Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Vacation Countdown

Not everybody loves National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation as much as we do in this household. So much that we’ve seen it from every angle, noticed every little nuance, basically analyzed the thing to death. And we don’t mind quoting it every now and again. So as a bit of an advent present to those of you who do the Christmas thing…here starts a brief rundown of the 10 most-used Christmas Vacation lines in our house. Note these aren’t necessarily the 10 best lines, just the 10 we use the most when talking to each other and trying to keep sane.

First, The Best of the Rest: These didn’t quite make the cut, not because they aren’t outstanding, but because we just use other lines more.
The big rant where Clark calls his boss 24 names. Probably deserves to be in the Top Ten but I’ve never been able to memorize it, even though I’ve spent virtually eons memorizing more frivolous items. So I never actually use it but just sit in awe of it.
We thank Clark Griswold for at least taking his frustrations out on his boss rather than the lead reindeer on Santa’s cavalcade. Because even though all of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names, we doubt Dasher or Dancer had the gall to refer to the new guy as “Rudolph the Fat-Assed Reindeer,” much less “Rudolph the Fat-Assed, Bug-Eyed, Spotty-Lipped, Worm-Headed Sack of Monkey S**t Reindeer.” Though maybe they did. And even if they did, we wouldn’t repeat that in front of our kids, because, as ever, we’re letting YOUR kids teach our kids all the swear words.
Once again I'm required to accompany each post with a picture.
All that said, Clark himself did punch his yard ornament Santa in the face and karate chop all the reindeer’s antlers off, so maybe he would have had some choice words in the heat of the moment for Rudolph, too. Hallelujah, Holy S**t.
"I’d like to see if I can fumigate this here chair." Again, not terribly relevant in our house except for when one of us has gas or spills a month’s worth of old milk into it.
"Oh here they are, here come the nuts." As the Griswold grandparents are watching the Christmas parade on TV or sleeping through it, the announcer, played by Doug Llewelyn, (yes that Doug Llewelyn from The People’s Court and Nirvana’s “In Bloom” video) notices that the wind is blowing the Nutcracker float off course. We say the line any time there is a bowl of nuts out, because we’re small-minded. And we’ll probably say it if we’re ever fortunate to be home when our kids get off the bus after school.

And finishing in last place?
Anything anybody says during the sledding scene. Would like to see some of the deleted scenes and see if we can’t replace the sledding scene with something from the archives.
On to the countdown:
10: "We’re going to press on, and we’re going have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f**king Kaye. And when Santa shoves his fat white ass down that chimney, he’s going to find the jolliest bunch of a-holes this side of the nuthouse."
OK, so we don’t really say all that, especially to our kids, but we at least start it when things are going crazy. We stop, breathe, collect ourselves, and press on. If kids are around we may change “since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f**king Kaye” to “We’ll have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Rudolph the Fat-Assed Reindeer went down in history.” No, we won’t do that at all. Unless Burl Ives said it? Who knows?

9. "And I'll give AUDREY a quarter, too, Audrey."

People may look at this list and wonder how this made it, but this one simple, throw-away line is one of my favorites because it so perfectly embodies old people. Sure, senile Aunt Bethany and Uncle Louis have funnier lines that are delivered in sometimes spectacular fashion, but let's dissect these 8 words a little further.

First, in the line before, Nora Griswold is offering Rusty a quarter to rub the painful burr on her heel. And Rusty is stuck in a corner because he's been offered a woefully small award to perform such an awful task for a beloved family member. But to Nora Griswold this is big money, because she's from another era entirely, where that quarter probably gets her a down payment on a car.

It's funny because she then offers Audrey the same amount while expecting nothing in return, which is classic, old person behavior. The same people who preached "an honest day's pay for an honest day's work," and "didn't need no welfare state...everybody PULLED his WEIGHT!!" then turn around and make sure everything is exactly equal within the family, presumably to keep peace. The fact that she calls Audrey's name TWICE, with particular emphasis on the first instance, to draw attention to this act of benevolence just caps this perfect embodiment of old people. I'll do that one day and without shame.

Enough social commentary. I use this line a fair amount of time in the house, usually when I drop a coin on the kitchen floor, and kids come out of the woodwork like Hungry, Hungry Hippos to scoop it up. Strictly for sanity's sake, I'll offer a coin of equal value to the other two kids so they also have something to drop in their piggy bank. I promise you we're not Socialists. But when I give out the other two coins, I channel Nora Griswold and say,"And I'll give AUDREY a nickel, too, Audrey" and change the names. The kids have no idea what I'm doing. They'll know soon enough.

8. "Save the neck for me, Clark."

Sadly, this line is slowly sliding off the coutdown as the rest of the family catches on and family gatherings diminish in number. In the early days, before folks realized that 1 in 5 of our spoken sentences at family gatherings is a direct quote from the movie, we'd get some strange looks and some grossed-out looks like Ellen gives Eddie. Then we'd explain ourselves.

Now that people are up up to speed, they're offering me or one of my siblings or cousins the bird's neck before we have a chance to formally request it. Looks like this great line will soon have to be tucked away for good or at least put on a long hiatus, at the end of which we will no longer be getting together as an extended family, save for funerals. Long live "Save the neck for me, Clark."

7. "It's all part of the experience, honey."

Another line that doesn't get its due. As the Griswolds traipse through the forest, trudging up a hill in search of the perfect family Christmas tree, an increasingly agitated and cold Audrey's eyes have frozen and she can't talk any more. Her mother Ellen finally tells Clark, "Audrey's frozen from the waist down." To which clark dismissively responds, "It's all part of the experience, honey."

When kids are whining, bitching, moaning, complaining or when I'm doing the same at work, I'll pre-empt the complaining with an "It's all part of the experience." I try to not be as dismissive as Clark without adding fuel to the fire by caring too mcuh about the infraction. Just trying to put an end to all the whining. Especially my own.

Not everything can be simply "part of the experience," however. 'Dad, the kitcken counter is on fire!" Not part of the experience. "Honey, we may have left one of the kids back at the jumpy house place." Not part of the experience. "Daddy, he's standing in the spot I wanted to stand in and now he's looking at me." That's part of the experience. Go find your shoes. Then go find your brother's shoes.

6. "You set standards no family can live up to."

Many would think this is said about me, but I'm actually the one who uses it, to my wife, especially around Christmas, when she claims that nothing Christmas-ish can really happen until the entire house is immaculate.

Which is a joke, because kids. If Jesus is indeed the reason for the season, and the Virgin Mary decided not to have Him until the house was totally clean, we'd still be waiting for Christmas. Part of my role in the relationship is to ensure that the house is barely clean enough for Santa to come in and drop off the presents without waking the kids by tripping over their discarded toys from (literally) yesteryear. But also to try to convince everyone else not to freak out about the dishes.          

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Storm Before the Calm

          One of the countless advantages parents of this age hold over the generation before is digital photography. Another one is kid leashes, and a third is not having your kids constantly ask if Air Supply is two women, two men, or a man and a woman. I wondered about that last one a lot. But the digital photography pretty much trumps everything.

Because now we can acquire a mountain of holiday pictures in the hopes that just one makes our kids look cute for the requisite holiday card. Our parents had to pick from six. Hence, awkwardfamilyphotos.com.

This extra probability virtually guarantees at least one altogether not terrible photo, one that belies all the chaos preceding and surrounding it. Still, the holiday picture expedition consistently proves daunting, taxing, frustrating, exhausting. Here, then, are some easy ways to diminish the storm before the calm:
1.    Clothing – it’s always important to pick out the kids’ clothing the night before the scheduled picture day. This will save important time the next morning, time to be spent extracting gum from the kids’ hair. However, if the kids are dressed and haven’t yet brushed their teeth, please do NOT let your kids brush their teeth after they have put on their holiday clothes. Unless you can find another outfit on the fly or can work the dribble into a snow scene on your son’s sartorial Winter Wonderland dreamscape. Maybe smoke coming from the snowman’s pipe? Maybe a mini-blizzard on Rudolph’s nose? Your kids’ teeth are just not that important, 4 out of 5 dentists will concede.

      1a. Shoes – 78% of all families who show up late to anything do so because they were missing a shoe. Everyone knows this. Simple solution: Buy two identical pairs of all shoes and keep the second pair in your safe deposit box and hire a full-time guard. You won’t be disappointed.

      1b. Helmets – There aren’t three greater indignities in the world than banging your head when entering or exiting a car, which results in tantrums and tears by folks of any age. To minimize the impact of a kid losing his or her shit by banging their head, provide them all with helmets to wear when exiting the car. Hockey, football, astronaut, the activity is immaterial. Just wear the headgear. Do NOT mess up the hair, though.

      1c. Pajamas – Leave them at home. Your kids will love you later for it. Especially the one for whom you bought that skin-tight candy cane number. Yikes.

2.    Ventriloquism – Teaching your kids ventriloquism will pay key dividends when you’re stuck with the overzealous photographer who gets too specific with the trigger words. Gone are the days of the simple “say cheese,” in favor of polysyllabic, often gross, bluster like “say chesseburgers” or “say elephant farts!!”

Two-year-olds will try to say exactly what you tell them to, so please, commercial photographers, stop requiring them to possess a degree in linguistics to get a picture. We had the “say cheeseburgers” lady, so we came away with two dozen pictures of kids saying the “ur” part. Go ahead, as you read this, say the syllable “ur” while smiling. Look how stupid you look. We got 72 of those faces. If only we had enrolled them in extracurricular ventriloquism school, we’d have an entire album of kids jamming their top and bottom teeth together into forced smiles. You can practically hear the teeth grinding.

2a. Teach your kids it’s okay to use the word “fart” if you haven’t done so already. This will avoid the 7 or so shots where your kids are all looking to your wife with the “she said it was ok to say farts!” face. Eyebrows raised.

This tree has nothing to do with kids pictures, but I'm required by law to add a picture.
3.    Nourishment – Make sure your kids are well-fed before the photo session. If they are not, you will be forced to bribe them with a trip to a burger joint afterwards, where they will say “cheeseburgers” over and over.

4.    Temper expectations – The probability of failure is very high. Always remember what your second-grade baseball coach taught you: “It only takes one.” Not sure what that meant in terms of baseball, but it’s quite clear in terms of kiddie photography. Just get the one good shot, it’s in there somewhere.

5.    Bonus item: Don’t order the wallet-sized pictures. Hint: Here in the 21st Century, nobody carries pictures in their wallet. There’s this thing called Facebook. Or Shutterfly. Or Snapfish. 
If you have kids and haven't gone to get your pictures taken yet, maybe some of these hints will prove helpful. If you're in receipt of one of our cards, just consider the above before tossing it in the trash. Or maybe your kids are beyond the age and you're in the "been there done that" phase, and you're jealous of all the advances in photography. Regardless, enjoy the holiday and say "Stinky cheeseburger farts!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Confessions of a 7-year-old Girl - and more poop updates

The ongoing saga surrounding the littlest one pooping in the toilet took a turn for the worse when he made a deposit in the bathtub, just two short steps from the damned toilet. This is a new low for the boy, who continues to impress with his ability to "stay dry" throughout most of the day, only to continually disappoint in the evening. The bribe behavior chart, such an effective tool for the first two children, has had no impact on the stubborn third child. What do you get the kid who apparently has everything and doesn't poop?

Meanwhile, the girl had her First Confession (capitalized for effect) tonight, even though technically in seven years, she hasn't done anything wrong, at least that I could see. Certainly nothing sinful, and definitely not coveting her neighbor's house or ass. Perhaps she bore false witness those handful of times she tried to get her brothers in trouble. Maybe she failed to honor her father and mother a time or two...maybe forgot to remember the Sabbath and stayed in bed and prayed at St. Holy Mattress of the Sheets. OK yeah, confess your sins, girl. So she did, and without incident. When her little brother's turn comes up, he'll probably be pooping his pants somewhere...which by then will be in violation of our house's unofficial 11th Commandment.

Oh, and today was Veterans' Day, so thank you, vets. Come on, New York Stock Exchange, capitalism won't die if you close one more day. Better this day for our next major national holiday then the day after the Super Bowl.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

9 Completely Unrelated Thoughts

One week down, three to go in the Post a Day for a Month Challenge. Whatever doesn't kill you, may still hospitalize you.

Quick thoughts on a Saturday night:

--Days after trying to poop 10 times in one setting to quickly earn some toy trucks, the youngest has since soiled his drawers twice while only peeing on the toilet. This negative-two effort now means he must poop 12 times on the toilet before getting his toys. If he were smart, he'd take up prune juice. He also still finds ways to poop in his sleep at night, which may explain why his brother comes over in the middle of the night. You can practically see the little squiggly marks emanating from that room the next morning. I jump in the shower and pretend not to notice.

--Any time we eat out, the over/under on number of items that hit the floor is 8.5, the number of kids who spend time under the table is 2.5, and the number of trips to the bathroom we make is also 2.5.

--Sometimes it's not unreasonable to expect the fort to hold itself down.

--When I have to share a room with someone who snores all night, then hear them say the next morning that THEY didn't sleep well at all last night, I want to throw them off a balcony.

--We don't have a "house cleaner" because nobody else really wants to set foot in this house. We also don't have a Roomba because it would have suffered a concussion by now.

--Our oldest, the self-proclaimed "Boss of the Children" doesn't realize that, in her role as middle management, she gets blamed for all of her younger brothers' missteps, which includes the potty training fails. She may soon relinquish that role and resume just being a seven-year-old.

--We're raising our kids Catholic, and so minutes after having a frank discussion with our oldest about her First Reconciliation and the importance of asking God's forgiveness for her sins, we tell all our kids that the boxes the mailman brought to their door (containing some of their Xmas gifts) aren't for them. Later we'll tell them they were brought by a fat, jolly elf who operated a reindeer-powered sleigh.

--Nothing that has black olives on it should ever be called "Supreme."

--The iPad screen is quickly replacing the crack between the bed and the wall as the go-to place for kids to wipe their boogers.

Friday, November 7, 2014

We Are the Dishwashers

Our dishwasher broke several weeks ago, so we are now the dishwashers. Makes us realize the dishwasher is something you don't realize you love until it's gone. Like gluten. (Thanks, Rice Chex.)

The green light at the top won't stop blinking. It's trying to tell us something?
Still, there is an opportunity here. The youngest, of all people, has noticed that we are spending more of our ever-diminishing free time washing everyone's dishes and has even offered to help wash them himself. That presents us with the ongoing conundrum of letting him help and splashing water all over the place and making the process way more tedious than it already is, or just doing it ourselves and finishing it in under five hours.

The kid has also suggested that the Easter Bunny wash the dishes. The Easter Bunny? Where did that come from? While we would appreciate a make-believe animal coming through and doing our work for us, the Easter Bunny comes but once a year. Actually, we're on the same pace, so why not?

Meanwhile, the poor dishwasher seems to want to help...lights blinking all over the place, gives you the impression it wants to live but just can't, but won't give up. It fights the good fight but ultimately it died doing what it did best, saving us a few minutes each