Teach a man to fish

Brian's newest obsession is fishing.  One of his co-workers has a boat, and enters a lot of bass fishing tournaments each year.  Last month he invited Brian to join him for a Sunday fishing excursion.  It meant Brian had to wake up around 4 a.m. and drive an hour away to help haul the boat to the lake.  Yes - FOUR IN THE MORNING.  He's come home that late, but he hasn't been up that early on purpose since we met.  To top it off, it was really, really cold outside.  I figured this would be a one-time deal, and I never dreamed he would enjoy it, let alone do it again.

But he came home and talked my ear off non-stop about the fishing that day.  And as soon as he had a free weekend, he went back twice more, leaving even earlier than 4 a.m. and in even colder weather.  And by the third time, I caught on to the shenanigans.  A full day on the lake, plus travel time.  That is a very long day when you do it two weekends in a row.

For me, I mean!  Let's see:  a day that starts out shivering in the freezing temps just after dawn, casting out and reeling in over and over and over, or a day with The Girl With A Thousand Questions.

Heck, I can always wear more clothes.

Now I know what they mean by "fishwife" and "carping."  Good lord.

Anyway, for Christmas I decided to be a little less selfish, and I put some bait in his stocking.  He loved it so much, he took it down to the lake behind my parents' house and spent the evening fishing.  I gave up hope for him to catch anything until around 9 p.m., when he appeared on the deck with a flashlight aimed at his prize.  My parents and I headed out to take pictures of the catfish he pulled in with his hands (the line got tangled up on the reel):

This one weighed about 15 pounds and measured about 2 feet long.  Brian's fingers were a bit chewed up from holding the fish for this picture.  After we oohed & aahed over our favorite hunter/gatherer, Brian took the catfish back down to the lake and let him go.  The fish swam off quickly and managed to avoid getting hooked again the next day, when Brian spent the entire day fishing.

The first step is admitting you have a fishing problem, and that you are powerless to stop fishing on your own.


Hung by the chimney with care

Do you have a personalized Christmas stocking?  Have you used the same one since the year you were born?

My entire life, each and every Christmas, my parents, my sister and I have had the same red velvet stockings, topped with white satin cuffs with our names in felt letters.  My grandmother made all of the stockings for us.  After her children grew up and got married, she made stockings for the spouses, and then their kids.  It made Christmas feel pretty special, to have matching stockings like that.  But I never really thought about what went into them until I got married.  At that point, Brian would have looked like the odd man out without a matching stocking on Christmas morning.  

I should have known Grandma had it all in hand.  I married Brian in mid-December, and she made sure he had a personalized stocking for Christmas.  It even has an orange T for his Tennessee degree, which must have been difficult for anyone from Oklahoma to attach on purpose.  Orange Ts aren't very popular in that state!  But she made sure he had something he loved and made him feel welcome in our family.

My grandfather had several brothers and sisters, and she spent some time in the 1950's making stockings for all of them, as well as her own family.  Keeping up with her own kids was plenty of work, let alone all her nieces and nephews.  Then her grandkids got married, and eventually my aunt and cousin joined in to help with the baby boom of great-grandkids.  Although my grandmother didn't get to meet the 2nd round of great-grandkids, she had cut out a bunch of extra stockings and cuffs that my aunt used to prepare the latest additions to the family for Christmas morning.

Here's a picture I took of Helen when her stocking arrived in 2005:

and here's a picture I took this evening with Alice and her new stocking: 


Christmas Wishes

Last month Brian & I talked about our Christmas lists, and Brian asked Helen what she wanted for Christmas. I have to hand it to her, that girl was prepared for this question. To this day, someone will ask me what I want for Christmas, and everything I would love to have flies right out of my head. I end up asking for kitchen stuff, bless my heart. But kids? They are pageant contestants, in a 24/7 prep course for the interview portion of the evening. Lists for Santa are on the tip of their tongue. I bet they schedule rehearsals during recess.

Anyway, Helen pipes up, "I want a tree with eyeballs." Brian & I looked at each other, then he dutifully wrote it down. I was completely mystified. What in the heck? A tree? With eyeballs? I pictured some animated talking Christmas tree on television that she had seen, or maybe one of those singing Christmas trees that you see in stores. I couldn't for the life of me remember seeing that anywhere with her, but perhaps she had seen one at school.

Over the next few weeks, occasionally we'd ask about what she wanted for Christmas, and to her credit, she has remained steadfastly loyal to the original list. Always, she said, "a tree with eyeballs." So last week, we sat down at dinner and tried to figure out exactly what the heck she was asking us to buy.

I asked Helen if she could draw a picture of the Christmas tree with eyeballs, or if she could point one out to me the next time she saw one, because Santa didn't know what a Christmas tree with eyeballs looked like. She corrected me quickly. "No, Mommy, not a Christmas tree - a TREE with eyeballs." Okay, my mistake. It's Christmas time. Sue me for thinking a tree mentioned at this time of year - especially this time of year - would be a Christmas tree. I said, "Okay, a tree with eyeballs. Can you tell me where you saw one?" She thought for a minute, and replied, "You know, like at Uncle John and Auntie Tine's house?"

Suddenly, the ceiling opened up and the light shone in and angels sang "AH-HA!" in one voice, like that perfect harmony you always hope for in choir practice but only manage to achieve by yourself in the shower.

We had visited Uncle John and Auntie Tine right after Halloween, when they still had all of their decorations up. Uncle John is one of those people in your neighborhood who loves Halloween a little bit too much. You know - with the gravestones on the front lawn, and the house covered with cobwebs, and a fog machine. This year's decorations included a guy in the front window with a hockey mask & a chainsaw, and "KEEP OUT" written on the window in red paint. He also has a scary head on the front porch, which can "talk" courtesy of a speaker and a microphone. John stands at the mailbox, chatting up the parents. He learns the kids' names, then pulls out the microphone. When they approach the door, the scary head "talks" to them, using their names.

There are kids who avoid their house like the plague every year. Even the bravest ones (and some approaching their teenage years) won't go on the porch. Those who screw up the courage to ring the doorbell are then greeted by this scary talking head WHO KNOWS THEIR NAME.

Yeah, John is that guy. What he spends on decorations, he saves on candy. He also gets a good workout, what with all the doubled over laughing he does at these kids, running in terror from his front porch.

The next day, I emailed them to find out if they could shed a little bit of light on the mysterious "tree with eyeballs" for me. And after they picked themselves up off the floor from laughing so hard, I learned exactly what Helen was talking about.

We had arrived at their house in the afternoon, and Helen was a little bit cautious approaching the front door. Nothing was turned on yet, since it was still daylight. But the head was a little scary, and she told me so. I kept saying, "Oh, that's silly!" until we got inside. She was wearing her own Halloween costume, so we focused on "trick or treat!" and made it in the door with no problems. I was playing with the baby and visiting with friends, so I didn't know that later that evening, she went outside with Auntie Tine and her cousin to see the whole show at night. At first, she was a little frightened of the tree with eyeballs, but her cousin loved it so much, she realized there was no way that it could be scary. So folks, I present to you Helen's #1 Christmas wish: a Halloween decoration. By the way, it's not a tree - it's the bush behind the tree.

God bless us, every one.


Today, when I picked up Helen from daycare, I found this picture in her folder. I'm sure her teachers would love to know the story, too!



"In English," the teacher said, "A double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language where a double positive can form a negative."

A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."


This one goes out to my Grandpa:

Did you hear about the baby revolution in South America?
It was a kitchy-kitchy coup.


What's orange and sounds like a parrot?

A carrot.


What's green and has wheels?

Grass. I lied about the wheels.


Feel free to add one of your own in the comments!


The ones where Helen gets the punchlines

Helen:  I want a Happy Meal for dinner.

Jennie:  Helen, you had a Happy Meal last night.  We're having spaghetti tonight.

Helen:  No, I want a Happy Meal.  I want chicken nuggets ... and apples ... and french fries ...

Jennie:  You had one yesterday, remember?  We got you a hamburger and french fries from Wendy's.  You had a Happy Meal last night.  

Helen:  (angrily)  Wendy's is NOT a Happy Meal.  Wendy's is just FOOD.

Jennie:  (speechless)


Brian:  Helen, who do you love most in the whole wide world?

Helen:  Daddy!

Brian:  (quietly, to me)  Ha!

Helen:  ... and Mommy ...

Brian:  (hangs head)

Helen:  ... and Alice ...

Brian:  Sheesh.  Don't forget the kitties!

Helen:  Daddy!  I don't love the kitties.