Our 2014 Christmas Letter: a year in crappy pics

Dear Friends & Family,

2014 was a year of accomplishments for our family, beginning on January 1st, when we woke up without headaches, nausea, or pastry induced sugar comas. Honestly, we owned 2014 right then and there.

In January, I finally got around to ordering our 2013 Christmas cards (note: both 2013 & 2014 enclosed- feel free to display the one that best matches your home decor). We also completed the basement wainscoting project and put the finishing touches on Ana’s under-the-stairs playhouse, which she then refused to play in because “I’m not going under the stairs!”

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February plunged us into a very cold and a very dark Polar Vortex. I entered a winter depression, marked by an obsession with Florida real estate and an excessive consumption of simple carbs. Meanwhile, Collin stayed in the basement playing Xbox, Brian frequented any and all restaurants advertising pork belly, and Ana played with her toys…but not the ones in the playhouse.

March saw the birth of my Spicy Jalapeno Margarita! When we weren’t going to Oasis Family Fun Center or watching Brian eat pork belly, I was at home using the freshest ingredients to create the perfect drink to welcome Spring. Nailed it!

In April, Brian won a work incentive trip for two to Mexico! So we hopped a plane to Punta Mita where we soaked up the sun, drank margaritas, and ate fish tacos and nachos until the elastic in our bathing suits threatened to rip. Ahhh! It was a much needed and super relaxing trip…except for the part where we accidentally walked onto a private beach and were chased by security guards protecting the Mexican Secretary of State who was responsible for the recent capture of “El Chapo”, the kingpin of the Mexican Drug Cartel. But in our defense, the “No Entrar” sign was really tiny.

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It became apparent in May, that our 12 year old dog, Mr. Bojangles, had become almost completely deaf. I was sad at first, but now that the doorbell no longer elicits a Cujo response from him, I find that my fight-or-flight response towards guests is dissipating.

We checked two things off our bucket list in June- we took our first cruise to Bermuda! It was awesome! Bermuda was stunning, the Norwegian Breakaway was gorgeous, and miraculously no one went overboard.

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In July, I once again hosted another week of Camp Cheapo. 12 neighborhood kids, 25 cans of shaving cream, 2 slip-n-slides, 15 Frisbees, lots of bad choices, and very little supervision. It was another cheapo success!

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Collin started tackle football in August, which totally freaked me out. However, when I saw how substantial the protective gear was, I relaxed a bit. Then I saw the 6 days per week practice schedule and tensed back up.

In September, Collin started 5th grade with his favorite teacher, and Ana excitedly entered Kindergarten! Although she loved school, the first couple weeks were rough for Ana. She was tired in the mornings and had zero interest in getting dressed, brushing her hair, putting on her shoes, etc. No surprise, this led to her missing the bus quite a bit. I tried rewards, threats, bribes, pleads, and just as I was about to home school her, I came up with an idea – completely dressing her the night before. And it worked! Just today, I successfully rolled her from bed to bus stop!

Also in September, Ana and I completed our first and last 5K together!

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Technically, she only completed one mile because I carried her the other two. Later that afternoon, while icing my arms, I received the race stats via email letting me know that I placed last in my age group. And because I was carrying her in front of me, Ana beat my time.

October was Collin’s birthday month and a trip to Disney World with Brian’s family! It’s our favorite time of year in Disney –  Halloween and Epcot’s Wine & Food Festival! Talk about gluttony!

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The Polar Vortex returned in November, sending us back into hibernation mode. So while everyone else was updating their Facebook status with “Our family just completed another 5K today. Woohoo!”, we were busy running our own race- to Costco, the bakery, the liquor store, and back – all before Mr. Bojangles could pee on the floor. And Ana made some interesting new fashion choices. She now wears her knee socks over her pants and has adopted the motto “The more contrast, the better.”

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Things going on this month (December)

Brian – One word, CUPCAKES. He will not rest until he’s found the world’s most perfect cupcake. I believe he’s even created a mission statement to that effect.

Collin – Says he would like either a desktop computer for Christmas or a pack of gum. Hopefully Santa will bring him better negotiating skills.

Ana – LOVES her Elf on the Shelf and she’s grateful he didn’t arrive on the scene until after she hit that boy on the bus.

Mr. Bojangles – Deaf, incontinent, but will still sell his soul for a cookie.

Buddy – Our 3-legged adopted dog, thinks the sun rises and sets on me, and merely tolerates everyone else.

Roxy – The cat continues to mark her territory under our pool table. She may have a larger territory this Spring.

Blaze – The hamster Collin just HAD to have still does nothing but sleep all day. Why did anyone think a nocturnal animal would make a decent pet for a kid that goes to bed at 9 pm?

Me – It’s taking everything I have to get our Christmas cards out more than 48 hours before Christmas. Nailing it!

 

As this year is coming to a close, we want to say thank you for a being a part of our lives, whether near or far, yesterday or yesteryear, you are always in our hearts. May your 2015 be filled with an abundance of love, laughter, health, and happiness.

 

Love,

Brian, Kim, Collin, & Ana

 

_________________

 

Looking for an awesome stocking stuffer, a gift for your bunko hostess, or yourself? Check this out this hilarious book that sets the ridiculousness of suburban life to haiku!

Suburban Haiku: Poetic Dispatches from Behind the Picket Fence  by Peyton Price

Weekend in Crappy Pics (Disney World – Part 4)

The Weekend in Crappy Pics - Disney 2014, family vacation is not always a fairy tale.

Ok, so I HAVE to do this Disney vacation wrap-up. No, really, because this blog is the only record my family will ever have of this trip…or of anything we ever do. How screwed up is that?

In 20 years:

Collin’s kids: Dad, where are all the pictures from when you were little?

Collin: Well, let me just pull up your grandmother’s blog…

Maybe I should create scrapbooks, you know, like a normal mother? Or maybe stop sewing felt vaginas?

But I digress…

Day 5 – Epcot

All you need to know about Epcot is that their World Showcase is not real. I mean, I know it’s not real real, but as it turns out, the products they sell ARE NOT EVEN FROM THE COUNTRY YOU’RE IN!

For example, the kids loved playing with the instruments displayed in Africa, so I thought to myself, “Candy Ass, you should buy the darlings a tambourine so you’ll have something valuable to take away when they start acting up.” (TIP: Always be prepared to deprive them, otherwise, they hold the upper hand.) 

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So I picked up the African tambourine and…

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HECHO EN MEXICO?

HECHO EN MEXICO?  

So let me get this straight, we visit Africa, in America, to buy a tambourine made in Mexico? UGGGHH. I wanted nothing more than to push that Mexican musical cart right through boring Norway and into the base of the Mayan temple!  …and then buy another margarita, seeing as I was back in Mexico. But I didn’t, so it was on to Japan…

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 Yup- Japan gifts, made in China.

Oh well, at least I knew the shit in China would be real. And it’s not like you can find “Made in China” products just anywhere, so there’s that.

 

Day 6 – Disney Quest

Ah, Disney “The 5 story video game place that we get into for free with our park tickets and our kids would have been happier just to stay here all 6 days” Quest.

Because our family is extremely competitive and hates to lose, we spent most of our time playing in KidQuest, the gaming zone designed for children ages 2-7.

Here’s Brian kicking a tiny game’s ass as a group of preschoolers form around him, some in awe, others crying, one offers to buy the next round of juice boxes:

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Sure, setting the high score in the kiddie area might be a boost to our self esteem, but it’s entering the winning initials “A.S.S.” that we truly live for.

 

After Leaving Disney Quest, we walked over to the Lego store…

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where Ana played until the kid in the black jacket sneezed into the Lego bowl then fished around for his cough drop.

 

After generously coating everyone with hand sanitizer, we headed to a nearby Irish restaurant for dinner.

Much to our delight, they had dance performers throughout the meal and, at one point, they invited children to come up.

Here’s Ana performing:

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I had two chocolate martinis made with Bailey’s Irish Cream.

Martini #1 – “Look at her, she’s a natural!”

Martini #2 – “You know, I’m signing her up for Irish dance lessons the moment we get home because she really seems to enjoy it, you know? I bet she could get a scholarship, you know?”

Day 7 – Heading Home

During our trip, the stroller we’ve had since Collin was a baby, broke. I wanted to cry.

I know it sounds stupid, but I felt horrible knowing I’d have to leave it behind. This wonderful apparatus, this, this, godsend, this beautiful stroller, it restrained my children for many years, allowing me to do some really special things, things like peeing in public stalls, trying on clothes in handicap dressing rooms, and walking through various mall parking lots wondering where the hell my car was.

So it was with tremendous grief that I carried the stroller into the rental unit’s garage and, amid the screams of “MOM WHERE ARE YOUUUU?”, said my final goodbyes.

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And then I put it down.

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If I’m honest with myself, Stroller had been struggling for years. It really was the most humane thing to do.

Farewell, good friend, farewell.

 

The Airport

Apparently, airport security does this new thing where they ask your kid who you are to them, and you have to stand there with your mouth shut hoping they’ll say “My mom” and not “She must be my kidnapper because my real mother would have bought me that Mickey Mouse pin from the gift shop”.

But either way, this security measure is truly unfortunate for us, as Ana tends to clam up when put on the spot.

After she met his third request of “Who is this lady?” with yet another shrug and blank stare, I began to panic. My mouth smiled at her like ‘aren’t you being super silly’ but my eyes, my eyes screamed, ‘SAY MOTHER! SAAAY MOOOTHERRR! SAY IT!’ In that moment, I realized that there’s a fine line between trying to get your kid to claim you and looking like a child trafficker coercing your abductee to lie, and I was walking it.

Finally, “She’s my mom?”

A question? She phrases it in the form of a question?!?! Oh, Jesus, I’m going to the big house.

I guess sick of us wasting his time, the security officer decided that was good enough and let us go. No cavity search required.

And as we were about to board the plane, the last thing I heard on our vacation was this announcement,  “Attention  passengers, we are paging Joe Momma…paging Joe Momma. Would Joe Momma please come to the courtesy desk?”  HAHAHAHA, that’s a classic!

 

 

 

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If you’re bored, go back and read Disney, Part 1 here

Weekend in Crappy Pics – Disney 2014 (pt.3)

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In case you missed the last couple posts, Disney (Part 1) and Disney (Part 2), I’m continuing our Disney trip with some more crappy pics.

 

Day 3 – Hollywood Studios

As you know, Frozen is all the rage right now, and nowhere in Disney is that more apparent than Hollywood Studios.

First we had to see the Frozen sing-a-long musical…which was AWESOME!

 

Then we moved like cattle to a building that contained EVERYTHING and ANYTHING Frozen. Though I couldn’t find the feminine product line-  a bloated Elsa on the box, with sled shaped pads and tampons dangling from her castle like icicles.

 

Ana swore she had to have this t-shirt-

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 I swore I would NOT pay this price-

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so we distracted her with something shiny and free. Snow.

Welcome to Wandering Oaken’s Frozen Snowground, where it’s always 40 degrees, and you delightfully slip and slide on recycled slush while wearing shorts.

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Brian screaming over “Do You Want to Build a Snowman”: Oh my god, how long do we have to stay here?

Collin: Can we go?

me: It’s timed, so I think 5 minutes maybe?

Collin: Can we go?

me to cast member: How long do they play in that cold stuff?

Collin: Can we go?

cast member: 15 minutes.

me: oh..no..no..no..no…. (my visible breath swirling into the shape of a dagger before plunging into my heart)

Collin: MOM! That little girl just hit me in the face with an iceball!

 

Who knew Hell would be so cold?

 

 Day 4 – Blizzard Beach

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Sadly, this was the only photo I was able to take all day because I had to leave my phone in the locker. But if I did have my camera, this is what I would have captured…

1. Brian losing our locker key in the Lazy River. He spent a half hour with security, breaking into our locker and relocating our belongings.

2. Brian then losing our Disney Gift Card (which we had just loaded with money) on Runoff Rapids. They had to close the ride and call a diver in to retrieve it. Thankfully, the ride was configured in such a way that those waiting in line at the top were unable to see why it was stopped. “I wouldn’t volunteer you’re the reason.” was the advice given to us by the attendant.

3. Me and my mother-in-law ordering a drink from the bar at 2 pm because it had already been a long day.

 

Trick or Treating in Celebration, FL

 

Ah, Celebration, Fl, the idyllic little town that Disney built.

Judging by the small number of homes with lights on, it seems that most of these residences are used as vacation homes. But the ones that did give out candy went fantastically overboard!

Our little Elsa, even found an Anna and Kristoff!

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But here’s the weird thing…see that gate on their front porch? Almost all of the homes had them, like they were keeping us “out-of-towners” at a safe distance, off their porches and away from their breakables.

For a moment, I considered I might be paranoid, but then we came upon “jail house” where they pointed rifles and threw candy at us over a barbed wire fence.

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Something tells me this was a multifaceted design choice.

 

NEXT UP: Epcot and Disney Quest, then home…click here

The Weekend in Crappy Pics – Disney 2014 (part 2)

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If you read my last post, then you know we just returned from Disney and that I have a bunch of crappy pics to share with you. But rather than bore you with perfectly staged pictures of my children (I actually don’t have any) in front of charming characters, I’m sharing a few of our crappier highlights…or low-lights, if you will.

 

 

Day 1 – The Magic Kingdom

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“Kids, move a little to your right. I’m having trouble getting both the manhole and the trashcan in the picture.” is what I must have said.

Heading over to the Speedway ride:

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Collin begged me to let him drive…with me as his passenger. Tired of arguing with children, I agreed. After all, it’s on a track, how bad could he be?

Answer: VERY BAD

We were all over the road! Back and forth, forth and back, necks snapping, brains scrambling. I’m surprised the camera didn’t vibrate out of my hand.

How can he be this awful? I asked myself.

Then I turned to my right…

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 ”What? I’m driving with my knees. Isn’t that how dad does it?”

Day 2 – Animal Kingdom

Ahh, the majestic elephants of the safari tour…

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 who Ana completely ignored after circling the Elephant in her animal identification book.

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Turns out Ana’s not so much a “live in the moment” person as she is a “where’s the next freakin’ animal, so I can cross it off my list, receive my completion badge, and shove my superiority in my brother’s face” personality.

Me: Look, Ana! It’s a meerkat doing back flips off a dancing giraffe!

Her: If it’s the reticulated giraffe of Somalia, I already circled it. NEXT.

I wanted to pitch that damn book down a watering hole but, sensing my annoyance, she held it tightly.

 

After the safari, Collin convinced me to go on the rapids ride with him. You know, the one where you’re forced down and buckled into a warm, wet seat before it even begins? Well, just as we were about to head down the river, a giant bamboo branch cracked and fell from the trees behind us, smacking our 12 person raft as we passed. So they stopped the ride. For a long time. A very long time.

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While the Disney “cast members” ran in circles and took turns beating the cracked branch with a pool skimmer, my observation skills were kicking into high gear on our vessel.  For example, I learned that Gloria and Dwayne were in couples therapy, which was obvious, given the amount of air-quote “I feel” statements they were throwing around while arguing over Dwayne’s choice of not wearing a rain poncho. Gloria “felt” he was acting like a macho asshole. She also “felt” that his “stupid wet ass” would regret it when everyone saw through his white shorts, and why did he “feel” the need to wear white shorts anyway? Dwayne “felt” like she was being a “huge bitch” about the whole thing. And I “felt” like their therapist failed to fully explain the purpose of the “I Feel” exercise.

 

When Animal Kingdom closed at 5 pm, we drove to the nearby idyllic town of Celebration, a white picket fence community originally created by Disney.

One of the town’s churches was having a pumpkin patch fundraiser, meaning all the pumpkin sales and any donations would go to a local women’s shelter. I suggested we make a donation since there was no way we were lugging a pumpkin through the airport. But noooo, Ana begged for a pumpkin, a huge ass pumpkin, and Brian gave in seeing as how we’d be in Disney on Oct. 31 and “she won’t have a real Halloween this year”    Won’t have a real Halloween this year?   Seriously? Who is she, Tiny Tim?

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I should mention that moments before this picture was taken (and almost every moment leading up to it), Brian was bathing our kids in hand sanitizer and anti-virus prayers. The result…

Me, taking the picture: Ready? 1…2…3…

Brian: Cheese!

Collin: Cheese!

Ana: EEEEBOLA!

I, and everyone around me, was horrified.

 

 

More pics on the next post. Oh we’re not done…

 

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