Thursday, December 16, 2010

An Annual Christmas Tradition

It's that time of year again, Loyal Readers--the time of year I'm too danged busy writing a new book, addressing Christmas cards with the wrong ZIP codes, and hiding presents from The Kid so well that I can't find them either. 

Yes, that's right--annual traditions abound! And what's becoming one of my favorite annual traditions here at the ol' Authorial Mom blog is "How to Wrap A Present in 29 Easy Steps." I first posted it on Dec. 4th, 2008, and again on Dec. 17th last year. And I still think it's just about the funniest thing I've written. And I don't have anything else to blog about, so we'll just go with the classics. After all, I've been watching Charlie Brown Christmas for decades now without complaint!

Without further ado (as if this hasn't been enough ado!), I present "How to Wrap a Present in 29 Easy Steps" for your reading enjoyment!

In my capacity as Authorial Mom, I thought I would offer these 29 steps to easier, more beautiful presents. Just follow this easy program to achieve the same kind of Christmas Satisfaction that the Authorial Mom basks in practically year-round.

1. Buy awesome gifts that your child(ren) will love, like the aircraft carrier complete with die-cast planes and helicopters, real aircraft sounds, and a control tower.

Yeah, like that one.

2. Hide it in the garage and pray your child(ren) won't notice it.

3. Assemble your wrapping supplies: Festive paper, sharp scissors, and clear tape.

4. Realize someone used your best scissors to mutilate crayons. Decide to forge ahead anyway.

5. Heft aircraft carrier out of garage. Realize that it's 2 1/2 feet long and 9 inches tall at the tower. Not exactly regularly shaped. And because you bought it for a song at a thrift store, it did not come with in-store wrapping, or even a box. Its only covering is a garbage bag.

6. Begin frantically tearing through your insane stash of boxes accumulated over a lifetime of hording for something big enough to fit an aircraft carrier.

7. Repeat process with festive holiday bags. Again, come up short - literally.

8. Decide to make your own box, just like your father-in-law does.

9. Mutilate six boxes trying to find enough matching parts to encase an aircraft carrier.

10. Give up trying to match box sizes after giving yourself the mother of all paper cuts. Go get a glass of wine and a band-aid. Several band-aids.

11. Newly fortified, return to the battle scene. Begin taping box parts around aircraft carrier.

12. Realize control tower isn't removable. Remove it anyway (using the tips of your ruined scissors) and tape it to the side.

13. Run out of tape.

14. Get another glass of wine while tearing the house apart for more tape. Settle on packing tape. It's still clear, after all.

15. Return to the battle scene. Experience a pang of liberal guilt for giving innocent child a war toy for Christmas. Finish wine and get over it quickly.

16. Begin wrapping festive paper around jerry-rigged box-like covering.

17. Run out of festive paper, leaving a three inch gap between edges.

18. More wine as you debate how to cover the gap.

19. Settle on using different festive paper. Reason that Santa has to improvise, too.

20. Another paper cut.

21. The secret to beautifully wrapped presents is the crisp creases on the edges. Realize that there are no edges on your aircraft carrier you can crease the paper on without poking the tower out through the side.

22. Poke the tower out through the side.

23. Begin rooting around for Christmas ribbon to wrap over the hole the tower made.

24. Find acceptable ribbon. Begin wrapping around carrier.

25. Run out of ribbon.

26. Realize that all children like bows. Dump out whole bag of bows and apply liberally.

27. Stand back and, glass of wine in hand, admire your dedicated handiwork.

28. Overcome by holiday spirits, go lay down until Christmas is over.

There! Wasn't that easy? And the true reward for all your hard work will come Christmas morning, when your child(ren) will rush down, see the highly festive package under the tree, demolish the whole thing in under three seconds, and spend the rest of the day building sheds for trains he already has out of the mutilated box parts and bows, leaving the aircraft carrier to collect dust in the corner. Finally arrive at:

29. Next year, all the presents will be in garbage bags. With a bow.

Update: The child 'drives' the air-craft carrier around the dining room, landing planes, trains, and occasionally automobiles on its deck. Despite the scars left from wrapping the damn thing, it was still the best five bucks I ever spent at a thrift store!

The Authorial Mom will be taking next week off and spending it with as many of the child's grandparents as possible. So, let me take this moment to say, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The BEST Christmas Pageant EVER

So, a while back, The Kid--my baby!--was in his first every big-league theatrical production.

Okay, so it was my sister Leah's high school show, but still. (Leah is the teacher/director, not a student.) Being on a big stage in front of a lot of seats with people sitting in them is not something that my boy has experienced before. I think the closest he's gotten to performing for a crowd is the daycare Christmas parties, where the children would stand up as a group in front of their mommies and daddies in their normal daycare room and mumble their way through a three-song holiday medley.

Yes, it was as bad as it sounds. Of course, since that was my baby up there mumbling, it wasn't bad--it was a priceless piece of performance art (read: awful).

But this was different. Rather than 17 other little children singing different songs at the same time, this was 25 teenagers performing lines that they'd memorized. While following stage directions. And navigating costume changes.

Let's pause and take a moment to give thanks to my sister, Leah--a dedicated woman who manages to make directing plays look less like herding cats and more like the youth of today actually doing something productive and artistic with their time. How do I know? Not one of the cast members texted during the whole performance. Yes. I'm just as shocked as the next person.

Anyway, Leah decided to do The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, based on a movie with Loretta "Hot Lips" Swift back in 1983.

Yeah, that one.

Well, Leah needed shepherds and angels, and she didn't have enough to go around. So she wooed The Kid with big talk of fame, fortune, and ice cream after the show, and he jumped on board. There were two other children, aged 5 and 7, who were also going to be in the play, so my boy wasn't going to be all alone up there.

But here's the catch--we live almost 3 hours away from Leah's school, which is just a shade over two hours too long for commuting to practice. Leah told us to work on "Silent Night," pack a bath robe, and get to the play as soon as possible on opening night.

Yes. My kid made his stage debut cold. NO practice. NO planning. NO idea what the second verse of "Silent Night" was. NO clue what was going on.

And you know what? It wasn't awful. It bordered on cute--good, even.

Leah, as I may have mentioned, is a wonderful woman, and planned for this improv performance. The other two little kids had their parts down pat--all my boy had to do was stick with them. Leah also assigned The Kid a handler for each scene--a chorus member who was in charge of making sure my boy got where he needed to go.

He had an hour of prep time. Half of that time, he was learning stage direction while eating a hot dog. The highlights:

First Scene: The Kid is holding the little girl's hand. When he gets to where he's supposed to sit, she jerks him back into his seat and he lands with a plop. Five minutes later, everyone on stage is supposed to 'agree' and nod their heads 'yes.' The Kid misses the cue entirely, so the little girl reaches over and nods his head for him. Two minutes after that, everyone is supposed to freeze during a soliloquy. My boy sits up there and looks around, wondering what the heck everyone is doing until the lights go out.

Second Scene: All he has to do is walk onto stage, see the 'bad guy,' turn, and run the other way. He fails to do this--he's too busy watching the bad guy stuff someone in a locker--so his handler jerks him off so hard he drops his pretend books--which works perfectly for the scene.

Third Scene: The children cower in pretend fear from the bad guys at the edge of the stage. My boy looks out, sees me in the front row, and gives me the smallest, cutest little wave. It's the only time he broke the fourth wall all night.

Fourth Scene: He's in his bathrobe now, and since all the other shepherds have crooks or canes or whatever, they've clearly scrambled to get something he can hold. Ergo, he's walking around with a carpenter's "L" square. There's some running back and forth in this scene--and a lot more yanking and hauling that goes on.

Final Scene: All the other shepherds are so busy remembering where to go that they leave my boy behind. He wanders around the middle of the stage for a few moments until someone realizes he's lost and come gets him. His lips appear to be moving in time with the song.

End: He bows out of rhythm--but smiles the whole time.

The second night was much smoother. He managed to nod at the right time, although he forgot to freeze for the soliloquy. All was well until the bad guys came out, dressed as Wise Men. These Wise Men come out like secret service guys, defending the baby Jesus with imaginary guns and bazookas. Well, The Kid decided that this gun thing looked more fun than being a shepherd, so he started firing at the audience with his "L" square. The other little shepherd saw this, hooked the "L" square with his cane, and yanked my boy clean off the stage.

So, to sum up, Leah's cast and crew put on a heck of a fun show, The Kid will one day pay for my retirement will all of his movie paychecks, and everyone had a good time--especially my 95 1/2-year-old Gram, who giggled through the whole show--both nights.

Thanks to the Bayless Theater Company!