The Awful Story of the Krampus Beneath the Lampus

November 27th, 2014

Happy middle-of-the-start-of-Ridiculous-Shopping-Season! Otherwise known as “Thanksgiving Day.”

For the holiday season this year, I thought I would introduce you to a little family tradition the girls and I started last year, called, “The Kids Want Something Very Bad that Mama Absolutely Hates.” Actually, this tradition started years ago, and it’s not even a tradition unique to our family. I’m sure your family has a similar tradition. What may vary from family to family is what awful thing it is that the kids want and how Mama decides to deal with it.

Last year, Princess and Pixie both wanted an “Elf on the Shelf.” I hate that thing. I hate the smarmy look on its face. I hate the effort some families go to make the Elf “come to life” (i.e. make a mess and tear up the house to convince the kids the elf is actually ALIVE). I hate that this frikkin’ elf seems to come with more outfits than Barbie these days. Have you SEEN the displays at Barnes & Noble? Really, the elf does not need clothes. Its clothing is sewed onto its body!!!!

But for whatever reason, millions of kids the world over want “The Elf on the Shelf,” including mine. When we went to Barnes & Noble last year and they asked for elves, I nearly choked to death on my Peppermint Mocha Latte.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I said, spewing hot, frothy, over-priced and over-flavored coffee everywhere.

“Please Mama?!” they begged, eyes getting big. “PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE?!!”

I looked at the EOTS. If you’ve ever taken a close look at these things, you realize it has the same gleeful, murderous look as the Chucky doll from those cruddy horror movies. Only Chucky has more personality.

“No,” I said, backing away in fear. “Nononononononononononononono!!!”

“You never get us anything we like,” my children whined as they sipped on their own Peppermint Mocha Lattes.

Anyway, the kids kept asking for an EOTS, and I kept saying no, and the whining kept getting worse. But then, then I got very lucky. I picked up a holiday crochet magazine and I found a pattern for ugly little monsters, designed by Jill Watt at www.dappertoad.com. The pattern is here – http://www.dappertoad.com/2012/12/shelf-free-crochet-pattern.html.

What’s so great about a pattern, you ask? Why is it any better – or less awful – than buying an actual EOTS?

It’s better because I realized I could take that pattern and make my own horrible little elves. And that’s exactly what I did.
I changed the colors, choosing the most yucky green yarn I could find. Red Heart Super Saver has a couple that I love to use for crocheting zombies, including a sage green and a tea leaf green that are just to DIE for. I used Red Heart’s variegated oatmeal color for the faces and picked a couple of dull grays for the trim. I had some pink “monster” safety eyes. And to all that I added this really awful hairy black yarn for the elves hair and beards.

Yes, beards. You see, these weren’t just going to be elves I was making. They were going to be KRAMPUSES!!! OF DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

Or you know, Krampuses beneath the Lampuses.

Krampuses

We are KRAMPUSES!! Beneath the LAMPUSES

So I spent a couple weeks putting these creatures together, following the directions in Jill Watt’s pattern but using my own colors and adding monster eyes and beards. And the result was truly god-awful. I wired up the limbs so that I could pose the critters, and very early on Christmas morning, I posed the little darlings beneath my favorite lamp in the living room, complete with notes about whom and what they were.

Their names, according to the notes, were Kankle and Krum, and they were Krampus dolls. When the girls came down on Christmas morning to open their presents, there was a lot of squealing and then some confusion and then some screaming.

“Oh my GOD! Mama! What are these horrible gross THINGS?!”

It was exactly reaction I was looking for.

The Krampuses, or Hairy Elves, as the girls decided to call them, have since become permanent fixtures in our home. On various occasions, they can be found hanging from the dining room chandelier (sometimes by the neck)…

Wheeeeee!

Wheeeeeee!

Sometimes they can be found crawling around in the girls’ dirty laundry, or stealing toys and stuffing them into trashcans. They have tied up Pixie’s Doctor doll and tortured him with his own sonic screwdriver…

Hairy elves, attack!

We have you now, Doctor!

They have stolen letters sent to the girls by the Doctor (did I mention my kids get letters from the Doctor? Yeah, they’re future companions). And once, they laid eggs in the kids’ underwear drawers.

Poo egg

This is an egg. How do you like your eggs?

But they never, EVER make a mess of my kitchen, or destroy anything of mine. No, these hairy elves are too smart and too lazy for nonsense like that. Instead, I tell the kids that their elves are the kind of creatures that prefer to fart in their faces with the girls are asleep. And that seems to be naughty enough behavior for Princess and Pixie.

But still, they want the original “Elf on the Shelf.” And still, I refuse to get them one, or let anyone else get them one. So this year, I’m going back to Jill Watts pattern, and this year, I’m going to make another set of hairy elves. This year, the elves are going to be GIRLS, and GIRL hairy elves (complete with beards) are even worse than BOY hairy elves.

For starters, they eat normal, boring “Elves on the Shelves.” And I plan to stage evidence of that crime for Christmas this year. All I need is a stuffing, a few shreds of red and white felt, and two willing, horrible, awful HAIRY ELVES to help me do the murderous deed.

MWAHAHAHAHA!

Evil hairy elves…

And maybe that will keep the girls from asking for things they know I hate :)

 

ACW Episode 256 – Don’t tell me which way to lean

November 26th, 2014
Webcomic!

Click on the webcomic to see it full-size.

The above webcomic is not about Girl Scouts. Or rather, not just about Girl Scouts. It’s about all the organizations and groups I’ve volunteered with over the last several years. I’ve had conversations about leadership and “leaning in” with all of them. Some of those conversations were subtle suggestions that I might take on more work. Others were outright demands for my time and energy. In the worst cases, people simply refused to believe that I do not exist just for them. So what if I have two kids, a husband, parents, and friends who need me? That’s not their problem. They don’t care that I have my own work that I love to do and don’t get nearly enough time to spend on it. And forget trying to tell these people that just like everyone else in the world, I only have a limited number of hours in the day.

“Get up earlier!” one person barked at me. “Then you’ll have more time for our organization AND your work. Sleep is for the DEAD!”

The problem with that, however, is that if I give up sleeping to do more volunteer work, I’ll be dead sooner rather than later.

I don’t want to die soon, and I don’t want to give up everything in my life to BE A LEADER AND SAVE THE WORLD. So when people who want to fill up all MY TIME with THEIR PRIORITIES tell me that I need to “lean in,” I remind them very firmly that I am leaning in, every single day. I lean into taking care of my kids, spending time with my husband, helping out my family and friends. I lean into drawing webcomics and digital art. I lean in like a BOSS when I sit down on the couch to crochet. Just because I choose to make my priorities MY PRIORITIES, that doesn’t mean I’m not a leader and I’m not leaning in.

It just means I choose which direction I lean instead of giving up my life’s direction to someone else. And that is the very definition of being a leader.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Lean back, relax, and enjoy the holiday.

Move It Mama Monday! I ain’t been moving all that much…

November 24th, 2014

So, the week after I started up the “Move It Mama Monday” posts again, I didn’t get much moving done.

What happened is this. Two weeks ago, I spent every waking moment and then some working on a special event for Girl Scouts (you’ll hear more about that in a later post). Pulling off this event meant a lot of late nights, one all-nighter, and not a lot of sleep in between. And that meant I had to spend all of last week recovering.

I had expected that after a week of very little sleep, I would have slept like the dead all the next week. Instead, I had a couple of nasty bouts of insomnia. The first bout happened right after I finished up the event for Girl Scouts. I was exhausted. And I mean ready to fall over dead tired. However, when I went to bad that night, I couldn’t sleep.

I tried everything – Zzzquil, a big fat book (I’ve been reading “The History of Middle Earth” for the last two years), moving from the bed to the couch, yoga, meditation, warm milk… Nothing worked. When the Hubster got up at 6:30AM, I made the bed and just stayed up, hoping I could keep going until bedtime and THEN finally fall asleep.

The plan worked. I could only manage to do light work, but I did get some stuff done, and at 9PM I was out like a light. I slept through until noon the next day.

And then I had another bout of insomnia, just like the last one.

Combined with a cold.

So I went through another 36 hours of sleeplessness, trying to battle a sore throat with lots of chicken soup and green tea with honey. I did get to sleep the next night, and have slept every night since, but I gotta say, being sick plus having two bouts of insomnia has completely screwed up my schedule. I managed to go for a walk every day but one (which means I’m starting over on the Walk to Mordor yet again), and I did some light yoga most days. But that was about it.

I’m hoping to turn things around this week. I feel a bit better, and I’ve been able to get some sleep. One of the problems that exacerbated my insomnia involved Hubster stealing the covers every time he rolled over in bed. So I went out and bought us a pair of sleeping bags and zipped them together. With both of us zipped in at night, the covers don’t go anywhere when he rolls over. I think I’m a genius for figuring this one out in my sleep deprived state.

The goal for this week is to keep up with the daily walk and the daily yoga. I’m going to see if I can get to the pool once this week, and to karate class. Beyond that, it’s Thanksgiving week. I’m not sure how much more I can do. I do wear a pedometer and the Jawbone UP band, so I can use that to prompt me to keep moving. We’ll see how that works!

Speaking of devices, I’m curious what devices folks wear. I’m considering upgrading the UP band, but don’t know if I want to go with the next version of the UP or get something different. The UP is nice, but I’d love to have something that includes a watch function with it. I can’t really wear a watch and the UP band at the same time. It’s just too bulky to wear both on my left wrist, and I can’t stand to wear a watch on my right. Any suggestions?

Let me know and have a great Monday!

Weekly Art Challenge and a Year of Halloween – A Priority for this Year

November 21st, 2014

I recently realized that I really wanted to make more artwork. I love drawing. I always have. And I’ve always thought of myself as an artist. The problem is that to be an artist, you have to make art.

Drawing and painting is one of those things that had fallen by the wayside over the past two years. I was drawing the webcomic, but I never seemed to have the time or energy to create anything else. Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, volunteering for Girl Scouts and the kids’ school had managed to devour most of my waking hours.

This was really starting to bother me, especially since I thought I had set myself up two years ago with all the tools I needed (a new iPad, a Surface Pro tablet – very expensive tools) to do my artwork on the go. Of course, two years ago, part of being “on the go” meant I sat on the side lines a couple times a week while the kids took karate classes. When the kids’ homework load made it impossible to take them to karate classes after school, I lost my best opportunity to just sit and draw.

So I stopped drawing, except for the webcomic. And I was really starting to get angry about it.

Around the start of October this year, I was bit so hard by the urge to create that I couldn’t ignore it no matter how hard I tried. I crocheted a zombie cupcake. I make a gorgeous sugar skull applique and stitched it to black shirt for Halloween. I pulled out some unfinished Halloween projects from last year (zombie Barbies, anyone?) and finished them. I opened up a few of my long unfinished pieces on the iPad and got back to work on them. Spurred by longings for creepy art and the gothic atmosphere of Halloween, I started to get back my creative groove. On Halloween night, I felt like the Queen of the World!

On November 1st, I woke up and mourned the loss of what I thought was my best excuse for throwing myself headlong into my creative urges.

It reminded me of waking up on New Year’s day, after the holidays are over and the ball has dropped. All I was left with was a bunch of empty candy wrappers scattered over my yard and the remains of the new projects I had started but not completed during “Halloween Season.” I hated it.

But then I thought, “Why can’t Halloween last all year long?” And then I thought, “Why can’t Halloween last all year long?!” And so I decided that Halloween would last all year long, because in my world, it does.

To make certain that Halloween, and thus my “excuse” to make art, lasted all year long, I decided I needed to set a goal, something that I would work on all year long, that gave me that Halloween feeling. And I decided the best place to start was a weekly art challenge. I would work on a new drawing each week from November 1st of this year until October 31st of next year, to turn out 52 pieces of creepy, spooky art that made me feel like an artist again.

This is, perhaps, the strangest and most roundabout way I could have found to motivate myself to draw again, to give me a reason to make my work a higher priority than the volunteer work that has almost engulfed my life. Don’t get me wrong – I love working with Girl Scouts and the school. Just not at the expense of giving up those things that make me who I am.

So far this month, I have worked on 4 drawings, all done with various apps on my iPad. I work on these drawings in the evenings when I sit down to watch the news with the Hubster. Prior to the start of my “Year of Halloween,” that was time I had used to collapse in exhaustion and play mindless video games on my iPad (yet another sneaky little thief of my time). But having made drawing such a high priority, now I make sure to click on my drawing apps before clicking on a game. “I only have to do a few minutes of drawing before I can switch to a game,” I tell myself. But once I start drawing, hey presto! I lose myself in the artwork for at least half an hour, and thus drawing gets done.

And I am happy about that. Very happy indeed.

So happy Halloween, everyone!

Weekly art challenge 04 - Gothic Portrait

Weekly Art Challenge #04 – “Gothic Portrait” by Helen E. H. Madden, work-in-progress

Move It Mama Monday! Walking To Mordor

November 17th, 2014

One does not simply walk into Mordor…

Except that one does. Well, Frodo and Sam certainly did. I think Gollum sort of slunk or slithered his way in.

But to get to the point…

Last month I signed up with Nerd Fitness Academy. NFA is a website that offers advice, informatin, and motivation for people looking to get into better shape. It’s set up like a traditional RPG for the most part, allowing users to choose a character class – warrior, assassin, ranger, and ninja – to help people set fitness and health goals and achieve them. The more goals or “quests” you achieve, the more points you accrue on NFA, and as you accrue points, you level up. The program makes good use of the nerd/geek theme to motivate users, I think, and so far, I’ve had fun following the various parts of the program and working on quests.

One of the quests I’ve been working on is the “Walk to Mordor.” The goal of the Walk to Mordor is to get into the habit of walking daily. To complete the quest, you have to walk for at least 5 minutes a day for 2 weeks straight. I’ve been working hard at this one for over a month now. Sadly, I have not yet achieved that goal.

Why? Why can I not manage to get in at least a 5-minute walk every day?

Well, it all comes down to priorites. Most weeks, I have been able to walk at least 30 minutes every day for 6 days straight. Then the 7th day comes along. The 7th day is usually the day I have a Girl Scout event to run – a troop meeting, an outing, a certain murder mystery party, etc. Girl Scouts usually takes up one full day of my week, every week, in addition to the 1-2 hours I put into volunteering for Girl Scouts everyday.

I have come to realize that 6 out of every 7 days, I can and will make walking a top priority. As soon as I get up on those 6 days, I will put on my exercise clothes, lace up my sneakers, and head out the door. I will walk 3-4 miles a day during those 6 days. But come that 7th day, my priorities are very different.

On the days that I work Girl Scout events, my only priority is Girl Scouts. I am up by 6:30AM, sometimes even earlier. Chances are very good that I was up until after midnight the night before, preparing for the event in question. So I’ll be a little low on sleep. But I will be up early because I need that time to clean my house (if the event is at my home), prepare a meal and/or snacks for the girls, double-check paperwork for the event, set out supplies for activities, check email for any last-minute communications from other volunteers or parents, drive to the event if it’s not at my home, probably pick up some Girl Scouts along the way who need a ride, gather and store receipts for anything we purchase that day (because I have to account for how the troop spends its money), check in girls at the event, run and/or get through the event, surpervise the girls in their activities, lead the activities, supervise clean-up after the activities, check the girls back out when their parents come to pick them up, drive home any girls that came with me, file the receipts and paperwork, etc., etc., etc.

On days when I do Girl Scout events, I am on my feet all day long. I do not go out for a walk, but I do not stop moving until the event is done and the paperwork is taken care of. And on some days, I don’t even manage to finish that final paperwork before I collapse into bed and pass out. Those days are busy and exhausting. Going for a walk, even a 5-minute walk, doesn’t even enter my mind.

So how can I complete this quest for NFA? Tomorrow, I know I will get up and get out the door and take at least a 3-mile walk. I’ll easily walk more than 10,000 steps (the recommended daily step count) before dinner. And I’ll do the same the next day and the day after that for 6 days straight. But on the 7th day…

I have a Girl Scout troop meeting scheduled. It will run from noon to 5PM. And I guarantee you I will be up by 6:30 that morning to cook, clean, prepare for and run that meeting. I will be busier than a one-legged man at a butt-kicking contest until that meeting is over, and then I’ll be deader than a zombie who hasn’t eaten her daily alotment of brains. And I probably will not have taken even a 5-minute walk that day. I will have been moving all day long, but that isn’t part of the qualifications for the “Walk to Mordor” quest.

What to do? Should I get up just a bit earlier so I can take that 5-minute walk? I’ll probably be low on sleep that morning, but I could try it. Or maybe I should adjust the goals of the quest a bit? Instead of walking 14 days in a row, set the goal of walking 6 days a week for 4 weeks straight?

I don’t know. I’m considering posting the question on the NFA forums to see what people think. In fact, that’s probably exactly what I should do. And maybe I will if. Unless, of course, I choose to use that time to go for a 5-minute walk instead.

Like I said, it’s about priorities. And choosing how to spend 5 minutes can make all the difference in the world when you’re trying to achieve a goal.

I would really like to blog again…

November 16th, 2014

ACW Episode 255 – Mo’ Money!

November 10th, 2014
Webcomic!

Click on the thumbnail to view the comic full-size!

The conversations I had with Pixie this past weekend regarding chores were not nearly this pleasant. I swear, that kid has mastered the stink-eye. Of course, it has no effect whatsoever on her terrible, horrible, EVIL mother.

To quote Bill Cosby, “I brought you into this world, kid…”

ACW Episode 254 – Morning Glory

November 2nd, 2014
Cynical Woman!

Click on the thumbnail to see the full-sized comic!

Yeah, so this actually happened when we went camping last month. It happened a lot.

ACW Episode 253 – The Great Outdoors!

October 23rd, 2014
Cynical Woman!

Click on the thumbnail to see the full-sized webcomci!

Hubster and I took the kids camping in the Blue Ridge mountains last month, and this is exactly what happened. It was like someone dropped a big, wet, dense blanket all over the mountains.

As you can see, I’m still struggling to get the webcomic done on a weekly schedule. For now, I’m just going to keep working on it every day and then publish as soon as the webcomic is ready. I’m doing my best to juggle between Girl Scouts volunteer work, paying work, taking care of the house and kids, and trying not to kill myself in the process. You’ll notice, the first thing on that list is “Girl Scouts volunteer work” and the last thing is “trying not to kill myself.” That’s pretty much the order of the priority list, sad to say.

But I’m just going to keep working away at it and things will get done as they get done. I’m going to get back to working on the next webcomic now.

ACW Episode 252 – She’s a STAR!!

October 9th, 2014
Webcomic!

Click on the pic to see it full-sized!

Pixie sure does love her pop music! But I can’t help but cringe when I listen to the actual lyrics of the songs she’s trying to imitate. The kid is 8 years old! She doesn’t need to go BOOM BOOM and bring booty back at her age!