Saturday, December 03, 2011

SUPERXmas! Days 5 AND 6: It's a SUPERXmas! Miracle. Somewhere in this story, that is.

As I sit and write this, on a rainy Saturday morning, I am listening to the mellow groove of The Little River Band crooning "Take It Easy On Me".

How I went from SUPERXmas! to "Songs You Could Roller-Skate To If Anyone did real Roller-Skating Anymore But They Don't Because Nowadays Everyone Probably Just Has Wii Roller-Skating, and Even As I Typed This I Realized It Made Me Sound Old-Fogeyish Plus I've Lost The Thread Of This Thought" is really a SUPERXmas! Miracle.

Also a SUPERXmas! Miracle? The fact that if you re-read that sentence it is perfectly, 100% grammatically correct.

At SUPERXmas!, miracles are actually pretty easy to come by. Like how now, we're listening to "Lady" by that same group, and I can almost see the Space Invaders game over by the refreshment stand, which is the view I got everytime a slow song/couples skate came on at Skateworld. I never got to couples skate. This song is breaking the heart of 12-year-old me.

Hang in there, 12-year-old me in the past! Someday you are going to marry a hot woman and she is going to listen to this song with you in the living room and it would be very romantic indeed except that Mr F is swinging maniacally in between the two of you so there's no room to dance, let alone make out and pretend you are couple skating!

Anyway, to get you all caught up on my Mad Quest To Make This Christmas a SUPERXmas!, I have stuck to doing something SUPERXmas-y every day, even though I wasn't able to post about it because I had actual work to do.

SUPERXmas! Day 5 was Thursday night, and I gave Sweetie the choice of what we would do that night.

"Watch Elf" she said that morning, and so that was the plan, which, it turns out, wasn't really a plan at all because I'm not sure Sweetie was listening when she said we would watch Elf; I think it was the kind of automatic response I get many times from Sweetie, who has, through the course of our marriage, learned that even I only pay attention to what I'm doing about 40% of the time, and so (I suspect) Sweetie just gives me a random assortment of answers generated in response to my voice, kind of the way Suri does except I don't have to pay $700 to look imbecilic. I can do that all on my own.

Sweetie's most common randomly-generated response is "Mmmmm." It's a noncommittal sort of answer that is the Sweetie equivalent of that little symbol on your laptop that tells you it's loading something. It's neither good nor bad. Sometimes, Sweetie varies that up by saying "Mmmmhmmm," and every now and then Sweetie will give a little chuckle: "Hmhemhme."

, that's spelled correctly. Look it up.

I suspect that Sweetie gives me those comments randomly because sometimes her use of them doesn't make sense, as in this example of what could well have been an actual conversation:

Me: So today a bunch of people were abducted by these big manatee-like things that had lasers, which is weird because if manatees have developed lasers, I don't think they should be a protected species anymore.

Sweetie: Hmhemhme.
Usually, Sweetie's noncommittal comments don't cause any confusion, because I don't actually require people to respond to me when I talk. I just need to talk. If people want to interact with me, well, okay, sometimes, but really I'd prefer it be kept to a minimum. My life is sort of one long ongoing monologue. Or perhaps a voice-over. Only not all Richard Dreyfus-y. That'd be creepy.

But sometimes her noncommittal comments cause a momentary bit of confusion, as with Elf, when I asked her Thursday morning what she thought our SUPERXmas! thing should be and she said "Watch Elf" and I said okay and then went to work and did whatever it is I do there all day. (I really don't know.)

Then, that night, I came home and did whatever it is I do all night, which I don't really remember for an entirely different reason: at work, I don't really pay attention to what I'm doing. At home, most of my nighttime activities blur into a haze of being forced repeatedly to play chase type games with Mr Bunches, who is in a phase where he likes to be chased. We play this game he calls "Tickle Chase," and it's pretty much what it sounds like: I chase him around our house until I catch him and then I spin him around and then I swing him back and forth and then I drop him on to the couch.

It used to involve tickling, too. Hence the name.

Tickle Chase is exhausting, and a little dangerous because there are lots of little throw rugs in our house that can cause you to slip on them, and my center of gravity is located somewhere around the Kuiper Belt. So I've begun trying to cut down on the number of Tickle Chases we do. We used to have to do 10 -- the first time, I'd spin/swing him once, then the second time I'd swing him twice, and so on, which, if you do the math, equals another heart attack for me. (You have to use calculus to reach that result, but it's accurate.)

So I began limiting the Tickle Chases. "We'll do 3," I'd say, and Mr Bunches, who was not okay with that, began upping the ante. Instead of one lap through the house, we'd do two for each Tickle Chase, and then, when I'd say "How many should I count?" for how many swings he'd get before being dropped, he'd say a progressively higher number.

Now, each night, we do only one Tickle Chase. But it is five laps, minimum, and I have to swing him twenty times before dropping him.

And, to make up for the lack of Tickle Chases, Mr Bunches began inventing NEW chases. There are now more chases than ever before. There are vacuum chases, where I have to chase him with the vacuum, which is hard because it keeps sucking up all those throw rugs we have and hitting the cord, and there's medicine chase, where I have to chase him to give him his sleep medicine, and there's one more chase, which is just before we go up to bed, and now he invented, this past Thursday "Got your foot chase" which starts out with us crawling and I try to catch his foot but if I do get his foot he then stands up and I have to regular chase him and that regular chase ends up being almost exactly like Tickle Chase.

So you can see where I don't recall exactly what it is I do on any given night, since on any given night I am more or less running wind sprints around our house, sometimes still in my work clothes.

In between, of course, there is Mr F and Sweetie to attend to, and the like, and on Thursday night, also, Mr Bunches had homework: he had to take a picture of a Gingerbread Man and "disguise it," coloring or decorating it to make it look like something else and take the picture back to school so that on Gingerbread Man day, which is in two weeks but Sweetie made us not procrastinate, they can, I don't know, all be in a room full of Gingerbread Men who don't look at all like Gingerbread Men.

The suggestions were "Make him look like a policeman, or a firefighter" or something else I don't remember. Sweetie came up with "Make him look like a snowman," and so we got out the glue and cotton balls again and we drew a snowman outline and hat and glued cotton balls to the Gingerbread Man and then wrote "SNOWMAN" across the bottom because we (well, I) wanted to make clear that the Gingerbread Man was disguised as a snowman and not a sheep, which he kind of looked like, a little.

With that done, and having chased Mr Bunches the requisite number of times, I was able to give the boys a bath and put them to bed and then went to our room and said to Sweetie:

"Do you have Elf ready to go?"

And Sweetie said: "What, are we watching it in here?"

I said: "I thought it was just us watching it. Did you want to watch it with the boys? Because we'd have to watch it in their room. They're in bed."

Sweetie responded: "No, I ... you'll have to get the DVD from their room and set it up."

Which made me suspicious, as you can gather, that Sweetie hadn't planned on watching it at all, and had just been saying stuff that morning. But we did watch the movie, and it was really good, and everytime I re-watch an old movie, I realize I learned something new about that old movie, and in this case, what I learned was: Will Ferrell's character, Buddy The Elf, is THIRTY.

I hadn't realized that before. He's THIRTY.

I thought maybe Buddy was kind of a young guy, because as a full-grown Will Ferrell he's still in Elf School in the movie, and so I thought "Well, Buddy is, what, 12, maybe 15? and a little naive."

But no.

He's thirty.

Which was really disturbing because the other elves in the movie are all responsible adults. Bob Newhart fixes Santa's sleigh. Ming Ming (I learned that was his name this year, too) the head elf is a supervisor. The elves all have jobs and stuff. It really, really bothered me for a while because I thought maybe there was something wrong with Buddy after all that he seemed so juvenile, but then I realized that Buddy's dad is at least 490 years old -- Buddy tells the mailroom guy that, the mailroom guy who is 26 and who looks at least 50 -- so, I realized, it's okay: Buddy at 30 would be, if Elves live to be, say, 500, only 1/10 through his life, which makes him the equivalent of about a 10-year-old human, since obviously elf culture moves much more slowly, the way Ent culture did in Lord Of The Rings.

I was able to sleep pretty soundly after working that out.

Then! On Friday! We went DRIVING AROUND!

I felt those exclamation points were necessary to liven things up a little, since otherwise "We went driving around" doesn't seem SUPERXmas-y at all, but it was, because we decided that last night we would go over to the really, really, rich part of town -- the part where all the houses are made of brick and stone and most of the houses look like Hogwarts -- and look at the Christmas lights they had put up, even though it was a little early for that and there's no snow yet.

And that was where I learned something about Sweetie and where the SUPERXmas! Miracle! comes in: before we went driving around, I had the opportunity to make toast for Sweetie, who had opted to have just toast for dinner because she had a stomach ache.

"What's wrong with your stomach?" I asked.

"I don't know. Maybe I ate something bad or I started taking vitamins today and that's the problem or I'm coming down with something," Sweetie said.

"What was that middle part, again?" I asked, and Sweetie clarified that she started taking hair vitamins to strengthen her hair, which I didn't even know was a thing you could do. My own hair is weak and clinging desperately to its meager existence on my scalp. If hair were political systems, my hair would be communism. I've been trying to grow my hair out since June, and have had to get it cut one time since then. Actually, I didn't really need it cut that time, either. But I felt like I should do it to encourage my hair to grow a little more, although in retrospect that might have been exactly the wrong message: If you grow more, I'll have you snipped off savagely and swept into a bin. I need to rethink this.

Sweetie clarified that she only took one hair vitamin, even though I suspected she might have taken more to (as I put it) "jump start the process," because in my mind that's how vitamins work. I used to think, too, that if you had to cook something at 350 degrees, but you turned the oven up to 500 degrees, you could cook it in about 50% less time, and I don't know why that doesn't work because the math seems solid, but it doesn't work, no matter how many times you try it.

Here's something I still do believe, though: If you have to pre-heat the oven, as a debate recently broke out on this blog about, then the higher you set the oven to pre-heat, the faster it'll reach the temperature you want. For example: Let's say you need the oven preheated to 350...

...and I'm only humoring you because there's no need to preheat the oven before putting the stuff in. The oven will reach its temperature whether or not you put the stuff in first, and you can help the cooking by putting the things in so that they start cooking at the lower temperatures as the oven heats up. Again: the math is solid on this...

...if you need your oven preheated to 350, then set it for, say, six hundred degrees, and the oven, which takes 20 minutes to heat up no matter what temperature you're trying to reach -- try it out: It's 20 minutes to get to 200, it's 20 minutes to get to 600 -- will reach 350 that much faster. Think about it: If it's 20 minutes to 600, then you're at 350 in, say, 5 minutes and you're cookin' away.

All of this is very instructional but not the point. The point is, I had to make toast for Sweetie and I got out a loaf of bread and put the end piece and a regular piece in and started it toasting and then had this exchange:

Me: You like the end piece, don't you?

Sweetie: Yes. I do.

Me: In all the time I've known you I was never sure if you liked the end piece. You really do learn something about your wife each day.
See what a great husband I am? For 15 years I've been hogging the end pieces, but no more! Unless I forget.

We then later on went driving over to the Super Rich houses and looked at their lights, most of which were pretty nice, and one of which was SUPERAWEXOME:

I felt like there should be a Mall Santa somewhere in there. We drove by the house three times, because even Mr F liked it and he usually doesn't like anything, and I'd have gone by again but I figured by then they were calling the police on us and Mr F had dozed off by that time.

It was during that ride, as we listened to the Christmas Music station, that we heard Dan Fogelberg's Same Old Lang Syne song:

Which most people will say is a New Year's song, but since Auld Lang Syne literally translated means old times gone, or something like that, it's okay to play it at Christmas, and also, it does mention Christmas Eve, contrary to what Sweetie said:

Me: Does that Dan Fogelberg song mention anything about Christmas?

Sweetie: No.

But it does, right in the first verse, so I am on fire today, in terms of "knowing stuff".

Anyway, when the song came on the radio, I said to Sweetie, "here's your song" and I turned it up and let her (mostly) listen to it while I (mostly) didn't say anything, and Sweetie said: "I didn't know you remembered I liked this song," to which I said "I remember lots of stuff about you."

Then we went home, and she downloaded that song and also some songs by The Little River Band. I'm not actually sure how we went from one to the other, but having been what can only be described as The Perfect Husband for upwards of three hours-- and that is the true SUPERXMas! Miracle! -- I didn't question her.

Prior Days:

One: Putting up the yard decorations

Two: Making a Christmas list

Three: Sleep, Actually

Four: How to make popsicle stick (SUPER)Xmas trees, in 437 easy steps.

Why I do not think that Mr. F should cut his hair…. (What the H?)

It's a special bonus What the H? as Middle Daughter protests our plans to get Mr F's hair cut this week.


If this dog had a choice, do you think that it would want to look like this?

My point with this photo is that this breed of dog is extremely adorable and my little brother Mr. F is an adorable little boy.

(I am sure that all of you have seen a picture of two of him on the other parts of the blog)

If I was as cute as Mr. F I would not want to change a thing about the way that I look.

(Do you know how many people in the world were upset when Mr. Bieber decided to cut a little off of his head?”)

I do not think that Mr. F should get his hair cut because I think that he looks so adorable with his hair long. Yes, people may think that he looks like he’s homeless or that his parents do not care that he looks like he has a mop on his head but from the way that I see things not cutting his hair shows to me that as parents you care how he looks because he hasn’t looked more handsome.
Not saying that cutting his hair would make him not a cutie batutie; I just think that Mr. F with long hair represents Mr. F and he wouldn’t be him without his hair.

Just as Justin Bieber!


PS: He "looks like he's homeless or that his parents do not care?" You convinced me. That's exactly the parenting style I aspire to. "Hey, I raised my kid to demonstrate to the world how little I care. Also, that he has no place in society." That is what being a dad is all about.

The "Say Merry Christmas to Mateo and McHale Shaw Giveaway" is now even easier...

Over to the right are Mateo and McHale Shaw (and their grandpa, and brother Maddux). Mateo and McHale were born conjoined and have defied all odds and have gone on surviving and thriving through dozens of surgeries. Their parents, Ryan and Angie Shaw, not only are raising these two boys (and their little brother Maddux) but are great people in their own right.

I'm trying to get everyone who reads one of these SUPERXmas posts to go to the Shaws' website and wish McHale and Mateo a Merry Christmas, and to urge you on, I'm going to give away a a $20 Amazon Gift Card.

Here's the rules:

1. Visit Mateo and McHale Shaw's Caring Bridge site; you can get to it here. You'll have to sign in, but that's not so hard, right?Link
2. Leave them a comment in the guest book wishing them "Merry Christmas," (or happy holidays, or whatever nice greeting you want.)

3. Post on your blog a link to that site and tell people why you did it.

Once I see your "Merry Christmas" on Caring Bridge, I'll put your name in a drawing and on December 26, the winner will get named and will have a little post-Christmas reward to look forward to.

Already commented, and therefore eligible for the $20:

Author Michael Offutt; Go click "to-read" on his upcoming sci-fi book "Slipstream."

Author Patrick Dilloway. Go buy his awesome book "Where You Belong," and give it to someone as a gift. And buy one for yourself.

Friday, December 02, 2011

SUPERXmas! Day 5:

... is on its way.

While you wait: Go say Merry Xmas to McHale and Mateo Shaw!

an overdose Of life (Friday's Sunday's Poem/Hot Actor)

About the poems: You may notice a little something different about the way these poems are posted. (They're pictures.)(You got that, right?)

People are always asking me "What does Thinking The Lions mean?"

Well, I mean, once, someone asked me.

Actually, what they said to me was "Did you just eat my french fries?" But I knew what they meant.

Anyway: Thinking The Lions is a code phrase I had for a long time about looking at life a little differently; it means to change your perspective and alter how you view things to improve your life. It comes from a short story I wrote called (three guesses!) "Thinking The Lions", in which a man takes a girl to Africa on safari, and by the last day they're there, they haven't seen lions yet, that being the (ostensible) purpose for the trip. In reality, the whole basis for the trip is his relationship with the woman, and the lions are a symbol.

(Because the only time symbolism isn't complete bunk is when I am creating the symbols.)

He has to, he is told, learn not to look for lions, but to think them, and I won't spoil the story any further. You can read it in this book. And you should.

But thinking the lions represents a hard-to-explain state of mind that I think you'll best understand if you read my blog daily. If you don't, and if you don't have time to go back over five years' of posts, you can understand it by knowing how these two poems got on here today.

Here's how:

I read in the Isthmus, a local paper, that over on Williamson Street in Madison they had imprinted poems right onto the sidewalk, right there in the cement, to be there for as long as the cement lasted.

And I thought: That is awesome.

And that Saturday, I loaded Sweetie and Mr F and Mr Bunches into the car, and got my camera, and we went over to Williamson Street, which is on the other side of the city from us and which I only vaguely knew the location of--

-- I've lived in Madison for 16 years now and use GPS to get around --

-- and we parked the car in a random location. Sweetie said: "Do you know where the poems are?"

And I said: "No."

And Sweetie said: "So what's the plan?"

And I said: "Walk around until we find them, and then take a picture of them."

And we wandered down Williamson Street, heading in one direction for about 8 or 9 blocks and finding these two poems, and taking pictures of them, and holding hands and letting the boys walk on the ledges and looking at people's window decorations and yard signs and just talking. It was a gray, overcast, sort of blustery November day. Up the street was a large protest forming, but most people, I suspect, would have wanted to stay in their houses or head for a warm restaurant or coffeeshop that day.

We never found the other two poems; those remain for another expedition some other day, if I ever run out of other things I want to do.

But that is, in a nutshell, how to think the lions. It's not really explainable, as you can see, because I've done an awful job of explaining it here. It's a state of mind. And if you understand just why it was so important for me to go see those poems, you understand how to think the lions.

About the Hot Actor, who I will now post a photo of:

Today's Hot Actor is a Sweetie choice: Mikhail Baryshnikov. I've chosen to post a picture of the younger him because I'm amazed that any person can stand like that. When I try to tie my shoes, my knees pop and I need assistance getting back up. I'm less limber than your average trestle bridge.

But Mikhail has been waiting his turn for posting on here since about a month ago when Sweetie and I watched the last episode of Sex and the City and I pointed out, again, that Mikhail's character was a great guy and I really liked him. It wouldn't have been bad for Carrie to end up with him, but the writers of that show felt so strongly about the fact that Carrie should end up with Big that they completely altered Mikhail's character and created a trumped-up, dramatic finish by having him hit her.

And I hated his character, then: I hate any man who ever hits a woman for any reason.

So they took one of the few good male characters on that show, an interesting, complex guy, and made him a stereotypical rat and destroyed him, all so that Carrie could go back to New York with Big.

But you know what? The joke is on them. If the big finish to that story was that Carrie loved New York and Big so much that she would give up the world for them, as I believe it was intended to be, then making Mikhail a wife-beater achieved the exact opposite effect: Carrie is alone in a strange city and the only person she can connect to just hit her, and suddenly Big shows up and says "Come with me," and what's she supposed to do? All of her options have just been closed off: she wasn't happy in Paris, and she can't stay with Mikhail (once a guy hits you, it's over. Forever. No going back. That's how you stop guys from hitting women.)

If SATC really wanted to make that point about Carrie's love of the city and Big, they should have had Mikhail stay awesome -- because then Carrie's decision to leave Paris and an awesome rich boyfriend in favor of New York and, well, an equally awesome rich boyfriend, but New York, would mean something.

The writing on SATC was never all that good, but the ending was just awful. Carrie didn't make a choice to go back to New York. She just went to the only place she could go. So in the end, the moral of the entire run of SATC was "Women, you'll inevitably end up exactly the same as you started out, and you don't even have a say in the matter, so might as well just focus on shoes."


Thursday, December 01, 2011

Pizza Rolls…To Be or Not To Be? (What The H?)

Today's guest post from Middle Daughter reveals she's the only person I know who actually pre-heats the oven.


Why is it that when I come home from work staring and when I try to make pizza rolls they always self destroy themselves and make my oven look like dawn of the dead?


I think that pizza rolls are one of the world’s greatest inventions, apart from mint chocolate chip ice cream and really soft socks.

Anywho, so after a very long day of work all I want to do is come home and make something to eat and relax a little while catching up on my television shows. But no, it does not work out that way because life does not work out that way.

So this is how it turns out….

I walk in the door and change into some comfy clothes

Then I walk into my kitchen and go into my freezer and take out the pizza rolls

I preheat the oven to what the package says

I spray a baking pan with non stick spray then gently lay the rolls onto it

When the oven is preheated I slide the pan containing the rolls into the oven

Everything seems to be going well until….


And Taylor does not get to consume her delicious pizza rolls because I left them in there just one second too long…

That is how it is though because if they are left in the oven just one minute too long they explode, but if you take them out too soon then they are too doughy and not even hot.


They are perfectly done but when you bite into one it is like a volcano inside and you freak out because you just bit into a fireball so then you drop the pizza roll in your lap and the inside continues to ooze out and burn whatever part of your body it is touching at that time.

So let me know what your thoughts are on Pizza Rolls….

Yay or Nay?

The "Say Merry Christmas to Mateo and McHale Shaw Giveaway".

Over to the right are Mateo and McHale Shaw (and their grandpa, and brother Maddux). Mateo and McHale were born conjoined and have defied all odds and have gone on surviving and thriving through dozens of surgeries. Their parents, Ryan and Angie Shaw, not only are raising these two boys (and their little brother Maddux) but are great people in their own right.

I'm trying to get everyone who reads one of these SUPERXmas posts to go to the Shaws' website and wish McHale and Mateo a Merry Christmas, and to urge you on, I'm going to give away a a $20 Amazon Gift Card.

Here's the rules:

1. Visit Mateo and McHale Shaw's Caring Bridge site; you can get to it here. You'll have to sign in, but that's not so hard, right?Link

2. Leave them a comment in the guest book wishing them "Merry Christmas," (or happy holidays, or whatever nice greeting you want.)

3. Post on your blog a link to that site and tell people why you did it.

4. Leave a comment on this blog and tell me where to find your link.

Once I get that comment here and verify your link, I'll put your name in a drawing and on December 26, the winner will get named and will have a little post-Christmas reward to look forward to.

Already commented, and therefore eligible for the $20:

Author Michael Offutt; Go click "to-read" on his upcoming sci-fi book "Slipstream."

Author Patrick Dilloway. Go buy his awesome book "Where You Belong," and give it to someone as a gift. And buy one for yourself.

Confidential to Andrew Leon: If you don't want the $20 for yourself, donate it to a good cause.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More Texts From Sweetie (Thinking the Lions)

In order today, they were:

Sweetie: My mom is making u fruitcake. Lucky u!!!

Me: Yay! That was a Superxmas think I was going to do.

Sweetie: Good, then, but I can't promise what will be in it. Plus, she's making it today to give u on the 17th.

Me: I don't think that matters with fruitcake.

Sweetie: I know. U will probably have salmon and Dentyne in your fruitcake.

Sweetie is not big on fruitcake, or her mom's cooking. I'm skeptical of her mom's cooking, but I will never not love fruitcake.

SUPERXmas! Day 3: Sleep, actually.

Last night's original plan for SUPERXmas!


was to do a social story to get Mr Bunches and Mr F ready for seeing Santa later this week -- the twins have never visited Santa, although we tried once. I'm not even sure they really know who Santa is, although they have some idea because Mr Bunches once spent nearly a month watching the Spongebob Christmas episode over and over, and you can't watch Squidward make fun of Spongebob believing in Santa over 300 times without learning a little something, so who says TV isn't educational?

But that plan got derailed when Mr F got what looked to be Mr Bunches' dose of pink-eye, so I had to scrap plan A and go to Plan B, which was to take Mr F and Mr Bunches to the after-hours clinic so that Mr F could be examined to see if he really did have pink eye; both Sweetie and I were sure that he did, because, while we are not medical doctors, we are able to observe certain telltale clues such as these:

(a) his eye was really pink.

The doctor, though, wasn't so sure, although to be fair it might be hard to diagnose pink eye when the child you're trying to examine doesn't want to be examined and so is being held tightly in the lap of his dad while you try to examine him, but to be fair-er, that doctor could really have tried a little harder to be a little nicer: forewarned that Mr F is autistic and doesn't care for doctors, she treated him more or less like a piece of meat, ordering me to hold him on my lap and then manhandling poor Mr F into letting her look in his ears and his eyes and his chest before pronouncing that he maybe had pink eye.

Seriously: she didn't even try to be nice. I've seen calf-roping events that treated the calf nicer than she treated Mr F. Also, I haven't really seen calf-roping events, but I get the gist of them.

Anyway, Mr F doesn't quite have pink eye. He provisionally has pink-eye. He has pre-pink eye and so we have a prescription, ready to go, if he gets pink eye, which we will know (I was told, brusquely) because he'll get gunk in his eyes.

She used the word gunk.

So after that, I had to get some bread and cheese, about which more later, and drop those off at the office. And then I had to get the boys back home, where Sweetie awaited us, and where I finally, at 9:30 at night, got to do something SUPERXmas-y, and that SUPERXmas-y thing was:

Watch "Love, Actually."

That was one of the two Christmas movies we had DVRd, ready to go, the other being "Snow 2: Brain Freeze," which is described this way:

Santa is in a rush to get things right for the big day, but an accident with a magic mirror leaves him with amnesia and unable to remember who he is. It befalls his wife to put things right in time for Christmas, but a jealous rival sees a chance to exploit the situation to his advantage.

How could you not want to watch that? Even with the risk that you'll be a little lost because you didn't see "Snow 1", which actually was just called "Snow."

But I gave Sweetie the choice, and I watched "Love, Actually," which is a great movie, after all, and which I really like, and which left me with these burning questions:

1. Did Snape actually cheat on his wife? Sweetie says no. I'm not so sure, but I like to think he didn't because otherwise: sad.

2. Karl wasn't such a great guy, was he? I mean, Laura Linney explained to him about her brother and he's all just "Don't take his call?" So she wasted "two years, seven months, three days and, I suppose, an hour and thirty minutes," plus the time between that speech and the night she found out Karl was a jerk. And that scene where she gave him the scarf made me cry a little. I'm not afraid to admit it.

3. This isn't really a question, but it needs to be said: This being a basic-cable, ABC-Family version of Love, Actually, they cut out, entirely, the storyline about the porn-actor stand-ins, which I always thought was actually a pretty good story.

4. Was Mr Bean actually planning on flying? Or was he some kind of magical character intervening to give Qui-Gon's kid a good ending? And did anyone but me catch it the one time the kid actually called Qui-Gon "Dad?" I'm pretty sure he called him Dad.

Anyway: Mission Accomplished! And we'll keep you posted on the Holiday Pink-Eye plague. And also, I was up until midnight watching the movie and then got up at 5 today, so I'm SUPERTired.


The "Say Merry Christmas to Mateo and McHale Shaw Giveaway".

Here are Mateo and McHale Shaw:

They were born conjoined and have defied all odds and have gone on surviving and thriving through dozens of surgeries. Their parents, Ryan and Angie Shaw, not only are raising these two boys (and their little brother Maddux) but are great people in their own right.

I'm trying to get everyone who reads one of these SUPERXmas posts to go to the Shaws' website and wish McHale and Mateo a Merry Christmas, and to urge you on, I'm going to give away a a $20 Amazon Gift Card.

Here's the rules:

1. Visit Mateo and McHale Shaw's Caring Bridge site; you can get to it here. You'll have to sign in, but that's not so hard, right?

2. Leave them a comment in the guest book wishing them "Merry Christmas," (or happy holidays, or whatever nice greeting you want.)

3. Post on your blog a link to that site and tell people why you did it.

4. Leave a comment on this blog and tell me where to find your link.

Once I get that comment here and verify your link, I'll put your name in a drawing and on December 26, the winner will get named and will have a little post-Christmas reward to look forward to.

Day One is here.

Day Two is here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

SUPERXmas! Day 2: Today, I dream big, and am then charitable.

As promised, I sat down last night to make a Christmas list with Sweetie, a part of our effort to this year ramp up our Holiday Cheer and turn it into


Before we could actually begin the Christmas Listing, though, there were delicate negotiations to go through. They went like this:

Sweetie: I'm not going to do it if you're just going to post on your blog what my Christmas list is.

Me: Why not?

Sweetie: Because.

Me: You know, I've considered doing a post I call "The Invisible Sweetie," to explain why you seem to be absent from things when you are not.
Sweetie held fast to her refusal to exchange Christmas lists unless I promised not to post her list, and I finally caved in, but I (secretly) held out for the right to eat the last of the leftover homemade Chex mix from Thanksgiving.

We had to wait until after the Babies! went to bed, and even then, things were not so smooth, as I had planned on making the lists downstairs at our kitchen table while Christmas music played in the background, but Sweetie thought we should do them upstairs in our bedroom, where there is no Christmas music at all, and also things did not go that smoothly because Mr Bunches and Mr F were watching "Cars 2" in their bedroom while they fell asleep, and by that I mean "Mr F was in the closet trying to go to sleep" because that's where he sleeps these days, and I also mean "Mr Bunches was repeatedly getting scared by Cars 2 and calling me in there."

The movie "Cars 2" scares Mr Bunches. We don't know why. He refused, at first, to watch it. Then he'd watch it, but only through his fingers or sitting in the hallway outside of his room. Last night, he asked me to put it in their DVD player so they could watch it while they fall asleep (it plays all night, actually) and I agreed, thinking he now liked the movie, but three times he called me in there to tuck him in again, because he got so scared he left his bed.

Finally, he settled down, but only after he got his Lightning McQueen and Mater cars from downstairs and took them to bed with him, probably as some sort of protective totem. Also, Sweetie tucked him in.

Then we sat down to create our Christmas lists. The rules were: You have to name 21 items.

"Why 21?" Sweetie asked.

"Because it's a good, high number that'll force you to put down a lot of stuff instead of just "sweaters," I said.

We didn't worry about price -- we both know we're not getting all of the things on our list -- because the idea was just to dream.

Remember when you were a kid, and you'd make out your Christmas list? We'd do that every year, waiting for the Sears and JCPenney catalogs to arrive so that we could look through them and decide what toys and games we wanted, circling them in the catalog and writing them on a list to give to our parents -- first, to give to Santa when we were littler, and then to our parents once we knew.

I believed in Santa until I was really too old to have still been believing in Santa -- I was about 10, if not a little older -- because I loved that part of Christmas, the part where you can get anything you want, just by saying you want it.

I know that's not the "True Meaning Of Christmas" or any of that garbage, but it's part of the wonder of Christmas, for kids: the idea that anything is possible, that simply wishing for something can make it happen.

As we get older, we lose that. As we get older, we stop thinking of what we want or would like and we start thinking about what we need -- I traditionally, now, ask for things like "work pants" and "sweaters," because I don't like clothes' shopping and prefer people give me those things as gifts. But a couple weeks ago, when I told Middle Daughter that's what I wanted, she said it was boring, and I thought: It IS boring.

It is. It's really boring, and why should Christmas be boring? Answer: It shouldn't.

So we decided to list 21 things we wanted, because that gets you outside of "ties" and "gloves" and makes you think of things you really want.

Which is harder than it looks, at least for me: I had to keep going and checking, online, the names of things I wanted, while Sweetie's list was done in no time.

Here is what I am allowed to show you of Sweetie's list:

We were using little post-it list-y notes, and that is Sweetie's actual Christmas list... turned over because you don't have the proper security clearances.

Here, then, is my list, which took me about 15 minutes to complete:

You'll see it was tough to come up with 21 different things I wanted -- Kindle Fire is on there twice, something Sweetie pointed out after I was finished and we'd traded lists.

And part of what took me so long was that I had to have the required level of specificity for some items, because I've learned in the past that I do not necessarily share the same tastes as Sweetie and the kids, especially when it comes to blue jeans: they get me trendy jeans with big wide cuffs that are too long and which I hate, whereas I prefer my jeans to be more 80s-style. And the sweater one is especially important. There are about 33 zillion kinds of sweaters out there, but I only like one particular kind of sweater, really, and it's okay to be picky when you're dreaming.

Sweetie and I have not yet finalized our Christmas shopping plans. Usually we set a budget for each other and decide how much we'll spend before I take the boys out and get her gifts, and she goes and gets mine. So for now, every single one of those items might be under the tree when I wake up on Christmas morning, and that is fun to think about.

And now, I would like to get serious for a moment: I have a rule: For every dollar I spend on something frivolous or unnecessary, I spend a dollar on some charity or worthy cause. And, having now set out 21 things that I, with my really-very-good-life still find myself wanting, I have decided that I will also get a present for some person out there in Internet world.

Usually I go get a gift from one of those Giving Trees or the like at the Mall, but this year, as I did my list, I remembered Mateo and McHale Shaw:

who for a long time were the focus of my charitable efforts. The Shaw twins, longtime readers will remember, were born conjoined and separated; given a very grim prognosis, they've made it through dozens of surgeries to thrive and recently started school; they're a little older than Mr F and Mr Bunches.

Their parents, Ryan and Angie Shaw, not only are raising those two boys (and their little brother Maddux) but also helped fundraise to build a handicapped-accessible playground near their house, which, frankly, makes me ashamed everytime I collapse into a chair at 8:30 and think how tired I am.

So I decided that this year, I'm going to get Mateo and McHale, and Maddux, each a Christmas present, and I've gone to their website at Caring Bridge to drop Ryan and Angie a note and ask them what the boys would want.

It'd be great if everyone who reads this stopped by, as well, just to tell them hello, and then mentioned and linked to their site on their own blog. You don't have to get them anything (although a donation or present would be great-er) but just go log in, tell them you said "Merry Christmas" and then put a link on your own website to ask your readers to do that, too.

And to help spur you on, if you do that, and leave me a comment showing me where you've linked to the Shaw's site, I will enter your name in a drawing for a $20 Amazon Gift Card. I'm going to make this offer every day between now and Christmas, so here's the rules:

1. Visit Mateo and McHale Shaw's Caring Bridge site; you can get to it here. You'll have to sign in, but that's not so hard, right?

2. Leave them a comment in the guest book wishing them "Merry Christmas," (or happy holidays, or whatever nice greeting you want.)

3. Post on your blog a link to that site and tell people why you did it.

4. Leave a comment on this blog and tell me where to find your link.

I'll draw the name on December 26, so you'll have a little post-Christmas reward to look forward to.

And that was DAY TWO of SUPERXmas!

Day One is here.

It's a trap! (I Get Paid For Doing This.)

When I got to work this morning and went into our kitchen -- because every good law office has a fully-functional kitchen -- to get a cup of the god-awful-but-it's-the-only-coffee-available-so-I-drink-it-anyway coffee, I saw this:

That is a cup of pre-poured coffee, labeled "Extra cup."

I'm no sucker. I left it there.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Two new reviews show why you should be reading my book, "Eclipse."

Okay, I'm not shy about promoting my books, but I usually don't devote a whole blog post to them. On the other hand, as Expert Critic Michael Offutt noted, I am reaching "internet saturation," which apparently doesn't refer to the fact that I spend 23 hours a day on the Internet.

Anyway, my book, "Eclipse" is the kind of mind-bending sci-fi story that Ray Bradbury would have written if he hadn't written all those other things he wrote. It's about Claudius, who may or may not have been the first man to reach the stars, and how he may or may not have committed murder once he did or did not get there. It begins with Claudius drifting helplessly through space, thinking back on how he arrived at that moment in his life.

People like this book. People love this book. The two newest reviews are out, and here's what they have to say:

From Author Clarissa Draper:

Wow, just wow. This short sci-fi/ horror is so different than I have ever read before. You never know what's real or what's not but you just don't care. The writing is terrific and you will think about the story long after you finish. It's one you could read over and over.
And from Author Rusty Webb

...I loved every moment of not knowing.... what it reveals is compelling, disturbing, and often contradictory. I've thought about this a lot after reading it.

...I've never finished a story that I found this disconcerting and still felt like it was this satisfying in the end. If you read, then you'll be sure to enjoy. Highly recommended, but put on your thinking caps.

You can buy Eclipse on your Kindle or ereader for just ninety-nine cents -- reading is a right, not a privilege, and I keep my books affordable -- or you can get the hard copy for just $8.95 on Amazon.

Thanks, Rusty and Clarissa -- and Michael and BJ Fraser, who previously gave the book good reviews -- and if you do read Eclipse, be sure and let me know.

SUPERXmas! Day One

You may recall a while back that I was engaging in some Christmas-related SCIENCE!

Note the was.

SCIENCE, 2! has died, killed off by Mr F's irrational hatred of tiny cans of dirt hidden in my desk; the last time we came down to my office on a Sunday, a little over a week ago, Mr F found the Poinsettia In A Can Of SCIENCE!!!?!! and dumped it out, a development that left me with mixed emotions because while I felt bad that Mr F had destroyed SCIENCE! and that I would not be growing any flowers in my desk, I felt pretty good about realizing that Mr F had superpowers and could, at any time, locate even a well-hidden tiny can of dirt, which you may say is a superpower of dubious utility, but who are you to judge? Do you have any superpowers?

I didn't think so. "Let he who has heat vision cast the first stone," as Jesus would have said if He read comic books.

The Death of SCIENCE! left me drifting aimlessly for a bit, until Sunday morning when I hit on a NEW thing that I could do instead of, you know, actually working, and that thing that I'm going to do is:


That took me thirteen hours. You can't tell from the screen capture, but I actually knitted that. (Is the past tense of knit "knitted?" It seems like it should just be knit, but I feel stupid saying "I knit that." English is dumb.)

(On another note, recently I confessed to Sweetie that I might like to learn to knit. Not because I want to actually knit something, but for the same reason I have, in the past, learned (or tried to learn) card tricks, juggling, ventriloquism, and the harmonica: To be able to say I can.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah:

Here's the idea behind SUPERXmas! Last year, I pointed out that Christmas didn't feel very Christmas-y, and that both Sweetie and I felt like something wasn't quite right about the holiday season. Eventually, I decided that I've Christmas-ified my life by doing holiday-ish things year round. Which is great, except that when the holiday season rolls around, it's hard to feel very Christmas-y without going that extra mile to up my game, play at the next level.

So what I decided yesterday was that this year, I'm going to have SUPERXmas! in that every day for the 28 days before Christmas, starting with yesterday, I'm going to do something Christmas-y just to make sure that I'm getting into the spirit of things.

So the first Christmas-y thing I did this year is Put Up The Yard Decorations Earlier Than Usual.

Well, actually, the first Christmas-y thing I did was eat some peanut butter cups:

Sweetie, getting into the spirit of things, bought some Christmas-themed peanut butter cups yesterday, and because they were Christmas-themed, I had to eat several of them before lunch because I was heading outside for the arduous, Christmas-y task of putting up our yard decorations.

Our yard decorations consist of four inflatable decorations and a light-up snowman. So on the surface, that doesn't sound difficult.

But then you see the yard decorations and how they were stored last year:

I'm not the most organized of people, and I had to take those down last December when it was freezing rain. That bundle is what resulted -- a mishmash of tangled snowman cords and reindeer and, as we'll see, a tropical bird.

Luckily, I had some help, in the form of Mr Bunches and Mr F. Here is Mr Bunches, who made a special trip to get the screwdriver he assumed we would be needing:

Mr F was not pictured there because for most of the beginning of this chore, Mr F was wandering around the yard trying to sneak off to play on the neighbor's deck, a place he loves to play on mostly because he's not allowed to play on the neighbor's deck at all. I have some rules, after all, and one of them is that you don't play on the neighbor's deck, mostly because while the neighbors probably wouldn't mind, it could conceivably cause me to have to talk to the neighbors and I don't want to do that.

With Mr Bunches' help -- he kept a good hold of the screwdriver -- we got the inflatables untangled and set out in what ultimately was hoped to be a decorative and festive arrangement, but which at first looked like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade had been shot down in my yard:

Having accomplished the hardest part of the task, we would have been done by lunch, but our productivity took a hit when it was decided, by a 2/3 vote, that we would play "Chase" around the house 10 times or so, with Mr F and Mr Bunches running around the path that circumnavigates our yard and climbing through the bushes, and me following them not out of any love of "Chase" but because if I don't supervise them they'll go off to the neighbor's deck and/or Sweetie will accuse me of not supervising them.

I finally ended the "Chase" game by telling them we had to finish decorating the yard for Christmas, at which point they pulled out the only Christmas decoration they love, the Singing Cookie Monster:

Singing Cookie Monster sings "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" but he substitutes "Me" for "We," and he sings "Blue Christmas," but in his version, he has a blue Christmas "without me cookie." Singing Cookie Monster is awesome, and he's also one of our few remaining Christmas decorations. The boys broke our Nativity scene, so we don't have that. But we do have a secular blue singing monster, which, if not exactly the Reason For The Season, is still pretty great.

Singing Cookie Monster sings loudly, so those songs were echoing around the street while I worked on staking the inflatables to the ground, something I usually do not do because ordinarily I am putting these things up about December 20 and it's snowy and cold and my main goal is to get them out there and say "There, I did it," but this year, I'm doing things right, so these things are staked and tied and ... well, there's no third thing. They're staked and tied up.

As I did that, Mr Bunches got bored with Singing Cookie Monster, and tried to get the sled out:

But he gave up when I pointed out that we'd need a little more snow than we had so far. He then went inside, leaving me and Mr F to finish up.

This is Mr F, finishing up:

He was making a break for the backyard and its path to the neighbors' deck.

But, after placing him under "Dad Arrest," in which he must remain within arm's reach of me, we managed to get our oldest and most-beloved (?) holiday decoration inflated:

That's "Pete, The Patriotic and Now Christmas-Y Parrot," and Pete is why you either really do or really don't want to be my neighbor: Way back when, Sweetie and I started trying to get holiday decorations, but we made it fun by getting ugly ones -- and Pete was originally my entry in the Fourth of July decorations; back then, Pete would get inflated for the Fourth of July and we'd put an American flag by him.

Pete now serves only at Christmas, joining the other three decorations as the Senior Inflatable in the yard. It wouldn't be Christmas without Pete The Patriotic and Now Christmas-Y Parrot. People actually slow down and stare at him as they go by, and most of those people are probably not circulating a petition to get me to move. Well, at least some of them probably are not.

Then Mr F and I managed to string together an unlikely collection of electric cords and power strips to get the rest of the inflatables going, including Giant Rudolph:

Mr Bunches, who doesn't know much about Rudolph yet, looked out the window and said "Giraffe," which, while technically incorrect, is a great idea, and I am going to be looking for a Christmas Giraffe inflatable to join Pete and the gang.

Here is the gang:

From left to right, that's: Pete, Tigger Who Never Quite Works, Mr F, Giant Rudolph, and the Three Drunken Reindeer -- the latter being three reindeer on a sleigh who appear, honestly, to be drunk. That is what you get when you pick up your holiday decorations in the discount aisle at Party City.

But look at the glee, and wonder, and holiday cheer, and mud, on Mr F's face! That's what it's all about.

Tomorrow: I reveal my and Sweetie's Christmas lists!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I get it: Cars break down. And when they do, you PUSH THEM THE #$*##&%$ OUT OF TRAFFIC. (This Is Why I Hate People)

From my morning commute not long ago. At this point in the road, there are three lanes of traffic. I was in the left lane, and didn't have a chance to get over before my lane stopped.

Over the course of ten minutes, I tried, using my blinker, to get into the right lane, as my lane remained mostly stopped and I had finally concluded that it wasn't simply traffic lights or people turning left.

Instead, as I got closer, I saw that there was a cab sitting off to the left, in rush hour traffic, apparently broken down.

It took me a full 15 minutes more before all the cars between me and the cab had been let into the center lane by jerk drivers who, seeing a blinker, decide that they're in no way going to be impeded, even by as little as two seconds in their own commute, and a full 15 minutes before the cab finally edged itself up onto the curb to get itself mostly out of traffic.

It's a double-whammy people hating: the cab driver for not just getting the thing out of rush hour, and the people who couldn't let in the line of cars that included me.