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Based on the high rate of return on his annual submission to Santa Claus, Slim has decided to write a letter to the Easter Bunny this year, as well.
Slim is copying down on to his list each name from his Star Wars: The Clone Wars Character Encyclopedia, excluding , of course, the couple hundred action figures he already has in his collection.
At the rate he is adding items, and with a little over a week still remaining until Easter, Slim’s voluminous composition has the potential to make the Unabomber’s manifesto look like a sticky note grocery list.
The Mini Jedi is attacking this task with a focus and drive that would make Yoda proud. He works on his letter every chance he gets, from the time he is slurping down his Cinnamon Toasters in the morning until just before bedtime when he is supposed to be brushing his teeth. I’ve actually found him out of bed during the middle of the night feverishly scrawling away. And eating pudding.
The boy is on a mission.
Here is what he has written so far:
How awesome is that?
I’m sure when he gets down to three hundred or so he’ll throw in “world peace” and “something nice for my brothers and sister so they won’t bother me with my new Star Wars stuff.”
And chances are the Easter Bunny will leave Slim one item from his list, if for no other reason than to reward his dedication, which will likely lead to letters for other holidays, as well.
I can’t wait to read his Mother’s Day manifesto.
The Hellcat is really feeling the Christmas spirit. She has given me no less than 25 “gifts” today, the type of thoughtful, lovingly-and-carefully-selected presents that could only be found by walking into her bedroom, randomly picking up two dozen items laying on the floor, and tossing them into a lovely snowman gift bag.
So far I have received the following:
One pair of children’s size 8 cowboy boots (“So you can ride a horse.”)
Perpetual Motion’s blue baby blanket (Everyone needs a comfort object.)
One pair of red and pink Minnie Mouse underwear (The colors are fabulous, but I usually wear the thong cut. I might see if she still has the receipt for these.)
Some sort of electronic sensory-overload ball for toddlers (I got bored with it after about 20 minutes.)
A pair of white, blue, pink, and green tennis shoes (Complete with velcro fasteners, my favorite.)
Lime green socks (These will go smashingly with the pastel-themed tennis shoes.)
A set of matching pink electronic gadgets complete with sparkly bling (Little-known fact: per government mandate, all toys marketed for little girls must be at least 50% covered in sparkly bling.)
A Cinderella tea set (I can cross that off my Christmas wish list.)
One pink snow boot (Left or right is merely a technicality to kids anyway when it comes to shoes, so I’ll be able to wear it on either foot.)
One pair of mittens (They are size incredibly-tiny, so I may have to do a bit of hand cramming.)
Two My Pretty Ponies: a sky blue foal with a stunning fuschia mane and a sunflower yellow filly with a sea foam green tail (She won’t be getting these back. I’m completely smitten with them.)
A green block (I’d been thinking about building a one-story tower.)
Ruby red slippers (The Hellcat is all about shoes! I doubt that I’ll be able to pull off Dorothy quite like she did at Halloween, but I’ll give it a shot.)
A plush miniature animal bed (Those Pretty Ponies will be perfectly pampered.)
One magic writing pad (Pen not included.)
A jar of alphabet blocks (The “Q” is missing, but it’s sort of the Pluto of letters anyway.)
A Colorado Rockies softball (Perfect to throw at the feet of 21-month old escapees.)
One rice bag with embroidered monkey insignia (If you are unfamiliar with the concept, rice bags are just what they sound like: sewn cloth bags filled with rice. They can be heated in the microwave and stay warm for hours. Kick Ass Wife and the kids are addicted to them.)
A baby doll (Hopefully the Hellcat was considerate enough to change her diaper first.)
Clearly, an impressive collection of gifts that would be the envy of any 36-year old man. How lucky am I?
It truly is the thought that counts.
(What special gifts have you received from your kids? Why do we say a “pair” of underwear? Any ideas for what I can get Kick Ass Wife? Not that I haven’t gotten her a gift yet. I meant for next year…)
If you “like” the Some Species Eat Their Young Facebook page, you’ll be the 101 person to do so, which will make you vastly superior to whoever becomes 102. Just something to think about.
By now, every parent worth his or her weight in sticky, half-eaten candy canes has purchased The Elf on the Shelf, a delightful holiday behavior modification system developed by Carol Aebersold, an individual who is quite possibly the smartest (and very likely richest) human to ever bear child in the history of child beardom.
Admittedly, Ms. Aebersold’s intention may not have been to develop the world’s most effective behavior modification system for parents. She may have been simply marketing a family tradition, publishing a charming children’s Christmas book and then cleverly packaging it with an adorable elf figurine. But believe me, it’s much, much more than a cute novelty item.
The Elf on the Shelf exposes the annual covert operation masterminded by Santa Claus in which he disperses a team of tiny, highly-trained reconaissance operatives to monitor the naughtiness and niceness of kids worldwide leading up to December 25. These special-ops elves, who cannot be touched by the children, monitor the behavior of their targets on a daily basis, noting the weaknesses and strengths of each child, and then report back to Claus each night at the North Pole. Before morning, they return and stake out an alternative vantage point in their assigned home, creating the façade that their repositioning amounts to an innocent game of hide-and-seek for the amusement of the unwitting children who live there.
It’s genius. Kids buy into it like Flintstones vitamins. We got our first elf (codename “Toby”) back in 2008, and within days Kick Ass Wife and I had written him into our will. Slim, Perpetual Motion, and The Hellcat (Tax Credit #4 wasn’t a yearly deduction at this point) were absolutely mesmerized by the idea that this “adopted” elf (part of the gimmick) communicated directly with Santa each night, and all it took was an understated “I hope Toby didn’t see/hear that” to get them to self-correct any minor behavior deficiencies, such as name-calling or smoking. Our kids were models of manners and healthy lung tissue for the entire month of December. It was magical.
But then, as Christmas 2009 approached and we prepared to call on the services of our shelf elf once again, tragedy struck: Toby was MIA. The box containing our precious agent had been misplaced during a home remodeling project. At this point, we should have rushed to the nearest book store and paid whatever exorbitant price was necessary to secure another elf, but we didn’t. Kick Ass Wife and I foolishly concluded that it was in fact our superior parenting skills, not Toby’s “Big Brother” influence, that had produced such dazzling behavioral results in our children.
In McFadden Family lore, Christmas 2009 has come to be known as “The Holiday of Darkness.” Our kids, outraged in large part by the fact that Toby did not return, ironically enough, turned on us. Vegetables sat on plates untouched. Hair-pulling, pinching, and even biting became the modus operandi of choice. “Please” and “thank you?” Both went into hiding, whilst use of the phrase“poopy head” reached an all-time high. It was ugly, people. We saw things, things that should never be seen.
Humbled, we knew that this year we had to have an elf, yet we still could not locate Toby. But Kick Ass Wife, as usual, delivered big time (well, actually she didn’t deliver this year, which is big news in itself, but I digress). “Willie,” a slightly different breed of elf, was purchased, and he made his inaugural shelf appearance early in December. The results were mixed.
Slim: “Cool, a new elf!”
Perpetual Motion: “But he isn’t Toby. What happened to Toby?”
Hellcat: “Will Toby ever come back?”
Tax Credit #4: “No.”
Our first order of business was to dispel any rumors concerning Toby’s disappearance, so KAW penned a letter from Willie to the kids. Here is an excerpt:
I know you were expecting Toby, and he is very sorry he couldn’t make it, but he had a little accident last week during the Annual Elf Sled Races. His sled hit a big drift entering the homestretch, causing him to lose control and run into a giant tree. He was able to escape the burning fuselage before it exploded, but he did suffer a broken leg and some scrapes and bruises. He is going to be fine in a few weeks, but the doctor said he cannot travel this year. Toby will be staying at the North Pole this year. Santa has asked him to help read the millions of letters from all the boys and girls around the world.
A bit dramatic, but effective. Plus, in addition to the letter, Willie left each of the kids a package of Silly Bandz, so he was golden. Toby, who KAW located last week, may be called in off the injured reserve as a reinforecment during the final few days before the 25th, but Willie is our elf now.
And Christmas 2010 is shaping up to be “The Return of the Light.” Bedtime routines have streamlined, voluntary tooth-brushing is on the rise, and tackling has devolved into assertive hugging. It’s blissful.
Is it shameful? Absolutely. As parents, we are using an 8-inch stuffed elf coupled with the innocence of our children to ensure positive behavior.
Good for us.
I mean, take a look at this short video shot during our tree decorating last Sunday.
That two-minute clip is representative of every waking hour in our household. So yeah, we’ll use the elf. Thank you, Ms. Aebersold.
Plus, as a bonus, we (and I mean I) get to say things like this:
“Hey, get your hands off your Willie!”
Our elf program has been so successful that I plan on coordinating monthly visits from other special elves throughout the year: The Upcoming Birthday Elf, The Groundhog’s Day Elf, The St. Patrick’s Day Elf (the leprechaun union is in an uproar), The Federal Income Taxes Day Elf, The Memorial Day Elf, and so on and so forth.
Parents, do something for yourselves this year. Get yourself a Willie.
(Does your family have an elf shelf? Are there other diabolical holiday tradtions that you practice as a parent?)
**Here is my new Twitter handle: @Chase_McFadden. Don’t ask me where I came up with it.
“Tax Credit #4, did you realize it was 2:30 in the morning when you decided to take the ‘Silent’ out of ‘Night?’”
“Is that your no-no or your yes-no? It’s hard to tell the difference, especially at this hour, because yes, it is 2:30 a.m. Thus the not-a-creature-was-stirring aura in the house. Oh well, we’re up now. You know, we haven’t had one of our talks for a while. How about I grab a cup of coffee and a sippy of milk and we catch up a bit?”
“That’s the spirit. So, now that you’re a big 21-month old, do you still use cream and sugar, or do you take your coffee black? Hah, hah.”
“Okay, relax, here’s your sippy cup. Hey, speaking of spirit, I’ve always said that there’s nothing like the soul-warming radiance of a lit tree to remind a person of the magic of Christmas. Man, I really missed my calling as a greetings card writer, didn’t I?”
“You’re right. That’s as sappy as those jewelry ads they keep playing over and over on television. It might be true that ‘Every Kiss Begins with Kay®,’ but it’s an absolute fact that every triggering of my gag reflex begins with watching one of those commercial spots. No, if I wrote a holiday greetings card, it would have a picture of the Griswold’s illuminated house on the outside and then inside it would say something like, “Hope you get lit up this Christmas!” Hallmark would sell out of those babies within minutes, wouldn’t they?”
“That’s what I love about you, TC#4: You give it to me straight. I’ll leave the greetings to the guys at someecards. Our tree does look dynamite, though. You and your siblings did a knock-out job on the ornamentation. I really didn’t anticipate you being the one to decorate the upper third of the tree, but you got ‘er done. You went at that thing like a little Sherpa elf. Impressive. I should never underestimate your ability to scale the most un-scalable structures, should I?
“By the way, your mom feels bad that we didn’t get a “Baby’s 1st Christmas” ornament for you last year. Slim has like three of them, Perpetual Motion has a couple, even The Hellcat has one. Are you upset?”
“Slightly peeved? Moderately disappointed?”
“I didn’t think you would be. Hell, just go Todzilla on one of your siblings’ first Christmas ornaments. Yank it off the tree and mangle it like you would have your own and all will be forgotten and forgiven. Your mom just loves you crazy and doesn’t want you to ever feel like you’re fourth fiddle. You’re an invaluable member of this family and just as important to us as your three older siblings, even though we have way more pictures of them. You have your own special qualities and unique identity that make you the best Tax Credit #4 we could ever ask for. Do you understand?”
“I knew you would. Geez, it’s not like you’re going to remember these first few years anyway. Well, unless you have ‘superior autobiographical memory’ like those people they profiled on 60 Minutes last night. Amazing. To remember specific details from every day of your life. God, wouldn’t that be miserable?
“I think so, too. Of course, if you end up with my gift for recall, you won’t have to worry about it because I have pretty much the exact opposite condition: ‘drastically-inferior-bordering-on-nonexistent autobiographical memory.’ In fact, I thought my memory was short circuiting when I watched that 60 Minutes episode. Sweet Jesus, how are those journalists still alive? Those are the same people who hosted that show when I was a kid, with the exception of Anderson Cooper. They make him seem like an embryo. Andy Rooney? That guy looked pickled 30 years ago. But old isn’t necessarily bad, right?”
“Well, I’m glad you feel that way, because between you and me, a couple of the packages that you open Christmas morning are going to be some recycled toys that we dug out of storage. But, hey, they’ll be new to you, right?
“Exactly, and you’ll be more interested in standing on the boxes than paying attention to what’s inside anyway. Well, we’d better get a little more shut-eye. Don’t want to get run-down, do we?”
“Five more days until Christmas, and I’m pretty sure there will be a few late night wrapping sessions before the big day. Not that I’ll be wrapping any gifts; nobody wants that. If you saw one of my wrap jobs, you’d swear that someone must have done it who was inebriated, blindfolded, and shackled, which, coincidentally, is exactly how I plan on presenting myself to your mother on Christmas Eve as her gift. But she could probably use the moral support when she’s wrapping, right?”
“Good point: I should just stay the hell out of the way. She gets that crazy look in her eyes when she’s in wrap mode. Well, it’s been nice catching up, Tax Credit #4. Here’s to hoping that Santa brings you everything you want, as long as what you want is that hammer-and-blocks thing that Perpetual Motion got when he was two. You ready to go back in your crib?”
“I didn’t think so.”
(Have you ever recycled gifts to your own kids? Are you the Scotch-tape-crazed wrapper or the wicked-lyrical rapper in your household? Is it morning yet?)
**Here is my new Twitter handle: @Chase_McFadden. Incredibly creative.
Three weeks ago I bought a permit from the Forest Service, thinking we would cut our Christmas tree over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Last Sunday we finally managed to venture up the mountain and get our Paul Bunyan on.
Thursday I came home from work to find that Kick Ass Wife and her dad actually brought the tree in the house and placed it in the stand, once again reaffirming her kick-assedness.
Today we might decorate it.
And this morning I’m chronicling our tree cutting adventure through video and pictures.
When is Christmas again?
Classic McFadden timeline. Fortunately, it isn’t a race.
It’s the holidays.
So that was the annual cutting of the tree, and judging by the sounds reverberating from upstairs (yelling, screaming, body slamming), it’s go-time on the annual festooning of the tree, which would be my annual cue to run to town for something. Anything. Except that KAW removed the keys from all vehicles. Damn, that woman is smart.
I wonder if she remembered the four-wheeler?
This is why.
Day of the Plunger
(To “Eye of the Tiger.” Holy crap, this is a sweet video.)
(Sorry, Survivor.)Risin’ up, approachin’ the top, Frantic search, where’s the plunger? Should have safety-flushed before it plopped, Hit the fan, make a plan, gotta try. Every year, you eat too much, You go get thirds with no worries. Common sense? Hell, no, you’re stuffing yourself, One more thigh, turkey neck, bloated sigh. (Chorus) It’s the day of the plunger, the clogging of the stool, Risin’ up, horror realized in our minds. Should’ve passed on the neck, regrets, I’m such a fool. Please, please stop, shock and awe, gotta find… Where’s the plunger? Leave the table, back to the game, Cowboys losin’, big surprise. Feel the rumblin’, intestinal pain, Too much pie, loosen belt, unzip fly. (Chorus) It’s the day of the plunger, the clogging of the stool, Risin’ up, horror realized in our minds. Should’ve passed on the neck, regrets, I’m such a fool. Will it drop? Stench is raw, I’m goin’ blind… Where’s the plunger? Off the couch, straight to the pot, Gotta hurry, may not make it. Hit the seat, unleash, no time for thought, Burnin’ eyes, residual splash, gonna cry. (Chorus) It’s the day of the plunger, the clogging of the stool, Risin’ up, horror realized in our minds. Should’ve passed on the neck, regrets, I’m such a fool. Yes, it stopped! Victory hop, still must find… Where’s the plunger? The day of the plunger. (repeats out)…
*I dedicate this song to those individuals who dedicate themselves to overeating to the point of physical discomfort each Thanksgiving, able to put out of their minds the lesson that they should have learned from the year before. And the year before that.
I also dedicate this song to the families of these individuals. May your olfactory system recover before next year, when it will undoubtedly be assaulted once again.