I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but my family does everything a little over the top. We are an all or nothing kind of family which means I don’t sleep from Halloween until about January 3. My husband literally packs up the hand painted trunk or treat decorations and starts planning the theme for our annual Christmas card while I walk around the house with a glitter filled fire hose decorating and baking enough cookies to feed half of South America. Some years the theme for our card comes quickly, some years we have to brainstorm for a month, but we always have at least one theme that would offend half of our friends and family and my husband tells me no repeatedly while I beg him to hide a little easter egg of something offensive in the background. He and I have a different idea of “holiday cheer” sometimes.
Some past themes have included snowball fights, plans to kidnap Santa and baby Riley dismantling a tree. I think my daughter’s favorite was the year we strung her life sized bear up in the woods so she could have a winter wonderland themed party in the snow wearing a ball gown. She especially liked that I had to carry her into the woods to save her shoes and keep her bundled in a fur blanket until our perfectionist photographer was ready. I literally fell in the snow and used my body as a mattress to save her highness from wrinkling her dress. She really became the part that year, making demands like a seasoned super model. I was lucky to have walked away without having a cell phone thrown at my head.
My favorite card to date has been the Elf on a Shelf takeover, mostly because it took a full day to shoot all of the photos used, and I got to play little elf to the photographer. We used 2 toy elves to create 100 of the little monsters destroying our family room, climbing shelves and ziplining from the fireplace mantle. There was even an elf wielding a cocktail sword holding the child hostage. Plus, she had to stay still tied up in lights for a large part of the shoot. I spent the day climbing ladders, hanging elves from fishing line and keeping out of the shot. The best part about this card is that we don’t even have an elf in our house. We don’t do that cliché bullshit (although I may get myself a Snoop on a Stoop next year).
Based on the feedback we have received so far, our card this year has topped all others. Maybe it’s the magic of it, or the fact that we actually have the whole family in the photo for the first time ever, but the consensus has been that this is the fan favorite. I am the first to admit that I participated in approximately 3 minutes of the making of this card when I sat in front of the green screen that resided in our living room for a month. I didn’t even lend a hand when my husband was photographing himself flying through the air. Believe it or not, he took that photo entirely on his own. I was probably in the kitchen elbow deep in powdered sugar at the time. But sometimes that is how it works, and the final product is even better than expected. I wish I could say the same about my cookies this year. They are still a work in progress…
We have been playing a lot of games as a family lately, and after the first few games, I really don’t know why we weren’t doing this more because it is hilarious. The best kind of game seems to be any kind where my child has to give an answer. It doesn’t even really matter what the question is because her answer is going to have us all rolling.
Last month we played a game my parents bought from some redneck comedian where you get a bunch of answer cards with phrases like “that’s what she said” and “you’re not supposed to do that to a melon.” A card with a scenario is drawn and everyone has to pick a phrase from their cards that they think fits best. No matter how hard I tried, my answers were totally inappropriate for a child to hear. Somehow I brought the game to a whole new level of dirty and we quit playing. On the plus side, my kid had no idea what I was crying about when I played the card that read “is it supposed to be that small?” repeatedly.
Last time we sat down with a deck of question and answer cards, they were a little more benign. My mom had chosen a game where kids answer questions that adults would know and adults answer questions kids would know. Strangely, my dad appeared to know the most kid trivia and none of us could answer a single thing about Sean Mendez or Ariana Grande.
Here are some of my daughter’s best answers:
Q: What was Flipper?
A: A clown
Q: Sikhs wear what on their heads?
A: Those things with feathers…. The tall things. Oh I don’t know…. to which I replied “do you mean a headdress? That’s the wrong kind of Indian.”
Q: Fill in the blank – Smokey the…
A: Pig! (In her defense, my answer was Bandit)
Q: What did Michele Obama plant in the White House garden?
A: John Kennedy (If this were true, Milania Trump would have dug him up….)
Q: What president was also a famous actor?
A: Kennedy (I guess she has a thing for Kennedy. Who knew?)
We learned a lot last game night. Mostly that we know nothing about the things most kids do (which explains a lot about our family) and that I can make any game dirty. If you don’t believe me, just challenge me to a game of Scrabble.
*I wrote this while listening to the new Unsane.
Sometimes my dad buys gifts for my daughter that may or may not actually be for him. I get it, it’s hard not to buy things that you think would be really cool or you remember loving as a kid. I purchased the child fur leg warmers when she was 2 because everyone needs to know what it feels like to be a cat, and they reminded me of the fur coat I wore as a child every time we went to the theater or to a fancy restaurant. But I am losing count of the items my dad has purchased for his granddaughter that he spent more time playing with than she did.
Five years ago the Old Man bought a set of remote control cars so they could race. In theory, this was great, but he neglected the fact that a four year old does not have the dexterity to steer anything with a remote control. It was like watching a dog try to peel an orange, and the results were much the same. The car was thrown and kicked across the driveway more than once. Somehow along the way my mom purchased several more cars which are all on the same radio frequency. The Old Man can drive 4 cars at once while my daughter kicks her one car around the driveway.
In an attempt to help my daughter become better coordinated and athletic, my dad has purchase a baseball mitt, a golf club and a drone. She has reluctantly used all of these things and still remains clumsy as can be. These purchases have improved my dad’s golf game and allowed him an excuse to toss around a ball. The baseball mitt now resides with my dad, the golf club is missing more often than not and the drone didn’t last a full day. Last year he bought her a snowboard which she used exactly twice, most likely because my dad has no ability to get out on the slopes with her. It sat in our family room for a week during the first snowfall in an attempt to pique her interest in the sport to no avail.
This year my dad made yet another purchase that may have been because he could picture himself as a young man using it. He bought my kid a hoverboard. The minute she opened it, all I could think about were the 500 funny videos I have seen of people wiping out. She rode it around the family room and, surprisingly, did not even wobble. Unfortunately, I think this gave the Old Man some unfounded confidence in his ability to stay upright. Within 24 hours he tested his balance, and much like his high school French grade, it was not good. He managed to steer himself around in circles and move backward and forward, which may actually have been attributable to his bow legs more than skill, but he did cover a fair amount of ground on two wheels. But like a novice gymnast, he could not stick the landing during his dismount. He attempted to hop off the hoverboard knowing that keeping one foot on could be disastrous, but he moves slower than he used to and the hoverboard spun around before his feet were off throwing him to the floor. I patted myself on the back for not commenting on the irony of his age and falling on his hip until I knew that he did not actually break any bones. Instead, he cut himself above his eyebrow, which probably actually made him feel like a young man since he suffered the same injury numerous times during his hockey playing days. He immediately tried to get back on the board at which point my mom had to intervene and forbid it.
Luckily, the hoverboard has moved into my daughter’s playroom and stayed there. The Old Man eyes it every time he comes over but he has not made a second attempt to conquer it. My husband, on the other hand has attempted to ride it and wiped out. He was fortunate enough to do so without me seeing or filming it, and without causing any injuries I could poke at. But today my dad asked me if I had fallen off yet and I told him no but I had ridden it successfully. Before he could even think about going for another ride my mom looked at him and said “over my dead body!” Unfortunately, I think he may have taken that as a challenge…
**I wrote this while listening to some music the Old Man likes…
My husband and I have had an ongoing argument for six years. I have wanted something soft and cuddly to love (other than him) and he has wanted a fur-free house (other than his own). My daughter has watched every one of her friends welcome new pets into their homes since she was of school age and both of us have requested a pet for the last five birthdays. Two birthdays ago my husband actually bought me a stuffed cat that makes angry faces when you squeeze his head. I named him Fido. He is surprisingly not a cuddler.
The argument really heated up in the last year when my daughter started coming home with weekly new pet announcements from her friends. This poor kid wanted a cat so badly she was labeling the neighbor’s cats as strays and trying to covertly “adopt” them. The argument finally came to an end the week before Thanksgiving, just like all arguments are resolved, on the internet. My friend posted several photos of a kitten who needed a new home quickly. I showed the post to my husband stating loudly “this is the universe telling us we need a kitten. Listen to the universe!” For once, he listened to the universe. I’m fairly certain he knew he was going to lose this war eventually. I am nothing if not persistent (read – nag).
Within 24 hours we were across town picking up our new fur baby. We were informed that she had been locked in a bathroom for three days due to the sudden injury of her previous owner and the need to keep her contained. She screamed the whole 45 minute drive home during a storm while her carrier bounced on my kiddo’s lap. My daughter promptly dubbed the 3 pound spitfire Brody after Brody Dalle of the Distillers. She lived up to her name quickly when she walked around the house the first night meowing loudly and pushed her way into my arms to wrap her body around my face for a quick nap. I was awoken the following morning by a furry punch to the nose. I hadn’t slept much anyway after Brody decided that crawling under the covers to bite my kneecaps at 3 am was a super fun game. By the end of the first 48 hours, half of my body was covered in scratches and teeth marks, but I didn’t mind. I am a bit like that big doofus who halfway smothers Bugs Bunny by over-loving him.
My whole family suffers from allergies of all kinds, so it was not a shock to find my daughter covered in hives with itchy, watery eyes within hours of bringing Brody home. We proceeded to heavily medicate her while searching for remedies online. Within an hour four different types of kitty shampoo, allergen reducing fabric spray and food were being shipped to our door. Who knew they made cat food that changes the allergen production in pets. Three weeks later, my daughter was still sneezing and itchy but adamant that these conditions were not due to the kitten. A month later her allergies disappeared. Apparently that miracle cat food actually works. Yay science!
We got a bit of a shock at Brody’s first visit to the vet. First, we found out Brody is a boy. I had manhandled this little boy at least 10 times while bathing him and had no idea he had a penis. I don’t know if that says something about me or him, but now I feel bad every time I call him my “little man”. We were also informed that he has a heart murmur sever enough that he needed to see a cardiologist before they would perform his neutering and declawing (which were requirements for living with my husband). Our vet pulled some strings to get all of these procedures done before Christmas and on December 22 I got a call informing me that his heart freaked out a minute into the surgery and they could not declaw him but were able to steal his manhood. I had been preparing for such an event and already had nail covers in multiple sparkly colors bookmarked. I figured since we had already mislabeled him as female and stolen his nuts, sparkly pink claw covers would not bother him even a little.
He came home from his surgery and immediately jumped onto his cat tree where he had previously been able to hang by his sharp little claws. He bounced off the post three times as he attempted to use his claws that were no longer of use. He was still too stoned from his surgery to feel any pain so he just kept throwing himself at the structure until we removed it from the room. Within 30 minutes of being home, he also managed to soak himself in water and roll around in his litter box while pooping. Naturally, he then jumped into my bed trailing clumps of litter and poop all over my quilt. My original plan to keep him in our bedroom was quickly amended and I took his litter box directly to the basement. I then spent an hour attempting to de-poop Brody’s tail wondering when he ate the glue that was clearly making the poop similar to dried cement all over his tiny butt. The next two days consisted of hiding medication in food that he refused to eat, cleaning up water that he consistently splashed out of his bowl like a propeller, and carrying the little fur ball around the house like an infant since he demanded my full attention. Surprisingly, Santa still brought my little man a giant sack full of toys.
Brody has been with us almost two months and we are finally all settling in. The humans know we are unable to get off the couch without having our ankles bitten or walk up the stairs without a sneak attack. Brody still punches me in the nose every morning but it’s to wake me for his heart medication, which he is now taking with a tablespoon of wet food. He also demands that a tabletop fountain be turned on for his daily water consumption, and that the curtains be opened or he will climb them and try to open them himself. He has even made friends with Fido. A few nights ago I heard him making all kinds of noise and dragging the evil stuffed animal up the stairs. I think he is trying to form a kitten gang. And so the adventure begins…
**Well look at that, Brody likes to listen to his namesake!
My family has many holiday traditions. Some are fun like watching A Christmas Story 400 times, some are challenging, like baking 800 cookies, and some are straight up worse than a root canal, like going to the mall. My dad insists on this last one every single year. No matter what I do to try to make his shopping easier, he somehow drags me to the mall. The Old Man is not a great gift giver, but he thinks that if he goes to the mall, the world’s greatest gift will somehow find him. I have been playing this game with him for over twenty years and I have yet to see a gift fly out of a store and beat him over the head, but I am hopeful that I will be there if it ever happens.
This year he called me asking “what do you think about those glasses that let you walk down streets in New York City and see the Sistine Chapel?” My first thought was that my mom doesn’t do so well with technology, so virtual reality glasses are about as useful as a unicycle (my dad’s gift to my mom, Christmas 1971). In all fairness, he did know the name of the oculus glasses and told me all about them. At the end of his explanation I said “they are owned by Facebook? No, just no. You may as well ask me to make a purchase at Walmart. Not happening.” My husband also made a very valid argument against such a purchase. He pointed out that my mom fell in a hole without anything on her head obstructing her view. I have to admit, I have watched my mom fall down more times than I can count and have seen her knock things off tables with her purse. We have a running joke in my family about my mom running into things. I can only imagine her trying to navigate a room while thinking she is somewhere else entirely. Unfortunately, my dad had to ask “is this idea up there with the unicycle?” to which I had to inform him yes, it was.
He did have a few other ideas that were actually good, and as it turns out, I could actually order said ideas online while on the phone with him. Unfortunately my dad declined my offer to do so stating that he wanted to touch the items before purchasing them. Apparently his sense of touch is far better than his sense of sight, or judgement for that matter. I searched online until I found a local store to purchase one of the items that was not at the mall, so we drove the 11 miles to the store so my dad could manhandle the gift. After wandering through the store for 20 minutes, we were informed that the item we wished to fondle was only available online. We proceeded to the parking lot where I ordered the gift online on my phone. My dad still claims we purchased the gift at the store to keep his purchasing record clean. I’m fairly certain he believes there is a reward for the effort of shopping in person.
One of the things my mom specifically asked for was a chair. She has a queen anne recliner at their lake house that is just her size. My mom in an average size recliner looks much like Lily Tomlin as Edith Ann, but this small, stiff chair fits her just perfectly. She loves the chair, and asked for another one in a different color, which is kind of a theme for my mom. If one is good, two is better, and you can never have too many chairs. She apparently found one online for $300 and told my dad about it. Unfortunately, she may have been shopping on wish.com because we were unable to find a decent chair for twice that amount at any of the many furniture stores we perused in person (including Macy’s at THE MALL). We eventually found one that I declared too ornate, my dad declared too uncomfortable, and my mom declared too expensive, so it was clearly the perfect chair. It will arrive in 4 months. Happy Easter mom!
I thought I was free and clear after walking through more stores in a few weeks than I have in six months, but I was mistaken. On our way home from what I thought was our final trip my dad declared that he forgot all about her apple pencil. Apparently when he bought my mom her iPad two years ago he also bought her the pencil to go along with it. She tried to use it once and when it didn’t work, she set it aside for two years. My dad decided it would be a good idea to take the pencil back to the apple store at the mall to replace it. When we arrived, we were informed that this was not, in fact, a good idea at all. The security guard who stopped us at the door told us we should go home and take care of it online. I barely contained my smirk as I repeated his instructions like shopping online was a novel idea.
By the time my dad had completed his shopping, every item he purchased was being delivered. This was clearly not going to suffice, so one last trip to the mall was necessary, this time with mini-me to assist. We walked directly to a store with lots of sparkly things where the Old Man immediately pointed at the same thing he bought his wife last year and said “do you think she would like that?” to which I replied “well, she liked it last year…” The child walked him around the store pointing out the items he had already purchased and moved him directly to a display of new merchandise. If only she had been born in the 90s when he bought the same earrings two years in a row and I was too stoned to realize it. We exited the store a half hour later with gifts for my mom, including one from the child that she didn’t even have to pay for, and my kid carrying a brand new fur backpack that she also didn’t pay for (or shoplift). Apparently my father is grooming her to take over my shopping duties by bribing her with free stuff. It took him long enough to get sick of listening to my commentary while fondling mall wares. That man has a high threshold for mockery.
All in all, I think the Old Man did okay this year, as long as all of his purchases arrive on time. I don’t have any faith in the postal service since they have been holding several of my packages hostage in the vortex called “in transit” for a month now. And suddenly I am beginning to see why he likes to do all of his shopping in person. Maybe that old guy is actually onto something.
**After hearing Mariah Carey at the mall and wanting to gouge my eardrums out with a chop stick, I found it necessary to listen to some good old fashioned Christmas songs about sex changes and killing people.**