Friday, January 10, 2014

The Three Kings have come and gone and we still haven't sent out any Christmas cards

The 12 Days of Christmas are over. It was Greek Christmas this past Tuesday. By any standard you can articulate, the Christmas season has come and gone.

Not only did we not take a family Christmas picture this year, we didn't even send out one card. I didn't open anyone else's Christmas card myself either; a couple were opened by others and called to my attention, but I don't like to look at other people's Christmas cards until I've sent my own. So this year I just didn't look.

*Sigh* We'll just have to do better next year.

Part of it, I suppose, is that with the baby in the house, we spend a more of our evenings defending our territory than in any productive pursuit.

That grandbaby is a one-toddler engine of destruction. Of course, Long Suffering Spouse and I didn't move to our present house until Youngest Son was already three. We never child-proofed the "new" house (Youngest Son will turn 21 next month) because we didn't have to. And in those days we didn't have cords for charging phones and tablets either. We had a desktop computer, but that was just one thing to defend.

One of our five kids took pinking shears to a bedspread at some point, and another liked to raid the bathroom cabinet and make mountains out of bath powder. In the hallway. But these things took place at the old house.

The Baby to Be Named Later has discovered bathrooms herself and, in particular, toilet paper. Unrolling toilet paper is one of her favorite things in the whole world. And she's figured out that no one can hear her when she does it. Except when she squeals with unrestrained delight at her achievement, of course.

By then it's too late.

And the baby knows that smartphones and tablets show Elmo and Big Bird videos. All she has to do is ask (she thinks) and, whenever she sees a smartphone or tablet, she does ask. Loudly. Insistently.

This has caused some modifications in our usual behavior.

In other houses it might seem strange to see a 20-year old wrapped in a blanket and surreptitiously glancing down and fingering something within. (It might seem a little creepy, too, come to think of it.) But at our house the other night, for example, Youngest Son was just trying to text constantly like any other self-respecting college student -- without his niece realizing that he was on a phone.

I have DVDs on one shelf in the den and CDs on another. The baby thinks these are great for rearranging. She has liberated us from the stifling concept of storing things in mere alphabetical order.

Well, sure, you say, put things up. Put them out of the baby's reach.

But this is a big baby and she's got a big reach. And you can't put everything up. We have blocked some shelves. We've blocked some cabinets and locked others -- but some are left unlocked because the baby has to play with something, right?

I mean, if we closed off all the kitchen cabinets -- denying her access to the pots and pans and plastic storage containers -- she might be stuck playing with her million and one toys. Why, that would be barbarous!

So, unless your foot is no longer than about five inches, walking anywhere in the house can be interesting. I've had five kids; I've been pretty good at negotiating the minefield. Of course I was more agile when I was younger.

And then there's eating.

We've never been a sit-at-the-dining-room table sort of family, or even a sit-at-the-kitchen-table sort of family (at least, we haven't since our own kids were little). Even way back then, I generally did not eat with the family because I got home so late from work. (The kids grew up never knowing that their father was a picky eater. Long Suffering Spouse was -- and is -- a genius. And Oldest Son's finicky palate? That's conclusive proof of nature over nurture. My wife should win the Nobel Prize for that one alone.)

Anyway, as school and jobs and outside interests took over, the kids ate at odd hours, too.

So, in these later days, we are accustomed to eating whenever, and generally in front of the TV in the den.

This has provided a goldmine of opportunity for the Baby to Be Named Later. She's noticed, when we babysit her aunt and uncle's dogs, that the animals beg for table scraps. She's now the most insistent beggar there is. I can be eating tuna fish casserole and minding my own business when all of a sudden someone is demanding my peas, please. I always ask Younger Daughter whether I should comply with these demands, and to what extent, and I do pretty much as she says. She's the mom, after all. But, when she says no, you'd think I had a tablet in my lap and was refusing to watch The Elmo Song for the nine millionth time.

Once I made the mistake of trying to eat dinner while reading on a tablet.

Never, ever again.

I suppose this sounds like a litany of complaints. In print, on your screen, it may seem like a grouchy old guy carping and not affectionate at all.

But that's not my intent.

Last night Younger Daughter and Olaf had to make an emergency grocery run. Younger Daughter was apologetic about it -- indeed, she could have gone and returned in the time she spent apologizing. But there was nothing to apologize for.

Younger Daughter and Olaf had attended to the Level 1 Hazmat cleanup of the baby, and changed her clothes (she's still teething, you know) and, although she was worried that Vesuvius might erupt again, it really wasn't going to make any difference... even if the there was another toxic spill I was pretty sure we could contain the damage until the baby's parents returned. Just as long as they finally got going.

Eventually, Younger Daughter corralled the kid and brought her into the den. I was in my recliner. I'd just finished eating (I can wolf it down when I have to). Younger Daughter plopped the kid on my lap and the baby simply snuggled in for the whole 45 minutes or so that her parents were gone. She didn't try to escape more than a couple of times, and then only half-heartedly. Long Suffering Spouse, nodding off in her chair, tossed me one of the baby's blankets and the child was content. As Long Suffering Spouse faded out, the baby settled in.

"She's very comfortable with us," Long Suffering Spouse observed.

"She is," I agreed as I started Play With Me Sesame on the TV's On-Demand menu. (Sure it's cheating, but, hey, we're grandparents. We need that little extra edge.)

"Maybe there's something to be said for multi-generational households," my wife said sleepily.

"I would never have guessed it a few years ago," I said.

Cookie Monster sang C is for Cookie, That's Good Enough for Me.

The baby squealed with happiness.

But this post was about how we didn't send out Christmas cards this year. Well, things have been kind of busy. With a 15-month old toddler in the house, even if I'm only the grandpa, how could it be otherwise?

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