For 10 years now, we've included a completely obnoxious, 4-page Christmas letter in the cards we send out to family and friends. It takes a lot of work to keep it to 4 pages. I hate leaving things out, but I must if I ever want people to read the blasted thing. So, here it is, in its entirety for you. Get your coffee ready before you begin.
How often do you find yourself enjoying a TV or movie simply
because it reminds you of your life?
Earlier this week, I was jolted by the realization that our life closely
resembles not just a movie, but a franchise.
I was watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at the time. As the movie went on, more and more
similarities came to mind. And not just
from that one movie, but from all three of the Griswold movies.
National Lampoon’s Vacation
Throughout the movie,
the Griswolds’ station wagon gets beat all to heck. By the end, it is a wobbly, creaky, filthy
mess of a vehicle.
In one year, our van inexplicably got a flat tire in our
driveway. On another day, every single
wire on the back half of the van was shredded into teeny tiny pieces when the
dogs tried to capture a squirrel that had scrambled up into the
undercarriage. And when those wires
weren’t fixed properly, on one dark and rainy night, the sensors didn’t alert
me to the fact that I was about to back into a parked car behind me. That dent is still there.
Using nothing but a map, the Griswolds made their way from Chicago to
California to go to Wallyworld. They had
no reservations, but stopped whenever a tourist attraction caught their eyes or
circumstances forced them to.
I took all six kids on a Spring Break trip in which we
simply drove southwest. No reservations
or plans were made before we left. We
took back roads and stopped whenever we felt like it. While we did not make it to Dodge City like
the Griswolds, we did stop at Hillbilly Gardens, the Big Dam Bridge, and Cairo,
Illinois, where the Ohio flows into the mighty Mississippi. The kids were just as impressed by the
merging rivers as the Griswold kids would have been.
The Griswolds stopped to visit Cousin Eddie and his family. They were not happy to find out that Aunt
Edna was going to join them on their vacation
To start our spring break trip, we stopped in Kentucky to
celebrate March birthdays with the relatives.
When we left, my mom hopped in the van to join us on our spring break
adventure. Don’t worry. Mom didn’t die and we never once strapped her
to the roof of the van.
In the movie, Clark
accidentally left Aunt Edna’s dog tied to the back of the station wagon, and it
died a tragic death.
In our real life, our dog did not die a tragic death. Instead, the electric fence broke, our dog wasn’t
tied up, and the pain in the neck
dog caused the tragic death of 20 chickens in one fell swoop.
Two of the pigs were dragged, but not tied to the back of
the van, and only after they had already died of pneumonia.
At one point in the movie, Clark walked through the desert to find help
and save his family. In the end, he
barely survived and the family got help from some passing cowboys.
Back in January, Bryan spent hours and hours using his new
snow blower to clear over a foot of snow from two tire-sized lanes down our ¼
mile driveway. In -10 degree weather. He managed to get his car out and went to
work. The kids and I were left to our own
devices to get the van out. FYI: there
are no helpful cowboys in the Indianapolis area.
In the movie, Clark
causes quite a commotion in the pool, attracting the attention of all of the
guests in the hotel.
Back in April, my mom, some of my soccer mom friends, and I
apparently caused quite a commotion while at a Dayton-area soccer
tournament. While hotel management
didn’t do anything to Clark, my mom, my friends, and I were cut off and kicked
out of the Olive Garden.
National Lampoon’s European Vacation
On the way to London, Ellen dreamt about the royal family
. In her
dream, they are friends with the queen, and Lady Di is infatuated with Clark.
While in London, Bryan and I actually walked across the
street with Prince Edward and his wife.
Just the four of us and their bodyguard.
I could have reached out and held hands with him. Unfortunately, Bryan
and I argued about the identity of Prince Edward (Bryan said it was Prince
William, I said he was nuts. Plus,
actual princes don’t just walk to work!) all the way across the street and up
until Prince Edward walked through the gates of Buckingham Palace. Prince Edward not only didn’t become
infatuated with me, he probably heard every word of our argument and now thinks
of me as just another stupid American.
The Griswold family got stuck on a roundabout for hours, and each time
they went around, Clark would say, “Look kids!
Big Ben…and Parliament!”
Bryan and I spent hours walking around London, and much of
that time was spent standing in a roundabout in front of Big Ben…and
Parliament. By choice. Not only did we
say, “Look kids! Big Ben…and Parliament”
100 times, we took photos and sent them to the kids. Kids who have never seen the movie and had no
idea what we were so excited about.
Clark was a bad
driver in all of the movies, but he especially had trouble driving around
Europe. In England he drove on the wrong
side of the road, and in the rest of Europe he raced through towns for a
variety of reasons.
Phoenix got his driver’s permit in November. While he hasn’t run over any flower stands
like Clark did, he has driven on the wrong side of the road and almost run over
the bush at the end of our driveway. I’m
crossing my fingers that he is also unlike Clark in that he never has to drive
through town to avoid capture by men in lederhosen.
When the Griswolds
fled the lederhosen-clad German folk, they had to leave their luggage
behind. Once they got to Rome, they went
shopping for new clothes.
When Bryan flew to London (We took separate flights on
separate days.), he missed his connection.
His luggage took a much longer route than Bryan did, which meant he had
no clothes upon arrival in London.
Unlike the Griswolds, Bryan chose to wear the clothes he had on his back
for three days.
The Griswolds were supposed to spend a night with relatives they had
never met but only written to. They
accidentally spent the night with their relatives’ neighbors instead.
When I took Cuckoo to Florida for his special trip, we were
supposed to stay 2 nights with a family I only knew through internet, phone,
and mail correspondence. I’m sure they
were thrilled when we decided to stay with them an extra two days. They were
even happier when we made them trick or treat three times and go to the beach
in the freezing cold.
In the movie, the
French waiters made fun of the Griswolds for their inability to speak French
In reality, Bryan and I were also made fun of by French wait
staff. Sometimes it was subtle, like
when I couldn’t understand if the guy was asking if I wanted my water “with gas
or no gas”. Sometimes, I was outright
laughed at, like the time I ordered crème brulee, and she put it down in front
of me when it was still on fire. When I
jumped back to avoid catching my nose hairs on fire, she laughed and said,
“Brulee means fire,” and waved her hands over the brulee. While I ate my dessert, I caught her looking
over at me and laughing several times.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
In the movie, the Griswolds
go hiking through the woods to find the perfect tree. They come home with a tree way too big for
their living room
In our reality, Bryan and Phoenix bought our tree at a tree
lot, but they, too, chose a tree that was too big. It took 4 teens and 2 adults five tries to
get the tree upright. We never could get
it straight. In a fit of frustration,
Bryan hollered, “We’ll just turn it so if it falls it will hit the wall!”
When Clark cuts the
twine and the tree pops open, he says from inside the tree, “There’s a lot of
sap”. The next scene shows him getting
stuck to everything he touches
After the kids and I buried ourselves into the tree to heave
it into an upright position, one of us commented on the amount of sap in the
tree. I’ll just say that in real life,
toilet paper sticks to sap really, really well.
A squirrel jumps out
of the Griswold Christmas tree and wreaks havoc amongst the relatives.
Nothing came out of our tree, but a bat did fly into our
house. It didn’t cause much problem,
seeing as how our kids aren’t fazed by a bat.
Phoenix caught it (Bryan and I weren’t home.) with little fanfare. However, Bryan’s mom heard about it. She’ll never sleep well at our house again,
if we can even convince her to sleep at our house again.
Cousin Eddie parked
his RV in front of the Griswold house and emptied his toxic waste into the
We did not have a Cousin Eddie dumping waste into a drain,
but we did have a clogged septic tank overflowing all over our back yard. For weeks.
Thanks to the Polar Vortex, we didn’t know it was happening for a while,
and then we couldn’t get anyone to come out until after the big thaw.
Finally, someone came out to diagnose the problem (a clogged
filter (Who knew septic tanks installed in the last 6 years had filters?!?!))
and empty the tank. Afterwards, that
septic truck became our Cousin Eddie’s RV.
Because of the thaw, our driveway was a muddy mess, and that blasted
septic truck got stuck good and low in the mud.
National Lampoon’s Summer Vacation
OK, we know this movie hasn’t been made, but if the
franchise were to continue following our life, this is what the next movie
would look like.
In the movie, the Griswolds’
pet would get very sick, requiring lots of money to be spent at the vet in
order to save it.
In our world, it was the pigs that got sick. There is no expensive vet, so we had to
diagnose and treat the animals ourselves.
They had pneumonia, and they all needed several rounds of shots in order
to be cured.
The Griswold kids
would start playing a sport, and their team would have an end of season
party. Clark would see this as an
opportunity to show off his athleticism.
In the process of showing off his skills, he would severely injure
himself and at least one of his kids
In reality, Turken broke his collar bone all on his own by
tackling the padding for a football upright.
A week later, there was an end-of-season CYO soccer game of parents vs.
players. I played, of course, and at one point, I took off at full speed to
beat an 8th
grade boy to the ball.
I will have you know, I did beat him.
Unfortunately, once I got there, I tried to turn with the ball and my
foot didn’t come with me. I ended up in
a heap, rolling on the ground in a very dramatic fashion, crying out that,
“This is bad! You’re going to be taking
me to the hospital!” I ended up with an
ACL torn all to pieces and 2 meniscus tears.
If a movie were to be
made, the pig event and the knee trauma would happen on separate days in order
to make the movie an hour and a half long.
In actuality, these two events, as well as the shredding of
the van wires by the dogs I spoke of earlier, all happened on the same awful,
no good, very bad, miserable day. THE
SAME DAY!!! Since I caused such trauma
to my knee, I was unable to give the pigs their follow-up shots. Bryan is incapable of doing such a thing, so
two of the four pigs died.
Now, onto the
quotes. There are plenty of lines in the
movies that get quoted on a regular basis.
We have some memorable quotes from the year, too.
1. “I’m holding hands with a dead pig.” –Giant, when he and Phoenix
had to drag the dead pig out to the field.
2. “You are a TERRIBLE driver!” – me, from the backseat
while Bryan drove me home in my very doped up state after knee surgery.
3. “This doesn’t taste anything like mint!” – my mom, at
Dairy Queen, after Cuckoo gave her an Oreo from his Mint Oreo blizzard.
4. “That’s because I sucked the mint off for you!” – Cuckoo,
after my mom said it didn’t taste like mint.
5. “Wow, that must have been one bad accident.” – a complete
stranger at the hospital the day we had to get Turken’s collar bone X-rayed
(his arm was in a sling) and Buttercup’s back x-rayed to check for
scoliosis. I was hobbling around on
6. “This is the best
day ever!” – Bryan, on New Year’s Day, when he was able to eat Polish sausage
he made himself with his new sausage stuffer, topped with sauerkraut I helped a
friend make. We will ignore the fact
that he ranks it above his wedding day and the days his children were born.
7. “Sauertwaut is da woost.
Down at da bottom.” – Cuckoo, with his nose plugged.
8. “We can’t be lost!
We don’t know where we’re going!”
– Giant, on our spring break trip, after one of the other kids asked if we were
9. “MOM! A CHICKEN STUCK IT’S HEAD UNDER THE DOOR AND GOT
STUCK AND KILLED ITSELF AND IT’S GROSS AND I CAN’T EVEN OPEN THE DOOR AND YOU
NEED TO COOOOOOME!” – Buttercup, on a day that I was hopped up on Nyquil and
was in no mood to deal with a dead chicken, especially a dead chicken that was
peering at us from under a door.
10. “Who tf is dis” – in a text from someone we don’t know,
after I texted him thinking it was Giant’s number. I only know it was a full-grown, cranky man
who probably smokes and just woke up because I answered his text with “your
mother” and he called me right away.
11. “The marker said it was washable.” – Turken, with a very
sad face, while carrying a sopping wet thank you card he had spent the last 30