I put my car in reverse and shoot all the way out to the road, navigating the path between the ice mountains in one clean swoop, much like an Olympic skier. I had a really good run yesterday too, but today, I can picture myself on the podium.
I am high-fiving myself for my Olympic caliber driving-in-reverse skill when Mr. Kamikaze gestures toward the glaciers at the mouth of the driveway.
"I widened it for you," he says. "Did you think you were getting better?"
yeah, I did.
Photo: The freshly-shoveled driveway as Valentine's Day tribute.
To our dearest friends and family members, not that we don't think of our family members as friends, or for that matter, our friends as family members, but the point is, do not attempt to start your own Christmas letters with a run-on sentence, I am a professional.
If it feels like a little too much at any point, remember that however inadequate your own accomplishments may seem in light of our big, big year, they are still special in their own way. Let's hear it for you!
A little later.
I would begin with the biggest news, but again, it's been nothing but big news this year, so let's just start with me.
First, I met my goal of completing a page a day on at least one of my 365 novels in progress, some of which are more like grocery lists, but still. As the saying goes, a page a day is a novel a year, if you are Nora Roberts. I wish I could tell you there were some sort of shortcut to this type of achievement, but there's no getting around the fact that setting the bar very, very low is kind of the linchpin. Also, typing.
In sporting news, as you may have already heard, it looks like I will have to clear out a little space on the trophy shelf as the Midwestern Suburbs' 2014 competitive figure skating season gets under way. I'm not exaggerating when I say I pretty much own the 14-and-over category in my division.
But it's not just the trophy shelf sagging under the weight of my accomplishments. My resume, while not technically sagging, is also getting a little crowded, with the addition of 14 new part-time jobs this year, some of which even came with salaries.
Of course, with every increase in earning power, the Kamikaze children were there to take up the slack. I don't think there are two children on the planet with the budget stretching talent of the Kamikaze offspring.
We didn't think we could afford to equip the boy with the overpriced - yet incredibly fragile - telecommunications device he coveted, but, as he was able to demonstrate by dropping a weight on the first one, it turned out we could actually afford two! And you would not believe the price of the college education we were able to obtain for him simply by mortgaging whatever was left of our hopes and dreams.
As luck would have it, Veruca Salt Kamikaze has turned out to be something of a financial magnate, leveraging her babysitting money for concert tickets that she resells at a profit to buy more concert tickets. Anything left over goes to buy overpriced perfume sprays with names like "Underage Seduction" and "Don't tell My Parents What this is Called."
If anyone can afford to keep the Kamikaze family in overpriced perfume spray with flagrantly sexual overtones, she's the one. I doubt there is a sexier smelling house anywhere in the 12-state Midwestern region. She also baked a record number of cupcakes and became a semi-licensed driver, so the car smells pretty good too.
Technically of course, it is Mr. Kamikaze and the newspaper "industry" that keeps the Kamikaze family in overpriced perfume spray, not to mention replacement phones, figure skates and cupcakes, but a Christmas letter is no place to get technical. It is enough to say that without him, and the couch cushion coin reserve, the entire enterprise would be pretty shaky. And most of those coins are actually his too. But whatever. Maybe it's the cheap red wine in the $65,000 wine glass talking, but it all seems to work somehow.
The Kamikaze Family, LLC.
At some point today, in between items 9 and 73 on my to-do list, I am planning to dig a few Halloween decorations out of the basement closet and throw them onto the front steps in a slapdash, last-minute attempt at seasonal decor. For the children.
If history teaches us anything, it is that - all profane protestations to the contrary - I will be going to the mall today, despite the fact that this is unreasonable, ridiculous and not particularly relevant to her costume theme.
But apparently, there is no other way to make a cat costume work. I know this now because the look she gave me when I suggested that any of the 45 pairs of black leggings she already owns could serve the same purpose - made it clear that a skater skirt is the difference between a cat costume that works and a cat costume fail.
Then, if I manage to accomplish nothing else, I will dig my skeleton hand wine goblets out of the cobweb covered boxes and pour myself a glass of something cheap and red. I may also pull out the remnants of the very tiny, very adorable cat costumes the children wore so many years ago and get a little nostalgic over a giant pile of Twizzlers.
It is a very sorry excuse for a holiday effort and I would apologize, but I know that you are only here for the cats.
Photo: My neighbor has a giant fucking cat.
from the History has Taught us Nothing archives: Tinkerbelle is so last week
from the costume bin: Hallowhat?
If there is anything more heartwarming than the sound of the Kamikaze children making their Christmas preparations, I don't know what it could be. White Christmas maybe? Sung by Alvin and the Chipmunks and played in an elevator, trapped between floors?
Fa la la la la. The boy is badgering his sister into wrapping gifts for his girlfriend. Because he can't possibly do it as well as she can. Also, he is really busy. But not so busy that he won't stand over her, criticizing every step. Has there ever been a shabbier effort in gift wrap history? He does not think so.
First, she turns the box onto its top to make sure the seams are underneath. "What are you doing?" he protests. "Are you retarded?" Then she cuts the paper all wrong.
"Veruca," I tell her, "Don't do it. He can do it himself."
But Veruca is very susceptible to the idea that one day, maybe, he will turn out to be like one of those big brothers in a Disney special, the kind who is always looking out for his little sister.
"Holy shit," he says. "Did you use the whole roll for one thing?" He cannot believe her incompetence. How is it possible that a 14-year-old girl can't even wrap a present to his exact specifications?
I can't believe she puts up with it. Except that I am the one who drove with him to three different stores to find the perfect box to go under the gift wrap that Veruca is butchering. We're all kind of invested in this thing.
Photo: The girlfriend box.
Ordinarily, we here at SK Enterprises Ltd. Inc. do not subject our readers to the kind of drippy sentimentality that parenting can inspire if you are not vigilant.
We recognize sentiment as nature's way of trying to distract you from the fact that 18 years of your life have been stolen in exchange for some lame poetry and a macaroni necklace.
But the truth is, I am wearing my macaroni necklace today. Except that in South Florida preschools, where my children made their necklaces, they are made with seashells because the fashion standards there are much higher. Also, the humidity would cook an actual macaroni necklace while you were still wearing it.
My point is, two longtime Friends of Kamikaze, including the one who is most responsible for the fact that there even is such an "organization," even if it is rather loosely organized and largely unregulated, recently did the math for me: our boys are very close to leaving home.
The clock is running down on my time as the live-in mother/personal assistant/transportation and meal coordinator to Boy, Esq.
So Christmas, a time of year that I have labored diligently to overlook for more than a decade, has acquired a quasi-sentimental gloss this year.
By this time next year, the boy will be halfway through his first year at some prestigious university and we will be living in a cardboard box trying to pay for it. So maybe this is everyone's last Christmas in a house with real walls. Oh god.
If I am not careful, I am going to find myself baking cookies.
Photo: SK, in a rare moment of sentimentality/usefulness, sprinkles a collection of elementary school arts and crafts across the tree, which is already dying.
The children lost interest in the Christmas tree five minutes after we dragged it into the house, just as I had predicted.
But I made the mistake of suggesting that maybe this was the year we could give up the holiday charade and openly celebrate the family that we really are: a mismatched collection of people living in a house made entirely of half-eaten food and dirty laundry.
"Do we really need a Christmas tree?" I asked, because I, alone of all my family members, have the courage to ask the tough questions. "Does anybody really care?"
No one did until that exact moment. It was a tactical error so obvious you would think I had never even read Lord of the Flies. Now, in place of apathy and fast food, the children were filled with conviction: Mom must not be allowed to destroy Christmas, even if nobody cares.
And so, a tree is procured and deposited in a corner of the living room where a table and a lamp should be. The pine needles are ground into the carpeting in the last few spaces not already occupied by the pine needles of Christmases past. A basement closet is ransacked and boxes of ornaments strewn across two floors, where they will sit unopened until the one person in the house who knew this was a bad idea is forced to open them and drape 15 years worth of paper scraps across the tree, which will dry up into a mass of needle-sharp sticks over a period of weeks until the same person is forced to strip it bare, drag it out the curb and vacuum for the next 72 hours.
from the holiday archives: Happy Ho!idays from our Dysfunctiona! Family to Yours!
We knew we had them scared. But when the girl and I challenged Team Executive to an Appalling Christmas Sweater Throwdown last year, we figured we'd have at least a little bit of a fight on our hands.
They are big talkers in the Executive household. There was no sweater so revolting that they wouldn't have the jingle balls to wear it in public, on airplanes, at concerts. Wherever. Bring it on, they said - underestimating our reserves of cruelty.
And we did, handcrafting two Christmas sweaters so unrelentingly awful you could not have worn them to a Midwestern PTA fundraiser without shame.
But in the 12 months since we presented them with the sweaters, we have received only a single photo, of the Executive Suburbanite at a South Florida Thai restaurant, wearing her appalling Christmas sweater and surrounded by a group of her closest friends. Yawn.
We are not impressed. Her daughter has yet to be seen anywhere in public in the 3D blinking reindeer-headed sweatshirt we created especially for her.
We had expected an album of photographs by now, depicting our sweaters in iconic South Florida landscapes: under palm trees, in alligator-infested swamps, with old Cuban men playing dominoes, with sunburned German tourists on the beach.
Did we go too far? Was it one bell over the line? Who knows? But it may be time for the Christmas sweaters to move on. Or at least get invited to a really cool party somewhere.
from the cable knit archives: Traveling, unraveling: a Christmas sweater update
"Just think of something and then buy it for us." And other inspired Father's Day ideas from teenagers...
If there is anything that gets teenagers more excited than a holiday to celebrate the Contributions of Parents, I can't think what it could be.
Other than Pop Tarts, I mean, but that shouldn't count because that is more of a chemical reaction than genuine excitement. Not even Substitute Teacher Appreciation Day could go up against Pop Tarts in a competition for a teenager's enthusiasm, so it really doesn't even bear mentioning.
My point is, other than toaster pastries, there is nothing teenagers look forward to as much as the annual opportunity to demonstrate gratitude to the people whose entire life is
a cautionary tale devoted to their upbringing and happiness. Not counting money, vampire television, fast food or being home alone.
And here, just for accuracy's sake, I am going to mention the "moab" - which is something you earn for bringing off 24 consecutive kills in the video warfare exercise known as Call of Duty. I don't know what a moab is, but it could be some sort of gift for his father. Otherwise, it's true that Boy, Esq. 17, is slightly more engaged in accomplishing this than in making plans for tomorrow's big tribute.
But things are said and done in the heat of a virtual battle that do not necessarily signify their place in the hierarchy of priorities. So Call of Duty is probably no more relevant to this discussion than a box of strawberry frosted Pop Tarts filled with cash.
It's also true that Veruca Salt, 14, will be asleep most of the day, recovering from a sleepover/overnight texting session, but that doesn't mean she is not bursting with ideas as to how to celebrate the man whose 70-hour a week efforts mean we can almost afford her iTunes habit.
Trust me, if there is a single synapse firing anywhere in her consciousness that is not carrying critical data as to whether the boys in One Direction prefer vegetarians or blondes, she is almost certainly dreaming up the biggest Father's Day celebration since ever.
In fact, the more I think about it, nothing could be more unnecessary than reminding these bursting-with-appreciation teenagers that tomorrow is Father's Day. It would be like reminding them that there are strawberry frosted Pop Tarts in the pantry.
Still, just to be safe, I will give the boy a heads up. "There are strawberry frosted Pop Tarts in the pantry," I say. "And tomorrow is Father's Day. I'm pretty sure."
Turns out he already has a plan: "Just think of something and then buy it for us," he says. Also, we are out of Pop Tarts.
It is the same tone of voice you might use to say "the directions are on the box" to someone who has just asked you how to make a cake.
Not that there will be cake.
from the archives of really lame tributes: Happy Father's Day, unless it was yesterday...
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Originally published 4/9/12
When I asked the kids last week about coloring Easter eggs they gave me the same look they use to demonstrate their enthusiasm for "Not Eating at Wendy's Night." It was clearly a no-go.
I took it as a sign that we could add Easter to the list of holidays we no longer had to pretend we cared about for the sake of the children.
But teenagers can be such sticklers for tradition. Which is how I found myself with 270 pounds of teen in my face first thing Sunday morning, demanding: "Where are the Easter baskets?"
"Where is my coffee?" I said, thinking maybe, just this once, I could trick them into doing something nice for me.
In the end of course, I made my own coffee and filled a basket with candy I'd been hiding behind a chair in the office.
Then we made Peep and Tonics with the neighbors, set the teenagers loose on the little kids in a Hunger Games-inspired egg hunt and feasted on everything that could be baked, grilled and topped with a marshmallow chick.
Just like our parents did.
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Replace acne cream with furniture polish.
Pretend to have just discovered a $20 bill in the laundry you asked them to fold two hours ago.
Hide the television remote under the pile of wet towels on the bathroom floor and demand that they pick them up immediately.
Hide their cell phones in plain sight on the kitchen table. Repeat the rule about not eating anywhere except at the kitchen table.
Pretend to have run into a group of their friends at the grocery store. Say, "such nice kids."
Set their alarm clocks for morning.
Download episodes of Schoolhouse Rock onto their iPods.
Create a fake press release announcing the switch to a year-round school schedule.
Change their Facebook status to "Hanging out with my Mom."
Pretend to read from a newspaper story describing a recall of Axe products after it is discovered that the popular line of men's grooming supplies contains a chemical compound that actually repels sexual attraction in teenage girls.
Leave a fake grocery list out on the counter that includes every variety of Pop-Tart.
Call them from the grocery store and say, "tell me again what kind of Pop-Tarts you like?"
Pretend to have just volunteered to speak to their Health class.
Imply that you have hidden Pop-Tarts in the garage.
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The sweaters known as "Roadkill" and "First Class" are making their way south by air, as seen on the GPS-style tracking map below. Still no word on the Sweaters to Be Named Later.
The Executive, seen below admiring the sweater she has pledged to wear in first class, among other fashionable places, has not yet submitted her entry. There are rumors that Team Executive sought the time extension as a ploy to force Team Kamikaze to wear their sweaters out-of-season, in the mistaken belief that there is even such a thing in the Midwest, where the Christmas sweater is a year-round wardrobe staple.
Teen Executive, seen below wearing the sweater known as "Roadkill" and demonstrating the unshakeably blasé teen composure that could put her team over the top.
Follow the thread: The Christmas Sweater Throwdown, Part 1