Why Do I Bother?

(I promise most posts will NOT be this long. But I have to vent on this one!)

So, are we sending holiday cards this year?    I don't know. Should we?   Did we last year?   Yeah, with his Baby's First Christmas picture, remember?   I guess we should.  OK, I'll try to if I have time. 

Go online. Too late to order them and get them in time to send them out in time to arrive by Christmas. Kinko's has those machines, though, right? Scroll through iPhoto. Crap. No decent shots of the 3 of us in the last few months except for in our Halloween costumes. I'll have to take a photo of him.

Home from work because he's sick. Need that photo. Hey- let's bundle up and go to the park and wear a cute wintery hat and try for that photo! OK, baby, go ahead and play. Just keep climbing and sliding, Act natural. Click. Click. Hey- over here! Click. Look at Mommy. Click. Hmmm....blurry, pale, too dark, face blocked. Ugh. Click. Click. Fall, cry, coughing fit, frozen little fingers, losing light, energy and patience, let's go home. One of those will have to do.

Lunch, nap, upload pics, choose a semi-decent one, transfer to flash drive. Wake up, pack a cup of milk, snack, book, flash drive. New diaper, shoes, jackets, hats, grab purse. Off to Kinko's we go.

Yes! No waiting for the photocard machine. We'll be in and out in a jiffy. Sit on the floor. Here's your milk, cookies, book. Touch screen. Begin. USB drive in. Error: Unreadable. Damn! In line at the main counter for help. Can you find a picture of a dog? a baby? a snowman? a star? Look! A computer! Look! A flower! Associate finally helps us by transferring pics to the store's USB drive for me to borrow. Back to photomachine where we wait behind woman using it to make copies of her son's professional photos because it's cheaper than ordering them from the photographer's studio. She tells us this sotto voice and engages boy in appreciating her hand-made Santa jewelry, reminiscing about the days she taught pre-school, and general chatting about the holiday season. This successfully occupies him until she's done. Bye Bye! Our turn, finally. USB drive reads, select photo, select background, Hey! No, Sweetie, you can't pull that. Please stay by Mommy. Here- what's in my purse? Have my work keys. Try to open this locked cabinet. Select font, select color, type in message. Oh- do you want to help me? Heft. Press here. Mommy, no help! No! Painfully slowly point at each letter and allow him to press it himself until message is done, then argue & listen to him whine when it isn't his turn anymore and I need to finish. Review order. Print. Whirr hiss grind beep beep beep beep. Warning: Printer ribbon error code 2378. OMG. Let's go! Back in line at main counter for help. Try to maintain place in line, supervise playing "mark, set, go" back and forth across the store, and watch photocard machine like a hawk keeping other customers from touching it and canceling my order. More milk! More snack! Sorry, baby, we're all out. Have to wait until we get home. Let's dance! Let's play "If you're happy and you know it..." Here-take these boxes off the shelf and stack them. Clerk finally opens machine, begins installing new printer ribbon. Stacking, unstacking, pulling books off shelf- No! Let's put these back. OK, let's look for wheels. Oooh! Look- a big wheel! Go run and touch it. OK, now come back. Whoosh, first photocard is printed and spit out of machine. The corner is cut off. Whoosh. Second one comes out. We're on our way. 2 of 40. 3 of 40. 4 of 40. Home! Home! More milk! Ugh. Let's take a walk! Can you stomp? Can you walk backwards? 8 of 40. Let's count. What's under here? 13 of 40. Here's Mommy's phone. Hello? Hello? 22 of 40. I know! We need envelopes for these photocards. Walk to find envelopes. Sold out of the right size. Can you find a blue one? Yes! Yay! Good Job! What about purple? Yes! 31 of 40. Pick out off-white wrong sized envelopes, wait in line to purchase. I know, Sweetie. We're almost done. I promise. Get off the floor. Get up. Hey, you need to get up. Don't roll on the floor. We're going home soon. Ouch. 37 of 40. Let's go get our pictures! Ooooh- look at the picture! No, don't touch it. Where's your book? Put that box back! No, I can't carry you.

Almost an hour later, we have successfully made 39 photocards that aren't cut in the corner and have 50 non-matching oversized envelopes, have forgotten a sippy cup labeled with his name on the store's floor, have left behind a wake of cookie crumbs, rearranged products, and annoyed customers and clerks. He's hungry and thirsty and bored and cranky. I've got a splitting headache and am exhausted.

After an hour at home spent decompressing and recovering, we're okay. I'm glad I made the cards, regardless.

The next day we print out address labels and sit as a family assembling the cards. Mommy puts the photocard in the envelope, sticks labels on, kiddo peels and sticks the stickers on in random locations on the back of the envelope, occasionally actually "sealing" it, Daddy checks off the recipients from our list, and we put the finished card in a stack.

When we're done, we take a family walk on a crisp, sunny winter day to the neighborhood mailbox. We lift him up and let him put the envelopes in the box himself. Yay! A feeling of accomplishment.

5 steps away from the mailbox, I replay the preparations in my mind and realize that I didn't stamp any of the envelopes. Cry or laugh? Sometimes it's a tough call.

In this case, only thing to do is laugh at the complete idiocy and irony of it all. Clearly this is the final sign in a series of signs that I was not meant to send holiday cards this year.

We concoct a plan as a last ditch desperate attempt to salvage the situation. Go home to create two big notes to the mail carrier explaining what happened and begging for the envelopes to be returned to my house for stamping before being taken to the distribution center. I walk back to the mailbox alone and feel defeated. I tape one to the front where he will open the box and put one inside so it will land on top of the mail. I wonder if what I'm doing is a federal offense. Walk home and officially let it go.

One envelope returned 2 days later mangled by postal machine with no other markings.
One another 2 days after that with "insufficient postage" stamped on it.
Another one the next day, folded and dirty with a different kind of "no postage" stamp in a different ink.
Two friends called and said "I loved your card!". Those must have slipped through somehow.

It was suggested to us that maybe the post office will just send most of them through in the spirit of the holidays. I let that idea give me comfort at first, but...one has now come back to me with a rubber stamp from its destination city in the Midwest, which means the USPS used fuel to transport it all the way there, notice it had no postage, and then transport it all the way back so that they could get 43 cents from me.  I guess the cost-benefit ratio must still be in their favor, but that's just unbelievable to me!  

Happy Holidays!

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