It’s that time again when letters of holiday cheer travel the world to friends and family with tidbits of good news and morsels of triumphs and jubilation. Yeah … well… not here. We could tell you all the wonderful and cool things that happened but why? What’s the point? The economy is in the toilet, we’re all getting older (or fatter) and no one really wants to hear how great another person’s kid is doing. At least, this has always been Robb’s contention and so, in honor of his holy grumpiness, we submit the anti-holiday letter.
Following last year’s marathon that we ran, in which a man urinated on Kerri during the race but I didn’t believe that a man would actually urinate upon another runner and had her sit in really strong-man urine for longer than I’d care to admit, Katie had her face removed in a complicated surgery that involved a plastic surgeon, a neurologist and Ear/Nose/Throat specialist to remove a tumor that left her with staples that literally went ear to ear across her skull but she stoically rallied (although she didn’t have eyebrow control for six months) which is better than how Robb handled smacking his shinbone into a trunk at the foot of our bed. His version of the story that I purposefully “hid” his pillow and then placed a trunk in his way so that he could maim himself is true when I fiendishly placed the trunk there EIGHT years ago! While flipping channels (something he does so often that he even forgets what he was originally watching), just a 30 second viewing of Sylvestor Stallone spells doom for the family. For the next 24 hours he walks around in his best slack-jawed, droopy-eyed Rocky Balboa, mumbling. NO ONE CAN UNDERSTAND HIM! And if he happens upon Patrick Swayze or Steven Seagall movie, it is all over! There is no peace for days! I think the voices in his head are what prevent him from being a fully functioning person. We are coming on 20 years of marriage and I think I would make an excellent hostage negotiator.
Phone rings and Robb asks who it is and I say its Kerri, that she needs something to be dropped off to school and as I leave I say, “Okay, see ya in a little bit.” Robb says, “Okay, then.” But after I left he walked around the entire house calling my name, having no idea that I’d left. Later, I expressed concern over this … how many times can we go through this? He says, “Welcome to my early senility. I’m not going to suffer alone!”
I have to smell everything for him. He will pull out some dirty jeans from the dirty clothes. “Smell these. I just want to know if they stink.” They stink! I don’t have to smell them … yet, he will insist that I smell his sweaty hat, his pants, things from the fridge that look suspect. We went to lunch and he saw some guys who looked like they just got off the oilrig and Robb said, “I wish I had that kind of job but instead, I sit at my computer like a girl!” So, he counters this by trying to see how long he can go without taking a shower and … I’m supposed to be thrilled that he works from home so we can have “we” time.
In preparation of Katie getting a phone, we got unlimited texting. This may have been a mistake.
Katie: Do we have binoculars? Alex: Yes. Why? Katie: Just wondering. Do we also have a ski mask, walkie talkies, some rope and duck tape? Alex: Ummm
I’m at lunch with friends when Robb sends a text:
Robb: If you don’t come home without a Diet Dr. Pepper, you better bring some friends as back up.
That same day from Katie:
Katie: After track today I want to come home to a steamy delicious meal. That means you have 3 hours. Make it good.
I don’t respond and get:
Katie: You did not respond to my first text about food. Since you’re not replying back we can only assume that you’re too busy making our delectable welcome home lunch. Carry on.
Still later, and this really is my fault because I left Robb alone with his own thoughts:
Robb: Cup – be on the lookout for a sister-wife. Don’t be too quick to poo-poo it. Think of all the advantages. I’ll send you my requirements later.
Robb: I’ll assume since you’ve not yet responded that you’ve already taken up the search. Please send pictures of any likely candidates.
Alex: That is so funny because I did find a brother/husband. He actually picks up after himself, fixed the toilet and the light in the closet and cleans the kitchen.
I did not hear back.
Katie didn’t click over when the phone beeped despite the fact I was supposed to be on a radio station in L.A. for a book promotion, we hit an owl (who hits an owl?), Tommy charges me a quarter every time I swear, dammit, and despite Robb’s warnings about feeding a stray we fed her and now we have three cats in the garage and three more lingering around the house. It was kind of eerie for a while there. After a six mile run, Michelle and I were poisoned at Schlotzsky’s – the tip off should have been all the dying (legs still kicking) crickets all over the floor (they’d obviously sprayed that morning) but we were starved and decided to order a pesticide sandwich anyway. Robb and I got a call from the Amazing Race folks and they actually wanted to see a videotape of us. Our application was “funny” and “exciting” but he was incredibly difficult to film. NO ONE COULD UNDERSTAND HIM! But then I was invited on to a reality show in New Jersey about dresses based on the fact that I never wear dresses. This would mean I, along with Kerri, Michelle and Jill Dunegan, would be caught in a freak blizzard, spend the night with a stranger in a hotel and eat popcorn that came from her suitcase before going on national tv in a big purple dress (check listings for the new season of Jersey Couture on the Oxygen Channel in January ’12!) and flew to New York to do a commercial for clean air. In a moment of weakness, I ate a tiny $18 bag of baked chips from my $600/night room. How do I explain THAT to the sponsor picking up the tab?!?
In preparation of Katie getting her license, Robb set out to find the worst car he could find her. He would actually sit at his desk, perusing Craig’s List and chuckle at the thought of putting “princess” in some of the heaps of junk of sale! While learning she took out a sign, drove into oncoming traffic and horrified countless other drivers yet still proclaimed, “I drive like a boss!” Finally, I said, “I don’t think “boss” means what you think it means.” I ask Tommy to take a shower and somehow this translated into ‘go in your room and padlock a Nerf gun to your pants.’ His assault on my washing machine continues. Kerri secretly replaced her contact name in a friend’s phone so when it rang it showed that DEATH was calling. I found myself saying things I never thought I would say like, “Katie, don’t sit on your brother’s chest, he has asthma! Sit on his legs.” OR “Kerri, don’t spray the Windex bottle in your brother’s mouth. It’s a brand new bottle.” OR “Boy, our donkey sure is loud!”
Robb said the word “swag” and Katie was horrified. As she was explaining to him why he must never use that word again, I laid it out more simply. “You’re not cool anymore.” What? Since when? “Since you got teenage daughters.” But this was unacceptable to Robb. He is, he insists, the coolest man alive. Nope – Katie said only cool people can say that word and when Robb asked who was cool enough to say “Swag,” she said her friend because he once got chased by the police. Robb said, “That’s it? He got chased by the police so now he can say swag?!” He couldn’t let it drop and later that night he said, “If being chased by the police qualifies you as cool then I’m the coolest sonofabitch she’ll ever meet!” (Quarter!) He’s really cool since he once hid from the po-po when they were looking for him but she doesn’t need to know that level of coolness.
Sadie escaped and mauled a neighbor’s cat and once again we couldn’t sell our house but the good news is that there was a huge chemical fire to compound our already bad air and despite the fact that the EPA said everyone was “okay”, we have since learned that fish dying in local ponds and streams have opened up a criminal investigation. We went on our infamous Allred vacation, this time going more exotic. People were very excited for us when they learned we were going to Belize. The beautiful beaches, the sand and sunshine… yeah. No. We went into the jungles and Katie declared this was it. She’s “done” going on our “vacations.” They are not vacation they are adventures! Okay sure, Tommy ran across the border without military escorts and went into Guatemala, Kerri fell off the edge of a waterfall, we were eaten alive in the jungle, Tommy managed to tick off particularly vicious military ants, there no AC, treacherous rocks nearly killed our rental car, we kept the kids close due to all the child trafficking billboards, we may have eaten cat and we’re very confident we ate dog but … Katie is such a baby!
Sammy did something to his leg – no one knows what – managed to colic in the middle of the night so that Robb and I could only watch him roll in agony at 3 a.m. while the equine vet on call had her fax line on. When Sammy rolled head-first into our little pond, I got to sit on the ground in the freezing cold, half in mud with Sam’s head on my lap to keep him from drowning. The upshot was meeting Dr. Tony Ellis, an amazing equine vet and Sammy eventually went to live with him. Now when the Ellises travel, I go to their house and care for their mini-farm. Once when Corky, one of their dogs, escaped and de-feathered Lory’s prize rooster, Rubin, she brought him in the house to cool down and she made him scrambled eggs. She says it makes Rubin feel better but I’m pretty sure that’s avian cannibalism. I also read to their chickens and 100 baby chicks that the Ellis boys had for an FFA project. There was no de-feathering involved. They would gather around me while I read/edited my book and occasionally pecked at my chair. Everyone’s a critic. Life is good if you’re going to be an Ellis chicken, unless, of course, you’re a “burner” chicken. Apparently, this means you get cooked right before thanksgiving. I’m pretty sure I ate one of the chickens I read to. Sometimes Kerri likes to go over to the Ellises and get knocked unconscious by Sammy. It’s okay though because when we fracture our bodies, Dr. Ellis has agreed to let us stand next to Sammy and the x-ray machine for a two-for-one deal. Next time he x-ray’s Sam’ leg, I’m going to stick in my broken toe.
Let us now ponder the wisdom behind purchasing a semi-automatic air soft weapon that has now made Tommy’s antics legendary in the halls of Frank Seale Middle School. It has a sniper scope! When he comes home from school, he runs through the house, out the back door and begins furiously digging his foxholes in the back yard. Apparently, I’ve been in his cross-hairs more than I ever want to know. It took me exactly one day to destroy Kerri’s laptop after I destroyed my own – I think I have a kind of electricity that comes out of me and ruins appliances. Katie has some new obsession with expiration dates on food. While eating his elk summer sausage, she mistakenly asked Robb what the expiration date was and he said, “Pretty fresh! As of two weeks ago it was frolicking on the open plains!” Daddeeeeee!
Still writing for almost no money. When I do phone interviews, the kids have taken to writing me notes. I’m talking to a US Representative and get a note: “Nod your head if you want him to go or shake your head if you don’t mind.“ What?? Who is he? And what am I supposed to mind? When I went to D.C. to be an Air Ambassador and cornered a White House representative at the elevator (I really did …and it got Tommy’s book on the White House website), I later found a note in my bag. “I will destroy you.” Oh, dear.
After great teenage angst, Kerri decided upon Texas A&M, made the university’s orchestra and I drove her up for student conference and to look around. While there, I got a parking ticket on campus, then got towed away by a lying, fat-cow, had to pay almost $200 and went into a mild rage in which I flipped off the lyin’ cow-lady’s co-worker because I always try to be an excellent role model for my children. Kerri clapped her hands with glee. “Can I do that, too?” Sigh. Pretty sure I owe another quarter. Pretty sure I owe a LOT of quarters.