Friday, December 26, 2008

Going Postal

I am not one to blame things on pregnancy. I don't buy into that whole, "delicate condition" thing. I like to be pampered just as much as the next guy but that is true whether I'm pregnant or not. I am, however, changing my tune a bit when it comes to decision making. I have made some highly suspect decisions, the most recent of which will be seen by all of my family and friends in a few short days. I sat down to the computer in late November, coupon code in hand, determined to pick and order my Christmas cards. Along with the rest of the population of the U.S., we usually do a photo card. My card last year rocked but it was done by a friend who is also a professional photographer. This year, in an effort to save some money, I decided to give it a go myself.

I sat down at the computer, logged on to all of the photo sites to see who was offering the best deals on photo cards and got started. There was no prep work, no actual photo session. Without thinking, I just decided I would use an existing photo, perused what I had and chose one that had all of the components I wanted: my son, my daughter, and my dog. It didn't occur to me to care that the picture I chose was a Halloween photo. I then took on the task of choosing a background. This took all of 45 seconds. I chose a hideous pink and red striped number with a few sparkly snow flakes here and there. It is SO UN-ME. Then I chose the message and stuck with the default font and color. I approved the final draft of my card, entered my 25% off coupon code, ordered 75 of those suckers and, voila!, I was done. The final product of this impulsive ordeal is a bizarre Halloween/Disco Christmas card that features my kids and dog in full costume. It looks like it was picked out by Paris Hilton's new BFF.

So, if you are one of the 75 lucky people to receive a 2008 Hale Family Christmas card, please accept my deepest apologies. The progesterone coursing through my body at record levels temporarily hijacked my brain and replaced my usually rational mind with that of an impulsive tweener. She thought my cards were SICK! (for those of you not familiar with tweener lingo, "sick" is the new awesome).

Such a tragedy that the rational me could have used THIS picture:

Monday, December 22, 2008

2008 Annual Hale Family Brutally Honest Christmas Letter

My cards have yet to be mailed but my labels are printed, my terribly misguided photo card is ready to go, and my letter is written. It's only a matter of time folks. In lieu of a timely Christmas letter delivered via snail mail (it will be delivered to those of you on my address list, just not in a timely fashion), here's the 2008 Annual Brutally Honest Hale Family Christmas Letter:

It is time to feast your eyes on the 2008 Hale Family Brutally Honest Christmas Letter.

2008 has been a year of surprising additions. The first, and most surprising, is the news that we will add another child to our family sometime in March. It's a girl and her name will be Harper Emerson (Spare me the negative feedback people. It's a done deal). We were shocked initially and, while we are terrified at the prospect of being outnumbered by children, we are all excited to meet Harper this spring.

The other additions are a little less shocking and come in canine form. Dudley, a pound puppy, joined our family in January. He has charmed us all with his uncommon good looks and winning personality. Ugly Dawg, a gently used and abused pop-up camper, was added to the family in March. She was named in honor of the hideous, yet sweet, canine that greeted us when we went to look at the camper. She's got a bit of duct tape here and there to hold her together but the Dawg has already served us well. We look forward to many more adventures within her climate controlled walls.

Truman started Kindergarten in August and he thrives academically but struggles with the fact that school occurs every day, EVERY DAY. The very thought of this still boggles his mind. He is also disillusioned with the cafeteria choices, forcing his poor mama to prepare a meal for him every day. How many different ways can you prepare a PB&J anyway? Truman experienced a life-changing event this year when his father won a Wii in a Bingo game at his school's fall festival. His mother was kind enough to purchase a Star Wars game for the two of them and she hasn't seen them since. They've disappeared into the world of Jedi's, Death Stars and Light Sabers. Julianne is forced to limit the Wii time and finds that it is a very handy motivational tool for Truman and Sean. She needs all the currency she can get.

Tatum started preschool this year and couldn't be more enthusiastic about it. She goes three days a week and is very disappointed when Bubba (Truman) gets to go to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays and she does not. She will likely be enrolled five days a week next year. Tatum is only three years old but has filled her Christmas list with age-inappropriate items like Barbies and Hannah Montana items. Sadly she has no aspirations thus far to join the marching band when she reaches high school, preferring instead to be a cheerleader. Julianne has high hopes that she'll change her mind and take the path less travelled of blissful band nerd-dom.

Sean has been very lucky this year, maintaining his employment in the world of financing amidst a financial crisis that has us all on the edge of our collective seats. Sean continues his descent into Tennessee redneck-itude and has already scheduled his yearly pilgrimage to Talladega for the Nascar race. Julianne lives in shame, a closeted Nascar wife and blames this descent on Sean's friends.

Julianne is working steadily as a freelance writer and has written many gripping pieces of journalistic excellence on such subjects as surviving your child's first camp experience, successfully photographing your family without losing your mind, and taking a vacation in your own hometown. She's pretty sure a Pulitzer is within her reach. She blogs but not as regularly as she once did. She is a master of shameless self promotion. Just check out her blog at

We wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday and a wonderful New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

All Wrapped Up


As I was rolling up a shirt in cheap paper today, I thought back to the days of yore when I actually cared what my presents looked like. I'd buy all manner of coordinating ribbon and paper, get custom tags made and even add little touches like coordinating ornaments taped under elaborate bows on each gift. I would painstakingly wrap each present, catering my wrapping to the individual recipient. I loved the whole process.

I'm over that now. My husband took one look under our tree last night and laughed out loud at the misshapen bundles wrapped under it. When I have to wrap an article of clothing these days, I just roll up the item, roll it up in paper, and tape it shut to the best of my ability. I've bid a fond farewell to gift tags, custom or not, and replaced them instead with a big fat black sharpie. I write directly on the paper in large letters TO: and FROM:. I don't take the time to cut out a make-shift card with the wrapping paper and tape it. Who has time for that? No, I just write directly on the package. My poor children think that's the norm. They think every mom across America wraps her gifts in random three-dimensional wrinkly blobs of paper and tape.

Pretty packages are just one of the many luxuries I've happily tossed aside in favor of sanity and the true holiday joy that comes from being DONE with all of that wrapping nonsense and sitting down to enjoy the pleasure of introducing my children to the best Christmas villain of all time: the Heat Miser.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Disney Lesson #1

WARNING: I've just returned from Disney World and have it on the brain.

The joy, the pain, the financial burden, it all adds up to an often unforgettable, frequently unbearable, and undeniably fantastic experience for the family. While we are regulars at the happiest place on earth, this was a trip of firsts. It was the first time we camped (on property at Fort Wilderness) and the first time we went during the holidays. The camping experience was fabulous. Ugly Dawg was good to us and it beats the heck out of any hotel room. I do long for a camper with a shower and bathroom but I'm grateful for the Dawg and look forward to many more years of fun within her climate controlled vinyl walls.

I'm going to share some lessons from Disney World with my readers. Here's lesson number one:

Never, EVER underestimate the price of a product or service at Disney World.

As I've mentioned before, my son has a healthy Star Wars addiction. It's something both my husband and I support as we both loved the movies as children and take a certain measure of pride in his newfound discovery of the series and characters. After making a B-line to the Star Tours ride at Hollywood Studios on Day one of our Disney vacation, my son noticed someone getting their face painted like Darth Maul. He spent the remainder of the week obsessing about it and, overcome by the palpable Disney Magic (sure, it sounds like a myth people but it effects you, even the hardcore skeptics like myself) in the air, we relented promising to return to the Studios to get his face painted later in the week. Later in the week turned out to be our last day. I'm a theme park multi-tasker so I handed my husband $15, surrendered custody of both my kids, and took off across the park for a fastpass. My walk was shorter than I'd planned so I came back quickly to find my husband in line to get the kids' faces painted (my daughter had to have hers painted as well). He pointed to the cash in his hand and shook his head animatedly from side to side. What? $15 isn't enough for two face paintings? Are you kidding?

As it turns out, $15 was barely enough for one face painting. That is the going rate, in fact, for the "Sinister Sith" AKA Darth Maul face painting. My daughter's less-sinister, "sparkle kitty" paint job ran a mere $12. So, yes, I dropped $27 on two face paintings that took all of five minutes. The most painful part? There's a clown here in Cleveland, TN that does face paintings at just about every local event/party for $1 a pop and her work is JUST AS GOOD! She doesn't do "Sinister Sith," mind you but she does a rockin' "Sparkle Kitty."

So, folks, lesson learned: Never, EVER underestimate the price of a product or service at Disney World. You and your wallet will live to regret it!


Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday’s Rant

Be forewarned I'm feuding with my husband over something about which he has no control and I'm feeling the urge to scratch my own eyes out with a rusty knife. It's been a great day. Suffice it to say this post may seem, hmmm…, a tad bit angry.

For those of you who are unaware, I have lupus. I realize this may seem like a random statement but it becomes relevant later. I have lupus and so do 1.5 million other Americans yet very few people even know what the disease is. There is no celebrity spokesperson for the disease even though it is statistically impossible that a celebrity or five does not have the disease. The only press it ever gets is when one of the staff members on House throws it out as a possible diagnosis every week. I'm not kidding. EVERY week. Pay attention. This lack of awareness drives me nuts. Fret not, all of this will make sense in a few minutes.

Anyone watch The Shield out there in cyberland? My husband and I have been fans of it since the first episode and have watched it faithfully until its painful conclusion last week. For those of you unfamiliar with the show, it is a gritty (that might be the understatement of the century) cop drama about police corruption and the activities of one particular group of cops in L.A. It's violent and thought provoking and shocking at times. It's the kind of show that I love. I was so pleased last season when one of the show's primary characters came out of the closet with a lupus diagnosis. She's a smart, successful, highly capable woman and I was thrilled that lupus was finally going to get some serious treatment on a relatively high profile show. My pleasure turned to shock when it was revealed that the reason for the revelation about the character's diagnosis was that she was going completely insane. She was losing perspective, unable to perform the functions of her job, getting irrationally emotional and had even let her house get so filthy that it could have been condemned, all of this from a woman who, prior to her lupus diagnosis, had been an exceptionally successful woman in every aspect of her life. Are you kidding me?

So the character she came clean to took it upon himself to shelter and protect her from those who might discover her illness and subsequent meltdown. Being the gentlemen that he is, he talked her down when she was overly emotional, over compensated for her rash behavior, and hired someone to clean her house. What a gent!

The final few episodes revealed that it was her medication, not her disease, which was making her crazy. This left her with a difficult choice: continue to take the medication and remain a crazy person or stop taking it, get some normalcy in her life, and die a slow painful death from a relentless disease. She chose the latter. Nice. My heart swells with pride at this oh-so-accurate portrayal of a relatively common and treatable disease that affects many intelligent, successful, capable-of-keeping-our-homes-clean women who take their medication regularly without going crazy. Come on!