Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Rather than work on my book yesterday, I decided to write a holiday letter.  Here it is, for your enjoyment:

Dear Friends and Family,

We thought this year we would start a tradition of writing an annual holiday letter.  However, if this proves to be a semi-annual or once in a decade tradition, try not to hold it against us.  This was quite an eventful year for us.  We had milestones in our personal, business, and spiritual lives.  We thought we’d share a little bit about the last year with you.

First, our little son, Connor was baptized last February.  We were all delighted, except perhaps Connor, who did not enjoy having a stranger pour cold water over his head.  We managed to escape the church before any real crying began, so we’re going to go ahead count that as a positive event.  His first birthday was also a semi-success.  We celebrated with a large luau, complete with leis and Hawaiian food.  All the adults in attendance had a wonderful time; especially some of our male family members who enjoyed our twin pull tap/kegerator.  Connor barely recognized that it was his birthday other than the fact he grew annoyed by the dozens of people getting in the way of him watching Kung Fu Panda and he was allowed to have as many pancakes as he wanted.

Aside from these milestones, Connor has had a relatively calm year.  Or at least as calm as a toddler can have.  Connor is an extremely active little guy, being roughly the size of a three year old, with the physical agility to match.  This makes for a fun combination since our little “caveman” is mostly communicating via grunt.  He has fully grasped the ancient concept of might makes right.  A friend of ours likened having a toddler to going everywhere with a drunk.  We would go so far as to say going anywhere with Connor is like traveling with an angry foreign dictator, in which all communication is a series of threats, followed by bargaining, finally appeasement.

In other news, Brian has finally rejoined the land of the living, after he spent the last year and a half making the game Call of Duty: Black Ops.  In case you missed the massive media campaign surrounding the game, complete with promo Jeeps and star-studded commercials, it’s one of the biggest games of the year.  We’re happy to have him back with the family and we are taking him slowly through a re-emergence program to help him cope with life outside of the office.  On the plus side, we did enjoy a trip to Amsterdam, courtesy of Activision, in order to promote the game.  And though Brian doesn’t speak one-word of Dutch, we’re certain the hour-long interview he gave to the Dutch media was a success.

Lastly Erin and the dogs, Penny and Dodger, are enjoying life in sunny Huntington Beach.  She and the dogs thought it was best to bring the rest of the family along with them, and purchased a home on the edge of the Bolsa Chica wetlands.  Erin is happy to report that Penny is doing very well after her knee-surgery in the spring, for which her neurotic recovery was one of the most stressful and harrowing experiences in all the Andersons’ lives.  Also, Dodger is now receiving allergy shots for his hay fever, but the doctors have informed Erin that there is nothing they can do to help with his willful idiocy.  Erin splits what little free time she has between the Angry Birds iPhone game, reading trashy fantasy novels on her Kindle and sometimes writing on her blog (mrserinanderson.wordpress.com).  She is now in the process of writing a young adult novel of her own.  Since she is primarily writing during naptimes and after bedtime, you can look for this novel to hit shelves sometime in 2028, after Connor goes to college.

All in all, life is good at the Anderson household and we hope it’s the same for you!


Happy Holidays! With joy and affection, Erin, Brian, Connor, Penny, and Dodger


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Despite the many trials of taking a child on vacation, I did, in fact, have a good time.

Once C adjusted to the time change, and I adapted to living out of one room, we began to find a rhythm to our days.

1. We figured out a solution to the eating situation, which largely meant me anticipating C’s needs and feeding him before the hungry whining started.  It also meant that we could never eat alone.  By the time I was finished feeding C, he was more than ready to get up and go, leaving my stomach empty and rumbling.  Having my family entertain C in shifts actually allowed me to finish a meal! Miracle! I don’t even get to do that at home (for example, I ate half of my spaghetti dinner out of the pot while putting things away after C was done).

2. Nap time=mommy time. C getting up every day between 4:30 and 7:30 meant he was ready for a nap no later than 11.  And for whatever karmic reason, each nap was two hours! I finished 4 books and 4 magazines in ten days.  No dishes, no laundry, no beds to make. Amen!

3. The pool was awesome! We visited the pool everyday after 3pm.  Why after 3, you ask? Well, I am lily white, my son is slightly less blindingly white, and the sun is both hot and strong in Hawaii.  Going in the late afternoon minimized the time we spent in the sun at its worst.  Also, for some reason, most tourists liked to be out at the pool in the middle of the day, sweating their behinds off (I don’t get it!).  So the pool was much less crowded and lounge chairs, in the shade no less, were available.

I would spend half an hour to forty-five minutes playing with C in the wonderful water and sand, until a family member would relieve me  so I could read, doze and enjoy a cocktail.  It was heavenly.

4. The iPad wasn’t actually created by Apple and Steve Jobs. It was made by God as compensation for challenging children.  Trust me on this.  Buy one and you’ll see that it is literally heaven sent. We would not have survived dinners out or long afternoons hiding from the heat without the innovations of the iPad.  we just had to prop it up on the table and C could watch his favorite movies anywhere we went.  Crisis averted!

(on a side note: I could happily go the next five years without seeing “Milo and Otis” again.  As charming as Dudley Moore’s narration is, one can only watch a dog and cat suffer obvious animal cruelty as they “frolick” through their adventure.)

Now that we’re back, life may be a little easier but it’s missing those few moments of blissful relaxation one can only find in Hawaii.

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It’s been roughly a week since I got back from vacation, and yes, it took me all week to get back on track.  By that I mean I literally finished the last load of laundry earlier this evening.  I don’t know if I have ever had that much dirty laundry at once….ever.  I hope not to repeat it any time soon.

Aside from the mountains of dirty clothes my son and I created while on vacation, we also had an excellent time.  Well…mostly excellent.

Nobody warned me how much work it was to take a child on vacation.

Every child rearing book, every mommy website touted the pleasures of family vacations:

How great it is to get away with your kids! How much they’ll enjoy the adventure! How you’ll treasure every new experience together! Yay! Memories!

(And, oh wait, you’ll need to bring a mountain of stuff with you…..and buy a mountain of stuff once you arrive….and the baby may not be too happy about a new environment/time zone/schedule. But aside from all that, it will be totally awesome.)

First, let me be clear, I DID have a lovely time.  It was just the first few days that were pretty rough.

We had a tough time adjusting to the time change, initially.  C’s “at-home” wake up time is usually around 7:30 am, which is totally acceptable.  However, Hawaii is three hours behind us, so 7:30 became 4:30.  As in 4:30 in the morning!! As in two whole hours before the sun gets up! Not my favorite time of day.  But really, whose favorite time of day is it?

This horrendous wake up time thus negatively affected our entire day.  It made dinner nearly impossible, as C was so exhausted by 6 pm that he was ready to go to bed without eating.  Each day I struggled to keep him awake longer and longer so that we might actually enjoy dinner with the family (i.e. one of the best parts of vacation).  I was able to accomplish this for the last three nights, or, as I like to think of it, just in time to completely get off our “at-home” schedule.  But at least I accomplished my goal.  That’s something right?

Aside from the schedule issues, adjusting to eating at a restaurant for every meal or snacking on ready-to-serve foods from the mini-fridge in the room was a challenge as well.  C didn’t like most of the items on the kids’ menu at the hotel and was only amenable to two of the grocery store snacks I got him.  After two days of struggling to get him to adhere to the healthy meals plan we have at home, I gave in and let C eat french fries at every meal (aside from breakfast), along with a regular rotation of chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and sandwiches.  When he wouldn’t eat those, I fed him frozen yogurt mixed with fruit, or not, whichever he would get down.

Essentially, I decided my little man and I would indulge for the duration of our stay in paradise.  C can always use an extra pound, since he is only in the 25th percentile for weight, and me, well, I need to get back on Weight Watchers after my birthday next week anyways (so what’s 3 extra pounds to me?).

Mother of the year award heading my way anytime soon?  Probably not.

Oh well.  I think I’ll live.

(And to illustrate my point of schedule issues, C just woke up.  Baby Vacay Part 2 tomorrow…or maybe Monday…we’ll see…I’m definitely not super mom over here).

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Summer is a wonderful time, full of socializing and fun.  It’s probably the busiest social season of the year outside of the holidays.  Ah, the BBQs! Oh, the bonfires! The baseball games…the bar-patio sitting…the fair….the weddings…the showers…the…the…the…..endless social engagements…

I am a social creature at heart, so it pains me when I have to turn down invitations, but being a psuedo-single mother requires that I often do so.

My friends and family are confused by this, perhaps even hurt.

They say things like A) “why don’t you bring the baby with you?” or B) “can’t someone watch him for a couple of hours?”

Here is my response and the reasoning behind it.

A) No, I cannot bring the baby with me.  OK, technically I can, but I really don’t want to.  There are many reasons for this.  The teacher/librarian in me is going to make you a simple outline to follow:

1. My son is challenging.  He is an incredibly happy boy.  He loves running around, being silly, and indulging his curiosity at every moment.  He is also incredibly “high-spirited”.  This means he spends most of his time running, climbing, and exploring, somewhat mischievously.  To put him in a new environment means he suddenly has a whole new world to explore.  Joy! Thus, I will spend the entire party chasing after him as he tries to climb on the outside of your balcony or grab your dog’s tail or throw himself down your front steps.  Or, if I hold him still, I will spend all my time trying to keep him from screaming in frustration.

2. Your house/the beach/restaurant is not child-proofed, nor are the people there. My house has gates, child safety locks, foam corners on everything. Whichever venue you have asked us to attend, most likely does not have any of these things.  Also, your other non-child bearing guests may not be thrilled at the prospect of a rambunctious toddler careening through their legs and around tables at the event.  Both of these factors will again cause me to chase my child around the entire event making sure he doesn’t do harm to himself or anyone else.

3. Drinking is often involved at social events. I don’t drink alcohol at home.  I am the person solely responsible for my son’s well-being, so I don’t like to add alcohol in the equation.  So if I don’t trust myself and alcohol with my son, why would I trust other people and their alcohol with him? Yes, one drink is ok. Two drinks is probably fine, too.  But I’m not going to count how many drinks everyone has at a party to assess whether or not I’m going to let them hold my son when they ask.  And they do ask.  And I can’t really say no, can I?  I also can’t really tell an inebriated person he is scaring the crap out of my son and that’s the reason he is screaming to get away.  No, I have to say, “Oh, he’s just shy” or “he’s not feeling well”, forcing me to lie.  Fun!

So as you can see, if I bring my child to a party it’s actually more work for me than if I had stayed home, which immediately sucks any fun out of the occasion.

B) No, I cannot always find someone to watch my son.

1. I rely on my family quite a bit already so that I can do necessary things like laundry, grocery shopping, doctors’ appointments. And unfortunately for me, my family members have their own lives.  It would be unfair of me to pawn the baby off on family members for every single invite I get, and, frankly, I think it would make me a pretty irresponsible parent.

Before you freak out, I understand that parents are allowed their time off.  I understand that there are parents who spend a lot of time away from their child at social events.

I also happen to believe that becoming a parent means making certain sacrifices, one of which is not going to every single social event you get invited to, especially if you have to take advantage of other people’s kindness to achieve your social freedom.

2. Quite a few of the events I’m invited to involve day drinking. So while I may be able to find someone to watch my son for a few hours while I go to out, who is going to watch him when I get home?  Yes, I suppose I could go and not drink, making for awkward situations when people ask me why I’m not drinking and everyone around me gets silly and tipsy.

All in all friends, life changes drastically when you have a baby, particularly when you are raising the baby alone.  And while it may be fun for you to see my child for five minutes at a social event, those five minutes mean hours of planning, preparing, and chasing my son around.

So, I’m sorry I can’t come to your pub crawl, your late night dinner party, your casually planned BBQ.  It just doesn’t work with my life right now.  I’m sorry if it hurts your feelings.  Once you’re a parent, you’ll understand.  Or if you are a parent, you should already understand.  And if you don’t, well…I’m still not coming to your party.  Thanks for the invite, but I’m rsvping no.

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I’m not sure how to start this post.  I’ve written and re-written the first few sentences several times.  I think my indecisiveness stems from the fact that I really can’t believe it’s been a year, as trite as that sounds.

I know everyone says how fast life moves once you have children, how quickly they grow up.  And knowing everything in the universe, I scoffed, thinking how these trite things have been said for millenniums, they are the things parents say to one another to make small talk.

But then I had a child.  And I learned a lot of things, one of which was that kids DO grow up so fast!  So let me trite and old-fashioned and say: I cannot believe it’s been a year!  Baby C has grown up so fast!  Who is this toddler and where did my baby go?

And rather than make this a post about my personal odyssey through motherhood, I’m going to focus on just one day in my little boy’s life: his first birthday.

Baby C woke up cranky, as he has everyday for the last week due to yet another tooth cutting, but that did not deter me from wishing him a happy birthday.  He looked at me blankly and then cried when I tried to change his diaper.  Ok, so he may not have known or appreciated that today was a special day, but I did.

After breakfast and some Sesame Street, I let Baby C toddle up and down the hallways, into and out of rooms, pulling toys of shelves, piling books on the floor, basically cutting a swath of chaos through the house.  But today was his birthday and rather than say “no” every time he toppled a toy to the floor and left it behind, I just smiled.  He seems to enjoy doing that so why not let him (at least for one day)?

Yet, despite my coddling, as the morning progressed C became crankier and crankier…until my housekeeper showed up (yes I have a house keeper who does all the stuff I hate doing–vacuuming, scrubbing tile, and dusting–she is awesome in so many ways and will one day get her own post, not today though).  Why did it matter that she showed up?  Because C loves her.  He practically leaps out of my arms to get to her.

For the next half an hour they walked around the house together, happy as clams.  It was only when I took him away to take a nap that C became cranky again.  He was only cranky because he was tired and as soon as his head hit the pillow he was out.  Ahhhhh….sweet silence.

It lasted but an hour and C woke up cranky…again.  Argh.  Well maybe he was hungry.  Off we went to Ocean Diner (a completely awesome little diner in the Southbay) because Baby C loves breakfast foods, and what better way to celebrate his birthday than with pancakes.  Hurrah!

As soon as we sat down I ordered C some pancakes.  I knew what he wanted without having to ask.  The waiter scurried off while I waited for my mom, sister and sister’s boyfriend.  Their arrival coincided with the pancakes, allowing them all to witness the glorious transformation of cranky baby to happy baby. (My mom tried to convince me not to put syrup on his pancakes, but come on! It’s his birthday! He got sticky, yummy syrup.)

Eating three small pancakes in the same time it took the rest of us to order and eat, C happily enjoyed his breakfast for lunch.  He even squealed a couple times, frightening some while delighting others in the restaurant.  All in all it was a great birthday lunch.

If only I could have bottled that mood for C to drink from the rest of the day!

C was so tired when we got back that he alternated between cranky baby and utter compliance.  Kung Fu Panda was the only answer!

As C slipped into his afternoon nap, I slipped out to run some errands.  Cranky baby was there when I returned.  Oh well, we know how to fix that.  C got some of his favorite dinner foods: chicken and applesauce.  And just as before, food made all the difference.

C happily spent the next half an hour after dinner toddling around the backyard, babbling to himself and to us, stealing the dogs’ ball and running away from them.  It was all going so well….

Until C walked right into the arm of the bench, mouth open.  Tears, screams and a lot of bright red blood ended what had been a wonderful moment of the day.

Such is the birthday of a toddler: syrupy pancakes and a fat lip.  Who could ask for more?

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Hippity Hoppity

Easter’s gone away!  And Baby C couldn’t be happier.

For all my hopes that Easter would be the first holiday C would actually enjoy, it just did not happen.  This should be a life lesson to me to temper my expectations with reality.  I really should be more careful about managing them, as I find I am often let down (but will I learn?  probably not).

C is happily toddling around now, steadier and steadier on his feet every day.  He is so happy to be walking, free and independent, I was sure that the Easter Egg hunt would be just the thing!  Many of his favorite things would be happening at once:

1. He’d be walking independently.

2. People would be cheering for him! Yay Baby C!

3. People would take pictures of him, for which he would happily smile (the little ham).

4. He could pock strange objects off the ground without getting in trouble, satiating his curiosity and independence both.

However, C was having none of it.  In fact, he wanted nothing to do with the family Easter party altogether!  C started crying the minute we walked in the door of my Grandfather’s house.

As I may have mentioned before, I have an unusually large family.  This makes for unusually large holiday get-togethers.  So when we walked into my Grandfather’s house, we were greeted by no less than a dozen different faces with in minutes, and that was only about a quarter of the total head count for the party.

To say C was overwhelmed would be putting it mildly.  My poor boy spent the next two hours in near constant tears, being shifted among the eight people he knew and, strangely enough, to my Mom’s cousin, whom C had never seen before.

Given the state of his emotions, even the threat of putting C down on the grass for the Easter Egg Hunt was enough to send him into hysterics.  Even watching the other children run around picking up eggs was not enough to pick up his spirits.

By the time the hunt and pictures were over it was already 7pm and dinner was no where in sight.  C had been crying for two hours, was hungry, cutting a tooth, and when I got him calmed to a whimper, he started crying all over again whenever a new face approached. Deciding I had tortured my little boy enough for one day, I packed up my little family (with the help of many hands, despite some shocked faces that we would leave before Mass and dinner!) and headed out.  Daddy picked up McDonald’s and we enjoyed our Easter feast on the 105 headed West.

Thus ended Baby C’s 2nd Easter.

(Here’s hoping his birthday party goes a heck of a lot better.)

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I should probably call this post “Party Overboard” cause that’s the direction we’re heading in.

Today Baby C and I went shopping for his birthday party.  To go all out on the Luau theme, we headed to Party City for some party supplies.  And because I’m a bit of a worrier (in case you didn’t know) and a bit silly (which I know you knew) I went a little overboard.

Rather than a Hawaiian print, I opted for the Hibiscus flower print:

Party Supply theme

They might be a little girlie, but I liked them better than the scary Tiki gods.

In order to accommodate the 60 or so guests, I bought 100 dinner plates, 100 dessert plates, 50 plastic cups, 50 paper cups and 300 napkins.  That should be enough right?

Of course I know it’s more than enough, but I worry, albeit irrationally, that I will run out of plates or cups or anything mid-party and some hapless soul will be sent out to purchase more.  This would be embarrassing and I would feel overwhelmingly (again probably irrationally) grateful to said person, making for some awkward party moments.

To continue my theme of going overboard, I took the opportunity to order some balloons for the party, cause what’s a 1 year old’s Hawaiian Luau birthday party without balloons?  Again, I was nervous about having too few, so I ordered 40.  You read that right, I ordered 40!

Here’s how that happened: I began with 10 white balloons, thinking they would make a good, innocent background color to whatever other colors I chose.  But then, I thought, it’s a Luau, so we should have blue, right?  So I ordered 10 blue.  Well, I can’t just have blue and white or it’ll look like a baby shower for a little boy.  So I threw in 10 green.  Well, I’m not throwing a Notre Dame football party, so I needed to add yet another color.  Hey, those Hibiscus flowers are pink!  Thus, 10 pink balloons were added, bringing the total to 40.

Now I’m a little concerned that my house might look like the Junior Prom, but I’ll try to spread them out.

And….During a moment of weakness I also bought the following kitschy decorations:

Tacky Hawaiian hanging decorations

Tacky Welcome Sign

I don't know what I was thinking with this one, but isn't he cute?!?!

As you can see, it got progressively worse.  But now looking over the website, I’m a little upset that I didn’t see or purchase this:

Flamingo Ring Toss!

HOW AWESOME IS THAT? I may have to order this online.

I also may need a party intervention.

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