Wednesday, November 12, 2008


The stupid train wouldn’t work. As a child, my grandmother had a Christmas Train that went around her tree. I spent hours playing with it, imagining all the people in the houses, eating dinner, hanging stockings, etc. So, when I saw that Linens N Things had Lionel trains discounted, I bought one. No returns or exchanges, you know, since LNT is defunct, but they assured me I could contact the manufacturer for help if the train had a problem.
It did.
I set it up, made sure the track fit together tightly, plugged the track into the wall and rejoiced when lights turned on. But it wouldn’t go. I tried the remote again and again, changing angles, swearing at it, no longer filled with Holiday Cheer. Santa waving at me from the caboose filled me with panic. Thoughts of disappointed children, myself included, drove me to look up Lionel “service stations” online. The nearest one would take about an hour drive time. An hour? Like I’ve got a spare hour to waste on a train. I decided I needed a closer solution.
I tried Ace Hardware. Whenever I have any sort of problem, I try Ace Hardware. They don’t like it so much when it’s a personal problem, but they’re great at home improvement advice. This time, Retired Expert Number 1 explained that they didn’t stock the part he thought I needed, a micro-light, but he gave me directions to 2 different hobby shops specializing in trains. I love Ace. Even if they won’t babysit.
Returning home, I fiddled with the train some more. All the lights appeared to be on. In sheer frustration, I pulled apart the remote. I removed the batteries and stared at them for a long time, hoping I could channel some sort of mechanical intelligence I lacked. And I did. While staring at the brand-new batteries, I read the word “rechargeable.” Oh. That means they come uncharged. Which means that all the angle adjusting in the world wouldn’t make the remote work.
Why didn’t I become an engineer? I’m brilliant at this stuff.
After pirating some batteries from another toy, I’m happy to report that the train works just fine. Santa says, “Merry Christmas”, bells whistle, music plays, and it goes around at a break-neck pace. And no one in my house has noticed the now-silent other toy, the one that sacrificed its batteries. Which makes me wonder why I keep buying noisy toys.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Soup weather. Tonight we had carrot soup, homemade wheat bread with homemade jam (love that bread machine), pomegranate seeds (which only one child ate without threatening to throw up) and pumpkin cookies (no one threatened to puke over those). Not only have our Beta Carotene levels topped off, but I feel all domestic and peaceful. I also have the Christmas cards labeled and waiting for a personal note or group letter, depending on how clever I’m feeling (not very, it seems) and I think I could cheerfully hibernate until Spring Thaw.
Except we don’t do that, do we? Now begins the Season of Shopping. My oldest wants a Moon Chair, whatever that is, and the middle one wants a real fake cat, a battery operated pettable toy that responds to your touch. I wonder if it will respond the way normal cats do, i.e., by scratching her hand and then leaving in a huff. The youngest hasn’t made up her mind, but she did manage to circle every single item in the toy catalog, including the Ipod and the cell phones. Yah, that’ll happen. “Here, 3 year old. Santa bought you an Ipod. Have fun with it and I trust you not to blow out your ear drums.”
Hal wants memories of when I was young. Gee, what’s he saying? I thought about buying a bunch of clothe diapers and pins, but then thought he might actually use them. Then I thought about dressing up in one of the outfits I wore in the early ‘80’s, but didn’t want to ruin his image of me. I finally decided to buy him the complete series of 21 Jump Street. Hope he doesn’t read this.
I’m thinking if Santa were really smart, he’d give us money in our 401K (a friend started calling them 201K's) and a get-out-of-your-mortgage-free card. I’d also take a decent pair of slippers, ones without pigs or cows on them. Hate being reminded, you know.