The Bakers’ 2018

Gonna have to be brief – the scout crew from ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight show is supposed to be here any minute to see if we have what it takes, and I’m not even close to being ready yet. The gospel choir that’s supposed to be singing in my front yard went AWOL and I need to seriously loosen some seams in the Elf on the Shelf costume if Alex is going to have any chance of squeezing into it this year (and yes, we tried the ‘butter on the thighs’ trick but no luck). Here goes…

2018 started off in a bad way when my snowblower quit on me after the big snow in February. We take the cleanliness of our driveway & sidewalks pretty seriously in our household. I man the blower while Alex shovels the sidewalk & steps. Meredith handles the touch-up work with the propane torch and Emily molds & sculpts the shoveled snow on the sides of the driveway into whimsical animals, floral patterns, an occasional prism or torus – really anything that’s visually appealing and tidy, as I refuse to have our house look like it was just transplanted from a Rio favela. The point being that our pavement had better look clean with razor-straight edges, walkways that comply with OSHA specs and not a trace of snow or ice. Our first thought was to have me double up on the shoveling with Alex, but after a couple minutes I realized that wasn’t going to work – my back was already shot from my hot yoga class the day before. Fortunately we have a backup plan for exactly this scenario that we practice a couple times each autumn when the temp first drops below 50. It took her most of the night, but by 4am Meredith had peed on the entire driveway and done a passable job of melting the snow off. Our drive is mostly paving stones and she could have done better with melting the snow in the crevices between the stones but I tried to be understanding that she needed to get an hour or two of sleep before school. I had to send Alex to 7-Eleven a few times to refill her Big Gulp so that she had enough raw material and caffeine to see the job through. I took the snowblower back to Sears the next day and the guy at the counter explained that it had just run out of gas. He showed me how to fill up the tank and acted like he was doing me a big favor. I in turn had to explain to him that if he & Mr. Roebuck had showed me that little trick when I bought the thing last year then they could have saved my family a lot of time, frustration and urine. Anyway, I guess the situation could have turned out worse. Count your blessings where you can.

The extended family breathed a huge sigh of relief in April when Emily was confirmed at church. We’ve all seen The Omen and knew how this might break bad, but fortunately she seems to be, if not ‘normal & wholesome’, at least ‘acceptable & able to be lived with’. I mean, she’s only here for 3 ½ more years so at this point we really just need to reach a minimum tolerance level. It wasn’t without some extra effort – the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all chipped in on the pre-confirmation prep work to make sure the religion would stick. I tried to tell her grandmother that a simple re-baptism at Elmhurst’s water treatment discharge ought to suffice but she was insistent on a full pre-emptive exorcism. I guess the combination of Emily’s personality and the foul odor from her room were all the evidence she needed so I relented. I’ve also always been intrigued by Pentecostal snake handling churches so I was bought some rattlers at a local exotic pet store and made a concerted effort to do some ritual snake dancing around her in the weeks leading up to the confirmation service. That at least seemed to have helped, as opposed to the trip to Brazil to see if John of God could work one of his miracles on her; that one didn’t go so well. It ended up going off without a hitch unless you count the fact that they ran out of chocolate cake at the church reception and I got stuck with white cake. Ridiculous. I made sure that the clergy were aware that it pretty much ruined the day and asked them to make a run to the Jewel to get something worth eating, but they made lame excuses about having to take pictures with kids. Rude. Sometimes I think ‘organized religion’ gets a little caught up in the ‘religion’ and forgets about the ‘organized’ part – at least as it pertains to the planning of the confections table at their post-ceremony banquets. Oh well – this too shall pass.

Summer brought big changes to our family as Alex had his braces removed. There was no small amount of redemption after a couple of earlier failed attempts with DIY braces. I hadn’t seen the point in paying all of that money to a mouth doctor when all it takes is some 12-guage wire, Loctite glue and a few rubber bands. He was game to try after I had promised to use some of the savings towards a trip to Panda Express. It mostly worked but both times his teeth ended up crooked again because he wouldn’t hold still while I chiseled the epoxy off. Kids sure are weak. Mine are, anyway – hopefully yours are made of stronger stuff. If they’re all like mine then the Russians and Chinese will invade us before I’m old enough to collect my first social security check, which would be the biggest ripoff ever. At any rate, it was nice to see his smile again without all of the hardware for the first time in a couple of years but I had forgotten how yellow his teeth were. Reminiscent of when Meredith was really into crystal meth (I think her meth fad was somewhere between the rainbow loom craze and her obsession with making slime – these kids!). Hopefully an occasional Clorox gargle will take care of that for him like it did for her.

The kids and I were so excited when November finally arrived. In our household that means ‘Mo-vember’, aka No Shave November, is in full swing. The whole No Shave November thing apparently started as a way to bring attention to men’s health issues. I should note that I try my hardest to stay clear of politics with these letters, so please don’t interpret that last sentence as me expressing my personal views. I fully realize that many of you fully support men’s health awareness while many others of you are vehemently opposed to the idea. I have my own thoughts on the matter but this is not the appropriate forum. Politics aside, this year was special because the girls decided to join me. Emily let the hair on her upper lip really grow out until she had a a pretty solid handlebar ‘stache. Meredith, being younger, can’t really pull off a full one yet but in the right light you could kind of see the beginnings of a Magnum P.I. look coming on. Poor Alex tried & tried – he had the Propecia and Rogaine going for several months in advance – but just doesn’t have a man face yet for whisker action. We ended up using a sharpie on him so he wouldn’t feel left out. We’re already looking forward to next year!

Sorry to cut short but a camera-crew van just pulled onto our street and the artificial snow machine just ran dry. I need to yell at Alex to hurry over to the 7-Eleven & get a Double Gulp for Meredith so she can refill the tank. That’ll have to do it for this year.

Merry Christmas to You and Yours from Us and Ours!!!