Monday, December 27, 2004
Ho, ho, humph.
Well, we made it through the Christmas weekend with all limbs intact and some small modicum of sanity still hiding away in the recesses of our brains - really, what more can you ask for?

The sad thing is that if you take my mother-in-law out of the picture, it really was a very nice holiday. My father and sisters, and my husband's parents and brother, all came out, so we had a full house. But the two dads got along well - they both love a good, loud debate, so they got into it on several different topics (politics, the metric system, hurricanes, dental floss, baggage handlers, prostitution, the use of Kleenex in public... these men are willing to debate anything, anytime, step right up to see the Amazing Argumentative Men at work, ladies and gentlemen! May involve language too rough for children.) So they kept each other entertained and out of my kitchen, life was good there. And my sisters took turns playing with my kids, so again, fewer people in my kitchen.

Now, my brother-in-law is a semi-professional chef. Semi in the sense that he's had the full training at a sort of famous school in NYC that a few people have heard of and he actually had a real job for a while there, but he's never been taught to have realistic goals and expectations for his life, so he refuses to accept an entry-level job and work his way up - he thinks that since he has finally, for the first time in his life, finished a school-like course (8 whole months, watch out!) that he deserves to be plopped down in his own, prestigious kitchen with a 6-figure salary, right off the bat. I do admit that he seems to know what he's doing in the kitchen, but I feel that his arrogance is misplaced. But I digress. My mother-in-law is just so tickled that BIL is finally, finally semi-succeeding at anything in his life that she whips out the camera and takes pictures every time he's in the kitchen, so it worked out that she annoyed him out of my way. And when he did do stuff in the kitchen, he asked first and was delightful about it - like making Christmas breakfast for everyone.
I could stop right here and have told a nice, pleasant family story.

So we're down to my mother-in-law. Within seconds of her arrival, we knew we were in for it. She and father-in-law live in separate houses (but are not divorced, very twisted and annoying relationship to try and explain to a 4-year-old), in the same town, about 500 miles from here. They often come here at the same time, but they always travel in separate vehicles - she says he drives too slow and smokes too much, he just prefers to be alone (smart man?). But this time, for whatever twisted, bizarre reason, they came in the same car. (Want to give yourself a serious, throbbing, hangover-without-the-preceding-buzz kind of headache? Ask my mother-in-law a direct question and try to get a simple answer. Go ahead. I dare you.) So when she arrived at our house alone, it was moderately alarming. Turns out that no, they didn't argue, no, he didn't smoke the whole time, but simply being in my father-in-law's presence for 5 hours was enough to send my mother-in-law over the edge, so she had to drop him off at the hotel before coming to the house.

Hotel, you ask? Yes, they don't like the idea of sleeping in a guest room. Not enough amenities. My father-in-law has never slept here, and that's fine, we're all comfortable with that. My mother-in-law usually does but she hates my family (again - ask her about it! You won't get an answer, but it's fun to watch her stutter and lie!) so she wouldn't stay here with them.

Anyway, just a lot of crankiness from her. She came into the kitchen 6 - yes, I counted - 6 times on Christmas Day to ask if I wanted help. No. I'm proud to be hosting a big meal for the first time, no. I don't want help. My kitchen isn't big enough for two people to comfortably maneuver. No, I have everything planned out and under control. No, you were just complaining about not seeing the kids enough, go pester them. NO. NO NO NO NO NO. No.


So I'm the bad guy for that. I'm the bad guy for making a truly wonderful, traditional, huge Christmas dinner (if I do say so myself) (and I do!). She hates to cook and hates it more that I like it, and hates it even MORE that I'm reasonably good at it.

I'm also the bad guy for hand-making many of my Christmas gifts this year, "They mean so much more than store-bought and I wish I had the time to make things," says the retired woman who has no small children, no job, certainly no exercise regime, and no other big claims on her time. For several female relatives, I sewed shut Jacob's outgrown clothes and stuffed them as pillows - I waffled and waffled about whether to give her one, and finally decided that I'd get in more trouble for leaving her out. So I gave her a cute little rugby shirt, about which she immediately - literally seconds after opening it - announced that she didn't like it, it "creeped" her out, she couldn't stand the fact that it didn't have a head, she would screen print a picture of Jacob on it and sew it on herself to make it better. Bite me, lady - how about, "Thanks"??? I wasn't TRYING to make dolls, I was trying - and succeeding - to make pillows.

I'm also the bad guy for hand-sewing a quilt for my husband, out of samplers that his grandmother (my mother-in-law's mother-in-law) made. His grandmother died in August, so this was a really huge, timely, special project. And it really irked my mother-in-law that I found the time to do it, that it made my husband and his father cry (two stoic Dutchmen crying, quite a successful gift!!), and that it came out so nice. She accused me of stealing the samplers from Grandma. Yes, you read that right. Stealing them. "Did you get these from her stuff after she died? Because we haven't inventoried all that yet, you know. I want to make sure I get the samplers I wanted, too. Did Willem grab them while he was in Holland for the funeral? Did you tell him to? How did you get them?" For the record, I got them when we took our then-13-month-old daughter to Holland to visit Grandma in 2001, she gave them freely and was happy that I showed an interest in them.

So, it's done. My husband's birthday was yesterday, somehow we managed to go out just the two of us. It was weird. Sweet, but weird.

And I know that there are a lot of ways in which my mother-in-law could be worse. But this is bad enough for me, thanks.

Just for fun... here's the quilt!
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