In Which We Agree to Burn Down our House and Start Over

Just a couple of deprived American children
January is always the very worst month.  Flu? Check (and Yes, we get our vaccines as we tend to not take medical advice from Gwyneth Paltrow).  Post-holiday discovery that I have no pants that fit? Check.  Post-holiday realization that my children have been on their devices for 35 consecutive days without a break? Check.  Post-holiday regret that I over-decorated again and it will now take me 11 months to clean it all up? Check.  New Year's epiphany that another year of my life flew by in like 5 seconds and I will be dead before I know it without having become a real author?  Check, check, check.

And even worse than impending death is coming home with all the newly purchased toys and gifts and having to find something to do with it.  Seriously, if I'm ever kidnapped by Russian intelligence and they want to torture me, all they have to do is fill my cell with clutter and then keep filling it up or messing it up after I've organized it.  If I'm really on top of things, I have already purged last year's crap and have created just enough space to accommodate whatever things I will buy my children this year, and since I'm always in charge of that, I know exactly what I'm dealing with.  And they won't miss last year's crap because they have spent exactly 2.7 seconds playing with it, which is more time than they will spend playing with this year's crap.  The rest of the time, they will be playing Minecraft on their devices or figuring out how to disable all the parental controls that I barely understand and secretly communicating with pedophiles posing as candy dealers.  Or else they will be writhing on the floor telling me they are bored.  I don't know which is worse.  Kidding! of course the pedophiles are worse.  Yes.  A little bit.

This year I thought I gave myself an incredible gift, or rather, I informed Kevin that he would be giving me an incredible gift.  I would take the year off from playing Santa, and he would take over all  gift-shopping, gift-planning-to-preempt-claims-of-unfairness, gift-buying, gift-wrapping, gift-how-are-we-going-to-get-all-this-crap-back-from-Arkansas duties, to include stockings.  I would pretend to be him for this year and think nothing about any of it and be more surprised than anyone when the kids unwrap a 500 piece lego set on Christmas morning.  I would empty my brain of this very heavy "emotional load" that all the experts tell us women carry around and become a feminist icon.

I enjoyed a blessed Christmas season.  I sipped mulled wine and read books and I may have even reflected on Jesus being born, although I don't want to give myself too much credit.  I wrote a future Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel with the extra time.  OK, I didn't, but I had an idea for a future Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel.   I solved a bunch of other problems, too, like America, and whether Repose Gray or Owl Gray or Mindful Gray is a better paint color.  I decided to paint America with Mindful Gray, although she does also need owl-wisdom and reposing.

In my eagerness to off-load the role of Santa to an understudy, I forgot one teeny-tiny detail.  And that is Boundaries, Guidelines, and Limits.  I forgot to tell a man who makes 9 dinner reservations for a single evening and who becomes agitated when he finds year-old CVS receipts in the trash key information regarding the number, cost, and size of the gifts he needed to purchase.  This was akin to giving some children Amazon Fires loaded with addictive video games without screen time limits.  Or giving to a slightly indecisive Santa understudy with perfectionist tendencies.

Imagine my horror, HORROR, when we arrived at grandma's house and needed box-cutters to get into the guest room.  Grandma had in fact replaced all her furniture with items fashioned out of Amazon boxes.  I went in the bathroom and threw up in the toilet.  Then I snorted some crushed-up zoloft and silently screamed into a roll of toilet paper.  I told myself, it's fine, IT WILL BE FINE, and also THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT YOU IDIOT.  How could you forget to set some parameters? It's almost like performing a heart transplant and forgetting to put in the new heart.  In both cases, someone is going to die from your stupidity and neglect.

It took Kevin a full day to wrap everything, which is his fault since he insists Santa wraps all his gifts, unlike in my family tradition where you just throw everything under the tree at the last minute and go to bed.  And it's not because we are lazy, it's because it's more magical for kids to come in and see all the gifts arrayed in plain sight.  Obviously.  When the shepherds arrived at the manger, Jesus was not gift-wrapped.  Ok, he kind of was, but you could tell that was a baby, you didn't need to do any work first.   I resisted the impulse to help Kevin wrap, since it wasn't my fault that he bought every last item they sell on  OK, that was my fault, as I have already admitted, but the wrapping Santa presents was clearly not.  I went back in the bathroom and consoled myself with the knowledge that he would never be able to figure out how to get all that crap back to DC, and we might still continue to live in our home after all.

The kids came in Christmas morning and just about died from the overdose of consumerism.  Lawson, who still believes in Santa, remarked on how good he must have been this year for Santa to reward him so mightily (which is really not the message we wanted to send).  Charlotte, who is wise to everything, looked at Kevin and smirked in a way that somehow communicated thanks, admiration, disgust, pity, and amusement all at once.  Then she looked at me and sighed, knowing that my mental health was declining before her very eyes, with consequences for her own life.

Long story short. The kids played with about 10% of the gifts for a full day before returning to their devices, which I must admit is a far better outcome than in previous years, so I guess Kevin deserves some credit (although I would say that gluttony is a pretty good way of ensuring you get all the nutrients you need to live).  Kevin somehow got 90% of the crap home (regretfully).  I have been putting away and purging and becoming an alcoholic ever since.

Also, there were mice.  That's right.  We got home and found our kitchen covered in mouse crap.  Then we actually saw the cute little things scurrying about.  Then we all freaked out.  Then Kevin really stepped up to the plate and,  long story short, bludgeoned five of them to death.  I didn't know he had it in him.  I'm a little terrified, actually.

Between Kevin's germ-and-critter-"concern" and my clutter-phobia, we really came together as a couple and decided arson was the best course of action.  I'm joking. Sort of.  We're just going to paint everything Mindful Gray.


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