Friday, December 30, 2005

Happy New Year!

Gone Fishing digging for razor clams.

See you next year!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Few Pointless Notes

"Muskrat Love," was indeed recorded by Captain and Tennille in 1976. Just so you know.

I found the size 9 purple boot (in my own room, under the dresser), so now I have a pair.

My kitchen floor is only a little dirty now, down-graded from "filthy" because I spilled an entire bottle of formula and had to mop it up while I listened to the baby scream.

Let There Be Light

My kitchen light dimmed today and now only flickers weakly. The geniuses who designed this house installed four fluorescent light bulbs overhead in the kitchen. Over the kitchen sink is . . . nothing. No light whatsoever and might I remind you that my house lives in the gloomy, cloudy Pacific Northwest? Yeah. So, my kitchen sink, also known as Where I Spend Half My Waking Hours Washing Dishes and Plunging Old Food Into the Garbage Disposal, is poorly illuminated. This bugs me. A lot. But what's a girl to do?

Half a year ago, I bought a small halogen light fixture to install under the kitchen cabinets. Not, mind you, close to the sink, but over the one stretch of counter space I have, the space which fights a losing battle against detritus, flotsam, jetsam and school papers. The light fixture was half off at Target and I thought it would be a fine addition to my kitchen. And it was only ten bucks. I envisioned peering at junk mail by the light of this bargain.

And then I didn't have time so I stashed the box containing the light fixture in the entryway closet, the one where I keep my wedding gown and two royal purple bridesmaid dresses with bubble skirts. Remember bubble skirts? Well, that's where they hang, along with the vacuum cleaner, an Oreck handheld vacuum that someone gave me after it didn't sell at a garage sale, the board games we never play, including a Deluxe Scrabble game, a hideous oil painting we don't have the heart to discard, a bunch of coats, including my husband's high school letterman jacket (sports, not David) and a partridge in a pear tree. No, actually, there's more, but for the sake of this paragraph, I'll stop.

But here's a tip. I hung a clear plastic shoe holder, the kind with rows of pockets, over the door and I organize gloves, mittens, hats and suntan lotion in those pockets. It's ever so Martha Stewart of me, though she'd probably have labeled everything. I don't have a label maker, though I long for one with every fiber of my being. I just can't justify the expense. But it's a secret desire of my heart.

Today, I cleaned out that closet and came upon the light fixture. Since my overhead kitchen light died and the rainclouds darkened the skies all day, I decided to haul out my portable Black and Decker drill. I installed the light fixture in a jiffy.

I am Woman. Hear me Roar.

So, let's review. I now have:

1) One clean and organized 7-year old's room, including closet;
2) One clean and organized 3-year old's room, including giant closet;
3) One closet, clean and organized;
4) One installed light fixture in my kitchen.

I also have:

1) An unvacuumed family room;
2) Laundry! Dirty laundry!
3) No cat food or cat litter;
4) Rapidly deteriorating Christmas decorations, baubles being absconded daily from the tree while my daughter ransacks the nativity and leaves Baby Jesus here and there;
5) A filthy kitchen floor.

While I am busy accomplishing a long-term task, my short-term life is disintegrating into chaos. But I say, "Let there be light!" and keep my eyes on the glare, pretending not to see the shadows.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Back and Better Than Ever, Though Insufferably Proud

What is today? Tuesday? And where was I yesterday? Let's think. I went shopping with a gift card and bought Christmas wrapping paper and assorted paraphernalia for 50% off the regular (already discounted price). Then I went to see "The Family Stone." While waiting for the movie to begin, I endured what may possibly be the worst holiday song ever recorded: "Saving Up Christmas" by the "Captain" (Daryl Dragon) and Tennille.

Now, see, I feel sort of rotten because I just linked to their official website and I liked Captain and Tennille back in the day--despite listening to my sister repeatedly play a scratchy record on her rickety record player when I was a kid--but that song! Oh dear, that Christmas song was not one of their better efforts--though perhaps my judgment was clouded by the popcorn and the sticky floors and the movie starting ten minutes late--but really, the duo recorded a song about muskrat love, so it's not exactly as if the bar was set unrealistically high in my mind. Maybe a true Captain and Tennille fan would slap me for saying so, but I didn't like that song. (And who even knew they were still around?)

I thought the movie itself was well-done with an impressive ensemble cast. I give it two thumbs up, but don't take my word for it. (Disclaimer: I'm not as sanctified as some church folk are, you know. Check Screenit if you have any concerns about what you might see.)

Sometime yesterday, I cleaned out the hall closet where the linens reside. "Linens" is such a fancy word for the balled up sheets that threaten to tumble from the closet when I open the door in search of a pillowcase. My fitted sheets never resemble the tidy rectangle I've seen Martha Stewart picture in her magazines. And I follow the directions, too, for tidy rectangles. Maybe my thread counts are too low. Anyway, I cleaned out that closet and threw away a giant box full of stuff. I'm ruthless sometimes, and only later when I hunt for a white queen-sized bed-skirt do I conjure up a fuzzy image of a box destined for Goodwill and taste bitter regret.

Last night, then, I cleaned my 7-year old's room. I used a big black trash bag so he wouldn't see what I tossed. I sorted through clothes and stuffed them into the bag, too, except for the ones small enough for the neighbor boy to wear. When I finally emerged, everything was in its place and there was a place for everything. It helps that we didn't go overboard with gifts at Christmas. Enough is enough, even on Jesus' birthday.

Today, then, I tackled my daughter's room. She has a large closet the length of one wall, the kind with a long rod and a shelf and sliding doors. I have traditionally stored the bins of off-size clothing in that closet and today was the day that I went through things again and weeded out what we don't need. I sorted them into piles and when my husband checked on me, he remarked that he was shocked so much stuff fit into that closet. I know. I'm a master closet-filler. But today was about emptying it out, not filling it up. I did linger over some of the smaller pajamas and frilly dresses and wonder how it's possible that a babyhood rushes by so quickly. If we pay closer attention, will that slow down the sweet moments?

My husband made two trips to Goodwill today, dragging huge black trash bags full of things we don't need. I have separate bags labeled in the closet--one of baby boy clothes, one of clothes destined for the consignment shop, one for a baby girl at church, and one full of sizes 0-3 months for some baby girl who hasn't been born yet. My daughter honed in on the pretty items and begged to wear various items of size 3-6 months clothing. She is so insistent (her mother says through gritted teeth).

During nap-time, I finished my task and now, that closet is tidy.

Something about a tidy closet makes me feel so virtuous. Add that to my insufferable pride over the the finished thank-you notes and I'm practically unbearable. Practically? Well. I am unbearable. Even I can't stand that gloating expression in my eyes.

Now, if I could only find the other child's size 9 purple boot, I'd be all set. I'm hoping it's in tomorrow's horror the front hall closet, the depository for all items which have no home and cannot simply live in the kitchen and so must be stashed somewhere when company is coming. (For instance: diapers for babies I babysit shoved onto the floor which crowd the vacuum cleaner, a food processor I got for free when I came into possession of a recalled toaster oven--when I called the company for a new part, they informed me it was recalled and gave me a choice of several difference appliances and I chose a food processor that I hardly ever use--games, with pieces missing, my wedding gown, winter coats, the George Foreman Grill, a box of Hickory Farms cheeses from Christmas 2004. And hopefully, one purple boot. . . )

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Say It Ain't So!

Today? I wanted to see a movie, but the timing was off, so I cleaned up the kitchen, collected all the wads of gift wrap from the floor and wrote all the thank-you cards instead.

It's official.

I'm a grown-up. It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.

Mary (and Joseph) Christmas!

Today, I did what any sane housewife and mother ought to do on Christmas Eve. I treated myself to a movie at noon. (I stopped by Barnes & Noble to buy one final gift (an "American Girl" magazine for my niece) first.) I had no trouble finding parking at the theater, unlike a normal weekend. No line to buy tickets, only one person ahead of me in the popcorn line. Perfect!

Only a few days ago, I finished reading Memoirs of a Geisha. The book was well-written and (I thought) offered insight into some unfamiliar Japanese customs. I enjoyed reading it and thought it would be a great introduction to the movie.

Alas, I spent a lot of time during the movie thinking, Hey, that's not how it was in the book! and, Well, that doesn't make any sense if you compare it to the book! And then I wondered if I should reread the book when I got home just to refresh my memory. And then I realized I might possibly be insane.

I did like the movie, though. But I liked the book better. (Isn't that always how it works?)

My husband left for church at about 4 p.m. By that time, I was deep in the midst of preparations for my Annual Christmas Eve Dinner of Nachos. I made a warm dip with melted Velveeta (fake cheese of the middle class--I haven't bought a box in, well, forever. My mother always kept in on hand when I was a kid, but now, I am a little snobbish about my cheese . . . but, my kids like that bright orange melty cheese in a can for their nachos, so I splurged and bought the giant 2-pound bar of Velveeta . . . do I sound like I'm justifying my actions? Because I feel like I am on the defense stand, on trial . . . because I might possibly be insane). . . um, where was I? Oh yes, dip with Velveeta, canned chilies and cooked sausage. I put the whole mess in my brand spanking new crock pot (only $9.99 at JC Penney's with a $10 off coupon that came in the mail). Then I made seven layer bean dip, only I couldn't find my recipe, so mine had five layers, improvised. (Beans, sour cream/mayonnaise mixed with taco seasoning, guacamole made with four avocados, sliced olives, shredded sharp cheddar cheese.) I also opened two cans of that weird melty cheese and dumped it into a small crock pot. Voila! Add root beer and you have a festive meal.

My sister and her husband, daughter and son joined us. We ate our nachos off the Christmas Tree Spode china and drank out of mismatched glasses because I didn't have the time to get out all the Christmas glasses. My daughter dined on nearly a whole can of black olives, which she called "envelopes" and then harassed me while I attempted to eat. "I want to put on my beautiful dress. Is it time to put on my beautiful dress? Let's go put on my beautiful dress."

We arrived at church pretty much on time so two of my boys could dress for the children's pageant. The older son was a king and wore a regal red robe. The younger son was a shepherd, much to his chagrin, and wore peasant clothing and a sporty blue headdress. My extremely pathologically shy 3-year old daughter saw the other kids dressing and wanted to be a horse. I deftly distracted her with empty promises and a sparkling gold garland halo for her curls and rushed her upstairs to our front row seat where my other son sprawled out, saving our place.

When the pageant began and "Joseph," "Mary," a "donkey," assorted "shepherds" and their "sheep," were sitting on the steps of the stage, Miss Very-Shy herself begged to go sit, too. I warned her she'd have to sit alone, without me and she said, "okay," and marched herself right up to the stage, as the congregation sang a Christmas carol ("O Little Town of Bethlehem," I think it was).

She went right up to her buddy, the little boy I babysit and he very dramatically stood and showed her where she could sit, about six feet away, on the end. She followed him, turned and sat demurely on the steps with her little hands tucked primly on her black-velveted lap.

Then she gave me a little wave which made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. I waved and then grinned through my tears. A two-year old wandered around the stage while the other children somewhat grimly glared at him and attempted to listen and sing. I was just glad that two-year old didn't belong to me. When the pageant ended, my daughter returned to me and broke into tears. I whispered in her ear, "What's the matter?" and she said, "I want to go sit up there!" and she pointed back to the stage.

I was dumbfounded and again, I whispered empty promises back to her.

At that point, she remembered "Baby Jesus." Unlike last year, when Baby Jesus was played by a new baby in our church, this year, the role went to a blue-eyed dolly. The second my daughter saw that dolly, she wanted it something fierce. She returned to my lap just in time to see someone carry out Baby Jesus. She wanted it.

My girl does not give up easily and sometimes, I just cave in early to save us both time and effort. While the congregation stood and sang a Christmas hymn, we slipped out through the side door and found the pageant director carrying the doll. I asked if we could borrow it for awhile and the lady said, "Yes."

While my husband preached, my daughter cradled Baby Jesus, then unwrapped his swaddling clothes, then re-wrapped him, then rocked him, then unwrapped him, and so on and so forth. She kept asking, "Can I take dolly home?" in a stage whisper. I'm afraid we are very distracting in church.

So, when we finished singing "Silent Night" while holding our lit candles (me, watching ever so vigilantly to make sure none of my kids set their hair aflame), we ran into the woman who loaned Baby Jesus to the church for the night. My shy girl, the one who will not look anyone in the eye and who certainly does not speak to anyone, said to this woman, "Can I take it home?"

And that's the story of how we brought Baby Jesus home with us. He is sleeping in heavenly peace under a Piglet blanket, right next to my little angel.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Priorities

Today, I did what was important and that explains the unwashed laundry.

I took the children over to my 99-year old grandma's house to visit.

Details later when I have more time.

As my uncle says, "Mary (and Joseph) Christmas!"

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Oughts and Nots

Well, let's see. This is what I intended to do this week:

1) Sort through the children's closets to weed out clothes that no longer fit. Assign them to categories: Goodwill, Lady at Church With Baby Girl, Little Boy I Babysit, Consignment Shop, Save Forever.
2) Pick through children's toyboxes, shelves and cubby holes to remove broken, unwanted and misfit toys.
3) Clean my pigsty house.
4) Bake Christmas cookies, at least a few.
5) Force Encourage children to "do" art lessons for school-at-home.
6) Create Christmas ornaments/gifts using doilies, clothespins, and cut-out photographs of their faces.
7) Catch up on laundry.
8) Visit my 99-year-old grandmother.

This is what I've actually done:

1) Stayed in bed (off and on) until 9:30 a.m.
2) Read Memoirs of a Geisha, just in time to see the movie.
3) Baked chocolate chip cookies.
4) Mailed all but two or three Christmas cards. (I'm missing addresses and ran out of stamps.)
5) Dumped tons of laundry in the laundry rooms. Failed to wash, dry, fold, put away said laundry.
6) Napped.
7) Ate Hickory Farms summer sausage at 10:30 p.m
8) Finished two art lessons for school-at-home. Only eight more to go.

Clearly, I'm an underachiever.

Now. Here is what I ate today:

Breakfast, about noon:
Last Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll I found hidden on top of buffet. I ate this standing over the sink, wondering what to have for lunch.
Lunch, 1:30 p.m.: Salad with ranch dressing. Diet Coke.
Afternoon: Kringle, which arrived by mail. . . a slice here, a sliver there. Three almond roca pieces.
Late afternoon: Chocolate chip cookie dough. One chocolate chip cookie.
Dinner: One bowl homemade potato soup sprinkled with sharp cheddar.
Dessert: More Kringle.
After exercising: Hickory Farms summer sausage and eight Ritz crackers. Two more cookies.
After summer sausage: Half a pint of Ben & Jerry's Marsha-Marsha Marshmallow.

Clearly, I need an intervention.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Walking Through Merryland

Ever determined to Make Christmas Memories, I forced my children to leave the cozy confines of their cave and accompany me to a Zoolight display. My Reluctant Student is also a bah-humbug kind of kid. He thinks things are either 1) too much trouble and his feet will hurt or 2) boring. (This is why Disney World was perhaps not the Happiest Place on Earth with him in tow.)

No matter. He protested and said, "I'm not going!" and clutched the remote control a little tighter and gazed a little more devotedly at Cartoon Network, but I said, "Fine. Get yourself a babysitter because we're leaving at 4:30 p.m." Then he realized something dreadful. "What's for dinner?" he said, looking at me with stark panic. "Oh, I don't know. We'll get something along the way," I said in my most casual voice.

Ha. Got him. I told him I'd drop him off at his dad's office and when he and dad got home, they could make themselves something. After all, I have lots of cans of Campbell's chicken soup.

Lo and behold, he decided to come with us, but just for the food.

The sky spit rain as we left, and soon, the spit turned into steady raindrops. No matter, I told the children. "We aren't made of brown sugar. We won't melt." Twenty minutes later, we arrived in the nearly empty parking lot. This was all part of my master plan. Go on a weeknight. Arrive when the display opens. Brave the rain. Avoid the crowds. See? Perfect.

As we walked into the zoo, the rain stopped. The boys were boys, making inane comments and jostling each other as we strolled along. My 3-year old daughter wanted to see animals and wanted to go inside . . . apparently she didn't get the memo and failed to realize that we were staying outside, looking at lights, not animals. Fortunately, the aquarium was open, so we flitted from tank to tank, admiring the sealife. The boys sprawled out on the floor in front of the shark tank and made disparaging comments about the sharks who lingered on the floor. ("Those are dad sharks, laying around after watching football.") They found this hilarious.

No one enjoyed the light display quite as much as my daughter. As the light rainbow came into view, she exclaimed, "We're in merryland!" She's a devoted fan of Dora the Explorer, the apparent location of Fairyland. I love it when she bestows a more fitting name upon a place: Merryland. Perfect.

Of course, on the way home, my festive mood blackened when we were exchanging compliments. I said, "Let's say what we like best about each other." I started by pointing out my Reluctant Student's best qualities and the boys chimed in. They did add some snide comments, boys being boys and all, but really, they were sweet to each other. Then my blue-eyed twin said, "And now, let's say what we like about mom the best. I'll start. Well, when she's not throwing temper tantrums, mom is really nice. Even though she yells a lot."

Well. Happy holidays to you, too! The sharpness of a child's words hurt like none other because they are without malice. I protested that we were supposed to be saying nice things . . . and he said, "Well, you do yell."

And I did not say, "THAT'S BECAUSE I AM WITH KIDS ALL DAY!" I never did throw a temper tantrum in my whole life until I had children. Really. But there is something about the neverending noise and the constant interruptions and lack of consideration for my moods that has driven me to stomp and yell. Sometimes. Okay, more often that I should.

But since I don't want my darkness to overshadow the light, I am making a concentrated effort to put a stop to my "temper tantrums." (Though, of course, I would like to rush to explain that I really don't throw temper tantrums--I only respond as ANY SANE HUMAN ADULT WOULD to the pressure and situations and annoyances that I am forced to endure--but I will just swallow my pride and say, all right. You got me. I'm a horrible mother, but at least I will be a calm horrible mother.)

At least for today.

And then we went by Dairy Queen and had milk shakes and Blizzards and for my daughter, an ice cream cone.

Another happy memory made. Let's hope the pictures turn out so I have proof.

(Oh, and where was my husband? He was out delivering presents to children who have an incarcerated parent. We participate in The Angel Tree program affiliated with Prison Fellowship every year.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Morally Superior Word to You Know Who You Are

Ever have someone say this to you? "By the way, for someone who claims such moral and Christian superiority, you seem to have an issue with forgiveness. Not very Christ-like."?

I have.

. . . I suppose that's what I get for speaking my mind on my own blog about my troubled relationship with my sister, the one who stole from me and then refused to speak to me for three years (and counting).

. . . I suppose that's what I get for admitting that I am a Christian and for allowing my small corner of the blogosphere to glimpse into my life without glossing over the rough spots with Christian platitudes and phrases that ultimately mean nothing.

. . . I suppose that's what I get for allowing ridiculous anonymous comments to remain on my blog, even when the commenter calls me an "uptight bitch" and accuses me of the silliest behavior imaginable

. . . I suppose that's what I get when all I do is tease about the lack of punctuation and appropriate sentence structure instead of ripping her to shreds with a flick of my keyboard. I use what we like to call "self-control" rather than attack the character of the commenter in return. For all I know, the commenter is a disturbed mental patient and how fair would it be for me to assume that the commenter is a rational adult? (What rational adult would criticize a blogger anonymously with venom? Just move along to the next blog--there are 10 kajillion blogs in the world. Pick another one.) This is certainly not my only recourse, but generally, that's how I choose to handle the poor souls who stumble through my blog and anonymously offer their off-base, name-calling criticisms. Or I delete them. Depends on my mood.

Just one question, though. I did a search of my blog and couldn't find a single instance of my own gloating about my moral and Christian superiority, unless, of course, you count the time I mentioned how disappointed I was about Lance Armstrong's broken marriage. I stand by my own feelings . . . which, hello, this is my blog, the place where I deposit my own feelings and examine my own thoughts. If you are here looking for someone else's viewpoint, you are lost.

And if you are here, hoping to fix me, edify me, point out my flaws, I just have to say, why? Are you a therapist without a practice? A writer without a blog? A person without a real life?

And if you are here because you can't look away from my riveting prose, I say, ha! (And I know you can't look away. My statcounter tells me that.)

And if you have no idea what I'm talking about, that's because I'm talking to only one person who is a big fan of my blog, yet hides in the shadows when she throws her stink bombs. That, my friends, is despicable. One might even call it pathetic.

And it hurts my feelings. So go away.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sing, Sing a Song!

When I was a child, I sang in the car. I wasn't setting out to annoy my mother, but those were the days before portable electronic entertainment and so I sang. I thought I sounded pretty good, really, singing about raindrops falling from the sky and all, but one day my mother snapped at me, saying, "Do you have to sing like that?" (Like what? I never knew what she meant.) She still remarks from time to time about our propensity to sing in the car, as if it were a really really really bad thing. Listen, I understand being annoyed with kids, but you never really do know when a casual remark will wound a child deeply, do you?

I became very self-conscious about my voice, but I still loved to sing. I sang in my elementary school choir and sang at church, but in sixth grade when I heard rumors that the music teacher occasionally made students stand up and sing alone, I quit the music track entirely. I had myself transferred to the triad of art (taught by Mr. Wise with a nose hair growing directly out of the tip of his nose--he set us loose with instructions to copy cartoon strips. In that class, we also used clay to make animals, but since I couldn't figure out how you could possibly balance a mammal on spindly legs of clay, I made a hideous penguin which my mother insisted on keeping to this day), shop (I made a wooden vehicle and the teacher lamented that I used an awful lot of wood on my contraption), and home economics (the teacher knew my father and I was a sort of teacher's pet, but when it came time to sew, I created an apron because I knew we'd have to model our finished product and I was worried that an actual garment might be so embarrassing I'd have to die).

About that time, though, my dad bought a piano for my benefit and moved it into my bedroom. I sang surreptitiously behind the closed doors of my room, playing the piano loudly and singing softly so that no one would mock me. But that didn't stop my dad. He would stand outside my locked door and howl and rattle the doorknob. And yes, when I say "howl," I mean howl. He'd howl like a coyote crying to the moon.

Nothing gives a young girl confidence like her father teasing her (unless, of course, it's her mother telling her to pipe down).

Despite everything, I sang in public, often in a voice quavering from nerves in the early days. I sang in high school and college, gaining confidence. I toyed with composing songs and fitted my tunes with broken-hearted lyrics and tortured poetry.

And then I grew up, recorded all my compositions on a cassette tape for posterity, and put away all that. I left the musical performing to those who are much more talented.

But now I am a pastor's wife, so I am called upon to lead singing from the piano. At the moment, I have no musical jobs in the church, but from time to time, I'm the one plunking out the hymns and crooning into the microphone. I've been asked to sing this holiday season and perhaps I will.

In the meantime, I'm trapped in my own personal rock opera. My 3-year old daughter has taken to singing phrases to me. For instance, she'll be floating in the bathtub and she'll sing out to me, "Mommmmmy! Come heeeeeere!" in a sing-song-y voice. I'll answer her in a dramatic tune, "What for?" and really, I wish there were a way to include a musical score so you could experience the opulence of this opera. She will get carried away on occasion, repeating the same phrase until I answer back with a melody of my own. We sing back and forth to each other and I can't get over how amusing I find this. She'll sing, "I want a peanut butter sandwich!" and I'll reply, "Okay! Just a minute! I'll make you one!"

My boys never let me sing songs to them. They'd put their sticky palms over my mouth and ask me to be quiet. My daughter, though, is different. We sing a medley of songs at night, including the standards "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," "This Little Light of Mine," "I Love You, You Love Me," "Rock A Bye Baby," and a weird variation of the lullaby song. I have no idea what the actual words are, so the first time I sang it, I made up these lyrics, "Lullaby, and goodnight, it is time to go night-night! And we dream happy dreams and we'll sleep all night long!"

As you can see, perhaps songwriting is not my most striking talent. But now my girl sings this variation on a theme at the top of her skinny little lungs, therefore immortilizing that one week when she wasn't sleeping well. " . . . and we'll sleep all night long!"

Meanwhile, my 7-year old son lacks an ear for music, but he makes up for his lack of musical acuity with sheer enthusiasm. He belts out the words with little regard for the tune. Yes, my boy is the one singing in a hearty monotone with such a charming and amusing expression on his face that I want to pickle him in a giant jar so I can save him exactly as he is for the next twenty years.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Some Cookie Clarification

Okay. You know how you have dress-up clothes, say, for weddings, and then you have the clothes you wear when you work in the yard?

That's the difference between a Christmas cookie and a chocolate chip cookie. A Christmas cookie is a special occasion cookie, one that takes a little more time (chilling dough, for instance, or whipping egg whites), effort (rolling, cutting, pressing, frosting, sprinkling, shaping) and perhaps special ingredients (coconut, yeast, dried fruit, unsalted butter). A chocolate chip cookie is an everyday cookie, one that can be easily baked using the staple ingredients you keep in your kitchen. (What? You don't keep chocolate chips in your house at all times?!)

I love a chocolate chip cookie, even your sad, dry, crumbly, inferior chocolate chip cookie. I have five recipe variations in my recipe box at this very moment. I am devoted to chocolate chip cookies, ever on a quest for the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie ever. I am not dissing the chocolate chip cookie. I love chocolate chip cookies of all kinds (but crispy on the edges and melty in the middle with chunks of nuts are, of course, my favorite).

I'm just saying it's an everyday favorite, not a Christmas cookie. I don't wear jeans to wedding and I wouldn't bake chocolate chip cookies and call them Christmas cookies. And on this matter I will not be swayed. (Unless, of course, you send me your best chocolate chip cookies as a bribe proof that you are right and I am wrong. Then, maybe, we'll talk.)

Update: B.J., although it it common here in the Pacific Northwest for a man to show up at a wedding in whatever clothes he happened to be wearing while he was weeding the garden, we girls usually like to dress up. :::looking around::::: Don't we? Am I alone in my archaic viewpoints?

Friday, December 16, 2005

At Last

It is finished.

The Christmas Letter, that is. Tomorrow I'll take it to Kinko's for color copying (oh, yes, it's oh-so-fancy). Now, I think I'm ready for Christmas. Well, unless you count Christmas cookies--to bake or not to bake, that is the question--and buying gifts for the church staff. Oh, and a present for my husband.

By the way, my mother and I are Christmas Cookie Snobs. We can't help it. We agreed the other night: chocolate chip cookies are simply not Christmas cookies. And if your sugar coookies aren't made with butter and powdered sugar, you aren't making them right. In fact, if you use those Pillsbury rolls of premade dough, I'm afraid I'm going to have to suspend your Christmas Cookie Baking License.

I'm just saying.

Reality Show Comments

I am hopelessly interested in myself. And I'm a voyeur. That explains two things:

1) My impulse to take those silly blog quizzes which tell you what kind of food, president or novel character you are. In past days, I've discovered that I'm Mexican food, Abraham Lincoln and . . . I can't remember the other thing.

2) My inability to not watch "Survivor" and "The Apprentice." Admit it. You wondered where I was last night when you realized there was no fresh post from me. Well, I was watching the finale of the Donald Trump version of the Apprentice and I'm about to talk about it so if you are allergic to or disdainful of reality television, you might want to move along to a blog talking about . . . oh, I don't know, you figure something out.

First of all, not long ago, on "Survivor," the winner of a particular challenge won a car. Cindy was informed that in ten seasons of Survivor, every single car winner did NOT win the million dollar prize. She was given the chance to "break the curse" by giving up the car and instead, giving a car to each of the other four remaining players.

She looked agonized for a moment, then decided to keep the car herself, thus effectively depriving four other people of a brand new car. (She was voted out next.)

Last night, on "The Apprentice," Trump hired Randall, the well-educated and talented man. Then, at the very last minute, while Randall was high-fiving and hugging and celebrating his victory, Donald Trump hollered to him, "RANDALL! RANDALL!" and had him sit back down. Trump asked Randall if he thought Trump should hired Rebecca as well. Randall said, no, there is only one apprentice, otherwise it would be called The Apprenti.

Huh, what? I think Trump was shocked. Who wouldn't be? I can understand Cindy in "Survivor" not giving away four new cars because she would have been deprived of a new car herself, but Randall would still have had his job, even if Trump also hired Rebecca.

I don't get it. Is this greed? Self-absorption? Looking out for number one? Clawing your way to the top?

You'd think I'd know since I am narcissistic and all, but I'm stumped. I like to think I would have been generous in both situations . . . granted, the car would have hurt a little, but the joy of making four other people deliriously happy, not to mention the increased chance of winning the entire game would have assuaged the temporary pangs. But Randall's outright recommendation against hiring Rebecca? That was just plain mean.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Untitled Due to Lack of Funding

This has been my early week, so I've been dragging out of bed and showering with my eyes closed all so I can be ready to open the door by 7:15 a.m. I can't wait until winter solstice comes and goes and the daylight begins to lengthen. It's not right to be awake in the dark morning. And next week, no daycare kids and no school, so I'll be lolly-gagging as much as possible with a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 3-year old around.

I've been working with my boys this week on composition. Teaching them to compose a research paper or a book report pushes me to the very edge of my abilities. You know how they say "He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches."? (George Bernard Shaw said that, I'm told.) Well. I can write, but apparently I can't teach them to write.

I did find a graphic organizer from Inspiration Software, Inc. that I am using with them. This software seems to help them organize their thoughts and it automatically switches from diagram to outline. I am working closely with each of them. You'd think I'd be able to give them instructions and set them loose, but apparently they learned nothing about writing during their six years of public education.

I can imagine that a dancer would find similar frustration in attempting to teach me to dance. I have no natural ability, no inner rhythm, no instinct for movement. But a dancer might think I simply needed to try harder.

I think my boys need to try harder, but I'm coming to realize that they just don't have an aptitude for writing. Add to that their lack of desire and you end up with my nightmare. Oh, but it gets worse.

At 5:15 p.m., I held the last baby in my arms. She was finishing her bottle, albeit reluctantly. Then, mere seconds before my husband walked in the door, the baby began vomiting on me. Not spit-up, but Exorcist spewing. When it was all said and done, both the baby and I were covered in the fetid white bubbly puke. Regurgitated formula reeks. Her mother came in moments later and I was still cradling the baby and a bath towel, trying to figure out what to do next. I gingerly placed the baby on the floor on a different bath towel. When I stood, her mother began to apologize. I had to change everything I wore, except my socks.

Now that is a dramatic way to end the day.

Only the day didn't end. My mother stopped by, just as I started making gravy for the chicken and mashed potatoes. She'll be watching my kids on Sunday evening when my husband and I attend a Christmas party. Since she hasn't seen my kids for a long time, she thought she'd visit, especially for my daughter's benefit. So she stayed for dinner and left around 7:00 p.m.

My mother tells very long stories. She can go on for twenty minutes about a cookie recipe, giving the back story first, then several tangential stories and then finally, produce the actual recipe. I made my husband promise to stop me if I ever do that. More than I do already, of course. My stories can get detailed, but at least I hurry them along and notice if my audience begins to doze off with glassy eyes.

Yes, I noticed your eyes roll back in your head just then. Wipe that string of drool off your lips. I'm finished with this pointless tale.

Thank you and goodnight.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"Dear Family and Friends . . . "

Without blushing at all, I will be the first to admit that I write a pretty great Christmas newsletter. Only at this moment in time, poised to write said newsletter, I doubt my ability to write anything but drivel. And time's a'wasting. Only eleven days until Christmas. Ack!

I have a folder with a copy of each letter dating back to 1991 and if you add that to my stack of old identification cards from high school and college and summer jobs and my pale younger faces on expired driver's licenses, you get a fairly accurate and somewhat sobering picture of my life in incremental snapshots.

So tonight, I read through the newsletters. I am reassured. I can do this. I've done it before.

All I need is one brilliant shining hook, a place to hang the summary of the whole year.

I'm scared.

Anonymous Commenter Strikes Again

When you comment on this blog, the comments land right into my email box. That makes it easy for me to reply to your comment via email. Alas, some of you don't leave an email address, so I can't reply to you easily. Others of you choose complete anonymity, which I can understand, especially if you intend to insult me in such an incoherent manner.

You have to wonder: do some people just have too much time on their hands?

Seriously. This is what "Anonymous" said:

mel you sound like an uptight bitch,sounds to me by you writing this your looking and needing everyone to tell you that your right.i think your jealous that your sister cares less for trying to please everyone and shes ok with it.sounds to me like she leads a very interesting and fascinating life and your stuck in suburbia,with a pastor for a husband,little kids and your bored and upset with your choices in life.growup and stop acting like a child except people for who they are and stop being jealous and the moment you admit you are jealous the quicker you can heal and do something about it.ps and as for her not answering your emails back on such subjects....mel she probably just does not have time to cater to your obvious disection of every incident,i would love to hear her side of the story,and why did you remove olives post?

I have to know: is there a shortage of periods and no one told me? Because if so, I'll just have to use exclamation points from now on!! and are we all out of capital letters? because i will eliminate them, too, if i need to!! conserve periods and capitals!! unite!! we all stand together against the sensless waste of punctuation and upper case letters!!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Oh, The Excitement Around Here!

So, this afternoon, I was putting the baby down for his nap and checking on the preschoolers (all snuggled in their beds) and I heard my twins hollering my name. Now, this is not unusual at all for it seems that whenever I leave the room they get into a tussle. Why is this? Is it testosterone? A twin-thing? Sibling rivalry? Boredom?

As I came down the stairs, I hissed, "DON'T YELL AT ME!" because, really, it's irritating to be yelled at when you aren't even involved in the disagreement in the first place. And then I realized someone was hurt.

See this?

Do you know what this is? That's right. It's a goose egg. When I saw the goose egg on my son's forehead, I responded with a shocked, "OH MY GOSH!" and actually pirouetted in the kitchen before peering again at his horribly swollen forehead and exclaiming again, "OH MY GOSH!" and frantically grabbing for ice.

Goose-Egg-Boy had been hassling his brother, teasing him about finishing his schoolwork for the day. (Taking notes from a book for a research paper, aka Torture.) Harassed son responded by brandishing a pencil as a sword and chasing. At some point, Harasser picked up a small chair from the preschool table in the kitchen and Harassee grabbed the nearest thing, which happened to be a Princess trick-or-treat bucket, which my daughter carries around like a purse.

He tossed said bucket at his brother, aiming, he said later, for his stomach, but hitting him in the forehead, between his left eyebrow and his hairline.

The resulting goose egg was the most dramatic I have ever seen, a couple of inches in diameter and an inch high. Goose-Egg-Son was on his back, crying while the Bucket Thrower stood over us weeping and demanding, "Is my brother going to die? Is my brother going to die?!" I finally had to send him from the room because he was hysterical.

While a washcloth full of ice settled on the swelling, I hurried to google "goose egg" and "head injury" and decided that unless unconsciousness and vomiting and dizziness occurred, he'd probably be fine. But, oh, that goose egg was dramatic and impressive and terrifying for a moment.

Now it's a giant purplish-blue lump. My son avoided my husband tonight--not the Bucket Thrower, but the Goose-Egg-Boy--because he didn't want his brother to be in trouble. I told Bucket Thrower that his father would speak to him tomorrow and he said, "Can't I just know my punishment now?" and I said, "No," because we firmly believe in making children squirm and stew in their own juices.

The Bucket Thrower cried much longer than the Goose-Egg-Boy and said to me, "Mom, I feel so bad. I think I'm going to throw up." And I said nonchalantly, "Well, you are supposed to feel bad when you purposely hurt someone."

And to think we could have just had another boring day around here.

Ho-Ho-Bah-Humbug-Ho!

The annoying illnesses continue to linger, which explains why I had no intention of going to church Sunday morning. However, my daughter had other ideas and so, in my germ-induced haze, I decided not only to go to church, but also to dress the children in complementary colors, leave church early and take the annual Christmas photo.

We arrived in our usual front row seat only a minute or two late, even though I didn't crawl from bed until 9:00 a.m. Almost as soon as we sat down, my daughter, the Instigator, began to lobby for our exit. I kept whispering in her ear, "As soon as the music is over." Unbeknownst to me (I'm a sorry excuse for a pastor's wife and I blame it all on the fact that I was too busy taking "Homiletics" to bother taking "The Pastor's Wife," in Bible college) the choir was presenting a Christmas cantata. I knew I'd miss it since I was accompanied by Miss I-Can't-Sit-Still-in-Church, but still. We stayed as long as we could, then slipped out the door.

I had to buy film, so we left town briefly and then returned to a little park. I hurriedly arranged the children for a photograph, but someone was uncooperative and for some reason all the boys were squinty-eyed and slouching. Christmas Cheer sounded something like this: "Sit up! No, smile! Move it. Put your face forward. Sit up straight! Okay, scoot over! Smile! No, smile like you mean it. Hey, hey, hey, look at me!" Let's just say that none of my children are destined for super stardom as a supermodel.

But you have to agree that Miss Grinch is mighty cute.



When my husband returned home from church, I raced off to Costco to have the film developed to see if anything turned out. The picture above is the one I chose. How could I not? Even the lady behind the Costco counter agreed. (And when you are choosing a picture to represent your family for the entire year, who better to consult that the lady behind the Costco counter? I ask you that.)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Christmas Fun. No, Really.

Click here. Be sure to have your sound on.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Full-Day Kindergarten? No Thanks

A few weeks ago, I came across this newspaper editorial about legislating full-day kindergarten. I am adamantly opposed to the idea of mandatory full-day kindergarten for all public school students in this state, so I read the whole article. (I'll wait, if you want to go read it, too.)

The article quotes a school superintendent whose number one personal priority for new funding would be full-day kindergarten, because, she says, students are arriving in kindergarten "who haven't been read to, and who don't know their numbers or their ABCs."

I can hardly imagine a child who reaches the age of five (or six) without knowing these things. My kids seem to learn by osmosis, which doesn't explain why my daughter keeps counting in Spanish, because I only speak English--for that, I thank Dora the Explorer. How can parents not read to their kids, not speak to their kids, not teach their kids during their time spent together?

I am not naive. I do understand that some children are growing up in difficult circumstances . . . but adding a half-day of kindergarten is going to solve these problems? Might not funding be better spent intervening in these high-risk families?

For a long time, I've been annoyed by the (possibly imagined) pressure I feel to send my children to preschool. I've never done so and my children seem to be fine (although on bad days with my Reluctant Student, I would tell you that I am clearly a horrible failure of a mother and if I'd sent him to preschool, perhaps he'd be a genius). Not that there's anything wrong with preschool, mind you. But I don't think it is necessary.

Is this the first step? Will four year olds soon be required to attend preschool? Will three years olds be the next target for enrollment? Will our two-year olds be sent to mandatory daycare where underpaid young women will chant their ABCs and count until everyone is dizzy? Where does this all stop? And why do I get the feeling that the state thinks parents aren't qualified to educate their own preschoolers?

More and more, kindergarten seems like first grade and preschool seems like kindergarten. Children are rushed faster and faster to grow up quicker and quicker. At the Veteran's Day program, I noticed a bunch of second-grade girls with highlights in their hair and pantyhose and high-heels on their feet. Slow down! What's the big rush? You'll have to get a job and pay taxes soon enough, little girl!

In movie theaters, I see children watching movies intended for adults. You know as well as I do that at home, children see even more inappropriate material as parents cuddle up on the couch watching movies with their kids--and sometimes, in concession to Parent Guilt, they cover their children's eyes at the worst parts. I know 3-year olds who watch rated PG-13 movies and I can't stop feeling judgmental about that. It's just not right to expose children to mature themes and images.

The school district officials will tell you that full-day kindergarten will help more kids graduate from high school. I doubt it. But legislating such a law will keep lawmakers busy and will pad the salaries of school teachers and will give the appearance of making children a top priority.

Kindergarten should be a gentle introduction to school. None of my kids could have lasted through a full day of school that first year. And that first year, it took us all morning just to get ready for kindergarten.

And while I'm talking about school, can I just request an immediate halt to homework for elementary school kids? I hate kids' homework! But the school requires it--not the individual teachers, but the school administrators. Perhaps if the school wasn't so busy teaching children non-essentials and preparing the kids for yet more mandatory state testing, they'd finish their seat-work while still at school.

I love my local public school. I really do. I love the shiny checkerboard hallways and the festive bulletin boards with seasonal displays and the flickering fluorescent lights. I fondly remember my own school days. I want my children to love their school days. (At least I have hopes for the younger two . . . the 12-year olds' hate school now.)

I just want those full-time days to start in first grade. I don't think that's too much to ask.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

If I End Up Missing, Check the Closet

Tonight, as I pedaled my exercise bike, my husband put a clear plastic garbage bag over his head and peered at me. We were having some ridiculous conversation and I wish I could relay it here, but I can't remember it because of what happened next.

My husband crossed the room and said, "Here, put this on your head and tell me if you can see through it." (He was obviously not paying attention to the riveting conversation we were having. Either that or he had suffered brain cell loss from the lack of oxygen.)

The bag was cloudy cellophane and when he wore it on his head, I could see the features of his face. I said, "I don't think so! But nice try!"

He said, "No, really. Tell me if you can see through this."

I said, "I am going to alert my blog readers! If I end up dead, they will know you did it!"

He flashed a grin and said, "No, really!"

AND I PUT A PLASTIC BAG OVER MY HEAD.

The funny thing was that I couldn't see through the plastic and not just because the world started going black and then through a tunnel I saw a bright light . . . no. That plastic looks clear, but is somehow opaque when you are wearing it on your head.

Kids, don't try this at home. We are trained professionals. No, really.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

My Sidekick

Here is my 3-year old on Thanksgiving Day. She's stirring the Corn Souffle' right before we put it into the casserole dish. All of my children were helpful that day. The boys peeled all the potatoes and set the table.

Yesterday afternoon, my daughter began to lobby for a trip to McDonald's for nuggets and fries. She hadn't felt well for almost a week and although I offered her a variety of tasty treats, she hadn't been interested in eating all week. So, when she began dreaming of chicken nuggets, I decided to make her dream come true.

When the last baby left and my husband arrived, she and I ventured into the dark in our quest for junk food. While we sat in line, I said to her, "Hey, look at all the cars. Can you count them?" Without pause, she said, "uno, dos, tres." This is evidence of her love of "Dora". Then, when I finished placing my order, she piped up from the backseat, "AND A COOKIE!"

Ah, that's my girl!

Seven Sevens--A Meme

Barbara over at Mommylife tagged me . . . and Julana over at Life in the Slow Lane did, too, I vaguely recall. So, here goes. I'm the last woman in the blogosphere to do this meme, so have no fear. No tagging at the end of this thing.

Seven Six Sevens

1. Seven things to do before I die
1) Write a whole lot more.
2) Finish putting all my pictures into narrative scrapbooks.
3) Travel to various places I can't visit now.
4) Read all the books on my shelves.
5) Love better.
6) See my children grown up and happy and successful in their chosen vocations.
7) Figure out what to do with my hair.

2. Seven things I cannot do
1) Whistle.
2) Raise my right eyebrow only.
3) Lick popsicle sticks or wooden spoons.
4) Buy shoes that make my feet hurt.
5) Tell apart my friend's twin boys.
6) Read the end of a book in advance.
7) Tolerate those wacky Christians with big hair on Christian television.

3. Seven things that attract me to my husband
1) His irreverent sense of humor.
2) His expressive eyes.
3) His calmness in calamity and in everyday situations.
4) His generosity.
5) His people skils.
6) The way he laughs at my jokes and sarcasm.
7) His assurance of his own faith.

4. Seven things I say most often
1) "Do you understand what I am saying to you?!"
2) "Please, I'm begging you, be quiet!"
3) "I love you!"
4) "Let's go, Joe!"
5) "Well."
6) "Are you kidding me?"
7) "Please, go to bed. Do not make noise. Go to sleep! I'm off duty!"

5. Seven books (or series) I love
1) The Bible.
2) Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions. (Also Bird by Bird.)
3) Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres.
4) Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow.
5) Barbara Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible.
6) Willian Zinsser's On Writing Well.
7) Pat Conroy's Prince of Tides.

6. Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would watch over and over if I had the time)
1) Grease.
2) Schindler's List.
3) Top Gun.
4) Ruthless People.
5) The Breakfast Club.
6) Pretty Woman.
7) When Harry Met Sally.

I had a lot of trouble with the movie category. I tend not to watch movies over and over again . . . but the movies listed are ones I would stop and watch if I came across them on television. As for the book category, those are not necessarily my favorite books of all time, but a list of books I like a lot or which made a big impression on me. And, the observant of you will notice I only have six sevens--that's because I didn't tag seven of you to play along. But feel free to tag yourself!

The Requisite Mom Response to Linda R. Hirshman

So there I was, minding my own business, clicking from blog to blog in my Bloglines account when I came across this post about an article written by Linda Hirshman in "The American Prospect" (Linda R. Hirshman is a retired professor and a feminist.)

Ms. Hirshman is concerned that the number of working mothers has dropped. She is concerned that feminism may be stalling, due in large part to women--especially elite women, specifically those who graduate from hoity-toity colleges--choosing to stay at home to raise their children. She says, "Among the affluent-educated-married population, women are letting their careers slide to tend the home fires."

My hackles immediately raised up and I wanted to have my say. And yet I've been busy tending to the needs of my children and decorating for Christmas and trying to prevent my boys from ending up living under the overpass because they refused to write essay answers in complete sentences.

I chose this life, but Ms. Hirshman believes that the choice to stay home is really not a reasonable choice at all . . . she suggests that, "The family -- with its repetitious, socially invisible, physical tasks -- is a necessary part of life, but it allows fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than public spheres like the market or the government. This less-flourishing sphere is not the natural or moral responsibility only of women. Therefore, assigning it to women is unjust. Women assigning it to themselves is equally unjust. To paraphrase, as Mark Twain said, "A man who chooses not to read is just as ignorant as a man who cannot read."

Wait a second. What is that supposed to mean? A woman who chooses to spend her time at home raising her own progeny is the same as a woman who is at home raising her own progeny by default? Or the choice itself is ignorant no matter how you slice it? Doing repetitive, invisible, physical tasks is unjust, no matter what?

She thinks that women need to be pried out of their traditional roles. In her words,
"Women who want to have sex and children with men as well as good work in interesting jobs where they may occasionally wield real social power need guidance, and they need it early. Step one is simply to begin talking about flourishing. In so doing, feminism will be returning to its early, judgmental roots. This may anger some, but it should sound the alarm before the next generation winds up in the same situation. Next, feminists will have to start offering young women not choices and not utopian dreams but solutions they can enact on their own. Prying women out of their traditional roles is not going to be easy. It will require rules -- rules like those in the widely derided book The Rules, which was never about dating but about behavior modification."

I supposed I am showing my middle-class, non-Ivy-College graduating roots when I express my indignance over Ms. Hirshman's sneering assertion that it's necessary to pry women from their traditional roles . . . and I think that when she's talking about traditional roles, she means women breastfeeding their own babies and diapering their own babies and teaching their own babies to recite the alphabet and count to twenty. You know, it's the classism and elitism and snottiness of this sort of lip-curled judgment that irritates me, the idea that women need to be rescued from caring for children.

Ms. Hirshman explains, "There are three rules: Prepare yourself to qualify for good work, treat work seriously, and don't put yourself in a position of unequal resources when you marry."

I have a simple rule. It's that wild and crazy, "Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you," rule. Oh, don't forget the "love your neighbor as yourself," rule. As a follower of Christ, I'm actually trying to follow Christ and even if you haven't read the red letters (many Bibles have Jesus' words written in red), you probably realize that Jesus was about serving people.

You'll want to follow along here as Ms. Hirshman dictates, "If you have carefully positioned yourself either by marrying down or finding someone untainted by gender ideology, you will be in a position to resist bearing an unfair share of the family. Even then you must be vigilant. Bad deals come in two forms: economics and home economics. The economic temptation is to assign the cost of child care to the woman's income. If a woman making $50,000 per year whose husband makes $100,000 decides to have a baby, and the cost of a full-time nanny is $30,000, the couple reason that, after paying 40 percent in taxes, she makes $30,000, just enough to pay the nanny. So she might as well stay home. This totally ignores that both adults are in the enterprise together and the demonstrable future loss of income, power, and security for the woman who quits. Instead, calculate that all parents make a total of $150,000 and take home $90,000. After paying a full-time nanny, they have $60,000 left to live on."

And here we are again, at the point where we have to ask: who is this subclass of people willing to embrace the distasteful task of tending to the children? Are we importing people from Third World countries to do this meaningless work? If daddy's time is worth $100,000 a year and mommy's time is worth $50,000 a year, it doesn't take a math genius to figure out that the child's time is worth practically nothing. Mommy and daddy (in Ms. Hirshman's idealized version of reality) are too good for childcare and in fact, they are probably not very interested in mingling with old, feeble, incontinent people, either, or those with impaired mental abilities or lower-than-desirable IQs or those who are ugly. Hire someone else to do that work. It's beneath the well-educated.

Oh, and don't forget the most important thing, according to Ms. Hirshman. "If these prescriptions sound less than family-friendly, here's the last rule: Have a baby. Just don't have two. Mothers' Movement Online's Judith Statdman Tucker reports that women who opt out for child-care reasons act only after the second child arrives. A second kid pressures the mother's organizational skills, doubles the demands for appointments, wildly raises the cost of education and housing, and drives the family to the suburbs. But cities, with their Chinese carryouts and all, are better for working mothers. It is true that if you follow this rule, your society will not reproduce itself. But if things get bad enough, who knows what social consequences will ensue? After all, the vaunted French child-care regime was actually only a response to the superior German birth rate."

I guess if you end up pregnant with twins, you're out of luck. And, really, who needs siblings anyways?

This hostility to children takes my breath away. If women are second-class citizens, then children are junk mail citizens in our society, easily thrown away, discarded without even a glance. Do you think the kids don't notice that mom and dad have more important things to do than spend time with them?

Ms. Hirshman says, "Finally, these choices are bad for women individually. A good life for humans includes the classical standard of using one's capacities for speech and reason in a prudent way, the liberal requirement of having enough autonomy to direct one's own life, and the utilitarian test of doing more good than harm in the world. Measured against these time-tested standards, the expensively educated upper-class moms will be leading lesser lives. At feminism's dawning, two theorists compared gender ideology to a caste system. To borrow their insight, these daughters of the upper classes will be bearing most of the burden of the work always associated with the lowest caste: sweeping and cleaning bodily waste. Not two weeks after the Yalie flap, the Times ran a story of moms who were toilet training in infancy by vigilantly watching their babies for signs of excretion 24-7. They have voluntarily become untouchables."

Uh, hello? Sweeping and cleaning bodily waste--which pretty much describes my daily life at the moment--indicates that I am leading a lesser life? Or is that only for expensively educated upper-class moms? For the rest of us in this caste, it's just destiny? We were born to be "untouchables"? She's speaking about a tiny percentage of women and implies that most of us-- the majority of us, the crazy among us who opted to devote our waking lives to our children--are not leading good lives.

I am insulted and you should be, too.

Ms. Hirshman concludes, "When she sounded the blast that revived the feminist movement 40 years after women received the vote, Betty Friedan spoke of lives of purpose and meaning, better lives and worse lives, and feminism went a long way toward shattering the glass ceilings that limited their prospects outside the home. Now the glass ceiling begins at home. Although it is harder to shatter a ceiling that is also the roof over your head, there is no other choice."

I never did like Betty Friedan's "Feminine Mystique," but I suppose that's no surprise. I thought she seemed bitter and hurt by the circumstances of her life, but what do I know? I'm just a nose-wiping, diaper-changing, Twinkle-twinkle-little-star-singing, dinner-cooking, "Goodnight, Moon"-reading, woman serving others and apparently, unbeknownst to me until now (thank you, Ms. Hirshman), rule-breaking untouchable.



A related story was featured on 60 Minutes reported in October 2004.

Monday, December 05, 2005

And On Monday, We Fired the Maid

I called my husband first thing this morning and demanded, "I want you to fire the maid immediately! The kitchen is a disaster-area!"

He laughed at my feeble joke . . . because, of course, we don't have a maid. I left the kitchen last night full of dirty dishes and messy countertops. (I should be fired and sent away. To Tahiti. Where I will do penance on black sand beaches and eat pineapple so fresh it burns my lips.)

This morning, I sat at the kitchen table and worked my boys through nine lessons of math, an entire unit. As we approached lesson eight, my Reluctant Student began to complain, "Mom, I'm starting to feel that weird feeling again. I can't do my work! Mom, I'm serious. I feel too weird."

Yeah, whatever, kid. Get to work. I have no sympathy for weird feelings--or maybe that's not quite right. I sympathize, but weird feelings cannot stand in the way of progress. I've been giving the boys a minimum of direction lately, but the past two weeks they've really stalled, so this week, I'll be overseeing every move they make. Tomorrow we'll be tackling American History Before 1865.

Today was my husband's day off, but for reasons I'm still not clear on, he worked all day. Something about employee reviews needing to be done, then a board meeting somewhere about executive something or another. He came home after praying the opening prayer at the Women's Christmas Salad Potluck. I was supposed to pray that prayer, but my cold and my daughter's unstable tummy prevented me from going. So, he came home to a very bizarre dinner of frozen fishsticks, sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows and pancakes. Hey, don't look at me! I didn't plan that. (Obviously.)

I cleaned up the kitchen thoroughly, gave my daughter yet another bath, then read books, listened to her sing songs, supervised her tooth-brushing and put her to bed just in time to hurry out the door to see an 8:20 p.m. showing of "Walk the Line."

The movie theater was empty except for an older couple who turned to stare at me during the fake movie portion when the cell phone rings just to demonstrate the annoyance factor of cell phones ringing in the movies. BUT IT WASN'T ME, PEOPLE! THAT WAS JUST AN ANNOUNCEMENT! LOOK AWAY!

I hate to admit that I'm hardly familiar with Johnny Cash or his music, but I did enjoy the movie. Another blogger (Toni?) mentioned that it could have used a bit of editing, as it dragged a bit in the middle and I have to say that I did start to wonder what time it was at some point. But I bet that movie will get some Oscar nods. (I thought it was a finer film than "Ray," which won big last year.) Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix were remarkable.

It was 10:50 p.m. when I returned to my car and it's a school night, so I ought to be snoring peacefully in my bed, but how can I just walk through the door and sleep? If I did that, it would be tomorrow already and my day would be in full swing and frankly, I'm just not ready for that yet.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sleeping with Baby Jesus

I woke up yesterday with a sore throat. Since it was only 2:30 a.m., I gargled with Listerine which made me gag a little and shudder and wonder what kind of sadist suggested this magic cure. Then I went back to bed and slept until 6:30 a.m. when my daughter woke up. Her tummy's been upset, so the weekend was full of trips to the bathroom and hot baths.

Yesterday in between running bathwater and wiping her bottom, I dragged out the boxes of Christmas decorations and the tree. I assembled the tree without too much trouble, but then ran out of working tree lights. Why and how Christmas tree lights die over the course of the year while simply lounging in a box in the storage room is beyond me. One of the great mysteries of life, truly. So, I tossed a set out and the top section of my tree is naked. I purchased more lights tonight--the most expensive ones sold by Target--and tomorrow, I'll string them up.

The kids put the ornaments on. My tree is a hodge-podge mess, but the kids adore it. They put two or three ornaments on a branch and hide the best ornaments in unviewable branches and put weird, homemade ornaments front and center. Their technique leaves something to be desired, but brings them great joy.

My daughter believes decorations are meant to be handled, which explains why she keeps stealing Baby Jesus and one cute snowman. This morning, while I huddled under the covers, staying as still as possible to avoid jarring my headachey head, she tucked in Baby Jesus next to me. Sleep in heavenly peace.

I spent the afternoon finishing up the decorations and cleaning up the subsequent mess. Mess? Well, last night, my 7-year old entertained my 3-year old for quite a while in the living room. I enjoyed listening to them giggle while they played with the two-foot tall Nutcracker. Then, I peeked at them to discover my son cracking actual nuts. Huh? I said, "Hey, what are you doing?" and he said, "Cracking nuts," and I said, "Huh? Where'd you get nuts?" and he said, "From my drawer from the nature walk we took when I found acorns."

And then, I practically saluted and ordered them to "Carry on!" because I was so impressed by his ingenuity and her glee.

I hate facing another week of school with a cold, but in light of the "Things Could Always Be Worse" file, I will not complain. Much.

Friday, December 02, 2005

How Today Could Have Been Worse

This was one of those days in which I question myself. Why am I doing this? Why did I find the idea of childlessness so repugnant? Where did I go wrong? How can I get out of my contract? Who are these people living in my house and how can I evict them? What was I thinking when we adopted twin baby boys who would grow up to be twin twelve-year olds?

So, in the aftermath of such a day, I reassure myself with the idea that things could always have been worse. For instance:

1) We could have adopted triplets or quadruplets.

2) It could have been Monday.

3) I might have fallen in the shower and broken my femur in three places before breakfast.

4) The snow could have been toxic, contaminated by an undiscovered, yet lethal acid-rain type of chemical.

5) I might have punched my Reluctant Student in the head and then stabbed myself in the neck and called 9-1-1 and be spending the night in the local county jail.

6) My house could have caught on fire and all my precious scrapbooks and unscrapbooked pictures might have burned in a fiery inferno and thus, my proof that we are Happy would be gone.

7) We could have all awoken covered in chigger bites.

8) A meteor could have fallen from the sky and crashed through my family room roof and killed all three cats and also crushed my collection of Spode Christmas Tree china.

9) The washing machine and the unflushed toilet could have overflowed at the same time.

10) Twelve-year olds could possibly stay twelve forever and their body odor would never abate.

See? Things all look cheerier when you line them up against more dire possibilities.

(My twelve-year old boys spent Monday and Tuesday dillydallying and lollygagging and frittering away their time. One of them read two novels this week, which is good, but the other one managed to look busy while not actually producing any work. I said, "Fine, but you will have to have everything completed on Friday." And then I left them to their own devices, trusting that consequences would teach them the lesson they need to know.

And then we woke up to a Snow Day. Public school was cancelled and I magnanimously declared that they didn't need to do Friday's scheduled work, but that all the previous days' work needed to be completed. That left Reluctant Student with about three history lessons, three math lessons, three literature lessons, a spelling test, an assessment to correct and a partridge in a pear tree. His brother had lessons, too, but not too many and he worked diligently until his work was done.

Reluctant Student shouted, screamed, stomped, cried, flung himself to the ground (and I didn't have the forethought to fling myself next to him, but I will next time), feigned a nap, slammed his hand into a filing cabinet and expressed his annoyance with me in other loud and irritating ways. He worked (half-heartedly, with a bad attitude) until nearly 6 p.m.

As I said, things could always be worse. I could have slipped in the snow and knocked out my front teeth or I could have accidentally thrown a book hard in the direction of my son's head and broken a mirror and ended up with seven years of hard labor in a rock quarry.)

Cheer up! Things could always be worse, he said. And then things got worse.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

How I Am Frittering Away My Intellect

1) Reading books far beneath my intellectual level, such as "Good Night, Moon" and "Home for a Bunny".

2) Handling the majority of the physical labor in my household, including wiping bottoms and flushing toilets.

3) Mothering more than one child, thus ensuring a life of indentured servitude.

4) Spending my days involved in mind-numbing childcare.

5) Watching late-night television, specifically David Letterman, in addition to an assortment of reality shows.

My intellect is so compromised that I can't even think of the additional ways I'm harming it.

* * *

Today it snowed an inch and my boys had a twenty-minute snowball fight. My daughter tentatively stood on the patio and said, "I don't want the boys to hit me with a snowball!" and I assured her they would not. After all, she is a girl and I still believe boys should defer to girls, but I'm old-fashioned like that.

The snow has fallen again tonight in the dark, so it's a veritable Winter Wonderland outside. But there's no more time for musings . . . Oprah will be on David Letterman momentarily.

Oh, and because you're wondering, I'll tell you. My kitchen table now boasts a festive candlelit Spode church. But the Advent calendar is still buried in the storage room, along with the Christmas tree.

Okay, okay, time to watch the Oprah/Dave reunion. I can feel my brain cells withering away, because as a stay-at-home parent, isn't that inevitable?
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