No, no, no, Millie is NOT our dog. We are not dog people, we are cat people. As much as I enjoyed spending time with Millie, she is still a dog who needs walks and poops outside of a box. Not for me. Chuck is so anti-dog that even being this cuddly with one was seen as adulterous.
This is Nan's dog (my sister-in-law). She loves Millie and they were made for each other.
Not but 30 minutes after I woke up, I found out Chuck was already cheating on me with a younger, lighter haired woman.
He was also cheating on Jack, which I think is the worst of it all.
They were so brazen in their love.
So open with it -- like it didn't even matter that their public display of affection may be hurtful.
Her name is Millie and she's a fabulous little wiener so I guess we'll just have to work through this.
I was told I was very tired ("You go nigh nigh now") and was pointed in the direction of where I needed to lay down. Then I had a bottle shoved with impressive force into my mouth. I was patted on the head and sung a lullaby, which (if you were wondering) was "Baby" by Justin Beiber. She was shocked I didn't actually fall asleep.
I also don't really remember why we did this.
I have a lot of questions. I have very few answers. Persmaps, you can try and make sense of it as you read it and then get back to me. K, thanks.
Ok, so because Shelley is "The Parent" PK said she needed to write Lucy the letter she would receive from Santa. I said that was Santa's job and then Chuck said we needed to have a talk.
Shelley and I went to the kitchen to sort this out. I convinced Shelley that writing the note on Dad's letter head didn't spell authentic. And then I said neither did the hotel note pad that Fe had tucked in the junk drawer. We came to an agreement on plain white printer paper.
It took Shelley a few tries to really disguise her handwriting, so there was a lot of laughing, a few out takes, and a little wet-tening. Plus, PK yelling that Lucy was a 2 year old, couldn't read, and wouldn't recognize Shelley's handwriting wasn't helping our cause. I told PK that Debbie Downer wasn't invited to Christmas and should leave, and then PK said we needed to have a talk.
I liked Shelley's death grip pencil hold.
I told her if she was in my first grade class we could fix that.
I have very little memory of the next steps in the Santa Letter. What I do know is that some time between writing the letter and putting it at the fire place, it was decided that the letter should be soaked in tea so it looks really old and then we'd burn the edges. Something about Santa having old paper, but I could be mistaken.
I really have no idea why we decided to do this, but we covered it in tea for about 2 hours.
I remember Shelley yelling something about how this was going to be a fun Lucy Christmas tradition (to have an old looking letter) and then Chuck saying that Santa didn't send his letter on the pony express and why was this necessary. "Dear Lucy," he said, "I hope this letter finds thee well."
We told Chuck that he could join the little black rain cloud club in the living room because we needed to burn the edges of the letter for authenticity. Then Fe said "No" Chuck needed to supervise the burning of the edges because apparently that guy gets a lot more credit around the house than Shelley and I do. For the record, between us sisters, we've only started one small fire in the house and the sister that started it [cough] Shelley [cough] put it out quickly.
Still, we apparently needed a parent chaperone and Chuck was deemed "parent".
I don't actually have any pictures of the burning part and I think that's a good thing. It tells me that I was actually paying attention to the burning paper I was holding and not on documenting it. I think this shows growth and maturity. Please note that.
You can sort of see the burnt letter in this picture taken when Lucy "discovered" her Santa presents.
Forgive the blurryness and generally crudiness of this picture (and all previous pictures in this post). I think you can see what the letter looked like.
Bottom line, I really don't know why we did this. Why did Lucy need a letter from Santa that looked like it traveled in a covered wagon or worse, the Mayflower? Did he need to tell us that Vixon died of dysentery, but that Ma and Pa send their love? These are all excellent questions.
This is what happens when you have a sister. It's called feeding off each other, things spiraling out of control, and any check and balance system that was in place becomes null and void from giggling and you end up with a letter to Santa that should have come on horse back.
And of course we will be doing this again next year.
We will ride this into the ground.
Chuck said I wasn't Lucy's Mom and could I give it a rest?
Lucy was set to get a fish from Santa.
The thinking was that Elmo has a fish (her name is Dorothy), so Lucy should have one to match. It was pretty solid logic considering Lucy thinks Elmo can do no wrong.
Shelley went to PetCo Christmas eve. She bought the food, the chlorine drops, the net. She bought a dinosaur themed tank (because why not?) and found a toy soldier in the clearance bin who was sans an arm. She decided it must have been bitten off by the dinosaurs so into the tank it went.
And she bought Dorothy.
She specified to the salesman that all she wanted was the most generic looking goldfish possible. Future planning in case Dorothy Number 1 goes to the great toilet in the sky sooner than expected. My sister is a genius.
Originally, Dorothy was hidden in the garage on Christmas Eve, but we decided it was too cold for her to sleep there, so Dorothy moved to the downstairs bathroom. The door was shut and Lucy only had about 15 minutes of awake left in her so we were fine. Emphasis on were.
Lucy was running the house wild after Christmas Eve dinner and then she went quiet. There's always the wonder of what they've gotten into when kids get too quiet. And she was quiet.
I went looking.
I found her.
She was locked in the bathroom. With what was supposed to be her Santa present Fish. Bummer.
I yelled for Shelley and once we persuaded Lucy to let us into the bathroom, we saw what had happened.
Lucy wasn't alone in the bathroom. Fe's cat Newman had pushed the door open and was sitting on the toilet wide eyed and bushy tailed, fixated on Dorothy. Newman had caused the problem. If Newman hadn't opened the door, Lucy would never have seen the fish. Newman!
Lucy was standing beside Newman and she was elated.
"MA!!!! Moonin got a fish!!!"
Oh, did Shelley and I die laughing.
Moonin (Newman) got a fish. And Lucy was so happy for Moonin. Pure joy. Moonin got a fish.
"Ma. Moonin got a fish and it's so pretty."
"No, Lucy. That fish isn't for Newman. It's for you. Where do you think the fish will live?"
"No, Lucy. Not Bubba's house."
"Yes, Lucy. This is Dorothy, just like Elmo has Dorothy. She's your fish. She'll go home with us."
I wish I could insert the squeels and "OH MY GOSH" (her favorite phrase) from almost 2 year old lips, but I can't recreate that in print. Just know it happened.
We moved Dorothy to the kitchen so Lucy could see her better and so we could supervise her seeing of Dorothy.
Absolutely taken by her.
"OH!" Lucy said. "I have to call Mommy and tell her."
Really? We all said. Because Mommy is standing right next to you.
"NO! I have to call her."
Fine. She called Mommy and told her about the fish. I'm pretty sure that since they were standing three feet apart and Shelley was on an '86 finger phone, that roaming charges don't apply. I could be wrong.
Then she dialed DadDad and MomMom and told them about the fish.
She hung up rather abruptly on MomMom and said she needed to call Bubba next.
Then she actually hit redial and called someone for reals and we took the phone.
It may not have gone exactly how Shelley and Santa had planned. But whatever. Because we had one happy girl in the end.
A lot can be said about my family. But more, a lot about me is better understood through my family. I tend to get more approval from people who know my family (any or all parts of my family) -- then they know who raised me, how I was raised, and can see that I was destined to turn out this way. This didn't happen on accident.
My family is 90% of the pieces to my puzzle.
So, this post (can you guess?), it's about my family.
Nothing is more family than Christmas card letters. And let's be honest here, these letters are both the greatest and worstest things imaginable. Of course they're necessary, and of course I love to get them, but for the most part, Christmas letters fall into 4 categories:
1. too long.
2. too boring.
3. too depressing.
4. too uplifting (no ones life can be that good - I smell hyperbole)
My parents are dedicated to a life long goal of never sending a bad letter. They take pride in their letter: they plant it, cultivate it, and send it into the world with love and care (and usually after Christmas - I love you, Fe.)
I thought I'd share my parents' Christmas Letter with you today because I'm a giver (duh) and because I think it's a nice change to hear from someone in my family (I think it helps). Plus, I think this letter is awesome. My Dad wrote it (and he's awesome) and I think he and I have a similar writing voice so, again with the whole "this helps fill in the puzzle pieces".
When you read the rest of this post and see "Susie" remember that I didn't write this and I'm not going 3rd person on you. Again, PK wrote it. And you can file this one under "reasons my Dad is fantastic" and "oh, this explains a lot".
(side note: My Dad does not call my Mom "Fe". That's Shelley and Me. Mom has a perfectly lovely first name, but Shelley and I decided on Fe a long time ago and I'd like to keep it that way. So I changed her name in Dad's letter. These kinds of things happen when you are retyping someone else's work...)
The 2010 Christmas Card Letter
Let's be honest. Cramming a year into a page or two just doesn't work. Here's a very small slice of 2010 -- 15 minutes in November: The making of the annual Christmas card picture. Our family...
So this is where it began. Susie's original idea was to have us posed as this scene from the greatest cinematic classic of our generation. She can Photoshop anything and also has a calloused disregard for copyright laws. Sadly, I get the Clark W. award for killing this as the family Christmas card photo. I know, I choked....but we moved on.
Here's the set up - Eric and Stacia came to visit and Susie NOW wants us to pose IN the pond in our backyard, Shelley is worried her child - who was photographed last year upside down - might drown, Chuck is Chuck and Lucy is wondering if CPS is on speed dial.
This pic is obviously wrong on many levels. Susie is setting the camera for Jason. Shelley moves in on Chuck. Chuck moves in on Eric. The 2 year old is the only one of task. Fe and Stacia have their eyes shut (hence the photo edit). I am checking my pulse.
So we are all crazy about Lucy. She's sort of our Groupon Baby -- you know, everybody gets in on a great deal. She deals with ponderous moments with 2 fingers in her mouth. Try it. She's on to something.
And what you need to know is that at this exact moment, Lucy was trying to figure out if Eric could be trusted. We are all playing Lucy. Eric is...well... Jason - our erstwhile photographer - darn near wet himself over this pic. Poor boy, he wasn't used to the fam...
Eventually, Lucy figured out that Eric was OK.
We took a ton of pictures - these are the tame ones! For the record, Fe doesn't really like the final picture because it's boring. Susie and Shelley were beautiful in virtually all shots, Fe, Stacia, and I took turns blinking, Chuck behaved and Newman (the cat) boycotted.
A day in the life.
I love everything about this year's letter.
We took our lives into our own hands and took the bus into Seattle. Fe loves the bus. I loves to humor her. In running (literally) from one bus to another we ended up in maybe not the greatest part of town at maybe not the best McDonald's for two suburban gals to grab a quick Happy Meal. We ate, faster than we've ever eaten before, and watched our transfer bus head into the sunset (not really, just down Pike) without us on it. Ten minutes of killing time on the sidewalk in still not the greatest part of town for a mother-daughter pair in matching boots, leggings, and black tees, but you know what? We made it.
We made it.
To our (oh, what did we decide Fe?) 15th Nutcracker performance by the PNB. I loved the Peacock best (I always do) and Fe did a lovely rendition of the lead ballerina in the Flower Waltz as we marched our way to the Monorail to meet The Gang (PK, Shell, Bubba and Lu) at our favorite restaurant.
Pretty much a perfect day with my perfect Fe.
Isn't that exactly what Christmas Break is all about? Perfect days with perfect Moms. Hope you get (or have gotten one) with yours too.
I'd like to share one of the most important of all our holiday traditions with you today. Settle in.
They're called Holiday Nails because you get your nails painted just before the holidays and then you have Holiday Nails. Simple enough, but definitely not to be confused with Birthday Nails, Wedding Nails, We're Going to The Mall Nails, We Just Feel Like It Nails or What Else Should We Do Today Nails.
Holiday Nails are like the Holy Grail of our Nail rituals throughout the year. We base the entire season on these nails. Oh, and PK has to pay for Holiday Nails otherwise they aren't Holiday Nails. Then they're just We Had To Pay, This Stinks Nails.
We decided, after much deliberation and a sister-club vote, it was time for Lucy to join us for Holiday Nails. It was a tough decision. Hanging chads. Recounts. But it came out in Lu's favor.
She was excited.
She knew this was huge.
She knew she was going to get "pretty nails" and get to be with the big girls. What more could she want out of life?
We picked a color for Lucy. Then we were told "No. I pick."
She went for a stunning shade of red.
A nail trim + the "oh my gosh what exactly are you doing to me" look kind of makes this one of my favorites.
And let the polishing begin.
Both Shelley and I ended up partially painted in the va-va-voom red because after each finger, Lucy announced "Now Sister's turn". "Now Mommy's turn". "Now Lucy's turn". It was actually the longest manicure in recorded history. A sun-dial could have timed this.
While Shelley works on getting Lucy's nails dry, why don't you just take a second and soak up that outfit. Black leggings in boots. A leopard print turtle neck with a fur vest. Top it all off with her chocolate brown leather jacket and I'd say it's a pretty typical Saturday with Lucy.
Slammin' comes to mind.
Holiday Nails on Lucy, well, I'd liken it to adding hair extensions to Samson. They only made her better, stronger.
Instantly, she went into dainty touching, holding, and doing anything and everything to show off her nails.
Including telling the nail technicians how to do their job.
Really, Lu? Because I'm pretty sure that Yo Gabba Gabba does not have a cosmetology episode so I'm not sure where you're getting your information.
I'm sorry, but look at the delicate hands holding the filing brick.
I mean, really? She definitely wasn't that dainty when she man-handled my cookie dough whilst rolling snicker doodles -- and by rolling, I mean flattening the balls that I formed.
It was just a banner day for Lucy altogether. Holiday Nails at their best.
How could you not just love Holiday Nails, a hot chocolate, and a day with the big girls? Especially when you have that face.
Some have what we call "card charts."
You start on green. With a warning you go to yellow. Then if you are being really, really, really naughty you go to red.
I remember the ol' name on the chalk board.
This would still be effective, if classrooms still had chalk boards (we don't have chalk boards or white boards where I live. We have 5 foot by 5 foot smart boards...another day, another time).
Some teachers count. "You're a 1". Then "you're a 2". Finally "you're a 3" and then that's usually a time out. Others have sticker charts and marbles jars and table points.
It's all about keeping the peace and making sure everybody knows where they stand (in school, we're all about constant feedback -- but then again, who isn't? I want to know when I doing something great. I also want to know when I'm doing something not-so-great.But more, I want this for Chuck.)
I've tried using a counting system with Chuck, but you can't actually make a 28 year old have a time out. I wanted to do a card system and make him change his card, but I'm lazy and pocket charts are surprisingly spendy. I really should think more about this once the holidays are over. We do have a chalk board now -- I could bring back the ol' "Chuck" with a check mark next to it.
For now, I've designed a holiday based behavior chart. This should at least carry us through to January. Or whenever I finally take my tree down.
The year we got married, I found the smallest, tiniest, least yucky blucky lovey dovey ornament possible to mark the occasion. What ultimately drove me to those ornaments is that you can separate them.
They don't always have to be lovey dovey.
When Chuck's on a "green" I can leave them like this. Together. Happy.
This is a good behavior day.
When Chuck's on "yellow", I move them apart for a warning.
For example, "Chuck, please do not build an 8 foot scratching post for our family room. Jack will be fine without it."
"Red card" is a more blatent back turn when behavior has gone completely out the window. "Chuck, you have now put an 8 foot scratching post in our family room. Do not even think about adding a platform to it. Again, Jack will be fine."
This is the next level after he completely disobeys me and I decide, finally, to do away with him.
And then I flee the country and avoid extradition.
It's really a simple behavior chart.
What's that I hear?
Oh it's the pitter-patter of 16 work free days.
No being bitter. Because really, have you spent the last 3 weeks with 18 six and seven year olds who are at the height (and sadly probably nearing the end) of their unwavering adoration of Santa Claus? Because until you have then you have no idea what I've been through and no right to judge my days off.
I'm a free woman. And it feels good.
(vacation always looks exceptional on me.)
Emergency. I need to make a change to my Christmas list. I'm sorry for the short notice. I want this:
Please Santa. Hurry.
ps. I will also need a divorce if you can secure this as my Christmas gift. Sorry to ask for two items. I'm not trying to be greedy. I'm just trying to secure what should rightfully be mine.
Then, she screamed when Bubba sat next to Santa (apparently, Santa is dangerous and shouldn't be near loved ones). She was in terrified sobs when Shelley relented and sat down next to the big guy. Absolute hysterics.
Then the Elf brought out a peppermint sucker and it was like it nothing had ever happened.
This is as good as we could do because someone is not a fan of being sans sucker around Santa. That sucker was the only thing getting her through and darn it, she was not about to part with it.
Love, Lu (also known as Lou while wearing the tux).
Anyways, Jack has upped his tree violation to DEFCON 5.
He shattered the angel. Well, the tree topper, in a blatant disregard for tree sanctity.
No, he did not scale the tree to get the topper (but it's still early in the season, so let's not put that past him...). I needed to do some adjustments, I set the topper down, and clearly (clearly) it had no business being on the ground and needed to be batted at and broken.
Please note the other two ornaments in the background that also had no right being on the tree either and were removed.
But I'm tired of the pictures.
Chuck and I don't really take great pictures together. A lot of it stems from his height issues. He doesn't really fit in a view finder. And if he does, then I'm cut off and, yadda yadda yadda, I just prefer to take then be taken (which is a devastating conclusion for a middle kid to come to).
And besides, who really wants to see yet another picture of us? Most of our friends are sending pictures of adorable babies and toddlers and we have another 43 years before that card goes out. I dunno (yep, dunno) why it seems weird to me anymore. Sending a picture of just us is starting to seem awkward.
Awkward led me to awkward family photos which led me to this:
Really, it was a logical step.
I've had a plethora of questions about this picture, not so much why (because it's expected) but how. Obviously, the tacky/amazing outfits were Value Village finds. Chuck is wearing his Waldo glasses and pants, and apparently my strong Bellevue upbringing carries into thrift store shopping -- the 2nd hand jacket is an old Nordstrom brand original. Holla. My skirt is also velvet, in case you were wondering.
Here is the original picture that my sister was lovingly forced into taking:
And then the photoshopping began. I've never done photoshop step by step so don't hold your breath. Mostly, this is just to show that this kind of awful perfection doesn't happen on accident...
I cropped the original to a 4x6, down to a managable area to mess with and destroy.
I used Photoshop Elements which is baby photoshop for $70. It's all you need unless you are an amazing photographer who does it for a living. Otherwise, own this. Put it on your xmas list.Next, I ran a Pioneer Woman action called Fresh and Clean. It's basically like running a macro. That didn't help did it? "Actions" are quick ways to edit pictures. Someone goes through and records all the steps to instantly clean a pictures and then lovingly shares it. This action brighten colors and softens skin. My heart beats for it.
I did some fancy, techy stuff next that I won't bore you with, like adjusting shadows and midtones to make everything perfect. Just know it happened.
Next, I wanted to blur the whole picture so it was soft and frosty. I overblurred it and then adjusted it back down until it looked horribly perfect.
I ran another PW action here: Lovely and Ethereal. It softens skin, adds a glows, and a bit of blur. It works great on babies, Lucys, and tacky xmas cards.
I also wanted the room to look more festive but at $8 a piece on Thanksgiving, I wasn't about to buy more poinsettias. So, I added more. Here, I selected the one.
And copied him to make two.
Two wasn't enough. So I copied the second one, flipped him vertically, and stuck him in front of me. 3 poinsettias for the price of one. Win.
I needed a little more tacky, so I selected the background behind us, and blurred only it. Nothing is tackier than blurred background that isn't naturally created. Trust me on this.
For the horrible feathered edges, I selected a frame around our picture, feathered it, and then deleted it to show the white background behind it.
Add a little text and now that is a Christmas Card picture that I can stand behind.
I would like to apologize, publicly, if any of the following pertains to you:
1. You love holiday sweaters.
2. You love feathered edges on photos.
3. You love over-processing.
Aside from that Merry Christmas from your favorite nerds.