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Apparently Stephen King has a whole collection of Christmas decorations.

Maybe Mr. King doesn’t actually know this or receive royalties from them. But I think they’ve been inspired by him. He’s so creepy looking. Do you think that’s why he’s a horror writer? Or does he look creepy because he’s a horror writer? That sounds like the same question, but it’s totally the opposite.


Damien the Christmas Monkey is working. Owen will say, “I’m so glad Damien isn’t in this room.” Me, (rubs hands together) “yes, my son, be good now.”

HOWEVER, Damien is looking almost pleasant compared to these other characters I found.

I had no idea that there are more to this collection. AND, people pay lots of money for them. No offense Jill.  Or your mom. Or anyone else out there, probably on the East coast paying good money for these demented looking Christmas creatures.

So cue Lion King music and welcome to the family:

Stephen, the Institutionalized Elf; and Jason, the Valentine Monkey (with a comb-over).

Once again, my plan worked. What plan is that? To scare the crap out of my kids. I put Stephen on the piano downstairs. He was positioned just in view when you go in the living room. I hear Emma get up this morning and look at the Christmas tree and shriek, “What is that??!!”

Then she says, “Why does THIS monkey have HAIR? Mom, make it stop, you’ve gone too far!”

If you noticed, I named Stephen after Stephen King. I think he resembles him very much.

Emma named the Valentine monkey Jason. I think that’s because that’s the only name of a horror movie character she knows. I would’ve named it Donald because of the hair, but Jason is good.

These dolls are a little like clowns and ventriloquist dummies, oh, and Marie Osmond dolls. Some people think they’re cute, but most of us just know they are demented little things made to give us bad dreams.

Stephen the Institutionalized Elf. They only let him out the month of December.

Jason, the jilted Valentine monkey with a comb-over.

The real Stephen King. He really has a face for writing.

Have you been naughty or nice?

Let’s ask Damien the Christmas Monkey.

Yes, he’s part bendable, lovable primate. Part crazed mitten footed chimpanzee with a tail.

We don’t have Elf on a Shelf at our house. Lots of our friends do. I haven’t even read the story. I’m guessing the Elf sits on shelves around your house and ‘watches’ over your children to report to the North Pole if they have been good. Am I close?

Well, Damien the Christmas Monkey sits in places in our house, and just freaks the crap out of people. When the children say, “mom, would you move that monkey please, he’s scaring me.” I say, “good, because if you’re good, he’ll go away.”

I even use it on my husband. Damien likes to sit on the arm of the couch while he watches TV, or works on his Fantasy Football roster. It’s effective. Oh, and why the name Damien you ask? Because he looks a little evil. Like that boy in the movie, The Omen.

Amazon hasn’t contacted me yet. Or Barnes & Noble. But I’ll let you know when they do. It will be major.

Oh yeah, Take that Shelf Elf. This monkey brought a banana.

Lying to Your Kids- also known as Parent Survival 101

We lie all the time. As humans, some of us are better than others. As parents, I think we wrote the book. We raise our children not to lie, but we lie to them ALL THE TIME. LIE, LIE, LIE. Yes, because this is how we survive. If honey badgers could lie to their kids, they would probably eat them less. I don’t really know if honey badgers eat their young. But since they don’t give a shit, and they can eat cobras while they are being stung with cobra venom, I’m pretty sure that some mama honey badgers have eaten tender little honey badger babies.

Okay, this post is not about honey badgers.

This blog post is really about how I regret the fact that my kids still believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy. They are 8 and 11. When can I crush their fantasy world? I’ve used lying as a tactic to get out of things that make parenting more difficult. Like when they hear the ice cream truck, I tell them if there’s music playing that means they are all sold out.  Harsh, huh?

But now I’m afraid, there’s no going back.

We lie that if they cross their eyes when the clock strikes on the hour their face will stick like that permanently. Oh wait, that’s what my parents lied to me about. If you swallow an apple seed that it will grow in your belly to an apple tree and you will have to go to the hospital. Oh no, that’s what Freddy Casey told me in the first grade. But I’m CERTAIN his parents told him that. We lie all the time!

So this Santa thing is getting stressful. Stressful for me. The kids want to believe so much it’s all real. But that makes more lying.

Emma knows, but acts like she doesn’t know, but wants to not know and still be a kid. You know?

Owen fully believes in the fantasy of it all.

Owen, “Mom- can you tell me if Santa isn’t real, like, maybe when I’m in college. Just in case. Cuz, I want to know what to do for my kids if I’m the parent. But he’s totally real, and I believe in him, but just in case he’s not. He’s real because everyone talks about him. Just because we can’t see him, doesn’t mean he’s not real. Like Jesus.”

Okay buddy, the Jesus part I’m all for. But Santa, he’s real, but only in your heart. Mommy and Daddy do have to fork over all that cash to actually pay for your Nintendo.

Help. Me.

I want to keep them in the bubble of fantasy land. But I also want to shake them (gently, of course) and say, ‘Sweeties, we are living paycheck to paycheck, and I want to make all your dreams come true, but there’s only so much I can do.” Sigh. Trust me, I’m not going in to debt to make Christmas happen for my kids, I can be smart. (This is the Frugalista blog after all!) I suppose, it’s like having ‘The Talk’. But I’ve already had THAT talk and it actually was easier. They just walked away and said, ‘that’s gross’.

I’ve been THIS CLOSE to telling Emma the truth about Santa. When I hedged around the topic, she looked at me, tears brimming on her lower lids, “mom, whatever you’re going to say, just don’t. Okay? I can’t. handle. it.”


When the time is right, the time will be right. More sighing.  When I think of them being old enough to not believe in Santa anymore, it makes ME want to cry. When they bug me with what Santa is bringing them- that makes me want to cry as well.

Banjos, ponies and Crystal Gayle

Or also titled, Things I wanted for Christmas as a Kid and never got:

Remember my post on Cher? (Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves) I coveted that Cher Barbie and wanted her hair for myself. So I wore my nightgown on my head and pretended it was my long hair. I totally forgot about Crystal Gayle. How could I? For practically my entire elementary school years, my friend Stacey and I (if you’re reading this Stacey, call me- miss you!) secretly listened to her parents’ records (yes, records) of Crystal Gayle. She had the longest brown hair. Past her butt. That was what always got us jealous. If you had hair past your butt, then you were so cool.

You remember, “Don’t it make my brown eyes blue”. She had a really famous song with Eddie Rabbitt, “You and I” (it’s on Youtube). Eddie Rabbitt- oh my God- remember him?? No? Me neither.  Okay…

So Stacey and I would pretend that we were Crystal Gayle. We took turns who got to use the hairbrush and sing along to the record.  When I said we ‘secretly’ listened to her parents’ records, it wasn’t that we weren’t allowed, it was, we didn’t tell any of our friends. I’m sure they were listening to Thriller, The Flashdance Soundtrack, Devo… SHE wasn’t allowed to listen to THOSE records. So we made the best of Crystal Gayle. AND Anne Murray. Snowbird is a beautiful song. Just sayin’.

So my other thing besides the Cher doll, that I always asked Santa for, was, a horse. I know this isn’t very unusual. Many girls want horses. It didn’t make it any better that my English cousin Clare, had her own pony- Beau Brummell. I will never forget that summer we went to visit my dad’s family in England. Clare is at least 8 years older than I am. I was 5 at the time. She had been competing in shows on Beau and got a gabillion ribbons and trophies. They were all over her room. I was SOOO jealous! Honestly, I don’t remember if it was the horse or the ribbons I was jealous of more. I got to ride Beau for just a bit. The whole famly did.  We took turns up and down this strip of pasture while she lead him. There’s pictures of us wearing “Britain is Great” t-shirts with the Union Jack on it, and wearing her riding cap. You know those cute velvet ones? They’re helmets really, but they look so cute.

I remember begging my parents for a pony of my own. I did this every birthday and Christmas for at least the next 6 years. I’m not sure why mom said, “we’ll see”, when I asked her. How about just ‘no’. The ‘we’ll see’ was torture. That meant, there was actually the slightest, POSSIBILITY I was getting a horse. Mind you, we didn’t have any place to put it and couldn’t afford to board it. My brother left for college the summer after I turned 7. I figured his room would make a really good stable. My parents didn’t go for that idea.

Now don’t laugh. Okay, you can laugh.

I want a banjo.

This isn’t a childhood dream. I want a banjo now. If you do, ‘deendeedeer, der, der, der, der’ in that banjo-ey voice, I will scream. Because that’s what anyone does when I tell them I want a banjo. They’re mocking me. So I like Steve Martin. I like the Dixie Chicks. I want a banjo. I want to shred a banjo like Slash on the guitar. Like Jim Neighbors on the ukelele or was that Captain Kangaroo?

Maybe it was when I was 6 and I saw Kermit the Frog in the Muppet Movie play his banjo by that pond. Oh it was so cute. And I wanted to sing about rainbows and happy things. I can’t even play the guitar. But I’m sure I would learn the banjo in a jiffy. And yes, James and the children think I’m out of my mind.

Anyway… if anyone out there has a banjo- and lessons to go with it- I would like that. I’ll pay you in cat bubble pictures. Or I’ll just sing Crystal Gayle for you… That’s a gift in itself.

Martha Stewart doesn’t live here anymore

From the time James and I were engaged to when Owen was born (2003), I would make my Christmas cards, homemade candles, chocolate truffles, soaps, ornaments, bake cookies and goodness knows what else, every holiday season. Yep, I was a regular Martha Stewart.

That has come to a screeching halt.

But what gives? My kids are in school, I could do all that stuff still. There’s a room full of craft supplies in the office.

I’m just not feeling it I guess.

Here I’m blogging about how to survive the holidays and one of my tips is making friends with people who bake so you don’t have to. I was the one that baked! I would make these elaborate cookie boxes to give out to friends. Oh where did those days go? Now a friend mentions that we should bake and decorate Christmas cookies with the kids. Uhm, I would rather listen to Kenny G in the aisles of Walmart on Black Friday while being chased by a honey badger, then clean up after the children bake cookies. All that frosting and sprinkle crap everywhere? Lord help me.

Maybe Cyber Monday has taken out the oomph I had to be so crafty. Maybe it’s age. Or laziness.

I have more time now. I think. My kids are in school. I sleep through the night, unlike a few years ago when one of them would still disrupt my slumber. So I can’t blame fatigue. I’m not training for a marathon or Mrs. Universal Fitness contest so I’m not spending my days in the gym and carbo loading. Well, I am carbo loading, but it’s not because I’m going to the gym!

Mind you- my house isn’t any cleaner than it was 10 years ago when I was staying up all hours making cards and cookies. It’s probably more filthy. But I think that’s because of the pet hair, Owen’s bathroom habits (or lack of aim), and the crap that has accumulated over the years that is spilling out of every room and into the hall ways.

To some, the crafting and making stuff is therapeutic, cathartic. To me, it was just stressful. It only added one more thing on my ‘to-do’ list.  I don’t doubt I was good at it. I made a mean-ass truffle and hot buttered rum mix. But I feel like I only have the mental capacity for so much. So now it’s mostly; did I remember to pack my kids’ lunch, does everyone have clean socks and underwear for the week, how many PTA meetings am I supposed to be at this week and when will I get to watch The Real Housewives? Those are my paramount concerns in my life.

I applaud and admire the crafty and creative people in my life. I really appreciate your hard work.

So I thought- you know DIY- Do it Yourself? Well, my new acronym is DIFM- Do it For Me. Please? Thanks.



I know why the holidays might suck for some of you.

We are supposed to be happy. Yeah like in Disneyland, it’s supposed to be so frickin’ fantastic. I’m tired, my kids are driving me crazy, and I can’t buy anymore of this crap. No. We’re not in Disneyland. It’s Christmas.

But there’s more to this holiday being depressing than just the nonstop Macys commercials, drippy “Christmas in the Northwest” song on the radio, getting all the crap done that everyone expects of you and if you don’t do it all, you feel less of a woman- depression.

No, I’m talking about the pain in your heart and the hole in your gut from knowing this holiday is the first since losing a loved one. Or maybe it’s the second or third since they’ve passed. How do you fake happy? How are you supposed to be cheerful and live through the four weeks (make that eight weeks thanks to the annoying mass marketing our commercial society has created…) of holiday hoo-ha?

But maybe, just maybe going through the ornaments, pulling out the photos, getting out the stocking that was theirs is like pulling off a band-aid. Painful at first, but better afterwards. Why is it the ones we love hang on through the holidays and then seem to pass in January? It seems those I know that have died and usually from cancer, have hung on to Christmas and then had to let go come January or soon after. Hanging on to spend their last holiday with family.  But no matter what time of year you’ve lost a loved one, the holidays seem to lurk and you might resent them instead of embrace them.

My friend Julie who passed away almost 10 years ago, would bake the most amazing Christmas cookies. Every Christmas I would wait for her goody bag of delicousness. That was her gift to her friends. Even when she was having chemo or recovering from a surgery, she made those cookies. Her last Christmas before she died in January, she made those cookies. I didn’t get to see her on Christmas day at my parents like we had done in years past. She was too weak.  I swung by her apartment the day after Christmas and her boyfriend gave them to me. She was sleeping he said and needed her rest. I wasn’t aware how close she was to death. I took that bag of cookies home. Inside was also a tea tin of Murchies tea from Canada. Our favorite. I had one of her biscotti and made a cup of tea. I had a cookie a day or so. Savoring each one. The powdered sugar on the wedding balls, the jam inside the cutouts, the chocolate ganache between the butter cookies…I couldn’t believe that she made them despite being so sick.

When I got the call she died on January 13, I still had cookies in the bag in my pantry. I stopped eating them. I just left them there on the shelf. I would see the bag and her handwritten note that was attached with a raffia ribbon every time I opened the pantry door. I didn’t dare move it or eat any more of those cookies. As if it was a sacred shrine to her. That the cookies were my last bit of her I had.  A whole year went by and I had those cookies in my pantry. And then one day, I thought, Julie would be so pissed if she knew I wasted those cookies!! Not only was she a stickler for neatness, she wouldn’t let anything go to waste. She had a very sophisticated palette and she kind of scared me, because everything she did was perfect. Every time she cooked it was like a Bon Appetit magazine spread. She insisted on quality and taste, never cutting corners or falling into the traps of ‘boxed’ or ‘name brands’. Heaven forbid I open a box of Kraft!!

So I took the bag and emptied the hard and crumbly cookie remains in the garbage. I apologized to the spirit of Julie, wherever she was. I kept the gift bag and the note with her handwriting among my keepsakes of cards and notes from loved ones and I drank the tea from the tin and saved it to keep more loose tea in it still today. I knew that she would’ve thought it silly not to actually EAT the cookies she baked, but she would be glad that I’m at least using the tea tin.

The pain of a friend passing is not that of a son, daughter, parent or spouse even. I won’t even pretend I know your pain.  Sometimes your sadness puts you in that dark hole of wishing everyone else wasn’t so damn happy. But then I think there’s a purpose to the world that keeps turning. With each year, the happiness can start to outshadow the sadness. Like a moon waxing from new to full. There’s a little sliver of brightness coming around with each season. It starts with darkness and ends with a ball of light.

I hope that any of you facing a painful Christmas, that first or several after, can see the light that comes around. That knows even though you are aching inside, it’s okay to be happy sometimes. It’s okay to laugh at Elf, to sing along to Perry Como or enjoy the lights on the neighbors house, to get a little tipsy at the cocktail party with friends. Because those that we miss, would want us to enjoy what probably gave them the most happiness. And for the rest of us, hopefully we can stop and appreciate the joys of the season and not just dwell on the craziness and stress.