Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Ugliest Best Gift That I Almost Threw Away

We're home again after a few days spent being all merry and bright with my family. I'm done being merry and bright. Now I feel a little post-holiday Grinchy, truth be told.

After being told of potentially "significant problems" in my father-in-law's marriage (he's been married to A for 8 years next month but they don't live together. Never have. He's in the southern part of the state and she's on the far opposite end - 5 hours away), he joined us for our first Christmas Eve/Christmas morning on our own. We did essentially a repeat of our Thanksgiving menu - a full turkey feast for just the 3 of us. Because my kids are weird and don't like much of anything having to do with a turkey dinner. Not even the scrumptious garlic mashed potatoes. Heathens. I got excited about an excuse to use our good china and crystal and pulled out all the stops. The kids had been sick (still are) and Mr. Chick was coming down with it, too. I spent the day making mountains of Chex Mix (made with extra seasonings because, come on, the traditional recipe tends to be a bit scant on that front) and my favorite kick-ass chocolate chip cookies (see April archives for the recipe - it rocks!) because Santa is a rock star and deserves nothing less than my best cookie effort on his big night. I wonder why I went to such trouble because my kids were cranky, my fil was 2 hours late, and Mr. Chick was asleep on the couch by 6:30pm. Seriously. Fa la la. So much for me taking Nicholas to the childrens Mass, or going on the tour of lighted homes, or even watching a classic Christmas special on TV. So much for making our own traditions. Maybe next year. Because there is no way in hell our tradition is going to be me slaving away all day in the kitchen, then cleaning up from it all while I try to listen to cheesy Christmas music over the snoring of my congested husband.

Our plan was to enjoy the chaos of Christmas morning and all the Santa magic goodness here in our own home, have a nice breakfast, and then hit the road and drive to Portland to enjoy the holiday with my family. Good plan. There were so many gifts under our tree I thought a fun new tradition (and we all know how well my other plans for traditions played out...) would be to open up the non-Santa gifts on Christmas Eve and that way the Santa stuff could assume a bigger level of importance on Christmas morning, plus free up valuable time to get it all together so we could leave at a reasonable time. Makes sense, right? Only Mr. Chick has this thing about not opening gifts until the day of. He wouldn't let us open up wedding gifts until after our wedding, and he won't even open up birthday cards that come before his actual birthday. He will wait until his birthday to open them. So it was completely OUT that we would open up family gifts on Christmas Eve. Oh no. We could only open them on Christmas morning and really put the kids into overload mode. So that's what we did.

I mentioned the kids were/are sick. So sleeping at night has been a bit of a challenge. Added to the fact that ever since Lauren started climbing out of her crib she crawls into bed with us sometime in the wee, ungodly hours. And then proceeds to cough and hack all over me. It was a holly-jolly night, let me tell ya. And then she's UP at 6:30am and sliding out of bed and wandering into the kitchen asking for "bot" (translation: milk, left over from her bottle days), and I can't have her discover the Santa stuff before Nicholas is awake, so I attempt to bring her back into bed only that's a non-starter and she's insisting on being awake, the little imp. So I grab the video camera (better to be the one behind the camera than the parent to assist the kids in front of it when one hasn't gotten much sleep and looks like death) and we wake up Nicholas, drag Mr. Chick from bed, and instruct Nick to wake his Opa, too. All this happens in, like, 14.8 seconds. Nicholas saw his stuffed stocking and lo and behold - ! An Icee machine! OMG! (What was I thinking??) And a Rudolph coloring book in his stocking! And a SpongeBob toothbrush! It was all too much! Lauren got the LeapPad Phonics magnetic toy that sings about the sounds each letter makes and a Winnie-the-Pooh bear. From Mama & Daddy she got a Dora doll and Nicholas got a Snoopy youth set of golf clubs (3 real clubs and a bag). We had to absorb all of THAT plus the stuff from their Opa (a VSmile and game cartridges), and many more gifts from assorted relatives on Mr. Chick's side of the family. Mr. Chick gave me the most-awesome Kitchen Aid mixer in the hot red color! Yay! You KNOW you're getting old when you get jazzed about your husband getting you a mixer for Christmas. Then Mr. Chick, still feeling poorly, took Lauren with him into the hottub for some steaming relief while I got breakfast rolling and Nicholas continued to enjoy his new booty. Slyly, fil slipped a small box onto the kitchen counter for me. We all know good things come in small packages, right? Well, I opened this little goodie and was met with something sparkly. LOTS of sparkles. Too bad the sparkles were UGLY. It was a ring. A ring that I thought was completely an ugly costume ring. But I'm a gracious person (really!) and kept my thoughts to myself, instead making pleasing utterances for fil's benefit. "What sort of stone IS that?" and "oh my - wow! That's really intricate" and other such nonsense. It looks like a tacky Vegas cocktail ring, if you can picture that. I'd post a picture but my camera wouldn't do it justice. The center stone has a sort of yellow-green tone to it. It has 3 strands of diamond-looking stones on each side of the center, and going top-to-bottom from the center (along the length of your finger) are long swirly loops with various stones. There are different tones of metals involved. Oh how I WISH you could see how unattractive it is. I put this gem on and fil asked if it fit or if I'd have to have it sized. Sized? That was my first clue that this may not be junk, despite all appearances. Why would you have a cheap costume ring sized? Then he says it could be an heirloom piece that I could pass down to Lauren, and how it's likely the most expensive piece of jewelry I own. WTF??! He told me he paid wholesale for it but he left the retail sticker on so I'd understand how valuable it is. The sticker said - are you ready for this? - $6600. Yes, that's right. I wondered if he knew he'd gotten ripped off. (and my engagement ring/wedding band is worth more now that I have a bigger diamond. Huzzah!)

We drove to Portland for Round Two of Christmas gifts and chaos. It was fun. Everyone seemed to like the gifts I'd made for them, and the Harry Potter Gryffindor scarf was the biggest hit. We spent the day enjoying the gifts, playing games (VisualEyes - good one!), and just hanging out. The next day I had a few exchanges to do and went to the mall. While there I detoured into a jewelry store. I asked the clerk about my new ring. What WAS this? Was it legit? She took it and ooh'd and ahhh'd about how lovely it is (liar!) and then looked at it under the loup thingy, did some sort of steam test, and then used the diamond hardness tester on it. Guess what? The ring is real. It's got several yellow diamonds - the bigger stones - and many, many tiny regular diamonds all along the strands. It has white gold for the band, rose gold for the medium-sized stones, and a yellow gold for the center stone. There are 9 yellow diamonds in all on this sucker. And about 60-70 tiny little clear diamonds wrapping around the yellow ones and on the 3 strands. Really, that many. I just counted. This ring is encrusted. I just wish I liked it. I was giving serious thought to making this my white elephant gift for this year's exchange coming up. Good thing I double-checked it's validity. And while I may knock the design of this ring, I absolutely appreciate the hyper-generosity of my fil for giving it to me. That's amazing. He has a habit of buying artwork and stuff for people - stuff that tends to be very personal taste-wise - and that's risky business. I only wish I'd had a say in the look of a ring of this magnitude. Because I won't really be wearing the one he gave me. It is seriously UGLY and completely not me. So now we'll have it appraised for insurance purposes, and probably put it in our safety deposit box with my loose diamond that was swapped out from my engagement ring. We've thought about having it re-worked into something I like, but we don't want to offend fil and will just leave it alone for now. But can you BELIEVE that?? Unreal.

The only other highlight of the holiday was going to see Mamma Mia. My sister had plans to go to dinner and see the show with some friends of hers from high school. They live all over and only come back to town at Christmas. This year they were all going to be around so they thought they should get together. Except then my sister and her husband made plans to go to see his family the day after Christmas and she could no longer join her friends. So, they asked me to stand in for her. I also know these girls since I was just one year ahead of them in school, but I haven't really seen most of them since. And my, how they've changed! My sisters class in school was always very, very smart. Wicked smart. And my sister, the aeronautical engineer, was right in the thick of it. One of them is a jet-setting, globe-trotting physician. One is an attorney. One of them got her MBA from Stanford. The other is a VP. It's impressive, and just a little intimidating. I'm proud of my accomplishments, but a bachelor degree from a state university just isn't on the same level, y'know? But the dinner and show was really fun - who doesn't love an ABBA-filled evening? And it was nice to get out for a bit.

And my blingy-Vegas ring was just the right accessory for the event!

Oh please post a picture of the ring!!!! Loved your discription and I just have to see this thing!
MP, you HAVE GOT to take a pic of this ring, lol!
I'm dying here trying to invision what your describing.
P.S I remember the art work you accidently took to the curb too.
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