IMR: 1999: December: 12 — Sunday, 9:46 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i

[ Playing Santa ]Okay. We rock.

Saturday, Ala Moana Shopping Center. A six-hour marathon of frenzied consumerism, burning through several thousand calories and $391.13 plus tax. (Only $16.13 over budget, according to my ridiculously thorough spreadsheet.)

All our Christmas shopping done in one fell swoop. We even got actual presents for people who were supposed to just get gift certificates.

Stopping only a moment to wolf down dinner and put Katie to bed, we then worked non-stop until midnight. Jen handled the wrapping, and I plowed through 32 personalized, photo-inclusive Christmas cards.

We were dead tired. But we were incredibly proud.

This year is the first year we feel like we're really participating in Christmas. At least the spending and giving part. And as it turns out, that's important to us.

In past years Jen and I were always struggling with money, juggling with debt and depending on so many people to just get by. We could never give more than a handful of small gifts, and we were usually too irresponsible to get many cards out. Yet we always benefited from the undeserved generosity of our families and friends.

Well, this year we actually saved a little. I also got a raise in June, and just recently picked up a couple of unexpected freelance web design jobs. We're still living a tad beyond our means, I know, but finally we had a chance to give back at least a token of our great appreciation to our loved ones.

We actually made a list! We actually had a budget! I actually collected all our addresses in one place! And in one afternoon, we got it all done.

It feels so very good.

And the distant members of my family will be so surprised to get a card from us. I think they rightfully scratched us from their Christmas card list years ago.

The shopping itself was a nightmare, of course, with the thick, sweaty mall crowd and its seasonally boosted General Stupidity Quotient. The stress even got to Katie, who threw a couple of hissyfits that would have been absolutely horrifying if they weren't so hilarious. But if anything, it was a learning experience.

So can we top ourselves next year? I've already picked up a form to sign up for a Christmas Club savings account at mom's bank. And Jen's marked Labor Day on the fridge calendar as the start of Christmas Shopping 2000.

Hey, we can dream. Look at what we accomplished this year.

As of tomorrow, my brother will have been on this earth for 22 years.

Hard to believe. It seems like only yesterday I was pressing my face against the side of his crib to make him laugh. Or helping him learn to ride a bike. Or clutching my bloody front teeth in my hand, moments after he kicked them out.

Clarinet virtuoso, lifelong poet and fiction writer, veteran counselor and mediator, champion chess player and Magic master. Devoted boyfriend, up-and-coming professional college student, and dinner cruise manager. That's our little Toddy!

Happy birthday, kid.

We're watching "Evita" on TNT.

It's a good flick, but I can't help but cringe now and then. The pacing of the musical is thrown off completely in the movie, especially in the transitions between songs. It just takes away so much of the impact, even compared with just a recording of the stage version.

I also dislike the clumsy rewrite they made just so Madonna's Eva Peron — not a jilted lover — sings "Another Suitcase in Another Hall." And let's not forget "You Must Love Me," certainly a good song, but a misguided addition. Leave it to Hollywood to insist that every star plays a sufficiently sympathetic character.

Still, I actually like it more every time I see it. If anyone was born for the lead role, it's Madonna. Antonio Banderas was an odd choice, but he works. And Webber? He's had some duds ("Sunset Boulevard," anyone?), but "Evita" is definitely one of his better scores.

It's also hard to believe it came out almost three years ago. I remember Jen and I went to see it opening night. It was on the brink of 1997, in fact... mere moments before the darkest season of our lives descended upon us.

Hm. Maybe I don't like it that much after all.

I'm slow. I only realized now the soft humming, ukulele strumming music in the latest eToys commercials is an excerpt from "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by Israel "Iz" Kamakawiwo`ole.

According my pop-culture whiz of a wife, it's the same song that ended up on the soundtrack of "Meet Joe Black," as played during the closing credits.

I'm glad that one of our most celebrated musicians is finally getting recognition beyond Hawai`i shores. I just wish he was still around to enjoy it.

We finally went to see Jennifer and Darryl's new daughter today, more than a week after the gleeful announcement came by e-mail.

Turns out her name's not Alyssa, not Alicia, as erroneously reported by Uncle Al in his moment of glee. But he was right about one thing: she's a beautiful baby.

So so tiny and pink and helpless. I know Katie was that small once, but I can barely remember.

Trevor, though running around most of the time like the Tazmanian Devil on crack, did seem protective of his new little sister.

The house was chaos, with Dragon Tales blaring on the television, Trevor zipping around quoting "Toy Story 2," and an electric Christmas tree singing "Jingle Bells." But Alyssa slept through it all. Mom and Jen got to hold her for some time as she napped, ocassionally waking to let out a little squeak.

Finally it was Alyssa's nap time, and we quietly headed home.

Oddly enough, the experience made Jen want to hurry up and pump out another little sprout. The same encounter, however, convinced me that I wanted to wait at least another decade or so before even thinking about giving Katie a younger sibling.

As I've noted before, the regulation of advertising for prescription drugs makes for some interesting disclaimers.

The latest entry in the "too much information" category is the diet pill Xenical. The ad narrator almost cheerily says, "Side effects include gas with oily discharge, increased bowel movements, the frequent need to have them, and the inability to control them..."

I mean, is anything worth that?

That's like that hair loss treatment thats so radioactive, pregnant women can't get anywhere near it. If they're potent enough to make three-headed babies, you probably shouldn't be rubbing it into your scalp.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 12 December 1999 · Last Modified: 25 December 1999