Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Reading List

I wanted to do a best book of the year wrap-up post about all of the books I read this year and which were best and why but all of a sudden there's only hours left of 2010 and I have things to do.

So, without much fanfare, I'm going to say that The Art of Racing in the Rainwas by far the best book I read this year (and you can see the full list in my side bar). It was a clever, beautifully written, witty, poignant (I rarely use that word; I'm being serious here, people) story that I never wanted to read in the first place. My hairdresser told me about it and I thought it sounded dumb, I read the description and I thought it sounded dumb, I downloaded it from the library onto my Nook one day and couldn't pull myself away. It made me laugh and cry and think in good ways.

I LOVED this book. I didn't like this book, I LOVED this book and I wish I could make every single one of you read it.

I also really liked The Help When I started it, I thought it was going to be cheesy and gimmicky with the Southern dialect and going back and forth between characters but it was well written, enjoyable and important. It would have gotten 2nd place on my 2010 list that will never be.

Most important book I read this year was Zeitoun It's a true story that I can't believe we all don't already know.

My least favorite book was probably Between the Assassinations I thought it was boring and didn't really go anywhere.

And that's our 2010 Reading List Wrap Up.

I hope you all have a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Christmas Story

I don't know what little kid did to piss off the Baby Jesus, but he got the stomach flu for Christmas. It was one of the most pathetic sights I'd ever seen; he plodded out to the Christmas tree on Christmas morning, took in the miraculous sight of all of those presents....and fell on his knees and started dry heaving and gagging. And then he barfed. Poor guy had to open up his gifts with a puke bucket next to him.

Regardless, it was a magical Christmas.

Around 5:30 a.m. I heard thumps, scraping and paper crinkling from the family room. Certain that Big Kid had woken up and was investigating or the grinch himself had come to steal Christmas (because a feverish little kid was next to me in bed speaking in tongues about Santa, so I knew it wasn't him), I got up and crept out of my room.

There was Big Kid, lit softly from the glow of the Christmas lights, looking impossibly tall in his new pajamas and holding a plastic grocery bag full of his own carefully wrapped gifts that he was thoughtfully arranging under the tree. He turned and saw me, eyes glossy and cheeks flushed with excitement and motioned toward the Christmas tree full of gifts, telling me that Santa had already come and that he couldn't believe he had forgotten to put his gifts to us under the tree the night before.

I think it will go down in history as one of my favorite Christmas memories; that among all of those brightly wrapped new things for him, he was thinking about his gifts to us and was excited to contribute to the pile of presents.

I forced him to go back to bed with me but after 5 minutes of him rigidly lying next to me and disturbing the quiet with his occasional excited whisper, I told him to go lie on the couch and read something from his stocking for 20 minutes or so and then to get back into bed. He scampered off happily.

I woke again an hour later, noticing that he was not back in bed and found him stuck in a kitchen bar stool.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm stuck in this bar stool. But read this stuff Harold left!" he answered, waving excitedly to our elf satisfaction survey, behavior summary report and the note on the kitchen island in front of him.

"You're stuck??" I tried to tug on him from behind but he was indeed stuck. "How long have you been stuck?"

"Ah, 5 minutes, maybe? But read the stuff, mom!"

"Were you going to call for me? I feel bad that you're stuck."

"I was going to call for you, but later. I know you're tired. Read the stuff." It took some wriggling and pulling but I did manage to free him from the bar stool and kept him quiet for one more hour until it was a reasonable time for present opening (if you can call 7:30am a reasonable time for present opening).

The kids loved their gifts; even poor little kid who stayed curled up on the couch, too sick to play with any of his toys. At one point he told me, "When I think of the presents you got for me, it makes me feel warm in my heart." That made me feel so warm in my heart. It made the sub-human conditions at Toys R Us worth all of the trouble.

They were also extremely proud of what they had gotten me. Big Kid bought me a singing snowman figure and a clip-on light.

"This will be perfect for my Nook!" I exclaimed over the light.

"Oh, I didn't even think of that! I saw you could clip it to your clothes or your car visor and I thought you could use that to have light wherever you went but it would be good for your Nook too!"  (To his future spouse--I apologize for the practical presents in your future.)

little kid bought me a set of soap and lip gloss and swoons over how pretty I smell every time I get out of the shower, pumping me for information on how enjoyable the shower was and if it was the soap he bought that made it so wonderful.

They are grateful and generous little souls.

There was brief sadness over Harold's departure but he left a note that said:

"Love you guys lots, but it's time to go. Don't forget about me and have fun in the snow. A Merry Christmas to you, all smiles, no tears, and please do not worry for I'll be back next year! (Like it or not, mom!) Laughter and Love, Harold Hubert Piggybottom."

Big Kid was relieved to hear he'd be returning. He had left Santa a note that said:

Dear Santa,
Thank you for bringing Harold. I really had fun with him. Can you keep me a promise??? Please bring Harold back next year. I liked Harold.

Big Kid

P.S. Don't spank Harold for the potty jokes. 

and yesterday wrote Harold a note that said:

Dear Harold,

I hope you have a good new year. I will always remember December 1st, 2010.

Your Harold Liker,
Big Kid

P.S. I'm liking that marble set.

Big Kid rated Harold a 3 out of 5 on the elf satisfaction survey. He may love Harold, but won't rate him more than average. His sense of honesty just won't allow it.

Harold did leave them a marble run set (120 pieces--thanks a freaking lot, Harold!) and a big pile of snow. Pretty magical for Florida kids:
 On Harold's last days, he:
 Drove the pedal car.
 Sent a personalized message from Santa.
 Watched a movie called "Elf Bowling"
 Covered the tree in new underwear. 
and wore a Christmas sweater for Christmas Eve. He looks good, doesn't he?

And Christmas in my Christmas-crazy neighborhood? Was breathtakingly magical. Everyone lined the streets with luminaries and there was singing, and outdoor fires (not from the luminaries, fun and safe outdoor fires that were there on purpose), and even a 10 piece brass band. It made me understand why they are all so Christmas-crazy. 

And that concludes Christmas. 

Although it was magical, I'm kind of glad that it's over.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Donkey

Here is my Christmas donkey: 

Yes, seriously. He was way cuter than the Baby Jesus or any of the supporting cast. He was also amazingly well behaved and didn't do the donkey dance he invented to combat the boredom he felt when other people sang. I personally thought the donkey dance was funny and was hoping to see it but he did the right thing and that's what counts. I guess.

Here he is with his manager/security guy, who was pretty darn proud and who presented him with a donkey Webkinz. 

The show was total uncontrolled chaos, by the way, and the pastor managed to convince me that I'm doing the right thing by not going to church each Sunday.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2nd Grade Love

Big Kid and Mr. Ashley were in the other room when I heard, "Dad? A girl in my class fell in love with me 'cuz I was wearing a black and white shirt. Is that possible?"

"Anything's possible with girls!" Mr. Ashley answered, "That sounds about right."

"Who fell in love with you?" I shouted from the  bedroom.

He appeared in my door way. "Ava. She just really likes black and white shirts, I guess."

"And what do you think about that?" I asked, inwardly cringing because Ava is NOT future daughter-in-law material. She is one of the few who doesn't give a crap about her time tests and is really not Big Kid's type.

He took a moment to ponder that. "I think it's...strange? To love someone for their shirt? And now do I keep wearin' that shirt or stop wearin' that shirt? I just don't know."

"Well, you do look really good in that shirt."

"Yeah...I don't understand how girls fall in love though."

And you never will, I wanted to answer.

But I'll let him discover that mystery for himself.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Harold Hubert Piggybottom Days 13-19

So, Harold Hubert Piggybottom is still with us. We're getting down to the last week of his visit and there is some major anxiety about his departure. I have made sure the kids know that if we're excessively sad about him leaving, we may not be chosen to host an elf next year--so we better not be crying on Christmas morning about the elf going home. (I didn't predict this being a problem...but now I know.)

Anyway, Harold has:

Brushed his teeth in their bathroom. 

Gone horseback riding.

Stuffed himself into the Christmas village bridge to watch the snowman. 

Climbed our globe to see the North Pole. 

Had some cookies and milk. 
(Big Kid was a little irked that he had helped himself to cookies but I thought we should let it go since he is our guest and we don't ever feed him.)

Hung from the kitchen lights. 
(Hey, he can't come up with some creative tableau each and every night of the holiday season, sometimes hanging around is enough.)

And this morning he brought us a Peanuts nativity. We were all pretty excited about this because we love Charlie Brown.

In other Christmas related news, a friend drove through our community to see the lights and said neighbors of mine were dressed as elves in their front yard, with their elf children dancing around a fire. The traffic is completely insane right now and it sounds like a block party every single night with shouted Merry Christmases and caroling.

I told you these people were really crazy about Christmas!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Harold Hubert Piggybottom: Days 4-12

I'm sorry I fell off the wagon in reporting Harold Hubert Piggybottom the Christmas elf's shenanigans. He's been quite busy; in fact, I think he's starting to look a little bit tired. I bet next year the Christmas elves get dispatched much closer to Christmas--it's a long time to be away from home and so active.

So to get us caught up, Harold:

Decorated a miniature Christmas tree! Big Kid was not impressed that Tinkerbell was present and predicted that Harold was always going to be doing things with dumb ol' Tinkerbell from now on and thought that would be gross and boring. Luckily, Harold proved him wrong and stopped the womanizing.

 Played army men! We were particularly impressed that he was wearing GI Joe's camo pants and helmet. GI Joe wasn't looking so happy about it though and is probably still naked.

 Hung from the ceiling fan! That night Big Kid called me in excitedly to point out that with the light on, the shadow Harold made looked exactly like a reindeer. I was doubtful--but then I could totally see what he was talking about! Real live Christmas magic there.

 Went fishing! little kid loved this one, especially since Harold used a real sharp hook. It was a safety pin but I guess the danger factor was impressive to little kid. He was also thrilled to see that he had caught one.

Brought chocolates! And made a mess out of wrapping paper. Harold does not magically clean up the messes that he magically makes, which is pretty annoying of him.

Made snow angels! Out of flour. The same day I vacuumed. little kid had just been talking about snow angels earlier that day though and was impressed that Harold was listening. 
 Joined us for breakfast! Harold brought his own little bowl of cereal and milk and toast. He also had a teensy black fly in his spoon.

 Read How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Later that night Big Kid carefully slid it from underneath Harold's hands to read it to little kid.
 So, things were going pretty well with Harold until yesterday when they found him hanging on the advent calendar. Everyone was pretty unimpressed with his creativity for that morning...until Big Kid opened the #12 drawer and found mini toilet plungers, toilet paper rolls and pieces of fake poo!! Isn't that horrible?!? What kind of elf is this? Big Kid wanted to hang him on the dart board and throw darts at him but I think we need to report it to Santa. What if he pulls this kind of behavior in the house of a toddler? little kid thinks it's funny and hopes we can get Harold back next year.

 Big Kid and I aren't so sure.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Missing Jesus

Last night I realized that my nativity scene was missing. A further search indicated that some Disney snowglobes I used to collect were also nowhere and I realized that these things must have been left in the attic of the last house we rented (and yes, I had reminded someone to check the attic before we left) which has since been sold.

It made me really sad. I feel like I've lost so much in the last two years between losing a career, steady income, perfect credit, the house we built and the awesome job that I thought was going to be my saving grace. My confidence and self-esteem has really taken a hit after sending out months and months of professionally written, customized-for-each-job resumes and getting no response. I can't even get an interview for a waitressing job. It seems like I'm not in control of anything anymore, so losing things that were incredibly special to me and that I was seemingly in control of was just the straw that broke this sad camel's back.

And I cried. I haven't cried over anything in a long time but I did cry over my lost nativity.

"What'sa matter, my mama?" A concerned little kid asked, peering into my eyes.

"I'm just sad because I lost my nativity scene--you know, with the baby Jesus and his parents? I'll be okay."

He quietly evaluated me and this statement before running off to get his brother. They both re-entered the room.

"What's wrong?" Big Kid asked little kid, both standing solemnly at the end of my bed as I tried to wipe and blink away tears.

"She lose-ed her baby Jesus. And her Mary!"

"Your baby Jesus is gone, mom? Want us to help you find him?"

"No, hon. It's okay. I'm sorry you guys are seeing me be sad."

"Just put a new baby Jesus on your Christmas list, mom." I nodded that this was a good idea, knowing that our family's first nativity couldn't be replaced and the Disney things I had collected 16 years ago and carefully packed back into their original boxes for each move were long gone.

"You's want me to buy you a new baby Jesus, my mumum? I will buys you that. So you be's happy."

"We will both get you baby Jesuses, mom! That way you'll always have an extra baby Jesus around!"

"My mumum, my sweet wittle love. Don't be sad about Jesus, 'kay? Awww, I so sorry you losted your baby Jesus. So sorry!"

"Mom, I don't know how...but I'm going to collect as many baby Jesuses as I can find and give them to you. Okay? You'll have so many baby Jesuses! All different types! And Marys too, if you want."

Their sweetness made me want to cry even more because I'm so lucky to have them.

But I knew I had to stop crying before I ended up with 10,000 baby Jesuses.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Getting little kid to eat lunch is a struggle every single day.

Nine times out of ten, I make him a sandwich and he picks at it, nibbles at it, lets the cheese slide off, allows a piece of bread to fall onto the floor and then crumbles the rest into a ball so I won't notice that he hasn't eaten it. (I do notice, I'm actually much smarter than he thinks.)

Yesterday I was sick of this so I made him two chicken strips (his favorite and a reasonable quantity) and stood there and watched him eat them. At the 45 minute mark of obnoxious little bites with lots of lip smacking and face making, I told him I had had it and to eat the meal. At about 50 minutes and late for school, I lost it:

"YOU ARE GOING TO EAT THAT CHICKEN! Do you understand? I'm not playing this game with you every day. I make you a nice lunch and you are going to eat it! Two chicken strips!! That's it and you can't get that done! I HAVE HAD IT!! Do you hear me?? When I make you lunch, you WILL eat that lunch! All of it! Without me standing here and feeding you like a baby!!!! It's YOUR body that needs to grow healthy and strong and if YOU don't eat then YOU will have to deal with being puny forever!! Don't you want to be big and strong? Don't you want me to be HAPPY?!? YOU WILL EAT THIS CHICKEN!! YOU WILL EAT IT!! Do you understand me? I AM DONE WITH THIS! EAT THE CHICKEN!! DO. YOU. HEAR. ME?" 

He looked nonplussed. There was a quiet pause as we stared at each other.

"Yeah, I hear you. You are bein' very aggwessive and a little bit mean. Very aggwessive of you. I don't like your attitude."

But he did eat the chicken strips.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Freaks

All of my Christmas-crazy neighbors suddenly have golf carts.

No, we don't live in a golf course community. These freaks went out and rented golf carts for the month so they can drive around and look at each other's lights.

And I don't mean a handful of people--I mean that I can easily count 15 golf carts on my 1 mile drive home and that's without side streets. Some people have two carts, some people have the big extended shuttle-type ones, most have elaborately decorated them. All of the moms drive them up to the corner to pick up their walkers; the line of SUVs and minivans has been replaced by motorized carts of varying size and decor.

And I am so freaking jealous!! I called around and not only can I not get a golf cart (probably because my neighborhood has all of them) but they run between $400-$700 a month. Who does that??

Neighborhood Mom's is purple and is all decorated with glittery purple ribbon and ornaments. Big Kid rode home from school with her today and I'm pretty sure he loves her more than me now.

Animal Crossing: City Life

Do any of you have this game? Is one of your neighbors a duck named Joey? If so, we'd like to be your friend and visit each other's towns.

The boys got me this game for my birthday and we all became addicted. We built a little town, paid off our mortgages, sent each other mail and gifts daily, collected fossils and animals for the museum collection, became friends with our neighbors and customized our homes. The 4 of us played a little bit every single day for about 3 months.

And then little kid got bored and erased our entire town yesterday.

Big Kid was devastated; so genuinely, heart-breakingly sad. He is greatly mourning the loss of our neighbor Joey the duck, who is not in our new town. When I woke up this morning I found him at the computer writing an email to Nintendo begging them to help us get Joey back.

I think if you have a friend whose city you visit that your neighbors may move back and forth between each other's towns. This may be our only hope to see Joey again. I promise we will be good Animal Crossing friends to you, we won't mess up your town, and we will send you notes and gifts and invite you over to our place.

So if you play this game, will you email me at ashleyquitefrankly *at* g mail We haven't gone on wi-fi with it before so I'll have to figure out our friend code or whatever, but I'll do it so Big Kid and Joey can be reunited.

And I'll send you lots of nice presents. I swear.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


The other day in the car Big Kid asked, "Mom, what's Lookers?"

Oh shit, I thought. Lookers is a strip club. How would he know about a strip club? The radio! He does listen to radio advertisements. I can tell he already knows something is up, what can I say, what can I say shit shit shit.

I tried to remember the commercial so I could give a reasonable explanation but all I could remember was "L Ohh Ohhhhhhhhh K E R Sssssssssssss, Lookers! Looohhhhkeeeerssss.

"Uh, I don't know...? What? Why? "

"Lookers. L Oh! Oh! K E R S What do they do there?"

"Yes. I'm not--er, it is a...well, I am not sure."

"Could you call them?"


"I was thinking they could help us find Tangerine. Since they maybe look for things, maybe they look for lost cats?"

"Uh...yeah." And I left it at that.

And then turned off the radio forever.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Harold Hubert Piggybottom: Day 3

Well, this morning we discovered that Harold Hubert Piggybottom had rounded up every lady in the house and was slow dancing with Tinkerbelle. He also made the Happy Holidays blocks say Oh Happy Ladys! 

The kids thought it was hysterical but I highly doubt Santa Claus sent Harold here to chat up the ladies all night long. Big Kid disagrees and says it's probably fine, but I think his love of anagrams is tainting his good judgment. I just don't know about this elf. He better back off of Tinkerbelle; she's mine.

He looks awfully happy here. The little perv.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Harold Hubert Piggybottom: Day 2

Good news! Today was a better day with Harold Hubert Piggybottom.

First thing this morning (and I mean first thing), I heard excited gasps and bare feet running toward my room.

"Mom! Moooooom! Harold's done something good! He's having a snowball fight with some of the other toys," Big Kid said.

"It's snowing outside?" I asked, wishing I hadn't stayed up so late.

"No! In the kitchen!" little kid replied.

"It's snowing in the kitchen?"

"No!" they both exclaimed.

"Are snowballs melting on my counter?"

"No, it's just marshmallows mom but you gotta come see. It's so cute!"

"That elf better not have attracted any ants!" Luckily, he had not. And he brought hot chocolate, on our coldest day of the year so far.

 So Harold is back in Big Kid's good graces (for now). 

My cat is also pretty grateful for the few marshmallows she was able to scrounge

Hopefully Harold can keep up the good work.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Harold Hubert Piggybottom

On Thanksgiving day, we came home and found the following letter on our door:

Dear Masters Big Kid and little kid:

Salutations and season’s greetings to you, my friends! It is getting extra chilly and very busy up here in the North Pole and we are all working very hard to meet our Christmas Day deadline. 

Due to changes in population and policy, I have had great difficulty monitoring behavior for 2010. Mrs. Claus came up with the wonderful idea of sending elves out to some families for the month of December; the elves could use a little vacation (and warm weather with you lucky Florida folks!) and I could certainly use the additional help. 

You have been assigned a very special elf and I hope you are up to the challenge! Harold Hubert Piggybottom is a charming and mischievous fellow…and the mischief is the problem. Harold is on probation, if you will. After repeated incidents, the Head Elf has decided that Christmas preparations would run more smoothly without Harold “helping”, so he has been assigned to do behavior reporting. We are confident that he will not be a problem—but if he is, please don’t hesitate to contact me or Mrs. Claus and we will see about sending out a replacement elf. You will be receiving a Satisfaction Survey along with a summary of your behavior reports, please be kind and fill it out so we can help our elves improve! You may want to keep notes on your experiences in order to accurately complete the survey.

Harold Hubert Piggybottom will be arriving sometime on December 1, 2010. He has strict instructions to be on his best behavior and I hope you will be on your best behavior as well. I am eager to get some positive reports back and I know you are very good boys. I only ask that you NOT touch Harold. Harold Hubert Piggybottom’s magical spirit is inside of an elf-shaped doll and handling the elf will ruin his magic. If you do touch him, he will need to be returned to the North Pole for refurbishing. We do not have time to do elf refurbishing in the month of December, so if you touch Harold you may be without an elf for the rest of the holiday season and that would be unfortunate for everyone. Adults may touch Harold if absolutely necessary; they are mostly immune to magic and won’t tarnish Harold’s. 

Thank you so much for hosting Harold Hubert Piggybottom in your home. I wish you a healthy, happy holiday season…and the best of luck in dealing with Harold.
                                                                                    Ho Ho Ho,
                                                                                   Santa Claus

The boys were very excited. There was much discussion about how the elf would behave, what hosting an elf would involve, how and when he would arrive, how careful they would be not to touch it, etc. I grumbled about getting a naughty elf assigned to us and swore I would send him back if he was more than I could handle. We looked for him first thing this morning but couldn't find an elf anywhere.

Tonight I realized we had forgotten to do the advent calendar so I told the boys to open the first door and Big Kid found 2 little toilets and a note inside. "Where's the chocolate I put in there?" I asked. "What are those and where did they come from? You two know I don't like potty humor! Did you eat the chocolate?"

Before he even read the note, Big Kid (who is normally very fond of potty humor) was furious. He knew That Elf had done this. "HOW DARE HE TAKE MY CHOCOLATE AND LEAVE A TOILET!! This is wrong! It's not right!!"

little kid was curious and amused.

The note read:

I am here. But where? 
Ready to meet you, with heart and soul
Hanging out somewhere sort of like the North Pole

Harold Hubert Piggybottom

Big Kid stormed to the freezer and flung the door open, calming down only slightly when he saw that the elf had his chocolates in there.

"It's still not right that he taked our chocolates! I'm writin' a letter to Santa right now! I'm gonna put it in a envelope and stick a stamp on there and mail it to the North Pole. He needs to know!" He stomped to the office to get paper and a pen.

"Mama, can I make a pwesent for Ha-old? Usin' paper? 'Cuz I want him to like me. I like him," little kid asked. I said that he could.

Big Kid's letter said:

Dear Santa,

Hubert Harold Piggybottom swapped our chocolates in our treat count down with stupid rubber toilets. You better give us a better elf next year!

Mad Big Kid

P.S. I do not care if Piggybottom feels bad about it.

Seeing that this situation was quickly spiraling out of control, I sided with our creepy and inappropriate elf friend for a moment and pointed out that Harold probably thought the whole thing would be funny; that I didn't like potty humor and they did so maybe he was trying to get on their good sides. And after all, he hadn't taken the chocolate. I agreed that we needed to mention this on our elf satisfaction survey, so Harold can do better next year but I wasn't convinced that the ranting and raving was necessary just yet.

By this time, little kid had drawn an elf picture and shoved the paper into the Christmas tree and somehow  smeared chocolate all over his tiny toilet, which he then happily licked off. This was one of the most revolting sights I've ever seen and his toilet now has bite marks in it.

At bed time Big Kid said, "Hey mom? I might like Harold. It's too soon to tell but maybe he's okay."

"Good. I think it could be fun." I answered.

"I'm still tellin' Santa about the toilet thing though."

I'm hoping tomorrow with Harold will go a little better.

(But Big Kid will probably never forgive him for the toilet trick.)