Help for the holidays

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By CHRISTINA M. CURRIE

Special to the Daily Press

There are certain things that you need on Christmas morning in order to ensure a successful holiday. Coffee is definitely one of them.

But when you have children, that's not quite enough.

Patience, a large space and plenty of trash bags are also necessities.

None of those come as a surprise.

What usually catches me off guard is the need for a pocket knife, a selection of screwdrivers, wire cutters and a good supply of batteries in a variety of sizes.

No, I'm not describing specialty tools for intricate gifts. These are necessary for just about any gift that lists the appropriate age as anything under 12.

My girls, ages 5 and 6, each received a doodle pet -- a plush puppy they can draw on and then throw into the washer and start again.

Giving them access to that cute little animal cost me 15 minutes each. Not only were the tabs on the box taped down, but the pet was secured with six separate pieces of wire, woven through a loop on the dog, through the cardboard, twisted together and taped down. The dog itself was secured to a little carry sack in four places with plastic thread.

I can't imagine that theft of individual toy pieces justifies the manpower to secure them to the boxes in which they're displayed.

But evidently ...

Anyone who's opened a Barbie or similar doll lately will find pieces taped, glued and wired to the box. Worse, the doll's hair is sewn -- yes, sewn -- to the box.

There is no worse punishment in the chaos of Christmas morning than an excited child, who wants nothing more than to play with her gift, having to wait while the box is passed from adult to adult trying to break through the intricacies of security. The trash pile generated from opening a box of ponytail holders netted eight pieces of wire, a small ball of tape and four plastic clips.

We're talking hair accessories here. Glorified rubber bands. Decorated bobby pins.

Please!

And, those are just the items that require no assembly.

Those that do are a whole other story.

And a whole other headache.

For months, 5-year-old Nikki's had her heart set on a car. "A real car, mom. With no top."

Those are her exact words and the exact request in her letter to Santa.

So, mom searched high and low until she found a Barbie Jeep Wrangler, complete with working doors, and FM stereo and a simulated CD player. Maximum weight: 130 pounds. Maximum speed: 5 mph.

Perfect.

With a free Saturday looming in front of me, I opened the box and dumped all the pieces in the middle of the living room.

I carefully checked to make sure that I had all the pieces and I got set assembling.

Two hours later I attached the final sticker to the shiny surface and sighed "done."

It was a thing of beauty, hidden until Santa could deposit it under our tree on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas morning, my two daredevils had psyched themselves into moving forward three whole inches at a time before freaking out and letting off the gas.

They would not even consider putting the thing in reverse, so each time they reached a wall, they got out and physically turned the car.

As an aside here, I really envisioned the car being my key to long healthy walks this summer. Walking with two small children doesn't really get the heart rate up.

Watching the girls make it from the living room to the kitchen in a smoking five minutes really destroyed my dreams.

Evidently, they just needed a place where they could really open it up.

We took the car to the restaurant where our family has Christmas dinner, which incidentally has a loop that's perfect for anything remote controlled and anything with wheels.

A few hours later, Nikki was cruising the loop and throwing the car into reverse when she misjudged a turn (which happened often as the already-scrapped right bumper will attest).

Katie cried when Cousin Tommy made her get out of the car and sit awhile. She told him that he "ruined her life."

Evidently, she was trying to do the same to her sister, who was under the wheel while

Katie stomped repeatedly on the gas.

They drove it until the battery died, at which time Katie cried again, telling her grandfather, "I'm a little sad because the car stopped and mom won't change the oil."

Did I mention that among the tools you need on Christmas morning are a healthy sense of humor, endless patience and to be surrounded by friends and loved ones, who are always willing to open a box, lend a watchful eye and best of all, exchange a knowing look when your child is trying to decapitate theirs.

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