kids in the kitchen. My kids have multiple aprons and cookbooks designed for little people with no concept of measurement. They can scoop and dump and are slowly mastering the art of stirring without flinging ingredients around the room. They can even make us scrambled eggs all by herself.
The operative word there is us. They make things for us, so if there’s an eggshell or a stray booger, we really don’t mind that much. They are our children. I’ve dealt with enough of their bodily functions to make mucus low on my priority list; being of our own flesh and blood, their flesh and blood isn’t all that gross.
But so help me, if I found another kid’s booger in a cookie, I’d, er, toss my cookies. If you’re thinking “there’s no way a kid would drop a booger in a bowl of cookie batter,” you obviously have no children. Boogers are an essential part of being a child, and realizing that your body can make little green blobs that you can remove and examine is very, very cool when you’re little.
I know this because I have raised two toddlers.
So I am quite positive that cooking of any sort with children must involve nose waste. If it’s not dropping right out of their noses, it is definitely embedded in their nails, ready to cling on to a chocolate chip at first chance.
But I do love to bake with my kids. They are entirely too cute in their miniature aprons with their miniature spoons to let them sit idly by, twiddling their booger-laden thumbs.
And although we are thorough hand washers, we are kind and generous during the holiday season and choose to share love, and not boogers, with our Christmas guests. For that reason, I have devised a simple plan to mark the cookies made by the loving hands of a preschooler.
I let them decorate their own cookies.
As I mentioned before, there is no concept of measurement. There is also no concept of how much is too much when it comes to things like sprinkles and frosting and those little decorative beads that look like bee-bees. While they are going to town drowning the cut-out trees and snowmen with enough sugar decor to send us all straight to the dentist, I am delicately practicing my confectionary creativity. Beautiful cookies, all guaranteed to be booger-free.
At this point you’re probably wondering what we do with all of those carefully globulated treats. Fret not, because that’s the next part of my cunning plan. We wrap them up, put them in a cute little tin, tie on a ribbon and adhere a tag that says:
“To Grandma and Grandpa. From your loving Grandchildren”
The grandparents are thrilled to have a homemade and tasty gift, and seeing as my kids are in their biological line, they are family boogers and nothing bad comes from a spare snot or two.
Voila! Crisis averted, and everyone at the cookie table is happy.
I just hope there are some left over, so I can gorge myself before January 2nd rolls around.

The vicious circle of life and my belly button

By Karrie McAllister

At this point in my life, I am most obviously pregnant.
With mere days to go, I strictly waddle and tend to groan every time I need to bend down anywhere near the floor. While grocery shopping, I lean on the cart like it is my life support, as if that cart is the only thing letting me stand upright and keep mobile while I toss in the food for the week that I will most likely be too tired to cook at home.
My clothes have all become snug in places they should not. Maternity fashion designers must not be realistic human women, or else the stretchy elastic band would start at the waist and continue down past the hips because those things tend to expand just as much as a belly during these glorious months. The cute wide-cut shirts made to fit over bellies don’t fit over so well anymore, so if I’m not yanking down the shirts, I’m pulling up the pants so that somehow, someway, the belly button that has recently become horribly convex won’t show more than it has to.
It’s a vicious circle, really.
And it’s something that any mother can relate to.
There has always been a special maternal bond among women. A woman may be just another woman, but find a mother and you’ll find someone you can talk to. A kindred spirit in the land of children, where sleep is minimal, hugs are worth more than money, and there are fruit snacks stuck between the seats in your car.
But no matter the age of your children, there is one short phase of a mother’s life that we all remember so well: the pregnancy. And seeing another pregnant woman must trigger some mental chemicals, because just the sight of one gives other mothers the will and the right to do two things: touch the big belly and tell their own harrowing stories of pregnancy.
Trust me. These things happen to me on a daily basis.
I’m not one for people patting my belly, especially with that whole convex belly button thing I’ve got going on. But I accept it because I know there will be a time in my life when I will be tempted to touch other bubble bellies too.
The thing that tickles me, though, is how women just love to tell their own tales of woe from when they were growing that little miracle inside.
“My feet were so big, I could only wear slippers.”
“I had Bell’s palsy and half of my face was paralyzed.”
“We had no air conditioning and I sweat for four months solid.”
And the list continues…
The greatest part about listening to women complain about pregnancies of long ago is asking them how many children they had, because most likely, for as miserable as they were, they had multiple children and went through the aches and pains more than once, even though they knew just what they were in for.
And I’m no different. For as much as I whine about the fact that it takes me a recordable amount of time to put my socks on and I can’t eat a meal without spilling something on my shirt, I know that sometime down the road I will see another woman with the tell-tale maternity muumuu and waddle walk, and if I don’t stop her and ask to pat her belly, I’ll at least tell her how bad it was trying to cover up that belly button of mine.
And I’ll walk away and think to myself, “gee, it really wasn’t so bad. I could probably do it again.”
It’s that viscous circle, but one we as mothers have every right to get wrapped up in. For as much as we complain, we actually enjoy going round and round and reliving what is truly a magnificent time in our lives.
That, and touching other people’s baby bellies.

Mostly baby with a 50% chance of a girl…or a boy

By Karrie McAllister

“Do you know what you’re having?”
If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me that question, I could afford to pay for a whole gamut of tests to positively confirm the gender of my child.
Instead, I give a smart aleck answer. “Hopefully a human baby.”
And then I explain that although I had plenty of chances to find out, my husband really wanted to be surprised this time around and wait until the “hopefully human baby” makes its debut as a boy or a girl.
Believe me, I wanted to know before hand so that I would only have to unpack and wash half of the baby clothes and so that we could only argue about one name instead of two. I also didn’t want to have to purchase any uni-sex baby clothes, those yellow and green jobs that make strangers nervous to ask anything using pronouns.
But I digress.
The fact that we do not know the sex of the baby also brings about a fantastic list of old wives tales that people just swear by. Evidently, no matter how kooky the old wives tale, they are usually correct 50% of the time. Go figure.
So in this, my last week of pregnancy, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite tales with you all:
Pull down the skin under your left eye and look at your eyeball. If you see a vein that looks like a V or branches, you will be having a girl. I did this, and all I saw was living proof that I’m tired and haven’t had a restful night’s sleep in weeks.
If your legs resemble tree trunks, it's a boy. If they are trim and fit, it's a girl. And just who is going to tell me that my legs look like tree trunks? Guaranteed someone who will walk away with a plenty of veins in their black eye.
If you can’t tell from the back that a woman is pregnant, it’s a boy. If a woman gets wide all over, it’s a girl. Again, I ask, who (besides someone looking to get slugged) is going to tell me, “wow, your girth is really something. Must be a girl.”
If you crave the heels of bread, you will have a boy; if you like the middle, it’s a girl.. What if you crave the whole loaf? Toasted with lots of butter? Because that’s what I’m craving these days.
If you ask a mother to show you her hands and if she shows them palms up, it's a girl; palms down, a boy. But what about if she shows you them while holding a cup of coffee? Or a piece of toast? (I actually would show you my hands palms up, if you’re keeping track…)
If a woman is carrying the baby high, it’s a girl; low, it’s a boy. But what if that woman is having her third child and everything is so stretched out that it would be physically impossible for anything to be high?
Ask a mother to pick up a key. If you've picked it up by the thinner end, you're having a girl. Picking it up by the bottom, rounder part means a boy is on the way. Or more realistically, if you pick up the key and run out to the car yelling, “hurry up! We’re going to be late!” chances are you’ve got other kids and are just lucky you remembered to take your keys before locking yourself out of the house.
Girls will steal their mother’s beauty, boys will make a woman feel more beautiful. Well, depends on whether your eyes are bloodshot, your legs look like tree trunks and you require a “wide load” sign to walk down the sidewalk.
If a mother is moody and short-tempered, it’s a girl; if she’s happy and cheerful, it’s a boy. I’ll leave this one up to you, readers!
Place your bets and results will be posted shortly.

A new holiday series! Survivor: Husbands for the Holidays

By Karrie McAllister

As usual, the turkey’s not even cooled and sliced and already people are decking their halls and hauling out the holly. The radio stations are taken hostage by the 14 holiday songs that are played over and over, sung by different artists and in different genres, but it’s still the same old 14 songs. The stores are completely insane, and television programming is booked solid with Christmas specials and holiday themed concerts.
It’s all well and good, because I, like most people, eat it all up as much as I do the Christmas cookies. My halls will be decked before my husband wakes up from his Tryptophan nap.
However, this year I’d like to pitch a new holiday series to the CBS Network for our television entertainment pleasure, so if there are any CBS executives out there reading this, remember it was MY IDEA and that I should be the one raking in the zillions of dollars for this new show. I can virtually guarantee that every female between the 20 and 120 will be watching, and I’ll even give Mark Burnett a cut. I swear.
We’ve all had our fair share of Survivor shows, when we see scantily clad people building rafts and getting even more tan. It’s entertaining, sure, but there’s nothing real about it. That is why, for next year’s holiday season, I’d like to pitch my realistic Survivor show:
Husbands and fathers will be blindfolded and taken to a large shopping mall the morning after Thanksgiving, with their kids in tow. There they will have to complete the following tasks:
1. Finding a parking spot without getting hit by a stray shopping cart
2. Successfully completing at least half of the holiday shopping without losing their temper when the kids need to go to the bathroom five times and then still demand something more to drink
3. Not forgetting the wrapping paper, tape, and ribbon
Those who survive that first day will then return to their homes and compete in the next phase of the competition, where each one will have to bake at least four different types of cookies and work really hard decorating them. From there they must keep their cool while the rest of the family devours them instantly, not even noting the placement of the cinnamon holly berries or the silver snowflake glitter.
The next stage of Survivor: Husbands for the Holidays will be in the wrapping department, where the men are required to wrap all of the presents, instead of just his wife’s which he usually just sticks in a bag on Christmas morning. Extra points awarded for festive ribbon and remembering to mark which present goes to whom.
For a surprise immunity challenge, a neighbor will show up at the door bearing a gift. To win immunity, the husband must have a stash of extra “just-in-case” gifts to return the favor. Note: re-gifted gifts do not count and are subject to immediate dismissal.
If any husbands still remain in the competition, the final task is to take the children to have their photos taken with Santa Claus. The fathers must have sufficient distraction materials for the hour-long-plus wait, and they must not have forgotten the lists the children made. To finish, they must successfully get their children onto Santa’s lap and make enough goofy faces so that the children are actually smiling (and not screaming in fear) for their photo.
The winner of Survivor: Husbands for the Holidays will receive first dibs at Christmas leftovers and the next year off.
[And not to be gender biased, I’m thinking next year the wives could compete in a show of their own, where tasks would involve getting the tree to stand up perfectly straight and an outdoor lighting display.]
So, c’mon CBS, what do you think? Do we have a winner here or what?
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