Tuesday, December 28, 2004

I thought there were only three wise men.

C & E. That's the stamp St. Paul's Lutheran would have/should have put on our foreheads when we walked through their doors on Christmas eve.

C & E stands for Christmas and Easter and those are the only times you'll find us in church (actually, just put us down for a C). Debbie has always insisted we go to church on Christmas eve. At first I resisted. The thought of usurping someone else's regular spot in the pews didn't appeal to me. But my concerns about going to a strange church are always proved unnecessary. It's nothing like the end of the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers where parishioners are pointing at us, hissing like Donald Sutherland because we haven't been hatched from one of their Lutheran pods. In fact, I've always felt welcomed. I'm sure it's a combination of Christian goodwill, the fact that we always choose to sit in back or to one side and the collection gets a shot in the arm from "occasionals" like us.

I'm really not sure how spending 45 minutes watching someone else's kids sing O Little Town of Bethlehem injects us with Christmas spirit. But it does.

Allie is now a part of the tradition. This year, as we watched the kids of St. Paul's parade around dressed like sheep and wise men Allie leaned over and whispered something in my ear. "I wish I was up there," she said.

I felt guilty. She should be up there belting out Away in a Manger with all the other kids. The problem is I can't see how we'd make that work considering we're always traveling at Christmas. I wonder if we could just slip Allie up on a riser and let her wing it. These programs aren't too complicated and we could easily get Allie up to speed on most of the more commonly sung songs. In fact, the Sunday School Teacher probably wouldn't even notice an extra angel. And even if he or she did I don't think anyone would want to make a scene. I suppose in the unlikely event someone did want to yank Allie off the stage I'd intervene. Maybe I'd tell them our daughter's last wish is to be an angel in a Christmas play. Hey, I'm not saying she's dying, I'm just saying it's her last wish. The one right after she wished she could convert her bedroom door into a magic carpet. A sin of omission? Sure. But it would make Allie happy and who knows, we might even get a percentage from that evening's collection.

Allie wasn't too heartbroken about not participating. Presents are always a miracle prescription for any childhood woe and both girls got plenty of medicine this year.

One item I'm not too happy with this year are the Bratz dolls Allie received. I can get past the fact that you don't just change these dollies' shoes but you have to take off its entire foot. What bothers me are the weird, oversized eyes. They give me the willies. Beyond that, these dolls are dressed like hookers. Do I have a lot of experience with hookers? No. But I've seen my fair share of episodes of Cops. I'm sure the toy makers would claim the dolls have a more "urban" flair. If by "urban" they mean clothing appropriate for use in an episode of Cops featuring hookers then they're spot on. What's more, Bratz are manufactured with pronounced ass cracks because all the pants and skirts ride beneath the dolls' hips. I took a look at on of my sister's old Mrs. Beasley dolls. It has no ass crack. It doesn't even have an ass. It has a torso with legs sewn on to it. That's more what I have in mind for my four-year-old.

Greg's Holiday Tip #2: You can use a standard butter knife and joint compound (readily available at your local hardware store) to fill in the ass cracks of your daughter's Bratz dolls.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Holiday Tips

This year's most popular holiday geegaw seems to be the inflatable Christmas lawn ornament. Yesterday's hard plastic, molded statues have been replaced by Santas and Snowmen stitched from nylon with blowers attached to their butts.

They're fun and make quite an impression as I drive home through our neighborhood each evening. My only problem is seeing these things in the morning, when the power has been cut to all the blowers. Every front yard has a Santa or a Frosty lying face down in the snow. You'd swear there was a clock tower nearby with some crazed holiday sniper taking potshots at our most beloved Christmas icons.

There's not a lot of snow on the ground right now. Otherwise I'd be tempted to spread a little red food coloring around one of the crime scenes. It's amazing the impact a little red on the snow has. Unfortunately I'm sure some people wouldn't think bleeding snowmen were funny. In fact, I know they wouldn't. A few years ago we built a few real snowmen facing our busy street. As an added touch, I plunged some sticks through their chests and squirted red food coloring all over the wounds. Turns out Deb found out later her boss had to avoid driving by our house because her kids didn't want to see the "scary" snowmen. That means there were probably a few other kids around the neighborhood terrified by our bloody snowmen (heh, heh).

I'm chock full of great ideas like these to help make your season bright. In fact, I'll start sprinkling them throughout the blog until we hit 2005.

Greg's Holiday Tip #1 - Substitute large-scale taxidermy for a tree this year. You'd be surprised how many presents will fit beneath a dead elk.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Moldavian Bonsai Burgers

Last week we had another I can't think of another way to prepare frozen chicken breasts night so we went to Red Robin.

Red Robin restaurant is a good choice for us. It's extremely family friendly and has the sort of middle of the road menu that caters to finicky palates like my wife and kids'. Plus there's usually a person in a bird costume prancing around shaking hands with all the seven-year-olds as if it were running for second grade class president.

When we got to Red Robin it was obvious everyone in our town was having the same frozen chicken breast dilemma. When we got a table (a thankfully brief ten minute wait) there happened to be a little butt parked in every highchair the restaurant owned. While our hostess looked for a shortyseat I sat Julia in front of me on the table. She seemed content to look around at the hustle and bustle of a busy restaurant. There were also quite a few birthdays being celebrated that evening so that gave my daughter an excuse to clap along with the "birthdayfied" renditions of popular songs sung by the wait staff. My favorite of all time:

This is your birthday song.
It's not very long.

Next to us was a man in a Packer's sweatshirt who looked like Lenoid Brezhnev with Boris Yeltsin's hair. He looked very Russian. It was a noisy restaurant but I could swear he had the accent. When I looked at his watch I couldn't read the manufacturer stamped on the face and I'm convinced that's because the characters were Cyrillic. His clothing all looked new. From his neck to his feet everything looked fresh from the mall (Amerdikan blewjehns!).

At one point in the evening Allie crawled past the Russian and her foot touched his thigh. I apologized and he just looked at me and smiled broadly and nodded as if he were saying, "If we were in Mother Russia you'd be celebrating Christmas in a Siberian re-education camp." I know this sort of thing no longer goes on in Russia, but this guy looked like he could make it happen regardless.

Yeltsin Hair never thanked the wait staff the entire time we sat next to him. I noticed the restaurant manager kept checking on him to make sure everything was okay. At one point when the manager asked him if his meal was any good Yeltsin Hair said, "It's everything I ordered."

Whoa. That restaurant manager has no idea whether or not Yeltsin Hair enjoyed his food. Yeltsin Hair deflected the manager's probing with just enough information to send the manager a clear message that he was dismissed. If that wasn't the perfect KGB answer I don't know what would be.

We were sitting next to a spy.

Eating a meal alone at a Red Robin just cemented the whole spy scenario in my head. What perfect cover. No self-respecting international agent would be seen eating a Bonsai Burger with a group of waiters walking around singing, "I don't know but I've been told. . . Someone here is getting' old!" Sure, Agent Yeltsin Hair may have been retired from the spy game. I'm guessing he still, more than likely, had something hidden in his new American jeans that would force me to give up classified information whether I had any or not.

Uh. Strike that last line.

When Agent Yeltsin Hair's waitress came by with the check he asked if he needed to give the money to her or pay up front. AHA! It was his contact line. None of this, The weather in Moldavia is particularly beautiful this time of year type bullshit. He was asking the waitress if she would be willing to accept the self-destruct codes or should he pass them on to another agent handing out balloons at the entrance (Allie got a pink one, by the way). The young waitress, just out of the spy academy, accepted the codes.

There was no way for me to tell if Agent Yeltsin Hair was working for the good guys. Needless to say, I didn't sleep well that evening.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Let's Get Ready to Rumble: Kringle-Style

The Santa I wrote about a few days ago was on the front page of our newspaper this morning.

Of course my knee-jerk reaction was, "Oh shit. Santa's a pederast." Thankfully it was a charming, feel-good story about how kind this guy is and how much time and effort he devotes to the holiday season. The article told us that before Santa was Santa he put together steel doors and even owned a liquor store.

Santa owned a liquor store.

That's a good thing. I like a Santa with some real world experience. I don't want some elf who's been cloistered in some artic hideaway his entire life. I want a Santa who's foiled a few robbery attempts with the pump shotgun he kept hidden beneath the counter.

Although I'd never want to see it, I'm comforted by the notion my Santa can beat the crap out of your Santa. Or, at the least, drink him under the table.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Yes Virginia, there is a Spider-Man

"Do you think there really is a Spider-Man?" Allie asked.

I didn't want to quash my daughter's super hero fantasies so I said I'd like to think there were people with superhuman powers. I went a step further and told Allie she may even have super powers herself.

She wanted to know where they were.

"Maybe you won't discover them until you get older," I told her.

"Like when I go to school?"

"Who knows? Maybe when you turn five."

Her eyes got really big and she asked, "What kind of super powers will I have?"

At that point I did a mental inventory of the 3,000+ comic books I have stashed on dusty shelves in our basement. I rattled off the archetypical super hero attributes like super strength, super speed, super senses, heat vision. Allie really like the idea of heat vision. She got a look in her eye that spooked me a little. Something that told me she was imagining frying my ass the next time I make her turn off Fairly Odd Parents.

As we got ready for bed she asked me to describe more super powers. The list was getting pretty long when she announced she had thought of a super power of her own. She pointed to one of her front teeth and said, "See this tooth, Daddy? When someone writes a note I don't like or just puts scribbles on paper or something this tooth will fly out of my mouth. The tooth will spin around and shred up the note. Then the tooth will fly back in my mouth."

"What do you call that kind of super power?" I asked.

"Tooth Vision."

"Will you be fighting for tooth, justice and the American way?"


"Never mind. . ."

Monday, December 13, 2004

Six 3 x 5" Photos - Only $30!

Allie and Julia went to see Santa.

Julia sat on Santa's right knee. She didn't cry. She asked us with her eyes, "Why are you giving me away to this man? What have I done? For the love of God please give me a chance to make it right!" Allie was on Santa's left knee. Without the usual prodding Allie immediately rattled off four of the six items she had written on her Christmas list. Allie was shy, but nothing like last year when she barely managed to ask the big guy for an umbrella.

Deb and I got wise this year and brought our own camera to capture this year's confab with Santa. I took two pictures. One with flash. One without. I could tell Santa fought the urge to tell me my camera didn't flash. After all, he's Santa and Santa is nice. However he wanted me to move on and make room on his lap for kids with parents willing to pay $10 for a 5 x 8" digital portrait. Elves. Reindeer. Making the North Pole livable so Mrs. Claus doesn't complain so much. These things cost money. So I moved along.

As soon as we left Santa I took a look at the camera. It told me it's battery was about to die and decided to rewind the roll (two of 24 exposures). After developing I'm sure the shots will cost me about $15. They won't look as good as the one Santa's elves would have taken if we had let them. That still doesn't mean I'm going to let the elves take care of photos next year. This year was a learning experience. Next year I'll get the perfect shot. I'll take the film directly to one-hour-photo. I'll get back in line to see Santa. Wait. Then I'll show him my beautiful photo and say, "Kiss my ass, Kringle."

I won't be getting shit that year but it'll be worth it.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Unseen World

On Wednesday Brian, at work, gave me a little, lighted magnifier. I brought it home to show Allie the wonders of the unseen world.

We've been looking at everything from cat hair to the backs of our hands. We've been having fun comparing the craggy landscape of my 38-year-old hand to the smooth, unblemished blanket of skin that covers Allie's relatively new paw. I never noticed I've got age spots. Five years ago I would have called them freckles. Now they're age spots. I don't plan any intensive Porcelana intervention. I've earned the spots. I'm keeping them.

While we were looking for stuff to put under the magnifier I noticed Allie had a big booger in her nose. Like most parents, I have no problem reaching into my kid's nostrils so I grabbed the booger. I put it under the magnifier and invited Allie to look at it.

She refused.

It was only when I told her one of her nose hairs was embedded in the booger that she decided to take a look. She bent over the magnifier and as soon as she caught a glimpse of her booger she started to retch. As melodramatic as Allie can be I still could tell she was genuinely ready to relinquish her dinner. She looked at me as if I'd tricked her into doing something awful.

She took another look.

The gagging and coughing started again. Allie held her hand over her mouth and said, "Daddy, I'm gonna puke if I look at that again."

We stared at each other for about five seconds and then she plunged for the magnifier again. I just shook my head.

I'm pretty sure she would have gone for a fourth glimpse but I decided that was enough and got rid of the booger.

Later, as I was tucking her into bed she went on-and-on about how disgusting her booger was. She asked if she could take the magnifier with her to daycare. I'm pretty sure the other parents wouldn't appreciate it if my daughter took their kids on a booger safari. I told Allie she couldn't take the magnifier. She didn't protest. I'm pretty sure she realized revealing she has spent time looking at her own boogers might stigmatize her socially.

Too bad her father doesn't have the same filter.

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Tree Stays in the Garage

We got our Christmas tree this weekend. We went to a tree farm where you wander around a thicket until you find a tree you'd like to kill. You cut the thing down with a borrowed saw and drag it to a muddy path. There you wait for an ATV with a wagon attached to the back. You toss your tree in the wagon and ride back to tree farm headquarters.

It's a fairly easy process. Not as easy as most years when we barely stop the car to throw a dried-out, $10 tree into the trunk. But I thought the extra effort would make for a fond yuletide memory. I don't think Allie would agree. She fell down and got some mud and grass on her pink pants. That ruined the entire experience for her. While Deb and I stared at tree-after-tree eyeballing them for perfect symmetry, branch density and height Allie cried about her pants.

Turns out tree farms make many children unhappy. I noticed two other kids in tears while we tried to find a tree. Crying children always add a sense of urgency to a situation. Plus, it got to a point where all the trees began to look alike and it wouldn't have mattered if I'd cut down a mailbox and strung some lights on the thing. We just wanted to get back to the car before Julia lost her fingers to frostbite and Allie would be satisfied we were finally headed some place with a stain stick.

Fortunately we found a decent little spruce and the saw I had made quick work of the trunk. We dragged it to the path and rode back to the parking lot. We paid $25 plus I slipped a kid a buck when he came over and helped me tie the tree to the roof rack of our car. "You know how to tie a slip knot?" he asked.

"Well, I. I think I've. You know I'm not. I'm pretty sure. A slip knot, huh. . ."

It was clear I couldn't tie a slip knot. My manhood had been compromised by my lack of knot knowledge. Where was this kid just a few moments ago when I sliced through a tree trunk like it was made out of marzipan?

The kid looked at me, smiled and said, "That's okay, I just learned how to make one today." He then showed me, twice, how to tie a slip knot. I still couldn't tie one to save my life, but I felt better about my lack of skill with twine and that was worth an extra buck. I handed him the bill and he looked at me like I'd just handed him the keys to a new Porsche. He was very enthusiastic as he walked around our car checking the tree to make sure it wasn't going to budge off the roof rack. Maybe he thought there were a bunch of other bills folded beneath the single buck I gave him. Regardless, we shared a beautiful moment.

The tree is still in our garage. I'm not too concerned about getting it into our living room. It's the freshest tree we've ever had so I'm extremely confident it'll hold on to every needle until January when it's time to place it by the curb.

Allie's fine, by the way. I'm sure her pants will also be okay. However, her perspective on holiday giving might need a little work. Allie gave some money out of her piggy bank to The Empty Stocking Club benefiting needy youths in our area. Later, when I asked her why it was important to give to strangers she said, "You give to strangers so they're nice to you and won't hurt you." It's easy to see where this came from. Deb and I have trained Allie that when dealing with strangers always err on the side of caution. So, for Allie, The Empty Stocking Club is nothing more than a protection racket.

I tried to set things straight. I know that concepts like sharing, charity and empathy aren't too difficult to get across to Allie. She's a sweet little girl. But I didn't do as good a job as I would have liked. I just know the next time she sees me drop some change into a little red bucket she's going to think I'm doing it to keep the Salvation Army volunteer from bashing me in the head with his/her bell.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Deb Wore Latex Gloves During Clean-Up

The tide of vomit has come in.

The Friday after Thanksgiving Allie puked at her Grandma and Grandpa's house.

Monday night was Julia's turn. Her body decided not to hold on to the Spongebob shaped mac & cheese she had for dinner. Debbie's T-shirt did not read, "Stinky Bile Soaked Bits of Cartoon Shaped Pasta Repository" but that's what it wound up becoming.

I stayed home Tuesday with Julia. She was in a pretty good mood all day which meant I got a lot done. Julia got a post puke scrub down. We did a little Christmas shopping. I drained the fuel out of the mower and prepared the snowblower for duty. Five loads of laundry were processed through our mudroom laundromat.

Laundry is a thankless job. Not that it's all that hard (the machines do most of the work). However it's the kind of job where the results of your labor are tucked away in a drawer. It's nothing like painting a room or even mowing the lawn. You don't walk into the house after work and immediately notice that your underwear once again smells like Tide with bleach alternative. It's only when you're underwear drawer is empty that you consider the time and labor that goes into washing clothes.

Debbie does the laundry at our house. I know I've thanked her. It probably averages around once a year that I notice I no longer need to choose a shirt by sniffing it. That's when I say something like, "Thanks for taking care of the laundry, Deb." That's the best I can do. I suppose by the time our tenth anniversary rolls around I could get her a plaque or something. I'm not being sarcastic. I'm genuinely grateful I don't have to sort everyone's socks. I'm just not sure about the appropriate gesture. I suppose taking over the laundry chores more often would be best. Of course, if Deb doesn't reciprocate by doing more in the kitchen then I'll have to get all passive aggressive on her ass.

Actually, I won't be picking on my wife (at least not in the near future). She's extremely stressed at work. It's getting to the point where there may need to be some kind of intervention. I don't care what your job is, you don't deserve an ulcer because of it.

If I'm going to pick on anyone it'll be Dwayne.

Dwayne has had two blog posts in the same month. I'm suspicious.

He's dying.

I just know it. Especially after he wrote about all the stuff he's grateful for. If that's not a dying man's blog post I don't know what is.

I should have called him more often. Now I won't have the chance.

I wonder if his Mom will make beer bread for after the funeral? It was always his favorite. He would have liked that. I'll have to ask her for the recipe. I wonder if we should take Julia? I'm pretty sure Lourdes will be invited. If she's there I don't see why we can't take Julia. Pallbearer? Maybe. I'd be honored. I just wish he'd let me know he was going to do this, though. Those caskets can be freakin' heavy depending on the who else you've got sharing the load. He's always had a solid build not to mention the fact the weight of his body hair alone is probably enough to put me in a truss. I wonder if Raquel would like to meet this guy I know from work?

You can send your condolences directly to Dwayne by leaving a comment on his blog.

But if you're going to the trouble, you may want to send a few words of encouragement to Deb via her blog. Dwayne's gone. Deb's alive and the one who could really use a boost right about now.