Tuesday, December 28, 2010

This Is Merry Christmas!

As much as I hate perpetuating the "Gi-Me" theme of Christmas I can't help being thrilled by giving someone exactly what they wanted.

Like when Zander saw the L-Draco BeyBlade peeking from his stocking and opened a new Wii game.

Or when Liam opened his "Denerwol Dweavis" (his BFF as previously established).

And when Noa opened her Rapunzel Barbie.

These are the moments that capture the reason behind the giving.  Their faces.  Their excitement.  That rare instant where everyone is happy and thankful and not fighting and the sun's barely up and the whole house smells like coffee and waffles...







Yes. 

This is
Merry Christmas.

Zander's Snail Saga


 It begins in the grocery aisle of our friendly neighborhood Wal-Mart.  Carols are piped from the overheads, shoppers are grumpy and pushy, each department is wildly understaffed - typical yuletide consumerism bliss - and here comes the Rusnak troop of five, taking up too much space, taking too much time, kids singing an endless chorus of "I want - I want," mom and dad singing along to "Let It Snow" while adjacent patrons roll their eyes and mutter a frustrated curt, "thanks," when we pull our kids out of the way of their flustered shopping carts.  And despite it all I enjoy Christmas shopping - I pride myself on my thick retail skin and boundless marketplace patience.

once again...WHY???


So, we're on a mission for waterchestnuts (a requirement for my yearly Austin Family Christmas contribution of Rummaki).  We search high and low but there are none to be found.  We do, however, find a can of Escargots on the top shelf.  I pull it down to show Zander.  "Can we get it?" he asks.
"Why?"  Because....why?
"I wanna try it.  Can't we try it?"
So into the cart it goes.

Of course, we own nothing like a snail platter, so we cook them up on a disposable foil pie plate - high class, yes.  Zander stands over me the whole time.  He watches me drain them at the sink.  "They don't smell so good," he says as we watches grey water glub-glub down the drain.  He watches me dump them on the pie plate.  Spread them out - an evenly dispersed arrangement of black-grey boogers.  Load up the plate with garlic butter.  Stick them in a 350° oven until the butter bubbles...

"They're ready, Zander!"
"Ugh!"
He serves himself one.  Stabs it with his fork.  Stares at it.  Takes some deep breaths.  Then...down the hatch!!!

"How was it?"
He sticks out his tongue.  "Ugh!  Bad after-taste."
So we all have a laugh, clap him on the back for trying new things and let Uncle Colin eat the rest.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happiness in a Red Suit

The children are gathered at the edge of the living room carpet.  All ten of them.  Their high cadenced  voices clashing and meshing awkwardly beneath the white lights of the Christmas tree.  The adults join in.  They can't resist.  How could they?  It's magic.  We're on our second time through the song.  Surely the neighbors can hear us by now.  A cacophony choir of good cheer.  "You'd better not cry, I'm telling you why...Santa Clause is coming to town..."  And the door flies open.  Snow swirls about the foyer and wind whistles around the banister, rustling the garland and stockings hung there in hopes of Saint Nick.

And there HE is.  Fresh from storybook pages.  Velvet suit and snow-white beard.  Surprise.  Excitement.  Joy.  Terror. The wash of emotion through the sea of children is vast.  He rings his bells.  He ho-ho-ho's and shakes his round, red belly.  From his mighty sack he delivers a special toy to each shinny girl and boy. He is Yuletide magic.  He is happiness in a red suit.  He is Father Christmas and he is REAL!

And just like he came, in the wink of an eye, he is gone back into the storm, the wind carrying a lingering, "Merry Christmas!" as he is lost from our sight.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Always Wondered Who Used to Live Here

"I used to live in your house."
He's gazing at me over wire-framed glasses like he's 100 instead of 11.  He's nondescript.  He's normal.
"Really?" I say.
"Yeah...I lived there before you guys.  Weird, eh?"
I've often wondered about the little boys who came before us.  The little boys who were locked in the upstairs bedroom.  The little boys who tried to kick down the door to get out.  The little boys who played on the urine stained carpet.  Part of me wants to invite him over to see what a nice home we've made of his bad memories.
"Is there still blood on the stairs?" he asks.
I am at once horrified and fascinated.  "What?  No.  No blood."
"Oh," he's nodding, like he expected as much.  "That's where my brother broke his head open.  See ya!"  And he runs off across the school parking lot, awkwardly waving, laughing with friends and throwing dirty snow balls.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Growing Up?

The Pokéwalker came with his Pokémon DS game.  It's a pedometer.  Apparently it's a big deal.  It counts his steps.  More steps mean more points and more points mean something totally awesome gets transferred to his game.  That's all I know.  I don't try to understand this weird Pokémon existence.  It makes me dizzy.  He tries to tell me about Chumchar and Pikachu and Ash.  I smile and nod and throw in an appropriate, "Oh really?" or, "that's cool!"  Just enough to make him think I'm an attentive parent and that I actually care that What's-His-Face evolved into a Who's-A-What.

So.  The Pokéwalker.  He wore it everywhere.  He researched cheats so he could up his points.  He asked if he could attach it to the ceiling fan because that would rack up the points and he'd just have to sit on his butt.  "No, Zander, you can't duct-tape your Pokéwalker to the ceiling fan.  Go outside and run around the house three times."

"Empty your pockets before you put your jeans in the laundry hamper!"  This is a recurring rhetoric.  As the Rusnak-Family-Laundry-Genie I will wash, dry and fold.  That is all.  I do not check pockets.  If you put your pants in my basket it is strictly on an At Your Own Risk basis.  I take no responsibility for shrinking, colour-bleeding, missing socks or pockets full of treasure.  If you leave change in your pants I collect it from the bottom of the washer, put it in my tip jar and buy myself a cup of coffee at the end of the week.

"Have you seen my Pokéwalker?"
"No, Zander.  When did you have it last?"
"Yesterday."
"I'll let you know if I find it."
"Okay."

I'm emptying the washing machine into the dryer.  Guess what's at the bottom?

"Zander!"
He comes running.  "Did you find it?"
I hold it out to him.  "Do you know where it was?"  We're standing in the laundry room.
"My pants?"  He asks.
"Your pants," I say.  "Your pants in the washing machine."
"Oh."
He tries to turn it on.  Nothing.  I'm bracing for something.
"I guess I should have kept it somewhere safe."
"It sucks, Zander.  It's a hard lesson."
He's still hardly reacting and I'm strangely disappointed.  I kind of like an I-told-you-so moment.
"Do you know what kind of battery it takes?" he asks me.
"A watch battery, I think."
"Oh...well, those are only a couple bucks at WalMart.  I'll get another one."

And that's it.  No melt-down.  No Mom blaming.  No nothing.  Is he growing up?  Has he matured enough to just let something like this roll off his back?  To immediately recognize that there is usually a simple solution?  To accept his own guilt instead of pass it off as someone else's responsibility?

And I'm proud.

"Good for you, Zander," I say as we make our way into the kitchen.  "You have a really good attitude."
He grins.
"You're really growing up."
He beams.
Liam walks by.
Zander body-checks him into the wainscoting.

Right.

One thing at a time.

Friday, December 3, 2010

From the Bottom Up


My first time was in the front seat of Dr. Neal Stretch's silver Austin Mini Cooper.  I'm pretty sure I squealed.  My naïveté amused him.  I hadn't known such a thing existed.

Sweet, golden coils, nestled beneath my denim-clad bottom like a beautifully unfolding mystery; a flirtation of modern comfort and luxury radiating out like contagion - like some communicable disease every part of my body wanted desperately.

I was Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.  And the heated leather seat upon which I rested mon derriere was my delicious new designer wardrobe.


And now, some six years later, I have my own.  And every time I slide onto that bucket seat and feel the sweet embrace of warmth I think, "This is it.  I have arrived.  Check me out with my hot caboose!"

My bum is toasted therefore I am at peace with the universe.

And sometimes I turn it all the way up to 5 and it's so hot that I'm squirming and sweating but it's a beautiful thing and I can't turn it down because that would make me spoiled...