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.

That Damn Elf on a Shelf

I guess it’s time this Elf on a Shelf thing happens. He’s here… And I can’t say anything to change that. Santa has a lot going on. I know that. You know that… we all know that. So of course he has little helpers everywhere and this house is no different.

Elfie is here to check things out. He’s just going to be a silent observer of sorts as Santa described. Bottom line… when Santa asks you for a favor… well, he’s not the type of person you can deny.

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When your kid won’t eat breakfast… but your elf will. #Christmas2017 #Elfie

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Great way to motivate your kid to start piano lessons. (PS Elfie is no Beethoven). #Christmas2017 #Elfie #PianoLessons #NiceHairJax

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This has been the most elaborate Elfie appearance so far and will probably be the most elaborate one of the season…

PS: Is this a Flour Angel or crime scene body outline?

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I’ve resorted to this. #Elfie #Christmas2017

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And this effectively ended Elfie’s life… you don’t sit near, let alone in, Buster and Max’s food bowl and expect to live to tell the story. Thanks for a fun run Elfie… sorry your hat and leg were gnawed off.

I’m not sure how or why Elfie makes such a difference in some households… maybe it’s because here we don’t spend six hours suspending him and props from the ceiling with elaborate decorations… but our kid could care less about this thing, who he reports to and what the repercussions may be from misbehaving.

Case in point… RULE NUMBER ONE of fight club… don’t talk about fight club… RULE NUMBER ONE of Elf on a Shelf… don’t touch the Elf on a Shelf. To Jax this means… literally not only touch the Elf, but take him and body slam him repeatedly and then launch him into orbit. We’re screwed with this kid… Santa I hope you packed enough coal.

Brothers: Best Friends, Worst Enemies and the Greatest Inventors 

​Brothers are best friends and worst enemies… strongest ally and biggest rival. I know… I have one, I live that so called “sibling rivalry.” I’ve made him eat dirt and thrown him through a wall (literally through) and he broke my nose. I also would want him by my side if there was something going down (unless Chuck Norris or Conor McGregor were available). Now I get to watch two brothers play this game of sibling chess from the outside looking in. 

Everyone gave the warnings, “expect the worst. Jax is going to regress, he’s going to be full of anger and jealousy. He’ll be completely uninterested in the baby… he won’t understand the change. The first time they meet Jax might hit him.” 

There were nerves all around that day in the nursery. We set the meet and greet up w caution and care. It was like setting your best friend up on a blind date. “Dont worry, it’ll be great, he’ll totally get you!” “You guys will hit it off right off the bat.” “Just be yourself and it’ll all be fine.”

Rewind 30+ years ago… I’m told I didn’t handle the situation very well. My little brother didn’t get such a warm welcome upon his entry into this world. But that was short lived. We enjoyed a ton of fun, experienced many life altering situations and caused/got into our fair share of trouble. From snake attacks, to the steam roller, to the babysitter who sprayed potpourri everywhere, enduring bringing home another sibling… this time a sister, to pillow wars on thanksgiving resulting in vomiting turkey and stuffing everywhere… to running the courts in the Bronx with the “neighborhood ‘friends’ who carried knives”… to car clubs and booming systems and holding each other’s blocks at the starting line and winning gold and setting hurdle records togethercollege roommates… well that’s another story. Let’s just say a Britney Spears poster, a comforter and a gallon of spackle saved us a lot of money that year. However, I’m pretty sure the best thing to come out of our relationship was the invention of the Olympic pending sport “All Out Basketball.” Imagine living in the northeast where winter pretty much kills the idea of playing basketball on outdoor courts… even with a shovel and some ice melt… there no way to have a “real game.” Dribbling is impossible, there’s no traction and the backboard can shatter with one erratic shot. 

Enter… ALL OUT BASKETBALL. A basketball based, rugby, football hybrid. It’s designed for icy backyard courts and is best played when wearing boots and 14 layers of clothing. It allows the competitors to combine the best parts of all three sports and is perfect for brothers because of its violent nature. No dribbling and a hoop low enough to dunk like you were Vince Carter in his early days (NOTE: Just for clarification… I could dunk on a 10 foot rim too). The game was played on a shotty shoveled outdoor court and competitors benefited from a slightly deflated ball (we were the Tom Brady of the neighborhood) and often resulted in ripped snow pants and fractured limbs. But it was fun… and Vinny and I are still holding out hopes the IOC will adopt it for the 2018 Winter Olympics. 

Fast forward, back to February 2017… a dimly lit nursery on a cold and snowy (ironic) day. Jackson carefully selected a present for his new little brother and partner in crime. Although his first choice of a Sudoku book, was not the best pick… the blue puppy stuffed animal was perfect. He repeated, “Me hug, kiss baby Ollie.” The whole way down the hallway and up the elevator… although he had time to spell his name and count to ten for the lady who didn’t think he could find the D button for her on the elevator.  

Honestly, I’m not sure who was more excited me the first time I met Rickey Henderson or the first time Jackson met his brother Oliver. The look of excitement and honestly… the look of love was immediate (I say love because I want to believe it was love and not the look of trouble). Jackson presented Ollie with the stuffed animal he picked out and Oliver gave Jax a present too… a recycled Christmas gift that Santa had left behind… an Olaf talking figure. It was love at first sight, and he liked Oliver too. 

The meeting wasn’t long, it didn’t need to be. It was the perfect amount of hugs, kisses and questions. Jackson talked about Oliver the entire ride home, all night and all the next day until he got to hug and kiss baby Ollie again. Jackson met his new best friend and Oliver met his new body guard. As a dad you can’t ask for much more. 

Here’s to hoping these two invent something together as cool, if not cooler, than “All Out Basketball!”

A Christmas Story in our Front Yard

IMG_2730Poor little guy! #ChristmasStory #Randy #ICantPutMyArmsDown #DaddysGonnaKillRalphy

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Christmas Story is still the most overexposed yet underrated movie of all time. Just a straight up holiday tradition in our family. Christmas Eve = A Christmas Story marathon.

I’ve heard people talk about how it’s so overexposed and overplayed that it has lost it’s shine. Yes Turner Television owns the rights to this movie and basically plays it from Thanksgiving to Christmas on repeat and yes it’s one of the most quoted movies of all time. But to hear people say they don’t enjoy it anymore… Well fine… Don’t watch it; that means more Bumpus Hounds for me!

The thing is if you watch the film for nostalgia, it’s great. If you watch it as a family tradition, it’s perfect. But if you’re like me then you watch it for the supporting cast who make the movie what it is.

The Old Man…. Just an angry dad. He’s pissed at work, he’s pissed at the furnace and has one of the greatest quotes of all time: “Frah-GEE-lee … must be Italian.” (He’s also a Packers fan and calls the Bears the Chipmunks of Chicago!)

Mom… Mom is just that mom. The quintessential loving and overprotecting mom. Ralph’s swears… She makes him eat soap, but feels so guilty she tastes it too. Ralphy gets into a fight and she hides the truth from the old man. Through and through this mom is creating some good old fashioned Momma’s boys! Her reaction to The Old Man every time he says something stupid reminds me if how Steph looks at me when I try to tell her I know how to fix something.

Randy… Poor kid. Left behind, left out and overlooked, but leaves us with such memorable scenes as the one above, the “show me how piggies eat”, and his amazing reaction to his brother in a pink bunny suit. (Who hasn’t laughed at their siblings misery before?).

Honorable Mention: Flick…
Set off the TRIPLE-DOG-DARE craze and possibly Influenced an entire generation of people who were scared to death of getting stuck to anything frozen!

Poopie the Snowman

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I was never really a snowman kinda kid.  I was more of a snow fort and snowball fight kinda guy.  But the snowman is a right of passage, its a staple in the northeast, its what sets apart the men from the boys.  Jax has been out in the snow before, but he hasn’t had the honor of meeting one of the famous snowmen made by dad… and none of that Olaf crap… I’m talking the real snow man that uses sticks for arms and a carrot for a nose and poop for eyes…

…wait… what?  

Yup.  My kid’s first snowman and I used dog poo for the snowman’s eyes.

I feel awful but, I am sure he won’t remember.  There is a time for keeping things simple and this was that time.  I wasn’t about to go find some coal.  Who even has coal around these days?  I mean I guess if you had a steam train running through your backyard… then maybe you might have some coal laying around… but not us.  This family is all about using what is available to you… and there is an abundance of poo in the front yard these days.

I think Jax liked his snowman friend.

snow