I found one!

lady_with_binoculars_card-p137162167504321023envwi_400Remember the last post? Where I said I hoped to type in some of the “old” letters? As I was looking for something else, I found the last one that Studmuffin & I wrote together and it’s already on the ‘puter. It’s from Winter 2004/2005 so I wasn’t exactly right about it being ten years since the last one….. However I do think it’s pretty funny and most of the names have been changed…because that’s how I roll. Fun to see some of the differences over the years….

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Happy post-holiday greetings.

(NOTICE to the ACLU: There will be no mention of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s or Festivus at all in this letter beyond that which you’ve already read.).  I guess it’s still OK to say “Happy Groundhog Day”, so-

“Happy Groundhog Day!”

We hope that this letter finds you happy and healthy, or at least on an even keel with your nose above water enough so that this letter doesn’t push you over the brink of despair at the pointlessness of existence that this letter all too painfully illuminates.  On to the follies…..

The “Crackerland” branch of our clan has increased its size by *two* in the last year.  After the last amazingly poor experience with dog ownership, Studmuffin had sworn off dogs and was about to receive his 2 year dog-free medal, but then he backslid alarmingly last summer.  He heard about a co-worker’s daughter who had rescued a bunch of puppies, and well you can just guess what happened next (“It’s for the kids, Helen, really…”).  Helen, sighing the resigned sigh of one who knows better, I mean *really* knows better, went to see the dogs.  Shortly thereafter, she came home with two of the “puppies” (who both already weighed over 30 pounds at 7 months), .a brother and a sister.  They are a mix of black Labrador and Dalmatian, or “Labramatians” as we tell those who are foolish enough to ask, and luckily they are mostly calm Lab and clever Dalmatian (rather than “stupid Lab and crazy Dalmatian” as Helen was certain they would be).  Originally, their names were Billy Bob and Lurleen or some other names common around here, but once we found out the region of Dalmatia could be/used to be/might be somewhere around Russia, and also to remain true to our penchant for naming our pets after cartoon villains, they are now known as Boris and Natasha (think “Rocky and Bullwinkle”).

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Boris, is the “more Labrador” of the two: somewhat dim but very lovable, while Natasha is the mighty huntress and protectress who is committed body and doggie soul to keep all squirrels and birds out of our yard – to the point of digging random holes throughout the yard (and digging up everything we’ve ever planted since we moved here almost nine years ago) lest those varmints suddenly try underground maneuvers.

They are really beautiful looking dogs, which is truly a good thing for their survival because they spend most of their time destroying everything we own, which after having three children, we thought was impossible – which just goes to show what limited imaginations we have.  Again, I don’t know why we were surprised that we would have dogs that like to eat lots of non-food items, since we have children that eat lots of non-food items, but we were.  After our family single-handedly created a rawhide dog chew shortage in Northern Alabama, Boris and Natasha still needed new and exciting things to chew and have shown a special yearning for plastic and plastic-covered wires, so we’ve gone through approximately ten thousand sets of headphones and earbuds since they joined us in August.  They are also fond of Helen’s shoes (eaten 10 pairs so far),the Force of Nature’s stuffed animals, the Duke of Curl’s CDs (they’re so shiny and crunchy), pillows on the sofa and anything owned by No. 1 Son (more specifically anything that smells like him, including but not limited to his glasses, 2 cell phone chargers, the futon he sleeps on, as well as the sheets on his bed).

Our cat, Bluto, has been rather alarmed by the introduction of the “puppies” to his kingdom, and so has indulged in a prolonged bout of “extreme eating”, and so he is now not just enormous, but more and more resembles a bad tempered furry basketball with four legs and a tail which has the power of self-directed motion at times, and wants to be fed NOW.  Even though he is quite elderly and has never been right in the head, he is nevertheless still “King of the Hill” here at Chez Crazy and regularly bullies the dogs on purpose – just ‘cos he can.

The Force of Nature is continuing on her quest for world domination, now marking her progress using a sophisticated distributed database linked to a resource-loaded project management system, while minor annoyances such as having to work within the established legal & moral system are certainly delaying the final take-over, ultimately no one will be able to resist the force that is our youngest child.

She’s in second grade and loves her teacher, for Mrs. “Smith” is useful to her master plan. The Force of Nature recently achieved the “Yes, it’s true reading is great, but shouldn’t you do something else once in a while – like go outside occasionally?” reading level at school. She was motivated by the fact that there were these other two girls who did better than she at the beginning of the year, and that just wouldn’t do at all, would it?  She has a group of minions (all boys, of course) to do her bidding, but unfortunately none of them are in her class this year so they have to get together outside of school to wreak havoc.

The Force of Nature also got to go to Chuck-E-Cheese twice in the last few months and that is, of course, THE MOST WONDERFUL THING TO HAPPEN IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE  –  EVER.  For some reason, a building full of sugar-fueled kids, loud noise, sugar, flashing lights, sugar, greasy pizza, sugar, and herky-jerky mechanical rats is the nearest thing to paradise for a seven-year old.  She also continues to lose baby teeth and grow adult ones and now has the classic beaver formation in front.  The huge incisors do come in handy when tussling with the dogs for domination.

The Duke of Curl has continued to be the quiet, keep-to-himself child – you know, the kind that later shows in up in the newspaper, and not always in a good way?  The Duke of Curl took full advantage of the “opportunities” offered by the non-traditional aspects of the school system by taking a penknife to school and showing it to the tattletale kid in the class and telling him to “not tell anyone”. Well, eighteen weeks later the Duke’s probation was over and hopefully he learned the lesson at least to only show illegal contraband to a few trusted friends, if not the bigger lesson of not doing such stuff in the first place.

He, too, was a recipient of a “Seriously, don’t you have some friends…or a hobby?” reading award.  The school has various categories of awards based upon the difficulty and number of books read, and we think that they had to make up a new level for him, because his was the last award given in the 2 hour long reading award ceremony, and he was the only one to get that level.  To receive this award required of the Duke discipline and sacrifice, namely sacrificing his sleep, seeing the outdoors and regular showers.  On second thought, those were already not happening, so never mind.

The Duke of Curl also took the traditional 5th grade overnight school field trip to Columbiana this past fall.  Columbiana is a 4-H type camp where the kids learn about nature, critters, Indians and other camp-type stuff.  The scholastic requirements were simple: (1) take pictures and (2) take notes, so that he could write a short report about his trip.

Total number of pictures taken = 0.

Total number of notes taken = 0.

Fortunately, as in previous years, his teacher adores him and recognizes his “uniqueness” and so is therefore willing overlook things that would have gotten either one of his parents sent to the principal’s office or strings of zeroes in every class, not that we’re bitter, and let him use the pictures that the teachers took on the trip and put on the website to accompany his totally from memory report.

New for the Duke of Curl this year is that he got glasses, but true to form, one eye is 20/20 while the other is 20/3000.  This was discovered during a routine vision test at school.  Helen asked him about it later on – how long had this been going on, and he said that he couldn’t remember when in the last few years he could to see well out of that eye (he’s now 10 years old) and didn’t mention it because well, it didn’t seem that important, at which point Helen’s eyeballs turned red and steam started issuing from her ears, which the children all found pretty funny.  “Glasses” and “The Duke of Curl” is a ‘fun’ combination that means losing them a nanosecond after they are taken off his face, and finding them later in such places  as under the hood of the car, in the water tank of the toilet, or in the butter dish in the fridge.

No. 1 Son is a teenage pain.  No really, you can talk to him on the phone, or even in person and he seems like a lovely young man, but the second he’s left alone with us, he turns into a sullen lout.  Look up “angst” in the dictionary, his picture is there.  We’ve heard that this goes away in their 20’s (roughly about the time they have to start paying for stuff on their own –could it be connected?).  We remain hopeful.

No. 1 Son did not get a super-dooper reading award.  Of course, they don’t really do that for 17 year old kids in the eleventh grade, but even if they did, *he* wouldn’t do it – because it’s “stoopid”.  But then again, so is everything else, except talking and texting on his cell phone and wearing pants that are a bazillion times too big for you.

No. 1 Son continues to participate in the choir and marching band at school.  He’s auditioned and gotten into several select choirs and so got to travel to a few locations throughout Alabama singing in competitions, although in some places they were asked to keep it down as they were spooking the cows.

He’s also begun the exciting but worrisome task of getting into college. He is even thinking about pursuing a career in abject poverty, er, I mean music and/or music education.  On the other hand, he is very fond of regular meals and so is considering studying physics or his “since he was little” idea of chemistry (as Studmuffin so sensitively puts it: “something real”).  That is, if he can ever get through “stoopid” high school.  So far the activity of “getting into college” consists of taking naps and playing computer games, then getting seriously indignant and hostile if his parents ask how things are going.  Of course, that’s the standard operating procedure for most everything, such as cleaning his room or mowing the lawn, or it could be that we really *are* completely unreasonable in our outlandish expectations, which, by the way, are one step away from enslavement, and of course we don’t know anything at all.

No. 1 Son continues to enjoy developing his acting career.  In his freshman year, he was an extra in the musical, “Guys and Dolls”, last year he was an extra in “Once on This Island”, and this year he’s an extra in “South Pacific”  Rehearsals have begun for the show later in February, so he has been spending a lot of time at school and when he gets home, he’s so tired that he can only tell us about half of the things we did wrong that day.

The dogs have adopted No. 1 Son’s bed as their sleeping area, so several nights a week we get to hear the sweetly innocent talk of a boy to his beloved dogs, such as “Tasha, get OFF me!” and “BORIS! Give me some ROOM!” and “GEEZ, you guys are HOT and you STINK – get OUTTA HERE!”  Even now that memory brings a tear to these weary, cynical eyes.

Helen continues to develop and grow as a musician, which means her “profession” continues to be a drain on the family finances.  Every year, Studmuffin asks her, “Are you through yet?” and every year the answer is “No!”  One would almost begin to suspect (especially if one were the weary, cynical one previously mentioned as “Studmuffin”) that “developing” consists of a moving goal line, since “developing” precludes such things as actually getting paid more than one’s expenses or staying home and taking care of the rest of us instead.

Several months ago, she got to be the “Artist-in-residence” for the second time at Louhelen Baha’i School in Michigan, this time with her friend ‘Madame A’.  They did a lot of singing, sold a few CDs and came home exhausted, but I guess they had a good time.  “Artist-in-residence” for a weekend workshop may not seem like much, but it certainly isn’t on Studmuffin’s resume, and it did enable her to escape from the family and “develop” some more.

New for Helen in 2005 is an ever-increasing case of short-term memory loss, which probably shouldn’t start happening for another 30 years or so.  The kids are loving it, because she frequently forgets to carry out the richly deserved punishments given to them the day (or hour) before, but our bank and creditors are less than amused by the forgetting of deposits and bill payments.  She is of the belief that too much stress is causing this memory loss – perhaps the pressure of coming up with a business plan for her “development” has pushed her over the edge….Stay tuned for more of the merry mix-ups that will surely occur.

Studmuffin continues to ‘advance” his career in engineering for the Army by employing the strategy of staying in the same job, year after year and doing the same thing over and over again.  Luckily, the project he works on seems to keep changing its mind three-fourths of the way to completion and everyone gets to start over near the beginning – of course after the obligatory office reorganization and “cubicle roulette”.

His yearly re-dedication to “getting in shape” and “running a marathon” has reared its ugly head yet again this winter when it’s “too cold” to run.  We anticipate that “getting in shape” will be further delayed by the discovery of a Vietnamese restaurant that produces delicious spring rolls that induce the nearest thing to worship in Studmuffin that Helen’s ever seen. However, he has been getting lots more exercise by taking Boris and Natasha for 2+ hour long walks on the weekends and hour long walks on weekdays, thereby exercising our very healthy dogs and escaping from the family all at once..

Well that’s about it for now. Hope yer well and happy.

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