Thursday, December 29, 2011

No Nerf guns in chess

Playing chess with your 6-year-old son? Awesome!

Getting beat at chess by your 6-year-old son?

Well, that’s just humiliating.

There must have been a mix-up at the hospital when he was born. It’s quite possible because I was in labor for an entire season of “American Idol.” So I was pretty out of it by the end, and all my cognitive reasoning skills had left the building along with my ability to not pee when I sneezed.

Ever. Again.

But back to our little resident genius....

Taking into the account the fruit of the loins from which he sprung (both male and female), there’s a slightly-better-than-average chance this kid belongs to someone else.

A Nobel Prize winner? A Rhodes Scholar? The guy who invented duct tape?

In any case, our little guy is much farther along in his intellectual development than his father or I was at that age.

By 6, I was still in awe of Silly Putty, Scooby Doo and the Lite Bright.

By 6, my husband was still in awe of anything related to boogers, farts and “pull my finger.”


Tell me again why women don’t rule the world? But I digress....

By 6, our son is already playing chess.

No one likes a smarty pants. Unless I am the smarty pants.


“You can’t do that.”

My son’s calm admonition stopped my hand in midair.

I grrrrr-ed under my breath and slowly set the chess piece back onto the board.

It was a knight. I think. Or maybe a rook? Or a castle?

Wait a minute. Aren’t a rook and a castle the same thing?

Son of a bitch.

I sighed heavily and muttered, “OK. Tell me again.” I pointed to the no-idea-what-it’s-really-called-but-it’s-starting-to-tick-me-off figurine of polished wood and asked, “Where can this guy go?” (“Besides headfirst into a fiery funeral pyre,” I added silently.)

My son smiled and recited, “Rooks can move forward, backward or to the side. Not,” he paused and held up a finger for emphasis, “diagonally.”

Geesh. He swallowed the instruction book and turned into a reincarnated Bobby Fischer right there in my living room.

If we start to play Harry Potter’s Wizard’s Chess, then I am soooooo gonna die!

So it only made sense that he - the first grader who had begun attending his school’s weekly Chess Club - help his parents learn the game too. Otherwise, he’d only have the dog to play with at home.

She’s cute and all...but she lacks critical thinking skills. She eats poop. How smart can she be?

And for the record, my husband had no intention of getting anywhere near a chessboard. 
Sure, if the game involved pyrotechnics, naked women or beer, he’d be all over it.

So it was up to me, Mom, Defender of the Universe and All Things Righteous, to help our little bugger build on his new skills.

How hard can it be?


“Don’t forget, Mom,” he instructed, “you want to castle-up within the first seven moves of the game.”

I looked at him, jaw hanging open like a mouth-breathing gorilla.

Well, that’s really an insult to mouth-breathing gorillas everywhere, isn’t it? They probably already know how to play chess. It’s their first step on the way to world domination, you know.
And back to he even speaking English? Because I have no idea what he’s talking about.

Sure, he may have mentioned that particular nugget of information once - or 15 times - before. But my brain was already on overload: remembering the names of the pieces, remembering how to line them up, remembering how they could move, remembering if we had any tequila in the house because that’s the only thing that would save my soul at this point.

“Uh, ‘castle-up’? What’s that move again?” I asked. “And just how important is it?”

I motioned toward one of the pieces, “Because I’m thinking about using one of your Nerf guns to blast that tall piece right there. Game over. I win.”

He smiled - condescendingly, I might add - and said, “No, you can’t do that either. No Nerf guns allowed in chess.”

Well, crud. Where’s that tequila?

**I recently discovered, thanks to the heads up given by my adorable son's chess teacher, that the term is "castling" not "castle up." No wonder I kept getting it wrong. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Only five more to go

The elves were festive this morning. The best part about this?

Only five more to go before the little buggers head back home to the North Pole for a year....

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

TP Elves

Me: If I have to do this Elf on the Shelf crap, I'm gonna have fun with it...ergo....

My husband: What a waste of a perfectly good roll of toilet paper.



And a galaxy between us.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Elf Wars

There's a good chance my son's head will explode when he sees this in the morning....

Chucky's Christmas of the Damned

Don't be fooled by the cuteness....

“I can’t find the Elf on the Shelf.”

I bounced around the kitchen nervously, like a junkie on the third day of rehab, and wrung my hands in panic. Gut-wrenching desperation shot from my eyes.

My husband looked at me and asked with a complete lack of compassion, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Love. It’s a beautiful thing.

I grabbed him by the shoulders and got right in his face, “I. CANNOT. FIND. THE. ELF. ON. THE. SHELF. ANYWHERE. IN. THIS. HOUSE!”

And right here. Right now. This moment is where my husband, the light of my life, killer of garden snakes and taker outer of the trash, could have stepped up to the plate and knocked one outta the park for husbands and fathers everywhere.

Alas, he did not.

He merely looked at me blankly and muttered, “What the hell is Elf on the Shelf?”

Oh, for the love of God.

On paper, the concept looked good: a small elf doll that visits your home every day during the holiday season, keeps an eye on the children and reports back to the North Pole each evening and blabs to Santa if they’ve been naughty.

It’s like a cozy Christmas version of George Orwell’s “1984,” an ingenious Big Brother kinda way to get kids to behave without threatening bodily harm or taking away all their sugar cookies.

But, as with most things in life that promise a world full of warm fuzzies, the whole thing was nothing more than a big pain in the backside of humanity.

First, it was creepy looking. Like what you’d get if you crossed a Voodoo doll and an extra from Chucky’s Christmas of the Damned. It was seriously spooky with eyes that followed you everywhere and saw everything, making you do the sign of the cross each time you walked by it.

Even if you weren’t Catholic.

Secondly, kids aren’t allowed to touch him. Ever. That’s part of the “magic.” You touch him, kiddo? You die.

Well, not really. But that’s how serious you’re supposed to instill the “no touching” rule so kids won’t run off with it. 

Thirdly - and here’s the one that really kicks you in the pants - he’s supposed to show up in a different place each day.

Which means, it’s 3:46 in the friggin’ morning and you shoot up in bed, wide awake with panic ‘cuz you forgot to move him after the kiddo went to sleep.

So you stumble from your warm bed into the freezing cold of night, trip over the golden retriever snoozing on the floor, crash onto the carpet and get rug burns on every conceivable part of your body.

So by now you’re seriously pis**ed...I mean,’re really ticked....and you heave yourself off the floor with Herculean strength and track down the puppet from hell.

Then spend 5 minutes daydreaming how his head would look on a stake. 

But finally recall the sweet look of happiness and expectation on your 6-year-old’s face each morning as he hunts around the house, searching for his little buddy.

And that right there is the only reason I kept the stupid thing last season. I hid it away so our son wouldn’t accidentally stumble across him in July and blow the whole thing wide open.

But apparently I outsmarted myself. After tearing the house apart for two days, I hadn’t been able to find the little creature of the damned either.

Thus, panic set it.

“So buy another one,” my husband calmly suggested. As if there was any room for common sense in this discussion.

I shook my head in defiance, “I know it’s here somewhere.”

He shrugged and said, “Whatever.”

Really. His compassion knows no bounds.

But I confess. I couldn’t take it any longer. Our son asking about him every day. Each sad little “Why isn’t he here yet, Mom?” stabbing me through the heart. So I caved. Bought another one, cursing it while I gently placed it on the shelf and waited for my son to notice.

Two days later....

I looked down into the box of Christmas lights we’d taken outside to decorate the house with and muttered, “Son of a bitch.”

My shoulders slumped in defeat, all the air fled my body in one big “whoosh.” The box top gently slid from my fingers and landed with a soft plop on the garage floor.

There, nestled among the strings of gaily colored light bulbs, was the original Elf on the Shelf.
My husband peered over my shoulder and did what any male would do.

He died laughing.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Elves on the Shelf meet Thelma and Louise

Apparently Zach and Bob had a little too much (spiked) eggnog last night and tried to Thelma & Louise it off the second-story balcony.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cookie monster

The children in our son's class was asked to do something nice for their neighbors, so he opted to make cookies for a few residing in our 'hood.....

Gingerbread men were on the menu

However, Bear was not too happy to see them packaged up and headed to other homes...

Getting ready to make deliveries

Good thing we kept a few so she would have a snack. ;)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday favorite: Misted toe and other holiday favorites

This column is more recent but will never get old in our house....

"Misted toe and other holiday favorites"
(originally published Dec. 24, 2010)

“For claymation, that’s one hot chick.”

OK. Not a sentence a gal hears her husband say every day. Not even mine.

I could only shake my head and ask in disbelief, “Did you really just say those words? Together? In a row?” I snorted and added, “I think it’s time to put down the beer.”

He put down said beer then pointed to the television where “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” blared happily in front of our five-year-old son.

“Come on! Look at her,” he said. “Blonde hair. Blue eyes. And she’s – like – 60 years old, but she’s still hot.”

I snorted. “The show’s not that old. 40. She’s not a day over 40. And you know the hair is a wig, right?”

He shot me a nasty look and answered, “You’re just jealous.”

Jealous? Of claymation?

I took another look at her. No wrinkles. No gray hair. No extra 20 pounds on the hips. And her boobs didn’t jiggle when she walked.


My husband was right. Claymation rocks.


Later that evening, after watching yet another Christmas classic and witnessing two cartoon creations share a smooch, I smacked my forward and said, “That’s what I forgot to hang in the house – mistletoe!”

“What’s misted toe?” my young son asked. “Do you have to go to the doctor for that?”

I looked down at him, his face eager with the expectation of knowledge.

Kinda like the time I tried to explain the concept of terminal velocity when he asked why his basketball fell faster than a marble when pitched off our second-story balcony.

But I digress…and we promised not to talk about that particular incident anymore.

“Not ‘misted toe’” I laughed. “MISTLEtoe. And it’s awesome!”

I sat down next to him and proceeded to fill in all the wonderful details about the magic of mistletoe. After I finished, I clapped my hands in excitement and asked, “So what do you think?”

His look of eager anticipation had quickly turned to fear. Frankly, I doubt he’d heard anything after the word “kiss” had entered the equation.

He shuddered and answered as only a five-year-old boy can. “Eeeeewwwwww!”

Oh, he’s gonna make some girl so happy one day.


“I know Santa Claus is for real,” my son announced one day after school.

I froze like a reindeer in headlights. Crud. This day had arrived. And I wasn’t ready for it. I thought we had another year. Maybe two before we started this little dance.

But apparently the kids had been talking. 

Stupid kids.

“I…uh…er…whew!” I stumbled. “How about some ice cream? You want ice cream? I think we should go get some ice cream? What about you? Wanna get some ice cream?”

My son said, “It’s 12 degrees outside…of course, I want ice cream. But let me finish.”

Darn. Distraction failed. I should have thrown in an Xbox. That would have done the trick. I sighed.
“I know that Santa Claus is for real,” my son repeated.

I took a deep breath, bracing myself for the question I was about to ask....“How do you know Santa Claus is for real?”

He shrugged and said, “Well, who else would put presents under the tree?”

Oh. God bless the innocence of youth. I nodded in agreement, patted him gently on the head and said, “Who else, indeed.”

And before I could relax from that Dear Diary moment, he moved in for the kill.

“But what about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Is he real?”

High on the knowledge my son was still in Santa’s corner I quickly answered, “Of course. Don’t you?”

He shook his little blonde head sadly and said, “No, I don’t think so.”

Aw. Crud. Death to Rudolph? I think I’m gonna cry.

“But…he’s in the book…and there’s a song about him…and everything,” I stuttered, trying not to panic but failing miserably. “All the reindeer loved him, you know. They shouted out with glee…and everything….”

My son looked at me with kind eyes that betrayed his pity, “Just because he’s in a book doesn’t make him real, Mom.”

My face fell with sadness at the passing of this small part of his innocence. Sensing my distress, my little boy put his hand on my shoulder and asked, “Wanna go get some ice cream?”

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holiday Favorite: Light my fire

To celebrate the holidays, I will share some reader favorites of festively themed columns in the next few days. Sure, I could write a whole bunch of news ones. But I'm old. I'm tired. And I just don't want too. Sue me, Santa. :)

"Light my fire"
(originally published Jan. 1, 2007)
It’s never officially a party until somebody burns down the house.
Or at least tries to.


I spent three frenzied days cleaning the house for our holiday party. The rooms smelled of apple cider and cinnamon. Bing Crosby crooned “White Christmas” from the stereo. The family room oozed coziness with stockings hung from the mantle and white candles casting soft shadows on the walls.
I smiled. It was just like a freakin’ HGTV holiday special in here.
And it lasted for all of five minutes.
It started when my husband asked, “How about a fire?” So he cranked up the fireplace for the first time that winter.
And ten minutes later every window was open to the frigid December air and the house was filled with a foggy, white smoke.
Welcome to my world. But let me back up a little.
I was in the kitchen, minding my own business, which really isn’t that difficult when I’m in the kitchen. I don’t cook. I don’t know how to cook. And I don’t want to know how to cook.
But I can stir whatever it is my husband is making. So it’s understandable that I was totally engrossed in my task while the family room was burning down behind me.
I leaned over to catch a whiff of my husband’s homemade chili and noticed it smelled a bit smoky. Perhaps my husband had found a new spice to mix into his recipe. He’s such a girl.
The very thought brought tears to my eyes. No. Wait a second. Why are my eyes watering?
I looked up from the stove and slowly turned around to see the family room engulfed in smoke.
“Santa’s on fire!” I screamed and ran over to the fireplace, fanning the smoke with the over-sized oven mitt I was wearing.
I dropped to my knees, threw back the guard and immediately determined the problem. My husband, Frontier Jon, had started the fire without opening the flue. Instead of drawing up through the chimney, the smoke was pouring into the family room.
Coughing and sputtering, I bravely reached into the searing, hot flames and searched blindly for the flue handle.
And that’s how the oven mitt caught on fire. So I tossed it behind me.
And, uh, that’s how the sofa caught on fire.
Insert appropriate swear word here.
I ran to the hall closet and grabbed the fire extinguisher. Then dropped it. On my foot. Damn. That thing is a lot heavier than it looks.
I picked it up again and held on tight. Then tripped over the dog on my way back through the kitchen. I stumbled into the family room on my knees but managed to stay upright.
I pulled back on the handle and prepared to blast the burning sofa with a spray of sofa-saving chemicals, while screaming, “Say hello to my little friend!” like Al Pacino did with a machine gun in “Scarface.”
But nothing happened. No streaming spray of life-saving chemicals spewed from the end of the tiny black hose.
“You stupid piece of ****!” I screamed, shaking the red metal container like it was a Magic 8 Ball.
Oh, wait a second. There’s a pin. Oops.
I saved the sofa then turned my attention back to the fireplace. Oven mitt-less this time, I reached in and grasped the iron-hot flue handle while screaming a rather colorful word but still managed to shove it to the open position. Then I collapsed into a heap on the hearth.
And that’s how my husband found me.
Lying on the floor, clutching a half-empty fire extinguisher. My face and hands smeared with black coal. Ashes scattered in my hair, the ends of which still hissed from their dance with the fire. And a half-burned sofa smoldered in the corner.
So much for the apple cider and cinnamon-perfumed home I had worked three days for. In exactly 13 minutes our guests would begin arriving to a house that smelled like it starred in a Smokey Bear “Only you can prevent forest fires” video.
At least my husband showed adequate concern for home and wife.
His eyes widened with alarm and he worriedly asked, “Did you remember to stir the chili?”
So much for HGTV, I thought as I jumped at him. Our party was going to end up on “Cops” instead.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Special effects

(courtesy of Warner Bros.)

My six-year-old son, while watching "Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix," asked me, "Do the actors really have to kiss each other?"

Me: "Yes, they do."

Him: "They need to create a special effect so you wouldn't really have to kiss a girl."

Apparently there aren't enough special effects in the wizarding world that would make a first grader kiss a girl for real.

And that's just how it outta be where you're six.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


I just had to share a photo of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration's newest venture: Canine Creations, Cookies from the Cloister.

The dog featured on the front is the beloved canine of the Sisters who live at the Clyde, Mo., monastery.

This is Maggie. And the reason this is such a special photo is because it shows what wonderful things can happen to an animal that receives a second chance.

I met Maggie a few years ago. I volunteer my time with the New Nodaway Humane Society in Maryville, Mo. I was preparing a news release regarding a new program for the shelter and needed a dog for the publicity photo. Maggie (I can't remember what name the shelter staff had given her) had just arrived a few days earlier. Staff told me she was a sweet dog and would be perfect for the photo.

And she was. Absolutely adorable. So adorable, in fact, when my employers, the Benedictine Sisters, saw her photo with the story in the newspaper the next day, they immediately fell in love and adopted her. And look at her today - a superstar!