Sunday, December 30, 2007

The skunk

This is the skunk that found not-so-safe refuge at our house.

Early bird still hungry after catching worm

Published Dec. 17, 2007

There weren’t many "Early Bird" shoppers at the mall Saturday morning.
But my friend and I were two of them.
I had asked her half-jokingly the night before if she would be up for some 6 a.m. shopping.
She said maybe she would.
I thought maybe I’d be awake at 6.
But I knew it was fat chance on both counts.
Yet, here we were, dragging ourselves into JC Penney’s before dawn.
The few people who were in the store were lugging to the register $200 kitchen mixers that were on sale for $99.
For a moment, I got caught up in the frenzy and thought that I, too, should buy one of these mixers. I didn’t really need one but I hated to pass up such a bargain.
But I came to my senses and went to find what I was really looking for.
You see, this Early Bird was looking for a whirlybird – two of them actually. Remote-controlled helicopters for my boys – my boys who -- at 21 and 26 – outgrew toys long ago.
Too bad their mom never outgrew the need to buy them.
Or should I say the need to hunt for them? That’s what it’s really about because there are few things more thrilling to a mother than snagging an elusive toy at Christmastime.
When my boys were growing up, people didn’t shop online. They actually went to the stores.
It was mother-vs.-mother in the toy aisle – and may the best mother win.
The most formidable battles took place the year that every kid in the world – including mine – wanted “Ghostbuster” action figures.
The factory shipped the toys to the stores in big boxes, each containing an assortment of characters from the movie. Handy, unless you were looking for the Marshmallow Man. For, although these big boxes contained lots and lots of action figures, they only contained one Marshmallow Man.
And you’ve never experienced real terror unless you’ve been in the same toy aisle as a Marshmallow-Man-crazed mom.
Store clerks risked life and limb as they opened these boxes – a dozen moms hovering over them -- to put the figures on display.
That’s the Christmas shopping spirit that I miss – and try to re-create every year.
About a month ago, I spotted mini remote-controlled helicopters in a drug store ad.
I had visions of the boys flying them around the house on Christmas morning.
But, when I went to the store to buy them, they were sold out.
I felt a momentary jolt of Marshmallow Man mania.
From that day forward, I scoured the ads looking for mini helicopters.
I spotted them again but the result was the same: The store had none left.
And so it was this helicopter hunt that brought me to the mall before dawn on Saturday.
I have to admit I was hoping for a Marshmallow Man showdown with a crazed mom or two but, alas, I just walked into the toy aisle and plucked two mini radio-controlled helicopters off the shelf.
There wasn’t even another mom in sight. It seemed too easy.
But I found out something after I bought those helicopters. I found out that there may be better ones.
Apparently, there are battling helicopters that come two-to-a-package and they have lasers so you can shoot your opponent’s copter, sending it into a tailspin.
I wonder where I can find those. I could always return the ones I bought and get the battling ones. It’s probably too late to order them online.
But there is still a week before Christmas.
And that’s a lot of time for a mom on a mission.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Griswold, er, Ewald family Christmas

In a scene reminiscent of the movie, "Christmas Vacation," my husband and my brother drag what will be the Ewald Family Christmas Tree out of the tree farm.

They dragged the tree out of the trailer hitched to the Explorer and into the house.
It took two of them.
My brother and my husband yanked and grunted as they pulled the giant evergreen up the front steps and into our foyer.
It was a little rough making the turn into the living room but, luckily, it only sounded as if the woodwork was getting ripped off.
They laid the tree down gently in the center of the room like the prize it was. We all just stood there admiring it and the smell it was giving the house.
Then my brother said something that one of us had to say sooner or later.
“Think it’ll fit?”
We all looked at the tree and then up the wall to the 15-foot ceiling.
No one said anything in response but my husband and I both began pacing off the tree. He on one side, me on the other.
“It should,” we said in unison.
“I don’t know,” my brother said, looking back up to the ceiling.
“Maybe you should have cut some off before you brought it in,” his wife said.
We hated to cut any more of it off. After all, we had already left the bottom five feet of it in the forest.
“Let’s try to stand it up,” my husband said.
Then, he and my brother got down on their bellies and shoved the trunk into a huge round plastic tree stand and screwed it in.
“OK, you hold the stand while we walk it up,” my brother said to me.
I walked around the gigantic green bush and grabbed a hold of a bottom branch. Soon the tree was coming at me. I put my foot on the tree stand to help ease it to the ground.
Three quarters of the way up, they stopped pushing. The tree was lodged at a 45-degree angle.
I guess it was a little too tall.
The two of them lowered it back to the floor.
Now what?
“Let’s take it back outside. I’ll get my chainsaw,” my brother said.
Take it back outside?
“Just cut it in here,” my husband said.
“Use a chainsaw in the house?” my brother said. “Not a good idea.”
“Not a good idea at all,” his wife echoed.
But the next thing I knew, my brother was firing up his chainsaw. In the living room. Two minutes and a lot of gas fumes and wood chips later, our tree was three feet shorter. And 10 minutes after that, it was standing upright. The biggest tree I had ever seen.
That was Saturday. Ever since then, my husband has been stringing lights on it. He dragged down from the attic every box, bag and ball of lights we had.
Up the ladder, string some lights. Down the ladder, get some more. He did over and over and over. But at some point he ran out of lights. Then, the drill was up the ladder, string some lights, down the ladder, go to the Walgreens, buy some more and up the ladder string some lights.
The tree is beautiful now, lit – at last count -- with 1,300 twinkling little colored lights.
There was a message on my phone today. It was from my brother who cut a tree almost as big as ours. We helped him get his tree to stand upright in his house before he helped us.
“Just wondering how your tree is coming,” his message said. “Ours is done, all decorated.”
Wow, he’s done already. Wonder how he did that so fast.
I’d ask my husband but he’s not home.
He just ran over to the Walgreens.