Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy Old Year

It's obvious that we tend to take things for granted when we get used to them. Today I learned how much I absolutely adore that symbol of domestic housewifery: the vacuum. Our vacuum decided to die a graceful death on Christmas and our carpets have since been accumulating crumbs and debris at an amazing rate. 

Josh took the vacuum apart and discovered the problem, then took it in to our neighbor's vacuum repair shop yesterday. Our good, good neighbor fixed it up for us and gave it a second birth. I just finished vacuuming my living room and I feel absolutely enthralled. The carpets are so ... so ... clean! No more bits of snacktime or green shreds of faux Christmas tree. I can breathe a huge sigh of relief, because I no longer have to apologize and explain whenever somebody walks into my house. (It was really, really, really bad!)

The simple things in life, like vacuum cleaners, are such a blessing. Here are some of the other things that were fabulous in 2008:

* I got to take a trip out to LA to visit my sister and watch the American Idol finale live. SO much fun!

* A couple short weeks later, I had a trip planned to go with that same sister to northern California to see a charity prerelease screening of Wall-E. It was so much fun and I got to chaperone my nephew, Sam, for the trip.

* Sam and I are becoming real buddies. He just turned 15 yesterday and he is so much fun. I'm grateful for my deepening relationships with my (many) nephews now that they're all living in my city.

* Josh and I took our kids on a quick overnighter to southern Utah, to see how they'd do in a hotel room. It was interesting.

* Despite the previous item, we planned a full-scale family trip to southern Utah this autumn and had a blast. The weather was chilly and the leaves had, for the most part, fallen, but we had a great time anyway.

* I finally got of the hairstyle I've had since a teenager: long, straight, all the same length. I am loving the fact that I'm getting more bold with my hair, even if it's not exactly ground-breaking to other people. I'm taking baby steps, folks. Baby steps.

* Josh attended his university commencement and we finally put the long, arduous Bachelor's Degree chapter behind us.

* Josh took Joseph on a trip to Alabama to visit his parents, who were serving a mission there. I got to enjoy a peaceful week with only three people in the house, instead of five. Ahhhhh, quiet.

* The twins started preschool and I have a life again!

* My mom's seventh grandson (still no granddaughers) was born. Dylan is my fourth nephew and I adooooore him.

* Joseph's reading got much better. And so did Tommy's. (He is frightfully precocious. I'm a little scared of him, I think.) ;)

* Two of my best friends are in town right now visiting from Minnesota. We've been staying up until waaaaaaaaaaaay too late playing Pandemic and Modern Art and I am so happy to get to see "Uncle Craig" and "Aunt Jaclyn" (or "Uncle Jaclyn" as my young children sometimes call her.)

* We invested in a piano and I am so happy to be able to hear music in my home.

* We "adopted" a foster daughter in Cambodia. (It's not a legal "adoption" ... it just means we are supporting her and writing to her.) Her name is Sovann and I can't wait to get to know her better. Maybe in a few years, we can save up for a trip to visit her at the orphanage.

* Josh and Joseph hiked "The Y" and even enjoyed it. I think that hike is miserably dull and hot.

* The boys particularly enjoyed one of our family nights when we went up the canyon and collected leaves. They still talk about it sometimes.

* Many more blessings and experiences and moments too numerous to blog about. Happy New Year, everyone!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Out with the old

My 2007 and 2008 New Year's Resolutions were fabulously successful. They really impacted my life in a way that I never expected. I always thought about New Year's Resolutions as the kind of thing you commit to working harder on, knowing that you'll never stick with it. Things like weight loss or keeping the house immaculate. I mean, if the obvious rewards like not dying of heart disease or having clothing to wear regularly didn't inspire you to action, why would you be inspired by the numbers at the top of your calendar changing?

Two years ago, I was overwhelmed with life. I was deeply unhappy and dissatisfied with the direction I was headed. So I resolved in 2007 to stop saying, "I can't" and start saying, "How can I make it happen?" I found power I didn't know I had. This year, I resolved to learn how to love myself and like myself. I have discovered a new zest for life that took me by surprise.

For 2009, I have resolved to create joy in my life. I won't wait for it. I won't hope for a happy future. I won't feel helpless to be happy in the here and now, whatever my trials and challenges are. I will take charge of my life and carve out happiness for myself.

This year's goal may be the hardest one yet, because I'm so accustomed to being defined by my circumstances. When you're a stay-at-home Mom with two newborns in the house, you really are defined in a lot of ways by your limitations. There are just a lot of things that are not possible in your life anymore. I'm used to stealing happy moments when I can, not actively seeking them out or planning for them. This will require a complete mental reboot for me. If I can pull it off, this will be, hands down, the best year of my life.

It seems to me that joy isn't a result of your circumstances. It is a result of looking at life with gratitude and a happy heart. It's an attitude. However, having freedom to get out of the house will help. The children are old enough that they can care for themselves a little more than they used to. They're in preschool a few hours a week. They're also slightly easier to reason with than they were when they were newborns. So if I want to exercise, I think I can reason with them to not burn the house down while I'm using the elliptical. (Of course, this is all just theory still. We'll have to see how it pans out.) 

They're old enough to go to the bathroom on their own, however unwilling they are to admit that or act on it. They're old enough to understand that when they're put to bed at night, Mother would appreciate it if they didn't eat the drywall instead of sleeping. (I have sworn that I will not even consider getting pregnant again until the children go to bed at night without jumping up and arguing with me. This day has yet to come. Will it ever come for Thomas? Somebody please tell me yes.)

I have to admit I feel a bit frightened about the idea of trying to take charge of my life instead of being blown about by the winds of chance. I need to put up the collar of my coat and head straight into the wind instead, walking forward with the wind burning my cheeks. If I don't walk the line, who knows where I'll end up in life? (Walk the line 2009!)

The benefits of having one major goal are plentiful. However, a few minor goals never hurt anything. I allowed myself one minor goal for 2008: getting my writing published (for money). I accomplished that goal early in the year, thanks to a friend who was starting a new magazine. It wasn't much but it counted. This year, I have a few eensy weensy goals that I'm allowing myself: lose 50 pounds, do the laundry five times a week, clean one bathroom almost every day, exercise six times a week, plan out every meal in advance, read my scriptures every day, never miss a family home evening and get to church on time (9 a.m.) every single Sunday.

That's not asking too much for someone who is determined to take charge of life ... is it? If you're reading this, I want to know what your New Year's Resolution is. How are you going to change your life in 2009?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Late Night Stuff

* I went to the Valpak office today to pick up some of the gift certificates they sell on the cheap. If you don't already know about this, I refuse to give you the details. The more competition, the less likely they'll have what I need. (Okay, fine, it's in an office complex at the intersection of 1600 South and State Street in Orem. Southeast corner. Upper floor.) I went to see if they had any more of the gift certificates for Boardgame Revolution. (Half price off retail... not bad.) I looked at the list of available merchants and didn't see them listed any more. I was bummed but thought I would ask just in case. 

There was a rather long-winded gentlemen talking the ear off the saleslady so I stood on the side and waited for a break in the conversation. The guy eventually turned to me and asked good-naturedly, "I'm sorry. Did you have a question for her?" I stated my business and was surprised by the hearty laugh they both gave me in reply. The gentlemen then pushed two gift certificates ($40 worth) toward me and asked, "Did you need two?" I said, "Yes, exactly." They laughed again and explained they were all out but that he had just returned those two in exchange for something else. Perfect timing! They wouldn't have available five minutes earlier. I was feeling lucky.

The gentlemen then turned to me and said heartily, "You sure were following your promptings today. It's great that you were listening to the Spirit." I was dumbfounded. Do I have "Mormon Mother" posted on my forehead in addition to my blog title? Or did this guy forget that a huge chunk of the world population isn't LDS? Or did he just not care? For some reason, I was really turned off by the fact that he would say that to a total stranger. I thought it would have been particularly offensive to somebody with different religious leanings. But I was very happy (and perhaps I was following some promptings?) that things turned out so well.

* I headed to Boardgame Revolution... for the second this week, I think. The owner smiles when he sees me and knows just what I like. We joke easily with each other and he treats me well as a customer. I went there to buy "10 Days in Europe" as a fun way to teach my kids geography but there was a little devil sitting on my shoulder whispering one word: "Agricola!" I tried to shush it. It was in vain. Agricola is the latest, greatest, HOTTEST thing in board games. Settlers of Catan is soooo three years ago. I keep hearing about this game, so I checked it out on www.boardgamegeek.com and discovered that on their ranking scale, Agricola has captured the #1 spot from former long-time champ, Puerto Rico, which I must admit is hugely fun to play.

Only one problem with Agricola. It retails for ... brace yourselves ... SEVENTY DOLLARS! That's: $70! Holy Smokes! Boardgame Revolution normally sells it for $50, which is a steal, but I used my Valpak coupons and got it for $35. Pretty sweet deal. Since the game is now out of print for 2008 and won't be available until the 2009 reprint, I could probably make a little profit on this game. Nah. It looks SO fun! I can't wait to unwrap it on Christmas morning, ooh and ahh, and find a few people to play with. Woot!

* Joseph's expectations of Santa are evermorphing. As I've said before, we never encouraged the Santa idea when Joseph was young. We eventually just told him that Mom and Dad were Santa but it was fun to pretend. Last year he told me, "Mom, I know you say there isn't a Santa but I know that's not true. I know Santa is real." What does a Mom say to that? Nothing. I just nodded and walked away, laughing. 

This year, I took the kids to see Santa at a local store and asked Joseph if he wanted to go meet Santa. He looked at me, shocked, and said, "Mom, that's not the real Santa. That's just some guy dressed up, pretending to be him. Don't you know about STRANGER DANGER, MOM?!?" Again, the kid had me stumped. And highly amused.

A few days later, Joseph told me he doesn't believe in Santa anymore. I said okay. Then he wrote a letter to Santa and I asked why if he doesn't believe he's real. He said, "Well, I only sort of don't believe in Santa. I halfway do and I halfway don't." I love that kid.

* After writing my Fiscal Rant a few days ago, my husband reminded me of a few key elements of my budgeting style that I had forgotten about. The bottom line was that we have more money going into savings that I remembered and I don't need to panic. He reminded me how lucky he was to be married to somebody who is so fiscally conservative and after I thought about, I realized he's right. ;)

* Have you checked out the mortgage rates lately? They're hot, baby. Hot! Is refinancing twice in 12 months too often? I'm tempted.

* I like my kiddos. Someday, I'll be surrounded by three strong adult men and I'll know they were once the little babies I held in my arms. For now, they're just the sweetest little cuties I could imagine.*

* I love people. I find that when I'm alone, I become very introspective and philosphical. While that leads to fascinating trains of thought, it also sometimes tends toward brooding over less-than-happy thoughts or overanalyzing things that ought to be forgotten. When I start feeling blue, all it takes is for 20 seconds talking to a grocery clerk or waving at a friend driving by to put a smile back on my face. People are great!

* I was feeling bummed about my singing again this week. I was ready to just throw in the towel and refuse to sing anywhere ever. Then I went to my voice lesson tonight and realized I'm not nearly as bad as I thought I was. The person waiting for her lesson to begin after me even complimented me on my strong, clear voice. That cheered me up immensely.

* I ordered Christmas cards so early this year. I was totally on top of things. Why are they still sitting in a pile on my desk? Dang! I guess I know what I'm doing tomorrow: delivering Christmas cards!

* It's almost midnight and I am not a night person. Therefore, I don't want to go back to spell check or grammar check or "does this even make sense" check or "Have I said more than I ought to?" check this blog entry. 

* Happy Holidays all. May they be filled with joy and/or peace.

* Some limitations or exceptions may apply, including but not limited to: when they make rude body noises, say "No" in disrespectful tones, pee on the floor, refuse to go to bed at bedtime, get sticky fingerprints all over my iPod, laptop or cell phone or when they stand on the arms of the couch.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Fiscal Rant

Every time I go over my budget, I feel this grand sense of guilt for how much I spend. Let me clarify: I am very fiscally conservative and I have certain principles of tightwaddery perfected. When I feel guilty about how much I spend, I battle with myself. One side of me says, "What do you feel guilty about? Buying groceries and clothing for your children? Sheesh. Lighten up." The other side of me says, "You could save a lot by making homemade bread and tortillas. Why don't you make homemade chili and take advantage of a vegetable garden?" I battle it out with myself and end up frustrated and anxious about it.

This is ridiculous. My husband has a good job and we are not lacking anything we need. That's not my frustration. My frustration is that I feel like I should be saving more, spending less and remembering how slim my family had things growing up. Why can't I resist the siren call of living at a nicer lifestyle just because I'm not poor? I have the pioneer genetics hardwired into my brain so extensively that no surgeon or psychologist could disentangle them.

As a child, we had one old and pathetic television and the word "cable" was not spoken out loud. We wore hand-me-downs and sometimes bought things at DI. We shopped clearance sales and fashion was never a consideration. If it fit and we could afford it, that was all that mattered. And we were happy. We laughed and were a family and didn't need expensive things. I never, ever felt a sensation of missing out on life.

Joseph's 2008 Christmas letter to Santa reads, "Dear Santa, I want an electric guitar, ipod, idog, 4wheeler, xbox 360, 60 free bowling coupons, From Joseph." (sic sic and double sic on all that)

Who is this child? Need I assure you that Joseph will be very disappointed on Christmas morning when he opens up the huge LEGO set that my family would have drooled over as children? There will undoubtedly be whining about not receiving 4 wheelers and video game consoles. They are constantly begging us for ridiculous things that no child in the world needs. I never realized that "keeping up with the Joneses" started at such a young age.

I can't stand the fact that my children have a sense of entitlement hard wired instead of inherent gratitude for what they have. It makes me want to sell my nice house and move into a tiny house with broken plumbing and only one bathroom for a while to help my children build a little character.

Okay, now I'm rambling and ranting. My apologies.

But really, I'm irritated with money. I know firsthand how stressful life is when you don't have enough money, but I'm starting to see the other side of the equation. I'm starting to understand that when you aren't poor, people expect things from you that you aren't able to give. People make critical comments when I exercise fiscal responsibility, because they think we're "rich" (by which they really mean "richer than they are.") I am pressured by my family to spend more and save less, even though we have a balanced budget with far less than I'd like going into savings.

So I did some math today, trying to figure out why our lifestyle seems to be about the same as it was a few years ago, but my husband is earning a better salary. That doesn't add up! What I discovered is that Uncle Sam and Ye Olde Health Insurance Company have their hands very deep into our pockets. They apparently think they're entitled to some of our gain. And by "some" I mean "most." Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating but when I totaled it up, I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.

I called and told my husband my findings and he made some comments (in what seemed a very smug voice) about my political leanings and how they affected our personal finance. I reminded him that I do not agree with democratic financial policies and never have, but have equally serious concerns about the republican party. Which is why I remain proudly unaffiliated. Josh then seemed to recall the Republican fiscally irresponsible policy of "spend, spend, spend, spend, spend... oops, is that a federal deficit reaching near infinity?" and our brief political musings came to an end.

To summarize: our taxes and paycheck deductions exceed the total income of somebody in our extended family. And I'm not bitter about paying taxes. I would happily pay more if I felt like our government was serious about balancing the budget and ridding our country of the debt that presses us down. What I resent is being forced to pay social security and medicare taxes, which I doubt will actually benefit me in retirement.

Some people liken the democratic notion of taxing the wealthy to support the poor "socialistic." I call it "the Robin Hood" approach. "Taking from the rich to give to the poor." The only trouble is that the Robin Hood story likes to portray the "wealthy" as greedy, grabbing, evil people and the poor as humble victims of circumstance. In real life, Robin Hood would be a democrat and politician. And he'd be hated by the middle class and called a socialist.

If I seem to be contradicting myself or making little sense, all is well. Every person has conflicting emotions and contradictory beliefs on occasion. They cause stress. And ranting and raving on a blog is an excellent way to relieve stress.

It's been a long time since I let loose with a rambling, ranting blog post. It feels good, but I should remember that nobody likes rambling, ranting blog posts. Except Sandra, who asks me to post them more often. Sandra, this blog post is just for you. I know you can feel my pain.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cabinet Position & Other Stuff

I decided yesterday that President-elect Obama's cabinet will not be complete until he considers a new position: Secretary of Awesomeness. I officially nominate my brother, Mike, to fill the position. He would fill the role admirably. How about it, Barack?

Last week was a fabulous week: 

* Our kids were actually well-behaved through the ward's Christmas Luau and we were able to stay for the entire thing. 

* I had over some high school friends and their spouses for a dinner party. I made three cakes and one main dish. I think that speaks loads about my personality. More importantly, I received a stuffed Intel man during the White Elephant gift exchange so I ended the evening happy. 

* We had Ward Choir at our house on Sunday, which is always a treat. I love hearing my home filled with music and my piano being played by somebody who actually knows how to play piano.

* Sunday evening, my extended family debated whether to watch "A Muppet Christmas Carol" or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir/Sissel Christmas DVD. I'm proud to say that the Muppets only began after listening to several tranquilly blissful minutes of Sissel.

* My friend, Kazzy, invited me be a guest on her blog's "Musical Mondays" feature. I drove down to Kazzy's house and we recorded a duet of "In The Bleak Midwinter." (Listen here. Stay a while and listen to her other songs--she's fabulous. And she's an awesome writer, so settle in and enjoy!) I was appalled at how poorly I sang (off pitch, breathy, weak, timing off) but I had a blast and now I want to do it again to see how much I can improve. I have a new challenge.

* My husband and I sang a duet at a Christmas Parade of Homes thing, as part of a recital set up by my awesome voice teacher. I surprised myself at how well I sang (other than one itty bitty little mistake of not coming in when I needed to.. oops!) and how I'm not nearly as nervous performing as I used to be. I actually am learning to enjoy it. I enjoy the challenge, the preparation and the confidence it gives me when I succeed. Mostly, though, I just love singing.

* The book I had on hold at the library finally came in, so I've been up to my eyeballs in part two (and part three) of the Amelia Peabody series. Number two was the first one I ever read and I haven't read it in years, so it was a real treat!

* I found the online printing service from the local grocery store and printed Christmas cards and a bunch of pictures from 2008. It reminded me what a great year it's been: a trip to Cedar City during the summer, a trip to Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks and Kolob Canyons this autumn, a trip or two to Logan, my trip out to watch the American Idol finale, my trip out to the Benefit Screening of Wall-E at Pixar, fun leaf collecting with the kids, and lots of cute little boy smiles.

* We started receiving Christmas cards from loved ones, which is always a real treat. I am in the middle of reading my dad's annual Christmas letter, which is always fodder for many laughs. He included a poem he wrote, titled, " Christmas Bailout," which includes such witticisms as:
The mortgages are failing fast on sub-prime North Pole land;
The elf economy can't last; supply of sugar plums exceeds demand.
You can see why I always look forward to my Dad's holiday letter! (Click here for another example of his poetry, one created for the occasion of my 30th birthday. Hooray!)

It was a great week. It's been a great year. Which reminds me: it's about time to watch It's a Wonderful Life, isn't it?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Old love, new loves

New Loves:

* The little chocolate horses from IKEA. They taste like Kinder Eggs, with that rich, european chocolate texture that Americans have yet to master.

* The little chocolate-covered toffees from IKEA that look like Rolos. I bought "mint caramel" because it sounded so impossibly gross. It was totally delicious.

Old Love:

Thomas told me today that our Raffi Concert DVD is his favorite movie. That boy has good taste. I was raised on Raffi and I cannot stand the modern kids musicians who make love to the camera and seem to forget that they're supposed to be singing for the KIDS. Raffi is sincere and lets his personality carry the music. Kids are naturally attracted to him because he's so genuine.



I cannot help loving a children's performer who says, "Throughout my 20-plus years of making music for children, the core value at the heart of my work has been respect for the young child as a whole person. I have not accepted any offers to do commercial endorsements because I believe it's wrong to use one's popularity to sell products to a vulnerable audience. "

Of course, Raffi has grown up and his music has grown up, too. He now sings environmentalist, peace-l0ving, groovy songs and talks about Child Honoring. Luckily, his kids music lives on through recordings and DVDs. Yea Raffi!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Neighbor Gifts

I'm not exaggerating when I say I LOVE my neighbors! Every Christmas, I want to give a little Christmassy something to all of them to let them I'm thinking about them. A couple years ago, I made out the list and it included over 30 families. I baked and baked and prepared and had to cut people off the list when I ran out of steam.

Last year, the list was closer to 40 or so. Again, my ambitions fell short of reality. I once again crossed people off the list, feeling guilty. How do I cross somebody's name off the list? It feels like I'm betraying their friendship! How do I say, "I love you, but not as much as I love the family that lives next door." Ack! As I delivered my little gift bags, I felt like doing it in camoflage with my face painted so that I wouldn't be seen by those who didn't make the cut.

The more I thought about it, the more stressed I felt. Then the worst part happened. I had crossed people off my list, and then .... I received something from them. How horrible! Now I had the added guilt of knowing they hadn't made the cut on my list, but I had made the cut on theirs. I admit, yes, guiltily, that I added people back onto the list after I received something from them! How could I not add them back on?!? Of course, nobody wants a guilt-driven Christmas goodie bag and heaven knows my baking skills are nothing to fuss about but still.

So this year, I determined to buy a little something for each of the neighbors so that I could give to each and every one of them. I told my husband the brilliant plan. "WHAT?!?!!?" he asked. He laughed at me. "We can't buy something for the neighbors for Christmas. Who are you?!?" He knows I love to bake. I just don't like guilt when I run out of steam.

I thought about it and agreed that he was right: baking is a Christmas tradition, even if my neighbor gift cookies arrive stale, crumbled together and looking pathetic. The stale, crumbly, pathetic cookies are tradition, I tell you!

So I sat down today to make the annual List. I realized the list has grown. Josh is in scouting now and has new home teaching families. I have met a whole slew of people in my primary calling and wish I could take something to each of them. So I wrote out two lists: the "I will not for any reason cross these people off the list" list and the "If I don't run out of steam, I definitely want to take something to these people" list. Then I counted them up, added them together and began my annual nervous breakdown. The total: almost 75.

Help.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

In Memory


I want to pay tribute to Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, who passed away yesterday at the age of 91. I always looked forward to hearing his gentle voice during General Conferences. He will be missed.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Black Friday/Happy Monday

Black Friday struck fear into my heart years ago, when crowded parking lots and inevitable "while supplies last" disappointments turned me into a shopping cynic. Something in the back of my mind kept speaking to me this year, however, whispering: "You know you want to... give it another shot!"

So I went out shopping Friday morning (alone becaues I couldn't convince any of my family how "fun" this would be), boldly braving the long lines and shopping crazies. I had one item in mind: a new artificial Christmas tree to replace the sad, drooping tree that has served me for about ten years. I had specific requirements in mind and a certain price in mind as I walked into the first store. I walked out a few minutes later, realizing that I would have to either tone down my desires or ramp up my budget. (And by "ramp up" I mean "double.")

So I continued on in my quest. I tried Home Depot, Walmart, Lowes, Michaels, Kmart, Target and eventually Roberts. Eventually I found the perfect tree at almost the perfect price, just $25 more than I wanted to spend. Good enough! I got it home and unpacked it to discover that it is HUGE. The floor model was definitely not this big. It's 9 feet tall and 4.5 feet wide, so we had to move furniture just to find a place to stick this thing. Now that it's up, it's beautiful. I took a nap on the couch next to it, and was delighted to wake up to such a beautiful, sparkly tree. Yea!

While I was at Walmart, I became obsessed with one other special: the LEGO King's Castle Siege set. At $50, it was on sale for half the normal price. It was sold out online and there were none to be found at the Lindon Walmart. I even checked the reshelving baskets and asked numerous annoyed employees if they had any more. Then I bugged my Mom and husband to call other local Walmarts, all with the same result. The employees' tones of voices indicated something along the lines of, "Umm it's 10 a.m. Seriously, you think we would still have any of these in stock after 5:15 a.m.? You're insane, lady."

Saturday, I hopped online to just drool over the set again and hope they might be available on walmart.com. No such luck. I even checked yesterday (Sunday!) because I wanted this set so badly. Sigh. The shopper in me didn't want to accept the truth. I refused to surrender to fate! So I looked online again today. Still out of stock, as you might have guessed. I called Lindon again. The annoyed salesperson said no, of course they're out of stock. I turned away from the computer, feeling sad, when I decided to try ONE LAST TIME. I called the Orem Walmart and the salesperson said the same thing: no of course we don't have any. Then she paused. "You mean the King Arthur set?"

I corrected her. "No, the King's Castle Siege." She told me to hang on and put me on hold. She came back and said, "You're in luck. The vendor just arrived with two sets and I will hold one for you if you can come within the hour."

I am now the proud owner of the awesomest Christmas present for my boys. I even bought TWO and am giving one to my sister's boys for the holidays.
I succumbed to Black Friday madness. It spilled over into Black Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday madness! I thought it would be insane. It was. Guess what? It was also SO FUN! I can't wait until next year. :-)