The best Christmas ever (and I understand Charlie Brown much better now)

Here are my very simple criteria for what makes a Christmas, “the best Christmas”:

  1. Was I alive during it?
  2. Did I stay out of the hospital?

Check off both of those boxes this year. Thus, best Christmas ever. Check back next year and if those two boxes are checked again, you’ll see a post with the same title.

Though my present was Luna's bionic knee, I did get some stocking stuffers, like this BBQ mitt to keep me from burning the hair off my arm each time I cook the fish.

Though my present was Luna’s bionic knee, I did get some stocking stuffers, like this BBQ mitt to keep me from burning the hair off my hand and arm each time I cook fish.

You’ll notice there’s nothing on my checklist about the gifts I received during the holiday. Just living to see another Christmas and not being in the hospital are the only two gifts I care about now. When I was younger it was about the “stuff,” which would make the year I received a Sizzlers racetrack the best Christmas ever.

So, this Christmas was pretty awesome. We didn’t make any parental missteps like last year’s bicycle gift to my daughter. My wife and I gave her a bunch of eclectic gifts this year, including a messenger bag that she loved and carried around downtown Ventura two days later, which is amazing considering she’s allergic to carrying anything, especially groceries from the car to the house.

The art supplies Santa (my wife) bought her made her happy. And I went off the reservation, so to speak, this year, and ordered her several gifts without asking for my wife’s “voice of reason” opinion, which would have killed some of them. I just ordered stuff I thought my daughter would like: an origami book, a logic puzzle book, a scientific cookbook for kids, and a book on cupcakes.

Jackpot! I received zero, “Why is there a bicycle wedged in my stocking?” looks this year.

If there was one melancholy moment, it was at dinner the next night when my daughter challenged us to a logic puzzle. Both my wife and I made the big mistake of attempting it while we continued to eat, not paying attention that my daughter ignored her turkey and mashed potatoes and gave 100% of her young, healthy brain’s attention to the puzzle.

The two of us were halfway through it when she yelled out, “done.”

My favorite quote from the movie Aliens seems appropriate here: “What do you mean, THEY cut the power? How could they cut the power, man? They’re animals!”

So, my response was somewhat similar: What do you mean you finished? You did the entire thing? How did you do it that fast, you’re only 10?”

What happened to our little girl, the half-pint sponge who dressed up as Snow White and loved tea parties? Hello, computer-brained daughter whose main goal now is to have a mental throwdown with her parents, with little thought and compassion for their fragile adult self-esteem. What the heck are they teaching kids in fifth grade these days?

Round two. With fresh copies of a new puzzle in our hands and full concentration – dinner set aside – the three of us went at it again.

I also received a Kreg Jig Jr. I can go "pocket hole" crazy now.

I also received a Kreg Jig Jr. I can go “pocket hole” crazy now.

The scene: clock ticking loudly, sweat dripping off my brow, collar feeling tight, pencil slowly etching the paper, scribbled notes, stomach churning.

The result: My wife finished first, followed by my daughter two seconds later, followed by me – later.

Defeat, failure. Smashed by the two females in my house, an event that is happening way too often these days. ARGH, Charlie Brown, I know how you felt, my man. I know how you felt.

But if there is a silver lining to the beat down, I’m still the person they come to when their computers don’t work, or something in the house needs fixing. Luckily, the logic puzzles don’t extend to real life, and I still have some purpose and value left.

All hope is not lost yet, Charlie Brown.

Happy New Year to all.

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Rat Hunter 1, Rat 0 (graphic photo, turn back before it’s too late)

If you have a passion for wild rats, then this isn’t the post for you. However, if you like it when wild rats invade the home and get their necks snapped, well, I guess this is the place to be.

The other night my wife and I thought Cali came in through the dog door and hit the dryer. There was a loud metallic bang. But then Cali, hearing the same noise, came out of the bedroom.

Rat trap.

Friends visiting this holiday season will see this guy's head mounted on my wall. "Is that a rat head?" they'll ask. "Damn straight, it is. Hunted it for a week. Wait until you taste the stew."

Friends visiting this holiday season will see this guy’s head mounted on my wall. “Is that a rat head?” they’ll ask.
“Damn straight, it is. Hunted it for a week.”

Needless to say, my wife, claiming she got two votes, elected me to take a look at the trap behind the dryer. At first I didn’t see anything. But after sliding the dryer out a bit, jackpot: one gray rat with his neck in the trap. Gross.

(But not as gross as the episodes of The Walking Dead I’ve been watching lately – zombie killing is a messy business and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many heads smashed or shot in my entire life, which is pretty exciting compared to a life without flesh-eating zombies roaming the streets, though some of my meth-addicted neighbors could be mistaken for the undead.)

Thus, with all of this killing in mind, I thank the rat for dying cleanly.

So, no more sleeping with a 7-iron in one hand, a flashlight in the other, and my failed rat-hunting black lab at my feet. The rat is finally dead.

And, so far, no evidence of any others in the house.

Lesson learned: each night, before going to sleep, put the damn wood cover in the opening of the dog door.

Unwanted house guests – Ben and Willard

Friday morning, with our daughter at school and yellow lab still at the animal hospital, my wife and I started noticing little 3/4-inch, rolled-up mud-like pieces around the house and on the furniture. Now though my wife is much smarter than I am (I only use 2% of my brain on my best days), I was the first to identify what we were seeing.

But it took a process of elimination and overcoming denial to get there.

Cali is a true care-free California Labrador. She is yours for free. Pick up only. Call 555-5555.

Cali is a true care-free California Labrador. She is yours for free. Pick up only. Call 555-5555.

Theory #1: Cali, our crazy black lab, dragged them in. She likes to eat poop. She must have spit them out, or kept them up in her cheeks or something.

My response to my wife: I don’t think so.

Action: We rolled Cali over on her back, checked her paws and fur, and looked in her mouth. Nothing there but a confused dog wondering why were inspecting every inch of her.

Theory #2: They fell off of my wife’s running shoes. It has been raining here for days. She must have stepped in mud and it somehow found its way onto the floor and furniture during the night.

My response to my wife: I don’t think so.

Action: My wife inspected her shoes. No mud. Tread pattern different.

At this point, I knew what they were. Thousands of years of hunter/gatherer evolution led me to the answer. But now, unlike my cavemen brothers who only had fire, I had a greater tool – the Internet.

So, while my wife tested theories 3 – 50 – asteroid dust – check for a hole in the roof – to Google Images I went. And sure enough I had a perfect match on my first try. Now I just had to tell my wife. Being the communications expert that I am, I let her know in the kindest, gentlest way possible.

“Rat poop.” [See how I softened “shit” to “poop.” Genius, I say.”]

“What?” she said.

“Rat poop. They’re rat poop. And those little wet spots: rat pee.”

“You’re kidding me?”

I wish I were kidding her, like I dreamed up the grossest prank I could to get in her good graces and mom jeans, which she doesn’t actually wear, but they sound funny. But I wasn’t joking. Sometime during the night, while our fierce black lab was sleeping on the floor of our small house, rats entered through the dog door and had a party.

[Please check out Craigslist, Los Angeles today and take home a free 1 year-old black lab with zero rat-hunting skills.]

The exterminator was there by noon, and he set traps inside our house, and promised to return next week with a Rat Death-House: rats go in, but they don’t come out. Two cat paws up for that.

Luna, recovering and wasted on sedatives and pain pills. Black spots courtesy of my daughter using the camera and getting the lens dirty.

Luna, recovering and wasted on sedatives and pain pills. Black spots courtesy of my daughter using the camera and getting the lens dirty.

My favorite exterminator quote: “They usually don’t enter houses with dogs.”

[Craigslist, Los Angeles posting: Free black lab to rat-free home.]

My wife and daughter hung out all day in the bedroom/office. And my daughter wore her boots at all times, lest some human-hunting rat with a taste for a 10-year-old took a run at her.

Then I had another brilliant idea last night, hunter that I am. I slept in the leather chair in the middle of the war zone, Ping 7-iron at my side and black lab on dog bed at my feet.

If you’re a husband, then I’m pretty sure you’ll appreciate this next statement: No one can put a pin in your ego and deflate it quite like a wife can. Especially when we try to do heroic things, like sleep in the middle of rat-infested battleground to protect females sleeping like little princesses in the bedroom next door.

Me: “So, I made it through the night. No rats. All clear.”

Wife: “But you left all the lights on.”

Me: “Yeah. So. What difference does that make? They come out with the lights on. When it’s silent, quiet. They have to go to the bathroom at some point.”

Wife: “They can go where they are. They’re rats.”

Me: “They’d come out to go.”

Wife: “How would you have noticed them?”

Me: “Cali barks, I wake up.”

Wife: “Oh, like you woke up when I came out to feed her this morning and she ran all over the place, whining and barking? I turned off the alarm too, which is pretty loud. But there you were sleeping like a baby, with one slipper hanging off your foot” [acts out what I looked like sleeping on the chair].

Me: “You came out to feed her this morning? Really?”

Hmm, yes, I am a heavy sleeper. And, yes, I didn’t notice any of these events, which made me think how lucky I was that I didn’t wake up thinking my dog was snuggling with me during the night only to discover she was back in the bedroom with my wife and daughter.

Ah, heroic plans dashed, crushed, smashed by the love of my life.

The woolly mammoth I brought back to the cave was undersized and couldn’t feed the clan. And I got a beating for it.

It’s not the thought that counts when you’re a hunter. It’s showing off a blood-covered Ping golf club and a dozen rat carcasses to your wife when she wakes up that matters. It’s scrambled prehistoric vulture eggs with chunks of fresh rat meat that matters. Yep, it’s feeding the clan.

However, later today, when I said to my wife, “I suck at rat-hunting,” she replied, “Were there any rat-poops this morning?”

“No.”

“Then you did your job.”

Ego restored. Just like that. Magic.

Yes, yes, I did my job. I could be a caveman after all.