I've never been one to dwell on gifts at Christmas-time; slowing down to enjoy time with family and sharing joy with others are of greater importance to me.

I do remember one Christmas, though, long ago when the holiday was still more about the presents than the people. I must have been about seven years old and there was a doll I wanted in the worst way. I remember praying (yes, praying) every night that Santa would bring me that doll for Christmas.

Well, my wish came true. But the giver wasn't Santa Claus, it was my grandpa. I remember thinking to myself, "Wow, Grandpa must know Santa. How else would Grandpa know what I'd asked from Santa for Christmas?"

Well, this year I'm making sure the wish-maker knows what's on my list. I know Santa reads the Dairy Star, so...

Dear Santa,

Here's my Christmas list for this year. I know it's been a long time since I've made a Christmas list, but I think I've been pretty good this year.

First, I could use an Automatic Laundry Folder & Sorter. You may not have seen these advertised yet, but they work something like the coin sorter at the credit union. You just dump the basket of freshly laundered clothes into the top and minutes later you've got folded clothes sorted into piles for each family member. Since I'm sure we go through twice as many clothes as a non-farm household, I'd like the large-family model.

Second, I'd like a Reliable Feline Contraceptive. Yes, I'm asking for some kind of birth control for the farm cats around here. It's not that I don't like kittens, but I think it's a bit ridiculous to have two dozen cats running around, meowing every time I walk out the milk house door carrying a pail. I know there are other ways to control our farm's cat population, but I don't have the heart or the financial resources to consider any of those options. I've been following the research on feline contraceptives for a couple years now, but there aren't any projects close to marketable (Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs; www.acc-d.org). So, Santa, maybe you could work some of your elfin magic and help these researchers along.

Then, I would love a box of Never-Fail Nitrile Gloves. I've become something of a glove sissy over the past three years. We never used gloves when I was growing up, but Glen and I decided when we started that gloves made good sense. Now, I can hardly stand to touch a cow's teat without a glove on. I can do anything with my gloves on, but digital paralysis sets in when the integrity of my gloves fails. I can feel the tiniest of pin-holes contaminating my hands with farm fluids. As a result, I'm constantly changing gloves, which flies in the face of my reduce-reuse-recycle obsession. The bottom line is I need some better gloves. And, Santa, if your budget allows, I'd like the ones that come half-way up to my elbows and have built-in heating and cooling.

Next, I want a Stainless Steel Bulk Tank Spigot so I can fill our milk jug more than half full and not spill milk all over the milk house floor. I'm envisioning the type that would just thread onto the tank outlet, be tall enough to fit our milk jug under and allow me to use the tank valve to control flow. I'll need the snazzy little brush for cleaning it, too.

And while I've got you thinking about stainless steel, could you have your elves make me a Graduated Stainless Steel Milk Replacer Pail. The markings I make on my plastic five-gallon pail with the eartag marker eventually wash away or, worse, the whole pail grows legs and disappears. Then I have to start all over with a new pail. I'm guessing the people I work with around here would be a little less inclined to walk away with a stainless steel pail.

My list is almost done, Santa, but it wouldn't be complete without a Fast Food Restaurant-style Play Place for the barn. I need the one with a programmable thermostat and secure place to put the new baby. Dan does a pretty good job these days running around the barn on his own, but there are still times when he needs to be contained. And it breaks my heart to have to strap him into the stroller. (It also breaks my back - he can really put up a fight.) It doesn't help that he turns and runs when he sees me walk out of the milk house with the stroller. We had a nice pen in the front of the barn where Dan could play with his tractors, scoop feed from one bucket to another and watch what we were doing, but Rosie reached a little too far into his pen to steal the feed one morning and now Dan no longer has a pen to play in. So I was thinking that a nice play place with tunnels and hide-outs and all the things little boys like to play with would make my life and Dan's life a bit easier for those couple hours during chores.

I've saved the most important for last, Santa - a Holiday Chores Relief Robot. You see, I'd really like to celebrate Christmas Eve up north with my grandfather. We haven't been there since we moved down here. I miss Grandpa's stories, the oyster soup and the non-stop laughter. Unfortunately, finding someone to do chores on Christmas Eve is next to impossible, primarily because I can't even bring myself to ask. That's where the robot comes in. I need one that can milk the cows, mix and feed the TMR, clean up behind the cows, and feed the calves. Or, how about this, Santa: your elves will be done in the toy shop by then, maybe you could send them down for the night. My grandfather would be tickled, and so would I.