Christmas Ninja Stars

We do this family Christmas photo event every year and every year it’s a debacle. I just don’t understand why we continue to put ourselves through it. More so, I don’t know why Staci keeps letting us back. Although, this year she smartened up and made us take photos deep in the forest where no one could hear the screams.

The best way to describe the process is to break it down into chunks. Each section brings its own problems and creates its own issues. All atr equally chaotic and none are mutually exclusive… they occur naturally and each that proceeds the next creates and increases the chaos.

The Pre Photo Phase:

The whole morning routine is thrown to shit. Everyone is up at the same time, which means my morning coffee is sucked down while trying to wrangle two cranky toddlers who want nothing more than some apple juice and a few episodes of Blaze and the MonsterMachines. Instead I’m squeezing their heads through matching button down flannels and cardigans. The screams can be heard from neighborhoods afar. Feeding them goldfish for each article of clothing they successfully put on is all I can do to stop child protective services from showing up at my front door.

Once everyone is layered up with enough fleece and corduroy to protect from even the deepest freeze of Mount Everest, we all realize that mom hasn’t even started to get changed. Her 12 outfits still lay neatly on the bed each screaming to be lucky enough to be chosen as this years Christmas’ photo regalia.

As the tiny humans begin to unravel downstairs they wait for their fashionista of a mother to emerge from behind the velvet curtains and through the fog machine to cheers and excitement like a Victoria Secret Model on some primetime fashion show.

The Travel Phase:

Each of the past five years has ended in some sort of travel mishap, or disaster. The cars aren’t the same, but the results always are. Somehow, someway the travel phase always results in violation points on someone’s license and children so tightly squeezed into their booster seats that their eyes are likely to pop out.

Each round trip to and from family photos has produced some pretty significant accidents and lofty fines. Two accidents (one involving the photographer herself), a half injured turkey, and a speeding ticket (or two). We’ve been lost so many time we now know the backroads of New England better than Cookie Monster on Waze.

Let’s get this show on the road

The Photo Phase:

Cue the most amazing photographer who’s ever walked the Earth. “AUUUUNNNNNTTTTIEEEEE STAAAAAAACCCCIIIIIIIIIII!!!!”

You can heat them from across the Christmas tree farm. You can see her turn slowly, like it’s a horror movie. Her hair flips slowly as her wide smile turns into a grin that is half happy to see you… maybe it’s more half paranoid about what’s about to happen.

She smartens up each time she meets us, this time she has set up stations. That’s the trick with toddlers. Keep them on the move, keep them guessing and don’t let them catch their breath. It’s almost like running the hurry up offense. Keep the clock moving and keep the entire defense on the field. Eventually they’ll tire out.

The look that says evil is coming

Props are just par for the course when taking Christmas photos. They can provide the perfect backdrop for two brothers. The trick is getting that photo snapped before the props become weapons. The beautifully painted wooden “Let it Snow” sign that bear the calligraphy of a professional become shields for chocolate-chip cookie ninja stars.

And the tricycle that was perfectly set up in between two symmetrical Douglas firs quickly becomes a get away vehicle.

Faster than a speeding bullet and fueled by 12 large cookies

The Post Photo Phase:

Pictures happen quickly. There are lots of moving parts, lots of bribery and lots of tears. It takes the patience of a saint. Staci, Saint Staci that is, has it. She perpetuates sainthood. She’s good, she’s really good.

The photo session comes to end with as much anticipation as the end of a root canal. With puddles of tears, new clothes stained and tattered, the cries slowly quieted (and that was just from mom and dad). The kids on the other hand were hyped from the 15 Candid Cookie Eating takes, but I digress.

After herding these animals back towards the parking it was finally time to breathe a sigh of relief. Kids are tired. Parents are tired. Hell, the photographer is tired. It’s time to hitch a ride out of there.

Things are never easy and we always say we’ll never go through it again. That is… until we see the magic that Staci, Jax and Oliver have created. They are magicians and the photographs will forever be magic.

A Christmas Miracle

Christmas. It’s a time to appreciate what you have and reflect on the important things in life. It’s a time for giving and a time to enjoy the most important people in your life. That is unless your have kids. Then it’s about winning. It’s literally about winning Christmas (obviously winning is about being the best present giving “parent” since Santa is the best overall).

Setting aside all the magical gifts that Santa delivers down the chimney and under your barely standing, brown five week old Christmas tree, parents often both agree on an amount to spend on their children, or at least decide together what gifts will be bought for the kids. The thing is… if your anything like us it’s not just about the season of giving. It’s about the season of “who got the best gifts.” You want to try to take it easy… you know, just get little Susie an Easy Bake Oven, but it’s easy to want to go overboard and become the favorite parent. It’s amazing how fast that Easy Bake Oven turns into a live unicorn.

Although, the other side of this… Just understand you may wind up sleeping on the couch once your partner catches wind of your plan. Steph and I haven’t gotten to that point yet, as long as the kids are happy on Christmas morning… that magic of the holiday twinkling in their eyes… that’s the real gift.

Buying for the little one is easy. Oliver would go nuts over a toilet paper roll, or a box of tissue paper. Put a few random legos in a coffee can and you have created the greatest gift of all time. You can’t measure happiness in money or gift amounts, but you can however measure happiness in laughs and smiles. We all want to make Christmas morning as magical as possible, so it’s best to take advantage of how easy it is to please the little ones now.

We try to take it easy. We (Santa) buys lots of books and puzzles. This year we are going to have Jackson pick a few old toys to donate to someone in need, as he replaces those he donates with new ones Santa brings him. We aren’t naive to think that Christmas isn’t about presents, but I think this mom and dad also relish in the little things as well… a healthy and happy family. Two little boys who love each other and most importantly the fact that we got them to sit long enough with each other to get a decent Christmas card! It’s a Christmas miracle.

Stages of a Snow Day for a New Parent

Stage 1: Denial

If you are a teacher, principal or anything relating to school, when you hear the forecast predict snow you immediately turn in to an eight year old!  Cautious pessimism exudes from your body!  You’re eyes are literally pasted to the TV… you flip from channel  61 to 3 to 4 to see if all the meteorologists are saying the same thing!  However, you know that there’s no way you’ll have off… maybe a delay you try to convince yourself… if you’re lucky.  You begin your snow dance superstition routine.  I have teacher friends who flush ice cubes down the toilet, put a white crayon in the freezer and wear their PJs inside out and backwards.  But in the back of your head, you know you’ll be up early writing lesson plans.

Stage 2: Excitement

Snow cancelations begin to show up on the news.  The first few flakes start to fall… It’s going to happen.  The first few moments are amazing; your mind is going 1000 miles per hour as you begin to think about all the great things you can get done around the house and how amazing it will be to spend the whole day with your nine month old son!  Wife and husband are high fiving each other with excitement for the great day ahead!

Stage 3: The Calm Before the Storm (no pun intended)

The baby is quietly entertaining himself on his play mat with a few of his favorite QUIET toys.  The dogs are sitting nicely at his side keeping an eye on things.  Husband and wife are sitting next to each other drinking a cup of coffee and enjoying each other’s company. You’ve now watched seven episodes of Peppa Pig.  There is not a chance you are going to be able to get to everything you wanted to today because the little one is crazy fussy this AM, but that is OK… because you have the day off.  Take it slow today you tell yourself… you’ll still get a lot done.

Stage 4: Stress

Things are getting a bit hairy.  Mom and dad walk by each other and shoot dirty looks back and forth, baby is screaming and the dogs have pooped in the house numerous times because they refuse to go outside in the storm.  You are now inventing chores to do around the house and handing the baby off like a QB to a running back in half hour shifts.  There has to be some more toys that haven’t been opened and played with yet from Christmas.

Stage 5: Anger

Baby is teething… the crying, runny nose, rosy cheeks and constant sneezing are causing both parents to lose their mind!  Mom is sitting on the rocking chair rocking herself back and forth with her eye mask over her bloodshot eyes.  Dad is outside snow blowing the neighbors driveways in order to stay out of the house for a few minutes more.  The dogs are lost in the snow track that dad cleared in the front yard and there’s a chance they would rather build and live in an igloo out there than go back into the house of horrors!

Stage 6:  Acceptance

You’ve come to the realization that even though you love your family more than your life itself, that it is OK to take a break from them every once and a while.  The small things become big things when you are trapped in the house like in “The Day After Tomorrow.”  You are comfortable knowing that it’s been a long two weeks with multiple snow days.  Everyone takes a deep breath and begins to reassemble in the family room.

Stage 7: Relief

Everyone is back to normal… its bedtime.  Baby is feeling a bit better after his bath and mom and dad are no longer attempting to trip each other in the hallway.  The icicles have melted from the dogs beards and everyone is sitting down in the nursery listening to a story.  Hugs and kisses all around… that is until you hear it’s going to snow again on Thursday!

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Nine Months

Can you get a better 9 month “birthday” than a snow day?  Not in this house you can’t!  I CAN NOT believe that this little monster is nine months old already!  He’s been outside of mommy’s belly longer then he was inside it!  Every single bit of the last nine months have been amazing… scary, funny, exhausting and stressful amazing though!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

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We spent the day together as a family.  There were naps, there was crying and lots of eating… and Jax did some of that too.  The Blizzard of 2015 never really materialized, although we did get about 15″ of snow, it was no where near the 30″ that was predicted.  Which is disappointing because I was looking forward to having to tunnel our way out and pull Jax through said tunnels on his little toboggan all day to get to freedom like we were in a labyrinth or something. Either way, it was fun.

Jax did what any boy should do on his birthday… he slept.  Went down at 4PM for a little nap… and woke up at 6AM.  What a life!

(No height and weight yet, because his nine month appointment was canceled due to the snow.  Monday we will get that updated!)

What the Hell is Figgy Pudding?!!

I guess seven and a half months isn’t old enough to get the whole Christmas thing… but you have to start somewhere right?  So I started thinking about the holiday itself, not the religious meaning or where Christmas actually began, but just the perspective of a baby who is still trying to figure out the world around him.

I can literally see his little brain working… his inner thoughts are asking: “Dad, why the hell did you plant a tree inside the house?”  “Hey guys, did you know that you left some colored nightlights on outside?”  “Mom, you know how your always complaining that the dryer eats all the socks… well I think I found the ones you’re looking for.  They’re hanging up on the fireplace!”

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You spend every waking minute talking to your baby.  Teaching them about life, about nature and about how things work.  Then all of a sudden, Christmas comes… things are turned upside down, people change… How do you explain this to someone who still puts anything in front of them in their mouth?  Where do you begin?  What do you say that can spell out what is going on in their own home?  The thing is… I don’t think you can… I am going to go under the assumption that the first few Christmases are about the moms and the dads and especially about the grandmas and the grandpas (sounds like a 1970s band).

I am confident that Jax is loving all the extra things lying around the house that are (to him) edible… I know over the past few years the dogs sure have enjoyed eating hundreds of decorations and ornaments.  Jackson is going to have to just deal with the fact that a big fat (healthy fat we like to say) is able to break into our house and walk around freely with no consequences.  “No Jax the alarm does not work on Santa.”  “No Jax Santa will not burn his buttcrack on the fire.”  No Jackson, Santa will not be happy if you leave him a dirty diaper.”

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400 words later and I haven’t even introduced Jax to the Abominable Snowman, Hermey, Buddy the Elf, or the Wet Bandits… or the fact that we dress up Buster and Max for XMAS too.  This is going to be a long Christmas break….

We’re Moving

That’s it we’re moving to Wisconsin. I’ve always said Wisconsin has some of the greatest gifts the world has to offer… cheese and the Green Bay Packers. I mean I am a Packers Team Owner… But with the technology of today I don’t have to hover over my franchise. I take part in conference calls with Mike and Ted VIA Skype, so I never needed to live in close proximity. Until I saw this…

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And now… After seeing this… I’m moving the family there. NOW. We’ll send for our stuff. The Abominable Snowman, The Bumble himself just out for a stroll on a Wisconsin sidewalk and no one cares. It’s just normal Wisconsin. Gotta go pick up my kids from school or grab some cranberry juice from the store… But first let me grab a quick selfie w Bumble.

Over here on the East Coast there’s no way he survives more than 30 minutes without getting beat up or arrested. People would not care for a giant snow monster roaming their neighborhood… “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Over here no way this plays out well for Frosty.

This video is so Wisconsin it hurts. Everybody seems so friendly, so cold and so happy. I could deal without the cold… But it just seems like a happy-go-lucky place to raise a kid.

Someone call U-Haul.