Friday, December 22, 2017

2017 Layne Family Christmas Letter

As the gently falling snow silently mounts upon the trees we planted this summer snapping off the tender young branches, we are reminded it is once again that time of year to renew our health insurance.
Spring began on a sad note as the most beloved member of the family fell prey to a careless driver.  Taffy was a friend, companion, and tireless beggar.  Belonging to a rare breed of short-haired bacon retrievers bred in the middle ages to help huntsmen track wild boar, it is widely believed Taffy could sniff out a single rasher of bacon sealed in an airtight container at the bottom of the ocean blindfolded.  Given her proclivity for exploration and confrontational nature, all were certain she would meet her eventual demise at the jaws of a coyote, or we might one day find a Taffy-colored owl pellet in the yard.  Her unanticipated appointment with fate was sudden, shocking, and a tragedy none will soon forget.
Owing to her abhorrence of equilibrium, it didn’t take long for Amanda to decide it was time for K & M’s brief reprieve from the added cost and responsibility of dog ownership to come to an unceremonious end.  Taking a break from her nonstop research into finding a cure for unfashionable footwear, Amanda aimed her Safari at pet rescue sites.

They say pets resemble their owners, which is probably why Amanda fell in love with a skinny, easily bored African American puppy with a sinus condition.  A Carin Terrier/Border Collie mix (with trace DNA of nanny goat and raccoon), Maggie is too lazy to sit up straight, too clumsy to walk up the stairs without tripping, and enjoys running spastically around the house while gnawing the faces off plush squeaker toys.  Unlike Taffy, Maggie is a herbivorous canine preferring fruits & vegetables, tree bark, and an occasional helping of potting soil to meat.  And whereas Taffy was a bossy, smart-as-a-whip alpha, Maggie is more on the order of a high school cheerleader – off the charts cute and spunky, but with all the brains of an eggplant.

When she isn’t cleaning dog snot off the windows, Karen spends her free time bonding with her new friend.  Although she exchanged her little blond shadow for a little black one, as Amanda is quick to remind us, it’s not the color of Maggie’s fur, but what’s inside that counts – which, from what we can tell is a lot of poop and acorns.

Speaking of acorns, in August, while the rest of the nation battled hurricanes and floods, we were besieged by a bumper crop of acorns.  Like a plague from Exodus, acorns rained down upon us for two weeks; pelting all like Chicken Little but without Henny Penny or Ducky Lucky to warn the king of the falling sky.  We are anxious to see the oak forest sprout up next spring.

In more pet news, one day during dinner, Karen and Amanda noticed a non-indigenous, domesticated finch at our birdfeeder.  Convinced the tiny bird had no hope of surviving on its own given the many dangers of freedom, the girls promptly captured and caged it.  Sadly, owing to Maggie’s habit of staring at Gigi like Sylvester the Cat, then bursting into paroxysms of violent barks every time the poor creature moved a feather (more often than not when Mark was on a conference call), sending Gigi ricocheting around her cage like a pinball, Karen had no choice but to donate her to a local cat shelter.  (True story.)

In an event which set Franco-American relations back to the pre-Spaghetti-O era (uh, oh!), in October the Laynes played host to an exchange student from France.  Although Lucie spoke not a lick of English, it was nice having another pair of hands around the house; our toilets were never so clean nor our silverware more shiny.  Expecting quid pro quo when Amanda visits there next spring, we hope Lucie’s parents won’t be too disappointed with Amanda’s lack of enthusiasm for domestic responsibilities.  In preparation for her trip, Amanda is working hard to master the phrases, “Where’s my food?” “Why isn’t this laundry folded?” and, “I need your credit card,” en Francais.

In other Amanda news, with college looming on her horizon, she’s applied to and been accepted by a half dozen major universities.  Based on visits this past year, she has determined that SoCal is too hilly, Florida too hot, and Michigan too cold.  Despite her father’s anti-Saban-ism, it seems only Alabama is just right as it offers her desired course of study in Public Relations with minors in Communications, Psychology, Fashion Design, Criminal Justice, and Medieval Literature.  Although it seems like a lot of education for a kid who wants to be a dog food taster, it’s looking more and more like Amanda is about to become her Aunt Leslie’s problem.  (Roll Tide -- now with bleach!)  Ally is already making plans to redecorate Amanda’s room.  We hope Amanda will eventually grow fond of rainbows and unicorns.
Speaking of Ally, when she isn’t travelling to far off, exotic ball diamonds in Florida, Michigan, Tennessee, Indiana, and Kankakee, or finding new and ingenious ways of clogging the toilet, she devotes much free time to memorizing clever lines from SpongeBob and watching videos of tone-deaf evangelists sing on YouTube.  Of all the no account, uninteresting years in her 14 years on this earth, Ally graduated eighth grade, enrolled at a private Catholic high school half an hour from home (where she knows nobody but which features a softball program superior to the local public school up the street), switched travel teams, found a new pitching coach, and changed her underwear – all between May and August.  K & M refused to let her dye her hair lest the world no longer recognize her.
In celebration of their 20th year of marital bliss (20 out of 25 isn’t bad!), Karen & Mark made great strides in their plans to die poor.  While they wait, Karen cleans, and, as Ally is wont to affectionately point out, Mark sucks.
As we prepare to enter 2018, the Chinese year of the dog, let us recall that Mark Twain once remarked, “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you.  This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.”
Merry Christmas to All, and to All Good Grief,
Karen, Mark, Amanda, Ally, and Maggie