7 Quick Takes: “Things that fell out of my poor suffering brain” Edition

I have taken up being sick and angry as a full-time job this week.  So this is what you get.

–1–

We got about as much snow as anyone did the other day, and now we can’t find our garbage cans.  Usually my husband shovels, but when his back is out and the rest of us are half dead with our post-strep throat cold which we picked up in the hospital when my son got his tonsils out – – well, then we call the plow guy.

Being a hard-working New England girl, I always feel guilty about hiring a plow until I see the work that he does, and how it takes approximately four-and-a-half minutes.  Then I think about how it would take us approximately four-and-a-half hours to do a much crappier job with a shovel, and I think, “That is what money is for.”  He’s cheap, too!  And nice.

In fact, after he plowed, he told me that if we ever wanted work done on the house (last summer he converted our old shower into a laundry area), he would be happy to do it at cost.

Why would someone do that?  I’m seriously wondering.  Does he just like being with us?  Or has he secretly spotted gold ore in the walls and wants a piece of it?  Or what?

–2–

This:

was a huge part of my childhood, along with these things:

(On the flip side of the record was “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport.”  In this recording, they seem to have taken out the “Let me abos go loose, Bruce.”  I didn’t find out until much later that “abo” was offensive slang for “aboriginal.”  I always thought he was saying “elbow,” and thought it was an odd desire for a dying man.)

–3–

It’s funny enough when kids pronounce things oddly, but it’s even funnier when they used to say it right, but suddenly, for reasons of their own, start saying it in some new, strange, wrong way.  Every morning, the three-year-old asks for oatmeal.  About a week ago, though, she expressed a strong desire for “oitmeal,” and that’s what she’s been saying ever since.  And the baby, who is 21 months old, started saying “hyelp” instead of “help,” for some reason.  So we hear, in a suffering little voice, “Mama, mama, hyelp me!  You come hyelp my sock!”

She has gone back to asking to “nurse,” however, which is sad.  Originally, she said “nurse,” which transformed into “nurd,” which morphed, to my delight, into “nurdle.”  “Mama, I want to nurdle!”  And nurdle we would.

–4–

Relatedly, I’m still getting a huge kick out of having a baby who is still nursing, but can talk.  She is something of a comedian, and likes to think of punchlines while she is nursing.  Then she unplugs for a minute, makes sure I’m looking at her, and says, “Aaaa-OOOOO-gah!”  and then latches back on, grinning.  Or a couple of times, she was apparently thinking about Godzilla, because she took a break just long enough to say, “Grrrr. Aaaahhh!”

–5–

I think this machine has been around for years, but I guess it’s now smaller and available to the public?  It’s the Thing-o-matic, “a ‘factory in a box’ that claims to create any three-dimensional object out of plastic in a matter of minutes.”  You have to start with a 3-D schematic image, I guess, which apparently you can get with Google in some way.  This video seems to show an earlier version of the machine, making a model of the Statue of Liberty.

 

Astonishing machine, but the name needs some hyelp.

–6–

I was behind a car with so many enlightened bumper stickers, I expected the whole thing to start levitating on a cloud of self-righteousness.  The most egregious one said, “I’m already against the next war.”  Excellent!  I’ll be sure to notify the alien overlords, when they come to attack, that the occupants of that car are such fine, gentle, wise people that they do not wish to be defended.  I also wonder if they are against all past wars, as well as potential future ones?  Big fans of George III, slavery, and the Third Reich?  And whatever that French and Indian thing was about?  Bah.

I also saw another car that had the following decals lined up across the rear window:  Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Knights of Columbus, Rotary, and KISS.  I think I’d rather be friends with them.

–7–

Saw another bumper sticker yesterday:  “My other vehicle is my imagination.”  My kids asked me why I was throwing up all over the dashboard.  I guess I’m just sensitive to these things.  Anyway, my 8-year-old son offered that, when he grew up, he was going to have a bumper sticker that says, “VENGEANCE IS SWEET.”  His younger brother wholeheartedly agreed, and it turns out that the two of them were under the impression that personal and bloody vengeance is a thoroughly brilliant and moral career path.

It’s possible that our Bible readings have been a tad heavy on the Old Testament lately.

Simcha’s Guide to Weatherization

If, by chance, you should happen to wake up in the middle of the night and you realize you can see your breath, you may be out of heating oil.

This may surprise you, since it was only a few weeks ago that you also woke up in the middle of the night and realized you could see your breath. Yes, it’s been cold, but that is an awfully fast time to burn through that much oil.  And you were so looking forward to paying the mortgage this month!

So what you do is to pick your way carefully through the basement to check the oil tank, to make sure it’s actually empty.  Maybe it’s only that some rogue vole or porcupine woke from hibernation, stumbled into your basement, leaned tragically against the “emergency off” switch, and died.  One can hope!

While you are down there, try looking around the rest of the basement to see if anything else seems amiss.  If you see something that, in terms of heating ducts being where they should be, looks about as fine as this:

 

then think to yourself, “Gee, look at that.”  Then go back upstairs, make some coffee and some cream of wheat, take the kids to school, go to an appointment or two, entertain a visitor, write some emails, make lunch, do a little laundry, and then have a seat for a minute.

At this point, you should think to yourself, “Wait a minute.”

Then think to yourself, “Wha?”

Then ask yourself, “Who the HUH?”  Again, this is what you saw a few hours ago:

Go back down to the basement, and see if you can figure out what the hell happened here.  With some examination, you may find that the heating duct has been so fabulously, extravagantly weatherized, it’s now much too heavy for the bittle little twist of rusted wire that was supporting it, and that while one end is still connected to the furnace, the other end, which is supposed to be heating the living room, is lolling on the basement floor like a comatose python.  Yay, easy to fix!

Also, it may occur to you at this point that, if there is an 8-inch pipe bellowing hot air into the basement all month

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then that might possibly explain why you ran through that oil so quickly.  Ah so!  See how smart you are getting?  It must be the exhilarating effect of all that blood rushing to your brain from trotting up and down the stairs so many times in a single day.

From here on in, the story gets less interesting.  Pretending not to notice the pathetic little nest made by some enterprising mouse, who had clearly found a balmy but short-lived paradise inside your duct

 

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you just thread some wire coat hangers onto the pipe, screw a few sturdy screws into the ceiling, and hang the thing back up.

It is advisable, at this point, to email your husband several times about your accomplishment, and then when he gets home, ask him if he can go downstairs to “make sure you did it right.”  Husbands: this is the part where you’re supposed to go, “Wow, GEE, nice job with those hangers!  YOU did that with those soft, pretty little hands of yours, did you?  You realize you have saved us over $75,000 in heating bills this afternoon alone!  I also really appreciate you doing this job yourself, rather than making me go down into the basement to do it!” Then, ladies, you can let him come up out of the basement.

Stay tuned next week, when I will be offering a guide on how to keep your marriage strong and healthy by treating your husband like a real man and making him deal with that scrabbling mousy sound you keep hearing in the floor.

Manners, manners

3-year-old:  WAH!  WAH!  WAH!  I WANTED TO CLOSE THE DOOR!  WAHHHH!

Me:  Well, maybe if you ask me politely, I will move over so you can close it.

3-year-old (snuffling, in her most polite voice):  Mama, will you please move your fat bottom?

Demon Pharma

I just got home from my third visit to the pharmacy to get our apparently rare and unheard-of prescription filled.  In case you missed it, we spent Christmas vacation throwing up, thrashing around with fevers, and feeling like we had each swallowed a bundle of toothpick shards wrapped in Velcro and dipped in Tobasco sauce.  Strep throat, all ten of us — and guess what the doctor gave us?  It’s something brand new, called “pen-i-cil-lin.”

Utterly taken aback by this newfangled innovation, the pharmacists requested that I wait five minutes while they get the drugs together.  You know and I know that “five minutes” in pharmacy time is at least half an hour; so I browsed around in the produce aisle for a while, because there is nothing more entertaining than a lot of bags of citrus.  After half an hour, I was told to come back in an hour.

I came back in two hours, and was told that they had most of it — – they just needed to mix it up . . .if I could come back in twenty minutes –

The kids were all waiting in the car all this time, enjoying their Christmas vacation and trying to attract the attention of whatever wandering Child Protective Services agents might be passing by.  So I went home with nine-and-a-half prescriptions.  The next day I went back.  Same routine.  Five minutes, then twenty, then “please come back after noon.”

So the next day — okay, it was actually the next next day, because I forgot — I finally got the second half of my last prescription.  But all this time, I can’t help wondering –

What what what is the deal with pharmacists?  Why are they all so crazy?  Is it the combination of working with the public, plus the emotional stress of dealing with death and disease, plus having to wear those dopey white coats that even doctors don’t have to wear anymore?  Is it the combination of supermarket music and the hissing of the free blood pressure machine?  Or are they all just natural born jerks?

My most recent encounter was with the Head Pharmacy Weirdo, a tall, sleek, squeaky clean man with shiny shoes and an laser-guided part in his chestnut hair. He has this “Voice-Over Man Barely Suppressing Maniacal Rage” routine.  I guess he thinks it sounds polite?  I know it’s not his normal voice, because I once heard him having a personal conversation on the phone, and he was just plain screaming, then.  And swearing a lot.  And then he swiveled back around to the counter and said, in polished tones of urbane repressed fury, “And what can I get for YOU?”

Oh-hhh, just some medicine for my kids, sir, if, if it’s not too much trouble.  I can leave if you want.  Just please don’t hit my bad ear again!

The second pharmacist is a woman who – – I don’t know what it is.  She’s nice enough, and will give me my prescription if I come back three times and prove I really want it.  But there is something about her which suggests that there might just be some reptilian life form coiled up inside her skull, hissing directly into the auditory center of her brain, “Yessss . . . tell her it will only be twenty minutesssssss . . . tell her you just have to mixxxxxxxxxxxxxx it . . . yes, yesss, make her read The Pill Book ssssssome more . . . ”  And those big, friendly eyes just stare and stare at you as you struggle to sign your name with a fake pen on the electronic screen.

Nice lady otherwise, though.

The third pharmacist is actually a rotating position.  It is generally filled by a wholesome-looking man in his early twenties, usually the tender, baby-faced type.  He works hard, shows concern, and appears to know his alphabet.   Kind of jittery, though.  Has a tendency to jump nervously when one of the other pharmacists calls his name; and he doesn’t appear comfortable turning his back to his co-workers.  Just too polite, I guess.   Tender Young Pharmacist #3 generally lasts a month or two, and then he disappears.

And then I notice there is a sale on that body building protein powder.  Special formula!  Private label.

Maybe it’s time to switch pharmacies.

Movie Recommendation: Queen of Hearts

Since my dear husband finally fell victim to the dread plague, I watched a movie by myself last night, while holding a little blue t-shirt in my lap (to signify that I was about to start folding laundry any minute now).

Well, I didn’t get any laundry done, but I did rediscover a wonderful movie that you will love, as long as you’re not my husband.  Really, I don’t know what is wrong with him.  The movie is Queen of Hearts from 1989.

I thought of it because my friend Tiffany was talking about her annual January longing for all things Roman, which she has suffered ever since we spent a semester in Rome our sophomore year in college.  While this movie doesn’t take place in Rome, or even mostly in Italy, it might assuage a little of that ache, being chock full of golden light, a “bella machina” (a gleaming espresso machine with an eagle on top), a horrible old grandmother, and lots of Italian-eyed Italians speaking Italian without subtitles.  It’s mostly in English, but it’s told from the point of view of the little boy, who understands things in his own way — part nonsensical, part funny, part heartbreaking, part exactly the way they are, or ought to be.

It will also assuage your longing for a strange and entertaining story about love and friendship, death and family.  Oh boy, it’s hard to explain this movie without making it sound sappy and awful.  It’s not!  It’s funny, knives and guns are wielded, there is betrayal and cowardice, and everyone still loves each other in the end.  It seems to beavailable for sale only on VHS, but Netflix has it on Instant View.  It’s rated PG.  There are a few brief unsavory elements, but these will likely go over the heads of any innocent viewers.

Many, many memorable scenes and images in this movie, including some incredible interior scenes through the eyes of a dying man.  Excellent acting.  Just a moving, endearing, pleasurable movie all around.  Tiffany, I guarantee you’ll like this movie.  And the rest of you, too!

Christmas Group Shot

Silly me, I thought we would never get around to taking a group photo this year, but there we all are!  I guess this is God’s way of telling us to slow down and have ourselves a streppy little New Year.  Also, He hates us.

Oh, just kidding!  If He hated us, the pharmacy would have run out of penicillin before our order was complete.  Oh, wait, it did.

Meh, it could be worse.  My husband isn’t working this weekend, so we can all have one last chance to enjoy a good old-fashioned family vacation together, sitting around the fire and sipping our disgusting pink medicine, trading good old stories about what we imagined we saw on the ceiling when the fever was at its peak, and tapping out the rhythm of our favorite old songs.  Can’t sing.  Throat hurts.

Really, really, it’s not that bad!  The worst part is the crushing guilt I feel when I think about all those friends and family eating all that fudge and peanut brittle and buckeyes I made with my own, two, plague-ridden hands. . .

7 Slow Takes: Christmas day is over, and now I can die

1.  It’s all very well to say that we should preserve Advent as a penitential season of waiting and preparation, and you shouldn’t jump the gun and celebrate a feast that hasn’t yet arrived.  But you know what that gets you?  One mother having a nervous breakdown trying to get it all together on Christmas eve

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and eight kids who stare at you blankly when you suggest singing Christmas carols. Because they didn’t learn any Christmas carols, because it was Advent.  Next year, we’ll be less liturgical, but more sane.

2.  Homemade peanut brittle is way, way more delicious than store-bought peanut brittle.  But store-bought peanut brittle doesn’t rip hunks of flesh off your hand if you accidentally touch it during the hard crack stage.

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3.  I can’t decide if I’m delighted that our new charter school is so easygoing, or a little disgusted at how truly awful the Christmas concert was.  The upside was that it was held at a Baptist church, so I was able to take the disruptive younguns into a sound proof, glassed-in balcony with fully stocked playroom, complete with changing table, crib, rocking chairs, and piped-in sound (Baptists!).  So I could hear 63 recorders shrieking their way through “Jingle Bells,” but the performers couldn’t hear me moaning in agony through the same.

Meh, the kids are happy, they’re getting a good education, and they sound horrible on the recorder.  Yeah, I guess I’m delighted!

4.  There was a great, big bat swooping around just over the heads of the congregation at midnight Mass, and nobody could figure out what to do.  Isn’t that what the Knights of Columbus are for?

On the other hand, I was blown away by the utter composure of the three priests concelebrating Mass.  They didn’t miss a beat and were utterly focused on the liturgy, even as different sections of the congregation let out little involuntary shrieks and gasps.

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I tried really hard to wrench a metaphor out of the situation, but nothing happened.

5.  We are incapable of not going overboard for Christmas.  It’s far, far too late for us to train the youngsters to be thrilled to find a box of colored pencils and an irregulardickey

under the tree.  So we go a little berserk, and buy them extravagant presents that delight them.  So sue me!  The rest of the year, they’re lucky if I can remember their names.

6.   A few days before Christmas, my son got sick.  Then everyone else got sick, one by one, until everyone except my husband and some miscellaneous toddlers had fever and chills, severe sore throats, vertigo, headaches, muscle aches, and near-fatal surliness.  Some of us were throwing up, some of us were wandering up and down the stairs in a delirium, and one kid developed some rather theatrical Strange Bumps all over his head.

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So on Monday, my husband spent four hours shoveling snow, and then insisted on calling in to work so he could stay home and take care of us, since my limbs weren’t working.  He handed out Tylenol.  He plumped pillows and poured orange juice.  He set up humidifiers, washed pukey sheets, played Go Fish, and sat through countless hours of Wonder Pets.  He cheerfully leaped out of bed half a dozen times to sooth crazed and querelous children who didn’t know why they were up.  In short, he is my favorite husband ever.

7.   I didn’t write a Christmas letter or cards.  It’s been a strange and disconcerting year, and many Things have Changed for our family – – and it was all just too hard to explain in one of those holly jolly update letters.  I’ve been fretting a lot lately, and falling prey to a stupid spiritual distraction, worrying whether there really is something wrong with my attitude about femininity.  Maybe I really am turning my back on womanhood with my pants-wearing, gin-swilling, fart-joke-making ways, and making the world a worser place in which to live in.  It seems like everything I do is lacking, and I’m so tired of being this way.  I was moaning about this to my husband, and said, “Well, this year you accomplished this, and So-and-so did that, and she made so much progress in this — but I didn’t do anything!”

And he said, “But you made it so that all these things could happen.  You kept us going.  You kept us together.”

That is actually the best thing that anyone has ever said to me.

And when I think about it, it’s pretty darn feminine, as long as you’re looking for more than high heels and homemade cookies.  Not that I have no room for improvement, but I guess I’m doing what I was put here to do — and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the person I love the most in the world.

Of course you notice, if you re-read number 6, that we are both under the impression that the other one is the one who is holding this whole freak show together.  ‘Snice, isn’t it?  You should be glad to know us!

More hope for religious art

Elizabeth Scalia posted a link (on Facebook, not on her blog — but she always has tons of good stuff, so check it out!) to this sculpture of the Annunciation, by John Collier:

(photo source:  The Deacon’s Bench)

I know it’s just about impossible to make a judgment based on a photo, but what do you think?  My first thought was that it made reference to the statue of Apollo and Daphne by Bernini:

(photo source)

The artist seems to be stressing the significance of the fig tree.  Intstresting, no?  I prefer the one true God’s means of preserving his faithful daughter’s virginity!  I also thought the face of Mary in the first sculpture hearkened to the  Ecstasy of St. Theresa, also by Bernini.

Another quick book recommendation

Since my son left his math book at the dentist’s office, pretty much all we’ve done in home school is a little spelling, a craft or two (you can pretend I didn’t say that if it makes you feel inadequate.  You wouldn’t feel inadequate if you saw our crafts, though), and read The Odyssey retold for children by Geraldine McCaughrean.

Sometimes I read, and sometimes the kids read aloud.  Kids who read silently far above grade level often don’t know how to read aloud, so this is a good exercise; and it also lets you get something done (like making lunch) while home schooling.  It’s also a good way of finding out that your mostly-excellent reader has a few kinks to iron out, phonics-wise.  (Translation:  the kid wouldn’t know a schwa from a hole in the ground.)

Here’s a passage we just read from this very engaging retelling, to give you an idea of the style:

By the light of lightning bolts which rained down around him, Odysseus saw the frightened, colourless eyes of fishes, and the suckered arms of reaching squid.  The waves that folded over him were shot through with eels and peppered with sharp barnacles and razorshells.  The troughs that swallowed him were deeper and darker than Charybdis, and the currents beneath dragged him three times round the ocean like dead Hector was dragged three times round the walls of Troy.

Pretty good, eh?  Nice and rhythmic for reading aloud, but not too complicated.  At the end of one chapter, my six-year-old son asked his eight-year-old brother, “Do you think Odysseus will make it home?  Mama, CAN I LOOK AHEAD?” and his brother said, “No, no, don’t find out!  I don’t know either!”  They haven’t been this excited since there was a dead mole in the sandbox.

Oh, and the illustrations in this book are wild and satisfying, too.  There are a few naked women — Sirens and whatnot — so you will have to use your judgment.  I didn’t want my son to be exposed to the unclothed female form, so when we got to that part, I just hid the book behind the baby, who, um, was nursing.

One final note:  I love ancient Greece.  I mean, I really, really love it.  A few weeks ago, I asked the six-year-old if he wanted to read Bible stories or Greek myths.  He chose Bible stories.  And I tried to talk him out of it.  Yes, I did.  Obviously, I’m not warping him too badly — I mean, he did choose the Bible stories — but it looks like I have a few kinks of my own to iron out.

Thursday Throwback: sRANTa Claus

It’s posts like the following, written a few years ago, that make me realize that I really have mellowed out quite a bit in the last few years.  Enjoy it if you can!  Sheesh.

 

 

I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee

People who let their children believe in Santa are setting them up for a jaded, psychoanalyst-ridden adulthood of mistrust and paranoia.

People who don’t let their kids believe in Santa are depriving the little ones of their God-given right to the wonder of an innocent childhood.

People who get their kids tons of presents are materialistic swine who are hoping to disguise their guilt over neglecting their children the other 364 days of the year.

People who get their kids only a few presents are disguising the scars of their own deprived childhoods with a holier-than-thou wrapping more falsely tinselly than any Walmart holiday display.

Why aren’t you doing an advent wreath, an advent chain, an advent calendar, achocolate advent calendar, St. Nicholas shoes, a Mary candle with removable baby Jesus hidden behind a satin veil which covers an alcove you dug into the candle (blue, of course), which you will remove on Christmas morning, not that anyone will notice?, and a Jesse tree? And a Christmas tree?

You should get this together on Christmas eve. Any sooner, and you will be of the world, not in the world, because it’s only still Advent, you premature-holly-hanging pushover! Go ahead, listen to secularist sirens, do what they do, and see what happens to your children, your marriage, and your eternal soul!

There. I just saved you a lot of time, and you can now skip everyone else’s blog until Epiphany or so, and concentrate on mine. And while I’m stinging you along, here’s one more pearl of wisdom:

This

 

 

is an abomination.  And not the fun kind, either.

If you grew up with Rudolph and his moth-eaten, hot glue friends, it’s okay: you’re all grown up now, and you can put it behind you. You don’t have to watch it, you don’t have to think about it or acknowledge that it was ever part of your life, and you don’t have to –you must not– introduce your children to it.

What, just because you have fond memories, that means it’s worth something? Wrongo! It’s the lousiest thing ever made. It’s the most destructive, corrosive cultural product of the the 60′s. It’s the most shameful thing about America ever. It’s worse than slavery and war. It’s worse than Scooby Doo. It frightens Satan. Do you hear me?

And no, Burl Ives is not a mitigating factor.