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.