Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah (and a very off topic post)

Seasons greetings.

It is Christmas Eve and I am not really in the mood to post anything about the Three Es.

Searching around, I thought I would share a family tradition of mine. Long ago I chafed at the extremely dry family letters that we would receive during the holidays and decided to write ours in a very different style.

What started as a lampoon of others' letters became an important tradition in our own household, and I am told that many people look forward to receiving and reading our yearly missive. One family saves it for a read aloud at the dinner table.

In the spirit of the holidays, I offer you this fragment from last year's letter. I would offer this year's, but not everybody has received it yet and nothing beats real mail.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all.

Chris Martenson

P.S. - The site will not be updated by me on Christmas Day.

If you’re trying to keep up with us, you’d better be doing it in pencil. This past April we passed on the chance to bid on our rented farmhouse and moved from Bernardston to Montague (MA). The stress-related consequence of moving is that most couples either divorce or support the separate-bedroom industry. Becca and I remain on speaking terms so, statistically speaking, we beat the odds. Next year we hope to return to limited eye contact. Unless we move again in which case all bets are off.

The new house is great, we love the town, but one less-than-optimal feature involves a large, old skunk that repeatedly voids its musk glands in the middle of the night. Either our yard is loaded with skunk threats or the old guy leaks.

Now, skunk spray doesn’t have just one smell, it has three. There’s the not entirely unpleasant smell you get from a distance (aka “classic skunk”), there’s the similar but stronger and physically disturbing smell you get up close (aka “my last three dogs”) and then there’s the smell that wafted through our open bedroom window and set off our fire alarm at 3:00 a.m. last August (aka “skunk-to-the-third”).

Waking up to a fire alarm is disorienting enough, but a sleep-addled brain just cannot compute this third level of skunkdom right away (burning plastic? smoldering feces?), which means I perched inert and stupidly on one elbow until Becca ripped the 9-volt battery out of the fire alarm where it remains to this day. Don’t worry, after only another forty or fifty viewings of the battery and a few glances upward at the dangling door of the smoke alarm my self-imposed and growing sense of guilt will finally win out and I’ll reinsert the battery.

We are still homeschooling all three of our children and the upside is that they are well behaved, well-adjusted, and a treat to be around. Also on the upside is that our entertainment costs are very low. For instance, at a recent event at a local university the kids endlessly rode an elevator between the only two floors it navigated marveling that such a wonderful contraption did not require coins to operate and had no waiting line. On the downside, sometimes our friends question whether our children are suitably exposed to the world such as in January when Simon (then 8) saw his first fold-out couch and excitedly exclaimed “What will humans think of next?!?

One of the great pleasures of raising kids, especially if you are slow on the uptake, is how often and profoundly they will surprise you by demonstrating that they’ve actually been listening to you. No, I do not mean when chores were being discussed but during times when you thought they weren’t actually even listening. So imagine this; I carefully set aside a recent Saturday morning for a key rite of passage – the opening of the first bank account.

This should, in the world of childhood, rank right up there with finally figuring out that Santa is actually the UPS man, or that the reason the tooth usually remained under your pillow the next morning was because your mother was mostly unreliable in these matters. So we’re talking, like, ‘top three’ childhood magic here. At any rate, to make a long story endless, I said, “I have some checks here saved up from your birthdays and such and I thought that today would be the perfect day for us all to go to the bank where each of you will open your very own bank account! Yay! Let’s go!!!

I quickly stepped aside expecting to get bowled over by three screaming, excited children. Instead, what I got was three blank stares, some chirping crickets, and then this:

Grace (age 7): “Why would we want paper money?
Simon (age 9): “I don’t want a bank account, I want silver.
Erica (age 13): “What happens if the bank goes bankrupt?

Uhhhhhh, errr…Gulp(!) We guess all that talk between mom and dad about the potential (in)solvency of the banking system had sunk right in. Ha ha! Who knew? We didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or proud, so we were both. Still we puzzle over the fact that the concept of daily chore eludes their young minds yet they have mastered certain economic principles that even the Federal Reserve seems not to understand. Strange.

Simon decided this was the year to read. We are beyond fortunate that homeschooling allowed him to do this according to his own internal schedule as the psychic cost of developing this skill at a bureaucratically determined schedule would have required something dramatic on his part, such as explosives or reincarnation. His first book? Perhaps he’ll get to “Spot and Jane” but for now he’s reading “The Last Kingdom” an historical novel set in England ca AD869.

Simon has also taken up the passion of flint knapping, which involves turning whole rocks into many little razor-sharp rocks a few which could possibly be lashed to feathered shafts with the intent of someday shooting them at something completely inert because moving targets are too difficult. Bureaucrats perhaps. Simon’s self-fashioned armory is now large enough that it benefits our garden as it is made out of such a significant portion of the local forest that we get an extra half hour of light a day. On the downside, these wooden shafts mostly gather at entrance doorways especially at night when you are carrying groceries.

Erica has not managed to grow out of her habit of leaving clothes strewn about the house. Drawing upon our extensive dog training experience we’ve written a handy guide for parents of teenagers entitled “Tough Love and Tough Choices; Toughing out the Tough Years”. We expect it to be a big hit near military bases. At any rate, here’s our simple, but effective, 6-step plan for handling a teenager who leaves their clothes on the floor.

Step 1: Coax the offending teenager near the strewn article of clothing, perhaps with an iTunes gift card.

Step 2: Grab your teen firmly by the nape of neck and rub their nose in the clothing while saying “Bad kid! Bad!” in a tough, but loving, voice.

Step 3: At this point it would be helpful to remember to be at least twice as large as your teenager.

Step 4: Start regretting the fact that your teen took so many Aikido lessons.

Step 5: As you stare at the ceiling, you might recall from our Handy Facts™ section (chapter 12) that teenagers have excellent reflexes and that gravity operates at 9.807 m/s2 and, since you won’t be moving for a while, you might begin pondering the precise terms & conditions of your medical insurance.

Step 6: Actually, on second thought, it’s probably best that you not try this technique. After all, they’re only clothes and your teen will be entirely out of the house in only 6 to 40 more years, depending.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thanks for the laugh, and Merry Christmas!


thanks chris that was hilarious.

so which was it gold,silver, commodities or inverse etf’s?

all the best of the holidays to you, becca ,grace ,simon and erica

om shanti


Happy Holidays, Chris, great post. See you in Rowe.

And Peace to all you fellow posters.




Too funny! My little guy at age 7 emptied his piggy bank and bank account and bought gold and silver, (1gram gold and 3 ounces of silver). He made a killing.

Merry Christmas Chris!


Best wishes & love from my Bekah, our kids/livestock (mix and match), and myself for the holidays to you and your clan!

Cheers bud,

Thanks Chris and family. Happy Cristmas to you all too, we’ve just had a lovely one here (in Australia). Your post made me smile too. Our eldest three (also homeschooled) are very similar ages to yours and are exhibiting similar feelings towards banks these days too.

Thankyou for sharing all this stuff, somewhat over our heads here, but we are learning. We have appreciated all the hard work you have put into the crash course and the site.


Wonderful holidays to you all.

I read the 6 training steps to my teens. They laughed at the absurd notion of even trying.

That was great Chris. Teenagers are a challenge. You are probably not old enough to appreciate this yet but someone once told me that it may help to realize that your children will never love you as much as you love them. I think there is some truth to it.



Fun post, Chris; thanks for sharing!

We have friends who send us Christmas letters every year too. One sends out an extreme "brag letter" that shows that their kids are just this side of perfect, and could probably walk on water if they tried. But another mutual friend’s family sends out a Christmas letter that is the exact opposite, a tongue-in-cheek play on a typical brag letter. Like how they spent most of the last year trying to keep one child out of juvie, and how the other is such a slob they got lost in her room for 3 days. What a great laugh, partly just knowing that others’ family lives are "human" too! And the constrast between the two letters is hilarious!

Merry Christmas to you, Becca, and your family!


Merry Christmas to you and your family.

I have three sons, all boys … it’s very very tough…

Happy holidays!Foot in mouth