Almost Like Christmas

Vincenzo, whose cookie-decorating skills rival his father’s gingerbread house-decorating skills, created an army of robots and Santa’s alter ego, which he used to enact a rather violent play for his brothers.


For those of you wondering why I have a robot-shaped cookie cutter in my Christmas collection, here’s how Rocco decorated his robot.


Christmas Eve felt kind of weird. I hadn’t realized before how these two days of the year are already choreoraphed for us. Normally we don’t have to plan a minute of it; we just show up at all the places we always show up to. With all the gatherings and events gone this year, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. It felt like we were just waiting for the day to end so we could go to bed. At one point, Kevin and I made a grape run to the grocery store, just to have something to do. And it’s silly, but being at the grocery store with a bunch of other people wearing celebratory garb from sparkly holiday dresses to unstained sweatpants, the air buzzing with pre-Santa energy—it somehow made the day feel like Christmas Eve. There are so few chances to feel part of a community lately and to share collective joy, and standing there feeling it all made me get teary-eyed in the checkout line.  I felt like Scrooge when he wakes up and realizes he’s still alive. If I had a shilling I surely would have tossed it to the first bare-footed boy who walked by, so full of the spirit was I.

After dinner, the Santa excitement in our house was cranked up to 11. Rocco and Leo were just like two characters out of a cheesy Hallmark movie, pouncing on each other like lion cubs, holding theoretical discussions about how Santa gets it all done, and giggling together their beds once the door was closed and lights off. As much as I hate watching those cheesy Hallmark movies, it is lovely to spend a night living inside of one.

Once the giggling subsided and I had a moment to myself, I sent a picture of my fireplace to my sisters.


Within moments, this poem happened, via collective effort:

The masks were all hung by the fireplace with care,
in hopes that the coronavirus wouldn’t be there
The children were nestled all sanitized in their beds
While visions of vaccinations danced in their heads.

I’m not even going to apologize.

Christmas morning was about the only thing that felt normal this holiday season. Papers, ribbons, boxes, toys everywhere, gifts that made the boys’ eyes light up, gifts that made us laugh, joy and yuletide bulging out the walls of our house.


After lunch, we went to my parents’ garage for a white elephant gift exchange. My dad won a pair of fuzzy Santa underwear, which he immediately tried on and danced around in, just like when they put the hat on Frosty’s head.


Oddly, no one wanted to steal them after that. We certainly weren’t going to trade our top prize.


Or our other one, either. (Look closely…but not too close!)


In conclusion, we eked out just enough family time and laughs from day to make it feel like Christmas, or at least something similar to Christmas, like Halloween + Easter.


Covid Christmas was like Vincernzo’s Christmas cookies: something was a little off, but a cookie’s still a cookie and it made us happy anyway.

Random stuff, including:
Ham & Swiss quiche
Frozen pizza (technically, thawed pizza)
Parmesan broccoli
Gnocchi with browned butter
Christmas cookies

Laughing All the Way

It’s hard to write about decorating gingerbread houses because usually that is the most Christmassey day of the year for me—even more than Christmas, in some ways. But this year we didn’t have our party. My friend didn’t bring a pot of lovely soup. We didn’t eat the soup, lose track of time, and realize it was time for another pot of soup.

It was small and simple, like most things are these days.


Well, it was small and simple until someone brought out the power tools.


He can’t ever do things normally.

Sing with me now: One of these houses is not like the others…


…because one of these houses is a snail, inspired by the two crusty old Tootsie Pops Kevin found at the bottom of the candy bin.


Pardon me?  Oh, why yes, that is a man made out of marshmallows with a candy wrapper head and eraser pirate hat riding the gingerbread snail.



I do hope there’s no magic in the old pirate hat Kevin found because I’m sleeping with this thing in my house now.

(Also, yes, that is a piece of poop behind the snail, because I live in a house of many boys.)

Pumpkin enchiladas with tomatillo salsa
(Cheese and crackers for dissenters)
Garlicky roasted asparagus
Chocolate caramel thumbprint cookies


One of the greatest joys of being a writer is when you inspire another person to think, feel or do something they wouldn’t have otherwise thought, felt, or done. It’s the ultimate sign that your writing was not in vain. Proof that you made a difference in the world.

Well folks, my last blog post had that effect on at least one person—an illustrator friend of mine, who was so moved by my discussion about PHLEM that he created this:


Its beauty brings a tear to my eye. I can totally see that mascot doing the Boogie Dance at a PHLEM spelling bee, while the crowd chants, It’s not snot! It’s not snot!

I hope Santa hasn’t packed his sleigh yet because now all I want for Christmas is a shirt with this printed on it.

Thank you to Dana Sullivan for really getting it. If you want to see more of his off-beat art, check out his website—my boys love his Dead Max books.

The Pizza Hut Triple Threat Box

(How Kevin ever finds out about these fast food atrocities, I’ll never know.)

This Post Brought to You by the Letter E

I was thinking about STEM in schools the other day, which has more recently become STEAM: science, technology, engineering, art, and math. STEAM pretty much includes all the subjects except mine: English–which, I should point out, is the only subject out of all of them that gets capitalized.

Poor, lonely English. Excluded from the group everyone wants to be in. Not that this has any parallels with my life, of course. Not that at all.

“What about history?” my kids ask.

Oh, right, history—the subject that often gets automatically partnered up with English. Okay sure, let’s count it as its own thing.

Then my kids reminded me about PE, music, and library. Hm, well now we’re actually onto something. Now I—er, English—isn’t the only one feeling left out. Maybe all these subjects can even be their own thing! With their own acronym! Let’s see…try the P here, the E there…the H here…I’ve got it. PHLEM! That’s enough letters to give us our own school!

Our motto can be PHLEM: can you hack it?  And our mascot can be The Loogies. And the fact that PHLEM is missing the silent G is English’s little joke on all those STEAM punks

So go ahead and send your kids to STEAM school. Sign them up for all the STEAM classes and tell all your friends about it. I’m going to hold out for PHLEM school.

The Fightin’ Loogies.

Broccoli & beef
Brown rice
Lemon shortbread cookies

Yes, I’d Like Some Cheese with this Whine

So I haven’t blogged in a bit. I had a week or two where I got sad and cried a lot. It sometimes happens despite all the things I do to keep it from happening.

I was upset about all my injuries that have put such limitations on the activities I can do. Both ankles are messed up, both calves, one hamstring, one groin, one shoulder, plus I have both carpal tunnel and radial tunnel. There’s not much I can do to exercise anymore—sometimes I can’t even go for a walk—and exercising is such an important part of my life.

I was upset about having GERD or whatever it is I have that makes me have violent throat convulsions resulting in huge squawks after I eat and drink. They’re as uncontrollable and disconcerting as I imagine it would be to have Tourette’s syndrome, and it’s embarrassing to eat or drink in public anymore. Of course, that’s not a problem right now, but I’m just sick of the whole squawking thing.

I was upset because of all my stupid mouth issues that make it so I can’t have any citrus, artificial sweeteners, fresh pineapple and tomatoes, coffee, and now chicory. I’m sick of canker sores and a swollen tongue, of a mouth that feels like it’s been scraped raw or burned every other day from eating I-don’t-know-what.

I was upset because another author is writing and publishing a picture book I’ve already written and submitted (The Rhinocorn) ,only to get rejections. His book will come out in two years now and mine will come out probably never.

I was upset because I don’t feel the Christmas spirit this year.

I was upset because I was upset and didn’t want to be upset.

Living an emotional life can be so hard sometimes, and you never know if it’s a mountain or a valley in front of you, and it wouldn’t matter if you did because you have to go up or down it either way.

So that’s why I didn’t blog. I was trying to spare you all that, and now I’ve gone and written it anyway. The good news is I’m on the other side of it now. Things look so much brighter today, and it’s not only because of the sun outside (though that certainly helps). Ima go pour myself a cup of egg nog and get my Christmas spirit on.

Pork chops with applesauce
Smashed potatoes
Green beans
Peppermint snowball cookies