Let me check my calendar

Every year I make my wife a calendar for Christmas. I upload photos of our boys to one of the online photo gift sites and lay it all out there. It can be a tedious process, but she enjoys the end result and it gives us a kind of memory book for the year.

The cover is always a nice shot of the boys together, often gathered around one of their favorite weapons from the year. You know, a sweet shot of loving children and something that throws bombs.

My wife takes more pictures than I do. If I want to amass the best collection of photos to use in compiling the calendar, I need access to her pictures too. We have a shared drive on the cloud where we dump all our pictures together, which is easier than hacking into her phone. Well, it used to be easier.

Nearly every adult American now walks around with a camera on his or her person at all times. No one takes advantage of our snapshot existence more than my wife does. She is a visual hoarder, taking pictures of everything and anything.

If there is a stray dog in our neighborhood, my wife has a picture of it. Something’s on sale at Target? We’ve got photos of the merchandise and more of the sale sticker. School permission slips, sales receipts, suspicious-looking loners who might be involved in human trafficking? We’ve got it covered.

The problem is that all these photos are automatically uploaded to our photo sharing cloud. When I need to find photos of people we actually know, I find myself wading through a bunch of pictures of random stuff I can’t identify.

Arranging the useful photos into a calendar is difficult enough. All the extra pictures means added scrolling through to find the useful ones, and excessive scrolling is the bane of the personalized photo gift maker.

Since pictures of our actual children are getting harder to locate, I told my wife I will make a calendar of all her random shots next year. Maybe I’ll make one for the entire neighborhood, so everyone can find their lost pets and be on the lookout for that shady character who walked down our street last April.

Here’s a taste of what it would look like. Is this the new direction the family calendar should take?

January: That lovely salad the waiter set down in front of the stranger at the next table.

 

March: The donuts you like, just in case I happen by the bakery department next time I’m out.

June: The unmarked van you pursued all day, waiting for the captive inside to fashion some sort of “HELP ME” sign.

 

October: The mysterious coat left at our house after the Halloween Party.

November: The random cat sniffing around our garage. Not pictured: 3 lost dog posters; none resembling this cat.

December: “Is this a good deal? Do we need a TV in the pantry?”

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We must all hang together

It wouldn’t seem right to skip my annual report on putting up the Christmas tree. We were a little later than usual putting ours up this year. The boys forgot to nag about it for a little while which allowed the parental holiday sloth to take over.

Eventually the boys realized there was some hulking monstrosity missing from our already crowded living room. The sloth was chased from the house, but the parent host was made to stay and drag all his tubs of festive cheer up from the basement.

We have an artificial tree (the sloth’s legacy), which the boys were eager to assemble. You don’t get that kind of quasi-LEGO experience with a real tree, no sir. On the other hand, a real tree doesn’t require the dreaded chores of spreading wire branches and fluffing Mylar needles. It’s a Yuletide tradeoff.

Hanging together.

After the first minute of branch-fluffing, I noticed Big Brother and Buster had disappeared. Big Man was still invested though. He helped me test the lights, and gave me tons of helpful advice about where I should run each strand. I was switching the TV back and forth between a basketball game and a football game, and trying to finish cooking a stew in the other room, so he certainly put more thought into running the lights than I did. One way or another, they got on the tree.

The football game was coming down to the wire, so I corralled Big Brother and Buster and made them help Big Man hang ornaments while I let myself become distracted. There was an indirect correlation between the height of the decorator and his enthusiasm for the job, which is why the bottom of the tree is more densely populated than the top.

We have a number of TV character ornaments. Big Man found two from the same cartoon. “I have to hang these two next to each other, because they’re friends,” he told me. I couldn’t argue with that. Besides, I gave up arguing with children about the proper ornament disbursement years ago. Joyful little hands always make a more beautiful tree than cold geometry does. Sure enough, Finn and Jake ended up dangling from the same branch. Friends should always hang together.

Finn and Jake always hang together. It’s what friends do.

Later I noticed Rudolph, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius, Hermey, and the Abominable Snowman hung in a group. So were Homer, Bart, Marge and Lisa. Both television casts were on display near the bottom of the tree, leaving no doubt as to who hung family and friends together.

Why are Rudolph and Hermey in such a hurry?

Abominable Snowman is after them!

Big Man may not win any Martha Stewart Christmas Tree decorating awards, but he’s ahead of the game on empathy. I’ll take that over a perfectly balanced tree any day. It’s a good thing.

 

 

There are presents inside this blog post

Since Christmas is right around the corner, regular readers may be tuning in expecting to find pictures of the boys putting up the tree and otherwise preparing themselves for an onslaught of joy.

Well, no.

Don’t get me wrong; we put up the tree and we are girding our loins for the wave of unbridled glee, and the boys will be getting their fair share of presents on the 25th. But, I’ve decided to make this post include a present for you (well, two of you, anyway.)

Through December 27, I’m running an Amazon Giveaway of my latest book. It’s the first time I’ve ever done an Amazon Giveaway, so bear with me as I learn the process. The bottom line is this: two winners will get a copy of this book shipped to them from Amazon.com absolutely free.

That’s right: FREE! I’ve already paid for the books and shipping from Amazon.

For a chance to win a book, just follow these easy steps:*

  1. Click the book cover or link below to go to the Giveaway.
  2. Sign into your Amazon.com account (if not already signed in).
  3. Click the button that says “Enter.”

That’s it! You’re entered.

Housefly

Blurb:

Anders sacrificed his own promising future to save the life of child. Now he must decide whether to cling to the unlikely hope of regaining his old status, or spend his time making the most of the life fate dealt him. Though difficult to let go of rewards once promised, perhaps the greatest rewards are those earned by building new hope from the bits and pieces of wrecked dreams. A Housefly in Autumn is a historical novel intended for Young Adults and up.

Giveaway link: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/a357b4fdf7d1b012

After December 27, Amazon will draw two random winners from the pool of entrants and ship the books directly to them.

Here’s the really cool part. I’ve made the Giveaway private, so only people who follow the link can enter. Since I’d like visitors to my blog to have a good chance to win, this is the only place I’m posting the link. You can share the link, or this entire post, or keep it to yourself. That’s up to you.

*The not so really cool part is that according Amazon’s rules, this Giveaway is limited to U.S. entrants. I apologize to my international friends. I would love to be able to include everyone, but apparently Amazon.com doesn’t cover the globe quite like Santa does.

Merry Christmas and good luck.

Now, if you really just wanted to see a picture of us putting up the tree, I’ve got you covered too.

Happy Holidays!

Christmas: Let’s do this thing!

Christmas observations and tips from Big Brother, Buster, and Big Man for the enjoyment of boys and girls everywhere.

Daddy didn’t run away from home on Christmas this year either. He threatened to do it two or three times like always, but we’ve been around this block before. He always acts like he’s headed for the door, but we all know he loves how exciting and noisy we make Christmas for him. Besides, he’s not going anywhere when there’s still a ham in the oven. And after dinner, he’s too fat and slow to escape.

We brothers do our best to keep Daddy engaged on Christmas. He’s says he needs a minute of peace, but we know he’s just saying that so he won’t put us to any trouble. But it’s really no trouble for us to keep things lively for him. And since he’s almost a hundred years old, it’s important to keep his mind in the game.

Keep you candy handy. You'll need all your strength to rip open these packages.

Keep your candy handy. You’ll need all your strength to rip open these packages.

Daddy gets out his camera on Christmas morning when we’re getting ready to open presents. This is kind of like his little challenge to us. If he has time to take more than five pictures before the unwrapping swirls out of control, we haven’t done our jobs. That’s why we’ve all just got to pitch in and start unwrapping stuff. Daddy tries to keep us taking turns or something, but Santa didn’t put all these present under this tree so we could sit around and talk about them. It’s every man for himself.

The best thing to do on Christmas is open up all the boxes with your new toys in them and dump everything out on the floor.  Toys come with a lot of pieces nowadays and it’s important to get all the pieces together in one big pile. That way, when you and your brothers start hounding Daddy to assemble all your play sets, he’ll have all the pieces for any of them he needs in one central location.

If you have anything that needs batteries (and you do – lots of things), make sure you bring that to your parents attention right away. It takes about 538 batteries to get through the holiday. Your parents will never learn this and will only have stocked up about 400 batteries, so you need to get as many as you can before your brothers hog them all up. Otherwise, you’ll be staring into a drawer with nothing left but those useless, rectangle batteries they used about a million years ago and Mommy and Daddy keep around for nostalgia.

This is going to need batteries - lots of batteries.

This is going to need batteries – lots of batteries.

Here’s a fun fact about Christmas dinner: it’s a complete waste of your time. Wouldn’t you rather be playing? Even if you secretly like ham, pretend it’s one of the 9 billion foods you don’t. You’ve already loaded up on candy from your stocking, and if you get a little peckish later, you’ve still got a candy cane full of ROLOs and two caramel Santas in reserve.  You don’t have time for a sit-down meal; protest it.

Christmas is a time to stay wound up as long as you can. After all, you want to make special holiday memories for Mommy and Daddy.