Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Auld Lang Syne (What IS That?)

It just occurred to me that we are not simply toasting away another year and welcoming a new one this weekend, but we are about to say goodbye to the very first decade of this millennium.

I know this is probably not news to most of you. Perhaps I am late to the party. If that is the case, I hope you will consider me fashionably so and join me in looking back not just on 2009, but all ten of the years that comprised the… um… Do we have a clever name for this decade yet?

The New Millennium’s First Decade (too wordy?) was ushered in around the world with fireworks, fanfare and zero repercussions from the dreaded Y2K bug.

Fearing every computer on the face of the earth would crash, forcing us to live like pioneers, many greeted the new millennium prepared for disaster. I must confess I had a case of water and new blanket on hand, which I realize in hindsight, would have sustained us for five, maybe six hours.

Fortunately those fears were unwarranted, and as the ball dropped in Times Square it seemed the Oh’s (too vague?) were going to be just fine.

And for a while they were. Jennifer and Brad were happily married, Britney was voted Best New Artist and Tom and Nicole celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary.

Of course that was one Angelina, one K-Fed and one too many jumps on Oprah’s couch ago, back when Sopranos sang in choirs, Billy Ray was the only Cyrus and Paris was simply a city in France.

Yep, much changed during the Aughts (too retro?), and I’m not just talking about a certain Tiger and his stripes.

Decade 0.0 (too tech-y?) gave birth to texting and tweeting, Survivors and Losers, low-carb diets and High School Musicals. Madonna went British, Demi went cougar and everyone went green.

Thanks to DVRs, YouTube, and TMZ, we witnessed more events first-hand during this decade than any other. We cheered on Lance to jersey after jersey, watched Susan Boyle melt Simon’s cold heart, and elected eight Idols without ever leaving home.

We learned about wardrobe malfunctions, we knew who at any given point had or had not put a ring on what, and, OMG, we spoke in acronyms. (Sorry, BFF’s, TMI?)

But the decade-we-have-yet-to-name wasn’t all Phelps and games. There were disasters ranging from merely Gosselin to downright gruesome in nature.

Someday we will share with our children’s children those deeply etched memories of the decade’s darker hours. Where we were on September 11th. Or the time a storm named Katrina tried to swallow New Orleans. Or the day the Moonwalk died.

Not this week, though.

This week is not to be spent worrying about the past. This week is to be spent curled up under our Snuggies with our iPods and Red Bull, looking forward to a new (though likely also nameless) decade, dreaming of all it might hold.

Or, at least, that’s what she said.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Christmas Carol ('09)

Jolly Old St. Nicholas, lean you ear this way...

I've been busting my tail to be ready Christmas Day.

Fighting crowds at Target, hanging lights upon the tree,

Even baking cookies (what has gotten into me?)

Narrowing the wish list of my diva, Caroline,

Down to just a few things from six-hundred-forty-nine,

Hunting down the presents that my son hopes to receive,

Wishing that my daughter in fifth grade could still believe.

Trying to decide just what to get for my pre-teen

Teenage girls are tough, dear Santa, you know what I mean.

Switching cash and credit to throw Husband off my trail,

Trying to get Christmas cards all stamped and in the mail.

Eating all the cookies and the candy neighbors make,

Knowing I'll regret each bite that I can't help but take,

Braving freezing wind chills to light up my new fake deer,

Hopefully the head will work this time (unlike last year!)

Decking all the halls with boughs of something red & green,

Finding Baby Jesus, kidnapped from the manger scene.

Muppets and John Denver fill the air the whole month long,

("Noel: Christmas Eve 1913"'s my favorite song)

Setting up the TiVo to record the season's shows

Watching Chevy Chase light up his house until it glows,

Rooting for the Grinch and hearing Polar bells' sweet rings,

Every time a leg lamp's lit an angel gets his wings.

Going in for flu shots that we haven't gotten yet

(Don't you worry, Santa, our deductible's been met.)

One last task to finish now, before it gets too late:

Find a New Year's sitter who won't charge a hooker's rate.

Just a few days left now before you come flying by

(Would you rather have leftover cookies or some pie?)

I'd just like to tell you, Santa, while I have your ear,

Have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy Year!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fun with Holiday Cards

(Scroll down a few inches for this week's story)

Can't get enough of holiday card fun? Neither can I. And neither can my buddy, Sassy Britches, who lays out some valuable rules in her blog.

Say Cheese!

It is the most important picture any mother will take of her children all year, the photo that is viewed more than any other, the photo that defines the family:

The Holiday Card Photo

I vividly remember my dear mom dragging our family to the mall in August of 1982, all six of us decked out in turtlenecks and matching reindeer sweaters, to take advantage of the summer portrait package. Mom thought ahead in every way, taking the picture, saving money, and getting it done early. Every way except the fact that, by the time we trudged across the 115-degree parking lot in full-on winter attire, our summer tans had melted away to a clammy shade of pale.

The photo still sits in her house today.

While experience wasn’t pleasant, I did learn two valuable lessons. The first, to never wear neck-to-toe polyester in the summer, and the second, to always plan ahead for the holiday card.

And so year after year, with every new experience and celebration, I shoot away in hopes of taking what will become THE holiday card shot. This year we posed in the snow, at the park, at the Hutchinson Salt Mines, at the beach, and on our front porch, all to no avail.

It was while tailgating before the KU-OU football game, all of us dressed in crimson and blue and glowing in the beauty of autumn in Lawrence, Kansas, that I decided this would be the setting for the Dunlap Family’s 2009 holiday card photo.

I scouted the hill until I found the perfect spot with Memorial Stadium as our backdrop and Kansas-blue skies above. After carefully arranging my husband and four kids for the photo, I found a young guy who seemed capable of working a camera and asked him to help us.

“No pressure,” I told him, “but this one is for the holiday card, so make it good!”

I jumped in with my crew and smiled for the camera, but the photographer wasn’t satisfied. “Let’s try another,” he smiled. He took another picture. And another. And another, laughing more and more after each one. Apparently he had never seen such a cheerful and photogenic family.

Or so I thought.

It was not until we got home that I saw what he had seen.

While the rest of us were looking straight ahead, facing the camera with gleaming smiles,Caroline, our six-year-old who is known to march to her own drummer, had her head cocked to the side, her eyes crossed, and her tongue sticking out. Every. Single. Shot.

Not a single photo of our crimson and blue family without Caroline hijacking it in the whole series.

After a split second of fury I burst out laughing, as I realized I was about to send out our best holiday card ever...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Some (pre-)Assembly Required

‘Twas the night before Christmas…

And while the children were nestled all snug in their beds, Dave and I stealthily pulled out the toys Santa had carefully hidden, unaware of how under qualified we were for the job ahead.

We cruised along, setting up ponies and pet shops and girl toys galore, but the showstopper of the spread was the “some assembly required” Spiderman Tower of Fun for our son, complete with an air-powered zip line and superhero launch pad. We could not wait to see the look on his face the next morning.

By 12:30 a.m. we had freed the last Polly Pocket from her packaging and were ready to tackle the Tower of Fun. Dave searched the house for screwdrivers while I pried open the box. Parts spilled out onto the floor, each securely wrapped and clearly marked --- with a Japanese character.

Hmmm, I thought, I wonder why these are marked in Japanese?

My question was answered as I unfolded the poster-sized paper with step-by-step instructions and photos of a person (who, I might add, did not look happy) assembling the Tower of Fun. They were detailed and in order --- and written entirely in Japanese.

I flipped the poster over, expecting to find English, or even Spanish, hoping those three semesters in college where I learned how to find the library, announce my plans to visit a beach with friends, and order a beer would also enable me to assemble a Tower of Fun.

But the only English words on the poster read, “WARNING: Failure to properly assemble could result in serious – VERY SERIOUS – injury. Follow ALL directions, EXACTLY as written, or your child will surely lose an appendage. DON’T MESS THIS ONE UP!”

Dave returned with two screwdrivers to find his pale wife under the tree staring at a pile of miscellaneous parts.

“It looks like the blue thing goes on the red thing first,” I said, looking at the picture.

“How can you tell?” Dave said, “The picture is in black-and-white.”

By 1:35 a.m. the tower was nearly halfway complete. We still did not know how to attach the power tube to the launch pad, but we did notice all of our neighbors had shut off their lights.

By 2:00 a.m. we had considered and ruled out the option of burning the Tower of Fun and wrapping up one of Luke’s toys from the year before instead.

By 2:40 a.m. we had run out of things to say and had stopped speaking to each other.

By 3:19 a.m. the (expletive) Tower of Fun was upright and mostly functional in spite of the handful of leftover parts. We were the last elves standing, bags like stockings hanging under our eyes, and resolved to never repeat the Tower of ’05…

For I heard Dave exclaim, as we both hit the hay, “We won’t do this next year, no how and no way!”

Dedicated to my parents and parents everywhere; and the “some assembly required” Millennium Falcon of ’84.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Basketball is a FAMILY Show!

Dear Allen Fieldhouse "Kiss Cam" Operator,

I understand the second half, under-eight TV timeout leaves you feeling obligated to entertain the 16,300 college basketball fans in attendance who would otherwise be left twiddling their thumbs while waiting for the Kansas Jayhawks to take the court again.

And I, like my fellow basketball enthusiasts, certainly enjoy it when you fill that time by zooming in on happy couples and watching their reactions to seeing themselves on the big screen above the scoreboard and then kissing. On the very big screen. In front of everyone.

And I do think that was very sweet of you to take notice of my daughter pointing at my husband and me, begging you to put us on the "Kiss Cam" just after the elderly couple who did not seem to know they were being filmed.

Believe me, my daughter has never been made to feel more special.


After Dave and I obliged you with a very cute (albeit somewhat flustered) smooch, you proceeded to linger. We looked up on the screen, expecting to watch your next victims - er - lovebirds, only to find we were still the target. On the very big screen. In front of everyone.

We had followed the protocol perfectly. We pointed, we laughed, we kissed, just like the "Kiss Cam" unwritten rules state. Yet you did not leave us alone.

Thinking this was just a video delay, I smiled at the screen. But things quickly got uncomfortable, and I began to wonder what, exactly, you wanted us to do.

And why on earth you thought we were going to do that live onscreen at Allen Fieldhouse?

So, for future reference, please remember that we are happy to provide you with a free peek at first base, but you are not welcome to stick around in hopes of catching a glimpse of second.

No matter how much air time you are willing to give us.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk,