Our alarm clock finally just went fatally berzerk. It already had some issues, but yesterday it started advancing a minute for every actual second that passes. This is a disconcerting but accurate depiction of the way our summer is going. Happily, it gives me an excuse to buy a new clock. I hate this clock. Someone gave it to us, back when we got caught in the wrong end of a current of well-meaning charity from a group of elderly church ladies. They saw we had a lot of kids, and drew the only obvious conclusion: that I would be overjoyed to receive large quantities of random junk they didn’t want in their garages anymore. I gave away most of it, but we kept the clock, because — well, because we had a lot of kids, and couldn’t afford a clock on our own. (Even a charitable old church lady is right twice a day.) Does anyone else have such trouble with alarm clocks? I really don’t ask a lot out of technology, but it seems to me that it shouldn’t be so hard to find a clock which will reliably (a) show the time and (b) go off when I tell it to. Our clocks do this for a month or so. Then they don’t. Maybe! The main problem is that, when an alarm clock goes bad, you only become aware of the problem when you’re half asleep. It’s sort of like going to the doctor, and by the time he finally shows up, you’ve so nervous and tense, you actually do have high blood pressure: You just can’t make an accurate diagnosis in conditions like this. You set the alarm for 7 a.m. and drift off to sleep. A few hours later, you’re right in the middle of a sweet and gentle dream about being a nice little fish that makes cookies, and YAAAAAAAAAA! the alarm goes off, and it’s only 2:30. What? What? Did you set the alarm wrong? Or is the clock broken? And if you’re the one who made the mistake, did you actually fix it? Wait, did you press the button at the right time? Oh, you went past 7– now you have to go all the way around again! Is that dot for a.m. or p.m.? Do you dare to fall back asleep and trust that will wake up at 7? Or would it be more fun to crouch on your bed like a feral cat, unable to slow your heart rate back to normal? Until it’s 6:15, at which point you finally lose consciousness, and sleep through the alarm. Or did you just dream the whole thing? This particular terrible clock had some kind of fancy system with two different alarms, each with a choice of different sound effects, and it was nearly impossible to figure out which one you had actually set. Especially after some kid ripped the plastic face off, which meant that the various lights signifying “am,” “pm,” alarm 1″ and “alarm 2″ were nothing more than bald, unlabeled dots, signifying, “I mean something, and I’m on!” The only work-around was to set both alarms for the same time. So you would wake up in the morning, turn off the alarm, start to get up and think about what you–DAMMIT, turn off the alarm again. Or, if you’re my husband, you get up and turn it off in your sleep and lay yourself peacefully down again. Now, according to everything that is rational, and everything that I know about this man, he does this because he’s a heavy sleeper. It’s unintentional, unfixable, and actually kind of cute. But according to everything I know when I get woken up by his alarm and must lie there poking him until he grumpily rolls out of bed and I’m too annoyed to go back to sleep, even though I had only truly fallen sleep two hours ago because I had just accomplished several pre-dawn hours of worrying about school clothes, he does this because . . . well, let’s just stick with unintentional. Anyway, what this all goes to show is that we are in big trouble this coming school year, with actual schedules and all. Why did we home school all those years? Why did my husband get into journalism? Well, the secret’s out now! We’ve arranged our lives around not getting up in the morning. Sure, so there was a dash of planning, a smattering of the determined pursuit of our desires and the cultivation of our talents. Maybe a whisper of answering our divinely-ordained vocations in life. But mostly, we are where we are because we can’t figure out our alarm clock.
Don’t worry, it’s not another scholarly fisk of the cultural significance of Billy Jean. I’m talking about the county fair! The fair! Who doesn’t love the fair?
Does your library give out copious prizes just for checking out books in the summer? Ours does: ice cream and pizza coupons, tickets to sports events, T-shirts and toys, games, stickers, etc.
But the prize that thrilled my kids the most was something new this year: ten dollars! Their enthusiasm was only slightly dampened when we explained that no one was actually going to hand them a ten-dollar bill–they’d have to open an account at a local bank, which would credit them $10.
Daddy was glad to help. He would bring the happy little misers to the bank, sign them up for accounts, go home, and then truck them right back to the bank again as soon as humanly possible to close out their accounts. They would then zip on over to the Dollar Tree to blow their glorious cash on sticky hands, expanding dinosaurs, and expired Laffy Taffy. You know, the American dream.
Not so fast.
Don’t ask me why I didn’t see this coming, but there was a catch. Of course there was a catch! Sure, they’ll deposit $10 in your Young Saver account. They’ll even waive the $4 monthly fee, as long as you’re age 18 or under. All you have to do, kids, is keep a minimum monthly balance of $250.
$250! Stupid jerks. What kid has $250 seed money to start a Young Saver account? No one. Okay, maybe some enterprising Eagle Scout mowed enough lawns to save up $250, but I guarantee that all the other Young Savers got their minimum deposits straight from mom or dad’s wallet. Bah.
When I was a kid, our local bank that gave out little cardboard boxes for collecting quarters to put in your junior savings account. There were no minimums or monthly fees–it was all about teaching you that money doesn’t just materialize out of nowhere. If you don’t spend it, you’ll still have it; if you keep spending it, eventually it will be gone. But the most you could possibly save up was maybe $20 before the box fell apart.
I really don’t want my kids to have a meaningful financial portfolio. That’s the idea of being a kid: you learn the lessons, but you don’t get any of the actual benefits. You don’t need benefits, because you parents are taking care of you.
When you get older, then you learn how money really works. In a nutshell, adults have two choices. You can turn over your finances to a ravening monolith that will (1) warn you by mail that, four days ago, they charged you a monthly fee for your overdraft protection plan, which will (2) hit you at a bad time and make your balance dip below zero, at which point the bank will (3) charge you an overdraft fee for letting your balance dip below zero, and then (4) charge you a second overdraft fee because you didn’t have sufficient funds to cover the first overdraft fee.
This is called “customer service.”
Your other choice is to keep a wad of cash in the freezer. This is a bad strategy if you are an avid collector of half-empty cartons of old, drippy ice cream. In that case, a workable counter-strategy is to invest in the really high quality brands of Ziplock baggies, which really keep your money dry.
Our financial adviser (who speaks directly into my ear at 4 a.m. She has a querulous voice tinged with panic, and sounds just like me) has counseled us to diversify our portfolio. So now we keep our Regular Money in the bank, and our Frivolous Whim/Horrible Emergency Money in the freezer.
For an even niftier fiscal maneuver, try letting your prudent, thrifty super-ego save money, while allowing your idiot, scatterbrained id to forget all about it. Then, one day, your ego (who is in charge of cooking) will be gloomily surveying the dark landscape of Dinners Yet to Come, and in between the freezer-burned pork chops and the eleven chicken carcasses that never will be soup, you will see something. Something . . .
Could it be? Yes, yes, it’s a Ziplock bag! And inside it is . . .
Aw, you thought I was going to say $250. No, it’s only $42. The label on the bag says $250, but you had to spend part of it on a new spinner thing for the washing machine, and part of it on the great Tooth Fairy Amnesty Pay-Off, in which each child aged 5 to 12 got $5 and was counseled to move on with their lives.
But that leaves $42! Enough to settle either your bank fees or your library fines, with some left over to buy some brand new ice cream for the freezer.
Isn’t that a good system? God bless America.
Today’s guest post is written by a fine woman who more or less strong-armed me into being her friend. Like so many fabled relationships, it all began online. And, if a restraining order means anything at all anymore, it’ll stay there.
However, I want it known that this post was published entirely of my own free will, and has nothing to do with blackmail, coercion, or any kind of weird, contagious, free-floating Italian guilt (is that a thing?). We both like to tease, but deep down are decent people; and so most of our correspondence begins: “Um, you know that was just a joke, right? I like your hair!” or “Stay away from my husband, homewrecker!”
Again, for the record: Justine Schmiesing is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life, and that is the reason she’s writing this guest post today. That and that she’s damn funny, and should probably stop being a blog hog and open up her writing for public consumption again.
One more thing: if you have a question for Dear Justine, send it to me at simchafisher [at] gmail [dot] com and I will be sure to forward it to her.
DEAR JUSTINE: When a Spoonful of Sugar Just Isn’t Enough
School’s out for the year, and now my kids are complaining about having to help around the house. I’ve read parenting articles that encourage turning chores into games, but the games are never ones my kids want to play. Any suggestions?
Doubting Mary Poppins
Ah summer! Those crazy, lazy days when everyone stops eating, using the bathrooms, and wearing clothes.
No wait, that’s heaven.
So unless you LIKE being the only one stuck slaving away inside during the pool party, it’s perfectly reasonable to mobilize your troops and make them pitch in to clean up the mess that they are, very likely, responsible for.
My kids hate chores, but they are always up for a game. Of course, MY favorite housecleaning games are based on movies I don’t allow the little tykes to watch (likeAliens and Predator), but here are a few of my kids’ picks that are almost equally fun and effective.
Player is handed an object by parent and instructed to put it away where it belongs. Player then pretends the object is too hot to carry all the way and shoves it in the first available hiding spot. Player loses if parent finds the object before they forget who they told to put it away.
(Single or multiple players)
Game begins with parent assigning a chore (like clearing the table or picking up toys). Players perform assigned duties until parent steps out of the room, then players freeze in place and do not move again until parent returns.
Players win if chore takes three times longer to complete than it should have.
Players are assigned a task that involves them working at a slight distance from parent, anywhere from the next room over to the backyard. Players take turns shouting at the top of their lungs, “So-and-so, why aren’t you HELPING?” “So-and-so, GET UP and HELP!” Game is won if parent shows up and spanks So-and-so. Game is lost if parent shows up and spanks everyone. (Town Cryer can be played in conjunction with Unfreeze Tag for double the fun.)
Game begins with parent giving a message to one player assigning a chore to the second player. First player delivers the message, with the option to add their own embellishments (like, “Ha-Ha”, and “I don’t haaave to”). Second player may choose to obey the messenger, ignore the messenger, or shoot the messenger. If messenger is ignored or shot, they may choose to tattle on the second player or shoot back. Game ends when both players are separated and assigned double chores.
Blind Man’s Bluff
(Single player version)
Player cleans their bedroom in such a manner that parent can’t tell whether or not a blind man did it.
The Blame Game
(Two or more players)
Game begins when parent (preferably Mom) questions why an assigned group chore has not been completed. Players take turns blaming each other and saying “Nah-AHH!” while parent tries to sort out the truth through all the confusion. Game is won if Mom starts crying. Game is over if Dad comes home.
Last, but not least, Daddy’s favorite…
(As many players as necessary)
Players who are have lost their focus and motivation to do chores properly use paper and pencil to hand copy Pope John Paul II’s encylical Laborem exercens, (On Human Work) until they are found again.
So the next time you pull out the vacuum and hear a loud whining sound before it’s even plugged in, just remember that even though Julie Andrews’s charges were only kid actors who cheerfully did what they were told because they got paid a lot of money, she sure got it right when she sang, “Find the fun and SNAP! the job’s a game!”
Today I’m over at The Inside Blog, talking about a new take on modesty. The blogging wife of a protestant minister at Musings of a Young Mom (don’t worry, her writing is much better than the title of her blog) argues that excessive modesty objectifies women (which reminds of me of gluttonous thin people).
And we’re off to the fair! That’s not an expression – we really are off to the fair, and expect to be half-dead by early afternoon.
She lists her five favorite Catholic devotions, and she wants to know what mine (and yours) are.
Now, I’m in kind of a spot here.
On one hand, the last six months or so have seen me practicing Catholic devotions in the same way as my three-year-old has been practicing personal hygiene: whining and screaming and making things so miserable for everyone that, more often than not, we just skip it and walk away disgusted.
On the other hand, whatever Lizzie wants, Lizzie gets.
Just to make things harder on myself, I’m going to list seven, not five, so I can do Seven Quick Takes. Maybe the extra two will count as doing mortification. That’s a devotional, right?
Seven Favorite Catholic Devotions
I think of novenas as spritual interventions — not “We pray for divine intervention,” but like: “Well, do you think it might help if we held an intervention?” A nine-step program, if you will. You don’t set these things up for everyday problems. Nobody enjoys it, and we’d all rather be somewhere else, but if this doesn’t work, then nothing will. I kind of imagine the Holy Spirit slumping resignedly in a folding chair, drinking tepid coffee and willing at least to hear us out.
It’s been a long, long time. I’ve made dozens of resolves to sign up again, but I keep putting it off. But when we were going, my husband and I signed up as a couple, and each went on alternate weeks. Just two hours a month each, but it Made A Difference.
Sometimes when you go into the chapel, you feel wonderful. You feel like you’re coming home from a long and miserable trip, when everyone missed you terribly and is so glad to see you.
And sometimes you feel like a bored, itchy hypocrite who has no business taking up space in this weird, demanding religion. But I heard someone compare Adoration to standing in the sun: you may not notice it happening, but it will surely change you.
This is not so much a favorite devotion as an inescapable one. It’s kind of like taking your vitamins: it’s so easy, and it couldn’t hurt, so you might as well just do it every night. Gulp.
My kids enjoy it (we only do one decade a night) because eventually they will get to lead us in praying The Ascension. The little rats read “‘Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’” and then they deliberately pausebefore continuing with “Hail Mary . . .” so they can make one or two inattentive people think we’re up to the Glory Be already. They also like to trap house guests that way. Isn’t that nice? They’re wonderful children.
The Chaplet of Transition in Labor
When I’m in labor, I offer up the pain for people who suffer infertility. That sounds a lot more pious than it really is. Really, the only good thing about delivering babies is that, for once, you have something truly horrible to offer up–but, unlike other sacrifices, such as fasting or doing good works, you can’t get out of it. So you might as well try and get something out of it (besides the baby, I mean). Also “For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us, and on the whole world” is nice and rhythmic, and helps you breathe steadily.
ברוך אתה ה’ א‑לוהינו מלך העולם, שהכל נהיה בדברו.
Ha ha, got you there! When I was little, we used to say the Hebrew blessing before meals (later, I found out it was Hebrew with a Brooklyn accent), and then we’d say it in English: “Blessed art Thou, o Lord our God, King of the universe, by Whose word all things exist.” It has such a wonderful rhythm of certainty at the end: “By Whose word All. Things. Exist.” I don’t know how to read Hebrew (although I did once advise someone on whether or not her mezuzah was upside down, so I know that much), but here is a transliteration of the prayer: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha‑olam, she‑hakol nih’ye bidvaro; and here is someone saying it.
There are actually several different prayers before meals, depending on what kind of food you will be eating. This may very well be technically the wrong prayer to use every day, but, you know, there’s a New Covenant and all. You’re covered.
Palming it Off On Someone Else
largely because I feel inept as an intercessory pray-er, and so had a hope that maybe somebody out there in the audience might have the charism I lack when it comes to having a clue how to pray. I thought I was being very clever fobbing this off on others; but, of course, what I stupidly failed to foresee was that this would inevitably result in lots more prayer requests for everything under the sun. I continue to post them, along with my fumbling two cents in the courts of the Almighty, advising Him on how to proceed. I haven’t the slightest clue whether my prayers do a lick of good for the person making the prayer request. But I figure that if I mix my prayers in with others who are closer to the Throne, then maybe they’ll get lost in the pack and I will look like I know what I’m doing.
I’m lazy enough to pass along a prayer request before actually praying about it myself, but scrupulous enough to feel bad about it; so generally, the act of making it public is enough to help me to remember to say at least a quickie prayer myself. Whereas if I only realize I should be praying for something, I’m all too prone to mistaking “I should pray about this” for actually praying. Maybe God, in his generosity, accepts even good intentions as prayer, but I’m not counting on it.
Act of Contrition
I love the Church so much. She knows that we’re so lame, so stupid, so weak and lazy that not only do we have to be required to go to confession once a year, but we need help figuring out how to say “I’m sorry.” Isn’t it great to have those words? They say it all — everything you’re thinking, and everything you ought to be thinking — and it feels so good to say them.
O my god, I am truly sorry for having offended Thee. I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.
Whew. I mean, Amen.
Oh, wait! Here’s a bonus one.
A Strange Child’s Prayer
When my oldest daughter was about four, she wrote a prayer of her own. She understood the gerneral lingo, if nothing else. I wish I could find the baby book for this General Act of Praying, but the ended with: “Holy, holy, holy. Isn’t it holy?”
And don’t forget to check out Conversion Diary for other Seven Quick Takes, and link up if you’re doing your own!
No one asked for it, but today I’m reprinting something from my old blog. It has special meaning for me, because it marks the day that an entire branch of my extended family stopped speaking to me.
In the “I’m Too Late For a Dentist Appointment To Key Your Car Right Now, But I’ll Get You Later” department, we have this bumper sticker:
which has been cropping up all over our area.
I live near a college town, which makes me, by definition, fatter, slower, less hip, and more endarkened than 60% of the population. Bumper stickers abound: mostly of the “I heart peace/let’s behead Bush” variety.
The cars so intelligently adorned seem to congregate outside a store called “The Hemporium.” I always enjoy passing by this place, because it has a huge banner over the door, proclaiming: “Come in and educate yourself!” irresistibly bringing to mind the Lilo and Stitch alien Pleakley,
an Earth enthusiast who devotes himself to the preservation of the mosquito food chain.
Anyway, as a claustrophobic, misanthropic, misogynistic, pediphobic, clutter-hating mother of twenty-seven who lives in a self-storage unit, I’m all for coexisting. I’ve even been known to . . . are you ready for this? . . . tolerate people who aren’t exactly like me. Mainly because everyone I know has managed, through twelve step programs and extensive plastic surgery, to avoid being exactly like me.
If by “coexist” you mean “don’t kill people who don’t agree with you,” I am all for that (although I’m not sure who worries that this message is going unheard in rural Southern New Hampshire). Or if there are people who do need to hear this message . . . you really think a bumper sticker will change their minds? Do me a favor and go nag yourselves, if you know what I mean.
I guess it wouldn’t be so grating if it just spelled out its little one-word sermon in regular letters, although I realize the message would lost some of its putative punch that way. I see what they’re trying to do by using symbols as letters: they’re trying to say that all of these ideas–Christianity, Judaism, Peace (which is separate from Christianity, dontcha know), Yin Yangitude, etc.– all fit together into one large, overarching shelter called “coexistence.”
It’s terribly fashionable to take important, very specific ideas and paste them into a collage demonstrating Everythingness. They’re trying to say, “Can’t we all just get along?” without sounding like a punchline.
Well, this is worse than using a picture of child’s face as a mouse pad, which is unseemly. This is worse than using the American flag as boxer shorts or dish towels, which is disrespectful. By using meaningful symbols as mere letters in a word, this bumper sticker subsumes the significant and specific into a suffocating mass of indiscriminate acceptance.
Don’t use the cross as a T, okay? And don’t use the star of David as an X. They’re not, like, logos for “Jesus Brand” and “Judaism, Inc.” Don’t tell me “it’s just a design” or “we were going for the visual impact — don’t read too much into it.” You should be glad someone’s paying attention to your message.
I don’t think it’s blasphemous; I just think it’s dangerously careless. Are you sure you want to just swallow down that soup without checking out the ingredients first? A few of those symbols look awfully prickly.
And fish that cross out for me! I need it.
Come on over and see me at Faith and Family today (for real this time!), where I have a short interview with a young, gay, faithful Catholic man. You’ll like him — he’s so clean and articulate! But something tells me Joe Biden would not be impressed.
And hello and welcome to Faith and Family and Creative Minority Report readers. Stick around for tomorrow, when we will . . . okay, I have no idea what we will be doing tomorrow. The Jerk, who usually reviews movies on Thursdays, is taking a few days off. I think he found himself singing along with Pat Benetar during the big climax in The Legend of Billy Jean,
and is going on a retreat to reassess his life goals. But he will be back!
Vaya con Dios, The Jerk.
I was shopping with my eight-year-old son, and the checkout lane was the usual gauntlet of trashy magazines. I was about say my usual warning line, which is, “Do yourself a favor and don’t look at that garbage,” when I heard him GASP.
“Look!” he said, “–Kittens!”
Sure enough, it was a picture of kittens:
I love that kid.
I also love my other, 6-year-old son, of course, but he would not have focused on the kittens. He’s more this kind of guy:
Anyone have a nice six-year-old daughter who goes for the handsy type? I’d like to arrange a marriage now.
Today, I’m really glad to have a Monday joke lined up, because I’m going to do something kind of awful first, and I don’t want you to be mad at me.
Here is this video. I guess it’s a local TV station that gives political candidates a minute or so to make their case directly to the voter. So here’s what one guy came up with:
Now, being a kind and generous person, I thought to myself, “Wellllllll . . . maybe he just has super duper stage fright. Maybe he actually does have something to say, but he is just extra, extra, unbelievably bad at conveying ideas.
So what if he forgot to brush his hair? So what if he sounds like a combination of Sylvester the Cat and Homestar Runner? Who cares that he introduces himself in a somewhat less-than-gubernatorial fashion by saying, “Hi, I’m Basil Marceaux Dot Com”? It is still possible that he has a good idea in there somewhere.
That is what motherhood does to your power of discernment. If mothers weren’t able to say “shush” to what reason is screaming in our ears, then our six-year-old sons would be in big, big trouble.
So, half in charity and half in morbid curiosity, I checked out his website.
Okay, so it turns out that . . . well, whatever conclusion you jumped to when you saw his video, you were right.
My favorite part is that there is the homepage, and then there is a link to page four. Pages two and three? What are you, some kind of elitist?
This, my friends, is disorderly thinking on a heroic scale. Other information that Ithink I gathered from reading the least informative prose ever (and I once saw a book report that went: “The Littel Airplane. It is about a littel airplane”):
- He definitely got arrested at some point.
- He doesn’t like the flag? Or it’s the wrong flag, or something. I believe he is saying there is a goldfish on one flag, but he wants the one with three stripes to come back. In the service of this goal, he was hit many times with a stun gun.
- He seems to be proposing that, in order to save money in gassing up public vehicles, we should plant corn in the medians of highways, and convert the harvest into biofuel.
Sorry, folks. Basil Marceaux is, of course, a child of God like the rest of us, and it’s not nice to make fun. But I died laughing just the same.
Well, anyway, here’s the much more seemly joke I promised–no victim, no crime! I got this one from my sister, again, who should have her own blog, or at least get royalties from mine.
Oh, and despite my flagrant nepotism, I’m still collecting jokes! Send your best joke to simchafisher at gmail dot com. (Hi, I’m Simcha Fisher Dot Com.)
The philosophy department is having a meeting, and an angel appears and offers the department head one blessing: he may choose wisdom, beauty, or ten million dollars. He hesitates for just a moment and then chooses wisdom.
There’s a sound of trumpets and the guy becomes too bright to look at for a few seconds. Then silence. He is staring down at the table, and all the other professors say to him, “Say something!!”
He looks up at them and says, “I should have picked the money.”