Monday, January 27, 2014

Diet and Excercise Update

I wanted to give a quick update on how our diet and exercise program is going.

Yesterday was our first trip back to the state park since Toddlesworth's tumble into cactus. I have done something terrible to my back and not been able to exercise like we have been for about a week. I had a doctor's appointment today to try to get my spine realigned. None the less, we wanted to try to make a go of it, even if we had to turn back quickly. Toddlesworth got onto the path and stopped before the first (trodden,  skeletal) cactus on the trail. "Cac'us!" he remarked, concerned. "It's ok," we told him, "as long as you stay on the path, you'll be fine! You can do it!"  He stared at the ground the entire time he carefully walked over the cactus, then proudly proclaimed "I did it!"  We congratulated him, and he continued to carefully make his way over other mashed cactus, saying "I did it!" every time. Eventually my back started acting up and we had to turn back, and he even wanted to continue forward. It was awful to see how well he remembered and feared the path, but great to see him conquer his fear a couple steps at a time.

We have each gotten an app to track our calories for each meal/the day, and counting calories has become something of a game, albeit not a terribly fun one.  Technically, the specific type of 'diet' my app prescribes is called "volumetrics."  Basically, you can eat 400 calories of chocolate or 400 calories of apples, but you're going to feel fuller on the apples.  We have been gaming the system just a bit by researching low calorie foods and trying to fill up on them.
We've tried a few new foods; Toddlesworth picked out a butternut squash and a head of red cabbage the last time we took him to the store. Lord C was pleasantly surprised by the sweet and sour cabbage I cooked up, so much so that we have since bought more cabbage!  Last night I tried cooking anise, another very low calorie vegetable. It has promise, but I undercooked it, not wanting to overdo it. I'll be trying it again the next time we go grocery shopping.
I have also been avoiding added sugar whenever possible, and for the first time in my life I have been trying sugar substitutes. I have been pleasantly surprised by the results. We purchased xylitol and stevia, and have been using those in recipes. I conducted a coffee taste test to discover that out of all the standard non-sugar sweeteners, I prefer sweet 'n low. I find this amusing, since I always thought they were disgusting as a child. I even found that it has less of an aftertaste than the stevia substitutes I purchased. I may switch over to those after I've gone through the other packages.
We are finding places where we can use different products with lower calories without losing (any, or much) taste. One place we have done this a couple times is with breakfast. We made oatmeal for more than a week in a row, without getting sick of it. We started with adding dates (another new food-mejool dates are excellent!), two to a serving of oatmeal. Dates are delicious but high in calories-about 67 for one date, so we fairly quickly cut this down to two total, and then I decided to switch it out with the zero calorie sweeteners in my serving. The next time we were at the store we compared calorie content of all of the non-dairy milks. We were stunned to find that while soy milk might have as much as 120 calories a serving, unsweetened almond milk came in at just 30 calories for a cup.  We switched to using this as our oatmeal base, using half almond milk and half water, and our morning meal went from as much as half our calories in a day down to 1/6th or so.  This leaves more wiggle room for 'treats' later in the day. 

I have gone over on my calories a few times, but for the most part I have kept to where I'm supposed to be. It is important for me to come in a bit under so that I can have some sort of treat at night, even if it is just a square of chocolate. (Or a breadstick, like last night!)
We have hidden each others problem food. I have stashed fritos away, and Lord C hid my breadsticks, so that we can have a serving without gorging on the entire container. Bread products are my biggest weakness, but I have been doing a pretty good job of avoiding them-I even resorted to (tofutti) cream cheese and jam on rice cakes instead of a bagel--about a 190 calorie difference. Another great weakness is fried potato products. I plan to avoid those altogether, and have been successful so far.
One of the calorie gaming tricks we have learned is using those bags of noodles that you can find in the tofu section of the super market--Shirataki noodles. Those things can be as low as 6 calories a serving.  (rice noodles are more like 200 per serving) Occasionally it is nice to be able to fill up on a warm meal, rather than salad.  We can make our macaroni and cheese sauce as fatty as usual, (Daiya and margarine are very high calorie foods!)  and add a negligible amount of calories with these noodles, even if we eat four servings.

My success story for the last couple of weeks was probably when I made cake for Toddles. We went to a baby shower where there was cake, and Toddles wanted some. Of course, it was not vegan, so he couldn't eat any, but I promised I would make him some the next day.  The next day I looked at the box of cake mix. I looked at the glass baking pan. I looked at the calorie content---210 calories, 10 servings. I knew I would eat the entire freaking cake if I baked it all, and man did that sound appealing... but I decided to make the better choice and mix up a single microwave coffee cup cake for Toddles, and only ate the two bites he insistently shoved into my face. I felt good about the choice after it was done, and now I feel like we are both conquering our issues a few steps at a time.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Toddlesworth Tuesday: Memory and Imagination

By Lord Covington            

Many of our blogs about Toddlesworth are narrative updates.  I'm never really sure if other people , or at least those who aren't potty training, will share my sense of victory when I exclaim "He got it in the potty!"  I'd like to state, for the record, that I am grateful, for those who choose to bear with us over our own awe of the basics. However, I think anyone can generally get behind things that are common to us all. In the last two weeks, my darling Toddlesworth proved that he has gained a {powerful new weapon in his arsenal}, perhaps that which makes us most human.  Walk with me now through the imagination of an intrepid toddler.

     The pretend games started first, as you already know if you read our blog.  Every door is a "sombee door", and everywhere that is dark or secluded has "sombees".  I have run from more imaginary zombies in the last month of my life than in the other 34 years.  For those of you who know me well, you know that number was WELL above zero before, so , one must admit, its rather a lot of zombie sprinting on my part.  Toddlesworth carried it even further, before I knew it had started.  He has been collecting trophies from his one baby war against the undead hordes, with his babysitter as his sidekick.  I found a pile of strange objects on the table in his playroom.  One, for example, was a metal cap with two holes punctured in it.  His babysitter informed me that he let her know it was a "zombie nose". 


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Toddlesworth Tuesday: Tumble on the Trail

By Lady Covington

As we mentioned previously. part of our fitness goals for the year includes walking at the nearby State Park.  We have taken a younger Toddles on harder hikes with more cliffs and stairs, and yet his only injury happened just this last Tuesday on the new, easy trail.

This trail is so new, we represented our hotel on the 'first hike' event just earlier this month.  It is marked only by red plastic tree ties, slightly shorter grass, and mowed down cactus. We don't know the trail very well yet and I'm sure we have 'turned back' on more than one occasion instead of finishing the trail when finishing it would actually be shorter.

There are some nice views on this trail, and some strange things to come across, and only a few areas where the footing is at all dangerous, mostly due to some very well camouflaged trunks to tiny trees they cleared for the path.

Tuesday, we were going to squeeze in some exercise before I headed to art class. Our babysitter called in, so we took Toddles with us. He loves 'walk-in-the-park' but on that day he just wasn't feeling it. This wasn't a problem, we always bring a metal-frame baby carrying backpack with us in case he gets tired on the trail. It turned out he just did not want to walk that day, so he requested to be put into the pack immediately. We loaded him up, and he wanted me to be the one to 'hol' you' so I strapped him onto my back. I was even happy to have the extra weight, more weight to move=more exercise, right?  Plus, sometimes it is nice not to have to ...well, toddle along the path when you want to get a work out.

We walked along the trail, taking the trail clockwise from the starting point and making our way past some landmarks we are coming to know.

The T.A.R.D.I.S.    It may not look like the box you know, but Toddles declared it 'Doctor  WHOOO!" the first instant he spotted it through the trees.   For anyone who doesn't recognize what it actually is, it is a deer blind. The State Park (apparently) closes for public hunts for weeks at a time, it is closed currently until Friday, so we're having to find somewhere else to hike. One day Toddles will understand what this actually is, but for now I'm happy to let him think it belongs to the Doctor.

The deer skull.   Skulls are cool, everyone has one.

Some of the parts of the trail are a bit more scenic than others. Here is a beautiful bend of trail with sheltering oak trees.

This 'road' runs parallel and/or/perpendicular to the trail depending on where you are. We're still trying to figure out when exactly it is better to take this road back vs the trail itself.
We hiked for about half an hour, then I decided we should turn back soon if I was going to make it to art class in time. We realized we were very close to the main road, we could see where it connected to the above tire track dirt road. We could either head there and take a boring walk on the road back that would be faster, or wind back through the trail. I said 'We have plenty of time to make it back along the trail, let's do that." and we turned back. We walked for 15 minutes or so when I unexpectedly tripped over what was most likely nothing.  Lord C was behind me and taking a work-related phone call. My world went into slow motion as I stumbled three steps, sure I would catch up and be fine. My body just could not compensate for the extra 35 lbs on my back and just when I thought surely everything would be fine, I was plummeting face first into a pile of dirt and cactus brambles. I hit the ground so thoroughly and quickly that I could see the dirt coming up and hitting my glasses before I even closed my eyes.
Since he was riding on the backpack putting his head slightly above mine, he was launched further into the brambly cactus (which by the way was on the side of the trail. If I had taken the fall immediately instead of trying to catch myself, we may have been just fine!)  Lord C hastily excused himself from the phone conversation and went to aid us. Toddles starting crying immediately. Not the "I am not getting my way" or "I'm scared" cry, but the "I am in serious pain" cry. Scream crying.  I pushed us up to sitting, and Lord C came towards us asking if I was ok. "I'll be ok, deal with him! Is he ok? Is there blood?" I ask, still sitting down as Toddles is lifted out of the backpack. (In my mind, his eye socket has been impaled with a stick and he's going to die. Worst case scenario, every time. That way at least as long as that doesn't happen, no matter what else happens it is no big deal.)
Once Toddles had been completely extracted from the backpack, I stood up and turned to look at him. I took him from his dad and looked at him while starting back down the path and directing Lord C to call the park office and see what they could do. Toddles was still scream crying, and had several scratches on his face, and a big area right in the middle of his forehead that was skinned. He was holding his arm out from his body and there were two patches of tiny near-invisible cactus thorns on his right hand. We get to a point where we can see the road from the path, and cut through towards it to make the path easier and faster. We got no answer at the park office, only a recording to call 911 in an emergency. I knew this wasn't a 911 type emergency, just the type that is going to suck a lot for the time being. Once we get to the road, I hand Toddles back to Lord C, and finally brush myself off. This whole time Toddles is breaking our hearts, scream sobbing and saying "It hurt me!  Ow!" When I handed him off to Lord C, he said "It hurt me, Dad!" We consoled him as best we could
and arrived at our vehicle after a few more minutes.
I popped open the back and had him sit in the cargo area while I unclipped the first aid kit that came with our car to see what we could do for him. I got tweezers out and plucked the majority of the cactus thorns out from his hand, until his reaction to avoid the tweezers was worse than the crying when I wasn't trying to pluck more out. I antiseptic wiped off his face, and noticed a cut on his ear and a scratch on his eye I hadn't seen before. When we'd done as much as we could with what we had, we strapped him into his car seat. I sat in the back with him, and Lord C handed him a random sucker that happened to be in our car. That was the best medicine he could have in that moment. He was asking for another after chomping that one before we'd even made it home.
We got home and I started undressing him so he could take a bath. A soothing bubble bath would calm him down and clean off all the dirt and make the cactus spines easier to see.  I did not expect to see this under his shirt:

These were the only two giant cactus spines he ended up with, thankfully. I snapped this picture while waiting for my other half to return, he had momentarily left the room. Once he was back to steady Toddles' arm, I pulled them out. It took a surprising amount of force, even though they weren't in very far. This started a new wave of tears and requests for candy. Lord C started running the bath water and bubbles while I finished getting him undressed, checking for any more scrapes or spines. I wracked my brain to think of where we might have some chocolate, and thought of part of a tiny choco-love bar we had left. Toddles was set in his bubble tub, with a segment of three little chocolate squares. We let him eat them  slowly in the tub, covered with bubbles.
 I thought for a while afterwards that I must not have had time to react, must not have even put my arms out for me to faceplant so well. The next day I realized I must have put my arms out indeed, and tried with all my might not to let us land that way. I have taken years of martial arts training and my arms have never been so sore. For three days I was so sore it was a major effort to do normal every day tasks. "Pick up this jug of water?  No.... I'll just go thirsty today."  All that being said, I got out easy, and would gladly take all of Toddles' spines and scrapes if it would spare him.
Here is a picture of his scabs mid-week. When people ask him what happened, he matter-of-factly tells them "I fa' cac'us." Sometimes followed by "it hurt" or "ow". 

Here is his beautiful face just about one week later. We haven't been back to the park since his fall, since it is currently closed for a hunt, so we'll see how he does when we actually get back. He has asked for a walk in the park several times, though, so I take that as a good sign. The physical pain he had from the ordeal is bad enough, but what really kills me is that I know he is emotionally bothered by it too. Yesterday we were running in an area with dried mowed grass. He took a fall of the type he'd usually spring back up from and keep running, but this time he slowly stood up and stared at the grass all over himself and declared "I fall cactus!"  I brushed the grass off of him with a "No, it's just grass! You're fine!" Several times since his fall when I have been moving him in bed or picking him up suddenly he will tense up, a couple times he has said "I fall!" and grabbed for me.  I've cuddled him and told him "No baby, you're not falling, I've got you, I promise."  I wish I could tell him I'll never let him fall again, but I know I'd be lying. The truth is I can't always prevent the tumbles of life. The best I can do is promise I'll do my best to cushion his falls, pick him up when he's down, pluck out his splinters, and give him some chocolate.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Somewhere I want to be:

By Lady Covington

You've seen where we live and work. I thought you might like a glimpse into where we would ideally love to live some day.

Growing up I always lived in close quarters, my parent's house is three bedrooms for them and four kids. I won't say I never dreamt of having a huge mansion, truthfully if I were rich I might still prefer a house full of ivy laced windows, winding corridors, and hidden passages. It's fun to daydream about, but as far as realistic housing situations, my options would appear limited.  At the end of college, however, I started learning about eco-friendly architecture, green building techniques and people who not only eschewed 'McMansions' but the very idea of four walls and a roof.

I thought I could never stand to live in a place so small, but then I read about how people tend to only use small parts of the huge homes that are so popular. I noticed that Lord C and I didn't even use all of the area in our one bedroom apartment. This stayed true throughout several moves. There were always areas we would go without using. Many years, in winter we would close off the bedroom and heat only the living room, sleeping there. I have always been a self described hippy, and I wanted to live in a 'green' house, so I learned about green technology. The newest technology was oh-so expensive, but I also learned about time honored techniques like passive solar heating. Along the way I discovered the extreme end--Earthships, using recyled materials in construction, like earth rammed tires and glass bottles. I saw more conventional looking houses built with strawbale, and wonderfully quirky houses made of cob. I thought "I could never use a wood-burning stove, I'd burn everything" then ended up in a duplex with a gas stove and learned to cook on fire.

I have always been a 'crafter' and over time, creation has become more and more important to me. Clay has been my favorite medium since I first used sculpey. I pick up creating tiny sculptures time and again, and I got a chance to work with kiln clay for a couple weeks in high school and for one class in college. I think I intrinsically think additively, and found creating in that form came much easier than two dimensions. Because of this, cob houses became my favorite form of green building. About once a year I will binge on looking at all things cob, I will refresh myself on proportions of cob mixtures, google image and drool over the beautiful organic art these buildings can be. I've read stories where people have bought land and starting building with cob with no formal instruction and ended up with wonderful houses, but I would not feel confident enough to do this until I have had hands on experience. So, every year, I have looked up cob building seminars, sighed over their costs and distance from me and resigned myself to the thought that I will get to go to one, someday, somehow.

 This particular house is my very favorite, the one I keep coming back to time and again. I love the idea of a 'hobbit' house, a house part of the earth and blending into nature rather than standing starkly from it. I would want a small upstairs area to open onto the grass roof for easy stargazing, ala this house from In The Puddle. I think about building the nooks and crannies to curl up into, the arches we'd create for doorways, creating a tree flowing over our walls. I think of the freedom we would have, not having to search for such-and-such bedrooms, blank and a half baths, bay window, etc. Just having to discover a plot of land we find suitable, and crafting our world with our bare hands, to the exact specifications of our desires. One of my new years resolutions is starting a savings account specifically for this goal and if at all possible with seminar schedules, attending one by the end of the year. I believe taking the first step and starting a savings account with the goal of attending a cob building seminar will be evidence to act as a reminder that we don't have to keep putting it of for someday, but that we are even now in the process of sculpting our future.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Diet and Exercise

By Lord C., tweaked by Lady C.

We looked backwards through the lens of family history when making our new years resolution towards healthy diet and exercise.  I lost my Grandma as a teenager to cancer.  She effectively raised me on the arm of her recliner, teaching me the foundation of my faith and how to read.  As a 15 year old, I was completely unprepared to lose her.  Worse, I was not ready to see my caretaker  in such a fragile state, needing care herself.  My father struggled with heart issues in his later life, as his father had before him.  While he outlived his own father by more than 20 years, he still lost his life to heart related complications five years ago, when we were just becoming friends as adults. Lady Covington and I have lived so much life he never got to see; including his newest grandson. Both of Lady Covington's grandmothers were cancer survivors, and both grandfathers died of heart attacks. Her father has also suffered a minor heart attack, so it is entirely probable a genetic predisposition runs in both our genes.

We look also at the present through the lens of family. We know that there is an entirely preventable component of these diseases that end ones' life early. Even though Toddlesworth has absolutely wonderful godparents, it would be unethical to orphan him when our choices could prevent it. Our choices at present are not only hopefully leading us to a better future, but they are also inviting enjoyable experiences as a family in the meantime.
As a couple it is hard to be on the same page/or easy enough for the one who is not on board to pull the other off track. With a new year comes new determination in both of us, and we are using the momentum to pull each other forward into the areas we are each focusing on. For Lady Covington, it is trying to regain some flexibility she lost while suffering sciatic nerve pain after Toddlesworth's birth, and doing a number of crunches each day to work on regaining abdominal muscle. For myself, my goal is losing 100 Lbs. this year. I have never been any good at baby stepping towards a goal: I have always operated in bursts.  If I don't feel sore after a workout, I didn't do one.  I began the year by cutting my calories in half, and jogging up a hill at the state park.  Upon that jog, I realized just how repulsively out of shape I have gotten.  Frustrated fury has always been a proverbial fire under my ass, so, fat an sore, I went back the next day.  As soon as I convinced myself that the pain was the direction I wanted to go in, I began to apply science and involve family.  I have on app that came standard with my phone that I passed over with a retching noise before this year called "Walking Mate".  While I am still absolutely unimpressed by the name , I put my weight loss goal in, and it calculated I needed 10,000 steps a day to reach this goal It set a goal of reaching a minimum of 10,000 steps each day.  The 1st day, I tried to see if 10,000 steps might as well be a zillion steps by walking to the local grocery store ( about 10 minutes one way).  Turns out there and back is about 2,000 steps.  When I go in the morning to set up hotel breakfast, this is also 2, 000 steps.  I realized that all of my steps could be combined in larger part with work and childcare.  This clenched it for me.
We have turned a near-daily walk at the state part to a family event, where I get in a majority of my steps, and we can get in some nature as well.  I have joined Lady Covington in her stretching and crunches. We are both interested in eating better food and less of it, while keeping our dishes nutritious and enjoyable, and we help reinforce each others good behaviors. (It can be hard to find salad enjoyable when your other half is scarfing down pad-Thai)  Since we met, we have been in each other's presence practically all the time, so we have always had an especially strong influence on each other. Sometimes there will be a downswing of activity that consists of playing video games and eating cookies for a week or two, and sometimes the upswing is two years of martial arts. I enjoy both, but the upswings are definitely where we shine as a couple.

      I have been dimly aware for years , but only recently precisely aware; that I exercise best when I leave my living space and have special space for the fitness ritual.  It helps me to take on the character, so to speak of someone in/ getting into shape.  Also, it becomes easier to fall into the mindset of "well, I'm here, might as well go through with it", rather than, "well, there's my laptop and a bag of Fritos, might as well watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer again." (Ok, well, sometimes that's still fun, just not a good thing to do regularly.)  The Lake Brownwood  State Park is an ideal sacred space to exercise without  interruption.  The seclusion lets me wheeze and cough , which I am generally uncomfortable doing in public.  The other great benefit is being child friendly. It is one place where Toddlesworth  can run amok, without us having to stop him from breaking things or making  mess.  The state park also has the added bonus of being scenic, and thus being useful to Lady Covington's emerging interest in photography.

     So this is our life change we are working on perfecting this year.  We are well on our way, and pulling a toddler along in our wake, or trying to keep up with him sprinting ahead.  We are using the connections of family to provide the extra emotional gas to propel us forward into these new choices. We are a community of three now. Every choice we make now affects not just each of us and each other, but this third member as well. Like putting on your own air mask in a crashing airplane, because we have to be here to take care of him, we must first take care of ourselves.

Friday, January 3, 2014

An Introduction to Our Atypical Home and Life, part two: Work.

By Lady Covington

A couple months ago we introduced you to our living space.. Now it is time for a glimpse into the work side of our work/life balance. This post is still Toddlesworth picture-heavy, because he is a bit more photogenic than all the spreadsheets I've made.

There are several ways in which our work life is atypical. A major one is that we work together. This is not something most couples are able to do, even if they wanted to.  We have worked together since 2003, but the actual jobs we did were fairly normal. In 2006, we moved to Midland.  Lord C. got a temporary job as a night shift postal worker, and after some looking, I got a job as a front desk clerk at a hotel. About six months later, his temp work came to an end and he joined me at the hotel working the overnight shift. Our jobs themselves have been fairly unusual since 2009. At the end of 2008, Lord C. had been night manager for a year. I had been front desk manager up until the car wreck in 2007. Afterwards I took some time off to recover, came back for a bit, and realized I needed to take more time off. Very early in January, Lord C was offered the position of General manager in Corpus Christi and I went with him as a desk clerk.

I worked my way up again from there, to a pseudo front desk manager/accountant/fill in night auditor role. For a short time near the end of our stay there, we were looking to fill in a food service position, and I found just about the limits of my abilities when I was routinely working an overnight-double shift once a week and helping out with breakfast and dinner setup most days. As tiring as it was for me, I know it was even moreso for him! We found out we were expecting in early March 2011, and started planning on how we were going to be changing our lives, but we weren't prepared for the extent of the changes.

Later in March, we were offered management positions at the newly purchased property in Brownwood. We jumped at the opportunity, even though it meant leaving a few friends we had managed to make and our midwife that we lived three blocks away from.

This latest property has been the most atypical of them all. We weren't there for the remodeling portion of the redo, or installing the major furniture pieces, but all of the smaller pieces we handled finding the best deals and ordering, from the ironing boards to the phones to the little signs that say put your towels on the rack to reuse. I even got to design the pens, stationary, and business cards for the hotel (using a previously created logo for the property.) We interviewed and hired all staff, and they have been great workers and genuinely good people. Once we got up and running, the two of us cover management, accounting, and sales roles for the hotel. In addition to covering anywhere from a few to most day shifts during any given week, we cover the overnight position staying up late for groups in our meeting rooms that are night owls and waking up for calls from 4 am walk-ins, which happen more often than you would think! We do all of the shopping for the hotel, almost always with Toddlesworth in tow. 

By far, the most atypical aspect of our work life was being able to bring Toddlesworth to work with us every day for the first 18 months or so of his life. He took meals on my lap while I worked on spreadsheets. He napped in a bassinet in the corner, and later directly on us, while we continued to work. We dressed him up and took him to work functions, after hours, ribbon cuttings, he mingled with guests in the lobby at breakfast time and greeted each of our groups with a smile.  Eventually, we ended up dressing him in a suit almost every day, leading to his nickname.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Terror of Christmastime

After the success of his zombie birthday party, this is the ornament I bought to represent this year.
Christmas 2013 stands in stark juxtaposition to Christmas 2012.  2012 was technically Toddlesworth’s second Christmas, but he was 11 days old for his first one, so his experience likely went something like “Well, there are blobs all around  me, and milk is tasty.”  In 2012, however, he was a walking talking Toddlesworth just over a year old.  The dragon in the video below was one he had shown interest in at the store.  It was the first time he really showed sustained excitement about a toy. 
What the video shows is  exactly what I experienced as a child, and what we hoped to capture for Toddlesworth: the excitement and anticipation of Christmas morning.  I have never been a morning person by choice,  but I never had any problem waking up at 5:30 to revel in the glory of the treasure horde.  The double take upon entering the room in the video is my personal favorite.  Other than that the video explains it much better than I might. (We apologize for the darkness, the only video we had then was a phone.)
For Christmas 2013, we actually had many more presents than 2012.  We expected the same excitement  building off of  his birthday.  He learned and remembered the word “present” just a couple of weeks earlier.  However, Lady Covington and I were in for some rather unpleasant surprises.  To begin with, he was perfectly happy to sleep in until after 8 on Christmas morning.  Lady Covington’s insistent text got me out of bed, but Toddlesworth wasn’t having any of it .  This probably should have been my first warning sign but I soldiered on through waking and dressing rituals for him and myself, somewhat oblivious to his sleepy protests.
A tiny skeleanimals monkey peeks out, due to his perpetual zombie fascination.
He enjoyed the monkey, and this pez dispenser was the second thing he pulled out.


Upon entering the lobby, he began with his stocking.  This was full of exotic and tasty  treats from the internet, and he was very happy with it.  He was less keen on being urged to open boxes in front of a camera.  To make matters worse, the first few presents he grudgingly grabbed were not, in fact, for him, but for Lady Covington or myself.  This was probably the beginning of the downhill slide.  The first thing he opened was a box of perfume.  He could not figure out why this was a thing he should care about it, or why we wanted to stop him after urging him to open presents.  The second present he opened, oh so unfortunately, was mine.  It was, oh man, so unfortunately, a box full of boxes with which to hold my Magic the Gathering cards.  These boxes were as a matter of course, completely empty.  He opened them, and each individual box, as the horror of what was happening slowly dawned on me.  After he opened MTG card box number three he said in a sadly questioning voice “All gone?”.  Really, things were not going well at this point.