Saturday, December 29, 2012

Santa, The Follow Up Letter

Dear Santa,

I hope you had a really nice Christmas. I had a good time. I really liked the presents that you gave me. Did you like the cookies that we left?

We had fun. We could not wait to open our presents! The best present you gave me was a chemistry set, just like I asked for! I am a little mixed up though.  The card said that the present was from you, but the box said Toys R Us. Did you buy my present at the store? I thought that the elves made the gifts....

I don't want to hurt your feelings Santa,  but the remote control helicopter you gave me doesn't work very well. I think that your elves may have been half-asleep when they put this one together. Mom and Dad were mumbling about Elf quality control and wondering what we should do. Should we send it back to the North Pole? Would you have to make a whole special trip out with the reindeer to bring me a new one? That seems like a lot of trouble.

Also, I am wondering... if you know when we have been bad or good... why did you give my brother Evan presents? I am pretty sure he should have received coal. I don't understand how you missed that one, but I am starting to question your judgement....

Do you know that some kids don't even believe in you? They say that you are make believe. There are an awful lot of fake Santa's out there, you know. I see them everywhere, at the Farmer's Market, at the movie theater and the shopping mall. Am I really suppose to believe that Santa is in all of these places at once? I am seven now. I know a fake Santa when I see one, and I see them everywhere!

Finally Santa, I have to ask, how exactly did you know what I wanted for Christmas?  I wrote a letter, but I found it later in Mommy's desk drawer, she never sent it! Do you read minds? I just don't get it.

Anyways, thanks Santa, for all of the presents. Next year, keep a closer eye on your Elves, and Evan.


Monday, December 24, 2012

It's a Wonderful Life

So it's Christmas Eve. Sun is shining for the first time in days. I went for a jog with my Santa hat on, blasting Eminem all the way. Sad little middle-aged mama.

Tonight we are having family friends over for an appetizer dinner and drinks. I'll wrap the last of the presents after the boys are in bed and prepare for all the mayhem tomorrow at day break.

Christmas. Thirty minutes of slashing open gift after gift, then it's over, until next year.

It's a funny thing Christmas. I used to feel it was truly magical. This year it felt a bit like a chore. I know. Sad isn't it? There were few holiday parties to attend and I have felt lonely for my Denver home. For the neighborhood Christmas party we always hosted. For Christmas morning with the cousins. For snow. Yes even for snow.

Last year we had a full house. My in laws, my mother and stepfather, my brother-in-law, his wife and family. This year things are different. My brother-in-law  is at home in Albuquerque, celebrating his first Christmas without his wife, whom I had adored, they are getting divorced. There is a sadness that creeps into Christmas as I remember happier holidays.

I have other friends who are going through sickness, loss and divorce this holidays season.. And the tragedy of Newtown, has made us all feel a bit uneasy about a full-on celebration.

If I am to be honest in some ways I feel a But in others all of this misfortune and unhappiness has made me even more grateful for all that I have. It has reminded me that we must seize the opportunity to experience joy, as life is fickle, and your luck can change on the drop of a dime. Grim perhaps, but also a push to appreciate my gifts.

My boys.
My husband.
My parents.
My in laws.
My sister
My nieces and nephews
My friends, far and near
My health
My beautiful life.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Since you asked...

A few random updates on my life. I know you are sitting on the edge of your chair just waiting for them.

To begin with I have neglected to give you a hair update. (Gasp!) It is growing, albeit at an amazingly slow pace, but yes, there is more length than there was eight months ago. I colored my hair for the first time in years. I wanted to do something different, yet I had no idea what. I went in to a new salon and walked out with some crazy red highlights. I can't say that I loved them, but it was something different. Having hair is fun, yet it's a bit of a pain. Now rather than running some "product" through my short "do" and heading out the door, I deal with the hair dryer, the flat iron, pins, clips and headbands. But the husband likes it, so it makes at all worth it...right???

It's *almost* a pony tail!

Running: Although, I am not running like I was this past spring, I have been dutifully putting in thirty minutes on a treadmill a few times a week while plugged into Bravo watching my new favorite show, The Shahs of Sunset. (FREAKING LOVE THIS PROGRAM.) Recently I went for my first outdoor run in months and it was amazing. I loved every second of it. I was inspired to do more than the 3.5 mile loop around the lake, but I'm pacing myself. Memories of the dreaded boot keep me from pushing myself too hard.

All smiles after an awesome run!

Holidays: Keeping it low-key this year. After last years family puke fest, we are having a small Christmas. David's parents will be visiting from Florida. Last year we had both sets of parents and my brother-in-law and his family. It was was a lot, but could have been fun had it not been for the plague. I liked having the people around, the cousins playing and some chaos. I am worried that this year will feel a wee-bit lonely, but the boys are as excited as ever. Hopefully Santa will not disappoint.

The boys: Evan still doesn't eat and is well versed in pushing everyone's buttons. He has his charms and can melt your heart when he gives his baby brother an unsolicited hug. He is very competitive with Zack and becomes absolutely outraged when he perceives anything as "unfair." He loves the holidays and was very excited to have Julian and I attend his preschool holiday party. He even wore a snowman sweater for the occasion, which is nothing short of a Christmas miracle, seeing as he will go sleeveless in 20 degree weather.

Doesn't look like a fake Santa to me!
Zachary is enjoying school but grumbles about the crazy amount of homework he has each night. It really is rather unbelievable. Zachary is also very excited about Christmas and still believes in Santa, although he yelled "faker!" at the Man In The Red Suit when we visited him at the farmer's market.  

Julian: Julian eats 24/7. He is learning new words everyday. Yesterday he was carrying around a fish stuffed animal and calling it "Baby" He has cute down to a science. If only he could learn how to change his own diapers....

Why does daddy think it is funny that this man is attacking me?

So there you have it folks. The Rachel Kargas Update. Worth waiting for, huh?

Friday, December 14, 2012

In the wake of tragedy

Most mornings are pure chaos. It's a mad dash against the clock, as I fight to get all three boys fed and dressed and out the door. We do not want to be late. No. If Zachary arrives only sixty seconds late to his first grade class that means a trip to the office to obtain a dreaded tardy slip. God forbid.

So there are no leisurely, pleasant walks to school, instead I feel like a drill Sargent "Come on boys! Pick up the pace! Move it! Move it! Move it!" Inevitably there is a great deal of whining and moaning from the middle child who thinks that walking a fourth of a mile is an enormous burden, certainly far to great for a four and a half year old. I spend my time barking at him to suck it up, and move along.

By the time we arrive at Zachary's school I am clearly frazzled, annoyed and just plain exhausted. There are no hugs goodbye, Zack is usually running the last paces trying to make it to his classroom before the bell. "Bye Zack!" I will call out, "Have a nice day!" He rarely turns to acknowledge me. He is in a hurry. This is our routine.

But not anymore.

Today was a rude awakening. Parents of school aged children around the country wept and gave thanks for their babies whom they would pick up today. Safe. The images of the screaming children in Connecticut struck too close to home. That elementary school could have been our neighborhood school. Those parents who received the news that they had no children to pick up could have been us. They could have been us.

And what if my child's last memory would have been of me yelling at him for forgetting his lunch box? Or of me ignoring him as I scolded his brother for walking too slow? What if I realized I did not hug my son goodbye, that I didn't tell him I loved him? What if I was left forever wondering if he thought I was angry at him for taking too long at breakfast? No. I would not want to live with that.

Monday morning, I plan on focusing on what is important. I will not be angry with my boys. I will not order them around. If we are late for school the world will not come to an end. My child will not be destined to be a dropout. The most important thing I can do is send my child to school every day knowing that I love him with all of my heart. Because I do.

So many of us feel frightened and vulnerable. We leave our children in the hands of near strangers every day and hope for the best. We cannot shelter them from insults, failures or bullets. There has always been evil, tragedy and danger in this world. It comes in different forms. Natural disasters. Disease. Famine. And now... mass murder. There is little we can control. But we can give our kids the best we have. We can love them and let them know how much they are treasured. That is our job. That is just what I am going to do.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

White Flag

I surrender. I give up. I am waving the white flag.

You win Legos. You may have full run of my house. You may clutter my tables and bruise the bottom of my feet. Go right ahead, induce epic meltdowns in my offspring, who throw tantrums of frustration when unable to follow your PhD level instructions for assembly.

Congratulations laundry! You are victorious. Your piles grow ever larger, I am nothing against your mighty power of renewal. With one load completed, four more are produced. I cannot keep up. You have reduced me to a puddle of bleachy tears.

Oh dear dishes you are champion. Not only do you overflow my sink and dishwasher reproducing at a rapid pace, but I find your dirty sour-milk-crusted cups in every corner of my polluted home. Sticky silver-wear hides under the table and beneath the baker's rack. I am powerless to stop you. You are master.

Dinner time, I surrender to thee. I have come to terms with the fact that no matter what I prepare, be it hot dogs, frito-pie, or meals with kid-friendly names like "rainbow pasta" or "sunshine carrots" I cannot win. Complaints will be hurled at me at a frenetic pace. Food will be discarded, left on their plates, only to be shoved in Tupperware, and later thrown away. Dinner, perhaps we should simply part ways, and finally ignore one another.

Clutter you have successfully conquered me. You have taken over the closets, the drawers and are threatening to plant your flag in every room of the house. I gave it a good fight. I have bought bins, and giant plastic boxes in an attempt to contain you, but you are all-powerful and am no longer able to fight this battle. Spill away, across the living room floor, under the beds, over the kitchen counters. You. Are. Unstoppable.


Monday, December 10, 2012

On The Twelfth Night Of Hanukkah....

Latke making with my friend Mindy
We go both ways in the Kargas family home. That's right. Christmas AND Hanukkah. Can you guess which holiday is most popular amongst the munchkins? I'll give you a hint-it involves a fat man who is some sort of recluse in the North Pole.  Chopping down a beautiful tree, then rearranging your entire living room to make room for it. There are also lots of cookies involved, and fruitcake. Yeah. Fruitcake.

Christmas always wins. I don't blame the boys, it's pure magic. The lights, the music, the food, the anticipation, the absolute gluttony.

First night of Hanukkah
Hanukkah is so much more restrained. Kid's don't care much for lighting a few candles and eating potato pancakes. To be honest I could pass on latkes any day. Sure we do presents, but only one a day if you are lucky. There is no mad frenzy of unwrapping dozens of gifts at dawn. There are no inspiring Hanukkah movies, no stories of flying reindeer and tiny elves feverishly building toys. There is religion and (in my opinion) bad food.

Hanukkah cannot compete and the kids know it. They taunt me with it. "My FAVORITE holiday is Christmas!" Followed by Easter. No mention of Hanukkah, Passover or even Purim. But I try. I do.

We usually have some sort of Hanukkah party, passing out "gelt" (chocolate coins), opening gifts and muddling through a few games of dreidel. We own a beautiful menorah. We slather potato pancakes with applesauce to try and make them appealing. (Hey it's better then fruitcake!)

The boys know they are Jewish, but also celebrate secular versions of Christmas and Easter. I'm aware that it can be confusing and sometimes they get mixed up. Just yesterday in the car the "Twelve Days of Christmas" came on the radio. "This is a nice song" Evan announced. "Is it a Hanukkah song?" Not quite son. The "Christmas" part  should have given it away.

I did not celebrate Christmas as a child. I never believed in Santa Clause, and admit, I felt cheated. I am cognisant of the fact that the way we acknowledge the holidays may offend some. There are Jews who are disgusted that I allow a Christmas tree in my home. There are Christians who are appalled that we forgot the "Christ" in Christmas. Honesty, we mean no harm and do not wish to be disrespectful. My husband and I are simply celebrating the traditions that we both grew up with. We are not religious people, however we find value and joy in bringing the ritual of Hanukkah and Christmas to our own family.

Thus, we light our Menorah in the presence of our glittering Christmas tree. We play Bing Crosby's holiday hits while unwrapping our Hanukkah gifts. It's about tradition. It's about magic, joy, charity and family. It's our celebration.

Wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday.

Merry Hanukkah!
Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


The first time I got a manicure: 1997, just before I went on a cruise with my mother and grandfather in Greece. I had never been on a cruise before, and assumed I had to be fancy. I had my nails painted shiny red and couldn't stop looking at them.

The first movie I remember seeing in the theater: ET. I was petrified. That was one ugly alien hiding in the garage.

My first "real" boyfriend: Sophomore year of high school. We dated for four months before he broke my heart and went on to become prom king. Bastard.

My first best friend: Ms. Erica. I met her in kindergarten and I am still friends with her today. We have been through it all. Grade school drama, high school boyfriends and heartbreaks, college exams, drunken nights on State Street, trips to Vegas, babies and careers. I hope I will know her until I'm 90!

My first drink: Tequila and sprite. 10th grade. I really wanted to impress a certain boy I was with. I ended up with the dry heaves and a pounding headache. It was a long time before I had another cocktail.

My first massage: The day before my wedding day. The woman talked to me the entire time, asking me questions about wedding colors and bridesmaids dresses. My arm was stuck in a funky position and I ended up incredibly sore the next day. Luckily I have since learned that massages can be heaven.

My first job: Rocky Rococo's Pizza the summer before college. I worked the cash register and was responsible for "flipping" the salad bar, a dreaded task indeed. I met a number of unsavory characters who either hated me or wanted to marry me.

My first positive pregnancy test: I wasn't late, but I wanted a baby badly, and had been trying. My husband had gone out for a run and I figured it was too early, but would try anyway. I stared at the two lines with disbelief. I remember what I was wearing that day. I remember looking at myself in the mirror and thinking "I'm going to be a MOMMY!" I couldn't wait for David to return home from his jog to share the news, so I called my mother. Poor spouse was the third to know the news!

My first house: Purchased after only two days of looking. We flew from Minneapolis to Denver for a quick house hunting trip and found a cute little bungalow in Sunnyside. I thank my lucky stars every day we bought that house. Our neighbors soon became our very best friends, and though we have moved twice since that first home, our friendship remains.

My first parent-teacher conference: Zachary was six months. Yes you read that right. The daycare insisted on regular conferences to discuss our child's progress. I remember rushing from work, eager to meet with Zachary's teacher. As you can probably imagine, the meeting was intensely interesting. "Zack takes good naps. Zachary likes eating applesauce. He likes his rattle."

My first car: My parents gave me their blue Volvo after graduation so that I could make the drive from Madison to Monroe Wisconsin (where my boyfriend was living.) I don't  remember the year. I do remember totaling it only a few months later when I flipped it after driving head on into a tractor trailer tire. It wasn't the last Volvo I would total.

My first grown up pet: My sweet Wiggum. Purchased at the Humane Society he was white and orange and a total cuddle cat. I loved that kitty madly and miss him still.

My first time as a bridesmaid: My friend Michelle and Chad's wedding. What a blast. They were two of my very best friends in Minneapolis. I was so excited to be part of the wedding party. I went dress shopping with Michelle, and attended her hen party in Chicago. The wedding was a blast. The hangover was less fun.

My first Mother's Day: I was so excited. I dressed my eight month old baby up in a light blue jumper that my husband insisted made him look like a fool. I wore something with flowers on it and we went to a lady-like brunch at my favorite Denver restaurant, Duo. It was a perfect sunny spring day, and I felt like the luckiest woman in the world.

What are some of your favorite first memories?