You Say You Want a Resolution*

Posted on 12/31/2009 09:00:00 AM In:
I don't particularly like New Year's Resolutions. Personally I think that if you're going to make a life change and you can't decide to do it here and now, you're just not committed enough.

When Monica and I worked together way back when we were both twelve years old, and people would ask what our New Year's Resolutions were, Monica would generally say, "I'm going to give up having sex only for money."

And I'd chime in with, "...and I'm going to start having sex only for money."

Come on, admit it, you wanted to work with us.

Over the years, I've always liked to have resolutions that are fairly easy so that when people ask if I completed all my New Year's resolutions, I can say with pride and conviction, a resounding, "YES." This year, in 2010, I'm going to:

  1. stop eating fiberglass insulation
  2. begin volunteering my time with neglected children... namely the two that live in my house
  3. stop sending emails and texts to my husband - instead I will yell to the next room
  4. wear my underwear underneath my pants
  5. not always use the same old excuses for taking leave at work. I will think of some new excuses
  6. stop sitting in my living room all day in pajamas. Instead, I will move my computer and the TV into the kitchen.
  7. spend one hour less time each day on the internet
  8. stop watching the clock
  9. teach The Dormouse that it's "all the single ladies" and not "alla singulay"
  10. get The Dormouse to stop singing that song or at least to sing it like this chick
  11. not grow a handle bar mustache
  12. get jiggy with it
  13. tell Tiger's wife the truth about us

I've got my list all wrapped up, but if you're having trouble with yours, check this website out and then let me know in the comments: what are your easiest resolutions for 2010?


*title stolen from Chris Cactus, because it's funnier than every one of my ideas.

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Forty

Posted on 12/30/2009 08:19:00 PM
I love that Sesame Street has maintained it's sense of humor after all these years.


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Methinks the Lady Doth Protest Too Much

Posted on 12/29/2009 04:58:00 PM
Things I would never have expected to hear from my two year old:

"I don't HAVE. OCD! I don't HAVE. OCD! I don't HAVE. OCD!
I don't HAVE. OCD! I don't HAVE. OCD! I don't HAVE. OCD!
I don't HAVE. OCD! I don't HAVE. OCD! I don't HAVE. OCD!
I don't HAVE. OCD! I don't HAVE. OCD! I don't HAVE. OCD!"

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MoviePhone

Posted on 12/28/2009 04:06:00 PM In:
Thirteen movies I will always watch through to the end no matter where they are in the story when I come across them on television. Not that they're particularly good... they're not particularly bad even. They just suck me in like a black hole.

  1. Hello Dolly!
  2. Gross Pointe Blank
  3. The Jerk
  4. Stand By Me
  5. The Shawshank Redemption
  6. Casablanca
  7. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
  8. Dirty Dancing (lord help me, I can't believe I'm admitting this one - this movie is like crack... or an accident on the highway... you know it's bad for you, but you can't look away)
  9. The Wedding Singer
  10. Say Anything
  11. Better off Dead
  12. The Green Mile
  13. The Jazz Singer

I don't think it's any coincidence that half these movies come from the 80s... or that John Cusack was in almost twenty-five percent of them.

What are your "I can't look away from it" movies?

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On Friendship

Posted on 12/27/2009 08:43:00 AM
For the decade plus that we've lived in this house, we've been fortunate enough to develop a friendship with our across-the-street neighbors. We actually met him the very first day we moved in. The KingofHearts was trying to take out an old overgrown forsythia bush and he came over to lend a fireman's axe to the process and stayed for the entire removal of the bush, chatting and offering a hand where necessary. That simple act of service was the beginning. Then there were the inevitable home improvement projects here and there. He seemed to have a sixth sense whenever building supplies were loaded into our home and mysteriously showed up to offer help or simply just to supervise whatever project was going on. Pretty soon, The KoH began returning the favor(s).

That was the beginning, to steal a phrase, of a beautiful friendship.


Their grown children all had families of their own by the time we met them. The children and grandchildren all live in the area so they don't need us for companionship or help, yet for some reason we are still treated like a member of the family. While The KoH was unemployed after he left the military, he spent countless hours hanging out on their porch birdwatching and talking about life.
We've had meals together, shared tools, helped each other with projects, watched animals while the other was out of town, been there through fires, broken down cars, divorces and custody battles over grandchildren.

Somehow over the years a tradition got started that involved pulling out the backyard grill every time it snows. The KoH and I would walk to the corner market through the snow to pick up a pound of ground beef and trudge back to their house. By the time we got there, they had the grill ready and waiting. The menfolk stood outside in the yard grilling burgers in the weather while us women, aka the smart ones, prepared the rest of lunch inside and waited for the main ingredient. Eventually, we didn't even have to ask each other. When the white stuff started falling from the sky, one of us would call across the street and say one word into the phone, "Snowburgers?" and events were set in motion.

When The Dormouse and The Caterpillar came along, they became advice givers and confidants to us; adoptive grandparents to our girls who call them
grandma and grandpa. In this day and age - in our transient area, it's rare to find good neighbors; when you find some that you actually grow to love, it's nothing short of a marvel.

A couple of years ago grandma developed respiratory problems and was admitted to the hospital. It was serious and we didn't know if she'd make it, so we went to visit her in the hospital to have a chance to say goodbye in case she wasn't going to come home. The worst part of that whole thing was thinking about how I would tell The four year old Dormouse if she died. But she is a tough old broad and ran more on piss and vinegar than oxygen so she pulled through.

When The Dormouse entered first grade and her school hours changed, we decided to save the money on the do-nothing after-care program she was enrolled in last year. School would get out later and if I was careful and left work on time every day and the traffic gods smiled upon me, I could be home and meet her as she got off the bus. It could work, but I wanted to have a fail safe, so I asked
grandma and grandpa if it would be OK to tell The Dormouse that if I ever wasn't there when she got home, to go to their house and wait for me. I explained to them that this would only be in an emergency, that I telecommute two days a week so there's only even a chance of my being late the other three, and that I wouldn't expect them to take care of her, but this was just in case traffic was incredibly horrible or I got hit by a bus or abducted by aliens or something - I just wanted to have a backup.

They graciously agreed, and then set about creating a plan that worked for them. They decided that her normal bus stop wasn't logistically good since it was around the corner and they couldn't see it from their house. We changed where she got off the bus so they could watch her walk up the street to our house rather than coming from around the blind corner. I reminded them that she knew where their house was and again, this was only in case of emergency -- if I didn't make it home on time, which would be unlikely, but they had a plan and this was the plan.


Grandma, who was by then confined to a wheelchair, rearranged the flower pots in her window so she could see from her chair if my car was in the driveway. She watched the clock and sent grandpa out to wait on the porch at three o'clock Every. Single. Day. It didn't matter if I got home well before the bus arrived. It didn't matter if I'd been home for hours. They watch for her and every day The Dormouse walks up past their house and he meets her at the street, then she goes inside and gets a cookie. Every. Single. Day.

Even on the days I am home and sitting in my living room - and they
know I'm home and sitting in my living room - they still watch for her. Grandpa still meets her at the curb even when he sees that I've come outside to meet her at the curb too. Most days I go over there and meet her - she goes there by default now - and we visit for a half hour or so before heading home to start on homework. One day a few weeks ago on one of my telecommuting days, grandpa had some errands to run and grandma was home alone about the time the bus was due. My phone rang and it was grandma, asking me if I could watch for The Dormouse because grandpa was gone and she wasn't able to go out and meet her at the curb herself. Like it was clearly her responsibility and I was doing her a big favor by helping her out with it.

Last month when I was out of town on business, we put The Dormouse in an aftercare program where The Caterpillar goes to school for the week because there was no way The KoH could get home from where he works that early. I told him he needed to tell our neighbors of our plans but then in the hustle of getting me out of town we both forgot. I got a frantic call in on my mobile phone San Diego from grandma saying, "The Dormouse didn't get off the bus today... do you want us to go to the school and look for her?"

I tried to explain a couple of times over the past few months that they didn't really have to keep track of her every day, that this whole thing was supposed to be an emergency plan and I that as her mother I did realize that it was mainly
my responsibility to watch for my child - especially when I was already home. But it became clear in the first week of school this year that they had other ideas and this was how it was going to be. Grandma had been a day care provider years ago and had often lamented the fact that she couldn't take care of The Dormouse when I was having childcare issues. Her real grandchildren are all in high school now and I think this was her way of keeping her skills up - maybe of finding a reason to see The Dormouse every day. I finally gave up trying to keep them from feeling responsible for her - and the feeling guilty for it... I just accepted their gesture.

In recent months,
grandma had more and more trouble breathing and was feeling increasingly worse. She said to me more than once last week that she was tired of it all. Tired of feeling badly, tired of being confined, tired of not being able to get around. Just tired. And ready to move on. I reminded her of all the folks who needed her around telling them what to do but I think for the first time that gave her little comfort.

On Christmas Eve, we came back from some errand to find an ambulance that wasn't running it's lights blocking our street. I briefly bitched about the snow on the streets and the fact that it wouldn't go by me so I could get to my driveway until I realized the driver was trying to turn around so I got out of the way and shut my stupid mouth. As we pulled into our own driveway, I noticed over my shoulder that the van in front of
grandma and grandpa's house was gone and I had a bad feeling. We gave it a few hours and when we didn't see the van come back, we called their daughter. It wasn't good news.

Early Christmas morning, I looked across the street through my dark living room and noticed the van was back but felt it was too early to call. I knew she'd refused a ventilator in the hospital and they were going to send her home with hospice care since there was nothing else medically to be done, but it was too early for her to have come home. I wondered if grandpa just needed a few hours' shuteye.


The girls got up insanely early and Christmas events had just begun when grandpa saw the lights in our house come on and called to tell us the bad news. Bad news for us anyway. Grandma was ready to go. This was what she wanted. She was tired. It doesn't make it any easier to tell your kids though. The fact that it was Christmas Day just complicates matters a bit.


I've talked before about my familiarity with death. A combination of flat affect, religious beliefs and desensitization help me to deal with it pretty well. But let me tell you, explaining to your children that not just a goldfish but someone they love has died? Sucks beyond the telling of it. We decided to wait until late Christmas night to tell them - I wasn't about to throw that flip-flopping emotion into the Christmas morning ritual so The KoH and I sucked it up and did the opening presents thing with smiles on our faces. It was a good Christmas. The Dormouse didn't get her playstation/Wii/Nintendo gift package spectacular, but she did get some video games to play on her computer and decided that Santa knew what he was doing because eighty-eight games on three CDs was better than three games on three different gaming systems. I wasn't about to argue with her logic.

I debated about waiting until the next day entirely - that way Christmas wouldn't become The Day
Grandma Died in The Dormouse's mind, but in the end we decided she was young enough that that wouldn't be the case. She took it hard, which I suppose is a good sign and a testament to her emotional maturity. We sat and talked and cried and I held her for most of the next hour and then that was about all her brain could handle and she had to put it away for awhile. We've been coming back to the subject in fits and starts as she's been able to process it more. Today she's spent her time thinking about Grandpa and what we could bring him to cheer him up or help him. It's life experience and I know we all have to go through it eventually. This event and countless others she'll endure will help her to become a compassionate, balanced person. She'll have to deal with life's tragedies sooner or later. But oh, how it wrenched my heart from my chest to tell her. How easy it would be to just shield her from the entirety of it?

I started out with this post trying to write about grief and parenting. But my writing process is fairly Faulkner-esque and as such I just write out what's stuck in my head, trying to get out. If I don't, everything bounces around in there and I don't sleep. I'm only just now realizing that while I've been trying to write about grief and being a mother, what I'm really writing about is friendship.
The times in your life when you are able to make a friend who becomes a real part of your life are precious few and far between. I think it's very easy to ignore those times. It's easy for me to sit back and say, "Well, she wasn't my mother. It shouldn't bother me so much." And that's true. I did not lose my mother, my grandmother, my wife of over fifty years. I cannot even imagine what her actual family is going through right now... nor how much more Christmas sucked for them this year than it did for me. But I did lose a friend. A part of my life. I think it's only fitting to mark that loss.

We'll miss you, Grandma.

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Year End Letter

Posted on 12/26/2009 03:48:00 PM In:
Let's have just one more post about Christmas cards and letters, shall we?



(I tried to find the text for the lyrics to post here, but can't seem to... too new maybe? Maybe we can get them to post their lyrics somewhere.)

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Inappropriate Christmas Wishes

Posted on 12/25/2009 07:26:00 AM In:

May your holidays be filled with
peace, joy and an abundance
of inappropriate laughter.




Merry Christmas to all!

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House of Cards - 2005 - 2008

Posted on 12/24/2009 01:19:00 PM In:
Yeah, I know I'm coping out by putting all the rest of these into just one post, but around here is where I started the blog and I'm going to just link to the ones that are posted here. Deal.

2005
was the year Monica got me into scrap booking, the evil bitch. It was a short-lived hobby that lasted exactly long enough for The Dormouse to grow to reach the table and get into every piece of paper and scissor I ever owned or thought of owning. I then put the hobby away for... oh... eight or ten years.

I spent a lot of time making cute handmade cards out of cutouts and buttons. Apparently forgetting
my previous vow to never make a Christmas card the required gluing again, I made a winter scene with snowflake cutouts on decorative paper, then I hot glued three different sized buttons onto the card to make a snowman. The inside of the card said, "It's wintertime... button down the hatches." I know. Waaaay to cutesy a card for me. I have looked everywhere but cannot find a single example of these cards. If you have one, I would really appreciate it if you would send it back to me... even if it's just so I can scan it and return it to you. It bugs me that I'm missing it in my Christmas card annals. And before my husband comments with some snarky remark about my anal-retentiveness, I'm not anal-retentive... I'm a complete-ist.

Edited to add: Hey looky there, someone did keep it! It's probably no surprise that a person with whom I share DNA kept a Christmas card from three years ago. Sad, really.


I'm just now remembering that every single one of these cards was completely different. This tires me. It also appears they didn't hold up in the mail well.

2005 was also the year I re-vowed to never do a Christmas card again that required a lot of gluing as after this venture, I no longer had finger prints.


2006
was the first year I re-posted a Christmas card on this blog. You can see it here.

This one is probably the card I've made that is the most talked and appreciated among my family members. Unfortunately, it will probably be the last to fit into that category.


2007
's card was not posted on this blog because it was very conceptual in nature and didn't lend itself to blog posting. I no longer have a complete version of the card, but I can give you the gist of it. We created a "build your own snowman" card, where the front of the card was cutout and attached on the inside of the front to show through the cutout was this:


Then on the inside of the card, was the following poem:

For years now, we have labored
To make your Christmas card

We've stamped & glued & photographed

And worked our scissors hard.

This year we need a rest.

We hope you'll help us out.

Just take what we've enclosed here,

And you won't go without.


A decoration for your tree

Was our cunning master plan.

So use the pieces that we made

To build yourself a snowman.

We wracked our brains for other ways,
We covered all the outs and ins.

But all that we came up with
Was this snow job from us has-beens.


Happy Snowman Making!

Then you could take out all the pieces and put it together. Like so:



Some of my friends and family members (who shall remain nameless) made inappropriate snowmen and sent me pictures. Shame on you all! Also, if you still have the pictures, please send them to me again because I lost them and I want a copy... you know... because it was so childish and totally not funny at all.

Edited to add: ...and of course some of those nameless people had those pictures handy and immediately sent them along too. The difference between me and them is I may have saved all this stuff, but I wouldn't have a clue how to find it in under six months.



Ironically, this "do it yourself" card, was more work than all the other cards I've made in the past ten years... combined. I clearly needed more than just a "no-gluing" rule.


2008
was one of my favorites. Here it is.

OK - there you go. That's an entire decade - give or take a couple of years - of Christmas cards. If you want to see this year's card, tune in tomorrow.

Merry Christmas Eve.

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House of Cards - 2004

Posted on 12/24/2009 12:58:00 PM In:
2003 appears to be missing from my memory. Not just the Christmas card, but the entire year. It was the year I had The Dormouse and neither The KingofHearts nor I can remember even sending out a Christmas card that year, much less figure out what it was. I'm gonna go with: we didn't. If we did, it wasn't memorable, I guess, so no sense posting it here.

In 2004, I was recovered from childbirth enough to be back to sending out Christmas cards, but not enough to go to any more effort than using a computer to do all my dirty work. So we again sent pre-printed holiday cheer on stolen holiday paper. This time it took the form was two of my favorite past times combined: lifting stuff from the Internet and reading the DSM-IV.

Christmas Songs for the Psychiatrically Challenged

SCHIZOPHRENIA: Do you Hear What I Hear?

MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER: We Three Queens Disoriented Are

DEMENTIA: I Think I'll Be Home for Christmas

NARCISSISTIC: Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me

MANIC: Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Trees and Fire Hydrants and . . .

PARANOID: Santa Claus is Coming to Get Me.

PERSONALITY DISORDER: You Better Watch Out, I'm Gonna Cry, I'm Gonna Pout, Maybe I'll tell you Why.

DEPRESSION: Silent Anedonia, Holy Anhedonia, All is Flat, All is Lonely.

PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE PERSONALITY: On the First Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me (and then took it all away).

BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER: Thoughts of You Roasting on an Open Fire.

OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER: Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock ... (better start again)

...and to all a good night.

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House of Cards - 2002

Posted on 12/24/2009 12:23:00 PM In:
In 2002, I was doing a lot of work with The Recording Academy, and I was influenced by the free guitar picks they kept sending us. This was an incredibly fun idea that ending up being more work than I ever thought possible. I made the cards using Adobe Illustrator and then glued on over three hundred guitar picks. I tried eight different kinds of glue and pretty much all of them came off in the mail. I swore I would never do this again.


Inside:



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House of Cards - 2001

Posted on 12/24/2009 12:06:00 PM In:
I honestly do not know what happened to our Christmas cards in 2000. Maybe we were too busy preparing for Y2K (wait that would have been the previous year... scratch that), maybe I sent something and lost it, maybe I went on a three day bender and spent all my Christmas card money on cigars and wild women. Who knows? (Actually I do know. It was a rough year. Enough said.)

The next card I can find is from 2001. I think this might have been one of the years we were dealing with a lawsuit at work. Whatever the motivation, it's clear that I was a) concerned about the ramifications of poorly chosen wording and b) too lazy even to steal paper from work because I made this whole thing in Publisher and just printed it on white copy paper.

The text reads:

From us ("the wishor") to you (hereinafter referred to as the "wishee"):

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all... and a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2002, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great, (not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country or is the only "America" in the western hemisphere), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or sexual or dietary preference of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms:
  • This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal.
  • This greeting is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting and that the property rights of the wishor are acknowledged.
  • This greeting implies no promise by the wishor to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others.
  • This greeting is void where prohibited by law, and may not be enforceable in certain jurisdictions and/or the restriction herein may not be binding upon certain wishees in certain jurisdictions. It is revocable at the sole discretion of the wishor.
  • This wish is warranted to perform as reasonably may be expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first.
  • Warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wishor.
  • Any references in this greeting to "the Lord", "Father Christmas", "Our Savior", or any other festive figures, whether actual or fictitious, dead or alive, shall not imply any endorsement by or from them in respect of this greeting, and all proprietary rights in any references third party names and images are hereby acknowledged.

Merry Christmas.

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House of Cards - 1999

Posted on 12/24/2009 11:38:00 AM In:
When I was in high school, this hilarious friend of mine worked in a copy/print shop where they also made rubber stamps. Just before the end of the school year, he made himself a rubber stamp that said, "Hey ______. Can you believe this year's almost over? It was great sitting near you in ________ class this year. Hope to see you over the next year/over the summer/around town," and then had his signature at the bottom. Then he used it to sign everyone's yearbooks - sometimes filling in the blanks, sometimes not. People would hand him their yearbook, he'd stamp it and hand it back to the perplexed onlooker. It was awesome.

So I borrowed that idea for our cards in 1999. We purchased totally normal, cheap, sappy Christmas cards and I had this stamp made:


to stamp the inside.

To date, this is my favorite Christmas card ever, simply because it was so darn easy. Actually I've kept the stamp and plan to use it again someday when desire and creativity fail me and everyone else has forgotten it.

Here's a positive version of the stamp:



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House of Cards - 1998

Posted on 12/24/2009 07:53:00 AM In:
Christmas cards really shouldn't be my thing. I hate the idea of forced correspondence when I may or may not have anything to say. Perhaps that's why we approach the Christmas card tradition with such gusto. It's a chance for us to make fun of a quaint, lovely tradition and infuse as much sarcasm into the season as possible. And since most folks know, our marriage is pretty much based on sarcasm, so it's something The KingofHearts and I can share together. It's as close to a Norman Rockwell Christmas as we're ever going to get, let's face it.

We started with a very simple holiday letter a decade ago and this became a holiday tradition that evolved into one in which we now spend a ton of money and time on supplies, cards, photographs and other materials to make a wholly original Christmas card each year (if some years the idea is "borrowed" shall we say from something else). We never miss a year. Our Christmas cards are legendary and sometimes offensive, but either way, they're talked about for years to come. I bet people don't remember your Christmas cards that way.

Since our Christmas card tradition pre-dates this blog, I thought it would be fun today to try and find all our old Christmas cards sent from the past ten years and share them with you, dear reader. I'm gonna quantify right now and say that some of them I may or may not be able to find and/or were three dimensional in a way that makes them impossible to post on a blog, also I'm gonna have to go back and change the names to protect the innocent, but for posterity's sake, and my own amusement, I'm gonna make the attempt today. If you're enjoying time with family, away from a computer good for you, but if, like me, Christmas Eve is a time to turn random animated Christmas specials on the television and take the laptop into the bathroom to steal a few minutes away from your children, today's series of blog posts are my gift to you.

Our first Christmas in our house was our second Christmas married, so we decided to send a Christmas newsletter like all those Christmas newsletters out there that everyone complains about, but then writes themselves anyway. We were broke, so I found leftover holiday paper at work and "borrowed" it (I was gonna return it all, honest!) and used the work computer to print them out. I no longer have the holiday paper, or even the clever font I'm sure I searched out to use for just this particular purpose, but I do have the words. Merry Christmas from 1998:

Holiday Greetings from Our Family


December 10, 1998

Dear Friends,

Holiday greetings from Washington! We hope this letter finds you well. We are looking forward to celebrating our second Christmas together and since you all are in our holiday wishes, we would like to follow that time-honored tradition of writing an impersonal, uninteresting letter to people we haven't seen in months so we can continue to boast about how terrific our lives have been in their absence. Here's what we've been up to lately:

Buying the house was a great adventure! Of course, it took some time to move the grave and chase out the emu population that had taken up residence in the basement, but now we're happy with our new domicile and plan to replace the roof any day now. It's just a good thing that policeman never saw what was hidden in the walls.

After the accidents, we took in a border to help with the mortgage payment. She lived in our basement for the summer, but our two cats (of course, you remember Lizzy Borden and Hannibal Lechter) kept getting sick from the lizard tails and trails of bleu cheese she'd leave about. So when the neighborhood watch committee asked us to make her leave, we obliged.

The KingofHeart’s enlistment was up in September and he and the military mutually decided that for everyone's benefit, he would not reenlist. They have agreed not to press that nasty court-martial business if he promised to destroy the photographs of Colin Powell and Madonna and he was happy to do so. For awhile after that, he was unemployed and having a difficult time dealing with all the free time until he hit upon a terrific business opportunity which not only uses his skills but also allows him time at home to take care of things around the house. His goal is to have at least 100 whores working for him by this time next year.

I've been staying very busy as well. My loansharking business practically runs itself so I've had lots of extra time to develop some new hobbies: latch hook rugs, cooking, sewing and making those little cranberry Christmas trees they have on the Martha Stewart show. Currently, I'm embroidering a new truck that The KoH can use at work (it's a Christmas surprise, so don't let him in on the secret!). I've also begun performing on the violin again - this time with the group Smash Mouth. They still aren't sold on the idea of a classically trained violinist in their group and they haven't yet seen fit to mike me or allow me to actually stand on the stage with them during a concert, but I think they're starting to see what an asset a violin could be to their sound. I see good things in our future!

Please stay in touch and let us know how you are. Look us up if you're coming out this direction anytime and as they say at Christmas time in D.C. "Drop your pants and give me all your money!"

Sincerely,

The Wonderland Household


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Ornamentz

Posted on 12/23/2009 07:20:00 AM In:

In the grand tradition of ornaments on the Wonderland Christmas Tree, we are again adding another installment to the girls' ornament collection this year. If this is new to you, you can read about it in my archives, but that sounds like a lotta work. I can explain the rules just as easily:

Each year I purchase one ornament that will be "hers." Eventually, she'll take all those ornaments with her when she starts a home of her own. The ornament can really be any thing at all, but it has to fit certain self-imposed criteria: it must be uber-cute, it must be unusual, it should be as indestructible as a Christmas ornament can be so it won't break after twenty or thirty years, bonus if it's made of non-traditional materials because I just think that's cool, and most importantly it must represent in some way who that girl was that year.

This year, The Dormouse is in first grade. She's developed a special relationship with her teacher, which is awesome, by the way. I am so pleasantly surprised with the quality of the school where we live -- we had actually planned on moving before she reached school age so she wouldn't have to attend public school in our area and for a number of annoying reasons, we weren't able to accomplish that. (Thanks, for the hand up Wall Street, could you get your boot out of my neck now?) But as it turns out, the school in our neighborhood is awesome and one of the better schools in the county. So far, we've had a really good experience there.

Anyway, her classroom, like many first grade classrooms I imagine, has class pets. These particular pets are a couple of hermit crabs. Early in the year, one of the hermit crabs died and the children of the first grade had to face the sad news and deal with grief and loss. See? It's an education. The teacher floated the idea among the children that if "someone" wanted to purchase a new hermit crab, the gesture wouldn't go unappreciated and The Dormouse begged us to be that "someone." We acquiesced. Then while we were trying to figure out what hermit crabs eat so it wouldn't die over the weekend before we got it to school the next Monday, we found this video and sent it to the teacher to show the kids how the hermit crabs got in their shells.

Man-made shells cast a new light on the lives of hermit crabs

The kids were thrilled and we got twenty some-odd hand drawn thank you cards, which are hilarious because have you ever seen a first grader draw a hermit crab? We, and by extension, The Dormouse, became the heroes of the first grade for awhile.

Anyway, somehow (can't imagine how... la la la), The Dormouse has buddied up to the teacher enough that on long weekends and holidays, we get to take the hermit crabs home to care for them. I made it clear to The Dormouse - and to the teacher - that if there were other kids who wanted the experience the joy of taking home the hermit crabs and possibly killing them and disappointing the entire first grade class, that they should have their turn. Lucky us; no one else wants that rite of passage. I was telling my mother about this one day and she reminded me that I managed to bring home the class bunny over Christmas break when I was in first grade, so I shouldn't be too unhappy about a couple of hermit crabs.

So obsessed with the class hermit crabs is she, in fact, that that seemed an excellent subject for her Christmas ornament this year. Not unsurprisingly, however, it was a pretty tall order to find a hermit crab Christmas ornament (and it's amazing the things you come up with when you Google hermit crab ornaments, by the way). But finally I found probably the one hermit crab ornament in the known universe and pounced on it.

Ta da:


I'm really quite happy with it; it turned out to be much better made than it appeared the interweb. Plus, there are little rhinestones glued all over Harriet the Hermit Crab's shell, so it's actually pretty cool looking and fits The Dormouse's rhinestone-loving personality perfectly.

An ornament for The Caterpillar proved to be much easier to take on this year. This is the first Christmas she's been aware of Santa Claus - though she still has no idea what he does - and loves pointing out Santas wherever we go.

"Momma! Dat's Sinterklaas!"

"Sinterklaas say 'ho, ho, ho.'"

"Sinterklaas. Gave me. A. Tiny candeecaaaaane!"

She says it just like that, "Sinterklaas." Sometimes I wonder if this child is Dutch.

A Santa Claus themed ornament seemed the way to go here... and much easier than finding a hermit crab Christmas ornament anyway. There were too many, in fact, to choose from, but I finally settled on this dude,


from the wonderful seller, McBride House on my latest addiction: etsy. Not only is she a really nice person with more talent in her little finger than I'll ever have in my whole body, but I'm a big fan of James Christensen's artwork and after we corresponded a couple of times, she let me know that she'd been inspired by his paintings so this turned out to be a perfect choice on a couple of different levels.

The downside, however, is that I waited way too long to start the ornament searching process this year, so this chubby Santa may not arrive to hang on the tree before Christmas. I'm still hoping to see it today or tomorrow, but it's coming via international mail so I'm not gonna hold my breath. I am, however, going to keep the tree up so I can photograph her with it and tell her when she's older that she got her ornament well before Christmas because her mother never ever would let anything like not getting your Christmas ornament before Christmas happen - she's too good a mother to ever let that happen. Gotta take advantage of these children while you can, right?

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In the Shadows

Posted on 12/22/2009 09:34:00 AM In:
More shots from the zoo - it was a photographic bonanza.


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Cerulean Blue is a Gentle Breeze

Posted on 12/21/2009 06:15:00 AM
Just a photo, snapped of The Dormouse while we were decorating the Christmas tree, but it perfectly illustrates these moments that happen sometimes when she looks at you and your soul is pierced by her freakishly blue eyes. (you'll have to click to embiggen the photo for the full effect)


Like The KingofHearts, her eyes change color. But when they look like this, I'm almost ready to believe she could talk me into killing myself.

"I've just got to say that your uniform is really the most soothing shade of blue. I'm not kidding you. I notice those things. It's a sky blue. Very calming. Very tranquil. I think the word for that particular shade is Cerulean, actually. Cerulean Blue. Cerulean makes me think of a breeze. A gentle breeze. Cerulean is like a gentle breeze. Cerulean Blue is a gentle breeze. . ."

- Robert Patrick Modell, "Pusher"

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Snow Taffy

Posted on 12/20/2009 11:00:00 AM In:
Personally, I love the snow. I think it's ridiculous that every time we get even an inch of the white stuff on the ground, it brings this city to its knees, but I'll take any excuse to stay home and watch it falling softly through the front window while drinking hot chocolate. I also love to take the kids sledding or building a snowman or a million other fun things there are to do in the snow.

Unfortunately, both my kids are wussies.

Yesterday, we dressed the girls up in layers until they couldn't get their arms down brought them outside and each on of them did exactly one of these


before commencing the whining and crying about being cold and wet.

Since we didn't want a repeat performance of
this, we sent them inside once each had reached her limit. For The Caterpillar, this was about four and one half minutes. The Dormouse was much hardier this time and lasted about six minutes. I'd enjoy this snowpocolypse a whole lot more if it were socially acceptable to leave my children in the house while I went outside to play in the snow and build a snowman.

So last night I decided to try a snow activity that had a little more of the indoor part and a little less of the outdoor part. A friend over on
The FacePlace posted a recipe that she uses with her kids and I couldn't resist.

Snow taffy.

The best part about snow taffy is how easy it is. Allow me to demonstrate:

First, combine a cup of maple syrup and a quarter cup of salted butter. Bring it to boil on the stove.


I'm not much of a candy maker but you're supposed to boil it until it reaches about 220-235 degrees. If you're a candy maker, you'll have a candy thermometer that helps determine when optimum temperature is reached. I don't have one of those thingies. Hence the not much of a candy maker label.
I tried a meat thermometer, but mine only goes up to 200 degrees and after that guessing on the temperature was pretty much a crap shoot. Is it hotter than the hot it was a few minutes ago? Hmm... still burns my fingers. I don't know.

Obviously, you'll want to keep The Children away from this part because the only thing hotter than 230 degree hot water is 230 degree hot candy that sticks to you and continues to burn over and over.

So you want to boil it until it's somewhere between
the thread stage and soft ball stage. It looks like kinda like this.


Aside: I absolutely LOVE this orange
Le Creuset sauce pan I got off freecycle a few months ago. It's tiny but oh so lovely for cooking just about anything, as long as it turns out to be under two cups in volume. I love it so much I want to marry it and have a whole litter of other Le Creuset pots and pans that I can love and pet and call George -- hopefully that will grow to bigger than two-cup size. I'd go ahead and buy some, but day-um, they are expensive. Santa?

OK - back to the candy.

Now you're at the point where you have to start moving pretty quickly because I let the girls draw out this next part and the candy cooled too much and it was a little hard by the time we poured it. So if you're smart, you'll have had your children getting their snow boots and gloves on while you were doing the above steps, or you'll just send them out unclothed and tell them they'll only be cold for a minute and hope that will encourage them to not spend fifteen minutes outside choosing the exact. right. snow. to put in their bowls.


Give your children bowls and spoons and send them outside with instructions to fill the bowls with snow. White snow. Clean snow. Snow that doesn't have footprints in it. Snow that isn't dirty. Or yellow. You get the idea.


When they return with their bowls of snow, drizzle the warm candy over it like so:


Eat.


This one ate all the snow and left the candy. Maybe I could have saved myself a few steps in this process.

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Santa Has His Limits

Posted on 12/20/2009 05:54:00 AM
When The Dormouse sat with Santa the other day(s) she was, of course, asked to give her list of things that she would like for Christmas. I'd been dreading this because I'd gotten a small sampling of her wish list and was horrified by it contents.

She also informed me that if she didn't receive everything on her list, Christmas would be a wash, full of unfulfilled desires and she could not possible be happy without each and every item. Every time I got to hear a bit of the list, it grew and became more expensive.


The following is an approximate retelling of her
wishes demands:
  • Nintendo DS
  • XBox 360
  • Wii
  • Electric guitar
  • Electric keyboard
  • Guitar hero
  • all the stuff to go with a Wii
  • PlayStation
  • GameBoy
  • iPod
  • iPhone
  • apps for the iPod and iPhone (no specification of what kind - just "all of them")

Look, generally Santa's not a bad guy around these parts. He tries really hard to make the magic of Christmas happen but I have to say right off, nothing on this list is going to work for me. I've tried to explain my philosophy on video games to a number of people, but I haven't yet successfully been able to do so with out coming off like a Scrooge mom who refuses to let her children watch television but would rather they spent their days memorizing math facts off flash cards.

Oh, and incidentally, funny story there: The Dormouse has a series of timed math tests in her class. Every couple of weeks they all take the test and if they get all the answers right within the time limit specified, they get to move up to the next level. So speed, as well as accuracy, counts. There is an addition test #1, a subtraction test #1 and then if they pass those, they move on to second grade level stuff, addition and subtraction tests #2.

For the first few months of school, The Dormouse was fairly distressed because she hadn't yet passed the test. Apparently, she'd missed one each time and was still stuck on the first addition test. She came home one day rather depressed about it so I said, "Well, all you really need, honey, is some practice. We'll just work on them at home. I'll help you make
some flash cards and we'll practice doing them until you know them so well you can rattle them off quickly. Then when you take the test, it'll come so fast that you'll do the sums in plenty of time."

So I asked her what she had to know and she told me, "All the addition facts up to the number twelve."

To me, that meant 12+1, 12+2, 12+3, etc. all the way up to 12+12 and every number below that. It seemed a little much for first grade, but hell, she's working on fractions right now too, so I just assumed that they were trying to push this group of kids a bit. (Actually if you want to know the truth, I didn't really assume anything, I just didn't really think about it much one way or the other. You want flash cards to 12? Here you go.) So I printed out flash cards for all the possibilities it presented and then cut up a big stack of cards to keep in the car so we could practice when we were waiting for the bus in the mornings or stuck at a stop light or whatever. She enjoyed the attention and in short order had memorized 12+12=24 and everything on down to 1+0=1.

A couple of days later she came home in joyous jubilation because she had passed the first test. "Yeah, baby, I knew you could do it!" I high-fived her, we jumped up and down with the neighbor and then I set about making flash cards for all the same numbers, but in the subtraction realm. Lather, rinse, repeat.


This time it only took her one time to pass the subtraction facts test. More celebration.


This worked so well, I asked her what she needed to know for the addition and subtraction tests #2 and she told me, "It's the same but you have to go up to eighteen." Whatever, fine. Again, I didn't really think about it until I went to find a website to print out flash cards that went up to 18+18=36 and couldn'teven find any pre-made online flash cards for that. Then it occurred to me that I didn't really think I could add 18+18 in my head without really thinking hard about it, so why was my first grader having to learn 18+18?

That's when I finally got a clue and emailed the teacher to ask about it. She wrote back to say, in so many words, "No dummy, it's
to the sum of twelve and to the sum of eighteen. I don't expect them to be able to add double digit numbers in their heads." In other words, the highest numbers she would have to add for the first test were 6+6 and for the second grade level test, 9+9. And I'd just drilled her until she knew 12+12.

Long story short, I'm pretty sure I won't have to make any more flash cards any time soon.


/digression


To be clear, I don't have anything against video games. I think that, given moderation, there are good ones out there and they can drill math skills (though probably not with my apparent gusto), other educational goals, eye-hand coordination, etc. I don't mind if my child plays video games.

My problem is that they (and technology in general) are so addictive. We are already techno-addicts in this house - and I fully realize I am the worst of the offenders in the family so maybe that's why I'm more tuned into it than The KoH. We currently have games, toys, computers, televisions, a superabundance of videos and movies, and a couple of predispositions to addictive personalities in our house. I don't mind her playing adult-monitored video games at school or at friends' houses, it's just that when it's right there in your house all the time, it becomes a battle to keep her from constantly begging to use that technology every waking moment. We already have that battle with the t.v. and the computer so I'd prefer to not add yet another hand held electronic device to the mix.

I also happen to know that The Dormouse doesn't even know what most of those items on her list are or do. I was dropping her off a school one day last week and an older child ran up to her and said, "Ooo! Make sure to tell your Mom that you need the Nintendo DS One-Eighty-Something because that one is way better and it will be better for you to learn on. Then for your birthday, you can ask for the [insert name of random technological device I've never heard of here] because by then you will be ready for it." Clearly, most of her wish list is being externally created and motivated.


So I think Santa is gonna be a meanie this year and not even get her one thing on her list. We've chosen a couple of reasonable facsimiles to replace some of the items. Who knows? Maybe she'll care, maybe she won't. There might even be a DVD that serves as a video game, but one that uses the television so we'll be able to monitor it better... you know, because it'll compete with our television viewing needs.
But I'm pretty sure this is going to be an annual issue.

So I'm curious.

What are your thoughts about video games for kids? Do you get them what they want? Do you limit their time on the items or just limit the items? How do others handle the uber-technology focus our culture has and it's effect on children whom I personally think should still be asking for a pair of skates and a sled?

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We Have Become True Washingtonians

Posted on 12/19/2009 05:22:00 PM
Because we got up this morning, looked out the window, and then went out to get a few essential items:


You know, in case we get snowed in.

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Manic Holiday

Posted on 12/19/2009 09:09:00 AM
Here's Christmas as it would look, passed out under the Christmas tree.


Or perhaps, if someone spent way too much time in Photoshop, trying to save a bad photo.

Here's the original photo:


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Holiday Greenery

Posted on 12/18/2009 02:30:00 PM In:
Decorations of green on a green Christmas tree at the National Zoo.


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A Happy Redneck Christmas to You and Your'n

Posted on 12/18/2009 05:15:00 AM In:
I've always wanted to spend the Christmas holiday in New York City in order to see the famous window displays on 34th Street and 5th Avenue. So modern, so classy. A lovely Victorian tradition.

Whatever. We have window displays too out here in D.C.; just head on up the road a piece to Maryltucky. And they just don't rely on mere humans to do their decorating either.

For example, this turkey seems to have learned to fly for the express purpose of trimming the Christmas tree.


Curiously, using his own feathers:


These two raccoons planned on helping, but then got into a fight over a pine cone.


Mrs. Turkey Claus supervised the loading of the presents into the sleigh.


While Rudolph looked around in the snow for his red nose and wondered why the other reindeer had abandoned him.


Out in the valley, the neighborhood bully threw snowballs at little Johnny who was learning to skate.


And when he fell, all the good little boys and girls pointed and laughed.


Who needs a Miracle on 34th Street when you have Bass Pro Shops?

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Let's Do the Twist

Posted on 12/17/2009 03:01:00 PM
When The Dormouse was two, she developed this habit of putting her hands up her sleeves when she was going to bed. That is to say, she would put her right hand up her left sleeve and then scratch at the back of that arm and vice versa. It was a form of self pacification; it calmed her down, got her ready for sleep and more importantly replaced the extremely slightly more annoying habit she previously had had of putting her hand up my sleeve and picking at the moles on the back of my arm.

But then we realized that she was picking at the back of her own arms when we started to notice little sores all over them as she felt a mosquito bite or whatever and scratched it until it scabbed over and then proceeded to open up all the scabs every night.

We tried putting cream on them to keep them from itching but it wasn't really about the itching. We tried applying Neosporin to quicken the healing so there wouldn't be anything to pick at when she did it but she was too fast for us. We tried explaining to her that these sores wouldn't heal until she quit scratching at them but she was doing it subconsciously or in her sleep and even if she wasn't, reasoning with a two year old is kind of an exercise in futility. It got so bad that both her arms were covered with chicken pox-like sores.


One day at church, I was dropping her off at the nursery when another mom noticed her arms and commented. "Oh, what does she have?"

We'd been fighting this with her for awhile so I flippantly joked, "A nervous habit."


She looked at me like I'd grown another arm myself so I back-tracked. "Oh it's nothing. She just scratches at her arms until they look like that. It's kind of her way to self pacify..."


*no reply - awkward pause*


Then it occurred to me that maybe she had other concerns so I added, "It's not contagious or anything."

"Well," she snapped back, "I didn't mean to imply that you would bring her here with a contagious disease."
And then she turned her back on me and walked off.

Sometimes you should just give up on some conversations before they even start.


After that, and I can't even believe I'm going to admit this in a public forum, much less on the interweb, we started taping her sleeves at night. And before that woman from church reads this and calls CPS, it's not like we taped her sleeves to her arms or anything, we just wrapped a length of medical tape around the edge on the outside of her pajama sleeves where they met her wrists, loose enough so the sleeves could move around on her forearm, but tight enough so it's opening wouldn't stretch to allow her to get her hand inside her sleeve. Then she couldn't reach her hand inside her sleeves up to her arms. It was a last resort, but it worked. That, more than anything, helped all the little sores on the back of her arms to clear up because she couldn't worry them open in her sleep.


As The Dormouse got older, she grew out of this quirky little habit and it abated. She doesn't do it anymore, but before that we had many rows of "Momma DON'T tape my sleeves tonight, PLEASE!" and maybe a few more CPS scares when someone overheard that conversation.

But the universe always works toward a dynamic equilibrium and we now have the pleasure of dealing with yet another quirky, self-pacifying habit in The Caterpillar: hair twisting.

Hair twisting with the gusto of a teenage girl in social studies class.


This one is marginally less annoying than The Dormouse's, not to mention has less of a potential to get us investigated for child abuse. In fact, it's pretty innocuous - apart from the occasional tangle in her hair that has to be combed out (or cut out, if you're The KoH and you lack the patience to comb out a rat).

Or at least it was, until the other day when she woke up from her nap and I suddenly heard screaming coming from her room. I ran in to see this:


Looks fine, right?

That's what I thought.

So I asked and she said, "I. Need. Help. With my HAIR!"

And when I looked closer, I found this:


She had gotten her finger completely stuck in there, cut off the circulation and couldn't get it out.


Sigh.

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Unfrozen Snowfall

Posted on 12/17/2009 02:29:00 PM In:
Another of my National Zoo photos. If you look closely, you can see snowflakes projected on the side of the rocks.


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Coming Soon to a Home Near You

Posted on 12/16/2009 05:16:00 PM
Last weekend we had our church Christmas party where Santa made an appearance...


But looked strangely familiar...


Yes, that's The KingofHearts playing Santa Claus.

For many years in our ward, it was almost a tradition that The KoH play Santa Claus at the Christmas party. At first it worked fine for us. We didn't have kids back then and, not to brag or anything, but The KoH is an awesome Santa. Unlike many adults, he is really tuned into the kids in our church and knows all of their names, remembers what they like, can understand them when they speak, you know... stuff to which most forty year old men don't pay much attention.


The first year after we'd moved into this house was also the first year he was asked to play Santa Claus at the party and I sat off to the side watching him. We'd only been there a few months, but almost every single kid hopped down off Santa's lap and walked over to his or her parents and said in awe and wonderment, "Momma Santa KNEW MY NAME!" I sure as heck didn't know any of their names. I remember thinking for the first time that this might just be more than a practice marriage. (Of course then he came home, farted, threw his clothes on the floor and ruined the moment, but at least it was a moment.)

The Dormouse's first Christmas... and also her first Daddy Claus Santa Claus.


In recent years as The Dormouse has become more sentient, he hasn't been asked to play Santa, mainly because it kinda cramps the style of any Dad who tells his kids about Santa only to have those same kids sit on Santa's lap and look into the eyes of the right jolly old elf and realize, "Dude, Santa's just MY DAD."

This year, however, when we showed up to the party, they were short one Santa. The party planning person had expected that one of the missionaries would do it and then promptly forgot to tell him about it, I think. (Which, coincidentally, also happened with the request to have the Primary children perform a musical number at the party -- the only reason I was even there in the first place.) When the missionaries showed up and she told the one she expected to do it about her plans, he told her, "Um... it's against the mission rules for us to even pick up kids... I'm pretty sure putting them all on my lap is a no-no." So she begged The KoH to pinch hit and he agreed. For the kids.

We knew, however, that The Dormouse wouldn't be fooled by the Daddy-as-Santa costume. So I did the only thing I could do: make up some lame, cockamamie story about how Santa doesn't really have the time to show up for everyone's church Christmas party because that would just be too much time away from ordering his elves back to their sweatshop after a smoke break to pound out more dollies for Susy and skates for Johnny. So Daddy was going to play Santa, but she shouldn't tell any of the other kids because it would ruin the surprise. The Santa at the mall, however, THAT Santa is totally the real guy. Get it?

She managed to accomplish her task well, save it be for the mock surprise when she got to her turn to talk to Santa and she exclaimed, "Oh my! It's SANTA!" in the most manifestly counterfeit voice possible and then JUMPED into his lap. Whatever. The other kids were too hopped up on sugar to even notice.

I still can't figure if The Caterpillar was on to him or not. But all she cared about was getting a "tiny candy cane" so I'm not sure it made a difference one way or another.


She was happy.


Then the next morning, we went to see the really real Santa.


See? This is totally the real guy.


(It's a darn good thing this one had a real beard.)


Yes, they are cute pictures. For the record, I love them. But what I was secretly hoping for is something more along the lines
of this.

These will have to do though:


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Washington, D.C. Metro, United States
Married, 40ish mom of two (or three, or four, depending on how you keep score) who stepped through the lookinglass and now finds herself living in curiouser and curiouser lands of Marriage, Motherhood, and the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.

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