The Bakers’ 2011

Please forgive! This year’s letter may have the occasional spelling error or run-on sentence as I’ve been pretty much living in front of city hall with the other couple of Occupy Elmhurst people and can hardly get enough time with the shared power cord to run a proper spell check. I’ve been here since early December because 1) I wanted to show some solidarity with the disenfranchised and 2) I saw that Brad Pitt said something supportive of it and I’ve always considered us to be kindred spirits. I was kind of dejected when I realized that most of the people here seem to just be looking for any excuse to not bathe. I’m trying to use the experience to reinforce what I’ve been telling the kids since they were born: that 99% of the people they’ll ever meet aren’t worth the jam between their toes. This turned out to be a perfect venue for the lesson because so many of the people here have signs identifying themselves as part of the ‘99’. Anyway, I’ve also taught them that Bakers aren’t quitters so I’m sticking it out here until I can hopefully get a couple of seatbelt violation tickets scrubbed from my record when the City Council comes to the bargaining table. Anyway, let’s get this letter going because some guy needs a turn with the extension cord to charge his iPhone.

We entered February on a mission. We had decided as a family that it was time to switch toothpaste brands. I’ve been loyal Colgate user for the past twenty-five years and probably would have stayed that way until the inevitable switch to Polident which is hopefully still 5-10 years away. Laurie has sensitive gums, however, and we both felt that Colgate hasn’t done enough outreach to people with that disability. We started with an open mind – Aquafresh, Mentadent, Arm & Hammer, Aim, even Tom’s of Maine. I drew the line at Gleem though – we’re not white trash. Laurie got attached to Crest early on in the search what with their expansive product line and 24-hour support. I was a little harder to sell. I really got turned off to Crest in the 80s when they were pushing the Cavity Creeps thing – it was fine at first but it really started to go down a racist path. Quality always wins though, and their Extra Whitening brand had enough grit in it to scour most of the meat from between my teeth after a full meal of ribs, which is important because, as I tell Laurie repeatedly, flossing is for the gays. I’m just glad it’s over since the stress over the decision was starting to tear us apart.

The family had a pretty serious scare in April. The panic started at noon on a Saturday. It had to that point been like any other weekend day when I went down to the basement to get some pastels for the self portrait I had been working on. It was by pure chance that I happened to glance towards the laundry sink and noticed the lint trap on the washing machine hose was totally clogged. We had trained as a family for this type of situation once a month since moving into the house. I couldn’t have been more pleased to see how quickly the kids snapped into action and set about their respective tasks that are defined in our emergency protocol booklet. Emily had wirecutters for me within the prescribed 15 seconds so I could cut the old filter off, and Meredith was right there with the new filter and wire ties. Laurie’s job is to disassemble the ejector pump to make sure there weren’t any breaches, but we have a protocol in place to handle her duties for emergencies that occur before 2pm when she’s still in bed. It fell on Alex to do double-duty on that and the plumbing snake. After 20-30 minutes we were all able to take a collective breath and settle back into our Saturday.

I posted my modeling portfolio on MySpace in June, which I realize must not be news to most of you since so many of you contacted me afterwards to tell me how impressed you were with my quads. Knowing that everyone was envious of my muscular symmetry and tone was really gratifying for me, since I had spent several months retooling my workouts at the Y. I used to just do squats but was reading some of the cutting edge stuff in Muscle & Fitness. It made me realize how I needed isolate my quads and keep challenging my muscles with different exercises – I ended up changing things around to include some leg extensions, incline press, barbell lunges and even worked in some bear crawl sled drags. You have to shave down and do your time in the tanning beds to really get the ripped look, but I do that stuff anyway and wanted my calves to really pop, so I went for a full wax. Totally worth it. Or at least it was if I’m any judge of the looks I get from the moms at Smalley pool. Needless to say I was pretty busy during this time so I don’t really have much to say about what the kids were up to over the summer. Probably spent some time at the neighbors’. Some of my exercises are shown below – you should really try them if you want to blast your quads like me:

Dumbell Lunge

Incline Press

Leg Extenstions

Laurie and I had an experience in October that brought us much closer to each other when we both realized that we each love Emily so much more than Alex or Meredith. It was so comforting for each of us to be able to share that with the other, and to confide in our disdain for the other kids. I think we’re a closer family now.

In November we celebrated Alex’s 10th birthday, which is traditionally the age in the Baker family when a boy transitions into manhood. We started things off by driving down to Kankakee and dropping Alex off barefoot at the edge of a corn field with some beef jerky, canteen of water and a pouch of peyote. We told him to commune with nature and not to come back until he had discovered the answer to the question ‘what is the square root of brown’. We started the rest of the ceremonies six days later when he showed back up at our house. Laurie got some of the snacks and cupcakes ready while his godparents and I took him to get a tattoo. That was all a precursor to the main event which was handled by Laurie’s mom. I was caught a little off guard when she asked if she could do the circumcision – I’ve seen her carve a ham at 15 straight Christmas dinners and wasn’t sure that she had the requisite steady hand to pull of this kind of a cut but I didn’t want to cause a family rift. She got through it mostly okay – there were definitely some gaffes, and Alex seemed pretty bent out of shape over some of her slips, but there was really nothing that time and some Neosporin won’t heal. By the time we finished with the cutting it was getting late and a couple of his classmates were getting whiny about needing to get home. They seemed a little freaked – I guess that either some of our traditions are new to them or else they’re just wussbags – but Laurie threw some old candy corn and pencils in a Dominick’s sack and called it a gift bag and that seemed to shut them up. I was totally annoyed at this point so we skipped the rest of the ceremony and drove the kids home. Alex’s uncle kept the last part of the tradition alive though when he took Alex to Chinatown for a massage. My son is a man.

Laurie asked me to try using Just for Men hair coloring earlier this month. I was a little nervous at first since I didn’t even know what color to get, so I tried it on the kids’ hair first until I found one that looked like it would blend in okay. Meredith wasn’t thrilled that her hair was a lot darker so Laurie ended up trying to bleach it out which didn’t really work out the way she intended. In the end Laurie told her to just be happy she’s not bald and to shut up. What’s with kids these days?!? The stuff seemed to do a pretty decent job of hiding my gray hairs on my head, but it turned out to be a big hassle to get my chest and back hair colored without staining my skin. Don’t even get me started on the other areas. I was pretty worried that the stains on my skin would mess up my tan, but the Jenny at Planet Beach said that the tan should be even after the stain wears away. Even so, I’ll still be a little more diligent with the Vaseline next time.

To wrap things up, our year had a lot of ups and downs, but still probably way better than yours. Hope you are at least able to glean some inspiration from our lives and somehow improve your lot in life as a result. 

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

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