Saturday, December 06, 2008

Not that Mr Bunches and Mr F slept a lot, but these did help.

One of the things that made our last vacation, to Florida, possible, was the air mattresses we used for the Babies! to sleep on. The condo we rented didn't have cribs, and we couldn't take anything like that on the plane -- no playpens or cribs or anything that large. But they couldn't sleep in a regular bed, or just on the couch.

So we had a single blow up mattress for each of them, and they slept on that in the main bedroom, where we could keep an eye on them. The mattresses were comfortable, too. I even took a nap on one at one point, so they're good for more than just two-year-olds.

It's important to make sure you get a good air mattress - -they can be used for more than just vacations, too. Take them on camping trips, use them in college or when you stay over at relatives. But get the information you need about them, too: use that link to find out more.

McHale Shaw needs your prayers.

Take a moment out of your night tonight, and tomorrow, and each day, to say a prayer for McHale Shaw.

McHale, whose brother Mateo Shaw just got out of the hospital, was admitted to the hospital on December 4 after suffering a grand mal seizure.

They're getting it under control, but he's not out of the woods yet. So please remember him and his family in your thoughts and prayers. These little boys should be visiting Santa this time of year, not the ER.

Mateo and McHale Shaw were born conjoined twins and given only a 5% chance of survival after separation. Nearly three years later, they're going strong but they need lots of medical attention -- as you can tell -- and they've exhausted their insurance coverage for their lifetime, so they get care because doctors provide it and because people like you help.

To find out more, go to "Caring Bridge" and type "mateoandmchale" into the search box to visit a Caring Bridge Site.

To help, send your tax-deductible donation to

Mateo and McHale Shaw Irrevocable SNT
C/O Kohler Credit Union
850 Woodlake Road
Kohler, WI 53044

Friday, December 05, 2008

Dad: Hint hint hint.

I'm thinking I can get Dad to get me a grandfather clock this year:

That's the Bulova Trafalgar Golden Oak Grandfather Clock, and isn't it awesome? Up until I saw that I've been a fan of the modern grandfather clocks, but I'm feeling a little traditional these days and that Bulova grandfather clock just seems traditional -- solid, fancy, worth having around and keeping around, the kind of clock that will stand in our living room, serving as a focal point for the family, and will preside grandly over family events -- over Christmases and birthday parties and then visits from grandkids and then more birthday parties and then retirement parties, and then it will move to one of the kids' houses, to continue to serve as a sentinel for their lives.

That's the kind of thoughts a grandfather clock like that inspires: Time, extending out peacefully and happily and with a touch of class. Time, and family, and beauty. Because that clock IS beautiful; it really is.

I can probably get Dad to buy it for our family for Christmas because it's on sale for a great price at, where they've got every grandfather clock you can imagine: fancy, simple, modern, old-fashioned -- even a Harley Davidson grandfather clock. So I'm serious -- every grandfather clock you can imagine.

They've got, too, the entire Howard Miller clock collection -- clocks so perfect you almost don't want to bring them home. Almost.

They'll even help you learn more about the grandfather clocks through their blog -- and about how clocks can be used for a variety of purposes, things you never even thought about, like how a grandfather clock can be used to help sell your house. They don't have a blog post on how to get Dad to buy me one, but I'll probably be able to take care of that on my own.

Hartland, Where I Grew Up Once (Table Of Contents)

Hartland, Where I Grew Up Once: The Introduction 

Kill Hill


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

An area I actually know about!

Because of my career-- the law career, not the blogging "career," I know that one of the biggest challenges facing some litigants is not the need to get evidence, or the odds of convincing a jury -- it's finding a way to pay for a lawsuit. Lawsuits can cost $10,000, $20,000, even $50,000 or more depending on the case, and some lawsuits can't be handled on a contingent fee basis -- you'll have to pay as you go.

That's where's online lawsuit funding comes in. They can help people who have a pending lawsuit pay for that suit -- lawsuits ranging from child custody to products liability to medication cases to construction disputes. They may even be able to arrange it so that you don't have to pay them back unless you win.

Lawyers need money to do their job, and you need a lawyer to get your case handled properly. So get the funding from, and give yourself a chance to win.

The Best Of The Holidays.

Have you been reading The Best of Everything? All December, The Best of Everything will tell you The Best stuff about Christmas -- ranging from The Best Indie Rocker Christmas Song to The Best Character Who Is Somehow Associated With Christmas But Who Ultimately Has Nothing To Do With Christmas At All.

At The Best Of Everything, Our Opinions Are Righter (and Merrier!) Than Yours!

Maybe it's "Hunters are never more than 3 feet from spiders." Or vice versa. But that would be the same thing, wouldn't it?

You know what they say: You're never more than three feet away from a hunter. Or is that a spider? I hope it's not "You're never more than three feet from a spider," because that means that right now a spider could be looking at me and imagining how it's going to later, while I sleep, drop in my mouth.

If it's "you're never more than three feet from a HUNTER," though, that would be cool because I then could take full advantage of the Nikon Hunting Christmas Promotion and give that hunter an awesome gift -- the Ultimate Hunter's Package from Nikon that includes a ProStaff rifle scope, a ProStaff 550 Rangefinder, and a DVD on how to master the Nikon BDC reticle. Any hunter would be sure to appreciate that -- and Nikon is offering other great deals, too, including excellent prices on a variety of riflescopes, and binoculars-- and they're offering free gift cards, of up to $50 in value, with the purchase of Nikon Monarch, Trailblazer, Action 10x50, and any Nikon ATB Binoculars.

I plan on buying LOTS of presents for the hunters in my life -- so that they'll use them to protect me from those spiders.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Really? 54 down, 9,139 to go.

I timed it out today, and I now know this as a "scientific" fact:

It takes exactly 17 minutes of driving in traffic to totally frustrate me to the point where I let loose with my word of choice, which is generally "Really?" said sarcastically. It goes like this:

Me: (driving peacefully and listening to music). "Hmmm. The world really is great."

Other dumb drivers: (Turning left, or braking, or doing both, or otherwise impeding me. And it doesn't matter if they're in the right or not, because they're impeding me and thereby violating the Silver Rule. Also, left turns should NEVER be allowed. There is nothing at all in this world worth someone turning left for.)

Me: "Really?"

It takes, as I said, 17 minutes of driving in traffic for me to get to that point.

My commute takes 35 minutes.

Down... to go: My life with my songs. Because isn't everything a little better when it's set to music? Song 53 here.

At least we got to listen to the radio while driving around. But Sweetie always chose the station.

When we bought our house, Sweetie and I spent many a day and night looking through classified ads and then driving around to various parts of various cities to see the houses that the ads promised us; after all, "3BR2BaSpcs" doesn't tell you much about the house you're getting.

The NEXT time we shop for a house, it'll be easier; the Internet is changing the way houses are bought and sold -- realtors like Homecity are doing things like posting aerial photographs, and putting slide shows and internet-virtual-reality tours of the houses they have for sale.

How's that work? Only GREAT -- check out their Austin real estate site, where they can help you buy or sell, and link to mortgage qualifiers, all while providing you photos and slideshows and tours of the houses they're selling.

As a buyer the benefits are obvious: no more wasting a whole day driving to house after house only to find out it's not for you. But as a seller, there's benefits, too -- the people who come see your house will be the ones that are definitely interested in it, because they've already had a chance to view it online and the neighborhood. Not only that, but the people who might not have been interested in "3BR2baSPCS" might choose to see your house when there's a fuller description and a virtual tour. is a leader for sure in selling Austin real estate, and I can only hope they branch out to our area soon; until then, if you live in the Austin, Dallas, or Fort Worth areas, or are moving there, use to sell your old house or buy your new one!

It's all because of the Donald: 53 down, 9,140 to go.

It is either The Boy's or Donald Driver's fault, that's all I've got to say.

I mean, I drive 116.1 miles, round trip, to a court hearing -- through at least four different towns and about 10 different changes of speed and across my favorite bridge ever in the world...

... and if you don't have a favorite bridge, why not? Get one. It'll change your life...

... and then I'm five minutes from home, or maybe 10 minutes when you consider that I've got to stop and get milk and chocolate chip cookies, per the text message from Sweetie, and then, then I get pulled over for speeding, for the second time in nine days, and the cop claims I was doing 41 in a 25, which is obviously incorrect, but even if it was correct I would only have been going that fast because the road was going downhill and because I had just called home to ask Sweetie if The Boy was at home because Green Bay Packer Donald Driver was in town signing copies of his new kids' book

... and why does Green Bay Packer Donald Driver have a kids book? I don't know...

so you can see how it's either The Boy's or Donald Driver's fault. Not mine.

Not mine.

Song 53: "Wish You Were The Woman," by Libbie Schrader. It has nothing to do with this story, as usual, but it is kind of mellowing, and I need that.

Down... to go... : All the songs on my iPod, all these things that I've done. Song 52 is here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

You can stop hurting today.

Drug and alcohol addiction wreaks havoc not just on the addict and his or her body and life and mind, but on the bodies and minds and lives of everyone around that person: wives, husbands, siblings, children... all having a swath of destruction cut through their days and nights.

If you have a drug or alcohol problem, you have to know two things: first, it's not your fault. And second, you can help and stop the destruction and sadness now.

The Narconon Drug Rehab Program is waiting for you. Their Narconon New Life Detoxification program helps with a stable recovery through use of more than just a 12-step program.

Narconon uses a variety of methods to help you get off drugs and alcohol: they use saunas and exercise and other physical methods to get the drug residue out of you and get you into a positive behavioral model. Once past that, they have educational methods and life-skills teaching that will help you stay off the drugs and alcohol and stay on the new life you've created for yourself.

They promote a healthy, vitamin-rich and exercise-inclusive method that has a 76% success rate, a 76% success rate that is generated through the Narconon method of developing a realistic, workable method of living your life, based on personal ethics and responsibility, while also getting ALL drug residue out of your system.

Stop hurting everyone around you, and stop hurting yourself. Contact Narconon of Georgia now -- click there for more information, and read success stories of people who were like you and now are clean, and sober, and loving their life. People like S.H., who posted his own success story about how six months ago he wouldn't have had the courage to even begin a program, but he checked into Narconon on his 30th birthday, and soon was done with mood swings and depression and learned how to deal with problems in his life in a successful, positive, clean way.

So click to go there, or call 1-877-413-3073. But do it now.

Use with caution: 52 down, 9,141 to go.

I listened to this song one day driving home from work when I was feeling a little down and a little stressed out, and it started to make me feel even MORE down but in a good way -- you know, the way sometimes you just want to hear a sad song -- and so I kind of pegged this song as a sad song.

But then it came on this morning when I was shoveling snow and leaves off of my driveway before I got ready to go to work, and I was in a pretty good mood because it's December 1st and there wasn't that much snow and I don't have a busy week, and the song made me feel even MORE in a pretty good mood.

It's that kind of song, the kind of song that if you're shoveling snow-and-mostly-leaves off of your driveway (mostly leaves because you've not bothered to rake your yard this year) and you're in a good mood, it'll make it better, and if you're in a kind of crummy mood because you're caught in traffic and your day wasn't so good, it'll make it worse. But it'll make it worse in a better way.

Use song 52 with caution: "On The Radio" by Regina Spektor.

Down... to go... is the ONLY Internet listing of all the songs on my iPod AND how those songs relate to my life, AND how song 51 relates to Mr Potato Head.

Ultimate present:

vocabulary learning

Sunday, November 30, 2008

This time of year, it's a grim smile of MERRY determination.

Sweetie was wondering about who we should send our Christmas cards to this year, and asked about a couple of relatives and friends -- did I think they should get one of the cards?

My hunch is that she was trying to pare down the list both because the photo on the Christmas card is... "creative" is a word that springs to mind, and "interesting" is another, but neither of those words actually describes the card. "Chaotic" is a word that DOES describe the photo on the card. "Expensive" is another. Really, given the amount of money and time and hassle we put into these cards, we should have gotten better results.

And then I find out today about the Photo Christmas Cards at, a site that lets you order one of two different kinds of cards. You can upload a photo and order your cards with the photo right on them (framed by a holiday theme or on the whole page) or you can order the cards with 4x6 photo holders in them, and then send different photos to various groups of people.

That latter one -- the photo holder card -- is the one that I think we could use. Then, people who don't know the family well could get one of those "typical" Christmas photos -- everyone in a nice sweater looking at the camera, smiling, cleaned-up, and cheery. People who DO know us, people who would never believe that's really OUR family in the 'typical' photo, would get the real one: Me looking down at something on the floor, Middle and The Boy arguing, Mr F escaping and Mr Bunches covered in macaroni, while Oldest is running late.

And Sweetie would have her usual grim smile of determination.

However you look on Christmas, show it with one of the two photo cards from

Hark, the Thumping Potatoes...make change for a 20?

The sounds of the holidays, in our house, include things that you would not hear elsewhere, sounds like the soothing tones of Foghat blasting out Christmas music accompanied by the pounding beat of potatoes being thrown across the room. Also, there was a Thanksgiving pageant in which Sweetie played two parts.

Pageants have always played a big role in my holidays, so it was nice to welcome them back this year. When I was younger, we regularly put on Christmas pageants not just at the Catholic school we attended for a while, but also at home for all the aunts and uncles who would come over and subtly mock us while we put on the Christmas pageants. My memories of those pageants, both official and un-, are somewhat hazy. But I know that for one, I was the Christmas star: a fat kid with crooked glasses holding up a giant star covered in tinfoil and ringed with garland reciting a poem for the whole Church and for the whole family Christmas gathering.

"Christmas Star" was one of my few starring roles -- pun intended -- as a kid. The other starring role was "narrator" at a choir concert in fourth or fifth grade, during which the whole school sang while I stood uncomfortably in front of them and in between songs gave little introductions for the songs. I was, even at an early age, marked as "not leading man material," except for that year that I was the Christmas Star, and even that wasn't really a "leading man" type of role. You can't see Brad Pitt or Harrison Ford playing "Christmas Star" in a major motion picture, can you? Although that would be excellent: " Christmas Star," the story of a Hollywood celebrity whose ego gets too big, so, to teach him a lesson, an angel makes him into the ACTUAL Christmas star, where he witnesses the birth of Jesus and learns a valuable lesson about what's REALLY important. Starring Brad Pitt as "The Star," and featuring Dame Judi Dench in a double role, as the head of "Herod Productions" and as Queen Herod at the Nativity.

The leading man role in the Christmas pageants my mom put on when we were kids was played usually by my younger brother, Matt, who was recognized as leading man material early on, despite having really no acting ability whatsoever. Matt starred not just as Joseph in the family Christmas pageants, but also as whatever leading role there happened to be in the middle school musicals that were put on every year in the spring. So while I muddled through my own middle school years in roles such as "Lord Growlie" in "The Wizard of Oz," and "Innkeeper" in Annie, Get Your Gun, (and as a Munchkin who was part of the Lollipop Guild, making me the biggest, fattest, glasses-wearing Munckin in the history of theater), Matt became "Narrator" in The Fantasticks, a role that he played tongue-in-cheek-- quite literally, as whenever he wasn't talking, Matt would stick his tongue in his cheek, something that you could see easily when the stage was the gym floor and the audience sat in bleachers around it.

Of course, I may just be jealous because Matt got all the girls. Girls always want to date the leading man. The Christmas Star gets very few groupies.

For the home pageants the stage was our living room, or at least that portion of the living room between the Christmas tree and the dining room, next to the yellow chairs and in front of the glass coffee table. As Christmas Star, I stood in between the tree and the yellow chairs and made my speech, and then Matt and my cousin Shannon would enter as Mary and Joseph, and my cousin Jason had a role, too, and some years also I would double as a wise man with my cousin Joey and my brother Bill, three wise men wearing bathrobes over their Christmas pants and shirts, entering from near the front door to take the gifts of the magi to the Baby Jesus, represented by a bundle of something held by Shannon, while Joseph looked bored and stuck his tongue into his cheek. Then we would all get out of costume and prepare to play the holiday songs that we had diligently practiced on our various instruments: I played piano, Bill played acoustic guitar, and Joey played saxophone. Not all together -- we weren't a jazz combo. Instead, one at a time we'd haltingly pick our way through a couple of songs, the family would clap, and then we'd be free to go off and talk about how we hoped we got an Atari 2600 that year.

Holidays for me now are a much more relaxed affair, so relaxed that this was the first time I've ever had the kids put on a pageant. They didn't perform for the family, though; they performed to teach them a Valuable Lesson, something I tried because it came up on the Wheel of Parenting, which is the mental image that I get when I consider the various parenting techniques I try to prepare the kids to take on the world successfully: a giant wheel just like the "Wheel of Fortune," only it has, instead of dollar amounts, parenting methods: Kind-But-Firm. Yelling. Take Away Privileges. The Dad on "Leave It To Beaver."

Interestingly, on my Wheel of Parenting, there is still Lose A Turn. And Bankrupt.

So yesterday, when a fight erupted while I was cooking Alternate Thanksgiving dinner, I moved on from the earlier parenting method I'd spun up (Sarcastic Comments Hollered from the Kitchen) and instead landed on Overly Dramatic Teaching Method.

I'd used up Sarcastic Comments Hollered From The Kitchen while peeling potatoes, something I did accompanied by the sounds of Foghat, the Foghat in their because I was playing Christmas music in the background. I'd have dialed up some Thanksgiving music, but the only "Thanksgiving music" I know of is the song "Alice's Restaurant," and I really wasn't in the mood for that. I was in the mood for Foghat, something I hadn't known it until the Foghat song came on and I sat down to peel ten pounds of potatoes.

10 pounds of potatoes wasn't even daunting to me. 10 pounds of potatoes, for me, is a walk in the park, again because I was prepared as a kid by my parents. I'm never sure that even with the Wheel of Parenting Method I'm actually preparing the kids for life, because instead of the things that my parents did, I do things like let them sleep in a little while I started preparing Alternate Thanksgiving dinner, something I allowed them to do until Mr Bunches intervened and forced me to get them up.

I didn't let them sleep in because I'm nice or was being kind; those two slots rarely come up on the Wheel of Parenting. No, I let them sleep in because I wanted to hear my music while I cooked dinner-that-was-actually-lunch because we were eating at 11:30, and I let them sleep in because the holidays tend to increase the friction between The Boy and Middle, resulting in the kind of dumb fights that they would, in fact, have, and I didn't want that. I wanted to stay in a good mood and peel potatoes and jam out to Foghat, both of which got harder when Mr Bunches discovered what I was doing, and discovered that potatoes made a good, solid, thumping sound when you throw them.

I was sitting in the kitchen by the garbage can, peeling the potatoes and whipping right through them, something I could do because, as I said, my parents prepared us for adulthood, prepared us better than we could suspect, given that my adulthood actually does include peeling 10 pounds of potatoes on a Saturday morning. I couldn't have known, but my parents maybe did, that potato peeling skill would be necessary as an adult. Somehow, though, Mom and Dad seemed to understand that was in my future, because we peeled potatoes every single night when I was a kid. At least, that's what it seems like, looking back. Every single day, there I'd be, peeling potatoes at the kitchen sink and looking out the window wistfully at the backyard, where I could be playing but I had to peel potatoes. We probably didn't even eat potatoes every day; Mom probably just had us peel the potatoes to build character or teach us to be self-sufficient, or as a cost-saving mechanism that we would inevitably misunderstand, the way I misunderstood when she hollered at us about crushing up the milk cartons before we threw them away.

"You have crush them up and put them in the garbage," she'd said, stomping it down viciously and then putting it into the garbage can. "Otherwise, they take up too much space in the can."

From that lecture, I took this: We are too poor to afford to buy garbage bags! I did try to crush the milk cartons after that, but not because Mom and Dad said to do it. I crushed them to avoid us having to live on the streets, because I knew that would be embarrassing.

That's why, by the way, I don't worry too much about my parenting methods and/or changing my parenting methods randomly. I know that whatever method I choose, kids will inevitably entirely misunderstand or misinterpret the message, the way they misinterpret my telling them about the time I nearly failed Chemistry in college, a story I tell them to show them the importance of studying: Study, I tell them, because if you don't, you might be like me and have an "F" in Chemistry before your final exam, so you will have to stay up all night reading 17 chapters of the textbook you were SUPPOSED to be reading all along, because you will need to get an "A" on the final just to pass the class.

"Did you pass the class?" they ask me.

"Yes," I say. "I got that A, but I wish I'd studied harder and didn't have to risk it."

"What grade did you get?" they ask me.

"A D," I say. "See?" I add. "That's why you've got to study."

That story boils down to this: When they get bad grades, and I lecture them or ground them or whatever comes up on the Wheel, they say You got a D in Chemistry.

So while their lessons were misapplied just as mine are, Mom and Dad would never have let us sleep in while they peeled the potatoes, I bet. That's just one of the many things I do differently from them and from other parents. The other things include letting Mr F and Mr Bunches walk around the kitchen while I'm preparing a dinner/lunch that includes the two turkeys that were not fully thawed out before I had to start cooking them. I hadn't even remembered to start thawing them until the night before at about 7 p.m., and I'd had to start cooking them at 7:30 a.m. the next day. They were still partially frozen when I stuck them in the oven, each in their own little disposable tinfoil pan. They barely fit into the oven together, which caused me some concern, too, because there was no time to cook two turkeys one after the other, so it's a lucky thing I was able to cram them in, bending the foil pans only a little. Well, a lot. But they fit in. That's the important thing.

Later, as I was desperately trying to finish up the rest of the meal while the guests -- Dad and Grandma and Grandpa and Sweetie's sister and kids -- milled around drinking coffee and eating the Chex Mix I had grudgingly put out for them, Oldest and The Boy had commented that I had messed up because I was cooking the meal that morning. They told Sweetie that if it were them, they would have cooked the entire dinner the night before.

I added that to the mental list I keep of Reasons I Will Never Eat Dinner at the Kids' Houses and kept going.

I'd had to wake the kids up while peeling potatoes because Mr F and Mr Bunches were roaming around the kitchen and dining room while I cooked. I was able to live with Mr F throwing the chairs to the ground. He can not stand to see a chair standing upright. We have five kitchen chairs and if Mr F is in the dining room, all five must be laying on their backs or sides. He doesn't even care that this makes it more difficult for him to get around. He comes in, throws the chairs down, and then roams around looking for other things to throw, stepping and stumbling over the chairs. Throwing things down is his hobby, and he's getting better at it. He used to just take things and drop them to hear the sound they made -- soft like a pillow, clanking like the little drain piece from the bathtub.

Now, he hurls them, and he's fast, like he was Friday night when he walked into the kitchen and whipped an arm out and knocked my can of soda onto the ground. I stopped baking pies to clean that up, putting the remainder of the can of soda on the other counter, only to finish at the same time as Mr F threw the remainder of the can down on the other side of the kitchen. Then, while I began cleaning that up, he grabbed the bowl of cat food off the counter and whipped that down, which had to be a nirvana-like experience for him, as it resulted in a giant clang from the bowl, thousands of tiny little clicks from the cat food, and a howl of despair from me.

Saturday morning, he was content with throwing the kids' trophies off the bookshelf and knocking over chairs. Mr Bunches was bored and came into the kitchen where I was peeling potatoes, and began throwing those, enjoying the thump! thump! thump! they made. But he was slowing me down and interfering with my hearing Foghat, so I began calling for Middle, who had been sleeping in but who now had to get up to do her jobs, which were (a) supervise the twins and (b) clean the bathroom.

It went like this:

Thump! And I'd holler: "Time to get up and get the babies!"

Thump! Me: "Time to get up and get the babies away from the potatoes!"

Me: "I better hear the sound of people getting out of bed and getting the babies!"

Thump! Me: "Let's get moving before I decide to reassign the potato peeling!"

Thump! Me: "For every potato he throws I'm charging a dollar." ("Make a profit off punishment" had come up on the Wheel Of Parenting.)

Thump! Me: "Mr Bunches, come on! Go throw something somewhere else!"

Finally, Middle had come down and taken the Babies! downstairs and I was able to check on the slowly-thawing turkeys and get The Boy going on his job, which was "deep-frying onion and apple rings/complaining about random things," but the stress of the holidays and of doing a chore must have gotten to them, because shortly before guests arrived, the fight broke out and I was forced to do some Real Parenting to assist Sweetie, who was running out of patience with them.

The fight broke out, from what I can tell, about no issue; I say that because no matter what I asked about why either The Boy or Middle was mad I got a different answer -- a new answer cropping up every time I solved the first one. During this all, Sweetie tried to resolve things, too, while Oldest, who had arrived, did her best to keep it from being resolved by throwing in little, nonhelpful comments like "I get it; I don't know why she doesn't," which served only to fuel the fire.

The starting point -- not the cause, but where it began-- for the fight was the division of twenty dollars the kids' Grandma had given to Middle when they'd gone to visit her. Middle and The Boy had driven up on Real Thanksgiving to see their Grandma and eat spaghetti (because, why not?) and bring home what looked to me, when I found it jamming open the freezer later that night, like a bag of blood (only it was spaghetti sauce). They'd agreed/been ordered to split the gas by each paying $7 of the $14 gas cost in Middle's car.

As of Saturday morning, The Boy had not given Middle his $7 yet, but Middle had been given $20 by Grandma to cover the cost of gas. So Middle asked Sweetie to break a $20 for her and explained how it all came about and also apparently said that The Boy had not yet given her the $7. (I'm a little unclear on the details of the fight's inception, because I was upstairs collecting potatoes.)

Sweetie had then allowed Middle to keep $17 of the $20, and given $3 to The Boy, doing the math quickly and coming up with the correct result -- The Boy was enti
tled, she said, to 1/2 the $20, less the $7 he should contribute for gas.

That caused Middle to begin complaining, loudly, about things in this order: (1) The Boy never had to pay for anything (2) as usual, she was paying for everything, (3) The Boy is spoiled, and (4) How come The Boy can yell at Mom all he wants while everytime SHE yells at Mom she's in trouble. That last one was a newcomer when I got into the action and told her not to yell at her Mom.

While Middle was having her Complain-A-Thon, Oldest was throwing in little comments here and there and The Boy was getting mad, too. I'm not sure what The Boy was getting mad about; I think he was mad about not really having anything to get mad about. His complaints were, in order (1) Why is everybody mad at him, and (2) What did he do and (3) He gets in trouble more than Middle, so shut up.

Even though the problem really wasn't the division of the $20, we thought it was because Middle kept alternating between "I'm getting ripped off" and "Why can't I yell at Mom?" so I set up my first ever Thanksgiving Pageant, which we can call "The Gift of the Grandma." It starred The Boy as The Boy, Middle as Middle, Oldest as Grandma-With-$20, and Sw
eetie as "Gas Station Attendant Who Middle Pays $14 for Gas." This pageant told the Magical Thanksgiving Story of "Why The Boy Should Not Have to Pay $7 and Should Get $3 from the $20 Grandma Gave."

As they acted it out, we were supposed to show Middle how it worked that The Boy would get $3 and not pay her, but we ran into snags because Oldest wasn't sure where she should come in, the Babies! wanted to throw things at the Pageant, and Sweetie didn't have the proper cash to actually make change, resulting in us having to pretend that $7 was, at times, $10, $7, $20, and, for all I know, the Christmas Star. But in the end, the Pageant was performed, chairs were uprighted, turkeys were cooked to a point where they were safe to eat, and M
iddle learned, as we all did, a valuable lesson, which she summed up at this:

I still don't see why The Boy can yell at Mom anytime he wants and I get in trouble just for yelling at her once.

Words we can all live by in this holiday season. Words that should be set to the sound of a thumping-potato-beat in a song played by Foghat.