Ah, the holidays. A time for good cheer, well wishes, peace, and love. It is a time when loved ones typically send letters telling of fun-filled times in the year past, of milestones and celebrations. Sleigh bells ringing, carolers singing . . . stop. You’ll find none of that here. This, my friends, is the un-Christmas letter. It is the letter telling of mishaps, fumbles, and foibles. A miscalculation of chemicals in the pool sent the children screaming, their eyes stinging, dog poop flinging, car doors dinging. This is our holiday song.
No one wants to read about all the great things happening to other people. You want the stinging, the flinging, and the dinging. No singing, no ringing. And so, this is our report of woe from 2004 – making you realize how much more you have to be grateful for. It could always be worse; think of the dread: you could live with us and be an Allred.
The year started with a bang: a bunch of boards fell on our box of freshly wrapped Christmas ornaments. Who sets a box of breakables next to a stack of boards? Oh, yeah; it was me. I went on to sprain my ankle, lost a toenail, and had to have a crown put on a cracked tooth. Robb’s shoulder came out of socket. Katie’s best friend (also a Katie) accidentally socked her in the eye with a baseball bat, and I witnessed the horrendous murder of a large field mouse by Sooner, the cat. It is why we got a cat, but, geez, the torture went on a might too long. Even the other neighbor cats were beginning to complain about the rat screams. Our horses and goats escaped from the corral when the gate wasn’t properly latched – this while both Robb and I were out of town. Mercifully, neighbors came to the rescue. It didn’t help matters, however, to have neighbor Sarah hide behind a tree announcing to everyone that Lightning (admittedly a little frisky) is a “crazy horse.”
Our goat, Cookiedough, was pregnant, and I didn’t even realize her condition. I just thought she was carrying a little too much in the mid-section. Having kids will do that to you.
The only males she’s been around were our gelded horses, a neutered cat, Robb, and her three month old son, Nutmeg. Of the five, no one appeared to have the interest or ability. But, in May, Cookie had twins – one boy, one girl. The girl, Cinnamon, is still with us, but the inbred boy had to go. Interestingly, the inbred girl appears to be our smartest goat yet.
Kerri finally got her braces off and went through four retainers in a little over one month, repeatedly sitting on them and leaving us to wonder about her level of intelligence. How many times can you sit on a retainer? It was Katie’s turn, and she went to the periodondist to have mouth surgery before getting her braces. She was heavily medicated and began hallucinating. She’s an ugly drunk. We hope to use this to our advantage in talking about alcohol and partying when she’s a teenager. “Katie, honey, we’ve seen you drunk, and it’s ugly. Your friends will party with you once – once.”
Katie went through a phase of calling me Aunt Trudie – no one knows why – but has given that up and is now calling me Captain Weasel Pants (which can be really embarrassing in public). Tommy relates to everything in life by way of his computer game – Age of Empire. Recently when Robb was burning a pile of leaves and fallen tree limbs, Tommy listened to the fire crackling and mused, “dats what it sounds like when I burn down my enemies’ castles.” At school, we’ve learned that all he really wants to do is “wrestle, tackle and, spin.” Who doesn’t? But when he’s hopped up on his asthma medication, it’s hard to control the impulses. He tackled another kid during an unscheduled fire drill. What with all the bells and mass exodus from the building, the excitement was more than he could handle.
While some friends went to Jamaica, we watched their three children, Bentleigh, Braiden, and Brooks, for a week. Although they are great kids, add them to Kerri, Katie, and Tommy and we were one hectic house. Each night as I tried to get six children to bed, check homework, and prepare backpacks, Braiden insisted on reciting from the New Testament while Brooks and Tommy argued over Secret Agent Barbie. Yes, while Robb was still reeling from the fact his son is playing Secret Agent Barbie, Tommy announced his deep desire to have and to own his own Easy-Bake Oven. He wanted to make “wee-nilla cakes” for everyone. Robb said no way would his son own an Easy-Bake Oven.
It’s purple and pink, and Tommy makes a mean wee-nilla cake. With sprinkles.
Pete, the Lab, hurt his tail and couldn’t wag it for a while. Benson, the cat, went up a tree and was stuck for over 22 hours. Distressed, Kerri called the fire department, and to our great embarrassment and surprise, they came out and rescued the stupid cat. Be at peace to know, it was a rookie who was forced to go up the tree – in full gear – after the cat, and no other emergency calls had come in. And, yes, we have pictures. National Geographic for Kids is going to do a feature on our cat, Sooner, who thinks he’s a goat and has sent a photographer to come out to the house. We’ve added a horse named Snow to the Allred herd – all events occurred while Robb was in Colorado hunting. Oh, the irony of a hunter being overrun with animals.
I understand there is a need for hunting in some parts of the world, but I try not to think about it too much. I’ve never liked the idea and have fantasies of evening the playing field a little more. It goes something like this: Brrring [cell phone actually reaching Robb in the middle of nowhere]. Hello?
Hi, honey. Are you there? Your camp is set up and you’re ready to hunt?
Well, then run like hell, honey, because I’ve sprayed doe scent all over you, and you’re about the sweetest smelling thing out there right now. I imagine there are about 20 bulls bearing down on you right . . . Robb? Honey? Are you still . . .?
Don’t forget your gun! Oh, and have a good time!!! Love you! [click]
The rain just won’t stop, and we’ve sustained roof damage that costs more money to repair than we have, but the very good news is that while my father was here to build library shelves in the study, we discovered a mouse in the house, so we don’t even think about the roof anymore. What are those stupid cats doing anyway? They are killing the toads which would help eliminate the giant horse flies that invade us and ignore the mice! But you can’t explain strategy to cats because they just don’t care!
Our guest shower is still broken, the toilet still bubbles when laundry is being done, I got ripped off by a former co-worker, and Tommy is going through a phase of answering the phone and hanging up without telling anyone. But at least he keeps his clothes on now. Nala, the shep/boxer mix, caught another skunk, and I experienced the on-set of heat stroke while running 14 miles with a friend/neighbor. Robb declared we would have a movie night – just the two of us – and picked out “an oldie but goodie.” Fried Green Tomatoes? Some Like It Hot? No. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
But not all was lost for the year. I had a new dog book come out, and a lifelong dream was realized. I ran a marathon. The goal was to run – never walk at any time – the entire 26.2 mile course. After three knee surgeries, I never thought it possible to put that kind of pounding on my almost 40-year-old joints. But with my running partner, and our amazing families, we journeyed to San Antonio for the big event. This is something I have thought about for at least two decades but never thought possible. The night before, my Kerri (daughter) and I walked to the end of the hotel and looked out the bay window from the high-rise. My hope was to show her the historic city of San Antonio and . . .oh, look, a huge billboard for a Gentlemen’s Club. Gentlemen, my arse.
Never mind. The moment was mine! Miles 1-14 were fun as my buddy and I chatted away and got to see our families at mile 13, complete with my sister, Michelle, running alongside us taking pictures. But my running partner and I soon separated as she is not carrying quite the luggage in the ol’ caboose I am, and I got to listen to music Michelle and Mark Larkin gave me as a gift, and for the next six miles, I jogged along happily enough. No stopping, no walking. By mile 23 when the theme song of ‘Rocky’ came on, I was recharged. I began waving to everyone, talking loudly, and thanking everyone from the police officers directing traffic to the people handing out water. At mile 25, I turned down a new street to see my family again, and as Katie stepped off the curb to join me in my final mile, my heart was soaring. People were clapping and urging me on. ‘Rocky’ blared, and I was flying, man! The wind was in my hair! I was just minutes – mere minutes – from a dream come true. This was what it was all about. Strength. Determination. Grit. Perserv… “Um, Mommy,” Katie said next to me as we blazed down the street toward the Alamo dome. The finish line. The end of an incredible journey. Things were streaming by. “Uh, not to hurt your feelings, but . . . I’m walking.”
Another dream tarnished. I looked to see that Katie’s short nine-year-old stride was perfectly matched to my blinding speed.