Meet the Recycle Robots!

Meet Omega-3, Heinz, and Joebot. (copyright Betsy Andrews Etchart)

The pioneers: Omega-3, Heinz, and Joebot. (copyright Betsy Andrews Etchart)

Once upon a time, sometime in August, I made three friends.

It was not long after Mbot’s fifth birthday. It seemed all the toys he’d received at his party were breaking because they had outlived their unwritten life-expectancy of three weeks, or collecting dust, because they’d entered the boring zone.

The idea of robots originated with Mbot’s very first show-and-tell, over two years ago.

Heinz door open

On the eve of his first show-and-tell, we (I use the term very loosely) made a recycle robot for his first preschool show-and-tell–not because we were trying to be clever, but because we were panicky and desperate (again, the term “we” used loosely). I documented that event in my post, Recycle Robot vs. Sister Mary Villus. Ever since, I secretly wanted to make more.

So I’d been piling recyclables in the garage–not all of them of course, but the choice items with interesting shapes or moving parts (cardboard tubes, ketchup bottles, wipies lids), in preparation for a recycle party that we hadn’t had. I envisioned inviting over some of the bots’ friends and making cool stuff out of all the cool stuff that other people thought were trash.

We have yet to have our recycle party, but I started partying with recyclables by myself. While During the seven weeks that I was going through radiation, I promised myself that I wouldn’t push myself too hard. I wouldn’t try to make headway on any of my writing projects. I would be kind to myself. I would have fun. I decided it was time to get out the pile o’ trash. I made these three dudes as toys for the weebots. They’re all about twenty inches tall (antennae not included) and have swiveling heads, moving arms, grasping hands, and secret compartments. I avoided using brads or any metal parts, for safety reasons.

What I didn’t know before I made the recycle robots is that they would turn out to be the perfect toys. Why?

1. They are cheap. They are made out of garbage!

2. When they break, I can fix them myself, because I made them in the first place!

3. When the bots get bored with them, I can change them! They will seem new again!

4. They can serve as friends, targets for Tae Kwon Do kicks, storage containers for other toys, or piggy banks. And it’s always nice to have a friend who’s also a piggy bank.

6. They can double as décor by adding a test tube filled with water and a flower.

Heinz 2

Wouldn’t you love to have him holding out a flower to you all day? (No test tube in this picture; I added it later.)

7. They have turned my own weebots into lean, green, recycle machines; their favorite craft now is collecting junk, gluing it together, and adding eyes. They can, literally, make their own friends.

Fresh off his shift as a sparring partner, Joebot becomes a handy Lego container.

Fresh off his shift as a sparring partner, Joebot becomes a handy Lego container. (At far left, Mbot’s speedboat, complete with a hatch that opens into a raisin box filled with ninjas that look a lot like wine corks.)

My friend Solveig, who’s been around since the failed Scotch sewing machine days, dubbed the robots–and we who make them–the Recycle Robot League.

Thanks to St. Peter’s Montessori Fall Festival–where, after three weeks of collecting recyclables, the children built their own recycle robots–there are now nearly fifty members!

It is very cool to have a hungry robot bigger than yourself greet you at school!

It is very cool to have a hungry robot bigger than yourself greet you at school!

Next week, I’ll post pictures of the kids’ robonderful creations. Toilet paper tubes have never had such a shiny future.

RRL Montessori Fall Fest 11When a friend asked for step-by-step instructions so she could make them with her eight-year-old homeschooled twins, I sat down to write them, and at her prompting, made them downloadable on Etsy.com  for $.99. The process that actually made the robots better, because I wanted to make sure to include tips on how to reinforce their bods to make them as durable as possible. Because while it’s great to be able to whip out a glue gun for a quick fix, it’s even better not to have to!

A Small, Irritating Raccoon Celebrates Father’s Day

So, here is a confession: the Andrews family crest is headed by a small, irritating raccoon.

The small, irritating raccoon can even irritate another inanimate object.

The small, irritating raccoon can even irritate another inanimate object.

A small, irritating raccoon made from cotton pompoms, holding a pompom apple, both apple and raccoon circa 1975.

A small, irritating, inanimate raccoon by the name of Superpeeky.

There are actually two of him. Different generations. Identical except for the fact that one was acquired by my brother when he was five, and the other two years later. My brother carried them around everywhere, with a fist around their necks (an anatomical feature denoted by the layer of glue affixing the pompom body to the pompom head.) Over the years, their necks elongated and they lost any semblance of a chin they once may have possessed.

Over the decades, Superpeeky has contracted a personality like some contract a disease. He is an egomaniac; he thinks he can fly but is tragically anti-aerodynamic; his brain, such as it is, with just one axon spinning wildly in attempt to synapse with itself, actually resides in the apple that he carries between his front paws; he lusts after the female wild boars who root about the bamboo forests near my brother’s home in Japan, and he is suspected of having fathered several boar/raccoon offspring, probably born with their apples in their mouths, but no one knows for sure, as none have ever been sighted.

The Superpeekies have also acquired a brief but notable wardrobe. Grandpa Supes (the elder) wears a red-and-white striped suit that I hand-stitched for him I think when I was nine. He has not taken it off since. Over this, he wears a Magic Tanning Shirt. It is pale yellow with a white polo collar, fashioned by my mother long ago in homage to a ten dollar shirt my father wore for over two decades during annual family vacations to Hawaii, and which he insisted accounted for his deep and even tan, which was the envy of his teenaged daughters. (It was the eighties). The original shirt was immune to the ravages of time, the changing of fashions, and an onslaught of sand, suntan lotion, sloughed skin, and derogatory remarks. As though feeding on the negative attention, it only grew stronger (while growing shorter and more misshapen) as the years passed. Sort of like Yoda.

I finally forced its retirement by purchasing a new Ralph Lauren model in a similar shade of yellow, but like Freddy Kreuger or, more accurately, like a wolf spider, who carries its pinpoint-sized, newly hatched spiderlings on its vast back, and if crushed by, say, Harry Potter, Volume 3, in the middle of the night, lives on in the miniature versions of itself that are small enough to scuttle to freedom (until they’re sprayed with toilet bowl cleanser)*, the shirt found new life in Superpeeky-sized versions of itself.

(If at this point you are questioning the sanity of my family, I am in no position to offer you assurances of normalcy. But if you ever find yourself in an airport interrogation room being questioned about why a small, irritating raccoon holding an apple and made out of pompoms is wearing a polo shirt, you’ll be able to whip out an answer with convincing speed.)

Superpeeky the younger can often be found sporting the Magic Tanning Shirt, which he wears sporadically, as the mood moves his keepers (the Superpeekies rotate between my brother’s office in Japan and my parents’ bookshelves in Idaho, when they haven’t been kidnapped by other family members who have been known to demand ransom in macadamia nuts).

One could write a doctoral dissertation on the psychosociological ramifications of Superpeeky. In the meantime, he has several practical uses.

He makes an excellent foil against which to measure oneself and the situations in which one finds oneself (for example, “Wow, gout must really suck, but by God, at least your brain isn’t in your apple.”)

He also provides a good go-to subject for special-occasion customized greeting cards when the selection of eCards falls short. For example:

FATHER’S DAY CAN GET BETTER AS YOU GET OLDER

and your hearing starts to go:

img001

img002

I’m just saying, every family should have a Superpeeky. (But if ours disappears, we will track you down and make you wear a Magic Tanning Shirt.)

*Not that that ever, ever happened in real life in the bots’ bedroom, leaving Husbot to clean up the poisonous toilet bowl cleanser which presented much more of a potential hazard to bots than a harmless yet large and gross mommy wolf spider.

What the Directions for Your LeapPad Don’t Tell You

During the LeapPad Introduction Session, Husbot forgot to tell Gbot one important thing.

During the LeapPad Introduction Session, Husbot forgot to tell Gbot one important thing.

That when The Backyardigans doesn’t come on, you should not–repeat, NOT–apply a wooden boat ornament to the screen forcefully and repeatedly.

We will be holding a memorial service for the LeapPad later this week. In lieu of gifts, please send cash donations to:

Gbot’s second LeapPad fund, c/o Gbot’s mother.

And so three Christmas lessons have been learned: 1. If you are frustrated with your LeapPad, do not assault it enthusiastically with a wooden boat ornament. 2. Spend only half of what you can afford on a gift for your three-year-old, especially if it is electronic, because there is an excellent chance that you will soon be purchasing a second one. 3. The day after Christmas is apparently an extremely popular day for shopping. If, on this day, you find yourself in the market for a popular electronic device for three-year-olds, do not bother to attempt to actually shop for it. You may find yourself having a conversation like this:

Recorded Voice: “Please continue holding. There are (pause) FOUR (pause) guests ahead of you in line.”

Person, twelve minutes later: “Customer care, how can I help you.”

Me: “Hello. Could you please tell me if you have any LeapPad2’s on your shelves?”

Person: “I’ll check on that for you.”

Eight minutes later: “I’m having a hard time getting that information. Hold please.”

Six minutes later: “It’s hard to tell in our system.”

Me: “Umm…Could you look on the shelf?”

Person with obvious irritation: “Honey, if I walk across the store, fifteen people are gonna stop me to ask for something.”

Me: “Okay! Sorry! I didn’t know!”

Person: “No trucks delivered yesterday, because it was Christmas. The day before was Christmas Eve. The shelves were vacant. Check back tonight. There is a truck due in. Something might be unloaded. There’s a chance.”

Me: “Okay! Okay! Thank you! And I’m so sorry I even considered paying the company you work for for a product built for three-year-olds that can’t even withstand a bit of fisticuffs with a wooden boat ornament! Keep your shipload of WimpPads!”

(I did not actually say that last part out loud.)

Meanwhile, the perpetrator of the original incident had fallen asleep in the back seat. I had let him think that That Was That, no second chances for someone who doesn’t use the Accompanying Stylus to communicate with one’s LeapPad, and perhaps the tears and trauma had worn him out. It was the first nap he’d taken in five days.

I can’t honestly say it wasn’t worth it.

Boys R Us, or, Getting Back Whatcha Give

Christmas shopping with bots can be as unpredictable as setting out to make marshmallow snowmen with them.

Christmas shopping with bots can be as unpredictable as setting out to make marshmallow snowmen with them.

I experimented this year: I took each bot to the toy store by himself, to buy a present for his brother. I realized that, with a four and a half-year-old and a three-year-old, my optimism might have been slopping over into the idealistic. But I just had to try. I figured Gbot might be fairly easy to persuade into picking out what I thought he should pick out. I thought Mbot might throw a small sputterfuss about one or several things before we settled on a compromise.

Since Gbot had the sniffles and I couldn’t foist him off on anyone, he went first. At the toy store that I hate but that is the only one within about ten miles of us, he bounced from Legos (me: “they’re for bigger boys”) to a FurReal bunny that made chewing noises and moved its hind legs when you rubbed its back (“let’s keep looking”) to bubble machines (“it’s too cold outside for that”) to the toy guns (“no”) to a giant, spherical, plush, hot pink, butt-ugly cat pillow (“let’s look at the other stuffed animals.”)

At long last, he settled, at my urging, on an enormous fluffy stuffed doggie that looks like it could be Junepbear’s half-brother. It was not stitched by a fair-trade artisan out of organic cotton. In fact, it was so affordable that I see much seam-repair in my future. But Mbot, whose favorite word at the age of sixteen months was “fwuffy,” and who continues to seek out fwuffy experiences, will be thrilled.

Gbot lugged the thing, which is as big as he is, up to the front of the store, happily talking nonstop about how Mbot would love his new doggie. It was fun to see him so happy about something for his brother. That was two days ago, and he hasn’t yet spilled the beans, in spite of the fact that this morning, we wrapped it (but only after he ran to get a blanket to spread in the bottom of the box).

Yesterday I took Mbot. As I’d predicted, it was more of a challenge. I hadn’t considered the fact that, after walking in and within fifteen seconds identifying a cool Thomas the Train quarry complete with crank elevator and roundtable, that would have been perfect and was on sale, no less–he could happily spend three days examining every item on every shelf within reach in every aisle of the eight billion acre store. Or that he would want to get his brother the six hundred-dollar four-wheeler (“that’s way too dangerous”) or the fifty-dollar plastic bat-cave that I know would provide a great seven minutes of uninterrupted fun before boredom set in and they never looked at it again. Or the remote control helicopter (“that’s for bigger boys.)”

Gbot might hurt his finger on this, too....

Gbot might hurt his finger on this, too…. (amazon.com)

What I didn’t foresee was how either protective he would be or how eager to assert that Gbot is a baby–every time I’d point to something that looked like a possibility, Mbot would find a health reason to boycott it. “Gbot would choke on those pieces.” “Gbot might break that and hurt himself.” “Gbot might cut his fingers on that part.”

“How about a stuffed animal?” then, I asked, because one of the ways I’d lured Gbot out of the store the day before was to tell him that maybe Mbot would buy him one, too. “Noooo!” howled Mbot. “how about we go back to the fun aisle.” And now of course I must entertain the possibility that he won’t like Junep’s giant half-bro. But distanced from the overwhelming profusion of crap, I’m quite sure he will.

What I also didn’t foresee was how I would hear myself mimicked back to me. Every few minutes, if I was lingering in an aisle with appropriate items, I’d here, “Mah-ah-ahhm. Don’t diddle-dawdle.”

“Okay, I’m coming,” I’d say, in a reversal of roles.

If he’d vanish around a corner and I didn’t follow, he’d backtrack and admonish me to stay close.

And once, as we were perusing the remote control aisle, I must have been lagging, because he suddenly said, “Come-come,” using exactly the same word in exactly the same sing-song tone I use to call the antique cat.

Finally, I enacted a “choose one of these two things,” rule, and a time-limit of two minutes. He chose. The Thomas the Train Quarry won out.

So: success. Except that now Gbot keeps talking about a remote control stuffed doggie and Mbot keeps wondering what toy Gbot got him.

One reason I even let the boys do this, in addition to the “Christmas is about giving” angle, and instead of making something or visiting the dollar store–is that the bots don’t get piles of toys for Christmas. I see them playing more happily with the Trios, or with pipecleaners, or with their small bin of Legos, or their stuffed animals or blankets for forts or plastic bin lids for television screens–than I ever see them play with actual plastic toys.

And it was a good reminder to me, hearing Mbot repeat back to me my own words, that lots of times, you get what you give.

Great Toy Find: The Stomp Rocket Rocks

…Three…two…one…

It’s been the greatest toy find since last year’s Strider bike (see “Look Ma, No Pedals!”). The rockets DO glow in the dark, as advertised. They DO go really high–it looked like 100 feet to me–as  advertised. And most important, when shot point blank at Mommy’s booty, neither the rocket nor the booty experience damage.

Launch preparation: No knowledge of physics, engineering, or how to make sense of assembly manuals written in poorly translated Mandarin necessary.

The only design flaw is at the point where the three legs of the launch stand fit together. They fit, but easily spring apart. I fixed the problem just as easily by wrapping the juncture with three inches of polka-dotted duct tape.

The Stomp Rocket Junior Glow Kit with four extra rockets, $22.42 on Amazon. Amazing fact: they are as fun as the kids on the box make them look.*                                                                        *This blog is not financially compensated by Stomp Rockets in any way, unfortunately.

The key to their success, I believe, lies in the simplicity of their design. It’s nothing that I couldn’t have made a crude version of myself, out of a whoopee cushion, a length of garden hose, a sawed-off snorkel affixed to four rulers strategically taped together, a few tennis balls with holes cut in them and, of course, the polka dotted duct tape.

In fact, the only improvement I can think of that would make them even more attractive to the bot-aged set is if the air reservoir did make a fart sound when you jumped on it, in addition to sending a rocket flying up into the air.

Keep your eyes open for the new and improved version.

The Girl Pocket: Why Don’t I Listen To My Own Derned Self?

Last Saturday evening, twenty minutes before leaving for a family graduation celebration, as I bent over to retrieve the bots’ sandals after a frolic under the hose, my phone fell out of my bra and bounced through the grate into the gutter, landing softly on a bed of leaves and probably spiders below.

As I rushed to get the bots (not to mention myself) ready for the evening, Husbot, already in his dress clothes, disappeared outside and reappeared five minutes later, with my phone (announcing, “I wish I could do this sort of thing for a living,” to which I replied he probably could). I don’t know how he did it, something to do with a coat hanger and duct tape.

But the moral of the story is, I Was Right. About not carrying my phone around in my bra. it would have served me well to have recently reread The Girl Pocket, and so I am reposting it today. (You will notice that the reason I note for not carrying the phone in my bra is not that it might fall into a gutter minutes before an important family gathering, but still. I Was Right.)

The Girl Pocket

Fisher-Price Trio helicopter. The Trio: better than Legos for the three-and-under set. And with rounded edges, easier on the girls.

As I was getting ready for bed a few nights ago, the eyeball in this picture fell out of my bra. For those of you familiar with Fall Apart Chubby (posted 9/13/11), you already know that I consider my best, most convenient pockets to be the two in which my breasts also happen to reside. If men can carry a Man Purse, why can’t women have Girl Pockets?

A miniature Batman figure fell out alongside the eyeball. The night before, it was a paperclip and a twist tie. Talk about the Great Pacific Garbage Vortex (You Can’t Shoot the Toy Fairy, posted 9/24/11). This happens every night, except the detritus doesn’t usually stare back at me like, “It’s not my fault women don’t have pockets.”

Of course that is not entirely true: women do have pockets. And we could use them. But stuffing chest pockets is unfashionable (witness the Pocket Protector); using hip pockets is uncomfortable; and using back pockets is unthinkable if not impossible.

But the bra? Now there’s a pocket—two, actually—in which only a few of us feel like we’re carrying enough. And, thanks to the forgiving physiology of the bra’s chief inhabitants, it seems like there’s always room for more. For years, even before giving birth, I found it a convenient repository for many of life’s necessities: credit cards. Driver’s licenses. Boarding passes. Lipstick. And now: milk bottles (for short periods, between car and house, for example). Diving sticks (or anything that you don’t want to forget to bring with you as you whiz around the house late to swimming lessons). Car keys.

The bra is not recommended for everything. A few examples spring to mind: sewing pins. Nail clippers. Half a cracker. Cell phones. (You sweat. They die.)

I am, admittedly, a slow learner. I attended a women’s college twenty years ago and didn’t become a feminist until I became a mother. I am not going to rant about the need in the western world for pregnant lady parking spaces and drive-through grocery stores, but is a pocket really too much to ask?

Aside from the cargo pant, whose pockets were never meant to carry cargo, not really, or athletic pants with a zip pocket big enough for a tampon and a ten dollar bill, women’s fashion is devoid of useful pockets. There is no sexy mommy equivalent of the safari vest. It’s not anyone’s fault; we can’t blame Dolce and Gabbana. It’s just a matter of evolutionary biology. A sexy woman is one who can snap her fingers and get what she wants. She doesn’t have to actually lug it around on her person. A woman with bulging pockets sends out one of several messages: 1. I am homeless. 2. I am desperate. Neither of these things signals a good target for childbearing. Thus: the human male has no biological imperative to find her sexy.

The Girl Pocket is my secret weapon. Now that I am the mother of two toddlers, though, the secret’s out, and not just at bedtime. At the grocery counter yesterday I looked down to find my keys dangling out the neck of my t-shirt. It’s a shiny, jingly clump, so maybe other shoppers just thought it was a brooch. Lady Gaga would go there.

The road to a world where useable pockets are socially acceptable for women is a steep and uphill grade. When I flew alone with Mbot, when he was first learning to crawl (read: he did not want to fly, or be held, or sit), I wore a thin, black wool cycling jersey. It looked  normal from the front, and even lint-free, thanks to Husbot’s lint roller, but those behind me witnessed three kangaroo pockets bulging across the back. Perfect for two milk bottles, a wallet, some tissues, and two binkies (a fresh one and the one that had met the floor, in separate pockets, of course). Look ma, no hands!

“You look funny,” said my brother-in-law as we came through security.

“Smart,” I said. “I know you meant to say, ‘smart.’”

“No,” he said. “You look funny.”

But the eyeball in my bra says otherwise.

Where do you keep your stuff??

Who? Who Bought These Things?

Who needs horror movies? Certainly not mothers, for whom horror is just a bottle of colored, no-stain bubbles away.

Can I blame my mother-in-law? Husbot? Santa Claus?

No.

In a moment of innocence that turned out to be idiocy, optimism that turned to dismay, I purchased colored bubbles. “No-stain colored bubbles!” to be exact.

If you are a child, a fiberglass tub, or a concrete floor, the advertising stands up. They are indeed no-stain colored bubbles.

But if you are, say, a cotton towel that was a beachy Caribbean green, you are now a beachy Caribbean green with splotches of orange and lurid pthalo green.

Two plusses: As you can see, the bots loved them. And they blew really good bubbles.

But I’m just thinking colored no-stain bubbles: one of those inventions that should have never left the drawing board.

Can you think of any more?

Does this lipstick work with my eyes?

Buddha’s Stocking

Available, it seems, everywhere, including http://www.newegg.com, for $3.39.

Saturday the Midgets showed no sign of sleepiness after lunch which was unfortunate, because, as it was The Second Day of Halloween (see yesterday’s post), I was ready for a glass of wine and a good long nap.

Instead, I strapped them in the Midgetmobile and headed south to Cost Plus World Market. I needed wine glasses–the last one had died dramatically on the floor the evening before due to an encounter with, I believe, the handle of the Little Helper Broom (see Passengers in Zone 4, Please Board While Doing the Charleston). And I had promised the Midgets a second try at Cost Plus, which is both a wonderful and a terrible place for the 40-inch and under set . We’d been there a few days earlier, to buy a rug, and it hadn’t gone well. Our premature retreat was accompanied by dual sputterfusses due to the Siren’s song of so many cool little cheap toys and candy arranged like….candy, 32 inches off the floor on aisles narrow enough to allow access to any stroller passenger with a 35-inch wingspan.

Foolishly, I’d promised to return in a few days, to give the Midgets a second chance at good behavior. Then, I promised, saying words I knew at the time were wrong wrong wrong, they could each pick out one of the cool little cheap toys.

So. Saturday afternoon. Back on site. And a picture of the Midgets, clapped  into the double stroller, could have appeared on the Wikipedia page for “angelic.”

I found my $1.99 wine glasses. And then we rolled into the Danger Zone for their rewards. Mbot, after some hemming and hawing and then wanting what Gbot had and then changing his mind–an early sign that my plan was an incredibly shitty one–reluctantly handed the Happy Glasses with wind-up nose to the clerk. Gbot handed over his push-button twirly globe with the shark inside. Mbot decided he’d rather have Gbot’s. I told him it was too late to change his mind.

On the ride north, the situation deteriorated. Mbot stole Gbot’s twirly globe. Gbot cried. I reprimanded Mbot. Mbot cried. I heard myself saying, “I got these for you as a treat because you were so good. I got them to make you happy.” But I couldn’t quite get those last words out my mouth because they sounded so stupid. I kept stopping, trying to find words that made sense. “I got them to help make you happy…I got them…” Why? You can’t make someone be happy, and certainly a toy can’t make you happy. If there’s happiness to be had, a toy can draw it out–sometimes. What those toys were making them was miserable.

I should have known. Gbot’s birthday had been a few days before, and he’d gotten some pretty cool loot, including an Elmo Lego fire truck and fire station. Which were objects of contention from the start. An hour after we’d assembled them, an act which required each Midget pulling pieces away from the other and then crying about it, both truck and station and both Elmos were dismantled and forgotten, the pieces strewn in every corner of the room where the most harm they could do was bruise an instep.

What had I expected from the Happy Glasses? I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I had thought, I admit, that the Midgets would get a treat and be delighted by it.

But every new toy is something that has to be shared. Something new to fight over. Something that is not as desirable as what your brother’s playing with. Thorstein Veblen, who Mark Kingwell in a Harper’s article calls “the still-reigning genius of consumer economics,” argued that consumer economics is driven by a desire for distinction: not by the desire for more and better but the desire for more and better than the other guy. 

I’d fallen right into the American consumerism trap. And I’d pushed it upon my children–I did it for them–and their behavior was…human. Thorsten Veblen was rolling his eyes in the grave, muttering, “I’ve already said ‘I told you so’ a hundred million times.”

Electronic scans show that the meditation of Buddhist monks trigger calmness and pleasure centers in the brain. Happiness comes from within (or from within little orange vials) and all that. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Yeah.

The Happy Glasses were broken within five minutes of use. It took the twirly globe fell apart the next day. I celebrated as I threw them out.

So this Christmas, our household is taking a different approach to gift-giving. I’m not sure exactly what, because how pleasurable is a stocking with nothing in it? The answer to that is all about expectation: How many times do you reach into the drawer for a pair of socks and despair because none of them have candy canes inside?

Recent studies have found what everyone already knew: expectation and happiness are more closely related than toys and happiness. And if the other guys have stockings full of loot, expectations for your own rise. But however I decide to handle my consumer conundrum, Christmas this year will not involve a lot of trips to Wal-Mart, and certainly not a lot of trips to Cost Plus World Market.

Except if we need more wine glasses.

Available at http://www.2ols.com in sets of twelve. Various colored faux jewels provide even more to fight about.

What really makes you happy? Really?