Kayla and Walter rang in the New Year with sparkler's provided by our dear friends Craig and Rena Slama. Their party is always the most fun, and we've been going every New Year's Eve since we moved here, with a couple of exceptions when we were out of town. They are the parents of one of Granger's elementary school best friends, Patrick.
Kayla and Walter think they've died and gone to heaven. Mom's letting them roast marshmallows over the fireplace. Kayla cooks them slowly and evenly. Walter either barely warms them or does it the flame-all-around way. Whatever the method, the warm gooey mess is soon all over their faces, hands and -- of course -- the carpet.
We enjoyed decorating the tree with beautiful snowflakes, angels and other ornaments embroidered by Grammie. She sent us a whole bunch of these beautiful designs last year, and we'll look forward to decorating with them every Christmas. Walter got to put up the first one.
Kayla told Santa she wants two things for Christmas.
A homework kit. To do her homework with. I think this is a suggestion her teacher made to help her be more organized, not realizing that by suggesting we bring One More Thing into our lives we would actually be swallowed by the Sea O' Clutter.
And a dog.
My heart rolled over inside when I heard this. I want a dog, too. I actually want one very specific hairy, goofy, yappy, annoying, cuddly black dog who sleeps on his back and likes to get under the covers with me. But that dog got run over by a car three weeks ago. Santa, can you bring us Jack back, please?
Kayla insists there's nothing else she wants.
Granger wants the XBox 360, but I can't see myself investing in yet another game console. Don't we play enough games, IM enough, chat on MySpace enough? Do we really need another interactive device? Oh yeah and it costs $300 and that is without any games.
OK then, Mom, he said. Then a dog. I want a dog.
Video game console or dog. Santa? Help.
Everything inside me tells me it's not a great idea to get a puppy on Christmas. (Not that we'd be getting a puppy -- I want a dog at least a couple of years old, housetrained. We'll rescue one if we can find one.) But everything inside me tells me that this family, this poor sad broken little family needs a dog to help it feel better.
Someone with a short stubby tail to wag and ears to stand up tall. A turned little face and hopefully the ability to smile with a real toothy smile -- just like Jack had. If she could have hindquarters that shift as she rockets around the park, that would help, too. It would make me miss my Jack more than ever but it always made me laugh, too.
We had a blast Sunday evening singing Christmas carols with some friends. We went to Eucalyptus Street in San Bruno, an amazing neighborhood with lights that can surely be seen from outer space. We serenaded the long line of cars that went up the street, but the best view by far was had by parking and walking the few blocks of this amazing street.
Shopping ... or sleeping. That was my choice this evening -- wrap things up and take off for home and bed or stay at the office for a little private clicking. I clicked.
As I've shopped, I have found many secrets. Let me fill you in on a few before I make this mousepad into a pillow and pass out for the night. I'll be adding shopping tips as they come up, so stay tuned.
Never pay for shipping. Not at this time of year, not ever. If you want something, you can find it at a place that will ship it to you for free. If it's not advertised on the web site, call the 800 number and ask for a coupon for free shipping. If the store won't budge, find the item somewhere else.
Other options include having it shipped to a retail outlet near you (most do it for free); you'll just buzz in and pick it up.
Always use a coupon. All the places you shop regularly will be sending out coupons this month. If you get catalogs at home, they're often included. If you find something you want and don't have a coupon, do this: Go to google.com and type in "store name" coupon. A bunch of sites will show up -- and several paid listings -- but scroll down and find one that sounds good.
Open it in a new window (right click and choose "open in a new window") so your search results won't disappear. I like couponcabin.com as they seem to be the most up to date. You can usually find something like $10 off $100 purchase or 10% off something. (Free shipping coupons show up here, too.)
Don't get fooled by things like "thousands of items 30% off" because that's almost certainly not going to be anything that you haven't seen on the site already. Remember, you will shop first THEN look for a coupon. You are looking for codes, not links. Expiration dates are usually listed, but if not you'll have to do a little trial and error in the shopping cart and see what works.
Comparison shop. Find the item you like and note down its model number. Open a new browser window and google the item, including the model number. Up will come many other places that sell the same items, including some with Free Shipping or discounts!
Some people use price comparison sites. I find my own digging to be more rewarding, but if you have a site you like for this, send it to me -- I'd love to give it a whirl.
If this all sounds like too much work, email me and I'll find you a code (I'm fast after years of experience). It's time consuming but worth it.
We enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving Feast this morning in Walter's kindergarten class. We had everything you can imagine. We brought pumpkin cookies, which everyone loved. (Thanks to Aunt Cort for the recipe!!)
I had a blast last night trick-or-treating with Kayla and Walter -- they ran their little legs off through the neighborhood while we stood back and giggled about how cute they were. Kayla was routinely reminding Walter to use the sidewalks, but neither could resist cutting across some of the big lawns to see what treat was behind each door.
Granger, in the meantime, had me latex on some devil's horns, and had gone out with his buddies to "do something." He had one of my pillowcases in his hand, which clued me in to the fact that they were going to do a little tricking-or-treating (hopefully just treating), but when he came home exhausted a little after 10 he didn't have much loot in the bag.
Walter and Kayla called it quits when their bags were too heavy for them to carry comfortably. They said they'd hit 10 more houses, but we encouraged a few "bonus houses" that were well-lit and on the way home.
Kayla dressed up like a pink poodle -- we got the idea from one of my all-time favorite books, Go Dog, Go!