Blame Jimmy Carter If Your Child Is Allergic To Peanuts

jimmy-carter-picture.jpgWhat ever happened to the days when kids weren’t allergic to anything? It wasn’t that long ago, was it? The only memory of allergies I have growing up as the undisputed undefeated fastest kid in Saddlewood Elementary School not to mention habitual first or second teammate picked on dodge ball days in gym class and, most importantly, producer of the girlfriend repellent pheromone was when in third grade Mike Dickinson didn’t want to participate in Arts and Crafts Time so he gnawed on the back of his hand and claimed he was allergic to felt.

It seems kids nowadays though are allergic to everything; especially peanuts. Back in the 70’s we (that would be everyone but me) used to have what were called “Skippy Parties” in the woods behind the school, but now if it wasn’t bad enough that we have scour the ingredients labels of the snacks we send to school with Jack everyday for peanuts or peanut oils, we just found out as a preventive measure the district is removing any reference to George Washington Carver from the curriculum.

Even though scientists are at a loss to explain to the increased prevalence of peanut allergies in this generation of children, I for one place the blame squarely on our 39th President Liberal Democrat Jimmy Carter. “Why Jimmy Carter?” you may ask, to which I will simply reply, “Peanut Farmer.”

Fact: Did you know that that the first case of peanut allergies wasn’t reported in the United States until 1981; the year after Carter’s term ended? (This is not a fact) Fact: Reported cases of peanut allergies in children of parents who were born during the Carter era is 100 times higher than children of parents who were born while a Republican President held office. (This number is not based on legitimate research) Still don’t believe me? (You shouldn’t)

The most startling fact is that not a single case of peanut allergies has occurred in children whose parents hold conservative political views or are registered republican voters. This has led many experts to deduce that peanut allergies are merely a physical manifestation of children rejecting the liberal views of their parents. Itching and Redness just means that your child wants you to stop supporting same sex unions and gay marriages. Shortness of Breath is your child’s way of saying that your stance on immigration is a threat to traditional American customs and values. Full blown anaphylactic shock and you better get your ass behind the President’s War on Terror.

Until recently the only allergy we’ve had to manage with the boys was a strawberry allergy with Jack that was diagnosed when he was an infant. After he broke out in massive hives while eating a jar of Strawberry Apple Banana Baby Food we were paranoid about letting anything containing Strawberries even get close to him. All ingredient labels were checked thoroughly before an item was purchased. He was not allowed to play with Strawberry Shortcake or any of her friends including Angel Cake, Ginger Snap and Coco Calypso while over his friend Paige’s house. We didn’t even allow him to listen to The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour Album, well at least not side two anyway. The doctor said that he would probably outgrow this allergy by the time he was five, and though he did outgrow it another far more serious allergy took its place; coincidentally enough developing on his fifth birthday.

While helping me blow up balloons for his party he experienced a sudden and unprecedented reaction that caused his eyes to swell up and his lips to puff worse than Jessica Simpson’s in the recovery room of a Hollywood Collagen Clinic. After bringing him to the allergist then to have his blood drawn and tested the results came back that he is highly-allergic to latex. Now, my initial reaction was that I know of three things that are made of latex 1) Balloons – which meant I had to keep him away from clowns and loans that do not fully amortize over the term of the note 2) Gloves –since he’s still 35 years away from his first prostate exam I figured this was low risk 3) Condoms – To which I’m handling by playing a loop of me saying “The best form of birth control is abstinence” while he’s asleep. But did you know that more than entertainers for kid’s parties, proctologists and those who practice safe sex have to worry about latex allergies?

Latex, it turns out, is in practically everything. The rubber bands we use to secure the cabinets so Adam doesn’t dump the garbage on the kitchen floor or drink a Resolve Carpet Cleaner Cocktail – Latex. The hundreds of Spiderman, Batman, and Superman Band-aids in the upstairs’ medicine cabinet – Latex. The nipples for Adam’s baby bottles – Latex. Apparently human nipples have trace amounts of latex in them as well. Adhesive tape, diapers, garden hoses and pencil erasers – Latex. Even shoe soles and video game joysticks have latex in them. We are living in a Latex World and that includes Inflatable Girls and since my son’s allergic to a Latex World I got rid of my Inflatable Girl.

We briefly considered sealing him in a protective and sterile bubble, like John Travolta when he portrayed David Vetter in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble AND when he converted to Scientology, but it turns out both the protective bubble and E-Meters are made out of Latex. With complete isolation out of the question and our copy of Dianetics already a week overdue, the best we can do is inform the school of Jack’s allergy, rid the house of as much Latex as we can and teach Jack what he can and can’t come into contact with.

We even carry an Epi-Pen with us now in case Jack has an extreme reaction to Latex and goes into Anaphylactic shock. Unfortunately, Jack thinks that anytime he touches latex though we’re going to jam a needle into him, like John Travolta when he jabs Uma Thurman with an adrenaline shot directly to her heart in the movie Pulp Fiction OR when she eventually converts to Scientology.

I can’t help but think I’m somehow to blame for his latex allergy though. I mean, I did vote for Bill Clinton in both 1992 and 1996.

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My Favorite Ben10 Alien Is Named Codpiece

clockwork.jpegThere’s an old expression that I may have just made up that suggests when going to the ballet one should not sit too close to the stage as it will flaw the delicate illusion. For proof of this axiom’s validity one need look no further than my front row seat to a 2006 performance of Swan Lake by the Mariinsky Ballet Company; a seat in which I was close enough to see the nicotine stains on Princess Odette’s fingers and to also have my plastic wine glass of cabernet sauvignon knocked out of my hand by Prince Siegfried’s bulging codpiece. Hey Victor Baranov, if you’re reading this you owe me $8 for the wine and $13.25 for the dry cleaning bill. Send me $20 and we can call it even. That’s 490 Rubles if you’re too busy reinforcing your jockstrap to do the conversion comrade.

If you needed another example of how being too close to a live performance can destroy the illusion and make suspending disbelief exceedingly difficult I submit for your approval the spectacle that was WWE Smackdown Wrestling that Jack and I attended on Wednesday night. Though we were sitting in Section 122 Row Q and easily 150 feet away from the ring, we could still see the steroid needle marks on the upper thigh of Batista and the gap big enough to drive Victor Baranov’s codpiece through between Big Daddy V’s hand and Kane’s head each time a stage punch was thrown. Last time I saw hits that fake they were on a Milli Vanilli album.

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The best part of the show was when the wrestlers were either entering or leaving the ring and had to walk just inches from insult-hurling riled-up inebriated fans holding cardboard signs that read, “Edge Sux!” and “The Animul is Awesume!” and my favorite, “Kane is Abel to Kick Yer Ass!”Nothing brings a father and son together quite like watching a 7 ft 3 in 420lb pigeon-toed Indian behemoth nicknamed The Punjabi Nightmare jaw it up with a 5 ft 6 in 137lb cross-eyed convenient store clerk nicknamed Slim Jim.

Sure, most of the night Jack was more interested in the glossy program guide than the actual matches, it took multiple Mountain Dews to get him to stay awake until 11:00, the guy in the Buffalo Bills winter coat next to us smelled like whiskey and garlic, and the show lacked the pageantry, flamboyance and pyrotechnics of a televised event but overall I think Jack had a good time even when he cried during the National Anthem because he said the American flag looked lonely. (A poignant observation I thought of our country’s foreign policy and perception on the international stage)

Now, lest you think a ticket to watch sweaty grown men in spandex, or Mandex (copyright pending), grapple and slam each other for three hours was Jack’s only present he did also receive, among other things, the highly-coveted Omnitrix from his cartoon crush du jour: Ben10.

Ben10 is a Cartoon Network creation about a 10-year old boy named Ben Tennyson who finds a watch-like device called an Omnitrix that allows him to transform into a variety of Alien life forms each with their own unique powers. From what I can determine the show is an animated social commentary about Multiple Personality Disorder and based loosely on Flora Rheta Schreiber’s book Sybil. I think Sally Field may do the voice of Ben, and if she doesn’t she should.

To compliment the Omnitrix Jack also received the rest of the Ben10 Alien Action Figures he didn’t already possess. Inaccuracy Alert!!! Since my familiarity with these Ben10 characters comes from what Jack tells me while gnawing on a cheese stick or mumbles in his sleep I can’t guarantee the following alien descriptions are even close to correct.

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FourArms: Built for power instead of speed FourArms has four arms, four eyes and like a cow, four stomachs. He is named FourArms because if he was named FourEyes he would have to look like a member of my high school chess team. (Hey listen Grady Booth, if you didn’t want the nickname you could have always gotten contact lenses.)

Diamondhead: As his name suggests Diamondhead is made from diamonds, is nearly invulnerable and smells like Elizabeth Taylor. Like being a member of my high school chess team, his body discourages physical contact. (Seriously Grady, coke-bottle lenses and chess team captain not to mention you had a full beard in the 11th grade? Welcome to Virgintown, Population: Us)

GhostFreak: Resembling a wraith-like genie, GhostFreak is part of a hive mind with a vast genetic memory that remembers everything, much like girlfriends and wives. GhostFreak also has an abnormal attraction to Jennifer Love Hewitt especially in light of her recent tabloid bathing suit photos.

Grey Matter: From the planet Galvan, Grey Matter is a diminutive grey-skinned frog-like being with bulging eyes related to Steve Buscemi on his mother’s side.

Heatblast: From the planet Pyronite, Heatblast is magma-based creature but only while he’s underground. Once on the surface he becomes a lava-based creature. (Thank you Mr. Pulver, 8th grade Earth Science teacher extraordinaire) His primary trait is his control over fire which includes bolts of flame, heat radiation and the final two-minutes of The Apprentice.

Ripjaws: Part alligator, part eel, part anglerfish, and part leech, Ripjaws greatest strength is as a Used Car salesman.

Stinkfly: Meant to resemble a combination of a dragonfly, a cricket, and praying mantis Stinkfly can not only fly as his name suggests but can also can excrete high-pressure streams of liquids that can range from a flammable toxin to an immobilizing jelly; like genital herpes only more fun.

Upgrade: Named after the Beyoncé song, Upgrade comes standard with Windows Vista.

Wildmutt: A cross between a lion and a gorilla, Wildmutt is unable to speak in any understandable fashion, instead relying on snarls and growls. Because of these traits Wildmutt was recruited as a pledge candidate by the Delta Tau Chi House during their rush week.

XLR8 – His name suggests that he might be a rapper on the Death Row Record Label, but he actually just works in the Vanity License Plate Division of the DMV.

Word has it that fans can go to the Ben10 website to cast their ballot for a new alien to be added to the Omnitrix. Please go a to the Ben10 website today…

Codpiece needs your vote.

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More Trash Than You Can Shove Into George Bush’s Cowboy Hat

bulldozer1.jpgWell another Christmas has come and gone here at the Gathen residence and yet again my theory that those who celebrate Hanukkah (I believe it is those of the Jewish faith) have got the right idea. Now, admittedly my working knowledge of Judaism comes from Adam Sandler songs, a viewing of Fiddler on the Roof in 11th grade and getting to chapter 14 in Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, but let me just say that Christianity could learn a thing or two from the tradition of spreading out holiday gift giving over a well-paced 8 days versus cramming the entirety of it into a single holy day of snowflake wrapping paper, unnecessarily taped boxes, batteries not included, choking hazard, lead paint recall noise noise noise.

Our entire downstairs has become a tribute to good old fashion American gluttony and waste production; and because at 14 months old Adam is still in what pediatricians and infant experts (sometimes referred to as people without children) refer to as the Natural Disaster Stage we have been forced to move all gifts not intended for Adam to dry land (stacked on tables, balanced on counter tops, hidden behind a wall of sandbags piled in the foyer) in defense against his unforgiving flood of toddlerism.

bush_cowboy-hat.jpgAlso, we have a 40 gallon garbage container outside our home; this is equivalent to the size of President Bush’s cowboy hats. Normally, we only fill it half-way each week before it’s rummaged through by paparazzi then picked up from our curb by a waste removal truck, but yesterday alone produced enough refuse to overflow it. Kathleen and I are considering asking Jack to stand on top of the bags to compress them and make room for more, but we think that there might be one of those insatiable slimy creatures that nearly eats Luke Skywalker in the trash compactor on the Death Star lurking in it. If I remember correctly it’s either called a Dianoga or George Lucas.

This doesn’t even take into account the precarious tower of flattened boxes and packaging in the dining room. We’re debating whether it will be easier to open our own cardboard recycling plant rather than breaking the boxes down and lugging them to the curb. Another option is to make furniture out of them.

Regrettably and mercifully, I must cut this post short to introduce our Redneck, White Trash, Blue Collar (can’t get more Patriotic than that) ancestry to Jack by bringing him to WWE Wrestling tonight. The pyrotechnics, fake blood and pulled punches begin at 7:30 but I understand there’s a “Make Your Own Misspelled Sign” Workshop starting at 6:30.

Nock’em Ded Undertacker!

All I Need Is This Chair

December 16th – December 22nd

“And that’s it and that’s the only thing I need, is this. I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that’s all I need. And that’s all I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one – I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. And this. And that’s all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair.”

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Madam I’m Adam: 8 Questions with a Toddler

adam1.jpgA clichéd bell rings as I step out of the cold and into the apple pie and Monte Cristo warmth of the near empty diner. The resonating starkness of the bell against the otherwise stillness of the dimly lit room is reminiscent of the last seconds of the Sopranos finale and I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was James Gandolfini in the corner booth glancing up from his copy of The Catcher in the Rye. Adam’s swaddled in a tatty wool turtle neck and has a fleece hat pulled down low on his eyes with the earflap extenders velcroed tightly under his chin. A dog-eared copy of the Salinger classic rests in one his slightly trembling hands while the other hand grips a full mug of black coffee; the uniformed waitress retreating from the table implies it’s a mug that has just been warmed up.

As I stomp my feet on the damp rug and brush the melting dusting of snow from the shoulders of my jacket Adam acknowledges my arrival and motions for to me join him at the table. I wend and wind my way through tightly grouped sections of tables and chairs he flags the waitress with a peace signal and a hoarse call of her name, Maggie, and she smiles and begins to pour another cup of coffee. The closer I get to the table it’s obvious that he’s sick, his skin is pallid in the glow of interrogation style lamp dangling over the center of the table and his eyes have a glassy sadness that sometimes accompanies illness. Sitting down across from him on the cracked vinyl bench Maggie arrives and places a mug of coffee and a side plate with a handful of creamers in front of me. She asks Adam in flirtatious whisper if he needs anything else and he grins and says gently, “No thanks Maggie. I think we’re OK for now.”

Over the phone Adam explained he had gotten tagged for an 8 Question meme by Ella over at Momisodes earlier in the week and with Christmas only a few days away it had to get done tonight or it would have to wait until after the Holidays. On short notice I agreed to meet him at the only place still open at this ungodly hour and so now here we sit, the only two patrons in a corner diner, a sudden flurry of snow ghosting against the window.

You look pale, are you sick?

Double ear infection. It started out as a sinus infection that somehow got into my ears. How the hell does a sinus infection get into your ears? I’m swallowing more drugs than a Columbian mule with a kilo of cocaine and a 12-pack of condoms. Mommy and Daddy are even putting antibiotics in my bottle at night, tastes like an amoxicillin Fribble. I’m drinking it, but 9 times out of 10 it’s coming right back up. I try not to laugh but watching my Daddy trying to figure out the best way to get 8 oz of warm whole milk medicinal vomit off the attic door is pretty funny. Wait, does this count as one of the questions?

Do you want it to?

Sure, why not?

I see you’re reading Catcher in the Rye. What else are you reading right now?

For a few weeks now I haven’t been able to put down a Squeeze and Squeak Book called Bunny’s Hungry. Absolutely brilliant. It’s about this Bunny who is hungry and goes around to other animals to get something to eat, but decides that what they are eating is not what he should be eating. He needs to find the food that’s right for him. I’m telling you this book’s assertion that each of us goes through a journey in life to satisfy our urges, our hungers and our dreams is truly profound and the squeaky bunny embedded in the cover really drives home the message. Besides, the heavy cardboard binding and pages are delicious.

You mean you eat the book?

Well, no, not technically. I don’t so much eat it as much as I gnaw on it. There are few things I won’t immediately start chewing on once I can get my hands on them. Books, blocks, action figures, shoes, remote controls, deltoid muscles…it’s just my way of determining whether I like something or not.

Besides chewing on things, what else are you doing these days?

Climbing. I’m doing a lot of climbing lately. Mostly on the couches and the ottoman, but if someone leaves their dining room chair out even a few inches I drop whatever I’m doing and go for it. Opportunities like that don’t come along everyday. Someone leaves a chair out, you don’t ask questions. You climb, damn it you climb and you don’t stop climbing until you’re on the table doing your Richard Dreyfuss impersonation with a plate of mashed potatoes.

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You mentioned earlier that your parents put your medicine in your bottle. I thought you were breast fed?

Right around my first birthday my Mom got pneumonia and the medicine the doctor put her on would have made me sick if I continued to nurse so I had to quit cold turkey. I tried the Nippleret Patch to help with the cravings but I think they may have been just stripper pasties because even after a few days I was still Jonesing pretty bad for a little suckle. It took a while but I eventually made the switch from boob to bottle and to tell you the truth the bottle gives me so much more freedom to move around and do things while I’m drinking. I even ask for it by name when I want a snack or before I go to bed for the night, “Baba….Baba….”

Speaking of which, besides “Baba” are there any other words you know and use?

Mama’s a big one for me. I use that all the time. Before I learned how to say Dada I was calling my father Maba pretty regularly. I think it may be a combination of Mama and Baba because he comes in a close third after those two, but a week or two ago I started saying Dada so Maba isn’t even in the rotation anymore. I’ve also been experimenting with new sounds lately. L’s and G’s are my trendy picks this week, but I’m thinking of trying on my J’s and K’s next week

So you’re really finding your voice?

And it’s about time. I think we’ll all be happier once I can articulate what I want instead of screaming like an air raid siren until I’m red in the face. I have gotten better at pointing and grunting at things and I can even shake my head no when Mommy or Daddy says, “This? This? This? Is this what you want? This? This?” I usually just say No to everything just to be a pain in the ass though.

Tell me something about yourself that people might not know.

I love brooms, actually I love anything with a long handle. Brooms, mops, rakes, vacuum extensions, I could play with them for hours. I swept up my own clippings at my first haircut for Christ’s Sake. I wouldn’t say I was obsessed or anything but putting me in the same room with a Oreck Upright is like an after hours party in Paris Hilton’s Hotel room, something’s getting sucked.

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Just then Maggie delivered the check to the table and giggled at Adam’s ribald analogy. Adam winked at her then dropped a $20 on a $4.93 check, picked up his copy of the Catcher in the Rye, put it in his mouth and headed towards the door. I followed behind him and as he opened the door the bell sounded again, this time signaling our departure. Outside the diner he coughed in the cold air as flakes of snow clung to his hat and sweater.

“Did you get enough for the post?” he said between coughs. I told him I had more than enough and with that we shook hands and I watched him walk away, hands jammed deep into his front pockets. Floating from the puddle of one street lamp to the next he passed a garbage can with a broken broom handle masting from the center. He stopped and stared at the pole and then back at me. He shrugged to indicate that he knew I understood then drew the handle from the can, like Excalibur from the rock, and disappeared into the night.

Boys Have A Penis, Girls Have a Pajama

6gadget2.jpgJack’s working theory of the known universe is an adapted version of Copernican Heliocentrism called Copernican Phalliocentrism in which everything revolves around his penis; in other words his penis is the center of the universe.

In his defense this is a phase that all heterogametic humans cursed with that damned Y sex chromosome go through in their lives starting at the moment of conception, lasting until they develop some form of erectile dysfunction and start playing homoerotic acoustic jam sessions in abandoned road houses with other males suffering from ED then continuing right up until their final breath. But like I said it’s just a phase. (Which reminds me, I’m looking for a flaccid upright bass player and a keyboardist experienced with a penis pump. Prior knowledge of Elvis Presley tunes is required. If anyone is interested you can contact me through the website.)

Unlike my sterile upbringing in which the proper medically correct term of penis was euphemistically replaced with sanitary G-rated versions like Tootie, and to a lesser extent Blair, Jo and Natalie, we chose not to use baby-talk or alternative terms with Jack when it came to bodily functions or private body parts; mostly because saying things like, “Jack, do you need to make a wee-wee with your pee-pee on the potty?” made me feel like a French Bathroom Attendant.

Early on in the learning process there were times when he struggled to correctly say the words we’d taught him; like when he called (and incidentally still calls) his testicles “tescalators” or when he’d say, “Boys have a penis, girls have a pajama.” These however were just unintentional transpositions and portmanteaus that are to be expected I suppose when using anatomically correct language with a child who called Santa “Hair Net” until he was 3 years old. Mixed up words notwithstanding, Jack’s Phalliocentric love affair with his own genitals began at a very young age.

Even before he was out of diapers we would often find him with his hands Al Bundied down the front of his pampers either rooting for truffles or holding up westbound traffic on the Verrazano Bridge digging around for toll money. Initially we used the time-honored “Wakey Wakey Hands off Snakey” expression as our bell of Pavlovian response to condition him to extract his fumbling hands from the depths of his nether regions whenever we said it to him. Over time though, the ringing bell de-evolved into a simple two-word command, “Jack. Hands.”

Last week one morning when I came home from the gym and was about to head upstairs to get ready for work I passed Jack who was sitting on the couch watching TV with both arms buried elbow deep down the front of his pants. Reactively I said to him, “Jack. Hands.” to which he inched his arms even further into his underwear.

“Jack please take your hands out of your pants.”

“Daddy I can’t.”

“Why can’t you?”

And here is where for the first time Jack said something that disgusted, impressed and fascinated me at the same time. Hands still moving around like he had a Rubik’s cube stashed under his tescalators or was text messaging his lower intestine he looked up at me and said, “I’m using my penis as a tool to scratch my butt.”

As a father of two boys you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have one of them somehow using his penis as a tool to scratch his butt. I changed him when he was in diapers and still bathe him on a semi-regular basis so I’m familiar with the tool he was working with and I honestly cannot figure out how he could use it to scratch his butt.

What type of Ron Popeil Swiss Army Knife Multiuse Kitchen Utensil is he smuggling around in those Spiderman Boxer Briefs of his and what else does this thing do? Does it slice, does it dice, can it cut a tin can in half and still be sharp enough to make julienne fries?

I suppose the truth is that I’m just jealous, but those are just the facts of life I guess. One day you can Go-Go Gadget your genitalia and the next you’re trying fill out the rhythm section of your homoerotic roadhouse cover band.

Speaking of which, I have rehearsal in a few minutes. Those Elvis covers aren’t easy, it takes a lot to get them right.

Why We Chain Emmanuel Lewis To Our Christmas Tree Stand

img_0581.jpgGrowing up my family was no different from any other family in the traditions we practiced during the Christmas Season. There was the custom of waiting until the last possible second to get a Christmas Tree which usually resulted in a tree either shaped like an open beach umbrella or a portabella mushroom. This was later replaced by the spurious efficiency of an artificial tree we kept stored between January and November under the stairs like a coniferous Wes Craven movie. The color-coded branches and their corresponding slots in the trunk faded quickly though and my teenage years are filled with the memories of poorly constructed trees that looked like a Spy vs. Spy comic strip.

Another tradition was receiving new pajamas from Mom and Dad on Christmas Eve to wear in anticipation of Santa’s arrival that night and for opening gifts the next morning. The pajamas were always the same; one-piece front zipper footie pajama’s with non-skid soles and our names decaled above the heart in case we developed somnambulism and amnesia during the night and wandered from the house; the pajama custom was one that was observed even after we went away to college much to the dismay of my college roommate. Finally, my favorite Gathen family tradition was the Christmas Morning Counting of the Gifts wherein each child would meticulously count the number of presents he or she received, stack the empty boxes and measure the height, calculate the current market value of each gift then feed the results into a supercomputer which ran an algorithm designed only to calculate which of us our parents loved more.

Now as a parent myself I’m able to let my own children ponder which of them I love more while we not only observe some of the same traditions I did when I was their age, but establish some cherished customs of our own that they might someday share with their own children; or at least with their college roommates.

Our Christmas Tree is the finest Fraser Fir afflicted with elephantitis of the trunk a $10-off coupon, off-season Midway Carney and big box home improvement store has to offer. Sure it drinks more than Mel “Sugar Tits” Gibson and drops more needles than a one-armed heroin addict but she’s a real beaut isn’t she?

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You may think the 38th Parallel that delineates the opulence of the upper crust from the impoverished branches below is intended to prevent our 14 month old from eating dozens of ornaments, hook and all, and pooping out paper clips, but the truth is that we were only able to decorate ½ the tree before we got bored with the whole process. What we are left with though is a pear-shaped figure garishly embellished with glitter, sequins and glitz from the middle up and completely bare from the middle down; sort of like Elton John backstage after a show on Fire Island.

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This is the second consecutive year we’ve hired Emmanuel Lewis for the entire month of December, dressed him in a Santa Claus costume and chained him to the tree stand. With syndications and residuals from Webster at an all time low and job offers almost non-existent he comes relatively cheap, eats very little and is great with the boys.

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Here Adam kicks out of a pin attempt during a playful wrestling match with Emmanuel. Adam eventually won the match by submission after getting Emmanuel into a Camel Clutch.

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One of the most revered traditions in our house is setting up our Nativity Scene. Lights, please. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” All the major players are represented in our scene from the Baby Jesus to Mary and Joseph to the three wise men, however our overall interpretation differs slightly from the Church’s.

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Across the roof of the manger we lay as a sacrificial gift the archetypal symbol of Pagan Hedonism, a slaughtered Plush Broadway Musical Singing Goat Hand Puppet.

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We have also chosen to include the Four Snowmen of the Apocalypse joined hand to hand in a reverse Whoville Fah who for-aze! Dah who dor-aze! circle around their gift of a scented homeopathic candle; the fragrance of sacrilege.

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Another atypical addition to the scene is The Bag of Pooh. At exactly midnight on Christmas Eve as a sign of goodwill towards man and the belief that we all should love thy neighbor we remove the Bag of Pooh from the display, place it on Mr. Harry’ front porch next door, set the Bag of Pooh on fire then ring the doorbell and run back to our house. Watching Mr. Harry stomp on the flaming Pooh from behind our foyer curtain we are reminded how on Christmas Eve, for a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be.

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Finally, our wise men bring not only the gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Mir, but also the treasured gift of unlimited local and long distance calling.

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To add to the anticipation of the season, Jack uses a Dollar Store 24 Chocolate Days ‘til Christmas Countdown Calendar. Every morning he runs downstairs, finds the number that corresponds to that day’s date, then opens the cardboard flap to reveal a scrumptious treat made from the discarded wrapper scrapings of movie theater sold Kit Kats and Raisinets.

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What Holiday decor would be complete without the two consummate commercial symbols of the season; Santa Claus and his Reindeer and A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Of course, we’ve interpreted Jolly Old Saint Nick as a little old driver so lively and quick, who drank too much eggnog and is about to get sick. He’s not only lost control of his bowels but of his team while Dasher and Dancer are seconds away from giving that Charlie in the Box an antler enema.

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The scene we decided to recreate with our Charlie Brown Christmas ornaments was edited out of the final version shown on television, but a German bootleg version we got off Ebay includes the never before orgy scene after all the kids fix up Charlie Brown’s tree and belt out Hark the Herald Angel Sings. In our interpretation Linus and Snoopy are spooning and Charlie Brown is giving Lucy a Peanuts shower. Woodstock meanwhile keeps an eye out for the cops.

Those are just a few of the customs, traditional and non-traditional, we observe and hope to someday pass along to Jack and Adam. For tonight though Emmanuel Lewis is due to be fed and I still need to get zipped into my pajamas.