Bubblegum Lies.

Saturday night, we met my Mom and brother at Rusty’s BBQ. It’s the only place we ever meet them, because it’s halfway between our houses and is exactly what you want in a good, off-the-path Southern BBQ place: without pretense, containing random kitsch (I especially like their license plate map of the United States), booths as old as the grill, and some indescribably fantastic food. It’s where you can imagine seeing Guy Fieri or Anthony Bourdain in the next booth, happily in their element.

When we’re meeting my parents (or in this case my Mom and brother, since my Dad was out of town), we don’t even discuss it – we assume. Rusty’s it is.

As part of its character, Rusty’s draws an interesting crowd. It can be locals, foreigners, suburbanites on the hunt for genuine bar-b-que, Indy Car racers from the racetrack down the road, super rural folk, or shoppers having just left The Outlet Mall. Eclectic dining at its best.

On that particular night, there were a few different dining types in attendance. There were some teenagers in the corner, our table featuring grandkids enjoying their Grandmother’s attention, and an older couple sitting directly behind me, within 18 inches of my ear.

The couple looked to be of the rural variety – he was wearing overalls and a John Deere hat, and she was wearing what appeared to be a homemade muumuu.

(Which, by the way, I had to Google and there may be more ways to spell “muumuu” than any other item of clothing in the Northern Hemisphere. So if you prefer mu’umu’u or muu-muu or mumuu or even moo moo, please forgive me because I just had to pick one and go with it.)

We enjoyed our dinner, the kids blissfully in the company of their grandmother, and Chris and I basking in the relaxation of having other adult backup that happens to be more interesting than us.

As we finished our meal, Ali wanted to get bubblegum out of the candy stand. This is a new thing for her – I personally despise bubblegum so don’t keep it around, and she’s never been too interested. But apparently, some KID in her Sunday School class has developed a proficiency for bubble blowing. And Ali feels the need to learn so that she can keep up with the societal pressures by which she is being smothered.

So she’s been practicing with candy stand bubblegum balls, which isn’t exactly the best bubble-blowing material. And she’s not exactly successful in her efforts. But, alas, she keeps trying. And that night was especially promising, since she had an expert-teacher Grandmother on hand, who was most likely still running on the high of potty-training my son.

Fortunately, they had a sour candy machine right next to the gumball machine, so I told Ali to buy her brother some candy.

Except that Noah, as soon as he saw the fun contortions that Ali and Gramamma were going through to try and create a bubble, wanted to be like them.

Bubblegum Training

“I want bubbleGUMMM!!”

Not gonna happen, kid.

“But whyyyyyyyy?”

And I said in my most ominous Movie Trailer voice, “Because. Eet’s DANGEROUS.”

And, of course, it worked, thanks to the genetic coding that runs deeply through Chris and I which allows us to breed especially risk-averse humans.

But I did not realize the horror of which my words would create.

Mrs. Muumuu gasped loudly. And in her most southern drawl, nearly yelled at Mr. Overalls,

“Did you HEEE-YAR that?? That lady just told that little girl a LIE!”

He answered. “We-yell, maybe she could choke on it.”

“Well. I think it’s just TERRIBLE to lie to children!!”

Mr. Overalls could sense me listening, and quickly changed the subject. “Isn’t this food delicious?”

I giggled to myself, answering her – but only in my head.

First of all, he’s a boy – not a girl. I know he’s adorable and all, but he’s still pretty boyish looking – I think? Second of all, I will admit to lying to my kids from time to time. That whole 110% honesty-with-your-kids thing doesn’t really play out in real life – at least for those of us who are honest about it. After all, 110% isn’t actually a real number. (Okay it is but not when it comes to effort or honesty.) HOWEVER. I was not, in this case, lying to my son that you called a girl. Bubblegum is absolutely dangerous when in the hands (or mouth but it won’t stay there long) of a three-year-old. It is dangerous to his hair (heck it’s dangerous to my hair and probably yours too, considering how close you’re sitting), it’s dangerous to his shirt. It’s dangerous to his pants, his shoes, his socks (assuming he’s wearing any which is a generous assumption), my car, my carpet, his bed, and any animals that happen to walk by at an inopportune time. Because have you ever tried to remove bubblegum from an animal’s tail? If not, I wouldn’t wish it on you, but I promise you they’re not keen on the peanut butter treatment plan. So yes, yes, indeed YES. BUBBLEGUM IS DANGEROUS.

…But thanks anyway for planting yet another doubt in his little head.

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Bad Answers to Good Questions: Christmas Edition.

Sometimes my kid asks me a question for which I have no answer. I vaguely speak a bunch of hogwash and then change the subject, hoping she’ll move on.

But my mind cannot. It is a continuity issue that must be addressed. And so it spins in the background, using up my RAM memory and slowing down all other processes until it comes up with an answer. And it’s usually a really, really bad one. One that I could never actually give to my kid.

Last week’s question really gave credence to not doing the whole Santa thing.

“Mommy. If Santa visits every kid in the world, then why do we need to give Angel Tree Christmas presents to kids who have less than us?”

I had been expecting this question weeks ago when we were shopping for our Angel Tree, but no. She saved it for Christmas Eve.

Thanks, kid.

I said something about how Santa can’t give them everything they need and Jesus asks us to help others, then changed the subject frantically. And then my mind worked on this explanation for the rest of the day.


Well, kid. Nothing in this life is free – that’s something you need to go ahead and learn now. It’s actually life’s not fair’s broke mooch of a cousin, and in this case, they go together.

in the 1940’s, when the world was an innocent place and Christmas movies were being made like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street”, Santa really was a great guy. He found joy in making the world a cheerier place and truly adored giving presents to the children.

Good Santa

But then he let his fame get to his head. Just like it happens to the best of Disney Spawn like Miley Cyrus, it happens to Christmas VIPs.

Santa got greedy, egotistical, and really an all-around jerk. He now parties with Jay-Z and smokes crack with the Mayor of Toronto. I’ve even heard he’s dated a Lesser Kardashian.

(Oh yeah. Did I mention that Mrs. Claus left him in the mid-90s? She used to preview all the cassette tapes that boys and girls would ask for, and after listening to a few too many accompanied with a bit of Elf Leaf, decided that she wanted to follow Phish around the country.)

Anyway. Santa had to support his burgeoning party lifestyle somehow. And that’s when he decided to start charging the Santa Tax.

Bad Santa

That’s right – I see your eyes getting wide. We PAY Santa to come here every year.

The amount of presents you get under the tree is directly correlated to how much Santa Tax we paid the prior year. So those braggy parents you saw on my Facebook feed whose kids got a Treehouse-playset, an inflatable bouncy house, and matching Range Rover Power Wheels? They were bragging because they paid a metric sleighload of Santa Tax so that he would spoil their kids like that.

But then, kids whose parents don’t have any money – well, they totally get the shaft.

I know.

You thought that Santa was all warm and loving and benevolent – but he’s totally not. He will put an entire family on the naughty list faster than a poorly worded tweet can end your career.

So those kids – it’s our job to love on them. We buy them presents so that they can get something. And usually, their parents tell them that our presents are from Santa so that the kids don’t grow up hating the old man.

(Even though he kinda deserves it.)

But really – it’s just the way of the world, honey. You can’t expect a man to have a monopoly on Christmas for hundreds of years and not go bad. We’re really actually lucky it’s not worse – I wouldn’t be surprised if the Elves started using everyone’s stockings for their drug smuggling side-gig. And we will rue the day when a particularly naughty kid wakes up with a reindeer head in his bed.

But don’t repeat any of this – because Santa’s got his spies out everywhere – I’m sure you’ve seen them when you’ve gone to your friend’s houses. They go by the name “Elf on a Shelf” but they’re really miniature Santa Tax collectors. If they hear you talking about Santa’s operation he will DEFINITELY not bring you anything.

And I hear these days he doesn’t just put coal in stockings – he douses that coal in lighter fluid and sets it on fire.

And that’s one of the many reasons why we focus on Jesus’ birth instead of Santa at Christmas.

Merry Christmas, kids. Sleep tight!

How The Disney Stole Christmas.

“Pick something from Disney,” Chris said. “It’ll be a safe choice.”

I was desperately thumbing through NetFlix, looking for something, anything to entertain our children for the last hour before bedtime on the worst parenting day of our lives.

Chris and I had both woken up with the stomach virus Saturday morning. We were incapacitated, aching, nauseated, floating in and out of consciousness and the bathroom, and giving the bacteria in our septic tank an entire day of very generous Christmas presents.

Our children, however, were fine. Earlier in the week they’d both had much milder symptoms – Ali had a day of tummy-aches and Noah had a day of Inferi-infested Lake Diapers. But neither were affected like us, and both were now at 100% energy levels. Because clearly this virus was targeted at parents.

I could have picked any number of Christmas specials that night, even after Chris suggested I go with Disney – they have as many Christmas movies as Amy Grant does Christmas Albums. But as the fates allowed, I randomly chose “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas” right before I passed out again.

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It was a trio of Christmas stories, and the children were mesmerized as they ate their Pizza – perhaps the first real food offered to them that day.

The first story was a charming one about Huey, Dewey, and Louie and a wish that every day could be Christmas day. After a few dozen repeats of the same day, they grew tired of their Great-Aunt’s kisses, became foie-gras-ready from eating Christmas dinner every day, and bored with opening the same presents.

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A nice, timely moral – every day can’t be Christmas, kiddies. Especially when your parents are having their guts tilled with John Deere Industrial Strength Machinery.

But then. The next story.

We should have known it would be a train wreck because it was about Goofy being a FATHER.

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Who allowed that to happen?

I feel like there must have been some “taking advantage” happening in that situation. No way that Goofy knows how babies are made.

Anyway. Goofy is a single Dad (I told you – she used him and left) and has this son named Max who is clearly more intelligent than him (as if there were another option.)

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Their next door neighbor, the ever-villanous Pete, starts out the movie by ridiculing Goofy AND Max for believing in Santa.

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Chris and I looked at each other.

WHAT the WHAT??

We had chosen not to watch Elf with the children this year because we didn’t want to answer questions! After all, lying to the children doesn’t come naturally to us – and we had no desire to play Lie Jenga about Santa. And yet, here was a Disney cartoon, being even more direct than Elf?!

Pete goes on to imply that Goofy is mentally impaired, and that’s the reason why he believes in Santa, and poor Max, stuck with such a stupid Dad – of course he’d believe too.

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YES.

PETE JUST INFORMED OUR CHILDREN THAT BELIEVING IN SANTA IS FOR THE MENTALLY CHALLENGED.

We laid there – sick, horrified, and wondering what to do.

Meanwhile, Pete continued.

“Max – think about it. An old guy, in a red suit, cruisin’ the entire world in one night, usin’ reindeer that would fly – why it’s practically impossible!!”

Our children were entranced and silent and not running circles around us for the first time that day, so we let it go.

And after all, if we turned it off at this point, it’d be more suspicious. So what is a parent to do? Surely. SURELY. SUUUUUUUUUUURELY Disney would redeem this nightmare of a toon.

Max pulls out his dictionary, pondering these things in his heart, then finds Goofy and shares all of the logical reasons that Santa can’t possibly be real.

“Did you know that there are over two billion children in the world…”

Disney!! What are you DOING?!?!

“That means Santa would have to make like…800 visits a second! NOT including bathroom breaks…”

WHAT THE FRICK!!

“And…how can a reindeer fly?”

STUPID TRAITOROUS DISNEY!!!

“But it just doesn’t…quite make sense, Dad.”

I HATE YOU FOREVER EVIL DISNEY!!!!!

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A full day of parenting with the stomach virus can make one very profane, so I will leave it up to you to imagine what Chris and were mouthing back and forth as our children sat underneath our television set, soaking this pile of feces in.

Meanwhile, Goofy continues to make himself look stupider and stupider, playing an exponential, magnified version of the stereotypical TV parent.

Then Max starts telling other kids that he doubts Santa exists.

“But…have you actually ever SEEN Santa??”

So Goofy dresses up as Santa to try and convince Max that Santa does exist.

Max is saved!

“I am SO glad you came! I almost didn’t believe in you anymore! But now everything is okay.”

Until Goofy’s beard falls off.

“Dad?! You TRICKED me!! How COULD you??”

Max is mad. Nearly as mad as Chris and I are. All we wanted was one last hour. ONE STUPID HOUR.

If Disney Junior is where the magic begins, then Disney Christmas Specials must be where it ends.

Max and Goofy get into a large fight about whether Santa is real. Goofy camps out on the roof, trying to snap a picture of Santa to prove it to Max.

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We watch Max’s clock turn from 12 to 1, 1 to 2, 2 to 3, as a depressed Max can’t sleep.

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At 4:39, Max checks in on his Dad again, ending in an angry rant. “Why doesn’t he just GROW UP and face the facts?”

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Goofy even carves “DON’T FORGET MAX” in the snow, desperately and sadly trying to conjure Santa.

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AND HE DOESN’T COME.

WHAT FRESH DISNEY HELL HAVE WE FOUND OURSELVES IN?!?

Then, in a shocking lack of continuity, it’s 3 am again. Goofy is yelling.

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“Max! Wake up! Wake up, Son! It’s him! It really is!!”

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Chris and I regain hope, thinking this is the moment Disney will redeem themselves for this crapload of a cartoon.

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Goofy goes to snap a picture – and then floodlights hit Santa. Or not. It’s a robber going down someone’s chimney.

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Dear Disney, DIE.

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THEN DIE AGAIN.

Goofy falls off the roof and it looks like accidental death will join robbery on the front page of the Christmas Day Gazette.

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He finally sits up. “You were right about everything, Max.”

At this point, Chris is ready to storm the headquarters of Disney and provide them all with the gift that keeps on giving – a nice crystal bowl full of bodily fluids containing our special concoction of germs.

Max tries to comfort his poor, dejected Dad.

“Hey Dad. It’s OKAY! Santa didn’t show. No biggie! Since he’s not coming, at least we can eat all his cookies!”

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“I’m not hungry.”

“Let’s play!”

“Maybe later.”

Max tries to fake Goofy out by dressing up like Santa, tricking the stupid Dad, and of course then his costume falls off too, dejecting Goofy once again.

“I just wanted to make you happy, Dad.”

THEN FINALLY FREAKIN’ FINALLY AFTER THEY’VE REPEATEDLY TRIED TO DASH ALL OF OUR CHILDREN’S HOPES AND DREAMS, Santa comes.

The end.

And no one’s heart grew three sizes toward Disney that day.


Epilogue: Thankfully, the kids haven’t asked questions so far. And I do still love Disney. Half my kid’s presents are Disney-Character-related and we’ll probably go see Frozen sometime next week. But if I could have a Christmas Shoes moment and get just one wish, it would be that this Christmas Special be burned. Repeatedly. Well okay – after I rid the world of the stomach virus.