Hello Christmas My Old Friend

I like Santa.  He’s a jolly old fat man with a snowy white beard.  He’s about giving, hope and faith.  He represents the best in all of us and asks nothing in return.  He shows up regardless of the weather, regardless of how you voted in November and regardless of whether you believe in him or not.

Christmas is the season, to paraphrase Frank Cross, when we’re all a little nicer.

Theoretically anyway.

Mom was in Omaha and Lincoln for most of last week. And her side of the family came to the house over the weekend to celebrate an early Christmas.  Plus Rogue One came out Friday.  Yeah, so Friday morning was pretty much shot when it came to cleaning up the house and making food along with all the other related holiday preparedness chores necessary to accomplish when family is about to arrive.

So that means it fell upon me to get the place ready.  I unilaterally modified that task to mostly ready.  Why?  Because I’m a simple dude.  And a lot of stuff that some people think are necessary, I don’t.  But listen, we kicked Christmas’ ass decorating this place.  It looks freaking awesome.  Our family room looks like HG-freaking-TV was here.  Chip and Joanna, when they’re not fighting off the leftwing twitter lynch mob, would be proud.  The house smells like a yuletide log filled with mistletoe and sugarplums, delivered to the house by a one-horse open sleigh driven by eleven lords-a-leaping, exploded leaving an exquisite ensemble of poinsettias, silver bells and a sea of swirly twirly gum drops.   It’s like Santa himself detailed the Seal Team 6 of elves to come get the place ready for the holidays.  So I figured as long as the house is clean, the beer is cold and there is enough food to prevent starvation, we’d be set.

Yes, there were a few things left to clean up after we got home from watching Rogue One.  But it was Rogue One.  What the hell were we supposed to do?  Wait until next weekend to see it?  Here’s a pic of me getting ready to watch.

theaterrogueone

First one in the theater baby!

Regardless, I was on top of making sure the house was ready.  Thursday night, whilst cleaning up the basement, I thought I’d get all the laundry done too.  Seemed reasonable.  However, there are three teenage girls in the house.  Things which are of deathly importance to them do not always rise to that same level with me.

So, I’m doing the laundry and various clean up related tasks.  I’m about done and getting ready to call the evening’s prep work a win and just go to bed when Rye comes into the bedroom.

“Dad, when you were doing laundry did you go into my room and take anything?”

“Are you asking did I pick up any of the clothes that were strewn about your floor?  No, I didn’t.  I asked if you had any laundry you wanted done and you specifically said no.  I chose to believe you.”

“Ok, well it was Kinsey then.”

“Wait, what was Kinsey?”

“Well, my Lulu Lemon tights got washed in the washer and they are only supposed to be hand washed.”

Quick point of context – Lulu Lemon is the brand that sells tights/leggings that are about $700.  I’m kidding but Rye did save up a bunch of money this summer specifically to buy leggings that were about $100.  Yes, $100 American dollars.  They are so precious but also evidently constructed so poorly that they can’t cannot survive a routine cycle in a washing machine and instead can only endure 19th century clothes washing technology.

“Sorry about that kiddo but I just put whatever whatever was in the darks pile into the washing machine.  I didn’t look to see what was in the pile because I figure if you guys made the rare decision to put your own dirty laundry in the laundry room I was just going to go ahead assume you were serious about that stuff getting washed.  I just unloaded the washer and hung up 3 or 4 pairs of black tights or leggings or whatever.  Nothing like that got put in the dryer.”

“Okay, well, Kinsey must have put them in the laundry on purpose.  I hate her.”

Then she went into Kinsey’s room, blamed her, and then went back into her room and started crying.

So much for there being a feeling of Christmas in the air.  But that is how the mind of 17 year-old upset about her ridiculously expensive black leggings being washed glitches when upset.  She doesn’t think that she may have inadvertently put them in the wrong pile, or absent mindedly picked them up with something else off her floor, instead she tried to pin the blame on me.  When it was obvious that wouldn’t work, she seamlessly transitioned to blaming her sister, for no other reason than malice, for trying to purposely ruin them.

I mean what was Kinsey’s motive?  What did she have to gain by going into Rye’s room, searching for the Lulu Lemon leggings and then sneakily placing them in the pile of dirty laundry in the laundry room.  Where’s the payoff?

After getting blamed, Kinsey comes into my room looking like the media on election night.  She confusedly asks me if I knew what Rye was talking about.  We went through a quick recap and Kinz says, “Why would I do that? That literally makes no sense.”  Aside from acknowledging her use of “literally” in a relatively appropriate way, I just told her to ignore Rye and go to bed.

Which, if I’m being honest, is my go to strategy when dealing with the three teenage girls in my house…

I-76 Christmas

Every other year we travel to Colorado for Christmas. You could do worse. Colorado is cool place. It has mountains, a crap ton of microbreweries and both of my sisters live there. It was also 65 degrees in the middle of December. Not too shabby. This trip not only gives us the chance to spend time with my side of the family but also affords us the opportunity to really evaluate the interstate system, grade the exits and their dining opportunities along with the scenery along I-76.

So, Colorado, you have legal pot now. I am sure this reality has drawn a certain demographic to settle within your borders. Congrats, I guess. But you did not have to hire all them to work at the Department of Transportation. Because one of two things is happening as a result. Either the Colorado DOT forgot to take care of their roads because they got hungry or Colorado isn’t using any of the pot tax revenue on its roads. Granted, you probably have other needs which need funding. Off the top of my head, I guessing more law enforcement. But geez, c’mon Colorado, you suck at highways. Badly. It’s like you deliberately laid each concrete section of I-76 a half inch off of the last one. Describing it as washboard effect does not do washboards justice. The right lane going west was like driving on the brain waves of Nancy Pelosi. So we switched lanes to the less annoying but still shoddy asphalt in the left lane. It was like we were driving on pillows. And not the crappy Wal-Mart pillows, the expensive ones at Pottery Barn. Regardless, how about throwing some of that new drug money at the interstate?

Now, if you find yourself traveling on I-76 in eastern Colorado, here’s a few things to remember:

First, your cell reception will be as reliable as a French armored division in the spring of 1940. Two, if you enjoy watching barbed wire fencing, cattle and a complete lack of trees, you’re in luck. If you’re driving west and you forget to get gas in Ogallala, here’s a rundown on your options just over the pot frontier in Colorado.

Julesburg. We’ve never made it past the Shell station or Wagon Wheel right at the exit so I can’t comment on the town itself. The Wagon Wheel has more room and nicer bathrooms. Also it has an impressive about of trinkets and baubles.

Segewick. I’m not sure what Segewick looks like or actually entails. Lucy’s Café is right off the interstate and had a couple gas pumps. Lucy also had a General Store. I assume the General Store sold more than gun powder and sasparilla. But one thing Lucy’s didn’t have was pavement. I don’t want to cast aspersions upon Segewick or Lucy’s Café and General Store but we haven’t been back since we stopped there in ’08.

Sterling. I recommend stopping here. Although we never have. It appears to be the biggest small town you’ll pass until you get to Ft. Morgan. So I guess there’s less chance you’ll be mauled by a rabid elk or something.

Atwood. There’s a Sinclair station. We stopped there on our way home. It looks like its located on the moon. And there was a small café-type restaurant attached. We were there pretty early on a Sunday morning so it wasn’t real busy. Not that anything is busy at any time anywhere on I-76 in eastern Colorado.

So, in conclusion, getting gas before you cross the Nebraska-Colorado stateline is a good idea. Also having a large capacity bladder.

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…

Colorado Trip 2010

I like Colorado. Both my sisters live there, they have rattlesnake shootin’ grandmas and places called Horsetooth. Plus it has a giant water park which kept the girls and their cousin thoroughly occupied for most of Saturday. And there simply is not another place that can make you feel better about your appearance than a water park. America may have a weight problem, but it certainly has no issues about displaying said problem.

Anyway, water parks attract three things.

1-Kids. This makes sense. Kids love swimming. And what’s better than swimming? Slides, tubes and wave pools. Here’s a tip however – you can’t steer a tube. Therefore before embarking down a slide atop a tube, gather some intel. For example, you might want to do some rough sketches of the slide path. If you’re good at math, some calculations regarding mass, turn radius and speed are in order. Pay close to the architecture of the turns. Most slides are constructed using the familiar “U” or half-circle shape. If they want to add speed or scariness, they completely enclose the slide into a tunnel. Now, if there is a turn that required the designers to add that extra lip on one side of the half-circle, this should raise a red flag.

Why?

Gravity.

Unless you’ve achieved Nascar-like speeds, you are unlikely to emerge from the turn unscathed or in the same position upon which you’ve entered it. Translation? You’re going to fall off your tube only to be embarrassingly dragged down the rest of the slide by your tube. This can in no logical or reasonable way be described as fun. You’re not going fast enough for it to give you that speed rush and you’re not going slow enough to climb back into the tube’s saddle.

I rounded the last turn on my back holding the tube above me. I’m thinking to myself, “man, this is what Joe Biden must feel like all the time.”

Since there’s no chance I’m leaving the water park with Riley’s lasting memory being that. I had to ride this slide.

Its called the Flatliner and its much higher up than it looks. And I’m not real fond of heights. Especially when the entire platform sways just enough so you can feel it. I seriously tried to melt into the slide as I pushed myself over the edge. I also learned what it must be like to wear a thong.

2-Tattoos. Now I realize tattoos have become much more mainstream since I was in college. But when did getting an eight inch wide tramp stamp on your lower back become mainstream? Or a random pattern of stars across your stomach? Or two wolves growling at each other from each shoulder blade? I’m kidding about that last one…but not really.

3-Body piercings. Not ears. Nipples. Dude nipples. There are lots of things I don’t really get – poetry, the Food Network, cheering for the Patriots. But piercing your nipples? Why would you put a freaking handle on your nipple? What if the ring gets caught on your shirt?

Anyhow, we also took a trip out to the house of a friend of my sister. Pretty cool if you get to drive by this everyday on your street. Well, not really a street but more like a fairly well traveled dirt road.

Here’s the view from your front door.

Here’s the view going down your driveway.

We don’t really get this kinda stuff in Iowa.