Saturday, December 18, 2010

Flippin' Christmas fun

Love her or hate her, there's one thing I know about Sarah Palin -- she was put on this earth to make me feel like one big wimp. She's also the reason we have a freshly-cut Christmas tree.

You see, each year my family and I go to a local tree farm to cut our own and to take our family photo in the process.
Usually we pile on coats, but get so hot and sweaty from walking the property and taking turns sawing the tree that we take them off. One year, my husband and I left ours on just because we didn't want to carry them. The kids were smart enough to realize it was 65 degrees and left theirs in the truck. I had several people comment that year that they liked our cards, and a few were brave enough to ask, "Why were the kids in short-sleeves?"

More often than not, however, my husband is the one who's not like the others. We have several winter pictures in which he is wearing shorts. It looks like we've photo-shopped him in from Bermuda

But, back to Sarah Palin... My daughter and I watched her reality show for the first time while I did what I do best this time of year -- curl up with a cup of hot chocolate. As Sally on Charlie Brown says, "I'm not made for winter!" even if it is in the South.

So, I enjoyed wrapping up in my snuggie (Yeah, I own one, so what?) and watching Sarah climb mountains, cross ice crevasses, catch salmon amongst the bears, hunt caribou, round up her five kids and get up early to do aerobics, all in the miserable Alaskan weather. I enjoyed it so much that I laughed out loud and turned up the thermostat.

That's when my children remembered our tradition. The problem with traditions is once you start them, you have to continue them forever. Just something to keep in mind, especially when it's snowing, and the wind is whipping and it's freezing, and you have to go cut down a Christmas tree.

"Can't we just go to a lot, pull the truck up and have Dad throw it in the back while I wait inside?" I asked. "I'll let you play Christmas music."

(Growing up, my dad would only let us listen to Christmas songs at noon on Christmas. Now that it starts in October, I'm inclined to agree, though I do allow them a little more time -- say, Christmas Eve.)

"We want to pet the bunnies and feed the ducks and drink hot chocolate and see the waterfall. We want the tree farm," they said.

Had it not been for Sarah Palin's television show, Alaska, I would have insisted that it's too flippin' cold for trees this year, but alas I am competitive enough to at least brave a few flurries.
Fortunately, I did. We soon discovered it was the last day of the season for the tree farm.

"Everyone's already gotten their trees. No one really comes this late," the owner said.

Late? I thought.

Ultimately, not only did we get to pet the bunnies, we cut down a beautiful tree and got it for half-price, proving that the early bird does not always catch the worm.

Oh, and what a family photo! This year's has to be our most memorable. We hiked down Candy Cane Lane to a picturesque waterfall. The kids and I sat on a rock, while my husband positioned the camera to take our picture in 10 seconds. He pushed the button and then hurried to sit down next to our son.

Unfortunately, we didn't leave him enough room, and he missed the rock entirely, and to my children's horror, he tumbled into the water. I would say to my horror, but as the saying goes a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this picture, I am staring directly into the camera and laughing harder than I have laughed since the season's changed. Maybe Sarah Palin is right -- sometimes you do need to get outdoors.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The fine art of Ninja out

I had made it through the introduction of the pep squad team, the girls' volleyball team, including tearful good-byes to their coaches and the entire seventh grade football team, complete with a long lecture on grades at a combined banquet recently when my daughter looked at me and said two words --Ninja out!

She didn't have to explain. Remember James Bond when he received his mission and had 90 seconds to react before it exploded? Well, just call me Bond, James, Bond. I shoved my camera in my bag, slyly slid on my jacket, nimbly lifted my 25-pound purse off the floor and stealthily made my way out the back door of the cafeteria, feeling proud that I timed it just as the applause for the team began. I looked back to smile at my daughter, but she was no where to be found.

Had I left a man, err, girl, behind? Just as I pondered whether to keep moving, she came running up to my side.

"I had to go back," she said.

"What? You went back? You know what we were taught. You don't even look back!"

"But I had to go back for this," she said, holding up her name tag.

"Well, yes," I conceded. "I guess you couldn't leave that behind."

"And I had to tell my friend good-bye," she said quickly.

Sigh. She has a long way to go before she'll be a 007 and me, too, for that matter.

Ninja out, you see, is a fine art. One we aren't taught in the South. I learned it via a friend from Germany who learned it via a friend from Ohio. Now, to be fair, men in the South have, perhaps, been doing it for years. We women, however, just never noticed because we were so busy saying good-bye for 45 minutes.

And that is what Ninja out is all about -- getting out quickly without good-byes, disappearing so that your host or hostess doesn't even realize you are gone. I know, it's against nature, but I have to say, it works.

My first introduction to it came at a party that was gathering steam around the same time as my children's (OK, my) bedtime.

I had just told our hostess that we needed to leave when she said, "Oh, wait right here. You haven't seen the photos from my cruise."

It was then that my friend turned to me and said, "Ninja out!"

"Excuse me?" I said.

"Get your purse, get your things and do not look back. Ninja out!" she said as she grabbed me by the elbow.

"But ... but ... we can't just leave," I cried, every fiber of my being protesting.

"Do you want to be here another hour?"

I looked at my children's pitiful faces and thought about how early we needed to get up the next day.

"Well, noooo."

"Then let's go. Ninja out!" she said in her delightful -- yet forceful -- German accent.

I hesitantly complied.

"But it's not the Southern way."

"We can text her tomorrow," she said as she climbed in her car parked strategically facing the road for a quick getaway.

We, on the other hand, weren't as smart or as quick.

"Wait, wait! Where are you going?" asked our poor hostess and a crowd of my friends at the door.

"Oh, I'm sorry. The kids were getting tired, so we thought we'd leave."

"But, Mama, I'm not tir .." my son started to say before I clamped his mouth.

"I'll call you. We really enjoyed it," I yelled out the door of the truck.

"But, wait, you must take some of these brownies home with you," she said.

"Well, OK," I said, reluctantly climbing out of the vehicle and making my way toward her into the kitchen.

"Oh, and look, I found those pictures. Come sit down one minute, and I'll show them to you."

"Well, the kids and my husband are out in the car."

"Oh, they'll be fine. It will just take a minute."

I turned to glance out the kitchen window and saw one annoyed husband, two tired children and the tail lights of my Ninja out master heading northbound down the road. When I re-emerged an hour and a half later, my son said, "Mama, when you try to Ninja out, you pay the consequences."

I think he had a point.