Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Card Bloopers

Happy Holly Days to all of you- the three readers that you are. I have a perfect photo for you that I want to share of Paul Bunyan posing for this year's Christmas card. But first I need to give you a little history. I've posted our old Christmas card photos before (with all of their captions) but I haven't ever shown you some of the outtakes.

Our first photo had a few funny takes but I wasn't going to dig through all my old negatives in the basement, take them to the photo store, and have them transferred to disk. Sorra.

And then for a few years we started to just use a photo that we had taken from our adventures during the year, add a caption, and let that be that.

"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care."

Claire's buns at Arnold's Lake.

I maybe should have used this one in 2002. Grandma Simmons thought my usage of the buttocks was bordering pornography.

And then, and then when we started thinking about/planning for a photo things got a little more complicated. With this photo, which in my opinion is the best one yet, there were no outtakes. Paul Bunyan had one chance and one chance only. With water at freezing temperatures, there was no way in hell he was going to try to attempt this stunt again. And besides when he hit the water he dropped the bike and it spent the whole winter under the ice.

Now this photo in 2004, also one of my favorites, was an easy one. I just had to make the Santa hats for the boys.

This was another photo from that session. I think the expression on my face shows just how tired and exhausted I was.

Thinking about and actually taking the Christmas photo became, after these two photos, very stressful. It is always very hard to come up with a funnier idea than the last one. To start, we always think about what has happened to us (or in politics) that year.

This is the year Paul Bunyan bought the alpacas.

I soon realized that taking pictures of animals humping is far more difficult than one would think. Actually making anyone or anything do what you want for a Christmas photo is harder than one would think.

And okay, so maybe I make my children endure a few things just for the photo.

And okay, so maybe I make my husband endure a few things just for a photo. (I wish this one were in focus...I know you do too)

But, in essence, I do this all for you.

This is the year Paul Bunyan built and raised his post and beam shop/garage/mother-in-law apartment. This photo was Claire's favorite, but in this outtake I'm pleading with Auggie to stop sucking his thumb.

And in this outtake Claire can't seem to take flight. And the lighting is all off. And baby Jesus is looking at the Virgin Mary. And one of the wise men is looking at Paul Bunyan, whose robe fell off. And this was the first year we started bribing our children with candy to sit and do what we're telling them to do and to not put up a fuss.

Bribes are okay- it's hard to get everyone looking at the camera at the same time.

It's also hard sometimes to get the moose in the right spot. It's also hard when people don't get your jokes (or political innuendos). Ya, you betcha.

In 2009 we were celebrating a fresh rump roast. In this outtake Auggie is crying. I wanted to have this photo taken as we were driving down the highway. But that would have required me to hire a driver so I could take the photo. I also wanted everyone to have deer heads on (not antlers) but that would have required a lot of money, props, or sewing on my part which was just not in the cards. So, thus, a failed attempt at what was originally a funny idea.

I couldn't afford to buy any more takes of this photo shoot. Sears is expensive, I tell ya. There were a few good ones but they've been deleted into the ethereal atmosphere of the digital air. Oh, and by the way, Claire was not acting in this shoot.

Well, this year Paul Bunyan has been shedding pounds like a Burmese mountain dog on a hot day in Spring and so it just made sense for him to be the star of the show. I came up with the idea to paint his whole body like Santa but we could only find face paint- I don't know if body paint even exists but he was adamant that we don't hire a professional. I think maybe he was a little self conscious of his sweater vest. Anyway, we had about a 30 minute window of time together that we could do this photo shoot while it was still light out. The shot doesn't look like we painted him- many have suggested I photoshopped him. But no, this is paint with a little brightening from my I-photo editing. I peed my pants when I thought of the idea but seeing it on paper just wasn't as funny as I had hoped. But this outtake that came out of the photo shoot was far funnier than any I have ever seen.

We like to laugh in this house.

We like to make you laugh when you open your holiday card.

We don't always succeed.

But we try.

The kids are not really wanting to be involved anymore in the whole holiday picture taking process.

But maybe someday their ideas will be funnier than their parents.

I sure do hope so.

Anyway, are your ready to see the photo that should have been our card?

Are you ready to see the photo that really made us pee our pants?

Are you ready to see how things, sometimes, go when we make people do things that they don't really want to do?

Are you ready to laugh so hard you pee your pants?

Are you sure?

Because you can go back out now, if you want. Seriously.


Merry Christmas everyone!

poor Santa

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Bread and Cheese Strke Again

The Charlie Brown Christmas tree went up with only a few fist fights this year. Paul Bunyan likes colored lights. I like white lights. He would have sat here for another hour trying to fix the string of colored lights but the kids had to get to bed and I won the ro sham bo.

They wait semi-patiently until they can rip into the boxes of ornaments. And then there is:

"You can't put that many on one branch doofus."
"You can't put two of the same kind on one branch bird brain."
"You can't put those too low numbskull."
"You can't put that one up it's too fragile."

And then there is me and you know my history of loving this tradition:

"Turn the music down."
"Stop ripping open the boxes."
"Timmy, I told you three times that Bee will eat those if you put them too low."
"Claire, those get tied on last."
"Don't play with the star it's broken."
"Auggie, did you hear me? I just told you not to play with the star; it's broken."
"Auggie, I've told you three times now NOT TO PLAY with the star."
"The Grinch is in the house."

Despite his superior listening skills, Auggie got to put the broken star on top this year.

And there she be. All ready for the Wombat's arrival last night.

It was time for fondue.

Things can get pretty hairy when you mix cheese, bread, wine, and a bunch of vaginas together. Every time the ladies leave and I'm left with the caked on cheese to scrape up- I'm in such disbelief about what just transpired. It baffles me that we can have so much fun.

This year we included a fun twist. Everyone had to bring a picture of themselves at their senior prom. And IF you had it, you had to wear your dress.

We had a few shiny ones.

So, the fondue recipes stay the same every year, but the rules of the game are always changing. We usually have a pow wow before anyone starts picking out gifts. This year we decided that if you got your gift stolen you could steal someone else's (usually you just had to take a new one from under the tree). And so this added for more stealing, and more "tricks". The tricks, generally speaking, involve showing some body part usually (but may not be limited to) the breasts. And one may or may not have to hold something (possibly, but may not be limited to, a wine bottle) up with that said body part. I made that very vague for anyone who might be offended. It's very hard to make it through the night without either peeing yourself or laughing so hard you shoot out a tampon.

It's my very favorite night. Three hours of utter delight. And as far as I'm concerned the Christmas tree can come down now because I'm ready to tell the kids there is no Santa. Do you hear that kids? There is no Santa. Santa doesn't bring I-Pod touches. Santa doesn't bring I-Pads. Santa brings homemade wooden toys with pull strings on them.

You did hear me say the Grinch is in the house. Didn't you?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Wheel.

I miss using my hands to make things.
I wrote this last year for a writing competition.
I did not win.
Which is why I'm changing diapers and folding laundry.
But I miss using my hands to make things.
And using my brain to write things.
You don't have to read it.

My wheel sometimes makes a clicking sound when the knot in the string hits the pulleys, but I don’t think that was what was making Mr. Lucy entranced. I’m fairly certain he was mesmerized by the drive wheel and how I was making it move with my feet on the treadles. I imagined him with his head in a tractor immersed in the same kind of studying. His interest in the nature of how my spinning wheel worked implied that he tinkered with things with wheels, and pulleys, and shafts. We had a common ground somewhere on the floor of our town’s library that snowy day in November.

I was trying to sell my wares at our small town craft fair, as if I were at market and had walked there (or had my oxen pull me there) and I was using my time wisely by making more wares. I spin fiber shorn from the backs of the 11 alpacas we own. I’ve only just recently learned how to do this. That doesn’t mean I’m bad at it. It just means I’m new. But I’m not sure he could tell this about me as he stood not two feet away and studied my hands for many minutes. As far as I was concerned he thought I was a professional. And so, for his sake, I pretended. I didn’t stop my show. I just kept my feet moving as my fingers fed the twisting fiber into my spindle shaft. All around me were my skeins of wool, resting on the sides of wooden peach crates. They looked like wet wool socks draped over a drying rack in front of the woodstove. Browns, whites, and rose grey. And at my feet, too, were boxes of un-spun colored fiber that I had dyed with natural things from my land. Goldenrod. Elderberry. Black walnut. This, too, piqued his interest.

He asked questions. Simple ones. About the process. I answered. But mostly he stood and watched, with his rough, overworked hands clasped simply in front of him. On top of his head was a ball cap, weathered with sweat and sun and years of pulling up and down and on and off. The hat had a tractor brand name on it. I can’t remember if it was Case, John Deere, Ford. He had mentioned knowing a family in town who are dairy farmers. His hat and associations made me assume he had worked and reworked the land. But that story, and the one about the moose, and the one time in the woods, and the spring the sap ran so much they couldn’t…. they are all the stories I have yet to hear.

Mr. Lucy moved further away to the circulation desk, but he continued to watch me turn my wheel. He finally introduced himself to me after he bought me and my family some raffle tickets. The library was trying to raise money for its ailing walls and was raffling off an oversized handled basket of Lake Champlain chocolates. He handed me the ticket stubs and thanked me profusely for sharing my art with him. And then he reached his wrinkled hands into his trouser pockets and pulled out a few squares of dark chocolate. He shyly handed them to me and said, “these are for your children.” His smirk implied a little embarrassment at sharing his secret passion with us but I understood at that moment that his gesture of generosity and his trust with divulging his vice only implied that he liked me very much.

The following week I received something in the mail from Ken. His hand written note contained letters scribed in the most perfect penmanship I had ever seen. The D in Dear placed him back in time for me to a small school house, one in which he may have had to walk to. With every correct swirl in his capital T’s I saw his obedience and a strict school marm looking sternly over his shoulder. Every precise third hump on lower case m’s suggested attention to detail. That kind of penmanship is a lost art and it made me want to dig out my very finest paper stock to write back. He had sent me an article from Northern Woodlands magazine about dyeing fiber from wild sources in the forest. I pictured him thumbing through his back copies, piles of them on the floor next to his favorite reading chair, to find this one article he remembered reading years ago. I saw him shifting his weight to dig in his trouser pockets to find a knife, matted in color. His calloused fingers pulling the dulled blade open in order to use it to meticulously cut the article out of the magazine along its bound edge. His crooked body bending over the table to fold it into three.
I practiced my letters first in rough draft form before feeling like I could send a presentable reply. I was sure to mention my gratitude for his thoughtfulness. And that he should, please would he come, to meet our fury friends. I invited him to come for shearing day, which is always set for the first Monday in May. I told him that I liked his penmanship and he wrote back to me, 

Hi Mary,
Well it was away for the holidays. Then away again to help someone. Now it’s back to be a Vermonter.
Your letter was nice about meeting your animals. When it’s time for them to get trimmed I’ll show up. I think that would be a great thing to take in. And you mentioned meeting and touching them especially if I have some chocolate (ha ha) with me.
I’d like to pay a little in advance with this package.
Thanks again Mary for inviting me to enjoy your animal friends. And for learning about your art.

Bye for now,
Ken Lucy

With this note came more chocolate in payment for a future date. And then as life often does to us, it got away from me. I never called Mr. Lucy to make sure he ‘showed up’ at our farm to touch our animals on that warm May Monday. And even though he never came, I kept my eye out for him, as my booth sat directly in sight of the library door, this snowy November at the craft fair. I kept my feet pedaling and my fingers busy, hoping for Mr. Lucy to come and slip some chocolate from his trouser pockets. But I’m selfish. I want more than dark chocolate and hand written notes. His life’s stories are some that I would work for. I could spin by his wood stove. I could catalogue his magazines for him. Chop wood. Dust the shelves. Make dinner. Anything for love letters, fading photos, artifacts not yet buried, things to write down. Yes, I will spin for stories. I will send chocolate too. Tomorrow. As deposit.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Some of my Skillz.

I missed my twentieth high school reunion this summer. I was driving. In a car. To International Falls, MN. And I was sad. Because we had some good times in high school. Dave, and Denny, and Doug, and Eric, and Bobby, and Boozie. Twenty years is a long time ago but I remember a few things I learned back then.

I remember in 9th grade I learned how to make an omelet. It's one of the most important things I learned how to do in high school. I mean seriously, it's the one thing besides typing that I use almost every day. And speaking of typing it definitely is the single most useful thing I learned. We had an old school typing teacher back then and she would walk up and down the rows, her nylons swish swish swishing, and her beady eyes looking condescendingly over your type writer to make sure you weren't looking at the keys. I've never ever regretted learning to type so quickly.

I also had to learn how to sew. I made a lined canvas tote bag that I gave to my grandmother Mary. She used it to keep her crosswords in. After she died I got it back and now I use it to hold my knitting needles. I also acquired her old Singer sewing machine. I used it to make these Halloween costumes a few years ago:


I mean seriously, how professional is that?

Okay, so I haven't tried to sew anything nearly as sophisticated as this since.

But my skillz came in handy.

I remember calculus and AP History with Juice and Mr. Hutter's English class. And I definitely remember German class with Frau Crocker. Well, I don't use any of the crap I learned in those classes anymore- I mean, I don't remember any of that crap. But the thing that I learned in high school that I use every day, many hours (sometimes) a day, is how to drive a vehicle.

Now, being that we live where we live it takes us a good half hour to get anywhere good. Half hour to work, half hour to hockey, half hour to dinner out in Burlington, half hour to friends, half hour to life off the mountain. So, I'm in my car A LOT. And I like my car. And I don't mind driving.

I learned to drive a VW Rabbit. And I've been a good driver in my life as a driver. One small speeding ticket RIGHT after I got my license, but it was a total speed trap and it wasn't my fault. But in college my teammates and I drove my little Honda Civic to Steamboat, CO and New Orleans for spring break. NO issues. I drove across the country with Paul Bunyan. NO issues. I drove all over Philly for three years. NO issues. And then. And then I got this car:

It's my beautiful silver tank of a mini van. I had no qualms about getting and/or driving a mini van. It's a wonderful wonderful thing- the mini van is. It's a total swagger wagon. And you could never understand this until you drive one, so don't knock it. Well, not too long after we bought the swagger wagon in 2005 I came around this corner a little too hard and hit the mail boxes at the bottom of our hill.

This scratch was the result.

Not too long after that I dented my bumper fairly significantly by backing into this:

which I've done more than once.

I've shut the garage door on my opened back gate. I've backed into the Tundra, denting that detrimentally.

In June, Paul parked the car right between the yellow power lines to the left and the wooden posts on the right so essentially what happened when I pulled out of the spot was his fault.

Because who parks in a spot like that? I mean how was I supposed to see the posts on my right? Seriously.

In our little town it's common courtesy to pull to the side and stop to let the person approaching this bridge first go across on his/her own. There are no signs saying you must do this. It's just common knowledge. You WAIT for the other person to cross the bridge before going. So that is exactly what I did. I pulled over to the right (very close to the guard rail) and waited....just like I'm supposed to do.

It wasn't until I pulled away that I realized I was a little too close to the guard rail.

I've stopped getting upset over all this. I mean, it's a car. And I'm not hitting anyone else's car. Which, you know, we should all be thankful for. I probably should revisit some of the rules of backing up that I learned in high school. You know, like, looking behind you and around you. Who knows, this all may be a factor of me being IN my car more than I ever have in my life. It may be the factor that I'm usually late for wherever I'm going and that I probably should just slow down. It may be that it's hard driving such a big vehicle and that when I don't need the mini van anymore, I'll be back to my good old ways. Oh wait, I did back that VW rabbit into my mom's jetta in the driveway. It's been so long, I forgot that story too.

Well, here's how I look at it: by the time Claire gets the van we won't worry if she beats the shit out of it. She just better not back into my brand new Golf TDI.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Hellooooo. Are you still there??? I know. I totally wowed you with my mattress story and now you're all like, 'Where has she been? We can not wait for another life altering lesson from the Hussy'. Well, I've been wading through the murky mire with these twins:


And Magnolia.

And so besides doing dishes, laundry, diapers, and bottles over there I've been smelling the dead leaves. And because all of those things are filling up my days, I haven't been able to think about you. Well, I've been thinking about you, about how I've abandoned you, but then the dishes, laundry, vacuuming and homework nazi is needed around here when I'm not smelling the dead leaves or doing dishes, laundry, diapers, and bottles over there. Now you're understanding... right?

Well, here has been my train of thought lately, which is just as unimportant as my mattress story and quite frankly if you leave me for good after this, I would completely understand.

The boys are trying to decide if they want to try wrestling this winter. Now, if you know anything about anything you know that IOWA is known for its wrestling program. I didn't know diddly squat about wrestling until I went to Iowa and then when the wrestlers, carrying each other on their backs, passed us on the stairs in the basketball stadium while we ran up them two by two to get into shape I sorta started to see the picture. But I became a huge fan, needless to say, and rooted for these twins during my four years there:

The Brand brothers. They dominated the sport at Iowa. Won multiple National Championships. Set crazy school records. Were the toughest athletes I've ever known.

Now this is a crazy commitment for my boys, every Tuesday and Thursday evenings for the months of January and February. I'm willing to sacrifice. Because just imagine!!

The boys are also contemplating hockey again this year. I'm a bit late with the registration thing and although everyone and their mother thinks I'm a crazy fool for starting them on this road, I just can't help myself. Especially, especially, after I watched these guys last year during the Stanley Cup.

But seriously, imagine!

Last Tuesday I went to see Brandi Carlile in concert. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. It was her first time playing solo without her boys. And, still, all she could talk about were these twins:

The Hanseroth twins. And so when I got home and you tubed them, I was in awe. And all of the sudden the inner Santa in me said absolutely NO to the I-pod wish lists and a Definite YES to brand new guitars and lessons for the twins this Christmas.

But what's great about all this is that I get to dream. I get to dream. Because I'm good at that.

They might be good together, they might be fine apart, BUT (BUT!) they may be great together.

Just maybe.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

One Tiny Tale and One Small Request

Bee hesitantly walked out onto the front porch this morning. Something did not seem right. She slowly approached the white stuff on the first step. Bent down to smell it. Stuck her tongue out to taste it. And instinctively tucked her butt and flew off the porch into an excited rampage of butt tucking. I don't know what it is about snow that does that to living things. I wonder if the birds wake up in their nests and flit around in a flurry of excitement on the morning of the first snow of the season. Like my children did this morning. Where are my gloves? Where are my snowpants? Where are my snowboots? I grumble- still in the crawl space.

It took a little more coaxing for Paul Bunyan to make his way out to the bath this morning.

Of course, he is approaching 40.

This mattress is meant for the dump. But I'd like to tell you a little story about it. Because it sits so forlornly this morning in the wet goop. Because I know you're dying to hear about this mattress. And I know you're also ready for a short story that has little to no significance.

This mattress was purchased by my Pop Pop, my father's father, in the year....well, I don't know.

Here is a picture of my Pop Pop holding my fat butt. My grandmother, who I never really knew because she died of lung cancer when I was in first grade, sits next to him. It looks like we're celebrating my fat brother's third birthday. He got himself a new view finder. And by the way, my parents still use that table as their kitchen table. And I'm pretty sure my dad, who you can barely see, still wears that plaid shirt.

Well, anyway to go back to the saga about the sat on a box spring that was custom made for this bed:

When my grandfather died in or around the year 2000, and I won't specifically specify whether or not he did or did not die on this mattress, Paul Bunyan and I lived in this house:

in a neighborhood right outside of the great city of Philadelphia. This house looked just like the one next to it, which looked just like the one across the street from it, which looked just like the one next to that one.

The heirloom bed was in our guest bedroom- the bedroom upstairs on the right. It's a double bed and so no one really slept in it because most of the very few guests who came to visit us stayed in our other guest room, which had a queen bed in it. Makes sense right?

The bed and mattress came with us to Richmond when we moved there in 2002. It sat there, too, in a second guest room. The only significant thing that happened to this bed and mattress while we lived in our dream house is that Sydney decided that she was going to curl up and die under it when she went into her second pancreatic attack on New Year's Eve 2003. Obviously she didn't die, but I was certain it was going to happen that night, like I've been certain the five or six times it's happened since.

In May of 2004 when we downsized and moved into our current Japanese pagoda the bed got shoved into the crawl space and the mattress and box spring got stowed vertically against the wall in the basement.

In October of 2007 I went ahead and drove over to the Crown Point bridge to meet a woman who was GIVING AWAY FREE KITTENS. I know, who does that, right? So I gots me two. Because they were free. And because my house was infested with mice. AND I HATE MICE.

awww. Sweet sweet kittens. Quarantined to the basement. Those rascals decided to make the very top of the mattress, which sat vertically against the wall, their sleeping spot. So the mattress, theoretically, became their gigantic scratching post because as they climbed to the top those very same claws that I needed to murder the mice that co-inhabited our house shredded the shit out of the mattress.

It was apparent that I wouldn't be using a) the mattress again, or b) the bed again. So I sold the heirloom antique bed that my Pop Pop may or may not have died in to an antique dealer in Massachusetts who specializes in wooden sleigh beds. It was a beautiful bed. Not practical. But beautiful.

I think we may have gotten $400 for it. Maybe $425.

Well, a few years ago, maybe 3, possibly 4, we hosted the first friends Thanksgiving. We've had them ever since (Mud and I switch off every other year) because sometimes a friends Thanksgivings is better than a family Thanksgiving. Just sayin'. Well, that first year we hosted I was trying to picture our Japanese pagoda swarming with children, who now at this point outnumbered adults. We needed a space for them to play, away from us. I asked Paul Bunyan to make us some monkey bars, to hang playground equipment from the rafters and to fasten the $50 punching bag I procured from Craigslist to the ceiling. We built a picket fence around the furnace, added a couch from my parent's house, and hooked up the t.v. we bought at Walmart when we first moved into an apartment together in Frisco, CO in the fall of 1997. I painted a hopscotch court on the cement floor and called it good.

And then Mud said, "hey, I'm gonna sue your ass if my kid falls off the monkey bars and cracks his skull open on the cement floor." And then I said, "hey, no problem. I'll just put this nasty mattress on the floor and they can fall on it, jump on it, or do whatever they want on it." And then Mud said, "fine, whateva."

So way back in the summer of 2011 I got myself a puppy. She's a good little dog. But she pees in the house every now and again as puppies are want to do. But so does my geriatric dog so we're just all living in one big Japanese pagoda of piss. Well, Bee decided that that great safety mattress was a perfect place to pee and poop. And well, frankly, it isn't. So it's going to the dump. Sad as it is, the custom made box spring is going too.

I don't like throwing things out.

And this whole saga has had me thinking about the mattress that I die on. Now, because Paul Bunyan's father taught us that we should buy nice shoes and mattresses (because you spend half your life on your feet and half your life on your back) we've done just that. We've gone through 2 mattress so far (none that have been just right). But now that we have the real (and not an impostor) Tempurpedic I know we'll have this one for the next 20 years. And so maybe we'll have one more and it'll be that one that I'll probably die on, unless (of course) I die in a car, plane, train, or tractor. But here is a request to my children, or grandchildren, if you are the ones to inherit my king size mattress and heirloom Pompanoosuc Mills bed: I hope the bed serves you well but at the end of the mattress' life please don't let a dog piss all over it. Here are a few options for things I'd love for you to do with it: a) cut it up and make 6 cozy dog beds. Have someone (or better yet you) sew covers for them and donate them to a shelter who has homeless dogs who could use them. b) cut the foam up into tiny pieces and donate them to the nearest foam pit- most likely your nearest gymnastics gym, or possibly a ski jumping training facility. c) make wooden living room furniture and cut the mattress up to use as cushions for the couch and/or arm chairs. d) make some sort of art out of it. e) be creative and come up with some way to use it as a butt cushion for young kids who are learning how to ice skate. f) find a way to turn it into fuel for your car (of course, you'll probably all have electric solar powered cars). or g) come up with your own creative idea.

Just don't send it to a landfill.


Thank you.