Christmas 2013

Dear Friends and Family –
It is that time again … a time when we tell you everything that went wrong in our lives so that you can better appreciate the fullness and joy of your own lives. This idea was created by the highly unsociable Robb who infamously told me almost 15 years ago that people don’t want to read happy, cheery, “our lives are so awesome” letters from people. They want misery and suffering so …

Katie has trichotillomania, the uncontrollable urge to twist and pull her hair. This is the only explanation I can offer that we never got Katie’s graduation pictures done. She was too busy pulling and twisting her hair. She also got pulled over for talking on her cell phone while driving through a school zone while also trying to change from a pair of short to pants while driving and wonders why we didn’t let her take her car to college. She just put in an application at Texas A&M to drive the shuttle buses on and around campus with the goal of being able to “have the lives of young people in my tiny hands.” She’s excited about driving the bus so she can tell them to “drop it like it’s hot” and “take it to the curb.” We have no idea what her problem is.

About college, she also didn’t deem it necessary to check her status with the college until three days before school and was stunned to learn that she’d been listed as inactive and all her classes had been dropped, but this turned out to be a good thing when she was diagnosed with super mono, an enlarged liver, bleeding tonsils, and 104 degree fever but had to return to school because one professor was going to drop her. Ironically, it was her Hospitality professor. While recovering from mono, she had to come home and that was when I learned of her outstanding ticket she never paid. I swear, I can’t talk about her anymore or I’ll get mad all over again.

Tommy loved having her back home. We’d taken to watching “The Mentalist,” a TV show about catching a serial killer who always leaves a blood red smiley face above his victim’s body. When Katie could muster up the energy, she felt it necessary to put bloody red smiley face drawings in Tommy’s bathroom and over his bed while he slept. While he was sorry to see her go back to school, I think he sleeps better now.

And sleep Tommy does. He must be growing because he’s getting hairy, his voice is changing, and he sleeps hard. I got him a new alarm clock, even setting it for 5:44 a.m. for him. I asked if he liked the clock. Yes. But he had a problem with the 5:44 time. Why? Because if you add that all up it equals 13, his least favorite odd number but if it’s set at 5:38 a.m., it equals 16 which is double his favorite even number. Wha?? Yet, somehow, Tommy was accepted into Global High School, a STEM school, nationally ranked and super cool. His first day of school he went in, sat down and listened to half of roll call before he realized he was in the wrong class. “And you are …?” the teacher asked. “I’m the guy who isn’t supposed to be in this class, that’s who I am.”

Tommy Skyped for and did amazingly well. So poised.  He said he felt “accomplished” afterwards.  At the time, I was just a little shocked by the sudden deep voice. Twenty minutes later, he was dressed like a ninja and running through the house.

Kerri called from school rather upset. Jeb the Radical preacher (you can Google this freak) was on campus and cast an accusatory finger at her, telling the obey-rules-at-all-times, Kerri that she was going to hell, which I don’t know when she could since she’s busily making straight A’s. Then she had a hit and run on her car (but, fortunately, a lady in flip flops and a bucket of chicken under her arm saw and followed the guy who hit Kerri’s car) and got a summer job washing dogs which requires giving blueberry facials to little dogs, leaving her to believe maybe she was already in hell. Recently when she came home from Kyle’s (Kerri’s boyfriend), Robb gave her a “goodnight” kiss. After, she said, “I heard him sniffing my head. Why would he sniff my head?” That's just what he does, Kerri. I’m sure I’ve been sniffed, too. She also has an unusually small wind pipe and is always choking. We’ve learned to ignore her as long as she continues to flail her arms about. Flailing = still breathing.

Working over 100 hours a week and traveling so much, Robb was slowly losing his mind. He started cyber stalking some guy who called himself Stud Muffin, an avid Longhorn Fan, who made a comment about Texas A&M and Robb’s “lack of knowledge about football.”  Eyebrows up. Oh, boy. Robb soon had a following of fans as he daily humiliated this guy so much so that Muffin Man deleted his posts. Robb is very pleased with himself. Meantime, Muffin Top needs therapy. When Muffin Man announced he was signing off with a “good buy,” Robb could NOT even let that “buy” go by. Much of the anti-Muffin Man went down while we were living in a hotel for over two agonizing weeks after we sold our house (please note new mailing address!). Missing paperwork for the house we bought landed us in a hotel. Day 10 in hotel, I came in to find Robb and Tommy squared off on bed, having a contest to see who could stuff the most crackers in his mouth. We ate out at All You Can Eat Buffets and learned that Robb was once banned from an all-you-can-eat. It made so much sense. Day 14: “Robb! It is important that you know we’re not going anywhere! We are going to die in this hotel!”

Only the Muffin Man – and wherever you are, Muffin Man, thank you! – kept Robb sane as our room was also his office. I feel a little pity for Muffin Man. I was a Gingerbread Cookie Man once. My sole purpose was to walk around, pose for pictures with children and bring cheer. But with my giant head -- an impressive circumference of 36" -- and size 22 cookie man feet all I managed to do was reign terror in a shopping mall. Sounds of gasps and screams filled the area as witness upon witness watched helplessly as the Gingerbread Cookie Man, for reasons no one could understand, began mauling and pawing at people on the escalator. But I digress.

While house hunting, we amused our realtor “Sarah P Sells Houses” greatly. I’d warned her that Robb wasn’t going to be easy, and he didn’t let me down! When we finally settled on a house, she said we could totally be a new reality TV Show “The Allreds Buy a House.” I’m not sure how she meant that. Turns out our house has a terrible history to it that involves an attempted murder victim and a “hermit.” So, it’s perfect for us although Robb keeps scowling and saying, “I’m not an in-town kind of guy.” There were a few more failed attempts to promote books on TV, including reality TV. A producer from a VERY popular and current talk show told me to LIE on national TV, leaving me to conclude that all reality TV is full of liars. I did get to go to the Sydney Book Festival. Sidenote: Later, when I questioned the wisdom of people allowing me to do a back flip into the Sydney Harbor because it turns out there are sharks in there and I came out bleeding, I got back, “Excuse me, did you not see the crying child or hear the woman who said, ‘Hey, I think there are sharks in there?’” Well. No. I was too busy preparing my super awesome flip.

One good thing: DAMAGED GOODS is being made into a movie with an L.A. screenwriter.
Now, I just have to find someone who will let me burn down their barn …

Our new house has an intercom system. It is an intercom system that, unbeknownst to us, allowed our neighbors to hear such terms of endearment as, “Hey, idiots! Dinner time” and “please drag your sorry carcass down here to clean up your mess, you filthy goat!” Now Mr. Privacy is even less of an in-town kind of guy. But he did enter a beard growing contest at work and while our neighbors are slightly horrified, we think he’s winning! Neighbors think the “hermit” is back! He continues his hatred of all things lovely and nice like candles and neighborhood children.

For those who have read our letters in the past, you know how miserable each family vacation is but with Robb unable to get away, Michelle and I took the kids to Galveston Beach for rest and relaxation. Katie pretended to burst into tears, saying “You mean, this is what a vacation really is?” No climbing mountains, no hiking through hostile terrain, no soggy bologna sandwiches during interminable car rides across country?  We really get to stay in a nice hotel and go to the beach or lie by the pool all day? SOB!  Then Kerri and Tommy got miserably sunburned and Michelle’s face swelled up like it had been stung by jellyfish. We got our palms read by a fortune teller and she told puffy-faced Michelle that she has “darkness hanging over her.” You’re a day late, lady. A day late.

After we moved into the house, Sadie – our 10-year-old Rottie-cattle dog mix – nearly died. She had to get a blood transfusion from a Great Dane. Pete, our 13-year-old lab, is going blind and deaf. I got my hair cut by an 8 year old. I don’t recommend this unless you really don’t care about things like “head” and “symmetry” never being used in the same sentence. I got horrible nose bleeds – one so bad I desperately wanted to be pulled over by police because it would be so much fun to see the horror on the officer with blood all over my face and chest. I tore the ligaments in my ankle. Thank goodness I have a great vet who lets me stick my foot into the x-ray machine along with animals to see if or when things are broken. Side note: vets go to medical school way longer than human doctors. Therefore, they are also way better (and cheaper)!

Robb pulled out his knife in church. So Tommy pulled out his. So Katie pulled out hers, and so Kerri pulled out hers. Why is my family armed in church?

Robb went backpacking, came back and tried to shave a lightning bolt into his beard to make Katie laugh, forgot about it and went to church. Because our house sat empty for a few years, the fuse to the heater was fried. This was not discovered until it was 28 degrees outside. We would get in the car just to have heat but even after we got it fixed, Robb wanted to keep the heat off just to see how much we could endure. Even then, Tommy refused to wear pants, only wearing his Bermuda shorts and t-shirts. He wants to see how much he can endure. I swear … I do not know how much more of this I can endure.

On a more somber note, my beloved Sammy was put down this year and he was the greatest horse ever! His death officially put me out of the horse business – heart can’t take it. I will close with this year’s texts I have received thus far from my college students mere minutes before class is to begin:

Ten Top Reasons “I Can’t Make Class Today Because…”

10.  I don’t know where my car is
9.      I have a bladder infection
8.      I have bumps on my elbow
7.      My biology instructor is insane
6.      My mom busted her toe
5.      I can’t roll up my window
4.   I will not be in class today. My kickbox instructor held us over …
          (this was a super interesting text as I am that instructor so I waited)
    3.   Several minutes later: Oh. Sorry!  Lol. Wrong number. I don’t feel well.
    2.   I forgot where I was supposed to be.

And the winner …

1.      You and I both know I have no business being in that room.

I actually gave that #1 student an excused absence because, frankly, there have been multiple occasions this past year in which we’ve all been in a room where we had no business being. Here’s hoping 2014 runs a little more smoothly …


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