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Holiday Post-Mortem

Hi! Sorry about that. The fam'bly and I took a bit of a holiday vacation there, and I've been largely off the grid since mid December. Wait, what does "off the grid" mean, exactly? Does it mean "without access to the Internet?" Or does it mean "completely without electricity?" In retrospect, the latter sounds more likely. But, whatever: we bloggers are totally rewriting the rules for media, you know (it said so in Time!), so if I say "off the grid" means "without access to the Internet" then, by Jiminey Popsicles, that's what it means. OFF THE GRID! WEB 2.0! BUILD TO SPILL uh I mean FLIP OR WHATEVER!!!!!

Anyway, here's a photo of my son sitting in the lap of an old man who wears a furry costume and hangs out at the mall.


Awww yeah -- two years old and he's already mastered the White Man's Overbite. The kid's a prodigy, I tell ya.

Fortunately, The Squirrelly is still too young to entirely "get" Christmas, so we didn't have to decide whether to let him believe in The Big Guy yet. Personally, I'm torn. On the one hand, he is the central figure in Christmas, and I guess there's no harm in letting him think he's real for a few years. On the other, I just can't help but imagine how crestfallen he'll be when he discovers that he's just a make-believe character. Some kids at school will spill the beans, he'll come home crying and ask us if it's true, and we'll have to say, yes, we've been lying to you all these years: there is no Jesus.

For now, all The Squirrelly knows is that December 25 = a whole buncha swag. He made out pretty good this year, too. His Grandma bought him a tricycle. His great-uncle bought him a remote control car. His aunt went berserk and bought him a crapload of stuff, the least of which was a book called Hot Rod Harry which he inexplicably loves. (And what did Papa get? Papa got to read Hot Rod Harry a hundred and thirty times over a two week period. What fun. It's a helluva lot easier to get through than Moby Dick, though -- I'll give it that much.)

He also got a Memory / matching game, with people's faces as the pictures. But I didn't realize that at first. When he ripped off the wrapping paper and exposed the box's bottom, I thought it was, like, a Whitman's Sampler for cannibals.

Matching Game

Another thing we had fun doing over the holidays was making up words to those Christmas songs to which we did not know the correct lyrics, i.e., pretty much all of them, insofar as we are Godless Heathens (see above: yukking it up over nonexistence of Savior). But, having never heard these songs before in his two years of life, The Squirrelly accepted whatever we coughed up as the Authoritative Version. Which is why, two weeks after the yuletide, he is still ambling around the house singing this:

(To the tune of O Christmas Tree)

O Octagon, O Octagon,
You have eight sides u-pon you

O Octagon, O Octagon,
You also have eight angles too

One and two
And three and four,
Five, six, seven,
eight -- NO MORE!

O Octagon, O Octagon,
O Octagon, we love you

Oh yeah, I almost forgot: I also bought out good-for-nothing cats a Kitty Castle for Christmas.

Kitty Castle

I mention this as a warning to others who might consider doing something so stupid. I brought into the house, put it in the corner, and prepared to watch the cats cavort with glee. Instead, Louie sauntered up to it and, as if he had scaled the thing a thousand times, nonchalantly climbed up to the top; moments later Eddie moseyed into the scene and, without so much as a sniff of curiosity, leapt onto the middle platform. Then they both settled down and watched birds out the window for half an hour. Subtext: we are too dumb to ever remember this not being here. YOU EFFING INGRATES I COULDA BOUGHT A WII FOR THAT! If anyone reading this has a kid who might like some pets for Christmas 2007, drop me a line in November and we'll work something out.

Posted on January 08, 2007 to Kitties!, Storytelling, The Squirrelly


Will you eventually let your son know that princess Leah's mother (gasp) did some bad stuff with that heavily-breathing masked guy?!

Posted by: kisalex on January 9, 2007 1:10 AM

Gracious, you adapt a Christmas carol for the Squirrelly and make it sound like hes singing the anthem of a martial arts cult. Well done.

Posted by: Lung the Younger on January 9, 2007 1:58 AM

In regards to the Santa dilemma, I read a brilliant idea about this somewhere that more or less suggested turning Santa into a global conspiracy in which your family is in on the secret. So it turns into a game where you get to do all the fun Santa traditions (let's leave cookies for nudge-nudge wink-wink Santa) but he knows it's just for fun (and "catches" dad stuffing his face with said cookies).

Posted by: gennessee on January 9, 2007 2:35 AM

Umm, when did Hawaii become its own country?

Posted by: Greg on January 9, 2007 6:06 AM

It always amuses me looking at who the pick as the 'representative' faces of the cultures in these sorts of games too. Like the 'United States' kid - judging by most of the large crowds I've ever been in, freckle faced red-heads are not the definitive american populace. Of course it's almost impossible to define 'american' unless you go for 'native american', but still. Or the poor Norwegians, who apparently all have cokebottle glasses, spikey hair, and a freaky smile.

Posted by: Mazlynn on January 9, 2007 6:29 AM

The auctioning off of cats and photos of son with lethal-looking weapon really define the Christmas spirit.

Me likey!

Posted by: Kelly on January 9, 2007 6:36 AM

I think it's only fair that if you let the Squirrelly believe in Princess Leah that you allow him Santa Claus. The problem with Santa is that he gets all the credit for the good gifts while parents are stuck with giving the sweaters and underwear.

Posted by: Karan on January 9, 2007 6:46 AM

You should have chosen the Wii. I did, and the cats love it. Well, they love trying to rip the remote from my hand via the dangling wrist strap, anyway.

Posted by: James on January 9, 2007 7:32 AM

Yeah, I never wanted to tell our kids about Santa, but my wife is worried they'll spill the beans to their cousins and get us exiled. I guess we have 9 months to come to a decision. I'd be interested in hearing what you guys decide.

Posted by: EdgeWise on January 9, 2007 7:36 AM

Cats just pretend to be not interested. They will wait until you're in bed and then use it as a base to rip your wall-paper to shreds, puncture the ceiling and tear down the lights.
Ours cost us 120 euros (some 180 US$). A ridiculous amount of money, but we figured it would at least prevent them from sharpening their claws on our furniture, carpets and walls. Yeah right!

Ditch the cats, bii the Wii...

Posted by: Bart on January 9, 2007 7:38 AM

The kid from Myanmar doesn't look too happy. Perhaps because he wants it to be called Burma.

Posted by: Genevieve on January 9, 2007 7:43 AM

You exposed you son to Star Wars people?

Oh, Matthew. How carelss.

Posted by: You can call me, Sir on January 9, 2007 7:47 AM

is it just me or did everyone miss the point that Mathew was getting across? My take was it really wasn't about Santa (although guised) but the other make believe dude that is associated with christmas ;) didn't Mathew come right our and say that? Anyway I appreciated the humour. As my nephew says "God and Cheesus, they go to my school!"

Posted by: e.thermal on January 9, 2007 8:14 AM

Our kids were adopted, and the older one was 11, so we didn't bother with the Santa story with her. But our younger daughter was allowed to believe... for a while. The End of Santa conversation at our house went something like this:

Child (having tantrum and wanting to express contrariness): I don't believe in Santa Claus!

Me (reasonably): Who do you think puts stuff in your stocking?

Child: I think you do it!

Me (having promised to answer The Question honestly when it came up, and figuring this probably qualifies): Well, you're right. I do.

Child (totally incredulous): You DO?

Well, it stopped the tantrum, anyway. I was subsequently asked about the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy in rapid succession, so the whole house of cards came down at once. (About half an hour later, I was asked if I actually owned a Santa suit for the holiday nocturnal activities. For the record, I do not.)

Regarding the other central figure of Christmas, I've told both kids that there seem to be historical records indicating that Jesus was a real person, and that different people believe different things about what he did and whether or not he was an ordinary person or something else. I'm happy to discuss my beliefs and theories with them, but they'll need to form their own conclusions. (The older one came to us as a good communist-athiest, the younger was raised a buddhist by her birth family, I'm a quaker universalist, and my husband refuses to discuss his beliefs, other than to say he believes in "a god or gods," so we have interesting religious conversations in our house.)

Posted by: elizabeth on January 9, 2007 9:36 AM

I bet there is someone out there who has built the perfect playground for cats. I bet she spent hundreds of hours researching what type of structure would be most enjoyable for cats, providing them with an interesting playground, a climbing challenge and a pleasant viewpoint. She probably tested dozens of materials with hundreds of cats, and integrated them into her design to provide a spectrum of experiences unrivalled in the cat world.
Unfortunately, when this ultimate cat structure found its way onto the market. No cats bought it, because they didn't have any money.

Posted by: Rob Cockerham on January 9, 2007 10:04 AM

If your cats need a temporary home come December 2007, ship them to India for a quick vacay! Visiting cats are the bomb, we'll go out partying or something.

Posted by: Vahishta on January 9, 2007 10:13 AM

My opinion is that it's a mistake to deal it terms of absolutes, like he exists or he doesn't. Is there literally a guy that flies around in a sleigh from the North Pole and delivers presents to everyone in the world? Well no. Can you tell the guy in the red suit what you want, leave out cookies and find presents the next morning? Yes! In my case at least Santa evolved into more of a state of mind, a personification for whatever motivates people to go out and get gifts for others for one day a year. I can see it being valuable to let your kid go through this process and perhaps learn they can gain some value from a story that might not literally be true, and maybe a little reality check that everything you hear can't be taken exactly at face value.

Posted by: michael on January 9, 2007 10:39 AM

Your cats jumped up on the cat tree! Right away! My cats would have spent weeks carefully avoiding looking even in the general direction of the new cat tree.

I actually have a friend who isn't telling her kid there's a Santa Claus because when she finds out she might think God isn't real, either. It was hard not to say "Umm, yeah?"

Posted by: Candace on January 9, 2007 12:14 PM

Hot Rod Harry! I loved that book when I was a kid, which was a good 15-20 years ago. I heartily approve.

Posted by: Toni on January 9, 2007 12:22 PM

It's a tough call to pick which line I liked better, "there is no Jesus" or "Whitman Sampler for Cannibals." LOL for both, or actual LOL if you prefer.

Posted by: MotherReader on January 9, 2007 12:26 PM

Here's another story of cats preferring Wiis to kitty-structures, at least our household. My boyfriend has one of them giant projector screens, maybe a 10-foot, and since the wireless Wii sensor bar only recently came out on the market, we've had the cable running nearly taut across the living room, to the sensor bar which is taped to a cardboard box in front of the projection picture area on the wall. Well, when you use the Wiimote to control stuff, the little glowing spot on the screen dances around enticingly, and Kitty jumps up on the box to swat it, knocking down the sensor bar and tangling himself in the cable. Lather, rinse, repeat. I once locked the cat in the bathroom so I could finish a level of Trauma Center: Second Opinion.

Posted by: Virginia on January 9, 2007 12:40 PM

So wait, did you ever actually finish Moby Dick?

Posted by: lani on January 9, 2007 1:19 PM

The South African kid is looking over his shoulder at the crazy girl from Norway...don't really blame him for keeping an eye on her.

Posted by: tluse on January 9, 2007 1:45 PM

I'm confused. What is it about the Albanian kid that actually says "Albania"?

Posted by: rebecca on January 9, 2007 4:06 PM

A Whitman's Sampler for cannibals. That is the best line of the day!

Posted by: Em on January 9, 2007 5:42 PM

Or ... Whitman's Sampler of political incorrectness.
And I think the South African dude is digging the Norwegian because she's the only other one with glasses. When I was their age, I was pretty insecure about it.

Posted by: gruve on January 9, 2007 7:11 PM

Either that's a miniature Santa, or the Squirrelly is the tallest two-year-old I have ever seen. Or you've got some funky kind of camera.

Posted by: punkin's mom on January 9, 2007 7:39 PM

Whitman sampler for cannibals. I don't know how politically incorrect it is--notice the boy from Myanmar looks sad.

Posted by: ozma on January 9, 2007 9:33 PM

"Umm, when did Hawaii become its own country?"

Umm, Hawaii WAS its own country. The US overthrew its government in 1893 on wafer-thin pretexts and claimed it as a territory a few years later. 'S got a language and culture of its own and everything.

Posted by: Jaroslav Bibo on January 9, 2007 9:41 PM

Why is Ahab sitting in the whale's lap?

I'm so confused.

Posted by: pjcamp on January 9, 2007 10:13 PM

I think that telling kids that Santa is real is terrible, just terrible. It conditions their impressionable little brains to accept things which are clearly impossible.... and then they grow up ready to believe other clearly untrue things. Like that we're bringing Democracy to Iraq, that Paris Hilton is hot, and that Pitchforkmedia.com has "credibility."

I always admired my mum because she only told us freaky things that are actually true, like that all matter on earth came from the Sun, or that every tiny drop of anything contains trillions of "atoms."


Posted by: ELF Radio on January 9, 2007 10:33 PM

Actually, I think the United States kid is a pretty clever representation. With the red dreadlocks, medium tan and green eyes, he looka more biracial than Irish to me.

In any case, I saw a fascinating map of the US where they colored in the counties based on what ancestry people reported on their Census forms. Most of the country was blue, for German.

Check it out at:


Posted by: Carny Asada on January 10, 2007 10:10 AM

A friend of mine solved the Santa problem by telling her kids about Saint Nicholas, and that though he may not be alive still, his spirit remains and many people all over the world act for him to bring presents to children on Christmas.
I plan on telling my son that it's actually the work of Festive Holiday Ninjas.

Posted by: Theoretical Grammatarian on January 10, 2007 11:05 AM

I guess as a Hellenic-style polytheist, I have very easy time with the Santa thing. My "religion" already has a category for "human being that possibly existed, captured the popular imagination, became a cultural icon, and even gets a specific holiday": we call them heroes.

Santa, meet Heracles, Theseus, and the Dioskouri. If you behave, you can even get temples dedicated to you like these boys. Oh, wait--you already have those "mall" things, dontcha?

Posted by: Dorothy on January 10, 2007 11:19 AM

I suggest you just skip the whole Christian festival entirely and go with the Solstice fun. It avoids all the crap about indoctrinating your kid with crap about supernatural creatures monitoring his behaviour and only rewarding the good children, thus avoiding the whole crap about being judged in a bogus "after-life", it sets him up nicely to use Reason instead of faith and it gives him a solid scientific grounding in space physics. Plus, you get to partaaaay 3 or 4 days before the muggins. And if he wants to know where the presents come from, tell him they're from folk who love him and want him to be happy.

Posted by: jon on January 10, 2007 2:09 PM

In leiu of it being "DELURKING" week (or so I've heard, over in blog land) You are supposed to comment on blogs you read all the time but never say anything. I have commented a few times, but I wanted to take the time and let you know even though I don't comment everyday, I READ you all the time, and LOVE THIS BLOG! so, um, thanks.

Posted by: meleaH rebeccah on January 10, 2007 4:39 PM

"Off the grid" doesn't necessarily mean you are without electricity. It just means you are not directly connected to electric distribution lines.

Typically, folks who live "off-grid" do so because they live too far away from lines and the utility wants to charge them an enormous sum to extend the network. Or because they are dirty granola-eating hippies that want to save the earth by self-generating from solar, wind, wood, etc... (bahahaha! the fools!)

Posted by: kevin bengtson on January 10, 2007 9:21 PM

Parents who tell their kids that Santa isn't real are awful, awful parents raising awful, awful kids. If their kids don't catch on by 11 or 12, well, they've got problems. Or not. IOW, the college fund can be immediately renamed the early retirement fund.

Posted by: Santa Is Real on January 10, 2007 10:12 PM

Oddly enough, I too bought my cat a kitty castle/treehouse for Christmas. When it arrived, I got the sweet little chirpy meows he does when he's happy. But since then, he's just clawed the crap out of it. I suppose it's better than the carpet...

Posted by: Sarah on January 11, 2007 2:25 PM

Haiti got it on the nose.

Posted by: Tomas on January 11, 2007 4:48 PM

OK. Just blog surfing and landed on you. scrolled down and saw the Leah picture. And I'm on my way to bed. Nightmare time.

Posted by: Mitch McDad on January 11, 2007 10:49 PM

Uh, how are all of you Defective Yeti fans and yet you don't know that it's Princess LEIA, not Leah.

Are they letting non-geeks onto the internets now?

Posted by: Hello on January 12, 2007 8:56 PM

Hey that's the same Santa that my son sat with at the Factoria Mall!

Posted by: Travis on January 15, 2007 3:10 PM