The Family Meets St. Nicholas

(Based on “A Visit From St. Nicholas/’Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore)

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house. Kitty was purring. She’d just killed a mouse.

My glasses were cleaned and laid out with care in hopes that bourbon and beer would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds while visions of more screens danced in their heads.

Wife on her side of the bed. Me on mine. Wondering how long ’til a child climbs in.

When down in the kitchen there was such a clatter. I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Turned on the light. Blind from the flash. Hand over face to see who it is.

The moon outside shone on the snow gave a luster of midday to objects below.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but The Gaggle, The Boy, The Oppressed in good cheer.

They poured out some eggnog, so lively and quick. I shooed them to bed. Here comes St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came. And I shooed and scattered as I called them by name.

Now Lovie, now Slugger, now Slapshot and screwball. Junior and Dearie, make haste down the hall. Go to your rooms. Get in your beds. Make not a peep. Just rest your heads.

I wanted to throw them, to make them fly.

There was a lack of hustle. They just rolled their eyes.

Meanwhile, I heard a sleigh slow to stop

Eight not-so-tiny-deer resting on top.

A Christmas vision

The sleigh-driver hopped off. Claus and bag, too

I hoped that bag had a bottle, brand new.

Something nice, tasty and strong.

Something enjoyed after homework gone wrong.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

Kitty was watching. She just had to look.

A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,

Toys for everyone. Jills and Jacks.

His eyes—how they twinkled as gifts were dispersed!

He sung to himself a nice Christmas verse.

His droll little mouth carried the tune

As the Christmas Star rose high over the moon.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

Made me grateful he wasn’t vaping. What a relief

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was gen’rous and kind, a right jolly old man,

With a bottle of single malt scotch in each hand.

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

I asked him to stay for some Christmas cheer.

He politely declined, then waved to our Dears.

The children had been right there standing behind us.

By the time I looked back, Santa had left us.

The Miracles of Christ stood there and smiled.

The Boy pointed and asked, “Is this one my pile?”

But I hope you enjoy your own Christmas night.

Happy Christmas to all. Daddy’s tired. Good night.

Happy Christmas!

Christmas Spirits… and Wine… and Beer

As you know, I take my drinking very seriously. I fancy myself to be somewhat of an expert on beer. I am still learning about scotch and bourbon but I’ve always thought learning is fun.

During the Christmas season, I always try to read “A Christmas Carol” and one or two other stories of the Season written by Charles Dickens. Christmas in Victorian England seems like a fascinating thing to me and Wife. The Spirit. The decor. One time wife had to go to London on business not long before Christmas. She returned with mini mince pies, Christmas pudding, and some catalogs that featured some dinners you could order and pick up in time for Christmas dinner. Turkey. Goose. Beef. I asked wife if they shipped international orders.

Okay. Back to the drinking. I like drinking and I also like history. I have a book on what they drank during Colonial America. Colonists took what they had and turned it into delightful and delicious concoctions. Everything organic and made from scratch. Ever have a Rattle-Skull? Delicious.

One of my favorite recipe sources.

I first learned about a drink called a “Smoking Bishop” the first time I actually read “A Christmas Carol”. I was intrigued enough to look it up. It looked interesting and easy enough. I made a batch and it was wonderful. I try to make some every year. There are lots of variations on the recipe. I don’t know if there is one “original” recipe but this is the one I use.

Photo: toriavey.com

Speaking of “A Christmas Carol”, Fezziwig served Negus at his Christmas party. I’ve looked for a recipe to this drink. The easiest one calls for a mixture of port wine and boiling water. Add some nutmeg and cinnamon. A little lemon juice. Some suggest you mix the nutmeg and wine and let it sit for an hour or so. I make it and serve immediately with a lemon wedge.

I’m always looking for new things to try. I don’t need to look for reasons. The Miracles of Christ give me plenty of those by themselves. What do you like to make and drink? I know a lot of people like egg nog. Wife has a special recipe for that that has been handed down for generations. I like to sample some of that to. After all, ’tis the Season.

Just me and… Forget it (A Marriage Story)

We’re a busy family. We always have been. Wife’s work schedule is insane. The kids have sports, doctor’s and dentist appointments, drivers ed. We travel here and there to visit family and sometimes help family with various things around the yard. There’s things around our yard that need attention. We’ll get to it. Sure.

We’re busy just like you. Everyone has their obligations and to-do lists. It’s nice to get away for a while but even then it can be tough for me and Wife. Our children can be territorial; Not with me of course. I could be missing for a month and they wouldn’t care as long as screens are charged up and the Wi-Fi is working. I’m talking about their mother. That’s right. Their mother. I have been reminded numerous times that Wife is their mother. My mother is not in the house and therefore they get to have her and not me. People don’t own people and they should be able to spend time with whoever they want. I’m still working on that message for the children.

One time we took a vacation to a resort. This was before we became foster parents. There was me, Wife, The Oppressed, and The Boy as well as some of my in-laws. One week at an all-inclusive resort. No cars. No going anywhere except the beach and the restaurant. During that entire week Wife and I had a 20-minute lunch together. That was it in the entire seven days.

A rare photo of Wife not surrounded by children.

I know you’re reading this nodding your head. You’re dealing with the same thing. Or you had the same thing once and don’t anymore. You may miss it those days and for that, I pray for your mental health.

It’s not all bad. Sometimes when when we need to go somewhere and have to take two cars, the kids want to go with Wife. This allows me some quiet time. Sometimes the cars are so packed one or two of the children have to go with me. That’s when they show Wife how they can contort themselves in the car and still be able to go with her. They are willing to do anything if it means going with their mom and not going with me. I’m looking forward to one of the children getting their license. Maybe then Wife and I could go together in one car and the children could go in another. Maybe then we could get some alone time. It would just be for an hour or so but I’ll take what I can get.

Last week we had a Zoom meeting with some friends. Wife and I were set up with drinks and snacks waiting for the host to join. Something went off inside The Boy as he sensed I was sitting too close to my wife. He sped into the room, jumped on the couch and crated a spot between me and Wife for him. He doesn’t want me to get too much time with my wife. He doesn’t want me to get any time with my wife.

A Thanksgiving Leftover Story

I hope you had a good Thanksgiving. If you don’t live in the United States, I hope you had a good week.

Thanksgiving has a lot of meaning for my family. Lately it’s meant something a little extra as one of the children in our house has a birthday that week. I love to share the story of how our child entered the world. Wife disputes some of what I’m going to share with you but the basic bones of the story, I think, we can all agree on.

We had been going to my brother’s house for Thanksgiving for years. This particular year it seemed like everyone was there. My brother and his wife had planned accordingly and bought the biggest turkey they could find. I don’t remember how big exactly but it was a big turkey. I was lucky. I got a drumstick. I love drumsticks.

We gathered around a table. It was a long table consisting of multiple tables one next to the other. There was stuffing. There was potatoes. There was gravy. Every vegetable imaginable. There was also turkey. Have I told you how big this turkey was?

We bowed our heads and said Grace. Following that, we proceeded to pile our plates high with the stuffing and turkey. the mashed potatoes and turkey. Corn. Yams. Gravy. I like gravy on my potatoes. I like to eat a turkey drumstick and I got one. When I was done making my plate, the tip of the drumstick was in some gravy, adding to how great this is, or is going to be.

I had the turkey in my hand. I could have used two but I wanted to keep all of the gravy on the turkey. It smelled wonderful. I was about to take a bite when I felt a tap on my arm.

“I think we need to leave,” My wife said.

It was time to go to the hospital. Of all the days. Of all the times of day. It was time to go to the hospital and welcome our first child. We got up to go. Everyone at the table wished us well. We drove to the hospital where wife was admitted. Two people went in that day. Three went out.

True story. Wife and the rest of the family dispute some of the minor details, but this is what happened.

Words of Thanks

Pilgrims

We are celebrating Thanksgiving this year. There are a lot of things, actually everything, that is different this year. Coronapalooza means plans for everyone being disrupted. Instead of travelling to a relative’s house, we will be home. All of us: Wife, children and me will be around a table sharing a Thanksgiving meal. One will complain about having to share potatoes although there is enough to feed more than the number of people at the table. Another will complain about not being able to check his phone. You see, we have a teenager who is a secret agent for the federal government. He can’t tell us what branch or what exactly he does for fear of blowing his cover.

The Oppressed is a vegetarian. I am grateful for this because it means more turkey for me. Then again, there are three teenagers I will have to fight if I want turkey. Wife and I have stocked up on wine and beer, so after the festivities conclude, maybe we can have a drink together and enjoy a second or two without children. We will celebrate and be thankful. What are we thankful for? Plenty. I, for one, am thankful I got to coach baseball and football and got to spend more time with The Boy. The Boy is grateful there is no more games and he can go back to watching YouTube videos instead of wasting his mornings outside playing a stupid game.

I’m grateful for The Oppressed, who is healthy. Years ago, when she entered this world, she was in the NICU for a few days. She made it and now we are blessed with her unsolicited advice on how we can be better parents and constant reminders about how we only had children so we can have people do work around the house and yard.

I’m grateful for our life and house. It’s a house that is filled with children, including our Gaggle of foster children. Our life has allowed us to take in additional children. They have brought with them additional challenges such as road lessons, more school, more classes and more teacher conferences. There’s also the occasional teen melodrama from time to time, but my wife and I are able to see it through and recover just in time for the next melodramatic issue.

I’m grateful for Wife. She is constantly working long, seemingly endless hours to support us. I’m pretty sure her work schedule violates labor laws and I am glad when she can walk away from her work so we can reconnect and see what new crisis is waiting in the wings.

I’m grateful for Kitty, our fierce and wild pet who protects us from dangers outside our home. I’m grateful for her jumping on my lap and keeping me warm.

There is plenty to be grateful for and we will celebrate that this week. We will celebrate among children attacking each other, among insults and other barbs travelling across the table. I just hope the banter and rancor will stop long enough when I want another helping of something. I hope there will be a word or thought of gratitude between the shouts of, “I like your cut, G!” and the incoming slap that immediately follows. Maybe a word of thanks instead of shouting, “You’re so sus!” Maybe a word of thanks instead of the usual words we hear when one is chasing the other around a table or around the house.

I’m also grateful for you visiting. Thank you for reading. Happy thanksgiving.

Little Pilgrims

On Facebook: Drink Your Juice

On Twitter: @Greg_the_Brave

Brothers and Sisters

As of right now, we have five children: two elementary-aged children and three teenagers. Wife says she doesn’t have teenagers. She has five small children.

The three teenagers will start their day with some breakfast. One may take some coffee with breakfast. Another will start their day with a body check as they walk by one of their siblings. After delivering the body check, they will run around the kitchen trying to avoid whatever retribution the checked is trying to deliver. This will go on for a couple of minutes with both children who are wearing socks on a hardwood floor. What could possibly go wrong?

After breakfast and the accompanying cardio, it is time to begin the fun adventures of homeschooling. Sometimes, all three children will be in the same room looking over the assignments and offering whatever moral support they can. This usually comes in the form of, “You’re such an idiot!” or “Will you shut up?!” Meanwhile, Wife is downstairs dialed into a meeting with other business professionals making sure her phone is on “Mute”.

After a rigorous morning, it’s time for lunch. The Gaggle will try to fit one more hit to the back or push someone to the bed one more time before running like Hell downstairs to be the first to the kitchen and first dibs on whatever it has to offer. After pushing, shoving, and reminding each other how stupid or “sus” they are, everyone finally finds something to eat and sits down at the table. A meal is shared over how easy the other’s subjects are and if one had the other workload, they would have been done with the day already. This, of course, prompts another to yell, “Liar!” across the table and they could have been done with everything already if they really wanted to make them all look bad.

“Oh my God, Bruh. You’re so sus!”

During lunch, Wife and I will check in on the future of our country. Things are going great for one (pick one). It’s the other two (pick two) that are having trouble. Then again, they wouldn’t have so much trouble if they weren’t so dumb. This is where one will try to climb over the table and assault the other, who is trying to hide under the table from the attack. The third is preventing them from hiding under the table so they may have the proper retribution. Wife and I step in and direct everyone back to their corner – I mean, seat – and instruct them to finish their lunch. They will have another class starting soon.

Lunch ends and they go back upstairs. This is hastened some by someone trying to get one more jab at someone and then run. One or two will run after them. They are usually directed to their own rooms. Two go to one room. One goes to another. More schooling. After the day comes to a merciful close, we are reminded again by all of the Gaggle how smart they are. Each maintains they are the smartest. Each one is reminded by the other of their stupidity. Wife reminds everyone she doesn’t have teenagers. She has small children.

Dinnertime approaches and we sit down to find out about each other’s day. One of the Gaggle talks about his ever-growing list of girlfriends and how it’s so hard to keep track of all of them. Another calls Casanova “Sus” and reminds him of his looks. They tell him the list of girls who are repulsed is longer than his list of “girlfriends”. The first laughs and says how foolish his sibling is for thinking that.

Dinner is over. Some people hang around in the dining room, especially if there’s a fire in the fireplace. One of The Gaggle finds Kitty and spirits her away to the bedroom because Kitty “loves” them the most. I have a drink and unwind from the day and the verbal barbs that accompanied it. Tomorrow is another day sure to be filled with more sibling love and tenderness.

Getting Away

The ‘Rona gave another trial this tried-and-true family had yet to endure: Vacation.

Wife usually picks where we go. I’m happy to go anywhere so I provide the tie-breaking vote if we can’t narrow it down to one place. We did have a place picked out and booked… Then Coronapalooza hit and we were forced to call an audible. We needed a place that would accommodate seven people. We needed a place that would provide fun, diversion and enough space for people to properly social-distance. What better place for that than the Great Outdoors.

Wife has told me time and time again she is a “Hotel Girl”. I did a couple of years in Boy Scouts and my first camping trip was wall-to-wall rain. The heavens opened up and stayed open from the time we made camp to the time we broke camp. We swam, cooked, ate and slept in the rain. I should have checked to see who made those tents because not a drop of water came in the entire week.

We arrived at the campsite; Me, Wife, The Boy, The Gaggle, The Oppressed. We were accompanied by two of wife’s cousins. One of the cousins had three kids. One week. Four adults. Eight kids. What could possibly go wrong?

We set up the tents when we got there. I was ready. We had enough tents to shelter everybody and we were cooking on propane. It wasn’t exactly Valley Forge that week.

Wife and one of the cousins did most of the cooking that week. I helped where I could. I washed some dishes. I monitored the kids swimming. The waves at the beach were fantastic. Everyone went out to the water and tried to remain standing as the large waves came at everybody.

We cooked and cleaned outdoors. We roughed it, especially the gaggle, who did everything they could do to find and use wi-fi. All of the children went a week without screens. It was, by far, one of the longest, hardest weeks they ever endured. the mental anguish. The Oppressed was also concerned for everyone’s safety. On the way to the beach, she saw signs warning about sharks and made sure no one went into the water. I reminded her that sharks did live in that water and we needed to be told about this. The sign convinced her that there were definitely sharks and maybe we shouldn’t go in.

Proof we shouldn’t swim. (The Oppressed)

There were other challenges and trials. Some Daddy Long Legs infiltrated tents. I was sent in a couple of times to rescue God’s little creatures. Some of the tents looked like the children (the boys) were actually trying to grow or culture something in their tents. I was glad I had a mask when I went in there. Some of the kids left their shoes out in the rain. Luckily, we had extra shoes packed.

There were hot showers on the premises, so it was nice to be able to keep clean during the week. What wasn’t nice, was having to trip through the roots and rocks in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.

Labor Intensive

We visit my in-laws on Cape Cod from time to time. One day may include some work that needs to be done around the house. Like other homes and families, spring and summer days may involve mowing the lawn. An autumn day would involve some raking and bagging.

Sometimes a day might call for a project larger than some simple yardwork. This happened recently on, of all days, Father’s Day. A day that normally calls for father’s everywhere to relax and be celebrated was a day this father and my wife’s were called upon for a project.

It is only fair to mention it wasn’t just the fathers who answered this call. My wife was among the others who assisted in this.

We started at the beginning. We needed to dig a hole. I grabbed a shovel and broke ground. Dirt was dug. Dirt was cleared. It was moved to a tarp that could be moved if we needed more room. The Boy assisted wherever he could. The whole was measured. It wasn’t quite deep enough. I did more digging. Some rocks were struck, dug out, and removed. When I do projects like these, I’m always hoping I come across some type of artifact: an old coin, a relic from early settlers, a remnant of an Native American village. No such luck. Just rocks and dirt.

The hole was done. We measured to make sure. It was deep enough. We mixed the concrete. I helped to mix. My arms were sore from digging and now they were getting a different workout from mixing the concrete. I asked Wife if she noticed the workout my arms were getting. She looked at me like I was weird. She still hasn’t fully realized how wonderful I am.

We scraped the last of the concrete. It wasn’t enough. We needed another batch. My father-in-law and I go to the hardware store for more concrete. I put the bag on the counter and move it from the counter to the truck and from the truck to the backyard. Concrete is mixed and poured. Poured and smoothed and still not enough. It’s time for another trip to the hardware store for more concrete. We’re still in the midst of Coronapalooza. Restaurants are open but sparsely populated. I suggest to my father-in-law we stop somewhere for a beer and maybe some chicken wings or onion rings. We can just tell the folks at home there was traffic on the street and a line of people at the store. My idea is turned down.

We return home. I bring the new concrete to the backyard. I lug it, pour it, mix it. Wife still doesn’t notice my arms. The lack of notice can be sad sometimes. The latest batch is laid out. The concrete dries and sets. We have successfully installed the base for the new clothesline.

Poured and set

Rightfully Mine

I find myself losing more and more to a certain child in my home.

One of “The Gaggle” has been with us for a few months and this child has since infringed on things, animals, and people that I hold dear. This person is a nice person: Helps when we need it, asks for help when they need it. They even ask when they need or want to use something. But sometimes…

Kitty and I have taken a liking to each other. I had always been a “Dog Person” until Kitty came to us. With The Wife at work and the Miracles of Christ at school, it was just me and her. We hung out. She kept me company while I folded clothes, washed dishes or cooked. I would wake up with her on or next to me. A couple of confirmed kills in the Mouse Department have cemented her standing as a beloved member of our household.

The Gaggle will run into the house, sometimes body-checking me out of the way. She will yell, “Kitty!” and find her and pick her up. She will cuddle Kitty and make sure I see them in a moment of tender cuddling. The Gaggle smiles. Kitty and I are not amused.

Exhibit A

I once got a Nintendo Switch for my birthday. I use it when I can. The Miracles of Christ have a new found interest in video games. God forbid The Boy plays Pac-Man or Space Invaders with me. (He’s still learning and I try to keep it simple for him.) Everyone, including The Gaggle wants my Switch and “The Legend of Zelda”. It was nice when I wanted to kill a few minutes with the game. I constantly hear a knock on the door. “Do you have ‘Zelda’?” “Can I use it?” “Can I use it now?” “Are you done, yet?” Now, I can barely get my hands on it. It got so bad, Wife bought me another Switch and is considering buying another copy of “Zelda”. I would rather defend what’s rightfully mine. It’s gone so well thus far.

Exhibit B

My cat. My Switch. My wife… Yeah. My wife, too. At the end of the day, The Gaggle and Wife will sit down to some insipid, mind-numbing television show that has since been cancelled (big surprise). I used to get some time alone at the end of the day with Wife. Now, she has decided to kill brain cells with The Gaggle while The Boy and The Oppressed explain to me why they need to sleep in my bed.

Dinner at Plymouth

One of my favorite places to visit is Plymouth. Wife and I went there on a spur of the moment when we started dating. It’s still one of our favorite places to go and spend a day or two.

Our itinerary has changed since we’ve been blessed with the little Miracles of Christ. It’s been less browsing in wine stores and more hustling through whatever we’re doing so we can be back at the hotel before (perish the thought) the pool closes.

One particular hostage crisis occurred with The Oppressed on a day that was balanced with adult and child activities. The Wife and I decided we would have a small lunch during the day, not too much. We had plans for dinner. Wife and I noticed a French restaurant across the street from where we were staying. There was a menu posted outside. We looked at the menu and then looked at each other. Wife is a Foodie. She loves restaurants, nice restaurants, restaurants where the waitstaff walks up to your table dressed up in a nice suit and, off the top of their head, recites the specials, including where it came from, what it’s cooked in and how it’s presented.

Wife and I pretty much knew what we were going to order. We noticed it pleased God that this restaurant should offer some dishes the Miracles of Christ would enjoy. Perfect. It was going to be another trip to Plymouth capped off with a night at a restaurant we hadn’t yet tried. I could taste the Grand Marnier right there.

We headed downtown for our days activities and The Oppressed saw Domino’s. The look on her face said it all.

“Can we go to Domino’s?”

“No. We decided where we’re going.”

“I want to go to Domino’s”

“We’ll be back here another time. We can do Domino’s then.”

“But I don’t want to go to that place.”

The barrage had started. Wife and I didn’t expect this attack but it wasn’t the first. We met the initial charge with redirection. From there, we recalled the items on the menu and told her of all the offerings from the bill of fare. Things she herself loved. Things she had been constantly asking for. Things you couldn’t get at a pizza shop and we could get pizza anytime back home, and we have. We don’t have a restaurant like this where we live. This is our chance.

Wife and I offered a Thanksgiving Cornucopia of reasons why our wisdom had led us to this restaurant just as God had led the Pilgrims to Plymouth centuries ago. After a day of travelling and sightseeing, we would enjoy a feast of plenty and give thanks for the bounty the nice people in nice suits would be placing before us.

The oppressed wasn’t having it. She continued to batter us like that first winter of 1620-21. I was noticing the shelter of our reasons that protected us from the harsh winds and punishing weather of an elementary school-child and her demand for a pizza she had seen on TV were overpowering our plans for dinner. My vision of enjoying an appetizer and then a drink with my wife despite pestering children was going up in a flambé. The elements were punishing.

That evening, we sat down to a large pizza served with buffalo wings, paired with a variety of soft drinks served by the cup.

A parade down the middle of Plymouth. This was one of the calmer moments of our excursion.