Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chestnuts Roasting and all that crap

Call me Bad Luck Schleprock.

Today was the last day of my vacation. I had plans. Ali and I were going to restock the pantry and the fridge, I was going to buzz by Target to buy a rug for the entry way and we were going to pick up the Ogden kids so I could de-Christmas my house with great efficiency.

It started off at 6:03 when Alison came into my bedroom trembling from a bad dream where some stuffed animals had come to life, chased and killed us all. I don't think they were her own menagerie; I think they were strange stuffed animals. Regardless, they were hungry and we were lunch.

After a while, we went downstairs so she could show me her Webkinz estate. Bleary-eyed, I was happy when she decided we needed to watch TV instead and I could doze through it.

At 8, I went up to ensure Jeff was awake and preparing to return to work. Once he was off, I left Ali downstairs and started gathering holiday decor.

By 11, we'd had breakfast and dressed and were ready to go Krogering. We bundled up only to find the car protesting the winter weather. The battery was on sabbatical. Back we went, happy we'd picked up a gallon of milk and that there was Ramen in the house.

I called Dale to tell him we couldn't pick up the kids, but if he'd bring them over, we could still have a play date. I talked him in to Taco Bell -- our plan for lunch -- and he delivered that, too.

After lunch, the kids were occupied with comparing Christmas loot and destroying the basement. I was tired of working so I decided to build a fire. I laid down to check the flu, wiggling the lever thing until I thought it was open.

I got the wood, the firestarters, the paper and followed the directions my Mainer husband had given me a few weeks ago. I'm a real girl. I can build a fire.

While it took a while for the logs to catch hold, all went well for at least a couple of hours. When Dale came to pick the kids up -- about 20 minutes before Jeff got home -- the fire was down to embers. I looked up from my book and it seemed a little smoky. But it hadn't been at all earlier so I decided I was wrong.

By the time Jeff came home, you could see the haze and taste the air. It was not the welcome home he had expected.

He decided the flu wasn't open enough and that, combined with damp logs and the fire down to embers, created the smoke bomb. He wiggled the lever thing some more.

We had to open the doors, put on the fans and turn off the heat. We told Ali to stay downstairs and went out to address the car situation. It didn't take long to hook the Subaru up to the Honda and voila: we had two cars again.

I managed to scrape dinner together and Febreze the hell out of the upstairs. Ali emerged smoke free and we had dinner in front of the smokeless fire.

I'm hoping work will go better.

Oh, Christmas itself was great. When I recover from the smoke inhalation, I'll tell you all about it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Holiday sacrifices

Ali and I were shopping yesterday, looking for the perfect gift for Alex Ogden.

She settled on a Nerf gun with something like a gazillion foam bullets what appeared to be a Gatling gun function.

Thinking of Karin, I said, "Oh, Ali, are you sure about this?"

"Oh yeah," she said, eyes gleaming. "And you know what?"


"It's Christmas, so I'll sacrifice myself and let him shoot me as much as he wants. Anything to make the kid happy."

So, to paraphrase the redhead, our 2009 holiday sentiment for you: "Anything to make you happy."

Sincerely. From our house to yours.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Alison and I re-read Peef the Christmas Bear the other day. It's a book her Aunt Lois gave her a few years ago, and we've read it many times.

Peef is a bear Santa Claus makes one day and while you could interpret it that the Saint had actually created a little slave for himself, the general viewpoint is that he was lonely and wanted a friend: a friend who did all his errands, managed the elves, kept up with the office paperwork, including maintenance of the all important list, and served as co-pilot on that all important night.

To be fair, Peef also got to share a cup of tea at the end of the work day and was Santa's best friend. I suspect he snuggled a bit on those cold nights, too, but I don't think it was that explicit.

Anyway, after several years of this involuntary servitude, Peef wised up and started noticing how children loved their bears and played with them. They cuddled them and hugged them and generally showered them with affection. These bears had no discernible chore list.

Perpetual youth and neatness, including instanteous healing of any seam ripping, stuffing or button loss were part of the benefits package at Claus & Co. But after a while, Peef thought he might just trade his brand new image for a chance at grubby love.

But he couldn't leave Santa for fear the old elf would become more lonely and less jolly. So Peef toils away for a few more holidays, longing with all his heart for a change, but keeping silent out of devotion to Santa.

Finally, Santa takes pity on the little guy and contrives a way for him to become a real toy. Their separation is the saddest page of children's literature outside that damn forest fire in Bambi. (Or, well any of many Disney stories where they off the mom.)

But joy returns on the very next page and it's a struggle to decide whether to be sad or happy.

While I generally don't like to see Ali cry, knowing she gets the meaning of a story like Peef makes me a little bit happy. I have some years before I explain that Santa should really have been paying Peef a living wage after his creation, and that the elves might need a little union representation.

I'm not sure she's going to read Peef again this year. She might be at her limit for the sentiment of the season. Jeff remastered the children's DVD he'd made for her last her. Her copy was skipping and she had some ideas about which versions of certain songs she'd rather have and I think she even asked to replace of few songs she'd never really cared for.

I convinced Jeff to include "Santa, I'm Right Here," a Toby Keith song about a man finding a letter to Santa from a little boy whose family was freshly homeless and who was worried that Santa might not find him.

He doesn't ask for toys, he's hoping Santa could hire his dad to replace the job he lost, and his mom needs a new coat. It's a tear jerker of a song -- mostly because you know there are lots of people who truly are struggling -- and for many of them, it's not a situation of their own making.

Alison, heck, we all could do with a reminder that we've got it pretty good, and that we need to help others who aren't so fortunate. Ali gets it, mostly, but she still just a little ticked that her Dad had spoiled a perfectly happy, upbeat and rockin' collection of Christmas songs.

"That song is TERRIBLE! It's SAD!" she exclaimed.

Upon questioning, she admitted that she doesn't hate the song at all. It's just that it makes her sad and she wants to go out and help that little boy. So she and her little Ogden friends spent some time with me shopping for our Giving Tree items last week.

We might have to go again if I listen to that song again....

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


One of the many fun things about having a child is that you get a second chance to remember great books and fun things you learned in school. Of course you have to struggle -- again -- through boring stoopid stuff you learned in school, too. But sometimes homework is fun.

This week, Alison has been reading Sarah Plain and Tall and coming home with worksheets that ask her to interpret parts of the book. I remembered the movie with Glenn Close more than the book, but what I had forgotten was that Sarah was from Maine and she said "ayuh" instead of "yes" and had some mannerisms that I see in my Maine family.

Ali was struggling over a particular question that asked why Papa had forgotten the words to the songs he'd sang with their mother. (She died in childbirth. He was struggling to raise two children and Sarah answered his newspaper ad for bride. She traveled from Maine to the Great Plains because her brother had married and she was out of a job. It was back in "olden times." These days Sarah would have taken over her brother's business, kicked out the floozy and become a gazillionaire by the sea.)

But anyway, I was trying to get Ali to come up with the answer of why Papa didn't sing anymore, though he'd sang all the time with Mama, and it just wasn't working. So I tried personalizing it.

"OK, Ali. Just think about it this way. If I died, would you want to make cookies anymore?" I asked.

We were at the kitchen counter sitting on bar stools. She'd been fidgeting in her chair, laying across it and hanging like a sloth, looking for any diversion available to the homework. She looked up at me, horrified.

"Mommy! I don't want you to die!" she gasped.

"I'm not going to die, honey. But if I did, do you think you'd want to make cookies and decorate them anymore?"

Her eyes watered up. "No!" she said, ""It would make me too sad." Her little voice broke when she said sad, and she scrambled up and over to hug me.

"So why do you think Papa doesn't sing anymore? Didn't he used to do that with Mama?" I asked.

She brightened up and loosened her stranglehold just slightly. "I get it!" she said and set to scribbling.

"Ayuh," I thought, just a tiny bit weepy myself.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Ali was a great little trooper this weekend. We'd planned to go to the movies, make cookies, decorate the tree, shop a little, get our nails done.... but I got seriously sick and was in bed the whole weekend. I thought I was recovering and tried to help her with the cookies but thought I'd lose mine. It was terrible. But she didn't complain.

Jeff had planned to focus on a big case he's got, but he ended up helping with her -- a lot -- and taking care of me. They were both troopers.

Anyway, here's a collection of Alisonisms:

We were putting up the tree tonight (finally!)and Alison, still a believer, turned to me and casually informed me that Jimmy Vielee doesn't believe in Santa Clause. "And Jordan believes in the postal service."


I was combing through Alison's snarls, I mean curls, and I suggested that maybe we do something different with her hair. Lately she's wanted the "wild" look, which is no barrette, no even partial pony tail or braid. "No way, Mom." she said.

I asked her why -- she'd let me do whatever I wanted to before.

"I was more reasonable in the 1st grade," she said.


Ali came home with lots of papers in advance of our trip to Camp Tecumseh. On the last one, she added a little editorial note for me: No snaks. (translation: no snakes. She does love me.)

Speaking of snakes, we were struggling through some homework the other day. She didn't really want to do it and wasn't focused and couldn't come up with an answer as to why the author of Coyote Magic had wanted readers to learn from little Charlie's (I don't remember his name) angst about dogs and how the story had helped him.

I suggested that maybe Charlie had been so intrigued by the story of how the coyote had stolen fire for the villagers that it made him like the coyote a little bit, and that when he met the coydog he thought maybe it was a little bit like the coyote he liked and that when the coydog was soft to touch and wouldn't hurt him that maybe he'd learn to like all dogs.

"What do you think?" I asked.

"I think maybe you could learn a little lesson about how to like snakes," she said.


And finally, Alison had been totally freaked out about having to perform when she had to pretend to be a saint and give a little performance in the school gym as people walked around. She overcame it, though, with some great help from Miss Lawson, her teacher, and little support from home. She did just fine as Saint Elizabeth Seton.

A little while later, the Awesome Miss Lawson (Ali LOVES her and we do, too) asked me if I thought she'd be ok to do a speaking part when Class 3B led the Mass. I said I thought we should try it out.

She did it today, and Miss Lawsom reported that she'd done fabulously. Ali and I had talked about it for about a week and this morning, I asked her how she was feeling about it.

She wasn't worried at all. I asked her why she wasn’t – compared to the museum piece. She said, and I quote:

“Three reasons. 1. It’s a million times shorter; 2. I can read from this piece of paper right here; 3. I’ve done it before.”