Der checkerbooker ist balanced now. To my vast irritation, apparently the new company that owns CHI has not got direct deposit set up, or I haven’t done the paperwork, or something; I’m not *aware* of needing to do any more paperwork, but … Sigh.

It was an excellent Christmas for poetry! I bought myself The Essential Rilke, and the parental units gave Deirdre and me both copies of The Best American Poems, or something very close to that, and to my bemusement, I opened it up to about the fourth page of Song of Myself, which Dad and I had been discussing the day before. God, what a grand poem that is. It must be read aloud; it’s nothing, read silently, but aloud, it — well, it sings. And Ted got a book of swords that’s really quite cool, with all kinds of information about blades and hilts and just *stuff* about swords.

Deirdre and Gavin gave Ted and me a game called Cranium, and after we got done with presents and with visiting (Kathy and Ken and Grandma came over) and dinner, we played Cranium, which the girls (me, Deirdre and Mom) won, and it’s really a pretty fun game. You have to do a variety of things to advance: mimic actors, hum songs, guess phrases, spell words (both forwards and backwards), and lots of other things. So that was lots of fun, and afterwards we played Spoons, which is the most violent card game I know of, short of an actual gunfight at a poker game.

For those who don’t know it: put 1 spoon fewer than you have players on the table in a circle with the bowls facing out. Shuffle two (or more) decks of cards together. Deal out 5 cards to each player. The dealer takes the cards that aren’t dealt out, looks at the first one, and either keeps it and passes on one of his own cards, or passes it on. The next person does the same; the idea is to do it as quickly as possible. The goal is to get 4 of a kind while holding no more than 5 cards in your hand, and then to snatch a spoon. Everyone else must leap for a spoon after the first one has been taken. The person who doesn’t get one gets an ‘S’, and so on until someone has ‘SPOONS’, and then the game is over.

In my family, playing Spoons is a survival of the fittest game. We have been known to fling ourselves bodily across the table, wrestling each other to the ground for a spoon. In fact, a few Christmases ago (apparently Spoons is another Tradition) Deirdre and I did exactly that. One of us knocked a spoon across the table and to the floor. I literally bellyflopped myself across the table, reaching for the spoon, while Deirdre flung herself across Dad’s lap and we both desperately snatched for the spoon. Deirdre got it; I, with tears in my eyes from laughing so hard, proclaimed, “I was *WEAK*!”, which has now become a family by-line when a spoon is missed.

During one round on Tuesday, I accidentally grabbed two spoons, and while trying to let go of one of them, Ted knocked another spoon into Dad’s lap, and lunged for it, causing Dad to all but shriek and flinch backwards; Deirdre stood up and tried to sit back in her chair, but it had fallen over backwards and the poor honey whacked her funny bone on the chair leg, causing her to cry, but even through the tears, she snuffled, “I was *weak*!”

We played two games, at the end of which we were hoarse from shouting and laughing, and everybody was bruised or gouged, and we’d left all sorts of scars in the soft pine table, and finally, exhausted, we wound down and read and talked a bit and then everybody staggered off to bed.

Oh, at dinner, we were talking about the weird things that my family did, and I’d almost snarfed once, and just as I was taking a sip of milk, Mom said, “Once your father said to me, “Good night, light,” and it made me laugh, which made me spit milk across the table, which made everyone laugh very, very hard. *helpless laughter* I like my family so much. :)

Christmas day was really pretty laid back. We got up around 9, wrapped presents, ate orange rolls for breakfast–

–ok, see, my family has Traditions. These Traditions are set by us doing something once and then saying the next year, “We ALWAYS do X!” After a while, it becomes true. One of these Traditions is having pizza on Christmas Eve, which we started doing when I was about 14, I think, although possibly it was many years before that. This year we did not have pizza on Christmas Eve, although Mom said she thought about it *several* times. However, since she had no idea when anybody was coming back from shopping/collecting Grandma/etc, she thought she’d just make dinner. And potato soup is very fine, so I have no objections to breaking Tradition for once.

So Christmas morning we had orange rolls, and I had to ask, because while I *suspected* it was a Tradition, I couldn’t actually remember for sure. So I said, “Do we always have orange rolls for Christmas breakfast?” And Mom stared at me in horror and said, “We ALWAYS have orange rolls! It’s *Tradition*!” Well, I thought it was, but it’s hard to be sure. :)

So after our Traditional Orange Rolls, we sat around reading or something and waiting for Deirdre and Gavin to get back from southern Washington where they’d spent Christmas morning with Gavin’s family. We didn’t get around to opening Christmas presents until about one, in other words, making it the most relaxed Christmas in the history of our family. And despite the fact that we’d had to bring gifts or buy them there, there was quite a lot of loot. Among the highlights were a HUGE book on mammals that Gavin received (apparently Ted and I had missed an extended conversation about marsupials, before we arrived, and the book was to help Gavin learn all about marsupials so next time he saw the family he could explain them in detail. Instead we all sat around and pored over the book and learned about marsupials and many other very strange and interesting animals.) and Deirdre’s red hat, which was a duplicate of one she lost a few months ago and was very very sad about losing. There were books of poetry and calendars and oh, crap, I still haven’t balanced the checkbook. More later.

Ok, I spent most of the afternoon working on Christmas photos, so I didn’t do any more catchup writings. I’ll do more this weekend. Or Monday. :)

So after our very pleasant time in Longview, we drove back up to Seattle, and drove right to where we were supposed to be, then thought it wasn’t where we were supposed to be, drove around some more, decided it *was* where we were supposed to be, drove back, found out we didn’t know what apartment # we were in, drove away again, called, found out it was the one we’d been standing in front of, and drove BACK again, finally arriving safely. Sheesh.

We hung out for a while and talked with Mom and Gavin and Deirdre and Lizzie (Gavin’s sister) and then we went to Bellevue Square, which is a very large mall, to finish our Christmas shopping, which we did in an expedient 50 minutes, leaving us with 20 minutes before the mall closed forever. Or at least until the 26th. We were very proud of ourselves. :)

We went looking for a present for Aunt Mabel and Grandma, and I wanted to get them some kind of jewelry with pearls, because they were born in June, so we went to look for some kind of pretty (and identical) necklaces, but I was also concerned about the clasps, because they’re 85 years old, and I wanted to get them something that they’d be able to do and undo! So we found a very pretty necklace indeed, but the clasp was just impossible, so we looked some more and found matching pearl bracelets with sensible clasps–

–excuse me, moment of complete distraction. My Elfin name is:

Adusulë (root name, suitable for feminine and masculine); another masculine version is Adusulëion; more feminine versions are Adusulëiel, Adusulëien, or Adusulëwen

for ‘Catherine Eileen Murphy’, or

Carfalas (Carfalasion(m), Carfalasiel, Carfalasien and Carfalaswen(f))

for Catherine Murphy.

–and so we bought them the bracelets, and Mabel even commented when they opened them that they were the sorts of clasps that old fingers could handle! So I was very pleased. :) Anyway, while we were there looking for the bracelets we also found a pretty delicate little sapphire and diamond set that had (manmade) sapphires and diamonds and so now I have sapphire stud earrings and a *beautiful* little necklace that goes with it and a very delicate pretty little ring that doesn’t actually fit on any of my fingers at the moment, but it’s still lovely, and aren’t I *spoiled*?

Having accomplished the vast task of shopping — a chess game for Gavin, a calendar for Mom (her real present is here, as is Deirdre’s, which we have to send to her), a couple of travel books for Dad — we scurried back home and were treated to potato soup, yum. Wow. I’m hungry, she realized suddenly. Maybe I’ll call this part done and — oh, no, Ted is going to arrive here with lunch in a bit, so I’ll wait til then to post this.

Grandma came over for dinner, and while I forget how the topic came up, I ended up telling her about Legion and about the exciting and potentially mind-bogglingly exciting developments there (for those of you at home who are keeping track, Nichole, the agent, is working with Sarah on Sarah’s screenplay for at least the rest of 2001, and will be looking at Legion in January, so that part is on hold for now, but keep your fingers crossed and hold your breath and think positive thoughts for Sarah!!) and Grandma got *quite* excited about the whole thing and crossed her fingers for us (literally) and said she didn’t know how I could possibly not think about it every waking moment. *laugh* So that was pretty neat. :)

And we all talked and had a lot of fun and hung out for the rest of the evening.

It was really a very nice week. We flew down to WA — well, actually, we flew to Oregon, because we couldn’t get a direct flight to Seattle — and the very tall, good-looking blond guy I’d seen in the Anchorage and then Portland and then Seattle airports proved to indeed be Curtis McCubbins, with whom I went to high school. He was reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and was on his way back to Utah, where he was still going to college (he graduated from high school a year after me) and he said his sister Mary who was in my class is still in Kenai, and that was about the sum total of our conversation. But it was kind of fun. *laugh* I’d kept looking and looking at him, and we ended up next to each other on the escalators at Seatac, and he grinned and I said, “Ah, so that *is* you,” and yah. :)

We rented a car and drove to our hotel and fell down for about five hours — I *hate* redeye flights, guh. Got up again, found food, came back to the hotel room, where I finished reading one book, although I can’t remember what, and read another VERY quickly and then I collapsed of exhaustion at 8:30 and slept for another 12 hours, which still wasn’t enough.

The next morning we got up and went to Longview, where Ted’s Grandma and Aunt Millie live, and spent the next few days there in a quietly pleasant stupor. I went to bed REALLY early again, while Ted stayed up til 1am talking to Millie. Unsurprisingly, I got up earlier than he did the next day. :) We read a lot (one of those grand 5 books in 1 day days for me) and drove around Longview a bit and on Sunday we went down to Portland, which is spitting distance from Longview, and something terrible happened.

We went to Powells, see, and before we went in, we set a budget of $250.

Two hours later, we emerged, having only spent $180. How COULD we?! We’re ashamed and embarrassed. And one of those books was a GIFT and it cost $20, so we’d only spent A HUNDRED AND SIXTY on ourselves. Isn’t that just *awful*? Talk about a Bookstore Accident!

On the other hand, Ted did get a bunch of the Sharpes novels, and I got a copy of the Canterbury Tales in old English (which made Ted’s head hurt) and a bunch of mystery novels and a few SF books (The Zap Gun, which I’ve never read), and two Heinlein books I thought I didn’t have (it turned out I had one of them, when I got back home, but I didn’t have the other, so hey, 50% isn’t bad, right?) and Ted got at least one aikido book and yah. It was good. :) Plus we got, er, $300 worth of bookstore gift certificates/bookstore credit and some actual books from my sister and parents, so all in all, I’d call it a very successful Christmas, bookwise. :)

AND we went to Fellowship of the Rings, and against all expectations I really thought it was magnificent, and Ted didn’t like it much at all. We determined that the problem is that he’s read the books far, far too many times: he literally has them memorized, and so even though he knew it wasn’t going to be verbatim, it kept bugging him when it wasn’t. The more he thought about it, the more he liked it, so we’re going to go see it again and we’ll see if he likes it better. :)

I, on the other hand, really enjoyed it a lot. :) Ok, I’m posting this now and will write more about other things in a bit. Right now my legs are numb from the cat sitting in my lap….