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Monday, December 29, 2008

Flash and Me

So we're on the way home from the movie Marley and Me. No one is saying a word; we're all too emotionally distraught. I'm thinking of John Grogan's (Owen Wilson) soliloquy, reminding us how dogs don't care about material things and how they love us unconditionally. Of course, this is true of our own family dog, Molly, and most dogs in general I think.

Then my thoughts turn to Flash, our hamster.

Flash has been with our family now for, well, longer than any other hamster we've had. But I have prepared myself for his departure -- I know all to well that a hamster today doesn't guarantee a hamster tomorrow.

Flash. So dear to our family. When he or she (we're not sure)is gone, what won't we miss?

...Like fighting over who gets to clean the cage...or trying to lure the panic-stricken motionless mouse out of the cage...or the aroma of the cage that houses poop that could have come from a small cat...or the neurotic grinding of the cage bars in attempt to escape...I must stop, lest I cry.

Hamsters seem to have only one expression, but no one can deny it's adorableness. It's the "are you going to kill me now?" look. You've seen it -- if not, just look at one my many photos of Flash. (I have almost as many as my kids.)

While I write this blog mostly in jest, likely I will be a red-faced, watery-eyed mess the day we lose him. Unless, of course, we find him in the laundry again. If that happens, the family will rejoice upon the reunion, we'll stick him back in the cage, and go back to watching TV.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Post Christmas Commotion?

See the utter joy in this boy's face? The boy that just shot his mother at point blank range?

After a hectic Christmas week, I was ready to come home from work, put my feet up and and watch either a thought-provoking episode of What Not to Wear or some sappy DVD we received for Christmas. Then what should my wondering eyes should appear? Cole's godfather, Jim, came over with Christmas gifts - an electronic dartboard game and the seemingly mother of all gifts...dart tag. While it was refreshing to see Cole put the DS down, I wasn't prepared for all hell to break loose.

Flashback to the 1970's:

Stef: Raised as an only child, evenings with her parents consisted of practicing piano, reading, watching the news while consuming a modest meal, a bath, and of course rounding out the evening with one of our favorite sitcoms. (Wednesdays nights were always a treat when I could stay up past 9:00 to see Charlie's Angels.) Occasionally Stef could convince her parents to play checkers or monopoly.

Doug: Raised on a farm with four other siblings, evenings consisted of farm chores, active endeavors(like biking, three-wheeling, snowmobiling, shooting hoops, playing catch, climbing into bins, swinging from ropes, etc.), devouring as much of the large meat-and-potato type supper before his brother got too much, and topping off the night with a wrestling match while watching one of their favorite shows or sporting events.

Back to 2008 in the Kramer household:

As the darts left tiny pink patches on any exposed piece of skin, I could feel Doug coming into his own. You see, mostly the nights are fairly quiet around here -- similar to my own upbringing. But once in a while, a gleam sparks in my husband's eye and the terror of chaos rules. While the offensive and defensive tactics become employed in the imaginary war scene, laughter prevails. Even mother breaks a smile.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A baking tip that you all probably know...about almond bark

So, I'm continuing my conversation with Pat about the weekend and I mention how I must have bought some bad almond bark. Just then, Justine walks in (at the age of 20 something) and asks, "how high was your stove?" Medium. "You have to cook almond bark on low." Then Pat adds, "or use the microwave." Hmmm. Well simple mistake. I'm sure many women have done the same thing. Then Randy Coenen comes into the conversation and tells me, "Oh, you need to use a double sauce pan with water in the bottom pan. He even knew better.

So my almond bark cookies look a little lumpy. But the next time I use the stuff, I'll know better. Next December.

I love Christmas, but I'm tired

I'm done. No more shopping. No more cookie baking. No more cranberry wreaths. Okay, I never really got to the cranberry wreaths. Now, I've decided to listen to my husband and "just relax and quit worrying about everything!" Has anyone noticed how good grandparents are at not worrying? They really know how to enjoy moments with the kids.

Today my friend Pat was telling me how she had her grandkids over to make marshmallow truffles this weekend. Test. What's your first reaction?

a)"I bet those kids looked so cute with marshmallows and sprinkles adorning their faces?"


b)"What a sticky mess."

Pat assured me that it was a mess, but it was quite worth it.

Too often, I miss out on the moment by worrying about what I need to do next. But since God decided relocate the Artic to the Midwest this last weekend, I was forced to heed Doug's advice. And it was heaven. Alex and I watched Roman Holiday. We baked so many cookies that every Kramer in this household can barely utter the word almond bark without invoking a gag reflex. And of course, Cole entertained us greatly. He's written two, no three more letters to Santa. Apparently, Santa can answer many of those great mysteries of life, such as "Does Rudolph still lead the sleigh?"

So my holiday wish to all of you is to enjoy the many wonderful moments of the season. I intend to revel in them.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Santa's New Penpal

It was one of the best days in Cole's life today. He received a letter back from Santa! Someone famous! Santa informed Cole how fun Nintendo games are and how superheros are wonderful because they "teach us to make the right choices." Now, Cole has written another letter back to Santa to say thank you and that he will do just as he says ("Be nice to your sister and listen to your Mom and Dad.") He mentioned at supper, "I wonder when I'll get my next letter from him."

Looks like Santa's got himself a new penpal.

Poor Molly

"Joyful, joyful, joyful, as only dogs know how to be happy with only the autonomy of their shameless spirit." -Pablo Neruda published by Oprah in her last issue. As you all know, I hate to defy Oprah, but apparently dogs can be shamed. Just try putting a sweatshirt on them...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bad Santa?

Do you remember Clark Griswold's cute, poor little niece on Christmas vacation? The one who doesn't "get shit" from Santa every year? Apparently she and my Cole share the same doomed fate.

As the kids got to spend a late afternoon at the bank one day, Penny (our famous receptionist) asked Cole if Santa was coming this year. His response, "Well, Santa never really gets me what I want anyway." Despite past Christmas's that included scooters, a new bike, endless Spiderman toys, five thousand light sabers, and even a WII, ole' St. Nick just hasn't been cutting it. No wonder he's been throwing caution to the wind and incessantly displaying bouts of poutiness and anger. I guess he's trying a new psychology on Santa.

Anyway, Cole went on to explain to Penny that it's "his sister who always gets him what he wants." Last year she got him the Ben Ten alien force watch (approximatley $10). The year before she got him the voice-changing Darth Vader mask (approximately $10).

So that day I heard that Alex threatened Cole that she wouldn't get him a present. Cole was greatly disturbed. When she told him she was just kidding, he was still upset. "Alex? Why would you want to make me so sad?"

No wonder my "You better not pout or Santa won't bring anything" comments are like talking to the wall. Not anymore.

Guess what Cole? Alex is making a list and she's checking it twice...

Monday, December 8, 2008


We just got back from what I consider the coolest city in the nation, possibly the world. On the plane ride home, I wrote a few thoughts. Somehow the time in the airport made me very contemplative, so I'm going to post those thoughts on my other blog. (Read. Write.Share.) But for this one, here are a few random currents floating through my brain...

1. The conversation with our shuttle driver didn't quite go as I had imagined. Before we landed in LaGuardia, I played out the conversation in my head. "So, where you folks from? Iowa! Oh, yeah? What brings you to NYC? So, you're a writer huh? I happen to drive for a publisher! Well, let me give you a few tips about New York." Of course, the driver in my head spoke with a wonderful Brooklyn accent, similar to Vinnie Barbarino. The real conversation went something like this. "What's the address of your hotel?"
2. FIFTH AVENUE!!! In the words of Alex, OMG. The richly adorned street was breathtaking (not because of the cold) with its Christmas window displays, sparkling lights and ice sculptures. (Not to mention the unaffordable merchandise.) Luckily I had to pee really badly right in front of Saks. The restroom was located on the 5th floor. In the elevator ride I noticed the designer shoe department was on the 8th floor. My gracious husband allowed me to view, even touch, the Prada and Jimmy Choos before taking the escalator all the way down to the ground floor. This is how I got to tour the sublime department store. While the visit only lasted approximately twenty minutes, it felt almost, well, spiritual. I'm not kidding. That's probably why St. Patrick's Cathedral is across the street.

3. Rockefeller Center -- didn't make the Today Show. Doug and I didn't see eye-to-eye on that issue. But the Top of the Rock was wonderfully romantic, even with all the school kids asking us to take their pictures.

4. I loved the production of Chicago. Next time I sit by a 104 year-old man, I'll give him a few packs of breath mints.

5. We didn't see ONE famous person. Not one. We don't think they really live there.

6. The tours were very worthwhile -- especially when the guide wasn't chewing our ass or was understandable. (We picked up a lot of half-histories about stuff.)

7. The Statue of Liberty really is smaller than you think it will be. But it doesn't take away its significance.

8. We got ID'd! It had to be the stocking caps. I'm going to buy a bunch of new stocking caps and never take them off.

I could go on and on and on, but I'll end with this. The best part of the four days was our welcome home greeting. We're not sure if they have ever hugged as that much -- and that was after the grandparents showered them with attention and gifts...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

How to Unspoil Your Kids

We love our kids to death. So do their grandparents. Consequently, they are quite spoiled despite each of their sweet dispositions. So Doug and I have decided they need to understand they can't always get what they want. And if they want something badly enough, they need to work for it!

Last Saturday, after suffering a nasty headache for three days, I felt like Christmas shopping. But then my internal struggle began. "How can I take the kids without spending a fortune on stupid stuff they want?" Sticking to the resolution of unspoiling our children, here's the approach I took:

1) I gave the kids a choice, they could be paid for their November chores as usual or I would buy them ONE THING on our shopping trip -- but nothing more than $20! The kids were saavy enough to take the deal. Neither had more than ten stars (one star converts to one dollar).
2) By our second to last stop for the day, Alex found an awesome vest she wanted at Kohl's for the great price of $10. Perfect! Then she found a totally awesome sweatshirt for $20. That's when a thirty minute painstaking debate of what to choose began. So I'm trying to teach her about making choices, but my headache was creeping back and we hadn't even been to Target yet. Finally, I told her we would buy both and that she could pay me back the extra $10 later.

3)Remarkably, Cole found himself in the same predicament at Target. He really wanted a Batman DVD for $10, but he also wanted a Wii game for $20. So, after another thirty minute debate, I HAD to offer him the same deal as his sister. He was good with that.

I suggested to the kids they could pay me back the $10 by cleaning up a portion of the garage. I guess that idea was unacceptable.
"Just take it from my savings, Mom."
"Yeah, me too."

Right. Like I'm going to do that.

So, as I'm fretting about raising selfish, spoiled kids, something amazing occurred. The other night we were driving around looking at Christmas lights, I asked the kids about their favorite Christmas memory. I was shocked when they each recounted a special time they remembered at each of their Grandmas' houses. Isn't that cool? It wasn't about any great gift they received...and they even received a trip to Disney last year.

So, what's the lesson here? Don't ever take the kids shopping.

Do something with them instead.