I Met Santa

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Guys, I met Santa.

Of course I’ve met him many times in my life between the ages of two and ten, at malls, on firetrucks, and maybe during a random appearance at a bank. And then I stopped meeting Santa. And I stopped trick-or-treating. And I stopped hearing the voices that all my action figures and stuffed animals once had. That is to say, I grew up.

For the past four years that we’ve lived in our house, the local fire department has gone around the neighborhood with Santa riding the firetruck. And for the past four years, I’ve experienced a longing — a psychic pain during that hour when I’ve heard those sirens echoing down to the bottom of the cul-de-sac. Of course part of me still wanted to run up to the top of the street with a half-crazed look in my eyes, gawk at the big shiny firetruck, and meet Santa.

But I didn’t. Because I didn’t want to be a weirdo.

This year, I had the kid. He was my socially-acceptable ticket to the top of the street. (He was also my socially-acceptable ticket to trick-or-treat this year, and it was awesome.)

He’s five months old now. He’s super cool. Look at him:

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I began hearing the sirens on Saturday night. Immediately I dropped everything I was doing and announced to the wife that IT WAS HAPPENING. We ran around the house Home-Alone-style, looking for our shoes and hoodies, and bundled up the kid Christmas-Story-Style. As a last minute thought, I also harnessed up the dog. THE WHOLE FAMILY WAS GOING.

We power-walked to the top of the street, while also trying to look like we were just calmly, casually taking a family walk. Well, that’s what the wife was doing anyway, with the baby. By then, I had worked up to a full-on jog with the dog, leaving those two in the dust. I didn’t want to miss anything.

I got up there just in time to see the firetruck drive by without turning down our street. I stood there dejectedly and awkwardly, along with a few other kids. We stood there completely lost. There was another parent — a dad who also looked gutted. He stammered “oh, I’m sure they’re going to loop back around once they go up Mayfield.” The kids clung to that explanation, and so did I.

We all waited for a bit, but I realized the baby couldn’t just hang out in near-freezing temperatures for long. Rather than go home, I went to get the car. I parked at the top of the street with the heat on, and the four of us — me, the wife, the baby, and the dog, sat there in the car for thirty minutes, waiting for Santa.

I felt like we were camping out for rock show tickets or something. Actually, I began to feel a little deranged. Then again, it was for my son. It was so my son could meet Santa. Which my son would only care about if he could put this Santa thing in his mouth.

Well, at least there was the dog. She seemed game. Then again she also probably just hoped it ended with something she could put in her mouth.

Then the wife said, “you know, we’re finally getting to do one of those things we always said we were going to do once we had the kid.”

I presume she didn’t mean “obsessively stake him out as a family.” We never talked about doing that.

But yeah, we were doing it. And it was super great.

And fortunately, that dad was right — Santa did loop back around and come down our street. And I met him! And so did my son! And the wife! And the dog!

And I can’t wait to do it again next year.

Dollar Store Christmas!

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Hot tip ya’ll: Dollar Tree brought its A-Game this year. I stopped in with no expectations and left having spent the greatest four dollars of my life.

Choice Item Number ONE: Nativity Magnet Set!

Wife’s Reaction: Absolutely none, whatsoever. Continued tending to baby blankly.

Why I Had to Have It: I love Nativity scenes. I know I’ve told this story on the blog before, but it’s one of my favorites. Growing up, we had a porcelain Nativity scene. The Joseph figure had long ago taken a spill, and was beheaded. Each year, my mother went to great lengths to re-attach his head. Some years it was krazy glue; some years it was the hyrbid glue/tape method. One year she went all in and rigged something up with a rubber band. She called it The Christmas Miracle every year that his head stayed attached throughout the season. I never went to church a day in my life in childhood, yet my mother’s annual respect and dedication to re-attaching that head taught me everything I needed to know.

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Which, speaking of respect, doesn’t really explain why I had to have a Nativity scene in magnet form. I don’t have any good reasons. It’s perversely tacky and I love it.

Choice Item Number TWO: Wind-Up Train!

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Wife’s Reaction:: Yeah right. That’s not ever going to work.

Why I Had to Have It: Well, duh. I HAD TO see if it would work.

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The results: IT ACTUALLY WORKS. I wound the train up, sat it on the track, and it heartily chugged around the track full circle. This is worth a million dollars.

Choice Item Number THREE: This Mini-Gingerbread House COOKIE

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Wife’s Reaction: Are you actually going to eat that? It probably has lead in it.

Why I Had to Have It: A non-descript, no-brand name, random sketchy cookie in the shape of a house? Ummm, yes please.

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I didn’t know quite where to start, so I just awkwardly bit off the roof. This in itself was deeply satisfying and worth the dollar. Taste-wise, it’s dry, stiff, and floral-tasting. It’s really, really terrible. Someone asked me in the comments on my Sad Christmas Candy post what I do after I taste these things. Do I just throw them out or do I actually continue eating them just because? The answer varies, but I can tell you this “cookie” is going directly in the trash.

Choice Item Number FOUR: This Amazingly Crappy Nativity Scene

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Wife’s Reaction: That looks like something somebody pooped out.

Why I Had To Have it: Because this belongs in a museum. But not because it’s a work of art. More because it’s a curious artifact. Dwindling materials and fuel from our precious, dying planet were to used to create this.

THIS

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It looks like a random glob of amorphous clay that only accidentally resembles the nativity. Which come to think of it, I will proclaim as this year’s Christmas Miracle.

Lying, Cheating, and Parenting

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You know, I thought when I’d have a kid, I’d write about him all of the time. And yet, I just don’t have much to say. He’s teething. He drools. He likes when I hold him sideways in mid-air. When he smiles, his entire face becomes the smile.

So far, parenting seems to be kinesthetic. It’s in the muscles. In the tendons. In the joints. It’s primordial. It’s like sleeping and breathing and eating. I just don’t have much to say about these things, although I love doing them all deeply.

There’s been such a rash of truly terrible things happening in the world. Of course, there always was and always has been. Yet before, I could steel myself off from everything. I could harden myself. I could give a shit for nothing, fuck all, the most extreme degree of nothing.

With this kid around, I can’t do that.

Once I heard a quote about writing and not having the pen or paper to write it down — so you’re desperately turning the words over and over in your head, carrying them all by the arm load, carrying them like you’ve being stabbed in the stomach, trying to carry all your guts, careful not to spill or lose a single thing, or single thought.

At least, I think I heard that. Although now it looks like something I made up. Anyway. Writing is like that. And so is having a kid. It’s like carrying all your guts around, constantly. The vulnerability of it, I mean.

Sometimes, when a metaphor isn’t working, you’ve got to just delete the thing. But I’m leaving it there.

I often find myself telling my son that I’m going to teach him how to stand up for himself. Of course, when I’m saying it, I’m cooing it at him in a sing-song voice. “You gotta be a tough guy,” I coo, “you can’t let other people get to you.”

I’ll teach him how to lie, cheat and steal. I’ll teach him how to hurt people and punch them in the  mouth. The way I figure it is, if you know how to do these things, you’ll be able to see when someone is trying to do them to you.

Of course I’ll teach him to never, ever actually use any of that knowledge.

Except, sometimes you do have to use that knowledge. For instance, in high school, I cheated my way through calculus. The teacher doubled as the wrestling coach, so he was always too busy on the other side of the room talking wrestling and demonstrating headlocks.

There was that. And then there was me. My math skills are so bad that I’ve added two plus two before and actually gotten five.

And then there was Phil, the kid I copied everything from that year. He was ridiculously smart. When he handed his homework over to me, he did it in a patronizing, pitying manner. He’s probably a millionaire now.

So what I’m saying, son, is, it’s never okay to cheat — except when it is okay to cheat. It’s a subtle, subtle line. Wrestling teacher leaves rest of class for dead + idiot math skills + a future millionaire who just feels sorry for you = not really cheating.

Then again, justifying these things to yourself is another skill altogether.

Then again, I won’t be the one teaching my kid any of this stuff. The world will teach him these things. I’ll just be the one mumbling old chestnuts like “honesty is the best policy” and “be true to yourself.”

I bought a sixty-inch television on Black Friday. We’ve been re-doing our house to be more child-friendly, including stuff like getting rid of our eye-gouging, tempered-glass entertainment center, and mounting the television instead. And it wasn’t like I could go ahead and mount our measly forty-six incher with a dead pixel. It only made sense to get the brand new sixty-inch. It was the child-friendly thing to do.

Justifying these things is perhaps, the most important skill of all.

A Celebration of Sad Christmas Candy

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Let’s talk about sad Christmas candy. I’m talking about the cheap, no-brand-name, totally rando crap that appears out of the woodwork come the holidays. They’re from the sketchy-sounding companies you’ve never heard of. What do they even do the rest of the year? What do they even make? My guess is particle board. Because that’s what their chocolates usually taste like. And I love it.

To me, it also tastes like childhood. Because my grandmother worked at K-Mart and brought us heaps of the stuff. And K-Mart is the exact type of store where you’ll find this stuff, in the flickering-fluorescent holiday aisle that always looks a little disheveled and run-down. I witnessed this phenomenon last night, as I perused the aisle. I was in Big Lots, but same difference. There was stuff just sort of coughed up in everywhere, on the floor, haphazardly hanging from uneven peg hooks, misplaced, misunderstood and most of all, unloved.

An employee came over to try and straighten it up before closing. I watched as she picked up a bag of candy off the floor. She placed it back on on the shelf. It slid off. She picked it back up. It slid off again. She picked it back up. It hit the floor again with a big fat plop. She muttered something under her breath and walked away. People, what I’m saying is, this aisle knows. The aisle of cheap, sad candy KNOWS.

I had to buy some to review it. To love it. To celebrate it.

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Palmer’s “Christmas Mix”
Cheapness Factor: $3

Crappiness Factor:

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Here. This image encapsulates the crappiness factor. It’s that foil wrapper, with no apparent place to start peeling it off. So you just attempt to peel it anywhere you can, but it only rips off a tiny piece. It takes twenty minutes to open to this candy and it won’t be worth it.

Even though the bag advertises a variety mix of “fudge bells” and “peanut butter cups” and “Crisp Kringles,” I can tell you that they all taste exactly the same — like sawdust.

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Jolly Holidays Chocolate Chip Cookies
Cheapness Factor: .90

Crappiness Factor:

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I mean, look at them. They look they were rejected from a box of Cookie Crisp cereal. They’re dry, chalky, gritty, and don’t taste like chocolate chip. Oddly enough, they taste like peanuts. Also oddly enough, I quite liked them. They remind me of the paltry little dessert you get with your Fiestada in the elementary school cafeteria.

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Spangler Christmas Circus Peanuts – Peppermint
Cheapness Factor: $2

Crappiness Factor:

Circus Peanuts are one of those things that you either hate or YOU HATE. Normally they taste like the couch upholstery. I couldn’t wait to find out what they tasted like if you added peppermint into the mix.

… oh

… my

… god.

Words cannot convey how truly disgusting these are. But I will try. It’s like a marshmallow, with all hints of marshmallow removed, leaving behind only the skeletal dehydrated husk, then pumped full of polyfill, flavored with the toothpaste scum that’s dried on the bottom of your toothbrush holder — but hell, even that sounds more appealing than what I just put in my mouth.

It’s bad. It’s nightmares.

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Sweet’s Cinnamon Santas
Cheapness Factor: $2

Crappiness Factor:

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This artwork seriously depresses me.

Tastes like: potpourri. I’m actually pretty sure THIS IS potpourri, accidentally packaged as candy.

I take back everything I said. I hate sad Christmas candy. I do not love it.

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This Christmas I’m Getting Happy, Getting Weird

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I had a thought pop into my head the other day: I am fully prepared to be happy this Christmas season. Anyone following this blog for the past year has known the kind of year I’ve had. Except I don’t even know the kind of year I’ve had. It went something like this though:

Mom dies randomly, horribly, arrangements, funeral, wife becomes pregnant, wife has random bleeds every week, doctor visits every week, so many that sometimes I miss Dr. Hall she became my best friend, bedrest, a million chores, a million inches of snow, I hit the outer official limits of my sanity, go to therapy, get on the good drugs.

Ice melts, spring happens, I begin to feel a little better, and then whoa summer outside, a million degrees outside. We have a baby, holy crap we have a living breathing crying infant to take of all the time. All the time. All the time.

Take care of baby. Feed baby. Rock baby in chair. Feed baby. Change diaper. Change diaper again. Feed baby. He’s crying for some reason I have no idea why. Rock baby more. Sleep at some point. I don’t remember anything else about this time period of life.

At some point two months of life pass in which we do not really leave the house ever. The first time we leave the house with the baby is to get frozen yogurt. Getting frozen yogurt was one of the most terrifying, surreal, white-knuckling experiences of my life.

And now the kid is four months old, fully interactive, smiling, laughing, and feels like a real human being instead of a foreign object. And me too. I’m beginning to feel like a real human being again instead of a foreign object as well.

When I started this blog six years ago, it was really just a way for me to consume, enjoy, and review the things I loved while sharing it with others. Lately I’ve been reviewing life a lot more, and I hope people don’t mind. Which gets me to my next thought.

This past weekend, the wife and I were watching a movie together. It’s only the second movie we’ve gotten around to watching in four months. Gloriously, the baby cooperated and went to sleep on his own in the crib. So the wife and I were on the couch, BABY FREE, and actually drinking a beer together, which I don’t think had happened in over a year. It was also past 10 PM, and we were BOTH AWAKE.

We were watching a documentary on Netflix, I Am Divine, about the drag performer from the John Waters films (as well as in her own right.) It’s great, by the way, watch it. So there’s a part where they’re reminiscing about the classic film scene where Divine gets raped by a giant lobster. And I realized right then that this is what my life is missing.

The weirdness, I mean. I’m missing the weirdness in my life. My life has become too suburban, straight, and has too much baby muzak playing in the background on the kid’s Baby Einstein Sea Soother that plays beep bop boop bop versions of Beethoven over and over and over.

I need more giant lobsters.

I need a Christmas butter sculpture.

And I have one.

The wife: Wait, what? Did you say you have a butter sculpture?

Me: Yeah.

The wife: Where did you find a fucking butter sculpture?

Me: In the fucking butter aisle!

(We also CURSE after 10PM when the baby is asleep and we are drinking. IT IS AWESOME.)

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And now in my dedication to weirdness, I am going to eat this butter sculpture whole, right here on the blog.

DRUMROLL.

Just kidding. I haven’t lost my mind. Or my gag reflex.

But let’s just enjoy for a moment the fact that this exists. A Christmas tree butter sculpture exists. For $3.99 at your local Giant. In the fucking butter aisle. I put it in my cart immediately, having no idea what its purpose is or what its purpose will be in my life.

I mean, what do you even do with a butter sculpture? Put it as the triglyceride-packed centerpiece of your holiday dinner table? All I know is I plan on keeping it as a diamond in my refrigerator. Every time I open the refrigerator, I smile and feel oozing, buttery warmth.

Seriously, when I put that butter sculpture in my shopping cart, I felt pure, unbridled excitement. And then I felt panic. Because I didn’t want it to melt. This thing was perfection. What if I was taking too long in the store and by the time I got it home it was all smudgey and sad? It felt like the countdown was ON. The good drugs take the edge off my neuroticism, but they don’t cure it completely.

Fortunately I made it home, glorious Christmas tree butter sculpture fully intact. And now it’s the Hope Diamond of my refrigerator, right behind the cream cheese. I may never, ever take it out.