Christmas 2009

Dear Friends and Family –

It’s that time of year again …If you’ve never received a holiday letter from us before, the rules are this: In the spirit of giving, we won’t tell you how amazing and perfect our lives are (as this would be a complete work of fiction) but we will make you feel so much better about your lives by relaying the bad, the ugly, the disturbing.

We decided to wait until the U.S. housing market hit an all time low before trying to sell our house. Next, we set up a schedule so that with our own insane schedule we would have to be out of the house at a moment’s notice or what seemed to be when the house was always in chaos. About this same time, Robb began growing out some weird beard that made him look like a Puritan because, I later found out from a friend, he knew it was driving me crazy.

Robb never quite got the concept of selling a house. It was very annoying to him that people would call and actually want to see the house … without him skulking about with his brooding manner and strange beard. After six months of driving dogs around in the car when people came to look at the house (I was starting to cough up hairballs) and Kerri’s senior year of high school approaching, we pulled the For Sale sign. In hindsight, we probably should have removed Tommy’s arsenal of hand grenades and his hand drawn maps of his taking over the world before putting the house on the market.

Tommy was attacked by a pit bull. An infection set in and he had to be transported by ambulance to Children’s Hospital where Tommy was given a bed with its own television remote attached to the bed! By Tommy’s standards, the attack was almost worth it. Another cool offshoot of the dog attack is that when Lego found out that while a pit bull was busily tearing open Tommy’s arm, he refused to set down his Lego helicopter he’d just completed, Lego sent Tommy the super deluxe Star Wars Battleship model. Lego – you rock!

On the downside, while we were in the Emergency Room for the second time, Tommy and I were on a gurney awaiting the ambulance. The place was packed so we’d been left in the hallway when an enormously large, hairy man in a bathing suit was brought in. He was parked just in front of us. There was some story about him falling into a pool and having to be fished out. Tommy and I stared - transfixed by Sasquatch. I’d never seen so much hair on a human body and as I sat pondering his exact DNA, Tommy spoke. “When I grow up,” he said. “I am never going to shave.”  Huh?

We went paintballing and it turned violent. Michelle got shot in the mouth by Tommy and could not fully formulate the words, “I’m hit” so I shot her in the ribs. Tommy shot me at very close range in the ear so I shot him in the ribcage. Tommy is 10. I feel no remorse. Kerri was shot in the belly button which, from what I’m told, is very painful.

Katie and Tommy like to pretend they’re vomiting but because that is insufficiently disgusting and disturbing, Katie also likes to pretend she is a dog and hikes her leg on things. She is 14. Meanwhile Kerri had her first boyfriend – which was troublesome to her because he actually wanted to hold her hand. On the other hand, we’re not worried about Katie acquiring a boyfriend any time soon.

I woke Katie early one morning and she said, “Show thyself the door, ye wench.” When I walked into the kitchen, I found Tommy’s head in his bowl. No spoon. “Buddy! Use a spoon!” to which he replied, “We don’t have those where I come from!” When did we become pirates?

I helpfully suggested to Robb that he might want to trim up his eyebrows so he decided to shave them himself. It was pretty hard to keep a straight face when he came in the room and asked if I noticed anything different. Other than not having any eyebrows? Mostly, he just looked really surprised for a couple of weeks.

I tried to help Robb with buying new shirts which was very difficult as – apparently – all the shirts are “gay,” making it a challenge to find a shirt that will not result in him accusing me of trying to emasculate him. I know it’s not PC to use words such as “gay” but with Robb it really is okay as he is equally prejudiced against all groups of all people everywhere. He now includes anyone who sits in a coffee shop, reads the New York Times or likes to dance. No one likes to dance, he says. 

I testified before the EPA in Washington D.C. and the Katies (Katie with friend, Katie Bates) were dressed up as “cement stacks,” giving new meaning to the term “cotton mouth,” as the cotton “steam” from the stacks kept going on their mouths. People were taking pictures of the girls and they were a huge hit! We went into the offices of Senators John McCain, John Kerry, and Kay Bailey Hutchison, to name a few and were all over the U.S. House of Representatives (up and down the stairs and massive corridors), but what impressed the Katies the most was the cafeteria below the Senate Buildings.  Sheesh.

Kerri finally got her driver’s license and was never nervous for one second .. that is until it was time to sign her license in which she promptly messed up her own name.  Yes, her official license has a scribble on it. I followed her to school for almost two months and am proud to say she had up to a half-mile long stream of frustrated drivers behind her as she drove 10 mph under the speed limit.

Only days earlier, I was driving Kerri and lecturing her on the importance of keeping “eyes on the road!” – okay, so technically I was not watching the road when WHAP! This oversized raccoon committed racoonacide. I never saw him! Kerri threw her hands up to her face and screamed, unable to speak for some time.  It was horrible and I felt so bad but I rallied. “You see what happens when you don’t pay attention, Kerri!? Raccoons die!”

In other bad animal news – the owl is back. He’s looking meaner and leaner than ever and with a hard winter approaching, I know he’s eyeing our cats again. We can shoo away ferrel cats, shoot BB guns at coyotes or run over raccoons but how can you manage a hungry owl eyeing your cat? I decided to flip this around, appealing to the cats.  “You are NOBODY’S dinner!” I massaged Little Dude’s shoulders.  “You bring dead animals to me.  You run this place! You eat birds! They don’t eat you! Got that?”

Katie has entered a new phase in which she pretends to be dead – eyes open, sprawled out.  So, each time I enter a room, there she is.  I don’t mean 3 or 4 or 40 times.  Every time I come through a room, she is there – sprawled out on the island in the kitchen, across my bed, on the floor in the hallway, on the floor of the gym where I teach kickbox. I can’t imagine what it must have looked like to the woman on the elliptical machine when I walked in the aerobics room, put down some weights and left, never acknowledging the dead body on the floor.

Elbows out, hunched over her plate, Katie eats like a crazed hockey player. This, combined with the strange blend of a Southern/French accent she now affects all the time (when she’s not dead on the floor), has led me to the conclusion that she really does need to go to charm school. At the same time she is trying to convince me that she can act ladylike and does have manners, repeating French phrases to me.  So, after hearing the same one over and over again, I asked what “J'aime beaucour a la pét!” means.  Katie smiled, “Doesn’t that sound so elegant? It means, ‘I like to fart’.”  Oh, yeah… charm school, here we come.

Tommy keeps taking my stuff and tries to sell it back to me. How does he think it fair that I buy back a skillet??

I’ve complained of this before, but this year I really mean it … our ‘vacations by Robb’ need a serious overhaul. If we’re not experiencing altitude sickness, sleeping outside slaughter houses or having to rotate shower days for everyone, we’re enduring long-term kidney damage. Our last trip to Wyoming had me heading into town so I could find a toilet.  Kerri ran at me.  “Where are you going?” When she learned that she could use a gas station bathroom, she was elated! “I’ve been holding it for two days!!! Please! Take me with you!” When an Exxon potty looks good to you, you need to reprioritize.

Then again, Robb and his brother Pat excitedly headed off for elk hunting at an altitude of 13,000 feet. To be safe, he had cotton balls and petroleum should he need an emergency igniter in the event of extreme, blizzard conditions and … this is fun? In the news, some Miami youths broke into a home, beat and raped the homeowner and doused her and her young son with chemicals. The only reason they did not set the two on fire was because, they admitted, they couldn’t find a match. Because our prisons are overcrowded and there appears to be no hope of real reform anyway, why can’t we just send these kinds of criminals off to the mountains with Robb?  Robb, the thugs, some cotton balls/petroleum, a sleeping bag designed to handle subzero conditions, and one extra pair of socks.  Robb would LOVE it, the youths would either die or come out better men, and I could head to the beach for vacation (with bathrooms!)

Recently, a bunch of us entered the Muddy Buddy race, which was a 6 mile race with an obstacle course and a mud bath that you have to crawl through in the end. Extreme muddiness is guaranteed. To be safe, I wore Robb’s underwear because mine are too nice to ruin.  Sure enough, I had sludge, mud and rocks in my drawers and threw out his Fruit of the Yucks before he ever saw them. Kerri and her buddy, Cheyenne, won 1st in their division while Michelle and I (with a combined age of 90) beat out Katie and her buddy, Macy (c.a. 28) and you better know we are not letting Katie live that down!

Robb says he wants to die a violent death. Also, he wants all the trash talking he’s done on Fantasy Football to be properly documented so that it can be fully known that he is, in fact, the greatest trash talker of all time.

While Kerri continues her passion for music, playing the fiddle, classical violin, piano, mandolin and viola, we have desperately tried to garner that same interest in Tommy and Katie. Finally, we enrolled them in violin lessons together during which they spend much of their time giggling but at least they are having fun.  Still, we worry about their poor instructor.  What kind of headaches must he have??

One day we drove by a neighbor’s house who had tied a donkey and a cow together. There is a Future Farmers of America reason for this but at the time I asked Katie, “Geez, what kind of conversations are those two having?” Katie didn’t miss a beat. “You’re such a cow…Well, you don’t have to be an ass.” She may not have a career in music, but she is definitely headed for the stage. While making their Christmas lists, I heard Kerri and Katie berating their little brother.  I came into the kitchen.  “Whoa. He can write whatever he wants… he may not get it but that’s the fun of Christmas.” Kerri rolled her eyes.  “Momma, he’s asking for better a banking interest!”

Finally, an ode to our Shep/Boxer mix, Nala. After 12+ years, her hips gave out on her and before the pain was too much, we put her down. After Tommy was born, she became his watchdog, and when I would not immediately respond to his cries, she would punish me by not allowing me to touch her for a day or so. She will forever be remembered as the softest-furred, sweetest-natured, thumpingest-tailed pup in the world! Heaven just got a little bit softer!


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