2013 Countdown to Christmas - Day 6 and 7!

For Day #6 I wanted to write a clue that Emma would get before Karl. He's been solving most of them, so I decided to stack the deck in her favor.

First things first, I needed some origami dollars. Behold, one disheveled anteater:


These little buggers (pun intended) were DIFFICULT! My folding was pretty inconsistent - a couple looked like anteaters (if you squinted) but the others just looked like aardvarks. Heh.

I was more than happy to attach them unceremoniously to an empty soda bottle using a rubber band:


Emma brought the bottle home from school this week and excitedly told me that this is the soda they drink in a web comic she likes but it's only sold up north and one of her friends had gifted her this bottle. (Sans soda, but still a nice gesture!

She set it right here on the bar next to these candles. As though it were decor. But then, she also knows her father, so the next day, in a panic, she said:

EMMA: Wait, where's my Faygo bottle?

ME: Right where you left it.

EMMA: Whew! Don't let Dad recycle it.

ME: Maybe you should move it for safe keeping.

It's still on the bar.

But when I spied it there Thursday night I knew I could write a clue for it, and that would give Emma an edge. I didn't know anything about this soda but my good friend G. Oogle sent me right to the Faygo website for research.


Emma texted me toward the end of school to see if she could go straight to Erin's house. It was a Friday and a really cold one, so it seemed unreasonable to ask her to walk home first just to solve the clue. My plan instead was to have them solve two clues on Saturday.

I woke Karl up this morning to get him to his 4-hour Saturday detention on time. It started as a simple 1 hour detention for missing a class. He does not pick up on social cues, including, in this case, an entire cafeteria of kids filing out to their next class. The janitor found him listening to music, alone, in the cafeteria and asked if he was supposed to be in class.

Yep, that happened.

His case worker later told me it was just a series of unfortunate miscommunications because they were in meetings and the teacher had no idea he was at school that day, so nobody knew to look for him. He missed an entire period and was disciplined with a one hour after-school detention.

Nobody told me.

When he failed to report to the one hour detention (because Mom did not text him to remind him, because Mom did not know anything about it) he was slapped with a two hour after-school detention.

Nobody told me.

When he failed to report to the two hour detention he was slapped with a three hour after-school detention.

Nobody told me.

You're getting the picture, right? Finally I got a voicemail from the Assistant Principal telling me that he would have to serve a 4-hour Saturday detention for failure to appear to any of the three previous detentions.

I called his case worker first, asking why she hadn't told me about the earlier detentions. She was as surprised as I was, because nobody had told her, either.

Then I called the Assistant Principal back.

ME: I will have Karl there for his Saturday detention, but why wasn't I told of the earlier detentions?

AP: We don't normally inform the parents unless they ask us to. We send a slip home with the child.

ME: It is well documented in Karl's IEP that he cannot be the only source of communication between the school and the parents. We must have back-up notification. His case worker wasn't informed either.

AP: (puzzled) Well I asked Karl to show you the papers. 

ME: I'm sure you did.

Really? I mean really? I have to tell her to let his case worker know about disciplinary stuff? This is news to her? Really? *sigh*

At least this gave me time to get the dollars folded and the Saturday clue written, since he wouldn't be home until noon.



The George Washington face shirts were really easy to fold. The ones with the ties were harder.

It was about 11:30 when Emma came to find me.

EMMA: Uh, Mom? I accidentally found the money today.

ME: You did? 

EMMA: Yeah, I'm making pizza rolls for lunch.

ME: OK, well I guess you can just sit out today's clue and let Karl solve it on his own.

EMMA: He'll solve it.

ME: You don't even know what it says!

EMMA: Yeah, but he's really good at solving them.

Aw. Poor girl. I was happier than ever that the first clue was something only she would know.

ME: What did you think of the origami today?

EMMA: What are they? Shirts?

ME: (offended) Yes! Of course they're shirts. Two of them even have ties!

EMMA: (shrugs) I like the animals better.

I take back the "poor girl" stuff. Sheesh!


KARL: Hmmm. 50 flavors. It could be ice cream, but this doesn't seem like a real flavor.

EMMA: I'm sure it probably is a real flavor, but I've never heard of it.

They checked the freezer.

Next they went to the breakfast room table, where Emma had her laptop.


EMMA: OK, how do you spell the name, Karl?

KARL: (looking at clue) F-E-I-G (looks up) No, it's E-N, not O-N, then S-O-N.

EMMA: Hey! I have no internet. Karl, are you sucking all the bandwidth?

KARL: (getting up) I'll go check my settings.

EMMA: (puzzled) But while you were gone we turned off your computer.

ME: Yeah, we had to. Whatever you were doing was causing none of us to have internet.

KARL: I turned the computer back on when I got home, and I have it set to always give me the bandwidth before Emma.

EMMA: Rude.

KARL: I usually have a restricter on at 75% though. (heads upstairs)

Emma and I just looked at each other and shook our heads. Karl is frighteningly good at computer stuff. 

Karl returned and sat back down.

KARL: Try it now. I had it set to 100%.

EMMA: So you were taking ALL the bandwidth?

KARL: All of it.

EMMA: Rude.

Emma peformed her search and then jumped up.

EMMA: Karl, it's Faygo! I have a Faygo bottle!

KARL: Wha...?

But she was already to the bottle.


KARL: What is that?

EMMA: It's the soda they drink in Homestuck.

ME: What is it? Home Suck?


ME: Got it.

I told them to grab their anteaters and pose for a victory shot.

ME: OK, ready? Smile and look right here at the camera. It's the big black thing in front of my face. Just look right here. Right at me. Ready?



Karl was up next for Clue #7. 


KARL: "A sleuthing tip from me to you, Solve each part of every clue! Today the first is black and chrome, Inside it gets quite hot, The second's used in baseball games, So line drives can be caught." Hmm. Black and chrome . . .

He walked to the kitchen and examined the oven, then looked at the clue again.

KARL: "line drives" - I don't know what those are. Hey Emma, I need you to Google something for me.

EMMA: Already on it. (reads from the screenIn baseball, a line drive is a type of batted ball, sharply hit, and on (or slightly above) a level trajectory.

KARL: (wanders back toward the oven while talking) OK, so this allows a line drive to be caught, so it must be some sort of baseball glove. I'm guessing she's referring to an oven mitt.




 Smart kid!

KARL: (on his way to the envelopes) Do I get to keep all four dollars or do I have to split them with Emma?

ME: You have to split them.

KARL: Aww.

Tune in tomorrow for Clue #8. We're putting up Christmas decorations today, so that will make for some new festive hiding spots!

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Day 5!

Well Karl was right. Apparently I will look for any excuse to fold stuff, because this morning, while getting out the dollars for today's clue, they just looked so blah without being folded into something, so I went with Cranes.

2013_5_Crane_and_seal Gretchen and I hit Hobby Lobby yesterday before her birthday lunch so I could pick up some fresh wax for the seals. I'd been using leftover nubs from years past up until now and the seals were pretty sloppy. Day 2's clue was momentarily on fire, so it was definitely time to get new wax. 


I was looking forward to the kids getting home from school because I really like this clue. I figured they would solve it, but I wasn't sure how long it would take. 

I put my iPad on the table behind the couch, propped up open on the stand, and tucked all four origami cranes into the case.

Karl got home from school first.

ME: Karl! It's really cold - I thought you were going to call for a ride!

KARL: Nah. It was a nice walk. The cold actually puts me in the mood for winter and Christmas.

Oooh! That's what I like to hear!

Emma had stayed after for psychology tutorials, so I went back to work while Karl went to make a snack.

It didn't take 15 minutes in my office to realize my mistake. I jumped up and ran out into the living room to make sure Karl didn't grab my iPad.

The iPad was no longer on the table!

But the four origami cranes were!


He had his headphones on, sitting at the table, laughing at a YouTube video on my iPad and polishing off a bag of chips I just bought yesterday. (Boys!) I quickly scooped up the cranes while he wasn't looking, hoping that somehow he had grabbed the iPad and not noticed the dollars falling out of it.

If you have ever met Karl you will know that this was not an unheard-of possibility.

ME: Uh, you need to ask to use my iPad.

KARL: Oh. Sorry, I forgot. 

Hmmm. He didn't smile, or look guilty, or volunteer anything . . . maybe he really didn't see the dollars!

ME: (casually) Where did you find my iPad?

KARL: (pointing) On that table over there.

Oh! This is awesome! He didn't notice the dol-

KARL: (matter-of-factly) It had these little origami things in it. I left them on the table.

My heart sank. But wait! He said "things" - maybe he didn't realize they were the dollars!

ME: Little origami things?

KARL: (not even looking up) You know - the dollars for the clue.

AURGH! So he DID know. And yet, he wasn't acting like he'd spoiled anything. Perhaps there was still a chance . . . 

ME: Oh, I hoped you hadn't seen those. 

KARL: You mean you hadn't hid them yet?

ME: No, but now you know the shape of the dollars. Don't tell Emma.

KARL: (puzzled) Why would I?

I had to decide if I should just exclude him from the day's Clue or risk that he wouldn't make the immediate connection based on what he saw.

I decided to gamble!


EMMA: Wow! Nice seal today, Mom!

She noticed!

They read the clue together, and there was no reason to chase them around the house because they just stood there pondering.


KARL: "Next time won't you sing with me" - Emma, it's the alphabet. Those numbers are letters of the alphabet!

EMMA: (impressed) Wow!

KARL: (keeping track with his fingers) A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I the first letter is I. (repeats the process) Next is P. (looks at the clue) #1 would be A and then #4, which is D. It's I-P-A-D. It's an iPad!

Right then I saw the realization flit across his face. He grinned.

EMMA: Well which one? (looking around)

KARL: Dad has his at work. It must be Mom's.

He took off to the dining room where I had moved the iPad for safe keeping. 


KARL: (handing over two dollars to Emma) See? Here they are.

EMMA: Cool! What are these? Cranes?

ME: Yep.

I guess a new tradition has been started! Origami dollars each day! Whoot!


I also wanted to share another conversation with Karl when he got home from school today:

ME: Hey, Boo! How was your Spanish test?

I actually don't remember what made us start calling Karl "Boo" or "Boo-Boo". It was when he was a baby, so a long time ago. So far he still doesn't mind, although I try not to call him "Boo" in public. (But I sometimes forget. It's a habit!)

KARL: OK, I guess. I think I knew most of them. I actually did the right thing and gave back the first test she handed out because it had all the answers on it.

ME: You did?! Karl, I'm so proud of you! What did the teacher say?

KARL: She just gasped (here he demonstrated a loud dramatic gasp with a chest clutch) and grabbed it and said "I told the last class not to write on the actual test!!!!"

ME: Did she praise you for giving it back?

KARL: No. She just snatched it and gave me a blank one.

ME: Well sometimes you have to do the right thing just to do the right thing, you know? Whether anyone notices or not.

KARL: Yeah.

That's a lesson that I, too, have been tested on this year. It's hard to do the right thing sometimes, especially when it is not acknowledged. Sometimes you just have to let those actions be their own reward, although it can be very, very hard to do. I'm so glad that Karl was able to make a great choice today.

See you tomorrow for Clue #6.

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Day 4!


Let me just give everyone a moment to properly respect the skill it took to rhyme the word "eucalpytus". 

Thank you, thank you. No, no, enough applause. Thank you.

For this clue I wanted to test whether the kids had ever noticed the wreath hanging on the wall directly opposite the toilet in the downstairs powder room. I had a suspicion that they would be clueless. (pun intended)


The money, as you see, is in plain sight. So much so that when Emma came home from school and headed toward the powder room I stopped her and sent her upstairs on an errand. 

EMMA: Let me just go to the bathroom first.

ME: You have a bathroom upstairs.

Yes, I did that. But the magic must be maintained!

It wouldn't have mattered, as it turns out, but I'm getting ahead of myself.


I almost didn't include the photo of them reading the clue. Do I really need 25 similar photos of them reading clues? But as I looked at it, I could see the thickness of Karl's glasses, and the sparkly saxophone necklace I gave Emma last week "just because". In the future we might marvel at when glasses had to be that thick for nearly-blind nearsighted kids like Karl, and Emma might remember that necklace fondly. I decided to include the photo.

After Karl read the clue out loud Emma looked up toward the landing.

EMMA: I bet it's that fake plant upstairs!

Up the stairs they went. They did not find it there, nor in the fake plant in the guest room.


They wandered around the house a little, looking for plants. I had expected them to Google an image of  eucalyptus but I guess they were content to just check every plant in the house.

At least they knew that eucalyptus was a plant.

Karl checked the laundry room, which made Emma laugh because she knew there weren't any plants in there. I reminded them of the clue's mentioning seeing it every day, so perhaps they should concentrate on areas of the house that they were in every day.

They looped through the dining room and were heading back toward the kitchen when Karl paused at the powder room. I sprang into action to get over there with my camera, but they turned out the light and started leaving.

EMMA: Wait! Mom rushed over here with her camera, Karl. It's got to be in here!


The powder room is tiny, as you can tell. They examined everything except the wall behind Emma, where the wreath is hung.

They switched places (did I mention the room is tiny?) so Karl could examine the same three walls as Emma.

They started to leave the room.

ME: Oh come ON!

That's when they finally thought to close the door and look at the wall behind it.



EMMA: Wow! Did you fold these dollars into little elephants?

ME: I did.

EMMA: Awesome!

Uh oh! I better not have started a new tradition. If they expect origami dollars every day I'll never get anything else done!



I learned how to fold the elephants here: Origami Elephant




I mentioned to Karl that I wasn't going to be able to fold the dollars into origami animals every day and he said "I guess you like folding stuff because you're a paper crafter, huh? We'll probably have some family night of napkin folding or something. Any excuse to fold stuff."


And YES!

I'll leave you with a conversation from this morning.

KARL: I had the strangest dream last night. Emma had an iPad but it got crushed by an anvil. We had to call in some repairmen, who looked like Russian Mafia. So they kidnapped me and took the iPad!

ME: Well . . . the iPad was crushed by an anvil, so it was useless.

KARL: (dismissively) Yeah. Anyway, I had to have an elaborate escape plan with a chase scene and I was driving underage and the steering wheel was on the U.K. side!

JOHN: Ah, the classic "iPad crushed by anvil/chased by Russian Mafia" dream - very common.

Here's a somewhat crummy photo of Emma from last night's Holiday Concert. I was too far away.



Tune in tomorrow for Clue #5!

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Day 3!

Emma suggested making the Clues an after-school activity rather than a morning activity so things wouldn't be rushed. We all agreed. Here is today's clue:





Now I knew that they would not be at all stumped by this clue. They know where the dog brushes are kept - in the junk drawer in the kitchen.

And sure enough, to the kitchen they went.



Karl seemed shocked that when he opened the drawer, the money wasn't just sitting on top like an Easter egg. (Please! They're FIFTEEN!)

KARL: It's not here. I guess we have to dig for it.

He spotted the baggie of Box Tops with some money inside.

KARL: Here it is. Oh wait - it's only one dollar!



EMMA: Oh! We need to look at the clue again. It says a brush for dogs . . . (grabs dog brush), a brush for lint . . .(grabs lint brush)

KARL: Wait - isn't one "a deck of cards"?

He opened the cards and found the second dollar. 




Please note that in the photo above, Emma is actually holding the spool of thread in her hand, rewinding the thread and paying no attention to the tightly rolled dollar that is sticking out the end.

EMMA: We need to look for random tools.

ME: What's in your hand?

EMMA: A spool of thread, but there's no dollar.

KARL:(glancing over) It's right here! (pulls dollar from the end of the spool)

EMMA: (sheepishly) Oh.



They started taking everything out of the drawer looking for the final dollar. Karl started opening something excitedly.

EMMA: Karl, that's not in the clue. It's gum.

KARL: I know! There's one piece left!

EMMA: Aww. Split it with m-

Karl shoved the whole piece in his mouth. (Spirit! So much Christmas spirit!)



Notice the kitchen island filling up with items from the junk drawer. They found an old iPod and some other treasures and finally, at the bottom of the drawer, a binder clip with the final dollar.

Now here's where the Christmas miracle happened.

Brace yourselves.

EMMA: OK, Karl, let's clean this up. Put the big items back first.



I just stood there in shock!

Now granted, it wasn't the most orderly put-back. Emma took on more of a management role while Karl was the labor. He got everything in and then realized he hadn't added the screwdriver or candle lighter. He shoved them on top and forced the drawer closed.

And then, as you might guess, the screwdriver blocked the drawer from opening.

ME: Hey! This drawer opened before you got here.

KARL: Uh oh.

ME: (pressing fingers into the drawer to lower the screwdriver) I got it! (surveying the drawer) Have some pride, man. You put the biggest items on the bottom and then pile the other junk on top! (demonstrating)

KARL: Well it's not all junk. We use some of that stuff regularly. You should move those items to the "Somewhat Important Stuff Drawer."

EMMA: Karl, we don't have a Somewhat Important Stuff Drawer. 

long pause

EMMA: Do we?

KARL: No, we don't.

It was a fun clue! I forgot to take a victory shot, though.

In other news, Emma's Band Holiday Concert and Dinner is tonight. Emma plays the Sax during marching season, but she's actually an Oboe player. This will be her first performance with the oboe this year and the first one since the loss of Mrs. Lawrence. Emma has taken private lessons from Mrs. Lawrence since we moved to Texas. Sue was a lovely lady, quite talented (we always bought her handmade reeds) and the only local oboe tutor. Most oboists in the area took private lessons from her and many of her students played at her memorial service in November. She will be greatly missed.

Tune in tomorrow for a photo of Emma's concert and the hunt for Clue #4!

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Day 2!


 Google is an acceptable reference material during December and Emma's iPhone is surgically attached to her (or at least it seems to be) so I figured this clue would be a good one for them. They would have no idea who Blondie was and would have to do some online research.

To make sure the clue was accurate, I actually looked up the schedule for Galveston.


EMMA: "Blondie sang that this was high, but she was holding on. At precisely 5:10 pm tonight it will be high in Galvestun, Galvest-on" . . . not sure how to say that so it actually rhymes.

Sheesh! Tough crowd! 

Now would be the fun part, where the phone would come out so they could figure out the cl-

KARL: It's either the sun or the tide.

Oh! The kid is smart!

EMMA: OK . . . it might be the tide . . .

KARL: But that makes no sense - are we supposed to get to Galveston by 5:10 pm?

EMMA: I know! This makes absolutely no sense!

KARL: Wait a minute! It's Tide. You know . . . laundry detergent.

They rushed to the laundry room.

EMMA: Whoa. Dude. That's impressive - I would have NEVER figured that out!

ME: Can you find the money again? I wasn't ready with the camera.

KARL: Sure, let me look "natural".


 Oh yes, that was really "natural". He's a funny kid.



On their way to put the money in the envelopes -

EMMA: You know this money is for charity, right Karl?

KARL: Wait - ALL of it? I thought I only had to donate half!

Ah, the Christmas spirit!

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Day 1!

It's here! December has arrived and the kids are perfectly healthy, a year older and wiser, and ready to tackle this year's clues.

The clues are a Christmas tradition I started when the kids were old enough to read and decipher my rhymes. I *think* we're in the 7th year, if memory serves correctly. You can read last year's dismal hunt (we fought a lot of sickness last year and never finished the hunt. Karl got the full blown flu - emergency room etc.) here: Countdown to Christmas 2012. The previous year I didn't think to add "Countdown" as a category on my blog, and I'm frankly too lazy (at least right now) to go back through all 25 posts to add the tags, so if you want to read that hunt, you'll just have to start at Day #1 and scroll through: Countdown to Christmas 2011 Day 1.


How does the Countdown work?

Each day I put a small envelope, sealed with a wax seal, into the little Countdown house. The kids work as a team to solve the clue and find the money, which is $2 a day, per kid. They must donate at least half their Countdown money to charity and I will match that amount on Christmas Day, so they have the potential to earn as much as $100 for their charity if they donate it all. Emma has donated all of her money to charity the last two years and Karl has donated slightly more than half. We'll see how the spirit strikes him this year!

Today's clue:


Karl read the clue out load and Emma immediately sprung into action. 

EMMA: Karl, it has something to do with coffee.

Off to the kitchen they went. 


 KARL: They always "holler" when they're out of sugar. Let's look in the sugar bowl.

It wasn't there. They also checked throughout the coffeemaker. Karl was basically dismantling it.

EMMA: She wouldn't put it IN the coffeemaker, Karl!

JOHN & KARL: Yeah, she probably would!

(They know me well!)

Karl also checked the fridge.

KARL: A ha! The milk is gone!

JOHN (mid pour): Oh, sorry - I was making myself a bowl of cereal.

Finally they decided to properly read the clue.

KARL: What's another word for "dollars"?

EMMA: "Bucks", "Bills", "Ones", "Money"?

ME: And what "twinkles"?

EMMA: Sugar.

JOHN: Actually . . .

KARL: Don't help us, Dad!

For some reason Emma persisted a while in thinking that sugar twinkles. You know, like the song . . . Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Sugar!

Finally Karl figured out that the first two lines referred to Starbucks and they spent a couple of seconds being impressed. Not sure if they were more impressed with me for the clue or with themselves for solving it.

They decided to check all the pods in the carousel. Karl was putting them on the counter and Emma was shaking them.

KARL: No, Emma, put them face down - she probably taped the money underneath.

EMMA: Hey - this one has a hole in it.

KARL: Let me see that!



They figured out that one of the pods had been used, washed out and stuffed with money. (Can you tell which one in the picture below?)



The "Starbucks" was meant to bring them to the carousel, but the actual stuffed pod was one of John's Half-Caf's. There is a healthy competition for this variety at our local Kroger. They are often out of stock and whenever we see them in stock we buy up four or five boxes. 



All in all a great start to the clues. Tune in tomorrow for Clue #2!

Happy December!

Christmas Clues 2012: Days 14, 15 & 16 - it's a triple!

I think it's fair to say that I'm not doing nearly as good or timely a job with these clues this year. It's been a busy month.

Friday was a devastating day for our country and I found myself unable to do much more than cry over the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school. We've talked it over as a family and the kids are coping, but it's hard to make sense of the incomprehensible.

By Sunday we were ready to start the clue hunt again, but I was three days behind. I came up with an idea. I told the kids we would catch up all three clues, so they should start with #14.

35 Clue14 36 Read14
KARL: Where are there a lot of boxes?

EMMA: The garage!

They went out to the garage, where my boxhoarding had reared its ugly head again.

ME: I'm impressed that you're willing to look through that giant mound of boxes, but I don't think I want to document it with a photo for my blog. Too embarrassing!

KARL: Is the money out here?

ME: Nope.

Side note - this morning I took my trusty box cutter to the garage and broke down the entire stack and hauled it to the curb just as the recycling truck rolled up. The boxes are gone! (Well, for now)

Back to the clue hunt.

EMMA: Where else are there boxes?

KARL: In the coat closet there are a few. We haven't played with chalks in years, though, so it would have to be a really old box.

ME: Hmmm, so YOU haven't played with chalks in years, huh?

EMMA: No, we haven't.

ME: Right. YOU haven't played with chalks. YOU!

EMMA: (lightbulb moment) Come on, Karl - it's in Mom's office.

37 Boxes
It actually didn't take them long to locate the box labeled CHALKS. 

EMMA: Here it is.

ME: Wait! Open it there on the corner where the mess isn't visible in the background. Slide a little to your left . . . OK, there.

38 Find14
They did not find any money in the box.

They found Clue #15! Bwaa haa haa! They were surprised.

39 Clue15

KARL: Do we have any bird cages in the house?

EMMA: There's the cage in my room that has Hedwig in it.

They ran upstairs to Emma's room.

40 Look15
No luck.

EMMA: But this is the only bird cage.

ME: Well, what does "abode" mean?

KARL: Home. Or house. 

EMMA: Didn't you make Mom a bird house in wood shop, Karl?

They tore downstairs to my office. The birdhouse is up on top of the cabinets, so I spared them getting a stepladder by announcing that it wasn't there.

EMMA: Hey - don't we have little birdhouse ornaments on the tree?

41 Find15
They succesfully located the final clue #16:

42 Clue16
I really felt like this was a gimme, so I was very surprised when they flopped onto the couch, stumped.

What's most interesting about this photo is that, tech-savvy as we are, somehow we still need three remotes to control all the options for our TV!

43 Ponder16
ME: What is the clue referring to?

KARL: A solar eclipse.

ME: A solar what?

EMMA: eclipse.

ME: What's that you say?


EMMA: (sitting up suddenly) Karl, Mom's digital cutter is called an eclips!

44 Find16
They thought it was pretty cool to find all the money for three day's worth of clues in one spot. I did take a victory shot but it was blurry, so you'll just have to use your imagination.

Emma is once again donating all of her money to charity and decided tonight to give what she's earned so far to Project for Awesome 

I'll leave you with this little tidbit from dinner tonight. 

EMMA: Are you playing Words with Friends again, Mom?

ME: Yes. Aurgh! Jennifer just beat me. I guess I'm not the second-best in the world. Shocker!

JOHN: How about instead of "Words with Friends" you play "Dinner with Family"?

KARL: The graphics are awesome but the story line is horrible.

Christmas Clues 2012: Days 12 & 13 - it's a double!

You know how sometimes a week just slams into you? This was one of those weeks. Any week that finds me driving into the city three days in a row . . . that's a busy one!

26 City
Tuesday's jaunt into the city was to ride along to a Doctor's appointment for John just in case he reacted to a procedure that would require a driver. No reaction. No need for me to tag along, although it's always entertaining to spend an afternoon with John. 

ME: (yelling at driver on highway who won't let me merge) Let me in! Why are you speeding up?! Don't you see I have my turn signal on? (muttering) You can go straight to hell.

JOHN: I think your turn signal is the problem. You're not supposed to warn them that you're coming over. (pause) Did you just damn that guy to hell?

ME: (grinning) I was mad. You know, I can see how people who have to drive in this stuff every day develop road rage.

JOHN: You think?! You've been in it for 10 minutes and you're already sending people to eternal damnation. Good thing that's not in your purview.

ME: Well yes, because it is not in my purview I can use a phrase like "go to hell" more loosely. Obviously I would take much greater care if . . . (almost cut off by signal-less lane changer) OH NO YOU DID NOT JUST DO THAT!!

Speaking of John, we went back down to the city on Wednesday to help him clean out his office. Well, technically it's a cubicle now. Since his company was acquired last spring they've been making a ton of changes trying to merge the two companies. They just moved people from offices into cubies last week. John didn't mind, since he was leaving and would need to pack up his office anyway. 

Today is his final day of work. Eleven years he's been there, but the merge hasn't been an easy one. A lot of people have left for better opportunities and John is no exception. He will start a new job next week and we are all excited for him. 

27 John Office
ME: What on earth are you wearing?

JOHN: It's my Work Cardigan. I keep it here for when it gets chilly.

ME: Do you also have a pair of slippers?

JOHN: Yeah, yeah, join the club. Lots of people call me Mr. Rogers, or an old man, but their lips are blue while they're mocking.

EMMA: Dad, I have a word to describe your office . . . crushing monotony!

JOHN: Ha! Not a fan, huh?

EMMA: Why is everything the same color? It's all beige. As far as the eye can see.

She has a point. I had the same reaction the first time I saw it, and was shocked to hear that they had won some awards for office decor. 

After packing up John's office we headed over to BBVA Compass Stadium to see the US Women's Soccer team take on China. John was excited to see one of the Fox Soccer announcers that he watches all the time on TV.

28 Fox Soccer
It was an awesome game! Our seats were at one end of the field, so we could watch Hope Solo warming up and had a pretty good view of the game overall.

29 Hope Solo

30 US Women

I'll include this next photo even though it's blurry. I didn't bring my SLR camera because I wasn't sure if I would be allowed to bring it in. I saw plenty of people with cameras, though, so it would have been fine. Still, it was much more fun to watch the game than to take photos. However, I did pull out my iPhone to take a picture of a corner kick at our end of the field and managed to capture (just trust me) Carly Lloyd's header for another US goal. 

31 Lloyd Goal
The final score was US 4, China 0. We felt a little bad for China, but it was exciting to see all those US goals. 

We got home very late and of course there was no time for clues, so I told the kids we'd do a double on Thursday. 

  22 Clue12 23 Read12

EMMA: What could this be?

KARL: Maybe it's a lunch bag. We only use those on school days.

EMMA: But what about the "wearing your fruit" part?

KARL: Because if you didn't have a lunch bag you'd have to carry everything.

EMMA: What does that have to do with a suit?

KARL: Because suits don't have pockets!

EMMA: Yes, they do!

KARL: No, I'm pretty sure they don't. Well anyway, it's worth a try. Let's go check the lunch bags.

And check he did! I can see that Karl is learning to be more diligent in his search methods. He pulled out the whole stack and checked every one!

24 Look12
Next they started discussing the fruit angle. 

KARL: Well in my lunch I have applesauce . . .

EMMA: And in my lunch I have craisins . . .

KARL: Maybe it's a sandwich bag! 

EMMA: But you don't put applesauce in a sandwich bag, Karl, just the craisins.

ME: But sometimes you have Mandarin Oranges, Emma.

Karl checked the oranges.

ME: So let's say that Karl gets applesauce and you get oranges . . .

EMMA: We'll need a plastic spoon!

25 Find12

25 Victory12
They had agreed that Karl would read the Day 12 Clue and Emma would handle Day 13.

32 Clue13
33 Read13
Now I should preface this by saying that I wrote this clue after the installation earlier in the day of our new superfast DSL. I upgraded to the highest plan offered by our phone company and it required a technician doing some work to the lines outside and doing some work inside as well. He installed a fancy new router with CAT5 lines and before he left he had me test out the speed. Lightning fast! Awesome.

We had been sufferening maddening dropouts on our previous plan. YouTube videos were taking hours to upload and if one of the dropouts occured in the middle - restart the upload. Too frustrating!

However, in the time between writing this clue and the kids opening it, the internet slowed down to a snail's pace and if all three of us were online at once, nobody could do anything! So now I have to have the technician back today to fix it.

Thusly, this clue was a bit of a dud.

And of course Emma figured it out right away.

KARL: What's that word that starts with D? It's smudged away from the wax.

EMMA: Dropouts. It says dropouts. "a thing of the past" - OH! It's the new internet router, Karl.

They ran to my office faster than I could chase them.

ME: (panting) Hey! Put that money back and find it again, I wasn't ready with the camera.

EMMA: And will you explain on your blog that this photo was staged?

ME: As you wish.

34 Find13

ME: Karl, I'm surprised you didn't notice the very professional wax seals on both these clues!

KARL: I did see that, but I really only feel the need to comment when something is done poorly.

Yeah, we know!

I didn't even mention the other big time suck of this week. Yesterday, while driving the kids to school, my van started making a "this-doesn't-sound-good" noise. (It's a technical term) We had purchased an extended warranty for the van and, as luck would have it, that warranty is good for two more months! Although the van was drivable, the warranty people wanted to tow it, just to avoid any further damage. 

This wouldn't have been a big deal at all, other than the slight complication that we had forgotten to pick John's truck up from the Park 'n Ride lot when returning from the game Wednesday night.

Our plan was for me to simply give John a ride to the bus Thursday morning.

Except my van broke down.

And we found ourselves trapped, sans vehicle.

Since the internet technician was still at the house, John rode with the tow truck driver to the dealership and picked up a rental car. I then had to drive him downtown to his office because he couldn't catch a bus that late.

I may or may not have taken a return route via Texas Art Supply to check out their Copic Marker selection. I may (or may not) have picked up the grays required to attempt to duplicate Kelly's awesome snowman hat shading. I may (or may) have a slight Copics addiction.

Emma arrived home from school first, walking right past the rental car and into the house.

EMMA: Hi Mom.

ME: Hi Em. How was school?

EMMA: Good! I got a 94 on my Biology quiz!

ME: Awesome! 

A few minutes later Karl walked in.

KARL: Is someone visiting?

ME: No. Why?

KARL: There's a strange car in the driveway.

ME: I wondered if either of you would notice! It's a rental. The van's in the shop. Emma didn't even notice!

EMMA: I did too notice! I just thought Ms. Gretchen was over or something.

Gretchen doesn't drive a white car and the van was missing, so I'm not sure that really counts as true detecting, but Emma did solve the #13 clue very quickly, so I give her a pass.

As for trips to the city - not today! WHOOT!

Christmas Clues 2012: Day 11 - WORDS! What are they good for?

Apologies for not having this up last night. Yesterday ended up being jam-packed with shuttling people around. But now the house is quiet, the coffee's hot, and I can properly type up yesterday's clue.

If you recall, we are doing the clues after school since Emma is still playing catch-up. They have finals next week, so she's going to tutorials before school and after school each day and it's much too chaotic to cram in a clue during our limited morning time.

However, after I've made the coffee and packed the lunches, I will sometimes have a few minutes to catch up on my Words with Friends games. I do this at the breakfast table on my iPad. Emma was eating cereal.

ME: Danday!

This was said like Seinfeld says "Newman!" with a fist shake and everything.

EMMA: Huh?

ME: It's Danday. She always beats me at Words with Friends.

EMMA: Well maybe now you know what it feels like when other people play against you at games.

ME: True, I do normally win against everyone else.

She has a point. Nobody will play Boggle with me.

But here's the thing. I'm not a Boggle prodigy. I am good at Boggle from years of practice as a teenager. My Aunt Linda and cousin Jackie loved the game as much as I did. Aunt Linda's dining room would be eerily silent for 3 minutes while we each feverishly created our word lists, then break into an explosion of sound when someone called "time", lists were compared, groans were heard when good words overlapped and had to be crossed, and congratulations granted (and sometimes "prove it!" challenges) when someone found a really big unique word. Points were totaled, the lid put on the shaker, and then the insanely loud process of shaking and settling the dice commenced. You weren't supposed to cheat and peer through the frosted dome while the dice were being settled, but I suspect that we all did, a time or two. 

ME: (quoting The Princess Bride) It's not easy being the biggest and the strongest. I don't even exercise!

EMMA: I'm sure there are plenty of people who can beat you - they just don't play Words with Friends.

ME: No, I'm pretty sure it's the first thing - where I'm the best in the world. Well, other than Danday, that is. I'm number 2.

EMMA: Mom, there are billions of people on the planet.

ME: Exactly. And someone has to be the best at Words with Friends. You're proving my point. I mean, someone's luggage has to come out first on the baggage carousel and that is NEVER me, so obviously MY thing is being better than billions of people (minus Danday) at Words with Friends.

EMMA: (eye roll) Riiiight!

I'm not a Words prodigy either. One of my computers, maybe a decade ago, came pre-loaded with Scrabble where you could play against the computer. I *am* a procrastination prodigy, so of course I learned lots of clever plays from the computer. Things you can do with "Q" when you don't have a "U" - things like that. I had no idea at the time that I was actually training for a not-yet-developed app called Words with Friends.

I don't use any sort of Words cheats, although *some* of my Friends *cough*Gary*cough* play some highly suspicious words that they cannot seem to define when challenged in the chat box. No worries - I still try to win. Maybe I learn a new word in the process. It's like having the benefit of the cheat apps without paying for them! (So there!)

Speaking of words (the segues!) I was particularly proud of my poetry in yesterday's clue:

17 Clue11
18 Read11
KARL: What is WITH these sloppy seals?!

OK, so I bought the cool wax seal kit at the start of these clues 5 years ago, son. The wax things are down to nubs and the wicks won't light. I have to light the whole glob on fire and in this case, the clue itself was momentarily ablaze. I will go in search of a candle for today's clue before I burn the house down, 'mmkay?

I love the irony of this next picture, in which they had no idea what they were looking for, despite the hiding spot being right in front of them.

19 Ponder11
KARL: I guess it could be some sort of decoration? What provides comfort?

EMMA: Yeah, but you don't hold the decorations. This has to be something you hold.

KARL: Shares a birthday with Jesus . . . 

EMMA: Wait! Karl, which one of the dogs has her birthday on Christmas Day?

KARL: It's Katie. Lucy's birthday is in October.

20 Find11
EMMA: How could the money be attached to her?

KARL: It's twist-tied to the collar. I got it.

ME: Well done! Your detecting skills are improving. Sit in the chair there and I'll get your victory shot. You ready? Ready, Emma? I'm going to take the picture now. Ready?

21 Success11

John asked to see the clue.

JOHN: Shouldn't it be "she"?

ME: Only if I wanted to make it totally obvious! Might as well just put the money inside the envelope!

JOHN: I guess . . . but calling the dog an "it"?

ME: "this thing" was too many syllables.

Christmas Clues 2012: Day 10 - Making spirits bright! (only not!)

12 Clue10

Emma went back to school today! She's on three prescriptions, but no more fever. Still, to catch up she'll need to attend tutorials before and after school for most of the week, so there was no time for a clue this morning. In fact, I'm sure I'll be posting in the evening this whole week.

Knowing that I had all day to get the money hidden and clue prepared I naturally waited until both kids were home from school and Karl was dangerously nearby.

There are plenty of jingle bells around the house right now - a wreath on the dining room table, a few ornaments on the tree, and, if they were at all observant, this tree:

13 BellTree
I was crouched down putting the money in the jingle bell when Karl appeared in the hall. As luck would have it, I am not always good about putting things away. I had done some cleaning earlier and the cleaning spray was within arm's reach so I quickly grabbed it and squirted the table to "explain" my presence.

ME: Gosh! I cleaned this room today but already there's more dog hair.

KARL: (disinterested and obviously not listening) Where does it come from?

ME: The dogs. It comes from the dogs.

KARL: (turns corner into the kitchen) Uh huh.

I have no idea why I thought he would clue-in and notice me crouching by the table. Earlier I was mopping the dining room floor and listening to some festive holiday tunage. I started singing "Oh the weather outside is frightful . . ." and Karl just abruptly got up and walked out of the room!

ME: Where are you going?

KARL: I'm pretty sure you're about to do something embarrassing, like maybe dancing with that mop, and I don't want to witness it.

ME: As if! I am MOPPING, quite seriously, thank you very much!


He returned, sat down, put his headphones in, and stared at the screen.

One time at school they were doing some testing with Karl and his powers of observation. One guy was engaging Karl in a conversation while the other sat at the table quietly. He then removed his shoe, tapped it on the table, placed it on his ear, tossed it in the air, etc., and Karl never noticed.

COUNSELOR: Karl, did you see Mr. Johnson doing anything odd while we were talking?

KARL: Who's Mr. Johnson?

MR. JOHNSON: I'm Mr. Johnson. We met 10 minutes ago.


So you can imagine that there was never much chance that Karl would notice me dancing with the mop. 

There were Rockettes kicks, Elvis moves, everything I could think to get his attention, and he never looked up.

I finally just gave up on the housework, because if the only fringe benefit is 10 minutes without dog hair and nothing more tangible, like groans, eye rolls and "MOM!" from a kid, well then . . . why bother? Heh.

14 Read10
Emma was slightly annoyed that he always removes the seal. He compromised and let her read the clue first.

As usual, they didn't properly decipher the first two lines. They assumed it meant snow, or maybe decorations, and tore around looking at all the decorations.

ME: Hey! Have you learned nothing? Read the first two lines again - to what do they refer?

KARL: (reads) Jingle Bells?

EMMA: Well we don't have jingle bells in this house. Except for that tree over there.

She picked it up and gave a cursory look and put it back.

Next they checked the jingle bell wreath in the dining room. No luck.

ME: You have actually been blazing hot to the money already.

The returned to the original jingle bell tree and looked a little closer.

15 Look

16 Success
After they finished the clue I reminded Emma that it was time for her cough medicine. She is an absolute wimp when it comes to foul-tasting liquid medicines. She was very put-out by them prescribing a liquid and attempted to tell me that she was *cough* no longer *cough* in need *cough* of the medicine *cough* because *cough* her cough *cough* was all *cough* better.

ME: Come on! You're a tough girl. It's one teaspoon of a foul liquid - slurp it down and chase it with juice.

EMMA: It is sooo disgusting, though! The worst thing ever!

ME: Not the worst thing ever. What about the stuff they have to eat on Survivor? 

EMMA: That would taste better.

ME: So you're saying you'd rather eat some exotic bug than that cough medicine?

EMMA: No, I'm saying the bug would TASTE BETTER, not that I would actually eat it.