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Jingle Hell

As the daughter of a hypochondriac, I am regularly on the lookout for such symptoms in myself.  And, yes, I recognize the irony of that sentence.

Sometimes, when I hang around people that are a bit older than myself, my own latent hypochondria seems to feel the need to make an appearance, and I start worrying that I am being far too nonchalant about the obvious signs that my body is about to disintegrate.  This happened to me the other day.

I was helping MILlie, an 81 year old woman, to do some Christmas shopping.  When I’m with MILlie, I become more aware of sounds.  She has problems hearing, particularly when the environment is noisy.  So, I become sensitive to noise as well.

Generally, when MILlie is in the car with me, I turn down the radio so she doesn’t have to listen to my daughter’s horrifying taste in music, or my equally (to her) horrifying taste in National Public Radio.

We were walking into Hobby Lobby after a short car ride the other day, and I couldn’t help but wince at the very forceful bell-ringing being produced in front of the store by the Salvation Army representative.  It was so demandingly loud, that I steered MILlie as far away from the donation bucket as possible so she wouldn’t have to be subjected to the less than dulcet sounds.  I’m pretty sure that was not the goal of the bell-ringer – to scare away potential donors.  But that was the effect.

When we got inside the store, I could still hear the bell as we shopped.  The entire time we weaved our way through the crowds and tried to determine the best gifts for those left on MILlie’s list, I was acutely aware of that darn bell cussing me out for avoiding the donation bucket.

The checkout shuffle we had to do in order to make our purchases momentarily distracted me from the ringing.  First we stood in the back of one line of 6 or 7 people, then were told that line was closing.  We moved to a different line (after I explained to MILlie why we were deserting our well-earned spot) and were told again, 5 minutes later, that the line would be closing.  I almost climbed on top of the register and shouted, “Can someone direct me to a line that will stay open until I exit the store?” – but I did not want to confuse MILlie any more.

We finally finished paying, and were rewarded with the running of the gauntlet past the bell and bucket once again to reach my car.  When we finally got in the car, I immediately started the motor, even though MILlie was still climbing in, hoping to drown out the sound of the darn bell that was destined to haunt my dreams.

Finally, I edged the car out of the parking lot, and headed to the street.  But, as I got farther away from the store, the bell-ringing continued.  And I had a dread thought.

Tinnitus.  I had heard a story on NPR the other day about someone who developed it at a relatively early age, and it seemed to be an excruciating torture.  Maybe this entire time, what I had thought to be the Salvation Army attempting to guilt me into submission had merely been my inner ear collapsing.

“I still hear the ringing,” I said desperately to MILlie, as we distanced ourselves from the only obvious bell in our vicinity.  I glanced peripherally at MILlie to see if she was wearing some kind of damn bell necklace or earrings or headband or something that could explain why I was still hearing the ringing.

“Huh?” MILlie asked, clearly stating that she had no idea what ringing I was talking about.

“The ringing!” I said, with just a hint of hysteria in my voice.  “It’s still ringing and we are nowhere near the store.  WHAT IS THAT RINGING?”

And then I noticed my radio was still on, but I had turned the volume down.  Apparently not all of the way, though.  I flipped the volume to the right, and nearly blasted us both out of the car.  With the ringing.  On NPR.  Doing a story on God knows what.

MILlie gave me a fearful look and I turned the radio off.  Blessed silence.

“Sorry,” I said, as she primly put her hands in her lap and wisely said nothing.

I think I’ll be institutionalized way before I am hospitalized.

The Perfect Present Predicament

Our nine-year old wants a rat for Christmas.  Given our recent struggles with establishing boundaries for the rodents that inhabit our neighborhood, my husband, Cap’n Firepants, is loathe to grant this wish.  He offered to give her a dead rat, but she has made it clear that this would not fulfill the requirements she expects from a pet.

Dimples’ Perfect Friend has a pet rat.  Technically, she has two, since she and her brother each have one, and the rats share the same quarters (apparently one should not own just one rat, as it can get lonely).  You might question how Perfect Friend can maintain that moniker given her imperfect pet choice.  However, I have no problem with a rat that is not sneaking around my habitation or dying inside the walls.

Dimples has done everything right in trying to achieve her pet rat goal.  She acquired several books on rats, studiously read them, and used Post-It notes to mark all of the applicable passages.  She can tell you anything about rats.  Except how to keep them out of our house.

Cap’n Firepants had a brilliant idea.  He suggested that Perfect Friend spend the night, bringing along her Perfect Rat.  You might think he was being quite open-minded.  However, he was hoping, I think, that Dimples would realize a rat is not an ideal pet in a household with two nervous dogs – one of whom paces and pants heavily whenever something out of the ordinary occurs, and the other of whom who attempts to rip the heads off any beasts that have the bad luck of falling within his path.

Perfect Friend brought Perfect Rat in his traveling cage, and set him up in Dimples’ room.  The dogs had no clue Perfect Rat was in the house.  In retrospect, that should have been no surprise, seeing as how they have been absolutely no help in deterring any of the other rodents who have breached our heavily fortified enemy lines.  But the Cap’n still had a backup plan.  Knowing that rats are nocturnal, he was certain that Dimples would go crazy trying to sleep with Perfect Rat around.

No such luck.  Not a creature stirred that night – not even the rat, according to Dimples.  So, the Cap’n had to finally confess to Dimples the one reason no rat would ever be a pet in the Firepants household.  “It’s the tail,” he said.  “I just can’t get over the tail.”

Dimples, who has her heart set on a rat (no hamster, gerbil, or guinea pig will do) and the Cap’n, who has his heart set against it, are at an impasse.

I know how Dimples feels, as I was in a similar situation last Christmas, hoping for a bulldog puppy under the tree.  No other gift, no matter how great, would substitute.  It wasn’t until the day after Christmas, however, when we made a family trip to the pet store to get Dimples a fish, that Cap’n Firepants relented, and helped to make my Christmas wish come true.

Last Year's Perfect Present - Wonderbutt

Dimples is probably hoping for a repeat of last year’s post-Christmas pet presentation.  There’s one major difference, though.

Wonderbutt Has No Tail.

Who Do You Think Pulls the Sleigh?

My sister, Crash, is on the left. When I became Santa (years later), the hardest part of Santa Boot Camp was learning how to descend cardboard chimneys. I learned not to wear such short skirts.

Sometimes my daughter can be extremely smart and devastatingly dense at the same time.  Her Santa Claus reveal is a perfect example.

A few years ago, when Dimples was 6, she started making little comments that hinted at her suspicions of Santa’s true identity.  One night close to Christmas, Cap’n Firepants had to work late.  Dimples and I were eating dinner, and she suddenly blurted out, “Mom, are you Santa Claus?”

Dimples has always been a pretty logical person.  I could have dodged the question, feeling quite comfortable in saying “no” because I actually am not Santa Claus.  I’m Mrs. Cap’n Firepants, and that’s burden enough.  But I knew what she was asking, and I decided to honor the spirit of her question.

“Do you really want to know?” I asked.  Because there is no going back once that question gets an honest answer.  Step over that line and part of your childhood is gone and, quite frankly, part of the parents’ childhood is gone, too.  Because we all live vicariously through the innocent joy and anticipation of our children during the Christmas season.

“Yes,” Dimples responded without hesitation.  Remembering how bummed I was when my mother finally gave me the affirmative answer to my own Santa question, and the betrayal I’ve felt ever since whenever someone insists on giving me T.M.I. on something I preferred to believe was magical, I was still reluctant to eradicate the entire North Pole franchise over a meal of fish sticks and macaroni.  But, unless I was imagining things, Dimples seemed almost hopeful that I would debunk this myth she had barely believed all along.

“I am,” I said.

Her eyes widened, and a big smile slowly widened across her face.

“I knew it!” she said. She wasn’t bragging about solving the mystery. Instead, she acted like I had just confirmed that I had my own super powers.  Like I was the one hopping into a souped up air-surfing vehicle every Christmas Eve with the intention of criminally trespassing a billion times in one night so I could leave behind a few gifts the elves had bought online from Walmart.

“This is so cool!” she exclaimed.

She couldn’t contain herself, leaping off her chair and giving me a hug (a rare demonstration from Dimples, who usually offers her back to you when you try to show too much affection) – apparently noticing that I was taking this news a whole lot harder than she was.

After a few minutes of one-sided celebration, she suddenly stopped, and looked up at me with a very earnest expression on her sweet face.

“Does Daddy know?”

It’s a Wonderbutt Life

A year ago, I was yearning for a bulldog and dropping “hints” to my husband, Cap’n Firepants every few minutes.  I expected that the hours I spent drooling over puppy pictures on the internet and watching live camera feeds of litters of bulldogs in addition to me asking, “How would you feel about getting a bulldog?” every other day would result in the cliche dog in a box with a bow on top on Christmas morning.


When, by the end of Christmas day, I realized no such surprise was forthcoming, I sighed at Cap’n Firepants’ inadequate communication skills, and resigned myself to waiting until someone literally dropped a bulldog puppy on our doorstep.

The day after Christmas, we took Dimples to the pet store to get her a promised Betta fish.  And, there was Wonderbutt.

Once Wonderbutt fell asleep on Cap'n Firepants, the deed was done.

Little did any of us know that such a cuddly clown could be quite so destructive.

So, we have approached our holiday decorating less zealously this year.  According to Dimples, Wonderbutt “is ruining Christmas” because of the accommodations that have been made.  She obviously does not remember the numerous adjustments made in her honor when she was going through her terrible two’s – and three’s… and four’s.

We tentatively hung up some stockings first.  When we realized that dangling them from the mantle was just tempting Wonderbutt to conk himself on the head with the metal stocking holders, the Cap’n wisely moved them to higher ledges on the bookshelves.

Next, we ventured to hang up a real Christmas wreath we had received as a gift.  The evergreen smell was so scrumptious that we hung it inside.  Wonderbutt showed no interest.  Until a week went by, and he had a few upset stomachs.  Apparently, the wreath was dropping juniper berries, which our canine vacuum cleaner immediately ingested.  Outside went the wreath.

Finally, we took deep breaths, crossed our fingers, and put up our tree.  It is mostly Wonderbutt-proof with the help of some furniture movement and a couple of baby gates.  (We are starting to run out of baby gates in our house.  It’s amazing we possess as many as we do – seeing as how Dimples is now nine years old and the only baby we ever had.)

I let the Festive Force Field down long enough for Wonderbutt to investigate the holiday area.  He went straight for the ornaments, of course.  Amazingly, he broke nothing.  So far, the only person who has broken any ornaments is me – after I warned Dimples that she needed to be really careful since we have no carpeting on the floor right now.  Fortunately, the breakable ornaments are cheap ones from Target.  Our most precious ornaments are more sentimentally valuable rather than materially expensive.  Papa Firepants (the Cap’n’s Pop, who passed away a few years ago) made many of the ornaments.  Woe to Wonderbutt if he decides to chomp on one of those; they are full of straight pins that would be slightly more painful than the carpet padding and cushions he usually favors.  The sequins might make his poop really pretty, though.

Giddy with the semi-success of our partial holiday decorating, I attempted to get some Christmas pics of Wonderbutt and Mrs. Pain in the Butt.  That was predictably unsuccessful.

I decided that it might be helpful if Wonderbutt were to be slightly sleepy, so I waited until he was snoring loudly on the couch, and popped the antlers on.

Slightly less unsuccessful.

It didn’t really work with Mrs. P.I.B., either.  She’s usually a pretty good sport, but I think she is getting a little more cranky in her golden years.

“Max doesn’t act this way when the Grinch puts antlers on him,” I grumbled, but that did not seem to convince either dog to be more obliging.

Cap’n Firepants suggested I do some of my Photoshop magic, but I’d rather stick with the genuine pics.

With stockings hung from our bookshelves, a house smelling like juniper berry vomit, and a Harry Potter nativity scene, it’s not like we can pretend we have a conventional Christmas anyway.

The Code Word is “Wonderbutt”

I like patterns.  I think in analogies.  I enjoy logical reasoning.  It is comforting to me to have certain predictable norms.  Don’t misunderstand me – I love it when someone creative comes along and throws out delightfully zany ideas.  But they have to make some sort of sense.  Otherwise I waste valuable moments of rumination time trying to figure out what were they thinking.  And that takes away from my creation of my own carefully composed random thoughts.

I happened to be listening to the T.V. a few mornings ago while getting ready for work.  There was an ad for personalized Christmas stockings.  Nothing strange there. ‘Tis the Season, and all that.  When the commercial got to the end, however, and was touting the great deal it was offering, I thought I must have heard the “discount code” wrong.  You know, that word that you have to type in to the little box so they can prove to their accountants that they didn’t waste money on their advertising budget?

Like the pre-sale code we got recently in e-mail for the upcoming Kelly Clarkson concert – “independent.”  Logical.  (In case you are not a Kelly Clarkson fan – let’s face it, you just don’t want to admit it – one of her famous singles was “Miss Independent,” a song I sang on a regular basis to Dimples when she was a toddler, apparently sending the message that it was the least admirable quality a person could possibly have since Dimples now refuses to make any decisions on her own.)

Or the one for the Blue Man Group – “music.”  Again – logical.

Here’s the one to get $50 off at Ann Taylor Loft – “SHOP50”.

The one for personalized Christmas stockings was not logical.  And, moreover, it was somewhat disturbing.

But the next morning, I heard the commercial again.  I raced in front of the T.V. so I could hopefully read what they were saying on the screen.  Whew!  I was relieved to hear and read that the sale code was not what I thought I heard the previous morning – “incest”.

If you want to get a great deal on personalized stockings, go to that website address on your listed on your television screen, click on the star, and use the code word, “insect”.


I mean I know you can choose any darn code you want, but why in the heck would you want people to associate a pest that disgusts them and they spend hundreds of dollars a year exterminating with a lovely Christmas gift?

“Insect” has thrown my whole logic out the window.  If people are just going to use random code words, willy nilly, then this world really is just one big ball of chaos.

What kind of PR Department do these people have?  Is it just one guy who sits in a room, closes his eyes, opens the dictionary, and picks the first word he drools on?  Surely this was not a team of people who were consulted and all agreed upon “insect” as a word to include in the company’s Christmas advertising spot. Right?

I guess the point of advertising is to catch your attention, but does that really help when you weird out your customers?

And now I’m gonna shut up because Cute Christmas Stocking Company’s PR Department may have some odd entomological obsession, but the company’s Legal Department might just decide to wrap its six legs around me and try to suck my blood.

Don’t Stand So Close To Me

I am a heathen and a Bad Person.

I mentioned a while ago that I was a bit apprehensive about the upcoming Christmas decorating season.  This will be Wonderbutt’s first Christmas with us, as he came into our household last December 26th.  As a little tyke, he was crated whenever unsupervised, so the tree that was up for the couple of days of overlap last year did not suffer any damage.

However, this year is a different story.  Our family is still debating the appropriate placement of the tree in order to avoid the Wrath of Wonderbutt.  So, unlike most seasons, we did not get all of our decorating done Thanksgiving weekend.

We did break out a few small items in order to start getting into the spirit of things – decorations that could easily be situated far North of Wonderbutt territory.  This light sprinkling of Christmas cheer in odd spots around the house mixed with my apparent disregard for the Reason for the Season probably contributed to MILlie’s confusion the other night.

MILlie, for those of you who just arrived at this party, is an elderly woman who is close to our family.  We were having her over for dinner a few days ago, and she commented, “Oh, I see you got your Nativity scene set up.”

From MILlie’s vantage point, this is what one would see:

As you will no doubt note, this is not a Nativity Scene.  It is our Harry Potter shelf.  Dimples and I are Harry Potter fiends, and we have dedicated this shelf to our collection.  The shelf has been this way since July when we were fortunate enough to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida.

Hagrid, Dumbledore, and Harry - The Three Wise Men

In MILlie’s defense, this is the shelf where we usually set up the Nativity.

In MY defense, MILlie was wearing her OLD pair of glasses, the ones that she “hates”, the ones that are the complete wrong prescription – not one of the two new pairs that I took her to the eye doctor and the eyeglass store to get three separate times in order to get the prescription, fit, and balance exactly, precisely correct.

In MILlie’s defense, it’s Christmas time, and I should have a Nativity scene set up first, above all other decorations.

In MY defense, and I realize that this is not a good defense at all, I am still trying to figure out where I want to put it.  Because of Wonderbutt.  And because I don’t want to disturb the Harry Potter shelf.

I know.  That sounds bad, doesn’t it?  It sounds bad, even to me as I’m typing it, that I am reluctant to remove Hogwarts to replace it with the birthplace of the Baby Jesus.

I suppose it would not be a good compromise to place the stable next to Hogwarts, would it?

I just hope, when the lightning strikes me, that it gives me a cute little scar on my forehead like Harry’s.

The Xbox Kinect Debacle – The Prequel…or Sequel

Note:  I wrote this before deciding to pen my two part Xbox Debacle series.  Now that I read it again, I realize that I am even more of an idiot than I was last year.  But I’m still 25% certain that I can pull this gift off…

Now, how could this go wrong?

I have great confidence that Cap’n Firepants does not read my blog.  Such great confidence that I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  I already got him one of his Christmas presents.  Well, it’s for both him and Dimples.

You gotta see it.  I’m only telling you about it because I already bought it so I don’t have to worry about my zillion blog subscribers making a run on this amazing product and the poor company not having enough in stock.

Here, watch this.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Super cool, huh?

I actually showed this video to Dimples and Firepants and they oohed and aahed so much that I immediately made a mental note that this was going to be in one of the boxes under the tree.

If we have a tree.

The presence of Wonderbutt this year might inhibit some of our festive decorating traditions, including the tree.  But that’s okay.  I’ll just keep the gift in my dry-cleaning basket where all good gifts go.  No one cares that I apparently have more dry cleaning than clothes that I own.

Although it would be totally awesome if I could inflate it the day before and fly it into their midst on Christmas day.

Can you imagine the look on their faces?  Can you imagine the look on Wonderbutt’s face?  I am totally going to record this.

I love Christmas.  I don’t even care if I don’t get anything.  I just want to scare the crap out of everybody.

The Xbox Kinect Debacle of Christmas 2010 – Part 1

About this time last year, the Cap’n and Dimples were watching T.V. together.  A commercial for the new Kinect came on.  Instead of surfing to another channel, both of them watched, transfixed, as people stood in front of a camera that allowed them to control what happened on their video game just by moving their bodies.  When the commercial was over, they both said, “That is so cool!” and couldn’t stop talking about it.

I knew right away I was going to get them that Kinect for Christmas.

I’m usually great at bargain shopping online, but the Xbox Kinect was already either sold out or no bargain at all of my usual haunts. They had plenty with 4 GB of memory, but I wanted to go all out and get the 250 GB of memory.  I didn’t want to be accused of memory stinginess.  I finally resorted to going to the source – Microsoft.  They actually had it in stock, according to the button that said “in stock”, so I ordered it.

I was giddy.  Here it was, the beginning of November, and I already had the perfect family Christmas gift.

Two days after I ordered it, I got an e-mail saying that my package was on its way.  I stressed about how to keep the package hidden until Christmas, and checked the tracking every day to see how close it was to being delivered.  I wanted to be sure to hide the package before I picked up Dimples from school.

A week later, the package still hadn’t been delivered, and appeared to be stuck in some remote spot like Fiji or maybe Sacramento.

Right when I was about to start making phone calls (Thanksgiving week), I got a new e-mail from Microsoft.  Due to an unprecedented number of orders, Xbox Kinects with 250 GB of memory were out of stock.  My order had been cancelled.

What?!!!!  I frantically e-mailed back by dissatisfaction.  Why would they just cancel my order without checking with me first?  Why didn’t they just delay it?  And, what had happened to the one that was on its way to me?  THAT THEY SAID WAS IN STOCK!!!  Did someone hijack it in the parking lot of the Sacramento UPS, and give it to Justin Bieber or the Kardashians?  But all I got in response was $150 store credit that could only be used on one item, and had to be used by Jan. 1st.

You are the Controller of Nothing, Loser. The only Controller is Bill Gates.

So, I now had two problems.  No big family Christmas gift.  And no one to complain to about the abuse I was receiving because this was supposed to be a surprise.  I HATE suffering injustice silently.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the exciting conclusion to the Xbox Kinect Debacle of Christmas 2010…

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