Wordy Wednesday

Well, what’s the good of having your own blog if you can’t show off your pretty kids?  I was going to join in on Wordless Wednesday, a sort of community blogging project which encourages you to speak volumes without using words, and everyone who joins in gets links to each other’s photos.  But I got kind of hung up on the “no words” part.  I tried, I really did.  But then I just kept talking.

Well, some of my readers from the old blog may remember our little one who was born early, wasn’t gaining weight, gave us all a scare by being so sleepy and weak?  So, here she is today:

Blossoming, as you can see.

We had another little girl about 14 months ago.  We . . . how shall I say?  We worry less about her ability to seek out nourishment:

Okay, that’s it for today!  My one brother has been in Arizona for a year, and the other has been in Rome, but they’re both coming to see us this afternoon, so I gotta go buy some meat and beer post-haste.  Have a lovely day, everyone!

So Tell Me: your NFP jokes

(photo source)

Yesterday was the summer solstice:  the longest day of the year.  If you attended St. Peter Homeschool, you’d know that this is because the earth and the sun are aligned in such a way that the shadow of the moon falls directly on both poles simultaneously, which cools the oceans to the degree that the earth becomes slightly heavier, slowing its rotation and  prolonging the nighttime, which, in turn, prolongs the day, too, because of 24  hours in a day.  Plus solar flares. Have I mentioned we’re sending the kids to private school next year?

Actually it’s not technically a private school.  The headmaster kept stressing that their curriculum was based  on the manufacture of license plates.  I guess for  geography?  You know what?  That’s a valuable skill, and plus they say that uniforms have a calming effect on the student body.

Speaking of long days, I think I’m ready to talk about NFP again.  I hold the dubious distinction of having written one of the only Inside Catholic articles which turned so nasty so fast, they had to shut the comments down.  But hey hey, long days, know what I’m talkin’ about?  Ennnnd of the day?  As in, it turns out that 10:00 a.m. is not actually the end of the day.  (It was a girl; 8 lbs., 3 oz.)

So tell me. . .

 

(that’s the name of a new feature I’m starting for days when I told the kids we would go to the beach and I don’t have  time to actually write something) .  .  .

I know that many of my readers have pet names for things related to NFP.   For instance, we use Creighton,  which tracks fertility by tracking (stop reading now, men) cervical mucus.  So when my husband needs to know the forecast for tonight, he doesn’t want to cast a pall on the festivities by getting all technical.  Instead, he’ll simply and romantically ask, “How’s your goop?”  (What can I say?  He’s cute.  It sounds cute when he says it.)

He also, in a stroke of foolhardy brilliance, once called my progesterone cream  “nutter butter.”

One of my sisters used to write a column about NFP, and cleverly called it “Signs and Wonders.”  This quickly morphed into something even more  clever and more appropriate:  “Slimes and Blunders.”

So tell me  . . . what’s the NFP joke at your house?  I hope you have one.  Because, if I ever  (God forbid) taught NFP, the first thing I would teach is how to joke about it.

You don’t have to keep it squeaky clean, folks, but let me make a request:  if you think the use of NFP is sinful, then write about that on your own blog, okey doke?  NFP is not inherently sinful, and people’s reasons for postponing conception are complicated, individual, and above all private.   If I come home all cranky and covered with sand, and find that the comment box is  filled with self-righteous lectures about the sinfulness of NFP, I will have a little deleting party, possibly following by a banning-for-life party.   Same goes for comments mocking Catholics for using  NFP when everyone knows that the only sane thing to do is insert a scarring metal spring into your fallopian tube, or whatever disgusting procedure your OB/GYN is being paid to push this week.

Okay?  Okay, go!

Espressivo

(photo source)

Glenn Gould is the second person I ever heard who plays Bach properly.  The first one is my father, who is not a very good pianist.

My father has the ear of a great musician.  He takes orchestral scores to bed as a little night reading.  Haydn eludes me, but his music brings my father to tears.  Once, when he was striving to explain sonata form, I coolly answered that I’d rather let the music just wash over me, instead of wrecking the mood by overthinking it.  By the look he gave me, I think he heard me say something like,  “I prefer to let small children be mutilated by elephants, rather than harsh my buzz.”

The radio always played classical music as I was growing up, and the awkward, melancholy voice of Peter Fox Smith was the sound of Saturday afternoon at our house.  We didn’t learn table manners or social skills, but we knew how to behave at a concert, and sneered mercilessly at the dolts who clapped between movements.

We drove 45 minutes in a snowstorm to hear Sally Pinkas play (stopping only when we skidded and rear-ended another driver, who turned out to be the local choir director), and once hauled the old red minivan four hours to watch The Marriage of Figaro at the Met.  We pulled over to the shoulder at the outskirts of the city, hung sheets on the car windows, and changed into our fanciest dresses (and were appalled to see other opera lovers show up in jeans).

But the best music lesson I had was at night, when the sounds of my father’s upright piano floated up through the floorboards of our bedroom.  He often played Bach at night.  He would play the same fugues and partitas over and over again, and he never got any better at them — his fingers just wouldn’t perform what his mind was hearing.  So what I heard as I fell asleep was a halting, passionate, pleadingly tender rendition of these gorgeous melodies — all largo, grave, and always con espressivo — never in the prestissimo that Bach directed.

I remember first learning that some people are emotionally repelled by the music of Bach, and hear nothing but a dazzlingly intricate array of sound, mathematical, impersonal, elegant and impenetrible.  I was dumbfounded.  My father, with his meager technical skills, laid Bach out bare.  Again and again, struggling to pefect an unusual chord, he would string it out, one note at a time, five or six or seven times in a row.  Occasionally, to our glee, he would call out, “Yahhhhh . . . ” in the note he was trying to find – as if his lost fingers would hearken to him and realize which piano key they were aching for.

So to me, Bach sounds like struggle,  longing, and tireless devotion.  That is still how I hear Bach, even when some hotshot virtuoso zips over the keyboard in the time key that Bach called for.   When I discovered that Glenn Gould is known for slowing Bach down, for drawing out the tempo and turning those breakneck intricacies into vulnerable or exultant songs of the human heart, then it sounded like the real Bach to me.  In fact, Bach sounds like Music to me — like the heart, the tendons, the  inner workings of music.  My other cherished composers – Brahms, Schubert, Mahler – wouldn’t have anything to say if Bach hadn’t said it first, somehow cocooned in a code of speed and density.

I am grateful to Glenn Gould for revealing the heartbreaking beauty of Bach, and I’m grateful to my father for revealing his unburnished talent to his family.  From him came music.  A clever teacher can produce clever students; but, in music as in all other things, only love begets love.

Let’s not play games.

A friend of mine, a lovely woman, is having a baby soon.  (Really soon.  We compared notes yesterday on how significant it really is, driving-to-the-hospital-wise, when you can’t shake the feeling that the baby is not so much getting into position as trying to make a break for it)  And I’m throwing her a shower.

Her personality blooms at the crossroads of thrift, elegance, quirkiness and artistry, so although the party would be small, I wanted it to be special.  A gazebo by the river was reserved; mini quiches were baked.  Food, drink, music, and decorations were all in place.  The only thing left to arrange was the games.

I know, I know.  Why do we have to play games?  I remember all too clearly the childhood humiliation of being forced to run around and do stupid stunts (they called it phys. ed.; I called it hell) — and I’ve been to a few adult parties, too, where games are enforced.  There I’d be, finally wearing something that hadn’t been peed on, finally able to sit down without an outraged howl of “Hey, dat MY chair!” ; finally able to put down my glass of wine where I can reach it, instead of where minors can’t — in short, finally able to act like an adult.

And then someone leaps out shrieking, “Okay, everybody, let’s SIT ON BALLOONS!”   No one listens to my protests that I’m fine, I’m having fun, I’m having a lovely time — I’m drinking, aren’t I?  But they insist that I get up right now and start passing lemons around with my chin.  Some party.

Nevertheless, when planning a party of my own, I was haunted by the fear that a group of intelligent, friendly women, well-supplied with snacks, shade, and a very obvious topic of conversation, would somehow fall silent after the first three minutes and just sit there, gazing unhappily at their laps.  They would silently cursing me in their hearts because I hadn’t filled a baby bottle with jelly beans for them to estimate.  Maybe the mother-to-be would think I secretly hated her, and had deliberately stolen two  of her precious, pre-birth hours when she could have been spending that time doing something pleasant and fulfilling, like scrubbing grout.  Or maybe some of the guests would swear off childbearing altogether, thinking that the misery and dullness of this awful, awful party foreshadowed the tedium of motherhood itself, and then I personally would be responsible for a significant decline in the ability of western culture to sustain its own population.

Yeah, I’m not really the sociable type.

Well, I figured that maybe things would go well, and maybe they wouldn’t.  If they didn’t, I had better have a few games on hand.  So I turned to Google, and started to search.

Pregnancy does strange things to people.  Having had eight children in the last twelve years, I know this better than anyone (except, possibly, for my husband, who has put himself into the Pregnancy Witness Protection Program.  With this valuable service, any father can, for his own emotional protection, undergo cauterization of certain cerebral areas involved with traumatic memories).  I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night to eat an entire can of lemonade powder, one spitty fingerful at a time.  I’ve gotten into screaming arguments with strangers in the middle of a four-lane intersection because when he puts his truck right there, I can’t see around him, and I can’t tell if I can cross the street or not.  I’ve broken into tears while reading that well-known tragedy, Mouse Tales (it was that moving passage in which the Old Mouse’s pants fall down, and his own wife wouldn’t help him, but only gave him a hit on the head with a rolling pin.  It gets me every time).

Pregnancy makes you crazy.  It’s just the awful truth, and the only good news is no one will tease you about it, because they are all afraid you will sit on them.

But new to me was the idea that pregnancy could make other people this crazy.  I read on and on, spellbound with horror, imagining what hideous mob of feeble minded harpies could enjoy such barbaric rituals,  disguised by the innocuous name of “baby shower games.”

Some of them weren’t so much horrible, as terminally lame.  They had no entertainment value at all, unpleasant or otherwise — they were just little time killers dressed up with a theme of pacifiers or alphabet blocks.

Some of them were designed, for reasons I am fearful to contemplate, to humiliate the pregnant woman.  For instance, you can’t really consider it a shower, the websites implied — you could hardly feel certain that the woman was pregnant at all, really — unless the guests had to guess the circumference of the guest of honor.

Now, call me old-fashioned, but me no likey.  By the time the shower rolls around, most mothers-to-be are very close to spherical themselves.  They feel like there is just no end to them, and they don’t want to be reminded of this fact.  It doesn’t have anything to do with a sexually damaged culture of death which doesn’t recognize the beauty of a pregnant form, blah blah blah.  It’s just that, when sitting on the toilet has become a major feat of engineering, the whole, “Ho ho, you are HUGE!” thing loses some of its humorous edge.

There was one game that I felt ought to be flagged in some way, or possibly passed on to the local law enforcement’s tip line:  you take a bunch of those miniature plastic babies, and you freeze them.  In ice cubes.  I guess this kind of thing seems normal enough if you’ve spent any time near a fertility clinic lately, but to the rest of us, I would think the sight of those little ones suspended in ice would make me feel sad, even panicked.  Yes, I know they’re just plastic, but still! I guess the maternal instinct has been sufficiently shouted down so that little newborn-cubes seems like a cute gimmick.  And what do you do with the poor little ones?  Drop them in your drink, of course!  And whosever baby thaws the fastest, wins.  Wins a heart, I hope.

I’m not proud to admit that I have been known to sneak around at social events, stealing other people’s drinks.  I’ve given up that kind of thing, but on this one occasion, I think I would be justified.  I’d lose a lot of friends, but I would have rescued all those poor plastic babies, anyway, and I wouldn’t be sorry.

Speaking of sorry:   Before the fad is over and people wake up, shaking their heads as if to clear a disturbing dream, it’s likely you will come across a new game that’s wowing all the ladies this year.  So arrange now for an “emergency call” from your “babysitter,” and you will be able to leave in a hurry if you’re at a shower and someone says, “Hey, let’s play the candy bar game!”

What could be so bad about candy bars?  Well, howzabout we take a nice selection of them, melt them down until they’re gooey and shapeless, and slap each one into a diaper.   Yes, pooplike.  Then we pass them around . . . at a party, let’s not forget . . .and we poke them into each guest’s face, and we say, “Smell!”  The idea is to see how many types of candy bar  you can identify without their wrappers.

But . . . but –

Well, if you can’t see what’s wrong with this game, and I can, then I guess I’m feeling better about my social skills after all.

One final travesty cleverly disguised as pleasant entertainment:  the teddy bear game.  Picture, if you will, the puzzled giggles that ensue while you tell the guests, “Teddy bear wants a kiss!  Go ahead, pass him around and give him a kiss!  Wherever you want, but you have to kiss him somewhere!”  And then, once everyone has kissed the bear, you explain what it’s all for:  you have to kiss the guest of honor . . . on the same place that you kissed the teddy bear.

An alert guest would smell a rat, I think, and kiss that damn bear on the cheek or the paw.  But woe to anyone who got cute and headed below the waist.  It’s not just that this could be embarrassing for everyone involved:  it could be downright deadly.  I don’t know about you, but when I’m in my third trimester, the only thing larger than my belly is the envelope of gas that follows me around.  Wowee!

Well, maybe I’m not the ideal one to throw a shower.  All of my ideas seem to center around finding some comfortable chairs, and making sure there will be enough juice boxes to keep the kids from annoying us.  But I know one thing for sure:  anyone who shoves a used diaper in my face and tells me to smell it is going to get a spanking.  And not in the fun party way, either.

A fart bus of one’s own

You know and I know that when I quit blogging, it was the right thing to do.

 

After I laid my blog to rest, the only daily stats I analyzed were our household reserves of cheap coffee and gin.  I tracked the number of  visits from the tooth fairy, the poop fairy, and the truant officer, but that was all.  I was never tempted to do anything wacky or force any spiritual insights about motherhood just so I’d have something to write about, and that was a big relief to everyone (especially the poop fairy.  I owe that guy some sick leave, believe me).

I spent more time with my family, and less time arguing with Anon. about whether the catechism somehow secretly allows for certain personal methods of the personal relief of personal tension, provided that your wife doesn’t understand you.  (Sir, if you’re reading this, I do pray for you from time to time, but I’d really like you to stay the hell out of my new combox.  Seriously:   ew.)

When I quit blogging, I never had to justify putting off  the school day while the Crispix on the floor  got hard and the children under the table got soggy, because I was still searching for an image of, oh, say, a sad goldfish.  Yes yes, Mama wuvs you, too, but you gotta leave me and Google alone until we find just the right uncopyrighted diagram of a manual eggbeater that will really drive my point home.

When I stopped blogging, the monthly checks for $1. 83 from Google Adsense stopped rolling in.   And, somehow at the same time, I had to confess vanity less often.

But I missed writing.  It’s not that I had anything to say, mind you.  I just missed saying it.  So, just days before my eighth child was born and against medical advice (from the baby, who was trying as hard as she could to get me to wet my pants), I accepted an offer to blog for InsideCatholic.  Now, the other folks there contribute pithy and astute commentary on politics, the arts, science, and Catholic culture.  I, conversely, link to a news story called “Middle Schooler Banned For Causing a Stink”about a kid who was prosecuted for deliberately farting on the bus.  (To my credit, I haven’t actually posted that one yet, but that’s mostly because I haven’t found a better title than, “I tol’ ‘em it wuddn’t me.”)

My fellow IC bloggers have been more than gracious, and I’m not quitting or anything.   But I think I’d just like to have a place where I don’t feel sheepish all the time.  A little bus of my own, you might say, where farting is allowed.  Whoopee!  Also, I like the idea of being able to mock, threaten, and expel people just because I’m the only one who knows what the password is.  Also:  I’m sure you’re a nice lady, but “comma-dot-dot-dot” is not the all-purpose punctuational solution you think it is,  so please don’t try that here.

My name is Simcha Fisher.   I write because I feel sad and stupid when I’m not writing.  But that doesn’t mean that what I write isn’t sad and stupid.  It is, it is!

Welcome, and please be patient as I get used to this routine again.  So far, my relationship with WordPress has been less than ravishing, but we shall see.  Also, I can’t remember how to change the font of the post titles, so you’ll have to put up with Cauterized Shelfwear Sans Serif, or whatever it’s called.  Anyway, hi, everyone!  Say hello, so I know you’re still out there!

Thank you.

Thank you so much, everyone, for making my first blogging day so nice.  I haven’t felt so validated since the nurse at the hospital looked at the scale and said, “You know, for a mom of eight, that’s not as bad as it could be.”

As a way of showing my appreciation, I’d like to share the following image with you.  It may seem a little dated at first, but I think you’ll find that, with proper attention, it will begin to haunt your dreams, and before you know it, you won’t even be able to remember what life was like before you saw:

Holy corn-eating-Kerry-on-a-trampoline, I wish we had a different president now.

Yeah yeah, I’ve used this picture before.  It’s an image so nice, I violated copyright twice.

Kids these days

During my rounds of scholarly research today, I learned something:  kids these days are morons.

Yes, in my youth, we had a game called “water school,” where we would let the hose gush into the street and down the hill until the water was nice and warm in the sunshine, and then we would lie down in it.  In the middle of the street.  The sunshine and the mellow water with the heated pavement below were beyond relaxing, just heavenly — except for all the honking, and the screeching brakes.

We also used to ride a mattress down the stairs.  This one wasn’t actually that dangerous, because at the bottom of the stairs was a rickety metal bookcase full of art books, which would collapse repeatedly and slow the mattress down at the end.

We, um, set rolls of toilet paper on fire.

But kids these days!   First,  here’s a story which, to be honest, smells a little hoax-y to me:  eyballing vodka.  Apparently kids pour vodka directly into their eyeballs , because you can get drunk faster that way, and because parents can’t smell alcohol on your breath if you haven’t been drinking with your mouth.  Sheer genius!

I see a few problems with this system.  Granted, I don’t have teenagers yet, and so I can’t be absolutely sure of how easily I will be fooled if they come home visibly trashed.  But still.  I remember when my older sister returned from a Christmas party staggering and giggling more than usual, so she received a little stern questioning from my father.  “I’m not drunk!”  she protested.  “Look, I can keep a strange face!”  Let me tell you, he didn’t need to smell her eyeballs then.

The other problem is that I suspect that any kid who is doing this (if that isn’t actually just water in the bottles.  As I said, this story a little fishy to me)  hasn’t actually ever been drunk, and is mistaking the excruciating agony of ALCOHOL IN YOUR EYEBALLS for being intoxicated.

Well, I’m afraid that I actually believe this second story, which I found at that treasure trove of cultural analysis, Dave Barry’s blog :  it’s a new game called . . . wait, this is a game?  It’s called “sack tapping.”  Yeah, that kind of sack — sorry.  According to ABC News,  one doctor

compares sack tapping to the common game of “chicken,” where boys take turns hitting each other to see who can take the most hits without calling off the game.”Games like this are to see how tough you are,” he says. “It’s a way of establishing dominance and because it’s hard to withstand being hit in the groin, it becomes a good measure of toughness.”

“It’s a pride thing, and by posting it to the Internet it’s like proof. There’s no doubt about your toughness; the whole world can see.”

Well, I guess so.  Along with a heaping helping of old fashioned, grade A stupidity, there’s a measure of toughness involved in playing this type of game.

Not much foresight, though.  I mean, who’s going to be left to appreciate you on You Tube in all your sack-tapped glory if they’ve all gone blind from pouring vodka in their eyes?