The Christmas with no pictures

I believe that there are generally two kinds of events in life: the ones that are fun at the time, and the ones that make a good story later. As Christmas 2019 winds to a close as one of the “fun to experience” Christmases, I’d like to head back through the mists of time to tell the story of another Christmas.

This Christmas Eve I spent nearly 10 hours wrestling my 2019 photographs into submission. I firmly believe in the near-miraculous value of a good picture to help you remember an event as being much more fun than you thought it was at the time, and so I take a lot of pictures. I suspect this year’s tally was somewhere around 12,000 pictures (which was impossible for most of human history). I have pictures of almost everything. But there is this one Christmas where we go from this:

Setting out Santa’s cookies

To this

Hallway Hex Bugs

Strangely missing from the otherwise complete photographic documentation of my life is all the Christmas morning stuff. Where are the kids faces coming down the stairs? The stockings? The chaos of a living room in a flurry of wrapping paper? The look on my sons’ faces when they open their “big present”?

Well, let me tell you a story. The year was 2013, and on this Christmas my sons were 8 and 5 years old: peak Christmas aged. The joy and excitement were running high on Christmas Eve, and the full paraphernalia of both religious and secular were on display as we came back from Christmas Eve services to lay out a plate of cookies and milk for Santa. The children were nestled all snug in their beds, and the parents stayed up very late making sure that the scene to be uncovered in the morning was absolutely perfect. We were tired but satisfied as we went to bed that night, imagining the joy our children would experience because of our efforts the next day.

In the midst of our sugar-plum dreams, in the cold dark of a December morning, a sound intruded into our sleep. What could that be? But ah well, our children had yet to awaken us, so it couldn’t be that important. We rolled back over. But then, it came again. Was that… a squeal of joy? Wait, was that the sound of paper being torn? As if of mutual accord we flung ourselves out of bed and down the stairs, only to be confronted by a veritable blizzard of confetti-sized wrapping paper shrouding our two hellions as they tore into wrapped packages with a savagery usually only found in hungry, wild beasts.

Yes. They had gotten up and started on Christmas presents all on their own. They’d unwrapped over half their presents before we came down, screeching. It took me HOURS to get over it enough to take any more pictures. I was WROTH. I knew, in some tiny corner of my mind, that it might eventually be a funny story. I’m here to tell you that the amount of time required to accomplish that is no less than 6 years.

Here’s the decision-making, as paraphrased from the retelling of my eldest son.

So if you’ve ever met my mother, you would know that she is not what you would call a “morning person”. So when I woke up early on Christmas morning, I knew that my parents would not be excited to wake up so early. So I woke up Thane and went downstairs to give them a few more minutes to sleep. But our stockings were right there! I figured it would keep Thane quiet if we just opened our stockings, so we did. But then we’d opened our stockings. And I thought it wouldn’t hurt to open just one present to play with it, so Thane and I each opened one present. But then, before I could stop him, Thane opened a second! And it was only fair that I should open a second one too. Things after that got a bit out of control.

Now, every Christmas Eve, I remind my children that there is NO OPENING PRESENTS WITHOUT ADULT SUPERVISION!

And to those of you who just lived through one of those, uh, challenging celebrations: take pictures. It’ll be a great story, someday.

Explaining his perfidy to grandma

Mr. Lickums the Third

On Friday at 9:30 in the morning I got an email with a slide deck attached. This much is not unusual. As far as I can tell, half my job involves getting emails with slide decks attached. (The other half, of course, is sending such emails.) But this one was different. This one came from my 11 year old son, who definitely should have been doing something else in school.

The deck was titled “Why I Should Get a Frog“. I have my suspicions we may have entered the “persuasive essay” portion of the curriculum. Which, props to his teacher. This thing is a masterwork.

With a brevity and clarity that my work presentations can only aspire to, slide #1 got right to the point with the “ask” of the presentation:

The Frog I Want (If I am allowed to get one) is the Whites tree frog, you can find plenty of them in pet stores all around, and I believe they have them in pet smart. They are easy to handle, cute and overall funny looking.

So far, so good. I appreciate the research here, including specifics about the breed & availability desired. He expands with the reasons for the particular selection. To note: on further research everything he says here is also actually true.

Slide two gets deep into a cost analysis of the acquisition:

The Terrarium:

https://www.amazon.com/Exo-Terra-Glass-Natural-Terrarium/dp/B0041P5PBE?ref_=fsclp_pl_dp_1

Although it is $200 I won’t ask for it for Christmas instead I will use my own Money

I am not sure yet if the terrarium is cat proof but if it is not we can always make something to keep the cats out. I believe it also fits on my desk, and is the biggest terrarium I could find.

Here we see advanced level skills. The kid has already learned something it’s taken me 20 years to figure out – if you promise to bring the budget, the project is 900x more likely to happen. Now you and I both know that a) it will cost way more than $200 b) he won’t end up paying for something he requests two weeks before Christmas. He may guess #2, but he’ll discover #1. He also does a fantastic job of objection handling. In this case, by making explicit reference to our biggest objection (frog = cat toy) and then just waving it away as inconsequential. Masterful.

But in slide three, he really closes the sale.

Grey was the one who got the cats, but I have never had a chance to have a pet of my own. It would help prove my responsibility and be adorable at the same time. The cats are very old, and not that playful. I have my own money to buy the terrarium and the frog. It is the derpiest thing I have ever seen. They are easy to take care of. Also, I LOVE FROGS. (It will be named Mr. Lickums The third).

Here we invoke the principle of fairness and the desire of parents to raise responsible children. We probably didn’t need to throw shade on our two lovely cats. But then, the close man. The close. How can anyone resist “Mr. Lickums The third”? It’s impossible.

In unrelated news, we learned that the local pet store focusing on things that people have phobias about is called Jabberwock Reptiles. They may be our new best friends. Time to go learn about keeping frogs alive. And crickets. And worms. Yikes!


GREY! Don’t tell your brother! Do you want some pet crickets for Christmas?

UPDATE: I have learned that the original Mr. Lickums was a clay art project. The second Mr. Lickums was an icebreakers can that was decorated to resemble a frog. You may now resume your important activities.

Contemplations in the season of Advent

I have no thesis or overarching idea. Here are the thought-drabs.

1) Adam starts a new job tomorrow
He’s heading to work at a company that’s LITERALLY across the street from his old company. We’ve performed a massive defrag on our gaming group. There used to be six of us in four careers working at six companies. There are now six of us in two careers working at three companies. We converted two of our non-coders to coders, then aggregated all the dudes into one company. That company now has tremendous coding expertise, as well as some battle-hardened dice-wielders if there’s ever an emergency need for a FATE game.

2) We had the first snowfall of the year
It was tremendously scenic, and perfectly timed. It snowed all day Saturday, just enough to have fun playing in and to be gone by the end of the week.

3) We’re getting ready for the attic project
I spent that entire day Saturday reducing our number of bookcases by 1.5 by committing ruthless triage on our book collection. Now is an excellent time to visit the Book Oasis if you’re interested in: religion, Medieval Sociology, fantasy novels from the ’90s that didn’t stand the test of time (looking at you Stephen R. Lawhead), the collected “Wheel of Time” (I am NEVER rereading that) or a large collection of young adult novels in Spanish. Adam worked on clearing out the attic all week between jobs. There’s still a ton of stuff up there to be dealt with. Theoretically work begins in mid January. We can’t get too destructive until after the Christmas holidays, since we have guests over that period.

4) I may never finish writing my Christmas cards.

5) My laundry is folded all wrong
But it was washed and folded by my eldest son, and not based on any dire threats or massive punishments. Because he discovered doing laundry is the only way in this household to get a “watch crappy tv without guilt” card. And now he’s doing laundry. My youngest son does dishes. I’m enjoying the brief moment of smug feeling.

6) We took the kids to a party where they didn’t know anyone
And they made friends and talked for three hours with some other kids in the corner, looking very intense. Holy hand grenades! They’ve reached the talking phase of friend development!

7) In cleaning the attic, I found an unaccounted for Puppy.
I thought I had them all tracked. The only missing one went missing in a hotel room in Canada. Where the heck does this Puppy come from? I’m contemplating confessing to Thane about the true nature of Puppies – namely that he’s on Puppy #5. (I thought it was #4, but there are two in a drawer (with various not-so-attached body parts) and #3 is missing in Canada. So there must be an extra one in there somewhere.) Thane has started waxing rhapsodic on the nature of Puppies and Puppyworld, a utopian place. I hope he never outgrows his Puppies (who are actually bunny rabbits, FYI).

8) There are currently a LOOOOOOOT of cookies in this house.
Om nom nom.

9) It turns out Christmas is two weeks away
#panic

10) I got an award at work last week, for the Diversity & Inclusion and community building work I do
They don’t tell you who nominated you, so it feels a little like having a secret admirer. You find yourself looking at people and wondering who turned you in, and how you can thank them. Warm fuzzy feelings there!

11) We had all new toilets installed
The one downstairs, that I was talked into by a plumber in a moment of duress, prevented the door from opening and had a mysterious duel-flush mechanism that guests could rarely work out without consternation. This is no good in a powder room. The one upstairs, despite having its inner workings gutted by both my husband and I approximately one bajillion times, had a tendency to run. I had phantom toilet-running episodes, where I’d wake up in the middle of the night and have to check. I still find it hard to develop opinions regarding toilets, but doors not opening and running are definitely on my naughty list.

12) For those not following along on Facebook, I finally had to refuel my car
It was almost a full three months, and about 1500 miles. The gas light hadn’t come on, but a snow storm was coming. I added an additive to prevent the gas from freezing, since it might be spring by the time I have to refill it again. It turns out the gas tank is pressurized (probably to prevent water from coming in) and I had to Google how to open the gas tank on a car I’ve owned since it was hot out. With the real charging station, the electric costs have also come way down, to about $20 a month.

What’s going on with you?