I did, anyway. As soon as he saw me sit down, Fred made up some excuse to "check out the computer" and vamoosed, leaving the spud and I alone with his stepfather and Grandma. His stepfather – who is a nice man, and an incessant talker – quizzed me about seafood and whether I had any relatives left in Maine. Grandma harangued him every minute and a half about whether or not the fire in the woodstove was going out (it was not). When she turned her attention to me, she asked me several times in a row if I ever used the stairs at my house (I do; how the hell else am I going to get from the upstairs to my beloved computer?). This, apparently, was just a setup, because when Fred wandered back from wherever he was hiding, she fixed him with a gimlet eye and said "You must not be using the stairs at your house Freddie! You haven’t lost any weight!" In case, y’know, he had forgotten he was fat. His mother and Grandma are quite hard of hearing; I’m not sure whether his stepfather is, or not, so whenever we’re at their house, I find myself talking in a loud, hearty, jolly, fake-ass voice. "OH NO, THAT’S FINE. I’M FINE. JUST FINE. NO MORE SAUSAGE BALLS FOR ME, NO THANKS!" Breakfast was pretty good, aside from the fact that it was your basis Table Full O’ Heart Attack. Mmmmm. Anyway, the haul from his mother, stepfather and Grandma: a $50 Wal-Mart gift certificate, a hot pad, two dish towels, and $15. Oh, and some chocolate-covered marshmallow santas. The spud got a couple of packs of cards ("Old Maid" and "Go Fish"), a nightgown, and $5. Not a bad haul. We ended up staying until 1:00, because Fred had to download some free isp program (freezone? freenet? something like that) for his mother , which took for-freakin’-ever. Once it was downloaded, he ran it, and it just sat there and said "loading" forever. When his mom wandered out of the room, I hissed "Just sign them up for something cheap and we’ll pay for it and consider it part of their present!" My God. The man took forever, gazing at the Juno webpage, trying to find the $14.95 option he knew they offer, and only able to find the $19.99 option. Or something. After watching my life pass me by for an eternity, I hissed "Look, right now I’d pay $30 a month to get the hell out of here!" He finally found the $14.95 option, and when his mother came back in and realized what he was doing, she started making the obligatory "Oh, I can’t let you pay for that!" noises. Only barely did I manage to stop myself from bellowing "Just take it and be grateful!" in her face, although truth be told she didn’t put up too much of a fight. We finally hotfooted it out of there around 1 (meaning that we spent a good two hours longer there than we usually do on christmas eve morn), stopped at a gas station to get something to drink, and came home. I checked my email, talked to Fred for a few minutes, then went to take a nap. We headed for Fred’s dad and stepmom’s house sometime before 5, and were the first ones there. I wish I’d taken the digital camera or the real camera with us, because their christmas tree is so awesome. His stepmother spent ages putting the lights on the tree, and it’s incredible. I can’t rave enough about it! (Side note:His mother and stepfather didn’t have a real christmas tree, but she put christmas tree lights in a rubber tree plant, and it looked pretty cool) They also have a ficus in the foyer that they put white lights on, which I always admire. We stood around and talked while they messed around with the food. Fred’s stepsister and her family showed up after six (my god, they have some cute kids), and Fred’s sister (she of the "she’ll poison or shoot you!" story) and her family showed up some time after that. Fred went into the kitchen and smiled across the room at her, and she gave him the Look O’ Evil. The entire evening, she avoided Fred and did not direct a single word to either of us. Usually she doesn’t deign to talk to me, so I wasn’t any too heartbroken, but it got to the point where it was funny. Fred would enter the kitchen, she would exit the kitchen. Fred would say something to his father, she would look away as if Fred didn’t exist. You get the idea. I just know that they all think I’m behind the whole thing. The haul from them: the most awesome cookware ever, go look at it here, and be impressed; a bottle of wine, plaster angels, and carbon monoxide detectors. We ate, we opened presents, we left. A good time was had by all! Once home, we lounged around the house, I talked to my sister on IRC, Fred watched something on TV with the spud. We chased the spud off to bed around 10, put the presents out, filled her stocking, tossed the cookies and dumped out the milk she left for Santa, and then exchanged presents with each other. My haul from Fred: A Dennis Miller book, The Code of Buddyhood, autographed by William Bernhardt, a ton of candy, a Dave Barry desk calendar, and some bodywash and body mist. Very good choices by the Fredster, especially The Code of Buddyhood – we both absolutely adore William Bernhardt, and that particular book has been out of print for ages. So, we went to bed around midnight, and I slept in until 8 christmas morning. The spud is such a good kid; she’ll content herself with playing with whatever she got in her stocking until Fred and I are up and about. We were about to begin opening presents, when Fred – in charge of devilled eggs – realized we didn’t have enough eggs. He left to see if there were any stores open where he could purchase them, and the spud started opening her presents. Between my parents, her father’s parents, her father, my sister and her father’s sister, there was quite a pile (again, no pictures, sorry). She had a pile of about 30 presents, and Fred and I had a small pile of about 5 presents between us. She opened and opened and opened some more, and then when Fred got back, he and I opened our presents. The haul from my side of the family: a scanner from my parents, an LL Bean gift certificate from my sister, two books (for me) from my friend Liz, the Boyzone CD from the spud and Fred, a 5-pack of "Little House on the Prairie" episodes from the spud and Fred, and a necklace from the spud. After we finished opening presents, we helped the spud drag all her presents into her room, and Fred set up her brand-new stereo/cd player (a present from us) while I set up her new printer (a present from my parents). We ate a big meal (ham, mashed potatoes, pole beans, rolls, corn, stuffed celery, leftover dressing and sweet potato casserole we brought home from his dad’s house, and cranberry sauce. Oh, and devilled eggs, of a sort. The eggs would not peel right – because they were left out too long, instead of being peeled immediately – so Fred mashed up the yolks with mayo and relish, then stirred in big pieces of the whites), then we all took naps and just generally sat around like the lazy people we are. The spud started coughing last Monday, and her cough grew steadily worse – though it was a dry cough, and not a wet one – until this morning when I up and took her to the doctor. Before you begin emailling me and telling me what an awful mother I am, keep in mind that when the spud gets colds, she usually coughs for several days (or rather, has a cough for several days, since coughing for several days straight would probably kill her), and there’s never anything the doctors can do aside from stroking their chins thoughtfully and saying "Hmm. Looks like a cold." So don’t send me nasty emails. I know when to take her to the doctor. Her formerly dry cough turned wet in the night, so I took her to the doctor’s office at the stroke of 8, which is when they open. We waited and waited and waited some more, and after two hours of waiting – and a chest X-ray – I was informed that she has pneumonia. They popped her in the hip with an antibiotic shot, gave me three prescriptions, and we came home. Hell, she’s got pneumonia – I’m not going to drag her to the office so she can hack up pieces of lung all over the place. she went to her room around 11:30, and was out like a light. It’s 2:30 now, and she’s still sleeping hard. I guess that cough syrup is some good stuff!]]>