The Game of Life

There are some things that most of us are absolutely certain are true – 1) the Bengals will not make the playoffs in back to back seasons, 2) liberals have a fundamental inability to understand the American definition of personal responsibility and 3) the first Die Hard is the best Die Hard.

When I was a kid I believed the same was true – I was absolutely certain that the Duke boys would eventually outwit Roscoe and Enos, that if I tried hard enough I could become Lynn Swann and that there was, in fact, a Santa Claus. I believed despite my questions about why he’d be wearing a big heavy red coat when he was in places like Hawaii or Viet Nam and that visiting every single house in one night just wasn’t feasible with union air traffic controllers.

Anyway, Mom and I almost blew it Wednesday afternoon. We had to run out and grab a couple last minute gifts for the girls. Why? Because we evidently left the game of Life and two iTunes gift cards at Target a couple weeks ago when were finishing up our shopping for the girls a full two weeks before Christmas. We were pretty damn impressed with ourselves until Mom inventoried the whole list and couldn’t find Life or the gift cards.

So after some covert searching, Mom called Target. And for the record they were awesome about it. They cancelled the old gift cards and gave us two new ones. Then they gave us our money back on Life because it was out of stock. So we headed over to WalMart…and oh yeah, we had the girls with us…

A confident and suspicious Riley, however, isn’t playing along…

“Dad, you guys aren’t real good at keeping a secret about what you’re doing but you are pretty good at not telling us what you’re buying.”

“Yeah, hey blabber mouth girl, zip it.”

She’ll never admit it or say it out loud but Riley has evidently figured out the whole Santa Claus story.

“Hey, you guys come with me and we’ll go find some snacks and stuff for Christmas Eve and Christmas while Mom grabs a couple things.”

“I want to go with Mom,” says a whiny Kinsey.

“Sorry, no can do, I can’t go for that. How about we go pick out some potato chips instead?”


Still can distract the girls with potato chips. I know at some point it won’t work but by then they’ll be old enough to leave home by themselves for extended periods and we’ll be worried about other things than them finding out about Santa.

So we’re over getting barbecue chips, not to mention eggs, cheese and ham for Christmas morning omelets when they start getting antsy. I check my watch and it’s been about 30 minutes. Hmm…that has to be enough time for Mom to find the game of Life. So we buy our stuff and start walking back to where we came in…past the numerous check out lanes. Immediately it dawns on me that I better have my scanners on full power in case Mom is in line at one of the check out counters…and there she is…with the game of Life sitting right there…in full view…


Luckily I was holding both Bailey’s and Kinsey’s hands and I made a full speed cut to my left that likely left many WalMart patrons thinking of a late 70’s Tony Dorsett. Risking a full dislocation of both girls’ shoulders, I jumped into the Vision Center.

“Dad, were we supposed to see the game of Li…”

“La, La, La, La, La, La, nothing to see here, La, La, La, be quiet Riley!”

With all the skill of Magnum trying to unlock the door to the guest house while Zeus and Apollo bear down on him, I turn to the other two girls.

“Kinsey did you see Mommy?”

“No. Why?” asks Kinsey rubbing her shoulder.

“No reason, close your eyes!”

“Bailey did you see Mommy?”

“Yes, she’s right there.”

“Did you see what she was buying?”


“Crap. You weren’t supposed to see that. Riley saw it too. Well, I guess that’ll be a present Kinsey has to open on Christmas Eve.”

Kinsey looks at me with raised brow, “See what?”

One out of three isn’t bad. In baseball, I be a batting champion. Anyway, Riley may be figuring things out but Bails is only in 1st grade and totally, completely believes in the jolly old fat man with the snowy white beard. Chocolate milk and cookes by the fireplace, looking for sleigh tracks in the snow, wet boot prints leading to the Christmas tree…all of it.

And she’s in absolute tears. I immediately assume it’s because she saw one of her presents before Christmas and thinks she’s in trouble or that Santa will be mad. Great, what are chances I walk by the exact check out line that Mom is checking out of at the exact damn moment she has Life sitting right there out in the open? Evidently the same chances the Ravens will beat the Browns preventing the Steelers from clinching a first round playoff bye.

Dammit! We killed Santa for a 1st grader! How the hell do we fix this?

Well turns out she wasn’t crying because she thought Santa was mad or that the whole Santa jig was up. It was because she didn’t think it was fair that Kinsey would get to open the game of Life on Christmas Eve. And when you’re the third kid, fairness is a big freaking deal.

So, at least for another year, Santa lives! But I am in process of devising an actual exit strategy for any type of similar situation next year…


A Straight No Chaser Christmas

I’m sure you’ve heard these guys sing their totally excellent version of the “12 Days of Christmas.” Mom and I saw them live back in October. While I was disappointed they didn’t belt out a version of “Bad Medicine” they did sing this.

Listen to this a few times. Then have your kids listen to it too. Then go to the mall and attempt to finish up your Christmas shopping for your spouse without all of you suddenly bursting into “Fiiiiiiiive Golden Rings!”

It’s awesome.

Christmas Lists

Remember when the JCPenny Christmas catalog would arrive back when you were a kid? Back in the day, this was nearly its own holiday. You could check out the new Star Wars action figures, see which numbers were on the kids NFL jerseys and make fun of what your sisters wanted. We don’t really have that anymore but that didn’t stop the girls from going through the multitude of Toys R’ Us material that comes in the Sunday paper. Here are some selected highlights from the girls’ Christmas lists for Santa this year:

• Toe socks – She underlined it seven times. Santa better be paying attention.
• Laptop.
• iPad
• TV in my room
• Cool digital clock – electronics keep getting higher on the list every year.
• Phone (the one that Grandpa has)
• Very cool clothes
• Cool colored converse
• Cool flat boots
• Cool storage system and storage bins
• Trip to the hair cut store to get my hair in layers and get it thinned and get side bangs.
• Gift cards for iTunes
• Cheese balls – She must really like these things for them to make the list.
• Cute make-up
• New headbands that don’t kill my skull
• TV in my room – Yes, she listed it twice.
• New cool lamp.
• New cute boots that are ankle high and not a brand of Hannah Montana or any other show. Only a shoey brand.
• Gift cards to the following stores: Aeropostale, Gap, Children’s Place, TARGET!, Walmart, OLD NAVY! PAYLESS SHOES!!!

• Radio
• Gloves with the fingers cut off
• Curtins with flowers on them
• Penguin and pink Unicorn webkinz
• American Girl Doll makeup area
• Brown shiny scarf you can wear with clothes
• New purses
• Brown polka-dot with a shade
• GoGo My Walking Pup $44.99
• Barbie Video Girl $44.99
• Barbie Three-Story Dream House $139.99
• Barbie Loves Glitter Blow Dryer and Doll Set $19.99
• Dippin Dots Fun Set
• Grand View Barbie House $224.99
• Blizzard Maker – Sale $24.99 was $29.99
• Smoothie and Ice Pop Maker – Sale $14.99 was $19.99
• Barbie Glamour Camper with dolls – Sale $89.99 was $109.99
• Barbie Dream Townhouse
• Power Wheels Barbie Ford Mustang – Save $50! $249.99 was $299.99
• Sony 12.1 MP Digital camera – Sale $119.99 was $129.99
• Colortunes Dual Alarm clock for iphone/ipod with pillow shaker $99.99 before $20 rebate
• HMDX Audio Mini Boombox with ipod dock – Sale $39.99 was $49.99

I’m not joking about the price list. She wrote them down to make sure everybody knew in the interest of full disclosure.

• Koala webkinz
• Poodle webkinz
• Turtle webkinz
• Race Car Barbie
• ZuZu Pets
• New 2-wheeler bike
• Laptop
• Pillow Pet Bumble Bee
• Curtins that are purple with stripes
• Magic Fabric
• Aqua Sand
• Barbie House 225d
• Lulu My Cuddlin Kitty
• Polly World House
• TV in my room
• More Live Dolls any kind many a lot

Bails evidently doesn’t know what the dollar sign is yet so she just used her own shorthand to tell everybody how much the Barbie House cost.

Personally, I have one thing on my list this year that I’m hopeful Santa won’t forget…a classic 1975 white Franco Harris throwback jersey. Here it is in action:

Oh and I wouldn’t totally mind a Super Bowl win for the Steelers.

Too much? Okay how about just a playoff win over the Patriots?

Family Christmas #2

And so I’m offering this simple phrase,
To kids from one to ninety-two,
Although its been said many times, many ways,
A very Merry Christmas to you!

Anybody else spend a couple hours Saturday night watching most of the second half of the Steelers-Chargers playoff game from the strike shortened ’82 season? No? How about highlights from the 1976 season? Hmm… How about classic Christmas commericals from the late 70’s and early 80’s?

Here’s some of my favorites:
Classic Miller Beer ad.

C’mon you love this one too. Peter surprises his family and makes it home for Christmas.

Sure its a bunch of hippie garbage, but this McDonald’s ad is iconic. We were all singing it back it day along with Schoolhouse Rock.

Anyhow, four days until Christmas and we’re down to Santa. We celebrated with Mom’s side of family this weekend at one of her sister’s houses. 16 people in one house. Mom and I slept in our oldest niece’s room. We were informed that it was the coldest room in the house. This information proved correct. It was like we were in Ice Road Truckers. I had my Steelers hooded sweatshirt on – with the hood up so I could avoid frostbite on my ears.

Saturday morning we opened presents. Got a Steeler’s trailer hitch cover and a pressure washer. Now I just need to make sure I don’t take the paint off my truck the first time I use it.

The girls, of course, cleaned up again. Bails got a Barbie complete with two pet dogs. Which pee. That’s right – pee. Peeing Barbie dogs evidently carry a fairly high value amongst kids active in the Christmas loot comparison market.

Why does Mattel even sell this? I mean how did the product development meeting go when they thought of it?

“Hey, what if we gave Barbie two dogs?”

“Haven’t we already done that?”

“Yeah, but let’s make the dogs pee. Probably can’t use real urine but we could pack something in the box that turns yellow when water hits it. Yeah, and we’ll throw some brown shapes on there too.”

Seriously. In order to sell Barbie’s we have to market pee.

Anyway, we figured opening presents wasn’t enough for a Saturday so added a swim meet and high school basketball game. The girls’ cousins had a swim meet for most of the afternoon and then, as luck would have it, Mom’s hometown high school had a game in town Saturday night. And in case you were wondering, walking in 8 degree weather from the car to arena will not lower the rambunctious levels among children age 2 to 11. Especially when they’ve been jacked up all day on cookies and presents.

Christmas Program ’10

If you have children you’ve been to these things multiple times. If you were a kid at some point and either went to Sunday School or a Catholic School, you were in one. I remember back in 7th Grade my class did our own version of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” I was Claude. I still remember my line: “She wrapped him in wadded up clothes.” Got a big laugh and everything.

Well girls just had theirs at church on Wednesday evening. I only mention Wednesday because it was supposed to be last Saturday but we got hit the edge of the snownami that hit Minneapolis and caved in the Metrodome. So it was moved to Wednesday – a day that had previously been free of kid activities. So, depending on your perspective, we were either lucky…or not.

Bailey and Kinsey both had lines they had to deliver. Kinz had hers memorized right away but it took Bails the full 5 extra days to study hers. In fact, getting out of the truck at church we tried to get her to take a small piece of paper with it written down in case she forgot or got nervous.

“No, I don’t need it!”

Yeah, so we gambled and believed her.

We drop them off backstage and settled into our pew. Both of them are up there on the left riser. Riley is over on the right riser with the bigger kids. She looks a little bored while singing “Away in a Manger.”

In front of the stable, Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus is a herd of preschoolers dressed as lambs. One of the their songs is “Go Tell it on the Mountain.” But it was really a collection of mumbles interrupted by very excited shouts of “GO!”

Then, without warning, the lambs went rogue. As luck would have it, we had some shepherds handy and they rounded them up.

Next up was Bailey’s part. Three kids went before her. They all lined up at the microphone.

Two little girls and then Bailey’s buddy, the boy who she’s standing next to on the riser, delivers his right before her. We’re sitting next to his parents. He gets through it without a single awkward pause or hesitation. He steps away from the mic and Bailey, with her familiar mischievous smirk steps up… arms folded…

“He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the Lord his God.”

BOOM BABY! She nailed it! Got a “wow” from a couple fellow Dads and very satisfying fist pump from Bailey’s Sunday School teacher.

She returns to her spot on the riser sporting a very confident smile.

Well, I guess she didn’t need the cheat sheet.

After a few more songs, it is Kinsey’s turn. And she can barely contain her excitement. Backstage she was chosen to dress as an angel so she gets to wear this very sparkly golden garland halo. She makes her way through the kids lower on the riser and walks up to the microphone.

“While they were in Bethlehem, the time came. Mary gave birth to a son her first born.“

It was loud, clear and above all very smiley. After she returned to her spot, she turned around let out a deep breath, gave us a couple quick claps and a thumbs up.

They moved onto the “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” which gives me goose bumps ever since the first time I watched the last scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Although nobody, including the kids singing it, really know the second verse. This did not fluster Bailey. She just kept opening and closing her mouth in random forms in what must have been an attempt to fool us all into believing that she was still singing.

As usual she didn’t fool anyone, but was absolutely convinced she had everyone snookered.

Look on the back

So in first grade one of the things they do is write notes to each other. They have these little green sheets that say “Hey, hey, just wanted to say…” at the top. The idea is that kids can write nice things about each other and deliver the note or, if the situation calls for it, they write that someone hurt their feelings. It gives the teacher and parents an idea of what is happening at school.

I’m not sure I have an opinion on this other than I like reading the notes and that you could never do this at work. I mean all you’d end up with is a pile of notes about how this guy didn’t wipe up the coffee they spilled on the counter in the kitchenette, Or how so and so’s ringer on their phone is too loud. Hmmm…maybe things never really change from first grade?

Anyhow, I’m going through Bailey’s backpack this evening after we got home from watching the Christmas Program at church – Christmas Program post coming shortly – and I pull out three green sheets.

“Dear Bailey,

You are cool. You are awesome. You are fast.

Your friend Reagan”

This is pretty much how Bails describes herself so she’s probably pretty pleased about this one.

“Dear Bailey,

You are the best, you are my BFF. You can call me anytime. Love Nautica”

This is cool but I’m not real keen on the use of acronyms in first grade. I mean in a few years they will be texting which will obliterate any spelling skills they may have picked up so why rush it?

“Dear Bailey,

You are the best. You are crazy sometimes but I am still your friend. Best friends forever. Look on the back.

Your friend Grace”

So I flip over the sheet and on the back is a nice picture, obviously drawn by Grace, of Bailey, Grace and a monkey. Bails and Grace are holding hands. And the monkey is holding Grace’s hair. And his mouth and nose are sorta the same. Otherwise it’s a perfectly normal picture of two first graders and a monkey.

Published in: on December 15, 2010 at 11:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Colorado Christmas

Traveling with the girls is getting easier. We took a long weekend out to Colorado to see my side of the family in Denver for Family Christmas #1. We were up at 3 a.m. and on the road at 4:05 a.m. Thursday morning. In case it has been awhile since you’ve been up at 3 a.m., it is really freaking early. Especially in the winter when you still have to pack the car and your 1st grader is crankier than Chris Matthews on election night.

But listen, I may stink at math but my packing skills should be patented. Not only did I have to fit stuff for all five of us in the Pacifica, but I had to maintain the space integrity for the presents that were in gift bags. The only people who spend more time fluffing and situating the tissue paper in gifts bags than Mom are the women who work at Brighton. Seriously, what the hell is up with all the extra service at that store? You go in there and buy a freaking magnet as a stocking stuffer and they put it in a small box, pull some ribbon off one of their multitude of ribbon wheels, cut and tie the ribbon – and there must a merit badge at Brighton for the most loopy and complicated bow design – then they seriously think I care about what kind of color of bag the boxed and bowed magnet goes into. Then comes the tissue paper placement and adjustments. Finally when the packaging and presentation is complete, they walk it around the counter, give you the gift bag, carefully place the receipt and their business card into the bag and send you on your way. If you are like me, you immediately go out to your truck, drop the gift into the passenger seat and go back into the mall to finish up your Christmas shopping. Why? Because there’s no way to be cool carrying around a Brighton gift bag.

So if you’re traveling through Nebraska and northeastern Colorado, here’s a couple things we’ve learned over the last few years. First, Colorado sucks at snow removal. I know, its almost counterintuitive to say but it is an absolute rock solid fact. Its like the Colorado DOT sits around saying, “C’mon man, we’re Colorado! You came out here for the snow!” Anyway, we leave early Sunday morning, mostly because we had to be home in time to watch the Steelers-Ravens game, and just before Ft. Morgan it gets a bit snowy. We get to the Colorado-Nebraska border and you can literally see the stateline on the interstate. Snow covered to completely and totally snow free highway. The cornhuskers may condescending arrogant buttheads, but those boys sure know how to keep snow off of I-80.

Second, if you are going to stop at the Julesburg exit on I-76 and you decide to go to the Shell station instead of the Wagon Wheel – the bathrooms are cold. Especially at 8 in the morning in early December.

Third, the Arby’s in Ogallala has quick service. The McDonalds in Kearney does not. It is impossible not to laugh at Home Alone even if you can only hear the dialog while your kids are in the back of the car watching it.

Oh and the girls like fuzzy socks. Here’s a pic of some them.

Last thing, you how sometimes you immediately go to the nuclear option as a parent? Well my older sister decided to use it right off the bat with my nephew while explaining to him why he needed to be good if he wanted to stay in the hotel with Grandad and Grandma.

“Listen, if you’re not good…Grandad will KILL you.”

Seriously. That’s what she said. It’s not totally inconceivable either. One time back in the fall of ’85 Grandad fell asleep on the family room couch while my older sister and I were watching Miami Vice. We’re talking, discussing the coolness of Crockett’s hair and admiring the pastels when he wakes up and almost goes all Howard Dean in the ’04 Iowa Caucuses on us. So we’ve seen what happens when Grand Dad wakes up involuntarily…