Chocolates Galore and Scary Photographers

Do you remember that scene in The Princess Bride where Inigo Montoya is trying to convince Miracle Max to do a miracle for him and Miracle Max only agrees to do the miracle if it’ll humiliate Prince Humperdink?  Inigo assures Miracle Max that there will be “humiliations galore.”  Here it is–all 2 seconds of it.

When I survey the wonderful bounty in my house I can hear Inigo’s voice saying, “Chocolates galore.”

Chocolates galore.  That’s what I’m faced with.  Chocolates galore.  Hang on while I go eat one.

I’m back.  See, I was asked to set up a photobooth for a Valentine’s banquet at church.  We needed Valentine’s Day props.  So I bought three little boxes of chocolates that people could use as props.  I didn’t want people accidentally opening the boxes and all the chocolates rolling around and people stepping on them and the chocolates being wasted.  I’m not like those stereotypical Americans that you hear about. I’m all about not wasting things, so I kept those chocolates by golly, and I’m proud to say so.  I’m doing my part to make the world a greener place.  Someone has to eat the chocolates–why not me?  When you add those three little boxes to the big box Darling Husband got for me there most certainly are chocolates galore.

My friend Jo-Ann’s cousin was skinny and in dire dread of gaining weight. She kept careful eye on every bite she took.  One year someone bought her a box of chocolates for Christmas and those chocolates proved to be more than she could withstand.  She called Jo-Ann on Dec 26th and broke the news. “You know that box of chocolates I got yesterday for Christmas?  Well, it’s empty.  I ate them all.”  Jo-Ann was properly scandalized, “Oh my goodness!,” until she asked, “Exactly how many did you eat??!!”  The breathless reply, “Four!”

I’m pretty sure there was a lot of eye rolling on Jo-Ann’s part and she hung up the phone in disgust.

I am not like Jo-Ann’s cousin.  I have many more than four chocolates in my house.  I have chocolates galore.

Every year at the Valentine’s banquet someone volunteers to take pictures of each couple and they print them out and everyone has a picture of themselves dressed up.  I never liked that part when I attended the banquets.  You had to stand in front of a Scary Photographer who made you smile, and you knew the smile was just ghastly and you knew the picture would be horrible and, oh, it was just All Too Much. And I was right. I always looked like I was dying in those pictures.

Well, now I realize that the Scary Photographers taking the pictures were people who have since become my friends and they’re actually quite nice and not scary at all (well, most aren’t), but I didn’t know that then.  And no one else knows it now.  They don’t know me.  I have become The Scary Photographer!

So this year when I was approached and asked if I’d set up a photobooth where people use the remote to take their own picture without a Scary Photographer looming it seemed like a good idea to me.  There would be props to hide behind for the very shy and if you didn’t like the picture you were free to try again.

Darling Husband couldn’t make it to the dinner, so I thought it might be fun to take a picture of an invisible Darling Husband.  But it didn’t turn out quite as clever as I liked and since I didn’t want to look like a total loser who has no friends to take a picture with I decided to take a picture with myself.

So I took this picture from earlier in the day when I was setting up the booth:

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And tried to combine it with this picture from the night of the banquet…

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But they overlapped.

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So I flipped this picture….

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And combined it with this picture…

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And made the colors slightly richer and was done:

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Speaking of colors, look at my hair.  I’m the same person with the same hair, so why the different colors?  They’re not really different.  Cover the bottom half and look only at the hair on the top of my head.  It’s brown.  That reddish color growing out at the bottom?  Yeah, that’s from Wendy’s costume party where I dyed my hair red for my costume.  It was supposed to wash out in 28 shampooings.

The party was in October of 2013.

I swear to you, I swear (!) that I have washed my hair more than 28 times since 2013.  Honest!

Stupid hair dye.

Tiny Little Shrunken People

Kylee contacted me and said she’d like some new portraits done.  Here’s one I took of her last summer:

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Kylee is pretty comfortable in front of the camera so I knew she’d be up for doing something out of the ordinary. All I needed was a clever idea.  I waited a few days for inspiration to strike then remembered that I love pictures of tiny little shrunken people.

I’ve never shrunken anyone before, so I took Boy12 with his frying pan…

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…and used my shrink ray to have him help out Captain America who is totally losing this fight against Red Skull. 3 unedited toy pic

Looks like Boy12 is handy in a fight:

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It looks great, except you can tell that Boy12 isn’t really standing on the top of his desk like Red Skull is.  Also, as far as I know Boy12 isn’t Peter Pan or a vampire so where is his shadow and reflection?

Cropped out the feet:

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Much better.

I suggested to Kylee we could build a Lincoln Log house and have her creeping up to it (in tall grass to hide her feet) and title it “Goldilocks,” but Kylee told me she dyed her hair red.

Kylee! Red? Really?? Goldilocks doesn’t have red hair!  Models ought to consult with their photographers before they go around dying their hair.  Kylee solved the problem by changing the title to “Little Red Riding Hood.”

You look like General Zod, yo.

Sorry to out you, Scott, but pictures don’t lie.  We always wondered why you’re never around whenever Superman shows up.

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Today we had Photo Club.  For the first two years of Photo Club we’d all blithely show up and sit expectantly waiting for Scott to come up with clever photography ideas for us to try out.  He is the leader after all.  But he kept saying over and over, “I’m NOT the leader!” To our ears that sounded like, “Whaa whaa whaa leader!”  Yup.  Everything’s right with the world.  Scott is our leader.  We all heard him say “leader.”

He finally had a little sit in and refused to come up with new ideas.  We’d meet for Photo Club, Scott would shrug at us, we’d exchange recipes, and go home.

Unfortunately for me, I have one of those “nature abhors a vacuum” types of personality.  If someone’s not getting the job done I feel the need to step in and do it.

That’s why when I took one of those goofy Which Star Wars Character Are You tests online I turned out to be either Darth Vader or Leia.  What was it that Leia said when they botched up her rescue?  Oh yeah, “Well, somebody’s gotta save our skins.”  That’s me in a nutshell.  As long as you’ve got things under control, fine.  But if I get the slightest whiff that you’re falling down on the job, I’m right there to swoop in and fix it.

It’s tough being me.

Or not.  Consider today’s Photo Club:

As usual, it was Friday and Photo Club was looming and no one had offered any ideas of what we’d do on Saturday.  After a few seconds of thought the idea popped into my head that we could set our shutter speeds very slow, like for 30 seconds, and get a single picture with two or three poses in it.*

Later, another idea popped into my head.  Three different poses in a single shot…what about someone transforming…what about Clark Kent transforming into Superman?!  Aha! I sent a little message to everyone telling them about my idea and asking them to wear their Superman shirts and black rimmed glasses to Photo Club.

I arrived at Photo Club this morning and had a few words with Scott over who had to take charge figuring out how to get the picture done, “It’s your idea, Lizard, tell us what to do.” “Who me?  I don’t know what to do!” I think he’s just glad that he wiggled out of being “the leader” and enjoys being able to throw responsibility on someone, anyone, else.  After talking over what we each had in our mind’s eye of how the picture should look, we all headed for the cloak room where it was nice and dark and we could control the light with flashes.  (Photo Club meets in a church.) We started taking pictures.

First a picture without a flash, just to see:

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Ok.  Get out the flash.  Kevin was the Holder of the Flash.

Scott would get into the first pose, Kevin would fire the flash directly on Scott, Scott would get into the second pose, Kevin would circle to a new spot and fire the flash directly onto Scott, third pose, Kevin circles, flash–then time would run out.

I set the camera for 30 seconds.  But first, quick practice with the flash for the proper power settings:

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Then practice how the clothes would have to be arranged:

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Hold up! Something’s missing:  a tie!  Clark Kent always wears a tie with his button down shirt.  There was discussion about whether or not to call Darling Husband to bring a tie.  (Nah, let him rest.) We looked in the Welcome Center to see if someone had lost a tie recently (no.)  Oh well.  Press on.

Practice with actual costume change:

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No…everything needs tweaking and we need a way to tell how much time is passing.  Hannah held the ipad with the stopwatch app and hollered out time periodically.  I pressed the shutter button:

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Better, but one Scott is mostly solid and the other 2 are see through.  It was Kevin’s job to work on that problem.*

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The pastor of the church walked by and saw the Photo Club all stuffed into the cloak room. “Hey, Photo Club!  What are you doing?”  We turned to look.  And lo!  He was wearing a tie!  There was a bit of tension in the air we considered how we could separate the pastor from his tie, but he looked pretty dapper in the tie.  A little too dapper in his tie and a dark suit. The sort of tie and dark suit you wear to a big event…like a funeral.  Can’t take a tie from a man whose about to do a funeral.  Our better judgement won the day and we let the pastor leave un-accosted.**

We got back to work with Scott doing a lot of costume changes, Kevin circling and holding the flash near the ceiling, Hannah keeping track of time, and me pressing the shutter button.   Gerhard…well, Gerhard was there, but was getting sidetracked by his friend, Harold.***

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Kevin began to sweat from all the circling and the picture is too dark.

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Whoops.  Missed a flash. Try again:

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Scott began to sweat from all the costume changes.  Try again:

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At this point, Kevin made the quiet observation that Scott looks more like General Zod than Superman.  Yup.  Kevin was right, but you gotta feel for Scott.  There he was, his turn to shine, getting to be the hero in the picture, and his best buddy just has to point out, “You don’t look like Superman.  You look like General Zod, yo.”  Aw.  What a let down.  The whole exchange struck me as funny and I had to pause in my shutter pressing to get in a good chuckle.

We soldiered on.

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So close!  But the 3rd pose is too covered by the 2nd pose.  And then:

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Got it!  This is the one.  We all agreed there wasn’t anything else we could do that would make it any better, in camera.  

And that’s when Scott said he wanted the same picture on his camera now, but in a slightly different pose, with the open shirt in the middle.  Time to start all over again.  And we did:  Scott doing the costume changes, Kevin circling and holding up the flash, Hannah keeping time and me…just pressing the button and then standing there relaxing for 30 seconds at a time.  By the end of Photo Club they were all sweaty and shiny but I was cool and matte.

Hey, I may have to save everyone’s skins from time to time, but I’m also really good at delegating.  😉

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So…original in camera:

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And after post processing:

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* If you really want to know what settings we used, and how Kevin solved the solid/see-through problem, ask in a comment and I’ll tell you.

**We found out later it was a wedding.  A wedding?!  In that case we could have totally taken the tie.  There was only one of him and five of us.  Too bad he got away before we realized it was for a wedding.

***Harold is a conspiracy theory nut and lives off the grid in New Mexico.  He refuses to have mail sent to him because he doesn’t want the government to be able to track him down.  He has his mail sent to Gerhard’s house in Pennsylvania, who then sends it to Harold’s P.O.Box in New Mexico.  Something went wrong and Harold didn’t get an important piece of mail. Gerhard was talking to Harold about it during our meeting.  There’s always something interesting going on when you’re with Gerhard.

Too Cool, Toddlers, and Time Machines

I’ve taken some toddler/preschooler pictures this month.  I do not like taking toddler/preschooler pictures.

The first toddler’s pictures were for a Christmas card.  My cunning plan was to take the pictures in the fall, set the little girl loose in her backyard, then chase after her snapping pictures like a desperate paparazzo.

Yes, the singular of paparazzi is paparazzo.  Thank the heavens above for the internet so I could look it up.

The internet.  We are all just so cool nowadays I can hardly stand it.  We drive around in our cars and speak to the air, “Call Mom!” and the car calls Mom!

And we’re so blasé about it, too.  Aren’t we ridiculous in our blasé-ment?  

What would it be like if we could make a time machine and bring someone like Leonardo da Vinci forward in time?  How would he react to the things we have?  Can you see him startle when you first flick a switch on the wall and the room is blazing with lights?  Can you see the tears in his eyes when you take him on his first airplane ride?  Leonardo wouldn’t be blasé about electric lights and planes.

I saw some show where they took some guy—I think he was an aboriginal guy from the Australian bush—and plopped him down in a big city.  He started off in the airport with those sidewalks that move.  They’re like escalators but instead of steps they’re just a long strip that moves you along so you don’t have to actually put one foot in front of the other and walk.   The man was awed, of course, and when he went back home he tried to explain what he saw, “There were paths that moved for you.  You stood on them and they walked for you.”  His people thought he was nuts.

We are just too cool and we don’t even know it.  

Well that went off track.  Back to my original idea for this blog post: Christmas card pictures with toddler.

I was going to take the toddler outside, follow her around, and get lots of shots until I had a bunch of adorable candid shots to choose from.  But the weather was rainy, the family got sick, and it didn’t work out until cold bleary November.  We had to do shots indoors.  I had to use a flash.  This meant I couldn’t follow her around snapping like crazy.  I had to pose her, hope she didn’t run away, snap, then wait for the flash to power back up and, snap, and wait for the flash…. All that waiting for the flash can really mess up toddler pictures.  They do not hold their poses.

To make her stay in one spot we kept giving her This Is Not A Toy items to play with.

We gave her strands of wrapping paper ribbon…

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…we gave her glass Christmas tree ornaments…

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…and we gave her strings of electric lights—turned on.

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It worked insofar as she stayed in one spot, but the problem was that she was so busy amazing at her good luck in getting to touch all the This Is Not a Toys that she didn’t look up from the things we handed her.  I have a ton of pictures of the top of her head.

Here’s the picture I like best:

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See, people who can’t do their own portraits want a chance to get formal, posed pictures.  They ask their photographer friends or hire a photographer to take their formal, posed Family Portraits.  That’s all well and good and has its place.  I got a bunch of Family Portrait shots that the family loves.  They’re happy, so I’m happy.

But when you are the photographer, those pictures aren’t as much fun.  Yes, they’re necessary.  They can be pleasant, but they’re not fun.

Photographers like to get the pictures that tell a little story.  They like the pictures that make you wonder what happened just before the shot or just after.  Or make you wonder what the person in the picture is thinking.  Or what they’re looking at.

The reason I like the above shot best is because you wonder about it.  Who is handing the girl the lights?  (It was Darling Husband.)  You notice the way she is looking at whoever hands her the lights.  Is she happy about it?  Is she confused?  What’s that little girl going to do with the lights now that she has them?

It tells a tiny story and I like it.

Here are the pictures I like best of the little girl’s older sisters.  I like them because they’re between the formal poses and the girls are moving and relaxed and simply being “kids.”

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That last one was almost formal, except for the way her finger is smooshing her face.  But I love that.  It feels very “real” to me in a way that pictures where your hands are positioned ‘just so’ don’t.  I also like her red nose.  She had a cold and kept blowing her nose.  That’s not what you want in a formal portrait, but it’s what helps make this a fun picture.  It’s a memory.

In the next one, the girl with the finger-smooshed face drew a picture of her sister, pictured below.  It’s hard to tell whether the sister (below) finds the picture flattering or not.  (Kinda reminds me of when Napoleon Dynamite draws that picture of the girl he asks to the dance.)

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And of course:

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Nobody leaves without singing the blues

Sometimes you plan your life and sometimes life plans for you.

Apparently Boy8 is destined to be a blues musician.  A few weeks ago he bought himself a fedora and he wears it everywhere.  See?

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For Christmas he asked for, and received, a pocket watch.  And also for Christmas Gerhard bought him a harmonica.  Turns out Boy8 has been wanting a harmonica for quite some time.

Fedora, pocketwatch, harmonica?  The boy has a destiny, people, and I’m seeing cool blue neon lights in his future.  But we’re a musical family around here.  A few weeks ago I dyed my hair red…

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…for an 80’s Murder Mystery Costume Party.  My character was April O’Neil.

Never heard of her?  Neither had I.  And neither had anyone else at the party.  Apparently she was the reporter on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoon.  It took half the party just to explain to everyone who I was supposed to be.  “Oh, look!  There’s Crocodile Dundee!  And Madonna!  And Jessica Rabbit!  And…Dustylizard….um…who are you supposed to be?”

Kevin took pictures of everyone at the party.  The first is of Darling Husband in his Teen Wolf costume.

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See Darling Husband’s chest hair?  Nothing like getting dressed and having your husband holler out, “Where’s my chest hair?  Has anyone seen my chest hair?! I can’t go to the party without my chest hair!”  After the party the itchy chest hair was flung in the back of the van only to be discovered days later by the boys.  “Aaaah!  What in the world is that?!  …Oh, wait.  It’s just Dad’s chest hair.”

Darling Husband was quietly amused that his character was Teen Wolf.  Teen Wolf probably didn’t have grey hair and wear bifocals.

And here I am in my April O’Neil costume wearing some ninja weapons for good measure.

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Anyway, for Christmas this year I asked for, and received, an Irish Tin Whistle.  With my red hair and tin whistle and Boy8 with his fedora and harmonica, I can play some peppy Irish reels and Boy8 can play the blues and we’ll have people totally confused at our expensive sold-out concerts.

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A Christmas picture for you.  This rose bush sits under an overhang outside the local library.  Water drips on it all day and then freezes encasing the buds in ice.

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Is your 8 year old bored? Won’t leave you alone to rest? Read here for The Answer.

So Boy8 gets home today after a lively afternoon of playing with friends and announces a full 50 seconds after walking in the door, that he’s bored. Wow. Don’t tell me kids have short attention spans. 50 seconds, people. That’s a lot of seconds. I’m so proud.

I couldn’t help him. I spent 109 hours yesterday afternoon trying to take family portraits of a good natured dad, sweet mom, happy first daughter, engaged second daughter…and an 18 month old third daughter. If you’ve ever tried to do that then you’ll understand that I’m Wiped Out. My legs are aching from all the running around, squatting, lying down and jumping back up that had to be done. 18 month olds absolutely do NOT want their pictures taken. Ever. Ever, ever. Boy8 and Boy11 even came by later as reinforcements to stand behind me and dance about. She loves them and they always make her laugh.

And yup. They did make her laugh. She was grinning and chortling and having a grand old time…about 4 minutes after I tidied up my lighting gear and camera. Argh!

But bored Boy8 was not about to let his weary old mother rest. While I was busily employed bringing all the fruit to the bottom and clearing out all the jelly Boy8 kept hanging on to me and reminding me that he was still bored.

I spied the glass bunnies that I used to play with when I was a child and told him  in my Storyteller voice, “Way back in the olden days when I was a young girl and everything was in black and white, I used to play for hours and hours with those glass bunnies. Yes, those very same ones you see there! Would you like to play with them? You’re old enough now.”

No.

“Don’t you have any matchbox cars? When I was a little girl, I used to line them all up in a big traffic jam. The first car would move forward an inch. Then the second car would move forward an inch. Then the third car would move forward an inch. I could fill days and days playing Traffic Jam.” Boy8 stared at me incredulously and said, “Did you really play that? Really?” I could hear Darling Husband snorting from the other room. Hey. I was an only child and had a very boring childhood. You gotta do what you gotta do to fill the time. Yes I played Traffic Jam.

Boy8 politely declined playing Traffic Jam.

“You could read a book. I have hundreds of children’s books I’ve collected just for sweet little you.”

No. He claims he hates reading. Oh, just break your mother’s heart in two why don’t you?

He wanted to do something physical he said.

“Make an obstacle course out of couch pillows and whatever else you can find and run through it.” Surely he’ll do this. He loves doing this and it makes a ghastly mess.

No.

Sigh. “Then how about we put this lazy boy chair back and you massage my scalp while I fall asleep.”

And he did. Honestly. He really did. I just woke up about 20 minutes ago.

And that is how you do it people. If your child is bored I’ve just given you The Answer. Don’t give me your silly excuses that it’ll never work with your children. That’s not my problem. I’m busy. I still have all that fruit and jelly to clear out.

Presents for the Boys in the Pet Department and Elephant “Elephant Gifts”

It’s that time of year again: shopping for Christmas presents for the boys in the pet department.

Why in the pet department?

Because Boy8 asked for teeny-tiny stuffed animals for Christmas this year.  See, for a few glorious years some brilliant toy maker sold teeny-tiny stuffed animals that could easily fit in the palm of your hand with room to spare.  Teeny-tiny lions and teeny-tiny dogs and teeny-tiny horses.  They were adorable and Boy11 and Boy8 loved them.

When Boy8 asked for another one this year for Christmas I had a bad feeling that teeny-tiny stuffed animals were a passed fad and I was right.  I’ve scoured 3 different stores with nary a teeny-tiny stuffed animal to be found, not even in the kryptonite pink girl aisles.   Yes, kryptonite.  They haven’t done it much lately, but whenever the boys used to pass the pink aisles of the toy store they would drop to the floor and crawl past clutching at their throats and gasping out, “It’s…pink…kryptonite!  Gaaa!”

So, with no teeny-tiny stuffed animals to be found in the toy department I was forced to head to the pet department and get those teeny-tiny mice filled with catnip.  Surely some Ritalin will counteract the hyper effects of the catnip and everything will even out…right?

Along with buying my sons’ presents from the pet department, I had to drum up an “elephant gift” for a cookie exchange I’m going to tomorrow.  The same thing happened last year.  I went to the cookie exchange and had to bring an “elephant gift.”  I wasn’t exactly sure what an “elephant gift” was, so I found a quite hideous elephant with a clock in its stomach lurking in a corner of my attic and took it to the exchange.  Turns out the woman who won it was delighted with it and keeps it proudly displayed on a shelf in her living room.  The other women breathed a sigh of relief that they dodged getting the elephant gift from me.

But what the other women don’t know is that I have an extensive elephant figurine collection in boxes in my attic.  No, I’m serious.  I really do.  My mother decided I needed to collect something so she started sending me lots and lots of elephants.  I used to fill the furniture of my house with them, but after a while I got bored with them and boxed them all up and stuffed them in the attic.

I just remembered about 20 minutes ago that I was supposed to bring another “elephant gift” for tomorrow.  Five minutes later I came down from the (freezing) attic with my offering for this year.  It’s brass and is a little tarnished, but it’ll do.  Obviously they secretly want me to bring elephants or they wouldn’t ask for more “elephant gifts.”

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Taken in the bathroom on the toilet. The elephant was on the toilet, not me. Why are bathrooms the only decently lit rooms in the house? Aren’t we all tired of pictures taken in bathrooms?

But just so I wasn’t totally lame, I also tossed in some very nice Christmas ornaments that I found in the (freezing) attic as well.

And now off to make a last batch of cookies for the cookie exchange and to wrap my elephant gift.  If you’re coming to the exchange and pick up a bag that feels heavy enough to hold a big brass elephant, pick another bag.  You’ve been warned.