The Bakers’ 2010

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

The kids are in bed. I’ve got a Roget’s at my side. Fingernails are clipped & buffed. Nose is thoroughly picked.  I’ve got a glass of Matilda Bay at the ready.  Clay Aiken on my iPod. It’s time to crank out a Christmas letter.

Our 2010 started out like many other families’ – with Laurie ritualistically shaving my entire body and anointing me with scented oil while I read graphic passages from Stephen King novels to the kids. The family stayed inside for most of the winter and I had hoped to use the Winter Olympics as an excuse to not have to interact with the family for a few weeks.  That all went to hell in a handbasket with the dead luger and the obvious need for Laurie to organize an  all neighborhood  wiccan ceremony to give his soul a safe sojourn to the Summerlands. Total drag.

Springtime brought some trepidation as Alex’s cub scout pack announced  they were planning a hike at a nearby forest preserve. Alex was excited about going, but I’m sure that’s because he hadn’t read any of the stories about other scout trips running into floods or forest fires, resulting in a lot of the kids drowning or becoming permanently disfigured with burn scars .I didn’t want him to miss out on a good time with his friends so the family set about preparing him. We rented several Man vs. Wild shows and then got busy with some basic survival skills. He was an eager learner for the most part – he mastered the ability to start a fire with flint, cooked small game over a campfire and built a fairly robust lean-to from branches. I was so encouraged by his orienteering progress that I dropped him off outside of Kankakee with a compass and told him to make his way home (it was pretty cute – he thought we were going to see Toy Story 3, so you can imagine the look on his face when we pushed him out the door with the canteen & beef jerky). In other areas he struggled – I had to intervene in the snakebite training after he totally freaked when I held him down while the rattler bit him.He couldn’t even make an attempt at treating himself .But, overall I was proud of his progress, which quite frankly is something I never thought I’d be able to say about him. In the end it turns out the scout hike was only 2 miles on a concrete foot path and they were back in 20 minute.  Very annoying bec as I was hoping to get some work on my memoirs completed while I was waiting in the car.

The kids tried to do something cute this summer by setting up a lemonade stand in the front yard. It didn’t really work but that wasn’t disappointing since I had never really expected it to. I encouraged them at first – I made it into a fun Apprentice-style game, telling them that whoever sold the least lemonade would be ‘fired’ from that weekend’s sleepover at the grandparents. I did have some misgivings that they wouldn’t be able to deliver a product that lives up to the quality standard people expect from the Baker name, and I frankly was terrified about how their deficiencies would damage my reputation. Every fear was realized when I saw the can of Wyler’s sitting on the counter. I might have hoped they’d class it up with fresh-squeezed lemons, but even in my worst nightmares I never thought they’d sink lower than some Minute Maid frozen concentrate, or at the very worst some Countrytime. Serving Wyler’s was basically the same as telling the neighborhood that we shop at the A&P and buy 87-octane gasoline. I tried to limit the damage by having the kids deliver letters of apology around the neighborhood. I also had Laurie call everyone we know in town and assure them that it wasn’t my fault, and that I was never aware that we had allowed  Wyler’s on our property. I even made a show of walking around the block for the next few weeks holding a glass with a real lemon wedge on the edge and spitting pulp out whenever anyone would take notice. Needless to say none of the kids got to have the sleepover, but I think they learned a pretty valuable lesson about the family brand.

October should have been the best month ever. It started off that way – Laurie was in a great mood because she finally found a rare Nyform brand Troll doll to top off her collection. Emily got her first ever passing grade on a test at school, which gave us hope she could aspire to maybe someday reaching high school. Alex got dumped by his girlfriend so he wasn’t trying to steal any of my Aqua Velva anymore, and Meredith was finally just leaving me alone like I had been asking her to for the last 4 years. I was excited because my mail-order 6-month supply of Extenze finally arrived. I had also just squat-thrusted 500 pounds at the Y and was getting a lot of those ‘I think you’re insanely macho sexy but am too intimidated to try to talk to a bull of a man who can squat-thrust 500 pounds like it’s nothing and therefore I’ll fantasize about you from afar’ looks from the ladies on the treadmills, so my ego was sailing pretty high. My little Shangri-la was destroyed at 8:23pm on Monday, October 18th when Maurice Jones-Drew was stopped at the goal line twice, costing me 6 points and a victory in my fantasy football league. I’d go into detail about the series of plays that led up to it, but I’m sure everyone reading this remembers them – how they had a 3rd & 3 at the 3-yard line, didn’t hand off to him, drew a penalty to make it 3rd & 1, didn’t hand off to him again, then went for it on 4th and 1 and threw an interception. I wrote a letter to Jack Del Rio, explaining all of the flaws in his offensive game plan, but in the end I didn’t send it. Laurie tried to cheer me up with a Frogurt and some Sunny D, but I was in an A-1 funk that lasted until November 14th when he had his 2-TD game against the Texans.

December came with yet another example of the incompetence of others. We got 6-8 inches of snow overnight in early December and I was still meditating in bed so I asked Laurie to call a snow removal service. I don’t necessarily expect ‘the professionals’ to clear the sidewalk & drive as well as I do – most of them haven’t trained in Lapland, after all. But when I looked out the window to see if the guy was almost done, I saw maybe the most haphazard shoveling job I’ve ever witnessed. I went straight to the bathroom and vomited, then called the kids together to let them know that Daddy might not be home for Christmas because I might be committing a violent crime. I finally cooled down a little and went outside to show the clown what’s expected while Laurie called the Better Business Bureau. The guy who was shoveling acted like a lot of it was unnecessary, like the ground-penetrating radar and chalk line for establishing the sidewalk edges, but you could totally tell that he inwardly felt like a fool for trying to tackle the job with just a shovel. He even conceded that ‘he wouldn’t have thought of that’ when I showed him how you’re supposed to spray gasoline onto the shoveled pavement with a lawn sprayer and then light it with a match to make sure that any footprints of packed snow are cleared away completely. In the end he reluctantly agreed that the lessons I taught him were payment enough – when he graduates high school he’ll thank me for some of the life skills I’ve left him with.

We’re now winding down the year with the sobering reality that after only two episodes the Hasselhoff’s reality show won’t be on the air anymore unless it hopefully gets picked up by HBO, meaning we probably have to end up spending even more time with the kids. I don’t really have much else to say, other than that I hope that your year has included the discovery of small fortunes, thick steaks for dinner, painless body piercings, secret admirers and great breath. Just like it has for the Bakers.

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