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Happy Holidays! In the spirit of glad tidings and cheer, we provide you with this executive summary on the Stromian calendar year 2009, known in China as The Year of the Pull-up Diaper. Last year, we gave you a break from this executive summary because, quite frankly, we thought you could use one—plus, 2008 basically sucked monkey chunks. Most Christmas letters from families feature a lot of bragging, as they should, and this one is no different. And, like most, we left out all mention of the strep throats, spilled-on computers, wrecked appliances, police station visits, etc, choosing instead to portray our lives as a sanitized bliss that we can rub your nose in. But we did include a sidebar as a bitter counterbalance to all the “glass completely full” stuff. Christine wins “La Palme de Lardo”! In March, during our annual “Cannes for the Cannots” party at Chez Griffins near Rice Lake, Wis, Christine aced out a dozen other film afficionados with her insightful presentation on The Big Lebowski. Of course, there were plenty of sore losers who protested that the judges were swayed by her overdone French accent, mono-kini, and Johann on his first day of kindergarten. alarming threats that, if she did not win the Palme de Lardo, “bad things will happen”—but that’s just a lot of whining. Also held in Rice Lake was the second Palmers Invitational Golf Tournament, won in May by a cheating group of scoundrels named Tim & Josie Strom and Mark Laiti The Car Key Fiasco, or What Life is Really Like Here who shot a 5-over-par. But, in October, Karl, Casey Hauck, and Rusty Griffin avenged the loss with a 2-under-par round to recapture the Palmers Cup. In January, Christine lost her car key. Not a big deal, except...being

But Seriously...

Johann graduates from pre-school. In a sober ceremony befitting the gravity of the occasion, about 20 pre-schoolers at St Michael’s Lakeside Elementary School listened and squirmed in their chairs while Ms Ranta provided a recap of their preschool days. Ms Chris handed out diplomas and cupcakes, and there were few dry eyes when the final grab-bags were presented. Johann (age 6) is now enjoying kindergarten and, according to him, is the most popular kid and best reader. Thus, if he could possibly find a way to become the best spitball thrower, he would attain the almost-impossible-to-achieve Kid’s Triple Crown. Old guys slaughter hapless youth in annual stickball game. So you think it’s pathetic that a bunch of middle-aged guys would revel in knocking the stuffing out of a baseball team composed mostly of kids ages 9-17? If so, go to hell. We have so little athletic-wise (and hair-wise) to hang our hats on, the July Summer Olympics at Tim & Julie’s afford a golden opportunity to prop up our deflating egos and sagging midriffs with any morsel of misguided self-esteem available. And this year was special because Karl did not give up the tying or winning run while pitching —owing to the fact that he was yanked just before that could happen. However, Bill Sell did hit a homerun off him that may have cleared the Pacific Atolls. On the other hand, he limited Bill’s mom to only three doubles. Yeah! In your face Mrs Sell! Final score: Geriatrics 12; Lippy Teens 5. Vacationing on Madeline Island. We vacationed on Madeline Island in August with the Griffins, Rivards, and Foster-Flads. A highlight of many of our summers, we used Jeff’s “small boat” (ie, the one that is not a 185-foot ex-military vessel) to lounge about Big Bay, swim, kayak, and generally make fun of each other, retiring to our screen porch for giant portions of food and drink each evening. We’ve made a home movie of this adventure, and it (and others) can be seen on Karl’s Facebook page.

informed that it would cost $75 to replace it at the dealership, Karl decided to get a new key cut at Marshall Hardware for $7. No problem there. The key went in okay, but one of our dumbass friends had warned us that modern car keys contain a “secret magic sensor chip” programmed to work only with that car’s ignition system, to which I responded “That’s ridiculous! There’s no goddamn secret chip in a key; that’s just something they say so they can charge you $75.” Unfortunately, I was mistaken. The car wouldn’t start. And there was another problem. The key from the hardware store wouldn’t come out of the ignition. So, I paid a locksmith $60 to remove it. But I’m guessing this locksmith’s impeccable credentials— a gentleman I found in the “Steal Someone’s Car” section of the Yellow Pages—somehow activated our Nightrider “burglar-alert” system, yet one more value-added feature that I didn’t know existed in cars. Undaunted, I hired a different $60-anhour locksmith with impeccable credentials to reprogram the ignition. However, his “reprogramming device”—which looked suspiciously like a wall-stud finder attached by bare copper wires to an old Atari game console—somehow failed to do the job. Looking back on it, I should have read Volume 6 of our Nightrider Car Manual which clearly states that a Nightrider burglar-alert system, when activated, emits a bolt of lightning that melts the ignition system like the self-destructing tape recorder in Mission Impossible. After receiving a $25 ticket for being parked on the street too long, we were forced to tow our car to the Nightrider fix-it center, rent a car for a week, renegotiate our home mortgage, purchase a new NASA/CIA/TSA-approved ignition system and, yes, buy a $75 key that contains a secret magic sensor chip. Two days after we got our car home, Christine found the lost key under the driver’s seat.

Christine visits France...and comes back! In August, Christine journeyed to her homeland for 2 weeks and got to spend lots of time with her mom, sisters, and brothers. She also took a short trip with her sister Aisha to the Gorges du Tarne and even partook in the French national sport of pretending not to know what English tourists are saying. Thankfully for us, she returned home—to the smoldering ruins of a house devastated by 3 boys.

Thomas, aka “Cannonball Butler”

Thomas graduates to a Tigger. By December, Thomas (age 2 1/2) started figuring out how to talk, dress himself, jump from disconcertingly high perches, perform advanced calculus, and not poop his pants. Due primarily to this last considerable achievement, he graduated from the toddler room in daycare to the aptly named Tigger room, where he is the Picasso of the fine art of bouncing.

Christine & Karl celebrate 15 years of wedded bliss. On December 15, Karl and Christine celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary by abandoning their children to see The Rat Pack. It was sublime. Well, we hope that takes care of all those questions about what we’ve been up to—a question most people regret asking. We wish you a merry Christmas and a New Year full of love, health, laughter, and grooving to the beat. Love, Karl, Christine, Johann & Thomas (and Fyodor Grumpuss)


A review of events and happenings for us in 2009.