The flu that stole Christmas

Christmas has already been completely ruined, and we still have five days before the actual holiday, so I’m thinking this is some sort of truly awesome record for Maximum Suck.

The Plan was that the kids’ dad would pick them up on Saturday to fly north; Otto and the dog and I were to follow the next day, driving up to my folks in New York; the kids would spend a week with their dad, we would work our way Boston-ward for Christmas, and then on Christmas Day we’d get the kids back, they’d have time to see the New England relatives, and we’d head back through my folks’ place again on our way home for some quality maternal grandparental time.

In reality, the ENT said he thought it wasn’t a good idea for Monkey to fly with a head full of goo (gee, ya think?), and Chickadee outdid herself by running a fever of at least 102 for the entire last week, so it was unclear that she’d be healthy enough to fly in time. So no one flew. And Otto was so sick it wasn’t clear we could drive, either, so no one drove. We’re all still here.

Now everyone is just better enough get on everyone else’s last nerve.

Today it seems ridiculous that we’re not going, because everyone is mostly healthy, though I am still feeling just kind of off and waiting for this stupid flu to hit me full-force. But the complication of trying to coordinate with a far-away parent is that “playing it by ear” is often not an option. The kids’ dad has to plan his vacation days, and when we were busy canceling flights I still had a houseful of sick people, so I couldn’t reasonably promise we’d drive up at any specific point.

That left my ex with the task of buying a whole new set of plane tickets if he wanted to ensure seeing the kids, and he was remarkably understanding about the whole thing, so I didn’t feel like I could argue with the new plan, which is that he’ll pick the kids up on Christmas Eve, and return them a week later.

Sure, it’ll be my first Christmas ever without having them for at least part of the day, but flights are flights and it’s a huge unexpected expense and I wasn’t going to split hairs just because I was sad about it.

The more complicated issue that it presents is that now we basically CAN’T drive up; we can’t leave before the kids do (nor would my ex be pleased, I suspect, if we drove them up after he just spent all that money on tickets), and with them being gone for just a week we really don’t have enough time to drive up, see people, and get back before them. So apparently we’re not going anywhere.

In the meantime, Otto started talking about trying to make the drive anyway—maybe we could just drive straight through and make it one day each way!—and I don’t see that happening without us drugging the dog and possibly ME, as well. Plus I know that if we go, assuming I’ve dodged the flu, that I will get sick approximately six to ten hours into the journey. That’s just how my life goes.

[“The advantage of driving is that if you get sick we can just come back!” insisted Otto.

“The advantage of driving is that if I get sick, I’m SIXTEEN HOURS ON THE ROAD away from my own bed! Awesome!!” I replied.]

This morning I tried to buy Otto some plane tickets to fly up and see his family, and it ended in a huge argument, as most of my attempts to do nice things for someone else do. Because he cannot possibly go without me! He’d be completely miserable! And I may have called him a big baby. And tried to explain that I already feel completely guilty about, oh, EVERYTHING, and just wish he would take a couple of days to go so that at LEAST I would know I hadn’t ruined everything for him. Otto and I rarely argue and so when we do we both get all puffed up with self-righteousness and fury and I need a nap. Oy.

Anyway. Christmas is ruined, but last night we (finally!) decorated our pitiful little fake tree, because both kids were finally healthy enough to do so.

And despite the fact that I will be without my kids on Christmas, and our trip is ruined, and my husband is apparently very angry at me for not taking his “I cannot possibly spend part of this vacation without you” protestations seriously, there is one Christmas tradition that will always cheer me up just a little: Licorice is convinced that our Playmobil nativity set is delicious.

Understand, this dog has destroyed NOTHING in our house. In the year and a half that we’ve owned her, she has gotten into food that was left a little too close to her exactly twice. She has chewed up nothing else that didn’t belong to her. She doesn’t take things that aren’t hers, and only chews toys she’s given. So her obsession with the nativity is a mystery, but she did exactly the same thing this year that she did last, which is to say she was VERY INTERESTED in the entire thing—as the kids spread it out on our side table—but went STRAIGHT for the Baby Jesus.

Baby Jesus’ head is exactly the same size as her kibble. I don’t know if that’s the attraction. Maybe?

She sniffed and licked and looked OH SO GUILTY, and didn’t actually TAKE Him, no, because she knew she wasn’t supposed to.

I removed Jesus from the manger and held him up in front of Licorice and tried to explain to her that HE IS NOT FOOD. With the tiny, enticing morsel poking up from between my fingers, she dared to try to slurp his head into her mouth, gently biting around his neck with her now-toothless front gums, giving me a pleading look that said, “All I want for Christmas is some Baby Jesus Snacks.”

Eventually—when I refused to let go of Him—she heaved a mighty sigh and lay her head down on the couch, still looking a bit sad and filled with longing, and I rubbed her head and told her I know how she feels.

(But not because I want to eat Baby Jesus. Just so we’re clear.)


  1. Elena

    Sheesh! And I’ve been feeling sorry for myself because just last week we had to cancel driving up to VA to spend Christmas with my family. I think Santa should bring you a giant trophy, Mir. Most Strength in Adversity of Most Sucky Christmas, or something pithy like that.

  2. Becky

    Licorice is just trying to get back to the true spirit of Christmas! Celebrating baby Jesus and how he is so delicious.

  3. elizabeth

    I know exactly how you feel about that drive. We tend to do it in one swell-foop, this year leaving at 4pm to arrive 6am. Yes, up and back in less than a week, oh joy. Still, we need to visit Mom who swears she isn’t doing well, but I think will end up out lasting us all.

    I’d offer you a ride, but we’d need a bigger car.

  4. Anna

    Mir, that truly sucks.

  5. bonuela

    i know this doesn’t make you feel better, but you made the right choice when you fly with a sinus issue, the changes in pressure can cause trouble. it can trigger a sudden violent and humiliating snot explosion when you land. i can’t tell you how i know this, only that i have a friend who will never travel with me again.

    and poor licorice. she won’t get to wear here styling new jacket. :-(

  6. StacyQ

    Oh, the Christmas cold is SO awful! One of is mostly recovered, two of us are ramping up, and one of us is most likely doomed. It wreaks havoc with Christmas plans! This year we’re all getting on a plane on the 29th, no matter how much snot we’re producing!

  7. Dawn K.

    Ack! Holidays are so stressful, and about 100x more so for blended families.

    I’ve had no less than three breakdowns in the past week because it’s not all going to get finished.

    Some of our relatives still don’t understand that we’re trying to do the same activities for our family (Christmas tree getting, present shopping, holiday get togethers) in half the time (we have exact 50/50 custody of my stepdaughter) and by this time I’m usually holding on by a thread.

    I’ve been trying really hard these past few days to find the peace and joy of the season, but sad to say I think I’m ready for Christmas to be over.

    Sending you big hugs and good thoughts for a happy and healthy New Year!

  8. Tracy B

    Mir, I think you should plan to just go. You probably won’t get sick and if you do it will be before Friday and then you can cancel the trip. I mean, Licorice has her jacket and everything. C’mon…start planning on driving up there.

  9. elz

    Road Trip to Texas! We’re closer?! I’m sad that you’ll miss Christmas for the kids, but there’s no way around it. Hopefully the kids will be feeling much better when they fly.

    Poor little baby Jesus. So persecuted b/c he is delicious. We never put baby Jesus out in any of our creche scenes until Christmas Day. I’m beginning to think that is a Catholic thing b/c everybody else looks at me strangely when I say that.

  10. Kristi

    I’d at least be frustrated enough to eat the 3 wise men. And maybe a sheep.

    You guys will make the best of it, no doubt. Have a hot buttered rum or two, and all will be fine!

  11. Beth R

    @elz – I know lots of Lutherans who do that too. The theory is that baby Jesus didn’t arrive until the 25th, so he gets put in the manger after everyone gets back from midnight services.

    Oh, Mir. I’m so sorry. I know you want things to be different, and I know it’s tempting to think about making that drive, but we know you well enough to know that if you haven’t gotten the full-fledged flu by Friday, you will develop it on the road. I think you’re making the right decision for yourself to stay put. I know it will be hard without the kids. But you can have a killer Christmas Eve – that’s when the Norwegians open their presents and do the big things. So you can have big Christmas on Christmas Eve and then you and Otto can do quiet, snuggly Christmas on Saturday.

    I don’t think there’s any gluten in a good strong egg nog… :)

    Happy Holidays and I hope there’s some comfort in knowing that you have a huge circle of internet friends who are wishing you and yours all the love and peace that you can handle.

  12. s

    now where in the heck is that Licorice going to wear her new coat? dang flu!

  13. Leandra

    Yep, you definitely win suckiest Christmas ever. I don’t think there’s a prize for it, though. And honestly, if there was, you probably wouldn’t want it because it would probably be something truly awful.

    Promise me, though, that you will get some rest while the kiddos are gone. ’cause if anybody needs a nap (an EPIC nap), it’s you.

  14. My Kids Mom

    Oh why can’t relatives all live in one place and make life easier? On the other hand, I really don’t want them that close. I guess that means I have to cope with it as it is.

  15. BethRD

    You guys so need a break. It should be like jury duty, once you’ve paid your karma dues for a year you should get a letter that says you get a pass for a while. I know life doesn’t work that way but it should.

    I doubt you’re going to come down with full-blown flu at this point because I think you already would have if you were going to, but that doesn’t mean you guys should tax your physical and emotional resources to the nth degree at this point. You’re probably all only one flat tire away from complete family-wide breakdowns.

    I very much hope that Christmas turns out better than you fear, do something that makes you happy even if it’s not what you had planned.

  16. Joanne

    The only thing that could possibly make this story complete is if you had mailed all your presents for everyone ahead of time… and have no gifts left in the house. We’ve done that… and then ended up not travelling, so nobody gets any presents. Maybe you can come up with some new traditions… like the low-key things people always talk about and never have time to do.

    Good Luck Mir!
    (and please go make up with Otto)

  17. Kate

    I think Baby Jesus must be delish, because our dog has eaten three Baby Jesuses (and two Wise Guys). Now all our Baby Jesuses are extra hol(e)y. Badum bump.

  18. Jan in Norman, OK

    Another note from the “for what it’s worth” department: in the face of major weather issues last year, I finally figured out that Christmas is whenever it happens. And it can happen across several days if necessary.

    At this point, it sounds like you all need sleep more than anything else.

  19. Karen

    Mir. If you’re feeling OK on the day you are to depart? Go. I think you’re feeling alittle iffy because you’ve BEEN THROUGH ALOT OF STRESS LATELY!!!… In case that’s a newsflash for you. Take the road trip with your guy. After all you’ve been through, the togetherness-without-kids- time will do you good. If you start feeling like crap, you turn around, like the man said. You need to get away from it all. In your own vehicle you have control. Go.

    Shutting up now.

  20. Karen P

    So sorry things are not going as to plan. Hope the week is better while the kids are still home with you.

    My dog chewed on the Joseph ornament. Joseph is kind of cracked now, but still goes up on the tree.

    This is the first year we won’t have any kids home for Christmas morning. However, my kids are all adults. Two just happen to live out of state both long plane rides away.

  21. J from Ireland

    Aw jaysus Mir that really is terrible. I can understand you wanting Otto to go by himself but I can also understand him not wanting to go without you. Hopefully Christmas won’t be too shit for yiz somehow, dear.

  22. AlisonC

    Mir, maybe this is the universes way of telling you to have a quiet time. Enjoy the peace with Otto and let yourself recover from a very stressful year.

    Hopefully 2011 will be easier on you all

  23. Angela

    I say you and Otto should take a short trip for a few nights on a couple’s getaway while the kids are gone! Tell the family, Sorry, due to circumstances beyond our control we can’t make it, those plans are scrapped and irretrievable. Then book a few nights at a nice CLOSE-by hotel, order room service, and let someone else do the dishes and make up the beds for awhile. One that takes dogs, of course, can’t leave Licorice out of the relaxation :-) Then IF you get sick you’ll be close by, but just maybe you’ll get relaxed enought to fight off those germs!

  24. Yan

    why didn’t you guys drive up today to see the family today with kids in tow and have the ex pick them up at some point along the way on the 24th?

  25. Liza

    I like Angela’s idea.

    Or at least you could netflix some movies the kids wouldn’t like, and snuggle in with Otto for a few low-stress, quiet evenings in. There’s no gluten in popcorn, right? Or you could visit a nearby larger city and take in some cultural activities that would also bore your kids, and you could go to Ikea.

  26. Lucinda

    I feel compelled to give some assvice because I admire the snot out of you and hate to see you so miserable. Guilt is optional. From what I’ve read, you really are a victim of a crapload of bad circumstances and feeling guilty about what could’ve, should’ve been won’t help anyone. It will only make you feel worse. So please forgive yourself. Let go of the guilt. Accept that Otto really does value spending time with you more than going up to see family. Then just be. Enjoy the quiet time together. I think Angela’s (#23) suggestion is fabulous.

  27. Mary Fran

    Mir, Just remember, Christmas is the day you decide it is. It doesn’t have to be the 25th. So pick the day that will be your Christmas with the kids and celebrate with them. Then you and Otto can go out for Chinese food on the 25th. I’m so sorry all your plans bit the big one.

  28. mamaspeak

    I didn’t read through all the comments, bc I’m not supposed to be on my computer, (back issues) and while the person I’m responsible to is me, not reading through the comments is my version of “being good”.

    I’m sorry you have had such a totally sucktastic (year) week. I’m praying for you (and that’s not something I generally say to people,) but you need a break, in a big, big way. I hope that the silver lining to this debacle is a very mellow, fun day for you and Otto. I know it’ll be a major bummer to be without your kids, and I’m not going to try and tell you all the benefits, bc you’re their mom & you should be bummed about it, when you’re doing it right, at you are, that’s just the way it is. Mary Fran has the right idea about Christmas w/the kids. And this year, maybe Christmas can be about sleeping in, watching cheesy movies & staying in pjs all day. (That sounds like a pretty awesome day too, if you ask me.) (((((hugs))))) Let’s hope this is the last big hurrah for 2010 & 2011 is going to be one giant step of awesome for you all.

  29. Catootes

    Sympathetic hugs in your direction.

    Sometimes the whole holiday pressure system just needs to move off the coast and let people breathe. Really.

    Celebrate that everyone is feeling better and the kids can actually go away, spend some quality time with Otto alone with some wine and a fire.

    Everyone else who has expectations of what you should or shouldn’t do right now? Can go soak their head in egg nog.

    Happy nomoreflu-nothebabyjesusisnotadogsnack-worryneedstotakeadayoff Holiday.

  30. suzie

    Oh, it is sad to have the rug pulled out from under your plans. Is there a sense that staying home is a relief – at all?

    I have had a handful of Christmases without my kids, the years that they spent them with my ex and his family. It can feel a bit empty, unless you make some kind of plans ahead of time to create a special time just for you and Otto.

    I know – you can have sex ALL DAY LONG! You couldn’t do that with the kids home.

    Perfect solution.

    Okay – on a more realistic note – can you take a day trip to a nearby city, and make reservations at a nice restaurant for Christmas dinner? I’m sure someplace is open. (Of course, this is assuming you won’t get the flu – I’m an optimist.)

  31. jadine

    I’ve been meaning to ask — how’s her breath been since the dental stuff was done (poor fuzzy little thing)?

  32. E's Mommy

    Aw. Sorry your holiday plans turned out so badly this year on top of everything else. Here’s some more assvice for you; if you think it’ll be at all relaxing or enjoyable stay home and cuddle with Otto then stay home. If you’re deciding to stay home because Everything Is Ruined Anyway So Why Bother, let Otto haul you out of the Pit of Despair and toss you and Licorice in the car and drive to see the family. It’ll be a long drive, but you can hold Otto’s hand and have adult conversation and not have to entertain kids. And then you can visit family who will cluck over you and fix you delicious food and maybe pet your head and call YOU “poor little bunny”. It’s your turn for some of that. If you don’t have the flu by Friday hopefullly you’ll be in the clear. Also, I totally side with Otto in your argument. Go climb into his lap and tell him sorry and make out with him for awhile. That will make you both feel better.

  33. jessica

    I’m sorry to hear that your plans are now defunct and your kids won’t be with you on Christmas. I think the idea to take a short (heck, maybe even one night) to pamper yourself (and Otto) is wonderful. Here’s hoping you don’t get sick at all AND you get to experience something wonderful arise out of this dismal change in plans.

  34. Em

    I like Angela’s idea too but NOT close by. You could be one of those people who “Christmas in the Caribbean”. I always wanted to try out being one of those people.

    I’m sorry Christmas is sucktastic this year. I wish it wasn’t.

  35. Reb

    Mulled wine:

    1 bottle cheap red wine
    1 cup grapefruit juice
    1 dozen whole cloves
    3 cinnamon sticks
    1 handful chopped crystallized root ginger
    2-3 branches from an aniseed star
    1 orange, sliced
    honey to taste

    Simmer spices and fruit juice together for a few minutes. Add wine and orange, cover tightly and heat again. Don’t boil the wine or you’ll lose the alcohol. Add honey and more spice to taste. Let it sit warm for a few hours.

    Drink copious amounts in front of fire and favorite old movie.

  36. jennamom2boys

    I fourth or fifth Angela’s idea. And Mir? Hello, you ARE Otto’s family. The man freakin’ adores you.

    Also, lolDogz = “I can haz yummy BABY JEEZUS?”

  37. Lara

    I think Angela and E’s Mommy are very wise. And remember, Christmas for Otto may in fact be ruined by you NOT being with him so perhaps that is why shipping him off doesn’t sound so appealing to him …

    Hope the world stops crapping on you NOW! And that you salvage some Christmas joy some how, somewhere, someday over the holidays :)

    BTW Have finally caught up blogwise to where Otto (re)appears in your life – fun reading knowing the happy ending :)

  38. SherryGreens

    So sorry all the plans got dashed, perhaps the season will surprise you and you will enjoy the quiet time alone with your husband.

    We have the Playmobile nativity scene too, new this year. Kids love it. We don’t have the Jesus hungry dog, however.

    Merry Christmas.

  39. Brigitte

    No, the church wants you to eat ADULT Jesus during Communion. Oops, perhaps I’m being a tad sacrilegious.

    What with the Back To The Future trilogy in your home, perhaps you can just turn back time on January 1st and make THAT your household’s Christmas Day.

  40. Aimee

    Well, I think I’m just going to send you some magicks for Christmas that will make everything right. Oh, that I could!

    I hope that, somehow, you end up having a good Christmas. {{hugs}}

  41. Debbi

    Hugs sweetie! I think angela, Mary Fran, and jennamom2boys said it perfectly!! Take this as time for the two of you, pick a different day to celebrate a wonderful Christmas with your family and Otto loves you to death! Of course the recipe for the mulled wine was great too!

    I’ll be thinking about you on Christmas! Merry Christmas to your entire family.

  42. Heidi

    Just you watch – you’re going to have a fun, snuggly Christmas at home with the love of your life.

  43. JennyM


    (Also: somehow our family developed a tradition of loudly proclaiming “YOU RUINED {HOLIDAY}!” at the drop of a hat. No idea how it got started at this point and believe it was probably said in all earnestness at the time. Now, it’s just silly, and is an appropriate response to anything from “we’re out of toilet paper” to “the Christmas tree is on fire.”)

  44. Shirly

    Have you tried vitamin C? I’ve got my younger brother coming from Christmas eve. We’re all going to spend Christmas day together. Then I’m working on Boxing day, so will my brother, who will then come back in the evening.

    I will then have to cook for our family ‘Port Night’, along with my older brother’s brood – making about nine of us all together. So I can’t really afford to be ill, as I have asthma as well.

    I’d been feeling blah for about a week, but I read about the powers of vitamin C – more than I knew before. I upped my intake to 2g per day and my fluey blahness has almost gone after a couple of days.

    Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

  45. Katie in MA

    NOTHING cheers up Christmas like Baby Jeesus Snacks. Just sayin’.

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