Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Most Exalted Dada

Max has always been fond of Ian (and, hey, who isn't?). Until recently, however, Dad was for playing with, and Mama was for comfort, or food, or snuggles, or etc. Max had a limited tolerance for time away from his mama, which worked out okay, since she felt the same way about him. Lately, however, Ian and I seem to have reversed roles. Max has a longer attention span for playtime than he used to, and he wants, more and more, to play 'boy' games (video games, construction games, action figure games -- note the Superman that Max is holding) that Ian is just better at than I am. In addition, Max is weaned, so he is not tied to the parent most likely to produce milk like he once was. As soon as Ian gets home, Max follows him around adoringly, holding up his arms to be picked up, bringing Ian toys to play with. When I have to take Max away from his dad, he cries out "Ma-maaaa!" and weeps piteous tears (although, this may be partially because I usually have to take Max away to change his diaper or put him to bed, neither of which he enjoys). I can't decide whether the convenience of finally being the parent who can say, "I tried to give you a break, but he just seems to really want you right now" is worth being the second choice parent. Mostly, I am taking it in stride. Babies shift allegiances constantly, I hear, and it is good for Max to bond with and accept help from his dad, especially with Speck on the way.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Speck Takes On Christmas

Like I mentioned before, my mum makes flannel pajamas for all of us to wear Christmas Eve night. She did not make any for Speck this year (which showed a certain amount of restraint), but she did have to do the next best thing, and make me maternity flannel pants. I missed being pregnant at Christmas last time around, so this was a never-before-tackled challenge. I appreciate the pants, which are comfy, and the effort that went into constructing a waist for them that would accommodate Speck, which was considerable. I cannot help but be slightly depressed, however, that a pair of pants which are already supposed to be loose and loungy now have to come with elastic that can be easily expanded when necessary. Speck, as you can see, is quite remorseless about his/her destruction of my svelteness (such as it was), and enjoyed the holiday as best as a fetus can. My dad gambled and got Speck a pair of overalls that are clearly meant for a girl, so either he will be heralded as a powerful psychic or he has just given Speck an extra year or two of therapy.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Coal In His Stocking

Ian was Santa at a Christmas Eve party we attended this year, and he handed out gifts and cheer to the seven or eight kids who were there. Ian has been Santa several times in the past, and he is always entertaining. Most of the kids liked him a lot, especially in light of the fact that he was handing out presents. Interestingly, his own blood relatives seemed the most troubled by his Santa-ness. Our nephew, Joey, gave Santa a suspicious sidelong look, slid unceremoniously from his lap, and hightailed it to the far end of the room. I thought that Max would do fine. He is generally not at all fearful of strangers, and besides, the whole time he was waiting for his turn with Santa, he was saying "Dada...Dada..." under his breath, so I figured he knew it was Ian. When I plunked him down on Santa's velvety red lap, however, Max's lower lip quivered for a moment, he gave me one horrified look of betrayal, and then he burst into tears. Santa almost did, too. Although I rescued Max almost immediately (that red flowered thing next to Max is my pregnant belly), my sister-in-law managed to get a picture of the moment. If you look closely, you can see the aura of faint but palpable psychological trauma around both Max and Ian. Oh, well. It's not really Christmas if you haven't cried or had a big nervous breakdown at least once or twice.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Max Takes On Christmas (Part II)

Every year, my mum makes everyone in our immediate family pajamas to wear on Christmas Eve. Every year, Max gets two pairs. The rest of us get one apiece. Who does Granny love best, you ask? I had actually braced myself for a tiny pair of fetal pajama pants for Speck, that I would be expected to pin to my stomach, or else swallow in the hopes that they would drift down and Speck would put them on, but my mother did not go quite that far.

My dad's pajamas yielded some leftover material, and Max's second pair of pjs were constructed to match his Gramps'. They were quite a team. And no, to you observant and nitpicky people, Max's socks do not match.

Once we had opened as many presents as Max could tolerate, eaten breakfast, napped Max down, and shed our pajamas in favor of streetwear, we went over to my aunt and uncle's house for dinner and togetherness. My cousin's four and 1/2 year old son took Max under his wing for the day, and was very patient with him. We had a delicious dinner, but Max did not partake of much of it. Partially due to excitement, and partially due to the fact that we had let him try some eggnog before dinner, and he guzzled down two cupsful, he did not have much of an appetite. Oh, well. Eggnog for dinner is the kind of thing you can only get away with at Christmas, and he did make up for it later.

We have arrived at the end of Christmas pictures that come from my camera, so I will have to wait until other relatives email me their pictures to post more. In the meantime, I am sure that Max will find things to do to fill the blog with amusing anecdotes while we wait.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Max Takes On Christmas (Part One)

Technically, this is Max's second Christmas, but he was only three months old last year, and was mainly focused on milk consumption and holding his head upright without wobbling. This year, he was much more aware of the Christmas frenzy, and was alternately delighted by it and stressed out by it (much as we all are). As you can imagine, there are many pictures of Max reveling in the yuletide season, and I have really tried to restrain myself and only post a few. I have managed this restraint by telling myself that I can break up the Christmas photo extravaganza into several small blog posts, and therefore get in all the pictures I want to without creating one three mile long and terrifyingly intimidating blog post that takes seven years worth of coffee breaks to read.

Santa overwhelmed Max with presents this year, and we actually lost the poor soul amongst all the loot a few times. Fortunately, he was able to tunnel his way through the wrapping paper and resurface by the time breakfast rolled around.

Despite the fact that Max is more cognisant of Christmas this year, he is not quite in the limitless energy for opening presents phase of his life yet. He liked the wrapping paper, and he opened a few gifts with a certain enthusiasm, but our attempts to whip him up into a present-opening frenzy were increasingly unsuccessful as the day wore on. About halfway through the gift-unwrapping, Max said, "Done. All done", and waved his hands in a world-weary, warding-off gesture. Ian and I opened the rest of his presents later that evening, while Max was sleeping.

Max received both the grinch and his dog, Max, for a Christmas eve present. He did not really spare the dog a second glance (perhaps he was offended that a dog shares his name), but he thought that the grinch was really funny.

Grandma and Grandpa Tillman conspired with Santa to bring Max this tricycle. No, Phil is not harpooning Max in the diapered bum, he is attaching a handle that goes on the back of the trike, so that we can push Max on the trike without having to hunch over. It is a really cool trike, and Max did a few laps around the Tillman house, grinning like a mad weasel the whole time.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas From The Tillmans!

All three and 1/2 of us :-)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Earning His Keep

Well, Max is fifteen months old, now, so we felt that it was long past time to introduce some chores into his life. Since neither Ian nor I enjoy cleaning, we both feel that this arrangement will work out well for everyone. We have had varying degrees of success with our chore implementation -- we had almost no luck, for instance, getting Max to replace the light bulbs, and I don't even want to talk about the mess he made out of balancing our checkbook. He has proven quite adept, however, at basic cleaning. Here he is preparing to vacuum -- only fair, really, when you consider that he makes most of the mess on the floor.

Max is really a wonderful duster, and could almost make a profession out of it if not for the fact that a lot of the things that need dusting are far higher than his head.

We thought about getting him a child-sized broom, but we don't want to spoil him. Life is hard, and the sooner you learn to overcome obstacles, the better.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hey DJ

Max has increased his vocabulary significantly recently. From the foundation of four basic words (mama, dada, cat, and no), he has built an incomplete but nonetheless effective means of communication. If he wants a ball, or sees a ball, or sees something that reminds him of a ball, he will now forcefully say, "Baow". (Aren't you proud, Aunties? Max has inherited your baseball-loving genes. He most certainly did not get any athletic inclination from either parent.) He can now say 'yeah' as well as 'no', and can make a variety of animal noises -- 'baba' (for a sheep), 'naynay' (for a horse), 'moomoo' (for a cow), and an unwritable puckering of the lips that means a fish. His newest and most beloved words, however, are "more", and "done". These are words that make things happen, and Max has been cheerfully abusing his power ever since he learned them. All through dinner now, Max holds up his cup and says "mo ... mo... mo..." until more drink comes his way, at which point he throws the cup on the ground and says, "done. All done. Done. Done...." and etc. Oh, he'll keep saying it until you get the point and take action, so don't even worry that you'll miss it. Yesterday, he said his first sentence. When Ian was getting out of the car to go to work, Max looked out the window at his retreating father and said sadly, "Mo Dada. Mo Dada". Since I could not deliver more Dada until that night, it was kind of a long car ride home. The very most annoying thing of all, though, is Max's combining his love of saying 'more' with his love of listening to music, and adding to that his love of pushing buttons. His new favorite thing in the world is to stand by the stereo and say "mo. mo. mo. mo. mo. mo. mo." until someone turns the stereo on. The music will then delight him for about ten seconds, until he remembers that he loves pushing the button that turns the CD off. After he has pushed it, he will look over at whatever adult is nearest and say, "mo. mo. mo. mo. mo." If you repeat the above sequence of events about eighty-seven times, you will be able to paint yourself an accurate picture of my day.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Christmas Tree Whisperer

We got a table-size Christmas tree this year (you may remember 'Spike' from an earlier post), wishing to avoid constantly fishing a wet and delighted Max out of the tree-water receptacle, or deperching a sap-covered and delighted Max from the top of a freshly climbed Christmas tree. My parents, however, opted for the full-size variety, and Max had his first interaction with it on Sunday. For most of the day, he ignored the tree completely. This led me to feelings of great bitterness and betrayal, since I had deprived myself (and my cats) of a giant tree with the understanding that Max would be certain to abuse it. However, I comfort myself with the idea that if Max were exposed to a large and accessible tree in his own home, with no Granny or Gramps to entertain him all day within an inch of his very life, he would show greater interest in it than he did on Sunday. At the very end of the day, Max did become intrigued by the lights and ornaments. He carefully rearranged several decorations for his grandparents.

Some ornaments didn't make the cut, and had to be flung dramatically to the ground. Best of all, I took the opportunity, while my parents were distracted by Max's tree petting, to conceal Santa Bell amongst the many Christmas decorations in my parents' house. That's my interpretation of the Christmas Spirit!

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Real Reason That Max Is Sleeping Through The Night

Like many of his "Christmas" presents from Granny and Gramps, Max got to open this tunnel early, because Granny has a hard time waiting to see Max enjoying himself. We first got the tunnel out on Thanksgiving Day, but the combined allure of Uncle Augie's tamales, a large crowd of adoring relatives, and the three million other playthings at Granny and Gramps' house made Max ignore the tunnel, despite the fact that several adults attempted to wedge themselves into it, in order to show Max how it was done. Yesterday, however, the tunnel did not have quite so much competition for Max's affections, and proved quite popular. No, Ian is not going in the tunnel -- if you look closely, you can just see the tail end of Max, leaving Ian's lap and headed gleefully into the blue nylon depths of the tunnel.

I watched from the outside a few times, where I could see a small lump(Max's head)stretching out the walls of the tunnel at intervals as Max crawled through at breakneck pace, laughing like a maniac the whole way. Finally, curiosity got the better of me, and my camera and I peeked into one end of the tunnel. The prospect of catching and pressing buttons on the camera spurred Max on to even greater levels of delight and excitement, and he raced toward me.

Sure, my camera was ultimately eaten by my Jaws-Of-Steel son, and it was a really good camera and I liked it. Still, you often have to sacrifice your equipment, your comfort, and sometimes even your life, in order to accurately document true events as they unfold.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Operation: Max Sleeps Solo (Day 5)

Status Of Mission: Tentative Declarations Of Victory

Well, Max has slept in his own bed for the past three nights in a row, for eight hours apiece, without any lives or respective sanities lost. He has had a much easier adjustment than I thought he would have (day one notwithstanding), and has once again proven himself tougher and more adaptable than either of his parents. Indeed, I think it's possible that he sleeps better in the crib than he did with us, not being up close and personal with every toss and turn we make. Ian and I have had a slightly harder time reacquainting ourselves with solo sleeping. The first night, neither of us slept very well at all. We both kept looking over to make sure that Max was still breathing, hadn't somehow lodged his head in between the crib posts (which would be a feat requiring supernatural powers, given Max's sizable noggin), and hadn't leaped silently out of bed, over our bed (which is right beside the crib), and into the next dimension of space. The second and third nights, Ian seemed to sleep better (or so I surmise from the fact that both he and Max happily snored away for most of the night), but I kept waking up in a panic, thinking that I had lost Max in the folds of our bed. I have spent over a year of nights being really aware of the fact that Max is right beside me, and it has altered my sleep patterns more than I realized. I have done a bunch of reading about how to ease the transition from family bed to solo sleeping for the baby, but Max turned out to be fairly transitionable (so far, at least). Maybe I need to write a book about easing transitions for the mama ... as soon as I figure out how. On the plus side, I am enjoying having more space for my giant fetal companion, and I am really enjoying having quiet time with just Ian after Max goes to bed. I still check on Max every now and then, but I am getting better. I have only peeked at him three or four times tonight, and made Ian peek at him twice, in the two hours since he went to bed.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


People are always talking about the amazing accomplishments Mozart was able to achieve in his early childhood, but I bet you that even Mozart was not composing and performing his own pieces by the age of one. (Insert Ian relating little-known fact about Mozart composing most of "The Magic Flute" by the time he was nine months old.) Not to mention the added feat of climbing the piano bench while Mama wasn't looking.

Once he hits his stride musically, Max is ready to begin working on the showmanship aspect of his performance. Here he is standing dramatically and pounding the piano, Elton John Style.

And then, at the end, you have to take it down a notch, and arrive at a decorous yet thrilling climax.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Brotherly Love

Max has become very interested in Speck lately, although I do not think that he is aware of all the possible ramifications. I would love to be able to see into his brain, to know what he thinks we are talking about when we tell him about Speck. Since his sibling does not yet take his toys, pull his hair, or steal his parents' attention, Max so far feels a lot of affection towards him/her, and takes every opportunity to pat, kiss, or hug my tummy. (Occasionally, he will also point to or pet Ian's stomach, but Ian is doing his best to discourage the notion that he, too, is carrying around a Speck.)

Despite some deep misgivings about posting documentation of my exposed pregnant stomach flesh, I decided that this picture is just too cute to leave behind. Max is giving Speck his special brand of sucker-fish-style, open-mouthed kiss, with extra drool.

I can feel Speck wriggling around a little bit now (doing his/her own version of the rump-shaker dance, no doubt), and I love the moments when I have Max to hug on the outside, and Speck on the inside. It makes it begin to sink in that I will soon be a mama of two!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Operation: Max Sleeps Solo (Day Two)

Status Of Mission: Mighty Strides Forward

Last night went much better than the night before. I put Max to bed for both naps in his crib yesterday, and while he did fuss a bit, he never really full-out cried, and definitely did not descend into hysterics. His naps were not as long in the crib as they usually are in the big bed, so by the time bedtime rolled around last night, he was a tired baby. It took him about five minutes to fall asleep, and he was quite peaceful for about half the night. It was very strange for Ian and I to have the living room to ourselves after Max went to bed. Usually, I put Max to sleep in our bed, and then one of us has to stay with him so he doesn't roll out of bed. Ian and I were both at loose ends for awhile. I can see, however, that it will be really nice to have that time to ourselves once we get used to it. (And once we do get used to it, Speck will be born, and we'll be plunged into chaos again.) I am extremely relieved that last night was so much easier -- it hurts my heart when Max is so sad, even when I know (and I do ... I'm not completely delusional) that he will ultimately be fine and that we are doing what is best for everyone. In the wee hours of the morning, Max came into our bed again for some family snuggle time. It was nice to have the space in the bed (although Speck is taking up his/her fair share), but it was a little bit lonely to be without Max. As uncomfortable as our crammed full o' people bed is sometimes, it is always better to have too many people to snuggle you than not enough.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Operation: Max Sleeps Solo (Day One)

Status Of Mission: Not good at all

Max has slept in our bed with us for almost his entire existence. He likes it. It offers him immediate comfort, warmth, and space to stretch out. We have always liked it, too. Despite the obvious disadvantages (occasional baby pee in the bed, significantly less space to stretch out, not a lot of privacy, and etc.), sleeping with Max has been a nice way to bond and to end the day together, and I like that being snuggled by his mom and dad is always his last memory of the day. However, as Speck and I have grown larger, I have noticed that my sleep quality and quantity have decreased in direct proportion. It is hard for me to get comfortable, and it is hard to change positions without waking Max. (I wake Ian, too, but he can usually put himself back to sleep with minimal intervention.) With this in mind, we have decided to begin transitioning Max into the crib. We have tried this before, have met with resistance, and have caved to Max's demands, being the parents of a much-loved and somewhat indulged only child. In addition to the issue of my comfort, however, we now have the looming reality of a new player entering the bedtime drama, and I can't really imagine fitting all of us into our queen-sized bed (especially if Speck continues to grow at his/her current alarming rate.) Faced with a deadline, we put the crib up in our room, determined to make the little bed and Max make friends. Our first night was not what I would call a rousing success.

Max laughed when he was first placed in the crib, and enjoyed crawling around in there and exploring for awhile. When he realized, however, with slowly awakening horror, that I actually intended to leave him there, he began to yell and attempt to escape, pointing indignantly to the big bed. When I encouraged him to lay down in the crib, he began to cry hysterically. Even after I took him out of the crib and back into our bed (oh, come on, you knew I would cave), it took him over an hour to calm down and go to sleep, and he kept a tight, baby-monkey-like grip on my shirt throughout the entire night. Ian and I are going to reevaluate our strategy and try again tonight. In the meantime, I am wide open to suggestions. I am not going to leave him by himself to cry and get used to it, but other than that, offer up any ideas that occur to you.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Reluctant Who

My parents came over yesterday, and brought Max a big truckload of clothing. (Just in time, too, because he has grown at an alarming rate recently, and most of his warm clothes do not fit anymore. We have been getting comments about underdressing our child when we take him out in the cold.) Among Max's new apparel items were two hats, both with two tufty horns. I have been hankering after this style of baby hat since long before there was a baby, so I was thrilled. Max, however, was not. One of the hats does not have a chin strap, and this one is not pictured, because Max kept removing it at the speed of light. This red hat has a restraining strap, so he couldn't take it off, but he was not moved in the slightest by my arguments that he looked adorable in it, or that I had been waiting for years to dress him in a two-pronged hat, or that it would keep his ears warm when we go out, and therefore keep strangers from calling child protective services on us.

Max has not yet forgiven me for this photo session, although I helped him take the hat off over an hour ago. He is walking around muttering to himself, avoiding coming within ten feet of my hat-trapping self and glaring at me out of the corners of his eyes, and if I had a baby translator right now, my feeling is that I'd be hearing some curse words.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Who Stole The Cookie From The Cookie Jar?

Every two weeks or so, I am forced into a fresh realization that Max has grown tall enough and smart enough to circumvent another of the many barriers Ian and I have constructed for his safety. I will get everything all set up and Max-proof, and then he will learn to climb a new furniture piece, or open a new cupboard door, or reach a new electrical outlet, and the whole system will need to be revamped. This morning, I gave Max a few ABC cookies for a snack, and then left the box on the kitchen table, well beyond the reach of Max's baby arms. Or so I thought. It turns out that Max has grown tall enough in the last week or so to outstrip my estimate by a fair margin. I heard a wild cackle of triumph a few minutes ago, while I was distracted by the ringing phone. I trepidatiously turned around, to find Max helping himself to the box of cookies. He stole them off the table, poured them all over the ground, and commenced helping himself to the choicest cookie morsels. When he saw me looking, he quickly stuffed as many cookies as he could into his mouth by the handful, puffing out his cheeks like a cookie-eating squirrel saving up for winter. The cookies are now under lock and key in the pantry, but Max is mad at me for stealing them from him and refuses to eat his lunch. I don't know if we'll be purchasing this brand of cookie again any time soon.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Rump Shaker

I have been trying for awhile now to capture the ridiculous cuteness that is Max dancing on video, but I have not had a whole lot of luck so far. Max has a habit of doing something really photographable until the second the camera actually comes out, and then ceasing immediately. It is annoying. Like his father, Max likes to bother me a little bit. I did manage to capture a still shot of the booty shake, so you can at least see how the fists go in the air and become an integral part of the dance. His favorite music so far seems to be hip-hop (again, Ian's tendency to like bothering me a little bit proves genetically dominant), but he has been known to shake it down in the grocery store to generic muzac as well. He is a weird, weird boy, but we love him.

p.s. I just realized that in the last two posts, Max is wearing the same outfit. He does wear other clothes occasionally, just in case anyone was wondering.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Dramatic Flair

As Max becomes better at manipulating his body (walking, climbing, mischief-making, etc.), he also becomes more expressive with his body. When he is excited, he will ball up his fists and do a hands-in-the-air, rump-shaking dance. When he is playing, he will pretend to talk on the phone, having an animated conversation, complete with exclamations, queries, and cooing sounds of affection. The funniest, however (although he would not appreciate me saying so), is when he feels that life has dealt him an unfair and tragic blow. He has taken to putting both hands on either side of his head, in a clear and heart-breaking woe-is-me gesture, and raising his eyebrows to complete his look of earnest and sincere misery. This is occasionally followed by him covering his ears, in what I hope is not really an attempt to block out our advice or admonishments, although that is sure what it looks like. He is far too little to begin with the teenage attitude, but he has never been one to accept other peoples' timetables.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Baby Speck Update

Lilypie Expecting a baby Ticker

Ian, Max, Speck and I went to the midwife yesterday, and got to hear Speck's heartbeat for the first time. Everything looks good -- Speck's heartrate is between 145-150 beats per minute, which, according to my mom, means that Speck is a she-Speck. However, I have been reading about the whole heartrate predicting gender thing, and medical science does not view it with the same confidence. They also do not run with my mom's theory of dangling a needle and string over the pregnant belly and determining gender based on how the needle rotates, but science is sometimes quite backward. We'll see in January, when we have the ultrasound. The midwife does not seem to back up my theory that Speck is the biggest and fastest growing baby in the known universe. She claims that Speck and I are both of normal size. Who knows what conspiracies she and Speck have entered into, though? I swear, yesterday when we were listening to the heartbeat, I heard Speck saying things to the midwife over that doppler heartbeat thing. I can only assume that the midwife has been hypnotised, or brainwashed, or both, and that Speck's evil genius now has a puppet ready and willing to do his/her bidding.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Weaning Wars

Max is now officially a non-nursing baby. I am a little sad that that part of my life as Max's mama is over, but my body is really grateful to not be trying to make breastmilk while simultaneously trying to grow the world's most ginormous baby. The weaning process has gone much more smoothly than I thought it would. Max was still using nursing to put himself to sleep a good 97% of the time, and I was very afraid that he would simply stop sleeping in protest when nursing was no longer an option. This has fortunately not proven to be the case. Max is a pretty easy-going baby, and he has resigned himself to a nip-free lifestyle with his good spirits intact. I have noticed, however, that he spends a lot more of his waking hours attached to me than he did before. He wants to be held more often and closer than before. I don't really mind this. Unless I have to pee, I actually kind of like it. Max has also started biting a little bit, however, and this is less enjoyable. I'm not sure if his biting is in vengeance for the weaning, or if he is just taking up a new oral fixation, like when people who are trying to quit smoking take up gum-chewing. I am thinking about getting Max a couple of those chewy dog bones, to see if that solves his problem. If I get him one of those baby leashes, too, I could take him to the mall and bask in the admiring stares.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Happy Turning One, Joseph!

Joey, we can't wait to watch you tackle being one with the enthusiasm and unique style that have become your trademark. We love you and wish we could help you celebrate today in person. Happy Birthday, Joseph!

Friday, December 01, 2006

He Sees You When You're Sleeping, He Knows When You're Awake

Well, I think that the time is right, with Christmas coming and all, to tell the world the story of Santa Bell. Santa Bell came into the life of our family in the long-ago Christmas of 1999. Ian and I had just gotten married, we were full of youthful enthusiasm and belief in the goodness of the world around us. Santa Bell changed all that. He was originally a gift for my dad, from a relative who shall remain anonymous for the sake of his or her own guilty conscience. It was unanimously agreed by all parties present that Santa Bell was an undesirable and somewhat strange gift. Mysteriously, my dad 'forgot' Santa Bell when he left that evening. During their next visit, I insisted that my parents do their duty and remove Santa Bell from my home. They pretended to capitulate and take him, but secretly left him on my front doorstep when they left my house. Since then, we have taken turns hiding him at one another's houses. This has become more challenging as the game has gone on. Santa Bell has been baked into a cake, buried in a flowerpot, and most recently, he sent me a series of emails from Canada (while my parents were there), complete with pictures of him in familiar Canadian locales. Currently, Santa Bell is in my possession, but not for long. All of this is just proof of a fundamental truth of our family -- some families like to use the holidays to be together and do good deeds. We like to go to great and inexplicable lengths to bother each other.