GeekMom Holiday Traditions: Ornaments with Meaning

Image by Helene McLaughlin.

As a child, Christmas was my favorite holiday. It was always filled with family, friends, tinsel, gifts, and laughter. Traditions changed throughout the years, as all five of us kids grew up. However, my favorite tradition was always decorating the Christmas tree. Decorating the Christmas tree each year was a trip down memory lane; every ornament hung had a story attached to it.

The first Christmas after I was married, my husband and I discussed our favorite Christmas traditions in an effort to join our favorites into our new home. My husband was intent on celebrating from the day after Thanksgiving through Epiphany (in early January). I asked that we only decorate our tree with ornaments that meant something. I wanted every one of our ornaments to have a story that we could tell our kids as they grew up. Each year since then, we have added at least one ornament that represented the events of the year.

First Christmas Ornament by Baldwin. Image by Helene McLaughlin.

The first few years, our tree was filled with memories of vacations, new homes, and a few that had been passed on to us by our families. Once we had our boys, we added two “First Christmas” ornaments to the tree for each of them. We wanted to have an ornament that we would pass on to them when they had their own families. Recently, we’ve added mostly geeky ornaments, each with their own meaning and each representing the obsession of the year.

Image by Helene McLaughlin.

Being an avid Whovian, this year we eagerly anticipated the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. We also added the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Glass Ornament and will be adding another new home ornament to celebrate having moved again this year.

Image by Helene McLaughlin.

After attending a local sci-fi convention, we added a small Firefly Jayne’s hat ornament that we had found at Quirky Crochet.

Image by Helene McLaughlin.

My husband’s avid electronics hobby inspired our set of recycled circuit board ornaments.

Image by Helene McLaughlin.

The memory of my late grandfather and grandmother have always lived at the top of our tree: Armed Forces for him and Nutcrackers for her.

Image by Helene McLaughlin.

We have a tiny porcelain angel on our tree to remember the miscarriage that we had before either of our boys. We wanted to honor that memory with a happy tradition rather than with something that made us sad each time we saw it.

Image by Helene McLaughlin.

The year we introduced our favorite Christmas movies to our kids, we added a leg lamp ornament from A Christmas Story and an ornament featuring the Griswold family tree from Christmas Vacation. Also, we always place a bell somewhere in the tree for It’s a Wonderful Life.

Image by Helene McLaughlin.

When my boys fell in love with Lego bricks, we added a set of three Lego Christmas Santa ornaments to our collection. When they became obsessed with Disney’s Cars, Phineas and Ferb, and Harry Potter, we added a few iconic ornaments to the tree.

Ornaments2013-39
Image by Helene McLaughlin.

When I sit in my living room with a beautiful fire burning and our family stockings hung above the mantle with care, I look at my gorgeous tree and don’t just see pretty little baubles. I see a tree built of memories. Peace, joy, and happy holidays to all.

Merry Christmas 2013. Image by Helene McLaughlin.

My Geek Christmas

Fire Phasers! Image:Nicole Wakelin

I think geeks are particularly fond of the holidays because it gives us a chance to act a bit silly and child-like without the usual number of odd looks. At Halloween you can break out the cosplay and no one will call the cops. On Independence Day you can set off all manner of fireworks (aka stuff that blows up!) and again (depending on the laws in your state) no one will call the cops. And at Christmas you can decorate with all your favorite geek-themed treasures, from Star Trek to Star Wars, Doctor Who to Doctor Seuss, and people will ask you about them rather than frown at your eccentricities. This year, we began decorating over the weekend and my home and car are nearly completely Christmasified in their own geeky ways.

Somewhere, back in the dark ages when I was a newlywed, I thought I was going to make my tree all Martha Stewart. I know, but, that woman knows how to make a tree look like a million bucks. Probably because she spent a million bucks, but I was young and naive and convinced I could do it just like she did. So, I bought these really cute, delicate ornaments shaped like bells and birdcages and lemons. I have no idea why I bought a lemon, or the plum that seems to go with it, other than that they were cute and shiny. Shiny has its way with me on a regular basis.

There I was, newlywed Martha Stewart- in-the-making with a giant tree, a lemon and a plum. It was like the Charlie Brown tree, only it was much bigger and not dying, just really pitifully decorated. We decided a shopping trip needed to be made and more ornaments acquired. This led to the mall and the mall led to Hallmark, and there we found the true geek spirit of Christmas. Yes, we found the Star Wars ornaments. They lit up. They made sounds. They had to come home with us. Forget Martha Stewart and her ridiculous bows and lemons. I had an X-Wing!

We still needed lights, though, so off to the discount store where we found the most amazing set of lights ever. Ever. It had a dial with five different blink settings. They could twinkle, flash, alternate off and on, do the wave and there was even a bizarro setting that probably should have come with a warning that it might induce a seizure. It was awesome.

We bought these light only to realize, once we were home, that they were way too long for our little tree. Solution? We decorated the daylights out of our balcony. In our giant apartment complex, you could single our our apartment because it blazed with all the glory of the sun. I am sure that our neighbors loved us and cried when we moved out and bought a house. Oh, but the decorating opportunities at a house? I couldn’t wait.

That first year, I believe we may have taken out a second mortgage and sold our unborn daughter’s soul to the devil, but it was worth it. We had lights and garland everywhere. And red ribbons. And those net lights you can just toss on your shrubs for instant Christmasification. And there was the tree, right in our front window, which blazed forth into our neighborhood, alienating people we hadn’t even met yet! Again. Awesome.

It’s been a few years now since we bought this house. In that time, several blow-ups have been added to the front lawn because the kids love them and, as soon as they asked my husband for one, he jumped at the chance. It had nothing to do with him wanting a see-sawing penguin and snowman on our front lawn. At all. It was just for the kids. And our glorious set of seizure lights has died, but it’s not a problem.

Over the years we have purchased every ship from Star Wars and Star Trek that we could get our hands on. Most light up and some make cool sound effects, but all of them are fantastic.  As we plug them in and press their little buttons you hear the glorious sounds of Spock and Kirk and even the Emperor threatening to show us the power of his fully armed and operational battle station.  All this mingled with sweet sounds of Christmas carols and my children’s laughter. But the best part? The part that brings out my inner 12-year-old and has me making sound effects of my own and swooping ornaments across the tree? Posing them so they’re chasing after each other — and maybe even blowing up shiny lemons.

New York Comic Con: Something for Everyone

Cpt. Hammer and Cpt. Hammer, Image: Nicole Wakelin

I’ve just returned from the geek extravaganza that is New York Comic Con, one of my favorite weekends of the year. Sure, it’s not as big as San Diego Comic-Con and it doesn’t have as many celebrity appearances, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. In fact, by losing some of the Hollywood razzle-dazzle it feels more genuine. Not to say that there aren’t celebrities, as Stan Lee, Mark Hamill and Robert Kirkman were there and if they don’t count as celebrities in your book, well then, you’re at the wrong convention all together. But more than the big names, big releases, and big movies, this one is about the smaller independent guys getting a chance to show their work.

Table after table of artists with prints, comics, and sketches were on display. One of the best parts of wandering through Artist Alley is that not only do you get to see a huge variety of work, from horror to fantasy to sci-fi and everything in between, but that the artists are there and ready to talk about their creations. I am always fascinated to see them working on commissioned pieces that take shape before your eyes in a matter of minutes. And they do it all in the middle of a ridiculously loud room, with people laughing and talking and bustling past in a blur. Somehow, these guys stay completely focused on what they’re working on, pausing only to talk when people stop to ask them a question and admire their work.

There were also a huge number of tables with things that weren’t really comics, but that the geeks of the world were sure to love. For all the vampire lovers out there (sparkly or otherwise) there were plush vampire babies complete with fangs and death certificates at Vamplets. If you were a gamer then you could check out the unbelievable case mods from the guys at Major League Mods. They turned an Xbox into a working R2-D2 that I entered to win and if I do, you will hear the screams of joy the world over.  But my most favorite thing of all, was actually from a very well-known and not necessarily geeky company.

If you showed up at the Hallmark booth bright and early, then you had the chance to get your hands on a few convention exclusives. One of these was a glow-in-the-dark USS Defiant Keepsake ornament. No, not lights, glow in the dark, just like the stars you stuck on your bedroom ceiling as a kid (or as an adult, no judging). When I found out about this I was so excited, I think I scared the Hallmark guy (sorry about that) but this is THE coolest ornament ever. It will go on my tree this year in a place of honor along with the Enterprise, Captain Kirk and assorted shuttles and spaceships. New York Comic Con had something for everyone, and not only did it make my weekend, it made my Christmas!

Hallmark Ornament Sneak Peek and Giveaway

2012 Lego Stormtrooper Hallmark Ornament

Yes, it’s only August, but Hallmark ornaments are already out for purchase at stores. I freely admit that I’m one of the people that’s in the store as soon as I see that cute little Christmas display. I run inside and start checking to see which ones light up and which ones make noise. There is a chance that the folks at my local store see me coming and roll their eyes, because I have to press every button and hear each sound effect and every famous line spoken by the characters I love. A few weeks ago, back at San Diego Comic-Con, Hallmark had a wonderful booth set up with all their latest releases. The coolest part was the sneak peek of ornaments that aren’t due out until Christmas of 2012.

I snapped pictures of the little sneak peek cards, feeling vaguely like a spy. Although, I suppose my not-at-all-stealthy squeals of excitement were very un-spy-like.  This year Hallmark started a new series of Lego Star Wars ornaments. The first in the series, Darth Vader is available now and next year you’ll be able to add an adorable Stormtrooper to your collection. No word yet on how many total ornaments in the series, but since this is the first year, now is the time to grab Vader so your collection can be complete.
The Time Traveling DeLorean from Back to the Future

If Star Wars isn’t your speed, what about a car that will take you Back to the Future? There will be a DeLorean ornament available next year and I’m sort of hoping that there will be a secret button that will activate a teeny, tiny flux capacitor and send me back in time. Or maybe I should move forward? I’ll have to think about that a bit.

The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters

And there is no question that I must have the world’s cutest evil monster adorning my tree. Yes, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters will also be coming out next year. I will put him on the very front of my tree and gaze at his evil cuteness while I roast real marshmallows in my fireplace.

Although you can only look at the pictures and count the days until these fantastic ornaments are available, thanks to the folks at Hallmark you can still win some great prizes right now! Two lucky winners will each receive a Showdown at the Cantina Keepsake Ornament and a variety of Maxine and hoops&yoyo gifts.
Just go to the end of this post and leave a comment telling us what your all-time favorite Hallmark ornament is and why. The contest will run through midnight on Friday, August 19thGood luck!

SDCC: Chomping At The Bit!

Showdown at the Cantina

So, I’m not heading down to Comic-Con until early, EARLY tomorrow morning.  Seriously early.  Gotta beat traffic and get there in time for the Attack of the Show! panel at 10 a.m.! That’s how I’m kicking off SDCC 2011 this year – but back here in L.A., I’m already so excited  and jazzed up for it. Been watching everyone on twitter who’s already there talk about what they’re buying and what people are cosplaying as. My husband has been torturing me with pictures of collectibles from the show floor – all I had to do was copy and paste the word “WANT” and just keep texting that back to him.  And then today, a package arrived on my doorstep from the folks at Hallmark – this year’s collectible Christmas Ornament is — are you ready for this? Showdown at the Cantina. I KNOW, RIGHT!??! The controversial scene where, in the original, Han Solo shoots Greedo first – and was later changed to Greedo shooting first so that Han could claim “self-defense.”

It came with batteries, so I popped them in and — Greedo said “Oota Goota, Solo?” — so that made me laugh really hard.  And THEN I discovered that if you keep pushing the button, it PLAYS THE WHOLE SCENE.  Because nothing sums up the spirit of Christmas more than murdering a bounty hunter! It’s magical. I love it so hard. I don’t know why, out of all the scenes in the six films, they chose this one, but I’m so glad they did.  The Lucasfilm pavilion is always a must-stop for me, but now I have to earmark some cash to buy these for presents and find the rep who sent this to me so I can thank her personally.  

Scandinavian Christmas Heart Baskets

Image by Anjie

I enjoy traditional holiday decorations: an evergreen wreath on the door; candles in the windows; white lights on the tree; resplendent reds, deep greens and brilliant gold adorning the mantle (and anything else that will stand still, honestly).  I also like to bring in elements of my cultural heritage, whether they were introduced in my childhood or not.  Being of Norwegian descent, I acknowledge the Jul nisse with a dish of milk and cookies, put out the Julebukk, and drink a cup of glögg to celebrate the holiday.  One of my favorite holiday decorations is the Scandinavian heart basket.  They are traditionally made from paper or felt then filled with treats and hung as ornaments on the tree.  I found an easy template to create the baskets at home, and made one as my son’s “first Christmas” ornament.  The design is easy to personalize, making this a fun holiday craft for the entire family.  Glade Jul to you all!