Christmas

Movie Review – “A Very Murray Christmas”

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About this time each year, or maybe a few weeks earlier, I start watching my old favorite Christmas movies; Christmas Vacation, The Ref, and A Christmas Story, to name a few. But, I’m always on the lookout for new ones, and I couldn’t help but notice the promos for Bill Murray’s new Christmas special – “A Very Murray Christmas.”

Now, who doesn’t like Bill Murray? Certainly not I, so when it came out on Netflix on Dec. 4th, I promptly pulled it up and started streaming.

Now I don’t mean for this to be a movie critique, but it kinda is so I’ll just lay it out there.

The movie starts out, seemingly, that Murray has been planning a huge NY Christmas special, only to be upstaged by a major winter storm that prevents pretty much everyone from coming. Left with a dark, empty stage, being televised to untold millions live, Murray tries to kick off the show, but just can’t pull together enough umph to make it work. And here’s but one of the places where you have to suspend your disbelief, or at the very least, try and overlook one of the HUGE plot holes–because apparently, the major network running his live show, has no issues with him just walking off the stage in a childish fit of “this sucks,” and then picking it back up again 20 minutes later. I guess we’re to believe they ran commercials for 20 minutes (it could happen).

In a fit of despair, Murray begins wandering around the hotel and finds Chris Rock and manages to coerce Rock to join him onstage, only to have the power go out and Rock disappear. One of Murray’s producers declares that this “act of God” nullifies the contract requirement for her to be there and she, and others, walk off the set and leave Murray and Co. alone in the dark in a random NY hotel.

So far, so-so good.

Thus begins a halfway decent tour of the hotel running into various B-list stars, some of whom have really decent singing voices, and the middle of the movie is at least interesting, if still a bit weird (These B-list actors aren’t playing themselves in the movie…or are they…one is never quite sure).

But then, Murray passes out and the rest of the movie is a Murray Fantasy(land) of fake snow, candy canes and…Mylie Cyrus in a skimpy Mrs. Clause outfit belting out Christmas carols while showing off her dozen or so arm and side-breast tatts.

I’ve nothing agains tatts, or even Mylie Cyrus for that matter, but was that really the best talent Murray could drum up for his Christmas special?

Needless to say, it was not Murray’s best  efforts, even if you look at it through the lens of “Well, Bill Murray is known for doing wacky things.”

I guess I’ll stick with with the classics next year.

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Magic Elves – Season 5 Day 2

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Somewhere between Thanksgiving, and the next day, something magical happens each year in our home. Our “Magic Elves” appear. Santa sends them along on a magical slipstream of wind and snowflakes, to join our family for another season of merriment and mischief.

This is the fifth year.

The fifth.

That means we’ve had to come up with more than 100 clever and unique “things” for the elves to do each night. This is challenging, made moreso by the fact that, unlike the “Elf on the Shelf” our elves are completely soft, so they don’t stay in a pose. You can’t bend their arms and have them stay there. They can’t stand on their own. They literally are, like a sock.

But despite these challenges, we persevere. I’ll try and post some of this year’s exploits here for your enjoyment.

Here’s last night’s. As you can see, the elves created cutouts of minions and stuck their faces and appendages in them. Overall, it was cute, but I’m not sure the kids quite got what was going on here. All they saw was the minion toys and everyone drinking syrup. But hey, cross another one off the list. Only 23 more ideas to come up with.

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And who said the Fire Department only showed up for fires?

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Each year, our local fire department, does what they call a “Santa Run.” Basically, you drop off a gift for your child at the fire department a week ahead of time and then the following weekend, they bring the whole fire department to your house, where Santa gives the gift to your child. It’s all very exciting…and loud. This was our second year doing it and rather than giving you a play-by-play, I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking:

Santa Run 1

Here comes the ambulance and firetruck with all the sirens going. We could hear it coming all the way up through the neighborhood. All in all, I think there were probably 15 people involved with about 5-6 different vehicles.

It’s quite a spectacle.



Santa Run 2

At this point, the boys are a little shell-shocked I think. We’d had to wake up MLI from his nap a tad earlier than we’d hoped.

This ambulance drove right by us with the siren going off. It was crazy loud.





Santa Run 3


“OMG! It’s Santa!”



 



Santa Run 4Everything’s going well with MLI. No tears this year, no tearful hands in his mouth.

I’m pretty sure he’s just speechless over the getting of the gift!

How will his little brother do…?





Santa Run 5

OH! There we go! That’s what we were waiting for!
I also especially liked the look on the guy in the middle’s face. It was as if to say, “I hope these sunglasses hide the fact that I had to get stoned off my butt to put up with this crap again this year!”

Thanks Santa! See you next year!



Getting a coupla things off my chest

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Brutal Honesty

It’s Christmas, almost. And no, I’m not purposefully excluding Hannukah, or Kwanzaa, or whatever religious holiday you happen to celebrate because, let’s be honest, the mall isn’t decorated with African Misumaa Saba hanging from the ceilings; nor is Toys R Us headlining its weekly circular with this year’s “must have” dreidel. It’s Christmas that everyone is celebrating and shopping for, and it’s Christmas that we celebrate around here, so it’s our reference point.

Regardless of what you call it, and despite whatever efforts we all make to try and put a fine religious point on it, the real tradition revolves around giving. It’s a sort of giving that should be effortless and from the heart, not forced or something that involves a worrisome bunch of effort.

I pretty much finished my shopping a couple of weeks ago. This is largely because I cut back on the gift-giving this year; a trend that I see repeating itself in years to come. But since it is such a departure from my normal behavior around the holidays, it has caused me no small amount of guilt and self-introspection. So, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this whole idea of gift giving and what kinds of “rules” one should have when it comes to turning around the cash people give you and just giving it to other people in the form of gifts. Because that’s really what we’re doing right?

Anyway, something crystallized in my head the other day. I think it was just this past weekend when CareerMom casually mentioned, “I have no idea what I’m getting you.”

Now normally, a comment like this would have just “VROOM’d” over my head like something out of Peanut comedy bit; but, in light of the cud chewing I’d been doing lately around gifts, this comment hit me kind of sideways and I thought to myself, “Well, if you don’t know by now, then don’t even worry about it.”

Now doesn’t that sound like an odd thing to say?

But the more I think on it, the more I’m almost offended, which is insanity incarnate. But, stick with me here:

If, two weeks outside of Christmas, you haven’t “bothered” to figure out what you’re giving the most important person in your life; then maybe your priorities are screwed up.

That’s a really awful thing to say about a spouse I know, and granted, some of this sentiment is probably rub off from the feeling that I’ve been very neglected lately since CareerMom started her new job. She’s way more career-oriented than I am and, to her credit, she does work hard. And when I say that I feel neglected, I don’t mean “physically” neglected, mind you, but I do feel as if I’ve been carrying a heavier load of late regarding things around the house and just “home” responsibilities in general.

And then there’s the whole money thing. I save up for Christmas all year so I’m not burdened at the end of the year. CareerMom does not, and she made an offhanded comment about waiting till her check on the 15th (as in December 15th) to see how much she could go spend. And, this was after I gave her some of my Christmas cash to dole out to Daycare teachers and such. Meanwhile, she’s spending gobs on her brother and his wife and has it all planned out and decided on. Yet, she has no idea what she’s getting me???

And so again, I’m feeling like, this Christmas, it’s all on me and it’s honestly just rubbing me very much the wrong way.

Yeah, I know, “Sensitive much?” You’re right, I’m being completely juvenile about it and anyway, isn’t Christmas supposed to be about the other person anyway?

Yes, yes, and yes. Of course, you’re all right. Go ahead, let me have it.

An elf just died after I wrote this blog post

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dont-blinkIf there is one good thing to come out of this economic downturn, it’s that I can use it to my advantage to cut back on Christmas gifts this year. While both CareerMom and I are blessed with our jobs, and thus aren’t being affected as much as a lot of people this year, the recent financial strain has caused everyone to re-evaluate their gift-giving priorities.

 

 

For instance, I have roughly three mothers:

  • My bio-mom (Hi Bio-Mom!)
  • My adopted mom
  • The mom who mostly raised me after “adopted mom” split up with Dad shortly after the adoption. Hey, nothing says, “We made the right choice honey!” like walking out on your family two years after taking on a couple of kids.

Very recently, I came to the conclusion that perhaps I was old enough now that I could/should both A) Stop receiving gifts from my parents and B) Stop giving gifts to ALL of my parents, and siblings, and anyone else who has laid claim to my life thanks to my tree’s many and various branches.

I don’t come to this conclusion lightly because I do love to see those gifts under the tree with my name on them and I do really enjoy giving gifts to my loved ones. In that respect–and many others if I’m being honest–I’m still a kid. And while I’m not sure any of us ever really outgrow getting presents, there comes a time when your own little family takes center stage. We don’t really buy our kids many toys over the course of the year, so Christmas is kind of our chance to not only get something fun for them, but also to get something that we won’t mind sitting on the floor playing for the next twelve months. Also, CareerMom’s brother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a few years ago. He’s 41 this year and has eight kids (yes, eight!). They need all the help they can get.

So this year, I have asked that my parents not get me/us anything and just get the boys something if they so desire. Or, if they feel led, take the money they would spend on us and spend it on a needy family. And when I say “needy” here, I mean “really trying and coming up short,” not “lazy” (the Obama pre-election infomercial comes to mind…)

In truth, most of what I want costs waaay more than anyone can afford (myself included) and I suspect the same can be said for the majority of people I’m buying for this year. So why do it?

I’m not a scrooge folks; really I’m not. I did my lights outside this weekend and CareerMom has the house looking very festive. We even took the boys to the tree farm and cut down a real, live, honest-to-goodness Christmas tree on Saturday. So see, I’ve not lost my Christmas spirit–I’ve only shifted it a little–perhaps more inline with the way it should be for someone my age. (this growing up stuff sux!)

But all is not lost; don’t think the Wii the boys are getting for Christmas isn’t for me as much as it is for them. I just have to find the quiet time where I can play my games rather than anything with the name “Mario” in it!

Oh also, my 10-year anniversary is coming up next November, and as of right now, I have nothing saved up for an Anniversary Gift/Trip/memorable anything.

Dear God, It’s me…um…Chris

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God Computer …come on Lord, I’ve been pretty good lately. I haven’t yelled at the kids unnecessarily; I’ve spent loads of time doing things THEY want to do rather than what I NEED to do. I’ve given CareerMom time off; heck, I even paid for her a facial thingy the other night! I’ve been more social lately and I even attended a “meeting” of Marketing professionals from my company.

I’ve resisted the temptation to open the Wii that I bought the boys for Christmas, despite the coolness of it all and hearing its siren call in my dreams. I haven’t given the dog away even though, thanks to three weeks of prednisone, she’s been peeing and dripping urine all over the house for nigh on the entire time!

I volunteered to go help my mom get the house ready for her husband’s upcoming 2nd hip replacement surgery, despite high gas costs and work that is sure to make my back hurt (more). And speaking of my back…I voluntarily DID NOT refill my pain medication, despite the fact that sitting in my office chair at work, and generally walking, makes it hurt from daylight till dark.

I haven’t spent money unnecessarily.

I’m putting up with “The Wiggles“…AGAIN!

So, I’m just wondering why, on a day I was looking forward to a quiet, work from home day just before what is sure to be an action-packed and exhausting weekend, you let MLE throw up all over the car just before getting to daycare?

Just wondering…and if you wanna get back to me with an answer…I’ll be here at home with MLE.

All day.

Just…waiting…

Amen.

My own private festivus thoughts…

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I gotta tell you that this Christmas, for me, was a terrible disappointment. But not because of any gifts I did or didn’t get. I particularly like the holidays because of all the family get-togethers and the food and quite frankly, there was no good family get togethers or food really and that’s just a shame.

 

We had some family come and stay with us, but as usual, they didn’t get engaged with the boys. Mostly, they just sat on the couch and slept (BTW: they don’t read this blog!). My wife’s family were nearly all in town and when we did get together, it was mostly over at her parent’s house. Even though their house is large, when you put 20 people in one house, including three children under the age of 2, what you DON’T get is a fun, relaxing family yule-tide meet and greet. Add to that the tummy bug that went through the house ravaging random intestines (we were thankfully spared) and it killed any post-Christmas football watching with the family; another staple of the holiday season. 

 

From a food perspective, we ate well at our house, but again, the family dining adventure where you’re supposed to be able to sample something from everyone’s own kitchen, turned into a catered affair complete with flavors completely foreign to most of our experiences.

 

On Christmas morning, we ended up with two major purchases having to be returned (shame on you Fisher Price!), but otherwise it was a grand success. On top of that, I spent an inordinate amount of time on a DVD of the boys over the past two years and not one of the people I sent it to has commented on it. I’m not looking for over-the-top gushing platitudes mind you, but a “How Cute!” would have been nice. (Uh huh, don’t try now…it’s too late!)

 

I know I should be thankful that we were all together and blah, blah, blah; but Christmas only happens once a year. Is it too much to ask for everyone to put forth a little extra effort into making it memorable? Maybe, stay awake and play with the kids? Cook your own dressing and cranberry sauce? Maybe have regular sweet tea WITHOUT fruity flavoring crap in it? 

 

I told CareerMom that next year, if I have to, I’ll cook Christmas dinner for the whole family myself if it means we don’t have to eat another catered meal. I’m just bummed that I have to wait a whole year for a taste of good, home-cooked turkey and dressing.