Wednesday, December 28, 2005


It was the night before the night before Christmas ... and still some gift wrapping to do. Approximately all of it.

Actually wrapping  is the the easy part. Bringing them out of hiding  -- even finding them -- and then sorting them seems to have become very complicated. The whole Santa thing becomes more complex -- and will get more so -- as Benjamin gets older and more aware of what's going on.

Which presents are from Santa? Which from us? Which will be wrapped? Which will be in the stocking? Does Santa buy things or is everything made at his workshop? Because if it's the latter, then gifts with dead giveaways as to where they were purchased (irremovable price tags, etc.) must not be from Santa.

I don't know if it was during last year's or this years sorting deliberations when jealously first reared its ugly head. Jealousy of Santa Claus. I looked over my list of which presents I had allotted to us and which I had allotted to Santa, and ... Santa was giving way better  presents. That's easy for him to do. He's working with unlimited resources up there. Sure we could  have a higher income. I quit my job to stay home with Benjamin. My wife could have taken one of the high-paying job's in her profession requiring workaholic's hours, but found a more stable, not quite as lucrative one with manageable hours. Call them sacrifices; they're gifts.  Time with our child. You can't wrap that  in shiny red wrap and put it under the tree, but it's a huge gift. Where were YOU,  Santa, when all of those diapers needed to be changed? Didn't ever offer to use any of that fancy "magic" of yours to clean up even ONE  puke-stained sheet, did ya' pal?

Needless to say, the list was rearranged, so Mama & Dada gifts were at least  as impressive as the Santa gifts.

Logistical details continue to the very end: What plausible explanation could there be for Santa using the same kind of wrapping paper as we do? Not a problem: Santa uses different wrapping paper, purchased in advance, and hidden as carefully as the Santa gifts.

At our home, Santa has always brought gifts to the adults as well as to Benjamin. So all the above constraints must be must be applied to Santa's gifts to us, also. I had to ask my wife, does Santa just give adults gifts in their stockings, or also under the tree?

The actual wrapping is kind of relaxing after minding all these details. But then, dare I  wrap any of the Santa gifts? I'm not very neat, straight or dexterous. The elves, with their in-bred superior fine motor skills, their nimble little fingers, their centuries of experience: I can't compete with that! Perhaps, my wife could wrap the Santa gifts? Ohhh, but what about the ones for her?  Benjamin wouldn't notice a few imperfect wrap jobs, would he? Well, Santa must hire some new guys once in a while, to meet increasing demand? Maybe he's outsourcing ...

Saint Nicholas Day (December 6th), when he brings just a few little things for us and leaves them in our stockings or shoes, was a successful dry run, ... and still  all these complications.

It seems pretty suspicious that Santa leaves things in our stockings not only our house, but also at Grandma and Grandpa's house. And not only for the grandchildren and the parent that once lived in that home, but for in-laws too. I hope that doesn't cause any doubt, because I know there's no way Grandma's relinquishing her Santa privileges.

Then there's the scheduling. We are still developing our traditions here. My wife's family opened their presents on Christmas morning, but my family did it on Christmas Eve. (When did Santa come, though? I'm trying to recall. I think I was told to go up to my room for a while to rest or read or play, otherwise Santa wouldn't come if we were all hanging around in the living room. Pretty thin cover, now that I think of it! But I remember believing. Poor gullible sap.) Well, last year Santa came to our house while we were at church on Christmas Eve, and we opened them when we got back. It was much easier, however, to distract a 2-1/2 year-old from noticing that the presents are already in the nearly dark room under the tree, on the way out to church. So if we change it back to Christmas morning this year ... hmmm ... Well, Santa has a complicated schedule which changes every year: increased population, logistical improvements, weather, ... he could come any time, really.

Finally, there's the cookies and milk. (Yeah, we go all in.) They must be consumed with no evidence of mortal tampering. I can handle that.

The whole thing is a very delicate operation, and my wife will allow no cracks in the illusion. Her parents were rather sloppy about the Santa thing when she was young; disintegrated the fantasy a little too early, I guess. Her mom still is rather impulsive about the Santa talk. On Christmas day, it's like, "Now Santa told me that he had to buy that at Shopko and so if you don't like the color ..." And now that we have a kid who still believes, we're frantically trying to signal, "Shut up, Grandma! Little kids are credulous, but they're not idiots !" Of course, she oblivious. We're going to have to have a talk. (Yeah. That'll help.)

Well, at our place, once its been decided and done, Santa leaves a pretty nice trail of Christmas cheer. And he may keep doing it every year . . . so long as he knows his place.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Decisively in favor of reserving the right to be decisive some time in the future ... perhaps

Preface and Disclaimer: To appreciate this bit (maybe), you should know a couple of things.

I am not regarded as a male chauvinist. This fact, I hope, stands independently among those who know me. In addition, though, it may make some sense to you that when your job description has or does involve(d) routine changing of dirty dities, scrubbing the kitchen floor and hanging panty hose to dry, it is hard to be (or at least have credibility as) a chauvinist in any traditional sense.

You should further know that I am indecisive. (In my own defense, I prefer to think of it as meticulous consideration of all options.)

My wife and I were discussing something about Christmas plans regarding, in particular, my family (of origin). I was seeking her advice. She gave it. Then in my usual tiresome fashion I pointed out another factor that may change our course of action. She saw her out and took it, "Well, it's up to you. It's your family."

"I will  make the final decision, of course. I just want your opinion," I countered, reluctant to let her off without more ad nauseam  discourse on the matter. "I'm the man of the family, I'll make the decision whenever I want to . . . which is rarely," I firmly staked my claim.

My wife laughed. So I wrote it down. That's all I got.

For those of you who know me, you are not  invited to goad me, in my moments of weakness, saying, "Come on. You're the man of the house. Make a decision, now!"

It won't work anyway.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas Letter 2005

(abridged and adapted by the author)

Not much has happened to us this last year, so toward the end of this letter I’m just going to start making stuff up.

The cats have been horking up a lot of hairballs around the house. So we’d like pet stain remover for Christmas. Oh, those of you whom we’re going to hit up to adopt a couple of our cats, please disregard the last sentence. Those whom we plan to invite to our house in the upcoming year, please know that we have meticulously cleaned up all spots to date.

Benjamin is currently obsessed with (Australian children’s musicians and TV personalities) The Wiggles. He almost always refers to Jay as “Greg” and Rebecca as “Anthony,” and he usually answers only to “Dorothy the Dinosaur” (all Wiggles characters). Once in a while Benjamin rearranges the roles. I'm glad I don’t often have to be “Dorothy,” because it gets tiring speaking in an Australian falsetto all day. Don’t even ask about “Henry the Octopus.”

In addition to making “Fruit Salad (yummy, yummy),” serving “cold spaghetti, cold spaghetti” and other “Wiggly” househusbandly tasks, I've been spending a lot of time on my new hobby, cleaning up hairballs and other bodily waste. Not far off the topic, we attained a notable landmark this year: finally completing Benjamin’s potty training. Did I mention stain remover?

We are continuing the process of adopting our future daughter from China. We hope to travel next fall. (A specific child won’t be identified until a couple of months before that). Our most recent task in the process was getting fingerprinted for our immigration application at the U. S. Department of Homeland Security in Milwaukee. It’s very understandable. You’d be surprised how many couples smuggle in al-Qaeda operatives disguised as 1 year-old Chinese girls.

Shortly before that was our “Home Study”. It is a little strange to have a social worker interview you and come into your home to make sure you will be good parents, especially when you already are (parents, that is). Nevertheless, we didn’t get stressed out about it, except the inevitable scramble to make the house look like a dwelling of civilized people. Did I mention hairballs?

The home study went well. Of course, we tried to demonstrate how we’ve enriched Benjamin by having him show off. We asked him to tell the social worker what he would do if there was an emergency and he could not get an adult to help him. He said, “Call 911.” Fabulous. We continued, “What would you tell them?” His answer: “Me monkey. Me want banana.” He later vindicated us by spontaneously entering our phone number into a calculator and showing it to us all. Apparently, the social worker was impressed. The Chinese may not be as impressed, knowing, as well as anyone, that phones, not calculators, are for calling phone numbers and taking pictures and playing music and ….

My wife most likes her role as “Mama” — or “Anthony,” as the case may be. She still likes her job, too. One of the happier parts of her work is when she performs marriages. Well, usually happier. Recently she officiated at a wedding in which the bride happened to be Chinese. As happens at weddings, the bride began to cry. Well, my wife, already reminded of our daughter-to-be, started bawling along with her. (Mrs. OccupationDad had predicted she might not be as emotional with an adoption as during a pregnancy. Not so.) A simple explanation might have cleared things up, had the bride understood more English. As it was, she backed nervously toward the door, nodding politely, as if to hide what she was really thinking, “Please don’t hurt us, crazy lady.”

Well, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Oh, and the stuff about hairballs. I made it up.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Tooth Fairy

Our son is nowhere near tooth-shedding age. Nevertheless, the topic of teeth came up in a conversation between my son and wife. She was telling him how he would some day lose his "baby teeth" and so on. Then she told my son the story of the tooth fairy.

His response: "I don't like the sound of THAT."

Body parts falling out. Burying them in your bedding. A strange fairy coming into your house, sneaking right up to your bed to confiscate said parts. Dare we even ask for what morbid untold purpose?

That my wife (of course) told the story in much more traditional fashion charmed him naught.

I think he's on to something.

Yeah, you molar-obsessed pixie freak, you can keep your stinking 50 cents.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Peaceful Beauty of Heavy Equipment

This story: Is it testament to the likelihood that my son's inherited my family's compulsive tendencies? Is it testament to the possibility of the truth of my father-in-law's pronouncement (his hope?) (his prophecy?) that my son is "all boy"?

Spring 2005
Our son got very upset about something very minor — minor to the rational non-pre-schooler mind — and he couldn't seem to calm down for quite a while. The crying was becoming gagging, and one of us ran for a bucket. But he finally calmed down. It had been happening a fair amount lately.

We tried to be all proactive (read: we were ready to try anything) and start teaching him visualization therapy - lite. We explained to him that sometimes when we get upset, we try to think about something that makes us feel calm or happy, like, for example, the ocean. We elicited a few things he might want to try to think about. One was bunnies.

December 2005
My son was starting to use a testy tone to respond to a question I asked. He was acting like I was ordering him around (which I'm allowed to do, I'll have you know). I told him I was "just asking" and asked if he could calm down before he got himself or me or mama all upset.

"You like thinking about bunnies to make you feel calm," my wife added.

Our son responded in a dreamy voice, "No ... just street sweepers."

Back to Spring 2005 - Just before the previous flashback
Benjamin's been developing a lot of little phobias lately. They usually go away after a few days to a couple of weeks. Then, however, a new one will replace it. One of his latest is litter. If he sees litter, he wants to throw it away. Any litter. All litter. If litter is blowing away, he goes berserk, "GET it! GET IT!!" Crying, "No, someone else WON'T pick it up!!!"

The litter phobia gradually faded away, like a wrapper receding in the distance. But the hope and dream of a clean street never dies.

Street sweepers.

It's the circle of life.