The Year Without a Santa Claus?

It’s December 23 and it might as well be March 23 because it doesn’t feel like Christmas to me.

This year, there’s no Tarr family holiday card (couldn’t find a decent picture).  No big Christmas tree (just a sad, 2-foot high Charlie Brown one).  No Elf On The Shelf (jealous?).  No decorations, lights or music.  No traditions.  Yes, I am officially the Grinch of Chester County.  And truth be told, I’m kind of okay with it.

Maybe it’s because it’s 40-degrees outside — far from White Christmas weather.

Maybe it’s because I’m more focused on planning our Christmas vacation — we’re trading fir trees for palm trees for nine glorious days.

Or maybe it’s because my middle schooler no longer believes in Santa Claus.

I think he figured it out back in the Spring when I killed off the St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun, Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.  I stopped short of ending the Santa myth, too, because it seemed like too much at the time.  Plus, I think he didn’t want to know because he didn’t ask.  So I followed his lead and I didn’t tell.  But that was before he started middle school.  He’s almost a teenager now.  He’s growing up and now he knows the truth.

My third-grader, on the other hand, does still believe.  As he should.  He is only 8, after all.

The cool part is that my middle schooler feels like he’s in on an adult secret and wants to help make Christmas magical for his younger brother.  He wants him to keep believing … Maybe as a way to keep the fantasy alive for himself, and to hang on to his childhood a little bit longer.

So despite the fact that we won’t be home for the holidays, I let the boys decorate the family room.  A little, Charlie Brown tree by the fireplace, our knit stockings and quite possibly the ugliest gingerbread house ever made on the mantle, Santa’s boots on the floor and a snowman-shaped bowl of candy canes on an end table.  Minimalism at it’s best, but enough to make my little guy happy.

Ugly fun at it's best.

Ugly fun at it’s best.

Our scrappy little tree, complete with some of our favorite ornaments and a giant star

Our scrappy little tree, complete with some of our favorite ornaments and a giant star.

As for the Elf On The Shelf, I just couldn’t do it.  The stress of remembering to move him nightly and the pressure to be as creative as all those “fun” Facebook and Pintrest moms was too much for me.  He had to go.  Our Elf, Zachary, now watches from the North Pole with his high-powered, magic binoculars. I’m either the smartest mom on the planet or the meanest … Jury’s still out.

It may not look like Christmas at the Tarr house this year, but don’t be fooled. Christmas is alive and well, just scaled down …. Way down.

[NOTE: I will be taking a two-week hiatus from posting so I can enjoy the California sun with my family.  Hopefully we’ll all survive … Remember my Spring Break experience?  Happy Holidays and I’ll be back in 2015!]


Ridin’ Dirty in the BV

I am a neat person.  I like things tidy and orderly.  Everything has a place.  Even my clutter is organized, confined to well-stacked piles in only a few spaces.  Too much mess stresses me out.  I start to feel suffocated, claustrophobic and out of control.  I know, I know, I have issues.  Anyway … because of this, my house is generally very tidy.  Not necessarily clean — the windows need washing, the blinds need dusting and the baseboards need a polish — but picked up and kempt.

Then there’s my car.  I drive an SUV, but some days, it’s more like a garbage truck.  The dirt, the trash, the smell … it is my Achilles heel.  Apparently, rapper Chamillionaire isn’t the only one “Ridin’ Dirty.” (Okay, so “ridin’ dirty” in the song has a totally different meaning, but you get the idea.)

I guess I should take some of the blame.  It is my car after all.  And I am a “just in case” kind of person, which means I am nothing if not prepared.  My trunk is stuffed with a host of items that I may or may not ever use, including: a first aid kit, extra mouth guards and athletic tape, rain ponchos and umbrellas, a blanket, a towel, a trash bag, reusable shopping bags and, of course, a spare tire and jack.  The front glovebox and storage compartments are stuffed with quarters, tissues, lip balm, Tic Tacs, lollipops (or some form of sucking candy, such as butterscotch candies or Jolly Ranchers), charging cables, a small pad and pen, Advil, a hair tie or two and a bevy of store loyalty cards, gift cards and coupons.  It’s a lot, I know, but all that crap is organized, contained and somewhat hidden.  So now that I think about it, it’s not my fault … I blame my kids.

My boys and their friends — more boys between the ages and 8 and 12 — create chaos in the two rows of seating that make up the middle part of my car.  It’s mostly my own kids — 95% or more even — but throw in a few extra boys for carpools (I’m eliminating the girls who travel to school with us in the morning because they don’t add to the wreckage) and the atrocity is only compounded.  Not intentionally, just by sheer volume.  Case(s) in point:

  • The floors are a minefield of mud, grass, dirt and turf pellets.  With the exception of winter basketball season, there is a constant stream of dirty cleats coming in and out of the car.  Cleats trap mud, grass, dirt and turf, all of which inevitably falls off while in the car and is then mashed into the floor as kids enter and exit.  Those turf pellets are everywhere, but the mud is the worst!
  • The seats are constantly littered with crumbs and the cup holders filled with empty wrappers and used tissues.  Let me be the first say it — gross!  The crumbs are a by-product of often having to eat in the car between games and practices.  Not ideal, but understandable.  The wrappers, napkins and used tissues though … well, that’s just laziness.  How hard is it to take your trash with you when you get out of the car?  Drives me crazy.
  • The windows are forever filthy.  Okay, this one I know comes from my 8-year-old only, no one else.  He likes to drag his sticky fingers across the glass to write his name and draw pictures … or simply to make squiggly lines and streaks.  You’d swear I was driving around with a toddler in the back seat, but nope — just a fidgety (Oops, I mean artistic and creative) 3rd grader.

I do get the car washed and vacuumed frequently, but like my roots, I could use a touch-up once a week … who has time for that?


The main reason for my begrimed car.

There is one thing more disgusting than the mud and crumbs in my car … the smell.

Portrait of a young woman holding her nose because of a bad smel

Pee-yew … Boys stink!

Lord have mercy, does my car stink!  Unlike cleats, the odor knows no season.  The stench of sweaty, prepubescent, middle school boys is ripe year-round and so is my car.  Spring, summer and fall have the added bonus of damp, smelly equipment in addition to damp, smelly bodies.  But truth be told, winter basketball season isn’t really much better.  Sweat is sweat and stink is stink … there just aren’t any malodorous pads and helmets to add to the aroma.  I try to Febreeze often, even daily if needed, but it’s not always enough.  What I really need is a full car detail (hint, hint, to anyone looking to buy me a Christmas gift!) or less odoriferous kids.

Until then, if you need a lift from me around the Brandywine Valley, be prepared to ride with the windows down or suffer in silence.


My smelly, grimy car-litterbugs … They look so innocent, don’t they?