Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thanks for the Christmas Memory

Whenever we go to mass en masse, for other congregants, there is instant entertainment. No matter how disciplined one might be in focusing on the celebration itself, nine children of assorted ages have a way of creating unintentional distraction.

Christmas day was just such an experience. We were in the cry room at Saint John's, having force marched the kids after opening a present a piece to get dressed for Christmas mass 8:30.

It was 7:45.

Because we were pressed for time, we opted for the Parish closest to home, rather than our normal Church There was a cry room which provided excellent cover and sound proofing for the squirmy set. We took up two rows.

Other people came to the children's room to avoid the scruitiny of coming late on December 25th. Our kids were actually quite good given their own desire to be home diving through the wrapping paper discovering hidden treasures. My 20 month old played peekaboo with the family behind us and took every opportunity to point out every "baby" that she spotted in the room.

The four year old and three year old began a minor battle of wills over the mini chairs for kids and who should have the blue and who should have the red seat.

We got to the offeratory and my three year old darling cupie doll began to talk.

She explained to her brother behind her for reasons which will soon be obvious, "It's not right to pick your nose. Mom says it's wrong to pick your nose. You can't pick your nose. You can't pick your nose. You can't pick your nose." She did a little dance and song, "That's the rule, you can't pick your nose. It's wrong. It's wrong to pick your nose."

The two women who were across from us lost composure.
Merry Christmas.

P.S. Sorry I didn't post Sunday, I was feeling sick.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Ham is Served

The following piece ran in the Island Park News, December 19, 2008

Leftovers are seldom an issue at my home, except at Christmas when my husband in a fit of gastronomic nostalgia, always wants to serve ham. I don’t mind traditions, but there are some logistical issues with this one. 1) My husband buys a very large piece of meat. 2) Our children don’t like ham.

Christmas day is never the issue. Emotionally softened by the glow of the day and the pile of freshly acquired loot, the kids are willing to indulge their father by trying his favorite Yuletide meal. Knowing that there is fresh pumpkin or apple pie waiting for dessert probably helps too. The next day, leftover ham served with eggs will still get eaten. By day three, some of the older ones still consent to consume ham sandwiches if I serve them with chips. Day four, sounds of open revolt are beginning to be heard when dinner is served.

Seeking to avoid a revolution over Virginia ham, my beloved husband proposed playing a board game our daughter received for Christmas during dinner. The kids were keen to play. Setting out the game “Operation,” their father explained the “special” meal time rules.

Everyone had to play. Everyone was served a plate of pasta with the now offending Christmas ham mixed amongst the Fettuccini noodles. If you took on a job in the Operation game and touched the sides, not only would you lose your turn, you had to eat a bite of ham. If you refused to take a job, you had to eat two bites of ham. If you got the ham bone out successfully, you were exonerated from eating anymore of the ham at this meal and could move straight to pie. If you won the game, you could opt out of ham for the remaining duration of the ham’s existence.

The next day, when I offered to play operation, my daughter said, “How much ham do I have to eat?” Kids were offering to do chores to avoid the other white meat. By day six, positive reinforcement in the form of cold hard cash was insufficient to guarantee compliant consumption. A week into eating, it was no longer worth the emotional effort for any sentient adult to consider serving ham to a non ham eater.

Day twelve, the UPS truck pulled up. A large package had come from our family’s gift exchange with a note that said, “Sorry this is late. Merry Christmas! Love…” from one of those fancy gift mail food order catalogs.

“This special Virginia Ham was sent to you…” I read.

I called my husband. “Oh man, we’ve been eating ham for weeks.” He said. The kids grinned. Over the phone, my beloved heard the sounds of ham induce karma from his daughter. “Hey Dad, let’s play Operation.”

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Maryland is for Crabs

My mom sends Christmas Pajamas every year. Sometimes she worries that P.J’s aren’t the most exciting gift to get at Christmas, but they are seriously looked forward to every year by everyone.

This year, it was a Lobster motif. The pants had lobsters on a navy background. They were fun. The younger ones had those onsies with footies. After three days of wearing the lobster pajamas, I declared the sleepware needed a break, and a wash!

Getting dressed for bed, my three year old daughter was visibly upset. She marched up to me in her substitute night gown for the evening with a dark frowny face. “I Want My Crabs!” she snapped.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bittersweet Chocolate for Christmas

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Childhood is often described by adults as ideal. I cannot speak to this except to say perhaps they do not remember it clearly. Most of childhood involved the learning process that occurred after one got a skinned knee. Crawling did not get one where one wanted to go. Walking followed. Followed by falling. The world, one soon discovered, was not padded for one’s protection. Yet, we progressed onward, gaining a few calluses and coping techniques along the way that indicated our preferred method of problem solving, fight or flight.

Just as we became talking, walking, self sufficient individuals, the adults around us would pack us into a singular cage of similarly limited in accomplishment children and ask us to sit and stand on cue as we had never once done at home, for eight hours, five days a week.

Welcome to school, the real world. Surrounded by strangers that may or may not come to love us, who are indifferent to our success or failure, and who might eat our lunches, it was and remains for some of us, a time of trial we tried to forget. I concede, as a parent, I had forgotten.

Around six pm, my middle son, the one who is sly and clever and yet shockingly innocent, said very flatly, “I’ve had a bad day.” He had been picking on everyone since he got in the car but something in his voice said now was not the time to launch into a “If you treated your brother and sisters nicer…” type rant. “What’s up?”

He called me into the kitchen closet. It was a tad cramped and the quarters became less hospitable as three toddlers who knew this was where their two greatest treasures in life were, Mom and food, began trying to break down the door. I signaled we needed a better meeting space. Opening the door, the toddlers rushed in and I handed each of them a cookie and directed their oldest sister to put on a Christmas video. Her emotional antenna must have sensed something too, as she willingly complied and didn’t complain that she didn’t also merit a cookie. I brought him to my room and then to be doubly secure, I locked the door and sat against it.

“Two kids at school told me about where the presents come at Christmas. “ He looked at me and his face was holding the broken grief of childhood prematurely spoiled in one of the smallest of ways, but keenly felt nevertheless. My mom persona felt herself divided into three. The comforter wanted to hold and rock and sing and sooth. The sentimentalist wanted either to lie or to mourn the loss. The Klingon warrior wanted to hunt down those fools and their fool parents and flay them where they stood.

We talked about the real meaning of Christmas; about the miracle of the story that has been told and retold and retold and retold and how it continues to beguile and yet hold generation after generation. The story of Saint Nicholas has come to bring more people to Christ than could possibly be imagined by any of those who thought the story merely a slice of silly pop culture that pushed consumerism. We talked about how important it was to be wise with knowledge, and that the child that told him and others was neither kind nor wise, though he had the opportunity to be both.

My son picked up his new knowledge like a soldier. He let me hold him. I let him decide not to cry but that his eyes bothered him a bit. I told him, “Me too.” That was about all the time we had for a heart to heart before the toddlers, having burned through two more cookies each, decided it was time to find Mom again. My son gave me a brave smile and went out to talk to his younger brother about hanging stockings. He gave me a knowing look as his brother’s eyes lit up like sparklers. “Come on Johnny, we have to find everyone’s stockings!” he announced and the two were off on a brother treasure hunt Christmas style.

It was hard to make dinner now but I plowed through it. Everyone ate. The little ones got bathed and read to and tucked into bed. A song came on the radio, a Christmas song from the Polar Express, and suddenly, the very real feeling of the belief that had just evaporated hurt so hard for me, I felt angry for feeling this intense. My son had resolved the issue better than me I thought. I went upstairs to do the final check of lights out. My son was still up, sitting in the dark not crying. I rubbed his feet and he asked for extra hugs. Some of them felt like he was afraid to let go, for fear some other pillar of childhood might get kicked out from under him if he wasn’t careful.

“I talked to your father about what happened.”
“What did he say?”

“He said to tell you, “He still believes, and so should you.” The squeeze I got back was glorious. “I know what that really means Mom.” He said.

The euphoria of the moment was somewhat interrupted when I spied three drawings on the floor. My son is an artist, always making comic books. Here, graphically illustrated, Boba Fett and several Star Wars Jedi my untrained eyes could not identify, have locked two boys on the island of Misfit Toys. “You have spread bad stories about Santa Claus. Here you will stay and cause no more trouble.” While another jedi, possibly my son, stands by with a thought bubble “Heh heh heh.” The spotted elephant and Charlie the Clown don’t look very friendly to the prisoners. The King of the Toys growls at them.

Justice kid style. I feel better. “Can I keep these?” I ask.
“Sure Mom.”

One more strong squeeze.
“Merry Christmas Son.”

Friday, December 19, 2008

Twelve Days of Adkins

Reflections on My ongoing Adkins Experience. A Dieter's Diary and attempt to twist reality to fit a theme...more or less.

Day 1 On the first day of Adkins, here's what I had to eat...well, it wasn't a partridge in a pear tree, but it was chicken and salad. By the end of the day, I’m snappish, Husband asks about biology. Snarl “No” and go to fume while munching a piece of cheddar. I feel stale already.

Day 2 Huzzah, I lost three pounds. A quick calculation and I’ll be at my desired weight at current course and speed in ten days… Bring on those two turtle doves! Suddenly, No Carb conversion diet seems completely reasonable and of course I’ll stick with it.

Day 3 What gives? I only lost a pound? Did I eat any carbs yesterday? Okay, I forgot and drank six ounces of milk but that’s not like seriously going to keep me from losing is it? That’s so unfair. Resolve to stick with it, after all, I’m on day 3 and I’ve lost four, so I’m one up on the day. Three French hens please. Begin to see how ubiquitous carbo snacks have become in everyday life. I can’t buy a stamp without passing a candy bar!

Day 4 Now taking to weighing twice a day. Did I lose weight yet? Did I lose weight yet? Severe frustration at self for accidentally popping a strawberry, I actually spit it out. Baked four calling birds yesterday to allow for easy snacks tomorrow. Wonder if it is worth it.

Day 5 Five pounds are gone! But the days of meats greens…meat…greens…switching to seafood to have variety. Had to order at the golden arches today...that was...difficult. Desperately want to break a new barrier but have stopped talking about diet for fear someone will ask “How much did you lose?” and begin telling me how they dropped 25 the first week. Lost one more pound, somehow feel cheated.

Day 6 I miss orange juice. Very tired of the six geese a laying eggs for breakfast. Reflect on reality that if I had lost one pound each day, I would have been far more satisfied with the diet than losing three, one and then nothing and then one again. Also worry about catching scurvy. Consider branding the diet man a hack, but afraid to stop for fear five pounds are just waiting to hop back on my hips.

Day 7 Breath smells faintly of cheese even after brushing. Burps have a meaty aftertaste. Ate the swimming swans today..well not really, but man oh man am I sick of chicken and tuna salad. Staring longingly at children’s lunches, a carb fest of refined sugar –an apple, white bread peanut butter and jelly sandwich and chocolate milk. Begin trolling diet aisles for the pseudo chocolate bars that will substitute for Chocolate. Can’t find any that fit in the diet in this part of the regimen. Nuts. I’m eating nuts. If you are what you eat…

Day 8 Okay. Seem to have plateaued diet wise. Now considering the radical concept of going to the gym. I even drove there. The gym had eight women from the La Leche league holding a get in shape membership drive for post partum women. I had actually packed gym clothes in a tote and put them in the back of the car, complete with walkman, but I didn't want to run the gauntlet with my crew toting bottles. Went home and did push ups.

Day 9 Considering switching to South beach. Diet Coke isn't even sending me anymore. Even forbidden grapefruit looks so good, it’s scary. Lost one pound. Becoming annoyed. This diet feels dial up, not broadband. Have trained family to squawk if I weaken, so nine pipers pipe up if I try to cheat.

Day 10 Have decided Low Carb plans are Man diets. Begin promising God to stick to exercise regimen if someone will give me half a blueberry. What’s for breakfast? Eggs. What’s for lunch? Salad and Meat. What’s for dinner, Salad and More Meat. Log on to website for testimonials to keep me in lockstep with the routine. Ten emails later, I'm sufficiently bolstered to march on.

Day 11 Reflecting on the diet rules and their implications. What exactly is a carb? I mean how is it defined –how are foods divided such that one can portion a candy bar in small pieces and get only seven carbs as versus the entire 17 in the goodie. How many carbs in an onz of milk? Some french bread? Banannas? Maple Syrup? Chocolate Five Star Bars? Ice Cream? Pasta Alfredo? Salt and Vinegar Chips, cold cereal for crying out loud! Not that I’m considering eating any of these things. They’re for a friend. This lady's dancing with the idea of reintroducing carbs, but my brain has already figured out how I could eat the bad stuff...nah nah nah...can't hear me..not listening...going to stay on the diet...where's my cheese stick. I love cheese sticks....and shrimp coctail at ten in the morning...wondering if we can fiscally afford to keep me on a diet.

Day 12 What?
It's just steak for breakfast.
I couldn't take one more day of eggs. No I will not share.

You guys get to eat pancakes and toast and bagels and oatmeal and cantelope and blackberries, milk, doughnuts and apple juice.

I am offered every possible carb sin, as half the family still likes the idea of being food police, and the other half is ready to sell out for a few pieces of sirloin. There are Lords a leaping as a I cut up my breakfast and portion it out to the assorted heathens. Pieces of appeasement to achieve morning peace. Guess I'll have some more eggs.

There is a dietary mutiny afoot.
Shouldn't have lorded that fact over them.(Sigh).

I made it.
I'm not sure what was harder, sticking to the diet or sticking all of this into my preselected format.

Tune in next time when I try once more to mix two or even three improbable things, from History, Philosophy, English Literature and domestic family life, politics and religion, all for the sole purpose of creating humor and insight.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Shoes Redux

If you visited this blog last year, you got my teeing off on this perenial Halmark card version of a Christmas song.

"Christmas Shoes."

It's Dickensian without the charm. It's cloy. I feel like my teeth need a good brushing whenever it comes on, but I also recognize the innocent nature of my children and have tried very hard not to expose my children to my extreme prejudice against this particular musical piece of treacle.

Alas, I have not been successful, at least with the older ones.

My oldest sings it with a mock such that even I have had to tell him to knock it off.

My next eldest is rather like me in temperment. She likewise thinks the song is over the top. It was a source of particular frustration for her when she learned she would have to watch the movie version (my own mind shudders) at school.

She then felt pained as she had to write about what it meant. I pared it down with her in a discussion.

"I know what you think of the song, but that's not what the assignment is. Just write what's it supposed to mean. What does it want to tell?"

"That we should be generous of spirit and help those around us in need rather than focus on buying what we want."

"Yes. Write that."

"Well, they didn't do a very good job." She pouted.
(It is difficult to try to be supportive of an assignment when one is mentally going "YES! HIGH FIVE!" inside).

"Well, you write a better song."

"I will."

My third knows I don't like it, so she just changes the station. (A very sensible child handling her mother well).

The fourth, the little stinker, who has just matriculated to the "older kid set," claims he LOVES the song and demands that the song not only be allowed to play but turned up. He challenges me, "What's so wrong with it?"

If I didn't know how this kid worked, I'd be in trouble. He decided pink is a boy's color just to tork off his younger brother. He's crafty. If it drives you nuts, he loves it. But he has a weak spot.

He also has things he finds unbearable, like Caiou videos. He has even drawn a picture of the cartoon four year old with commentary. "The kid is four years old. Why is he bald?" The picture shows the sad Caiou in shackles with the police congratulating my son on bringing him in and making the world a safer place.

When he cranked the song last time, I told him to expect Caiou videos for Christmas. He had the grace to laugh and turn it down.

The younger set doesn't really know about this battle over a single Christmas carol an I intend to keep it that way.

Having recently put a radio in my daughter's room so she could hear music at night, she called me in to listen to Christmas shoes. "It's really pretty." she said. "And sad. But it's good in the end." This firecracker sunflower child of mine was the only one who was earnest in her love of the song. "I'm glad you like it." I said and kissed her forehead.

Getting sentimental in my middle age or wiser, I'm not sure but I issued two edicts to my older children. "No mocking any Christmas songs." and "You can like or not like whatever songs you wish."

Merry Christmas.

p.s. I still don't like the song.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

We're in trouble. They're paying attention.

It has been a rough month and a half at this house, with our youngest being at the hospital for 41 days. When we were in the home stretch, the strength of some of our children to endure the prolonged absence of their mother began to ebb. Our own patience with the situation had been taxed as well.

Driving me back to the hospital one Sunday, my six year old said, "Pretend you aren't going to the hospital." We explained that I had to return to keep an eye on her baby brother. "Yes, but what if you didn't?" she insisted. After multiple attempts to explain the situation, her father finally said, "This is not a fantasy. No pretending. This is real. No pretending in the car." It was a bit over the top, but we had run through the conversation several times trying to address her sadness and at the same time, explain the problem.

The kids began to squabble amongst themselves. One sought to tattle.

"Just pretend there's a wall of glass right here between the first row and the back." Their father waved his hand.

"Now Daddy, there's no pretending in this car." the six year old piped up.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Adding to the Season, the Sweet Scent of Pope Pius the IX

A friend of mine sent this actual ad to me in an email. I’m leaving her comments here.
The Pope's Cologne http://www.thepopescologne.com/

Of course, I recommend better marketing - you know, something like, "Impress your colleagues with an air of infallibility."

or "The Pope's Cologne - The chaste alternative to Axe Body Spray."
or "The Pope's Cologne, for that saintly, yet embalmed aura."

My thoughts were, “When you care enough to smell your very blessed.” And who e

xactly am I trying to attract here?

It’s a complicated situation. One hopes the creators of this fragrance are sincere in their faith. One hopes their marketing campaign stems from the belief that the world needs more people who have the whiff of papal like devotion in their lives, and who seek encouragement on their path to holiness in all things. And yet, this feels similar to finding religious devotion via eating Cheetos. It might happen. It could happen. It's just...like Cheetos, a bit Cheesy, corny and feels artificial.

I do not hope this is a mock, but it is severely testing to think so when the advertisement is “You won’t go wrong with this Christmas Gift! Cologne of Pope Pius IX It’s authentic, historic, refreshing, even infallible …Believe it.”

I even questioned posting this piece because it felt so I don't know, insane.
Then I got a spam based comment.

"Pope's Cologne is indeed authentic. Made from the private formula of Pope Pius IX. It is a cologne in the Old World style of the nineteenth century and provides an intersting insight into the fashions and tastes of aristocrats of that era. In addition it is an eminently fresh, engaging wearable fragrance. A glowing review of it was written by perfume critic Marie-Helene Wagmer and can be found online at TheScentedSalamander.com..."

What insight can be gleamed from wearing a cologne of a 19th century man other than the fact that 19th century men needed to have cologne? And then there's the idea that Salamanders that smell should be viewed as authorities on the wearableness of a perfume. Now maybe if it had been Newt...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

One Sentence Movie Reviews

We may or may not be getting out of the hospital today. I am waiting on a report. In the meantime, my computer is not able to go online, and thus any writing is the result of impromptu material generated on the screen at the hospital. It is much harder to create material this way.

Given my logistical issues and the notion that brevity is the soul of wit, I introduce a new concept here: one sentence movie reviews.

In this age of high speed high octane fuel paced living, people don't have time to read an informed and well written report on all the films out there that might or might not be worth viewing. Thus, as a public service, I put forth these not quite haiku reviews. Please note, in some cases, I haven't seen the movie.

Wall-E: It takes a robot to save a village.

Finding Nemo: It's the Odyssey for fish.

Star Trek 5, Star Trek TNG: Either Rebellion or Nemesis: If you film it, they will come.

The Greatest Story Ever Told: Well yes, but not by you.

Troy: Orlando Bloom does for Greeks and the people of Illium what he did for elves and pirates.

Beowulf: Not enough mead or Angelina Jolie to satiate fans of either.

Quantum of Solace: Because when people think James Bond, the first thing that comes to mind is a measurement used in physics.

So fire up the microwave and try coming up with your own one sentence movie reviews. It's fun, free and decidedly more creative than what's coming out of Hollywood these days.

Here's hoping Paul and I are back home soon.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hitting a Nerve

If I ever suffer from writer's block, I just have to call my insurance.

My middle son has a deep cavity in a permanent tooth. It requires a root canal. The problem is, he's nine.

We've been to the family dentist, the pediatric dentist, the endodontist,and the orthodontist. I've called dental clinics and oral surgeons. None of the pediatric dentists want to touch a permanent tooth. None of the dentists for adults want to do surgery on a kid. Those that do root canal aren't on the provider's list.

Finally, in frustration, I called my insurance "help" line.

"I've seen four different specialists and called fifteen more." I explained.

"My computer shows there are sixty three in the twenty-five mile radius of your home."

"Yes, but I've called a quarter of them and had no takers. What do I do if I get through all 63?"

"We can expand the radius to 75 miles."

"You mean I have to call all 63? I was sort of joking..."

"If you want a provider in network, I'm sure you'll find one before you get through them all."

"Wait. You have the list right? And presumably, I'm not the first human being to call you to ask for a specialist who will do a root canal on a permanent tooth on a minor with sedation, not laughing gas."


"Then can you check your records and give me some names of those people?"


"Why not?"

"I'd have to have the social securirty numbers of those people."

"No. No. All you'ld have to do is call whoever cuts the checks for the benefits and have them do a search of payments to oral surgeons for root canals and then check to see if they were done for minors. I can't believe it's this inaccessible."

"Well, I don't have access."
"Who does?"
"Look, just start calling...."

"No. I want to know when we hit critical mass. I want to know at what point can we say I fought the good fight and just find someone?"

"You can do that, but it will be out of network."

The circle conversation had started again so I hung up and started dialing.

"We do root canals, but your insurance doesn't pay for the anestesia."

"But it's a root canal surgery. You have to have anestesia."


"I'm wondering at this point which is more painful, a root canal with out medication or trying to set this damn thing up."

"You could call your insurance and ask."

I may start self medicating soon.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas Traditions Take Flight

The making of Christmas family traditions can happen from the most unexpected of circumstances. My second son has a birthday in July. Every year, his father buys him rockets or planes, something they can fly outside at the beach or the park. The first year, everyone got balsa wood planes and we launched them at the beach, having a contest. His father then lit bottle rockets as part of the celebration and a prescident was set.

The following summer, we had a Superman theme, complete with a Kryptonian rocket that floated back down into the grassy dunes several times before being lost at sea. Over the years, my son has received a 365 paper airplane calendar. I can't tell you how many helicopters I had to rescue from the second floor ledge. He's had do it yourself models that were light years beyond our ability to assemble. We've visited the Air and Space museum and fed his love of the sky with Starwars and Star Trek.

But the big gift that tickled his heart the most, was a remote controlled plane. It was big and blue and had four propellers.

There was a long lecture prior to going outside about how careful one had to be with this sort of toy; how flying a remote plane was difficult; how houses and trees and wires had to be avoided; and how wind could play a tricky part in landing a plane. My son listened carefully. Dad explained that he would test the plane first to better help our son with managing it. The plane soared beautifully. It was a thrilling sight. Then it landed on top of the tallest tree in our yard. Its first and only flight ended two minutes after it's start. My husband felt terrible. We tried everything to get it down. The plane finally crashed to Earth, a shell of it's former glory, a year later.

Undaunted, the next year, my son received two remote planes. One was black and had propellers in the back. The other was red and looked like a jet. My son lectured my father before trusting him to fly the red one while he tested the black. The red one flew beautifully again. One. Two. Three flights and then the sojourn into the back woods. We saw it disappear over the tree tops. The black one in the meantime, found the blue plane tree but we were able to knock it down through subsequent throws of soccer and footballs.

A neighborhood kid who also flies planes and launches rockets returned the red plane to us in early fall. It too, bore the scars of sitting through a season of elements in a tree.

Now my middle son often expresses himself through deeds rather than words. He's approached me about purchasing Dad his own propeller plane for Christmas. "But," he grinned, mischief in his eyes,"I get to test it first."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What Not to Give Men For Christmas

For all the vaulted theory that men hold the power in this society, they really get the short end of the stick when it comes to gifts.

Let's consider the average mall. It has two beauty parlors, one spa, two places for nails, seven to eight women's shoes stores, three big department stores with five women's sections and fifteen to twenty specialty stores catering to women's clothing from hair accessories to evening gowns to yoga pants. The stores often use aroma therapy, and smell like vanilla bean, roses or fresh baked cookies.

The same mall will have two shoe stores that specialize in kids and adult sneakers, one barber shop and a shop for renting tuxedos and buying suits, all in the "old" section of the mall, all in tan or dull green colors. The stores for men often have a faint musty smell, reminiscent of the reference section of a library.

The woman stores have names like "Mixed Emotion," "Petite Treasures" and "Uncommon Threads." The men's stores are "Today's Man," "The Men Store" and "Big and Tall."

At Christmas, the women's stores will trim their windows with lights, hand out chocolates at the cash register and drape elegant gowns with holly or gold ribbon. The men stores put cheap Santa hats on the manikins.

Even the higher end stores that try to market "What to buy" for a man have a static quality to them. How many massaging machines or movie replica sword shaped letter openers can one buy before they seem old? James Bond stuff tends to feel anemic and dated, like watching Roger Moore rather than Daniel Craig. Funny Ha ha books on current events will gather dust after a single read through and leather bound elegant copies of the last installment of Harry Potter are just sad cries for help.

Watching even a smidgeon of television during the weeks from November 1st to January, one is inundated with the idea that women want two things this Christmas season, cars and diamonds. Watching the same television during those three month, one comes away with the idea that what men really want for Christmas is for women to get cars and diamonds.

So let's get to the issue at hand. What to buy men for Christmas is not something that can be answered through a simple list. What not to buy however, can. So here are my tips for what Not to buy men for Christmas.

10) Dress or sport socks and underwear packs: These are not gifts. These are necessities. They can be wrapped up in the most beautiful of boxes with tissues and ribbons. They are sill just socks and undies.

9) Cooking pots and pans or tools we don't actually already know how to use. Bread machines, fondue pots, mandolin slicers, these are things that we will have to spend time reading instructions in order to operate. Most men spend much of Christmas Eve reading assembly instructions, so having to do it after opening a gift doesn't contribute to a festive mood. Also, though it might have escaped notice, most men are not big fondue eaters.

8) Any box of chocolate that must be shared or surrendered.

7) Summertime yard tools. My husband can weed whack with the best of them. But having a summertime toy in the dead of winter means he has to wait six months to play with it. That's one of those, it's the thought that counts sort of moments that makes a guy wonder, "What do I have to do to get some thought around here?"

6) Gag gifts. Most men are not twelve years old, even in spirit. Dancing Elvis Santas, singing fish, not a good plan. Ever.

5) Budget busters. It's fun to splurge. I admit, if I get in a shopping zone, it's hard to stop seeing great things that I think would tickle and delight those I love and that includes my husband. But the one thing one doesn't want a man thinking when he opens a gift is "How much is this going to set us back?" If you agreed to a budget, stick to it. Draw or write up the dream idea to save up for, and maybe supply an account where the money will go to make it happen, but don't force the issue by preemptively purchasing a sofa or a table or a trip, using the sentiment of the holiday to justify the expense. Doing this sort of gift giving is essentially a holiday hold up.

4) Anything he'd feel embarrassed to tell his mother over the phone he got for Christmas. Anything you'ld feel embarrassed if he told his mother he got from you for Christmas. Give stuff, just not stuffing. No naming a star after him. No purchases from infomertials and nothing that feels like pure filler like toothbrushes or a shoe shining kit.

3) Unless he's been asking specifically or already is into it personally, fitness equipment or gym memberships strike a wrong note. This is like them saying to us, "Merry Christmas! Drop and give me twenty! Your arms look like flabby pink sausages! Move! Move! Move!" Put another way, would any of us appreciate a gift membership to Jenny Craig?

2) Bombshell life changing events like an undiscussed acquisition of a dog, horse or beach house time share. Surprises at Christmas are fun but not if they should have been vetted or seen a vet before purchasing.

The history of men's gifts is so replete with stories of sheer terrors and errors that it generated a now seasonal phrase: "Many happy returns."

The number one thing men should not receive for Christmas is the impression that they were an afterthought. Men should not feel that they came after the kids, tree, Christmas cards, stockings, new Christmas dress, plan for the Christmas Eve meal, wrapping, outside display, Santa treats, toy for the dog and bonus check for the garbage man. They deserve better than last minute ties and wallets and engraved money clips. They deserve to be celebrated with warm pie and good steak, with the movie of their choice and a bathrobe that doesn't predate two administrations. They need color and fireworks and music and sports, wine and foot rubs, kisses and books you know they've been wanting, all wrapped up in warmth with heavy bows of thought tied on top.

The point is, that men require as much thought and devotion as we as women hope to receive ourselves and want to give to our families. Good luck to us all, finding that something that reveals this truth. Maybe a diamond or a car...that might do it.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Am I Being Paranoid or is this just Christmas in DC?

Is it just me, or are the attacks on Christmas are getting more sophisticated?

At first, they were obvious. "Happy Holidays and Season's Greetings!" and the forever annoying "Xmas." No other word in the world has been substituted with a single letter for fear of offending someone's non religious sensibilities. The removal of the Christmas scenes from public square or equally desperate and inappropriate hijacking of Haunaka to make all those December religious observances the same, came next. People finally got wise and got mad when the stands by the street said, "Holiday Trees."

This year, "Merry Christmas" is back...as a gesture of good will to those practicing people who spend money. The trappings of the season festoon the malls. But the color scheme has changed.

Torn between the very real desire to have everyone mark this occasion of December 25th with a massive credit card induced hangover in January, and the fervent wish to disavow any genuine reason to be celebrating, marketers have hit upon the new guaranteed inoffensive means to deck the halls while still avoiding irritation of that atheist that lurks just around the block.

Blue and white pentagrams and lots and lots of just faint blue lights.

They're up all over town, stars that aren't religious or iconic in nature, in colors not traditionally associated with the Christmas tradition as practiced by non practicing people everywhere. The municipalities can breathe a sigh of relief, as the ACLU will not be scrutinizing them for putting up "Winter Lights."

If we complain, they'll be able to say there's no substance, no there....there.

But I say, two can play at that game. Let's hijack the secularists attempts to take over December with this blue light special. Let's ascribe religious symbolic qualities to those lights, which after all remind us of both Mary's mantle and the colors of the flag of Israel. The lights remind us of the Holy land and in this Holy season, call us all to prayer. It will annoy those who secretly root for the unreformed Grinch immensely. We could really tick them off if we publicly announce we will be reminded to pray each time we see those Winter lights.

Let's greet others with "Have a Blessed Christmas" and "Happy Advent!" until December 24th, when we can say "Enjoy a Holy Christmas Eve." If we say "Merry Christmas" with enough reverence, we will bother them because we haven't shut up and gone away to let them drink their eggnog in the bitter peace born of being surrounded with people afraid to disagree.

So Deck the Halls in that Blue and White if you wish, just tell everyone the reason. And God bless us everyone, The Lord knows we need it.

P.S. Hoping I haven't danced too close to the near occasion of sin by this post. Happy Advent!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dear Paul

Dear Paul,

Thank God.

It's hard to believe you were born just two months ago. On Thursday, November 20th, we surrendered you to the good doctors and nurses of Children's hospital so they could repair a part of your heart that has been missing since before you were born. It has been a long slow walk to the day, when the surgery would make for you, a whole new heart.

You survived. As your mother, I can only say, "Thank God." Thank God. Thank God. Thank God.

There are so many stories I will have to share with you as you grow older.

We went into the hospital on October 30th, not realizing yet how serious your condition was. You have been in a hospital since. Sometimes your father watched and held you, sometimes your aunt, and sometimes, it was me. Whenever I would take a break for some food or fresh air, I found myself falling into rote prayer; the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Our Father, the Hail Mary. Sometimes in my distraction, I merged the two. I feared saying "Thy Will be done." I feared the outcome of your story, wouldn't be what I wanted. And I didn't want to be angry or disappointed with God. I feared I would be.

Going to mass, the readings said "Ask." Friends were praying for you. Family was praying for you. Complete strangers were praying for you. I was afraid to ask.

The dull ache of knowing what might happen made me want to throw myself into the familiar comfort of taking care of my other children or writing, anything but asking. I still prayed, but I didn't dare ask.

I know when I became ready for your surgery. I know when I became able to ask and accept the answer. I know the place and the time and the moment. We were at the Hospital for Sick Children, a place for those with less than acute conditions,. The hope had been to keep you there, monitoring your heart and breathing, and allow you to grow a bit before having surgery. Within hours of your arrival there, you developed a high fever, turned gray, and your oxygen levels began to occasionally drop. Your heart was showing signs of failure. I got frantic. I was afraid. I called to the nurses and the doctor on the floor.

The doctor took my son in his arms and listened to my concerns. He ordered me to get some rest. I didn't want to, I wanted action. He told me he would watch you. That wasn't good enough I snapped. He looked at me sadly and said, "You have to trust me. I know how precious life is." His words were God's echoing in my heart. "You have to trust me. I know how precious life is." The doctor rocked my son to sleep.

We had you baptized by the visiting priest at the hospital the next day. Just as the doctors wanted your body as healthy and as ready as possible for the surgery, we wanted your spirit ready as well.

The night before your operation, the cardiologist drew a picture of your heart as it was and how it would be. It was not lost on me that what the surgeon would build in you looked like a cross. It was not lost on me that without this cross, you would die.

We watched the nurses prep you to be taken away. We joked with the anesthesiologists who gently carried you to the operating room and allowed us to kiss you several times before leaving. We could only surrender you out of necessity. Watching your bright eyes, I remembered the words. "You have to trust me."

This year Paul, we keep finding our hearts expanded. Your brothers and sisters have been wrapped in love by their extended family. I know we could not have weathered this time without them. Your Grandparents, your aunts and uncles, and your church family as well, all have helped you and our family endure this season that sometimes felt like Advent, and other times like Lent. Brothers and sisters have drawn you pictures. Your cousins have written you letters. You Paul, at two months, have been a source of warmth and comfort and wisdom to all of us. You Paul, at two months are well loved.

Over the years to come, I will have to tell you of prayer warriors in Texas and second graders in Colorado who said the rosary for you. I will have to tell you of the humor group online that included a devout reform Jew who put your name on a prayer list, and the woman with whom I had vigorous political debate, who asked her whole church of 2,500 people to pray for you. You were a witness to another mother, who suffered a crisis pregnancy that ended in death but not abortion.  You were prayed for by the sisters of Saint Paul, and your grandparents lit candles in churches all over Italy for you during the summer.I will wrap you in a hand knit blanket made by a writer in Canada I've never met and show you the 104 emails that came just today, wishing you well. We will introduce you to your parish family; men and women and children who have prayed and done carpool and provided hugs and bagels and chocolate and play dates for your brothers and sisters. All of this experience has been humbling. All of this prayer and love for you, a child few of these people have seen, and fewer have held, it overwhelms.

This multitude of prayers reflects tremendous faith. This outpouring reveals the lavish quality of God's love manifested in this whole Church, this Body of Christ. All this love for one, for you, God has for all. Paul, you continue to reveal God's love. You coming home will feel like Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter all at once. The prayers and love thus far received on your behalf, feel like a spiritual wedding feast.

So be well Paul. I ask God for you to be well. Stay with us and continue in your quiet way to remind us to thank God for all this time and for all these people. I thank God for the gift of you.

Love and prayers,


Friday, November 28, 2008

I'm It!

When I was a kid, I was never any good at tag.

Having a tracheotomy made running something I did but not with any swiftness. So if I got it, I stayed it.

But cybertag is something that I've never played before.

Mighty Mom, writes a blog called "My Wonderful Life." She can really blog because she uses pictures and buttons and tags. She tagged me.

What does this mean? I went to her blog to find out.

She has this button award which I can receive if
I write six things that warm my heart.

So here goes:
1)my husband's letters. He writes like a tapestry weaver, with all these wonderful threads that by the end, he pulls together such that they create a beautiful picture. It's amazing to me and terribly elegant. I keep them all. I reread them. I melt.

2) The sincere hugs and kisses of my children. I miss them very much. I have one that pretends he doesn't want to be hugged, but he squeezes back the tightest.

3) Phone calls from my mom or dad. Visits are even better.

4) Unexpected mail or calls from friends.

5) The familiar humor and friendship of the families at our parish and school.

6) Snow falling as I sip hot chocolate.

Now, I'm supposed to tag six more people to do this. I'll have to figure out how to do that, and get my button.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Beep Beep Beep Beep

We just recently purchased a twelve passenger van. It is a utilitarian vehicle to be sure, with the only bell/whistle being sensors on the back that go beep beep beep when you throw the car into reverse and there is something back there. It's a handy safety feature and I'm grateful for the added precaution against running over anything as I adjust to maneuvering what feels like a large brick on wheels. I appreciate the car's "Heads up." warning.

In real life, I'm not nearly so gracious.

Spousal esp annoys me.

Back in 1993, I decided I needed to take on a bigger challenge than mere motherhood. (I was a newbie and in to foolish notions like the idea that there is any bigger challenge). Thus, I started graduate school.

The university of my choosing was of course, three and a half to four hours of hard driving distance away. Did this stop me? No. I hired my younger brother to babysit for the day while I drove like a maniac to take classes from noon to ten at night, after which I would crash at my other brother's for the night and drive back with equal speed to return home by noon the next day once a week.

Before beginning one such journey, my beloved spouse went out of his way to say, "Take your time, watch your speed." So you know I got busted going 87 up 290 to Austin.

It took all my wifely discipline to tell him.

My poor husband, the modern day Cassandra, issued another clarion cry after our third child.

It was in January, and we got absolutely incredible beautiful weather, the kind of day that beckons everyone to be outside. We loaded up our now three children, the stroller priam, and two bikes. It took two cars. We both drove to the park with the vision of getting a bit of exercise and enjoying this unnatural gift of warm weather.

Having recently recovered from having a baby, I was feeling flabby. I wanted to work out. The park had stations for stretches and muscle tone, heart rate measurement and other nifty tips on getting fit. I decided to do them as we walked.

We were having a great time.

Then, we came to the monkey bars. Most women over 30 know better than to climb on monkey bars. But I am not like most women. For much of my adult life, I have studiously avoided common sense, even when provided helpfully by my beloved husband.

"I don't think that's a good idea Sher..." he started as I began swinging from rung to rung to...no rung. I fell. I fell hard. I tried to get up and almost blacked out from pain. I had torn ligaments in my knee which was swelling up like a grapefruit.

My husband had to marshal the kids. He took them to his car, transfered all three to their car seats and begged a soccer referee named Samuel to watch them while he returned across the soccer field past the playground to crumpled me. He then got a woman and her son and their very big dalmatian to watch over my foolish self while he made the second trip to load our second car with the tricycle, bike and collapsible stroller.

He then came back for me. Carrying me across the soccer field in his arms, he kept saying, "Please don't be hurt. Please don't be hurt...and if you're hurt, I'm really mad at you."

The next three weeks, I spent bumping down the stairs on my rump with my newest daughter in a baby carrier.

But I learned my lesson.

So this morning, when my sagacious husband said "Don't lose your keys." out of the blue, all I could think was..."Beep beep beep beep."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Paul Update

Paul is in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU).

We survived the surgery.
I feel like cartwheeling and collapsing at the same time.

So what did I do to celebrate my son's getting through a difficult 4 hour surgery that will require hospitalization for the next possible five weeks?

I needed to do something different. Something mundane.

So naturally, yesterday, I bought a 12 passenger van.

You can't make this stuff up.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Quest

Before I leave this hospital, I will successfully take a shower.

By that, I mean I will manage to perform a routine hygiene event without flooding the bathroom, and still actually get my hair washed.

It may seem strange that an adult who has survived to the age of forty-two would have difficulty managing the rather simple task of turning on and then off a spigot, but showers installed in hospitals I have discovered, are not first and foremost, showers.

They are punctured faucets to be sure, created to send heated streams of water out with some force. They do act in the capacity of showers;but their first goal is not to be a feng shui experience of getting clean. Their original intent, is to not get in the way of a doctor or nurse needing to help a patient who in the process of getting cleaned up, had trouble. The functional purpose for which they are most used, was secondary in the designer's mind.

I am sure of this.

Having wiped the equivalent of Lake Michigan off the floor following my attempt at close to Godliness with the two foot towels, I can say the towels did a better job as a mop than as anything else...like say towels.

My spare pants that were folded on top of a towel attempted to give a tutorial on what towelness should be, acting as sponge and soaking in a supernatural amount of liquid, rendering themselves unusable as pants for the day. The towel below absorbed just enough moisture to be ineffective as either a towel or pants.

It was then I had an epiphany about the towels and the shower and the couch that was a bed and failed admirably as both. Duality of purpose blunted or obliterated function. My pants were now wet towels. The towels were now soggy mops. I now struggled as
I still needed towels and pants that were not something else. The shower curtain became a robe. But as with the pants and the shower, it did the job inelegantly.

Like airline food and futons, the dual design motives had compromised any pleasure that might be derived from having a basic need met. Food on a plane is created to be given out while minimizing mess and storage requirements. Futons are designed to limit house guests to a two night stay.

Outside of the context of the experience, no one willingly embraces these objects. People don't have vinyl no cushion couches that double as beds in their home and no one says, "Hey, let's take a plane so we can enjoy the cuisine."

So, now I know the purpose of the shower, and must confront it's dual nature with my own natural stubbornness. I'm hanging my pants up on the sink and this time, I brought my own towels.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hospitably Yours

I have to tell you, right now, watching my kid breathe in and out, watching his numbers dip and rise in some cases more impressively than the stock market, I've temporarily lost my humor writing mojo.

I've tried writing six different pieces, a top ten list, a satire, a riff on hospital food, a letter to the editor, multiple pre-holiday bits. Most of it sounds forced to me, ergo, it would not be the right tone, or worse, it would not be funny.

Instead of telling stories, this past week, I've been hearing them.

On Monday, I took a walk to clear my head. I got into a conversation with a woman pushing a tiny but not chihuahua dog wrapped in a blanket in a real baby stroller.

Normally, my mind would reel with such made for blog material, but instead I engaged the woman in conversation. She was a former dancer, had lived in Afghanistan and her husband was an actor. She admitted sheepishly that she probably spoils her dog, but he's too little to keep up with her when she roller blades and she worries he'll get run over by a bicyclist or a car in DC, so this is how she protects him. She lamented the lack of energy for dance in Washington and thanked me for listening.

Then, there's last Friday, when I took a cab to my husband's office to get paperwork and hand off laundry. The man who drove my cab told me the story of his having grown up in DC, of being the oldest of nine and partially raised by his aunts. He explained that he was a poet and gave me a copy of his collection. It was pretty good stuff. The sparse prose had an airy and emotional tonal quality like a musical pulse.

Last night, when I was rechecking Paul into the hospital, a beautiful tall African American woman with red eyes watched as I gave Paul's history. She asked his name, his full name. "Catholic?" she asked. "Yes." "Me too." She told me how she took her kids to the Basilica because it was the one church they loved. How she'd promise them breakfast if they all went. I told her we bribe our kids with donuts or bagels too for good behavior.

Then she started to get a bit teary eyed and told me how her son broke his arm so badly, they had to sedate him for the x-ray. She told me this was the fourth time he'd been injured playing football, and that she was more worried about his head. She was alone.

I think she noticed that I noticed because she then added, "My husband left me this week." I didn't think I had heard her correctly. She repeated herself. "I'm so sorry." I started. She shook her head. "No. No. It's a good thing. It's a good thing." He had been on disability and didn't work, and it had become more and more difficult coming home to hear she wasn't doing enough. She told me she was glad he was gone. We agreed to pray for each other, and I managed to eek out three decades that night before getting distracted by medical reports and sleep.

The point of all these stories to me anyway, was to remind me to stay generous of heart and spirit and humble. We cannot know the life stories of those we write off at first glance. The doctor who treated Paul at HSC and held him through the night when I slept was the father of many, and a veteran, a survivor of bullets and bombs.

Taking my son from me and instructing me to trust him while I slept, he said, "I know how precious life is."

The nurse who brought Paul his medicines was the youngest of nine from a family in the Phillipenes. He was happy to have been assigned Paul.

All of our lives mirror the Joyful, Luminous, and Sorrowful mysteries if we let them. All of our lives have the capacity to teach others the graces and meanings of those mysteries by example. Only by listening and watching and really being open, do we have the opportunity to enter into the Glorious. Paul has been a vehicle for others to speak, and for his mother, to listen.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Go to Island Park News!

Today's humor serving comes courtesy of my first weekly column with the newspaper, Island Park News! "Fractured Mommy Tales!"

I will now shamelessly plug...myself.
Leave a comment for them if it makes you laugh. Thanks!

I tried to make it a link but no dice. So cut and paste and I'll try to learn what I need to do.

P.S. We're actually going to try to enact that plan. Don't tell Batgirl. (Scroll down to see).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Good Excuse is Hard to Find

Everywhere I am, I am distracted.

What with all the blogs to view, websites to visit, YouTube’s to watch, emails to answer, friends waiting on Face book for me to click on a fish, a crown or a Chinese New Year’s astrology symbol, I may finally catch up on the things people have wanted me to see, read, speak out for or against about, and to know…for the calendar year 1997.

Then, we add in the actual mail, the 400 plus channels on Dish, all the TV shows Tivo’ed that I haven’t watched, the one hour a day I’m supposed to exercise, the 2100 calories I’m supposed to consume in a pyramid fashion with only 15% coming from fats and the meditation/creative freeform thinking time advocated by most leading experts to prevent brain burn out and mental exhaustion, and I don’t know why I haven’t had a nervous collapse.

Today, I’m supposed to have signed six papers, read for 15 minutes with each child under the age of nine, supervised my two teens with an age appropriate parent/child bonding activity like cards or a video game and also made time for my husband and also for me. On my list of to do are five phone calls and three bills that also need my attention, a few loads of laundry and a basics grocery shop of the non negotiables, Milk, bread, diapers, chocolate, fruit and diet soda. The to-do list had already topped out at 18. I'm supposed to limit it to ten.

So when my beloved spouse asked me to be sure to feed the koi in the pool on a daily basis, I balked.

The problem is, at two weeks post-partum, I helped run a Fall Festival at my school, complete with an inflatable maze and roughly 600 people in attendance. It was a blast. However, I now have outed myself to my children. I can be organized. I can manage a large scale event. I can even, be on time.

As a result, when I say, “I don’t know if we can fit that into the schedule.” In response to a request for Karate or basketball or music lessons, there now exists a healthy level of skepticism. They’re not going to accept “We’re too busy to do that right now.” Not without a fight anyway.

Now, I’m searching for the Mommy Kryptonite excuse. It must be plausible enough for use to opt out of future obligations. So far, the few I've tried have been shot down hard.

“We can’t add gymnastics on Fridays because I’ve been asked to head up the peace negotiations for the Middle East and that will take at least three weeks worth of preparation. We’d miss a third of the classes.” "Mom," my six year old looked at me with a mixed expression of benevolence and incredulity, "We can have a carpool."

“I’m not going to the park because I have strict instructions from my doctor not to venture outdoors in temperatures below 65 degrees.” My smart toddlers looked at me, and parroted my own words. "Wear a coat."

“With the economy tanking, we’re saving all our pennies so we can buy a gallon of gas.” Here, my teens took me to task, noting that since August, the price of gasoline has dropped by more than a dollar, and that we'd save a lot more money if I stopped using the speed pass to get myself a diet coke and a twix bar every time we tanked up. Ouch.

My excuses failed splendidly, and then I thought of it, the kid silver bullet.

We can’t do it because, “Daddy said no.”

So I guess I'm feeding the fish regularly until further notice.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

But Mom, This Makes Me Look CooL...Really

In getting ready to write a regular column, I revisited some of my old blog entries that never saw daylight. Now I take my writing seriously and try very hard to make sure the things I put on the blog are at least moderately edited and above all things, worth reading. However, once posted or published or sent off into the email wonderland for consideration, I don’t go back to peruse them. Because I’d “Fire and forget” carpet bomb editors with columns, I never looked back to reread any of my stuff…until now.

Going back into the blog postings of the past year is like revisiting one’s high school yearbook. It’s awkward and irritating because I know when I was in that moment, that I believed with all my heart, leg warmers and unicorns were cool and Xanadu worth watching.


My mother did counsel against the second viewing of Olivia Newton John’s musical with Gene Kelly, but I couldn’t get past the glow of the music. She also suggested the “I Brake for Unicorns” bumper sticker for the car might be a poor choice.

Currently on my laptop, I have a file with 200 plus unicorns.

They were once sparkling and beautiful and glorious magical things that popped off the page with their dazzling brilliance. Sure they needed minor trimming, but these were inventive thoughts that deserved to be circulated amongst a broad circle of people. Now, I’m looking at these ungainly unnatural creations of mine and many seem far more monstrous than first imagined. “Why didn’t someone stop me?” I wonder.

Looking at my junior yearbook drama club picture, I'm the one with a pink bathrobe sash tied around my forehead like a headband. Maybe the fact that no one wanted to stand next to me should have been a clue.

Yeah. I know. Mom tried to stop that one too.

Now, as I trim run-on sentences and find misspelled words I have to wonder...when I send these pieces off, am I sending real unicorns or bathrobe sashes that I thought people would mistake for headbands because they were pink?

Maybe, I should call my Mom.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Christmas Canards

It’s that time of year again. Just after Halloween, someone puts on the radio and my children discover the Christmas music station. There is great rejoicing amongst the under 12 set as they discover wonder of wonders, that this station plays only Christmas music from now through January 1st, and I know at that sinking moment, there will be a news blackout in my car for the next ten weeks.

I can’t be the only one out there who has the love of Christmas almost stamped out of her by overexposure to Johnny Matthis in November. Having yuletide music before we’ve carved Thanksgiving turkey is the emotional and sentimental equivalent of speed reading the entire collection of Chicken Soup for the Soul. None of the stuff is bad really, none of it harms the psyche, but too much of it in one sitting is well, too much of it.

To my brain, we need Scrooge to convert from something or there’s no story. We need the Grinch to experience his heart growing three sizes that day. Only when it’s cold can we appreciate the hearth/heart warming qualities of a fire. Tiny Tim by himself is pure maudlin sentimentalism. Well alright, Tiny Tim even during the Christmas season is a bit over the top, but holidays and traditions have seasons, retail management decisions not withstanding. Like fruits, these seasonal pleasures taste better in their own time.

Explaining all of this in my “Mom lecture you’re supposed to remember” tone, I talk about the virtue of waiting. “Wrapping the presents rather than just handing you a toy means more.” The kids are paying attention! I go on about wanting them to long for Christmas and getting to put up more lights than the home owners association policy allows rather than just leaving the display up all the time. There are giggles from the older ones and I point out, the pleasure is coming from thinking about what they will do, not from having it already done.

One of my many parenting flaws is not knowing how to turn off the Mom spigot once it gets flowing. “I want them to anticipate getting new warm pajamas for the Christmas card picture and be delighted when Mom finally gets her act together and lets everyone make Christmas cookies.” I’m getting into a poetic revelry about the season when one of my darlings raises her hand.


“If you want to listen to the news instead, just say so.”

My older daughter speaks up, “Yeah, we get it. Only in the night can we view the Christmas star.”

“Where’d you learn that?”
“I don’t know, it’s in one of the Christmas songs I think.”

In an act of magnanimous parenting, I deliberately turn on the radio to that station. They are playing a sentimental selection that sets my teeth on edge, followed by Santa Baby by Madonna, followed by one of those commercials for a clinic that specializes in things I don’t want to have to explain to my children…ever.

And I realize my own lecture is wrong. In these songs and the advertisements are pockets of worldly thoughts that I find far less appealing than I thought. So I ferret through the CD’s and find the Johnny Mathias Greatest Christmas hits. Placing a stack of Christmas music next to the stereo, I ignore the calendar date. It's November and I will feed their heart’s desire, as they listen happily to the strands that remind them of what is coming.

I’m just going to do it without the commercials from the radio, or me.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

November 5, 2008

I wrote this for my kids but decided to put it up here as well.

Today is November 5, 2008. Yesterday, we were Republicans. Today, we are Americans. President Elect Barrack Obama will lead our country in what is a historic presidency not simply by virtue of the color of his skin, but by the margin by which he won the Electoral College vote and the public enthusiasm he envoked.

We fought for McCain and Palin as hard as finances and time would allow, but the country was angry with President Bush. And since they could not punish him, they punished his party instead. The War on Terror, the economic crisis, the housing collapse, the failure in Katrina, all of these problems, plus a few besides, combined with the organizational network of groups like MoveOn.org and the non-stop cheerleading by the media, made the fact that McCain came close at all in the polls, an amazing accomplishment.

Most of you were asleep when Senator McCain gave a gracious concession speech. I am sorry you were not able to hear it, for I found it both healing and heartening. He was and remains an honorable man, whom I believe would have made a good president.

Our party lost. It is not the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last. I know for some of you, this will sting a great deal. I hope it does not put you off of politics or of fighting the good fight. If you play a sport, you know that sometimes, sometimes even when you play your guts out, you don’t win. You also know that there is always another season, and that one loss does not mean you stop loving the game or quit playing. Politics is a blood sport because people put their hearts on the line, both behind principles and people. It hurts to lose. But there will be other elections. So what is important is not to lose heart. Not to allow any frustration or irritation you have at not being on the winning side to so color your judgment that you refuse to allow yourself the possibility of feeling this pain again, by not caring as much.

The president will need our prayers and our support, so will Congress, so will our Country. One of the hallmarks of our nation is the peaceful transition of power and we hold that to be important. This does not mean we will acquiesce our values; only that we wish the new President and new government officials well in their duties and we honor their positions of elected trust to uphold the public good. We will still fight for those ideals we found compelling enough to campaign for, to vote for, and which for us are not negotiable truths. But President Obama deserves our respect and the opportunity to earn our trust, for he has garnered the Nation’s. He has asked for and received the great honor and heavy burden of presidency.

Watching the television and even simply walking the halls of this hospital, I see the proud faces of people who have often been down trodden. I see joyous faces of people who have felt much and suffered much at the hands of immoral people who allowed hate to take over because it had the support of law. Those joyous faces are a great thing. Perhaps now, we can finally close the chapter of our country on racism and bigotry holding a minority down. I truly hope so. I hope one day, we can also close the bloody chapter on abortion in this country for the same reason.

You are blessed to live in a country that takes risks and aspires to greatness. You are blessed to live in a country that tries to live up to ideals. Being peopled by human beings, we often miss the mark in our words, our deeds and our laws, but we still keep pouring our hearts out trying. We always keep trying.

So support your new president and continue speaking out on what is right, true and beautiful; for that my children, is what it really means to be an American.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What Were the Dems and Repubs Thinking?

Now that Election Day is over, there is a little question I've wanted to ask.

In this modern day, why haven't either the GOP or the DNC revisited their animal symbol to find one that was say, less ironic, less vulnerable to criticism, less unappealing? Every other aspect of either party has been sanitized for our consumer protection. Why not this one?

Let's take the Elephant first, as the perhaps considered less objectionable of the two mascots.

An Elephant is huge. It's grey. It's wrinkled and bulky, destructive wherever it goes and loud. The result is that the party can rightly be portrayed as bloated, old and leaving large piles of ....mess that someone else has to clean up.

Don’t get started on that tired canard of tradition. The name of the game in politics is “just win baby.” Most people don’t go around thinking fondly about large smelly elephants.

From a marketing standpoint, the GOP’s mascot fares better than the Democrats but most fur bearing creatures with a vertebrate would beat out a donkey in a popularity and plush version contest. There also are problems with those few celebrity pachaderms out there. The most famous elephant? Dumbo. Not the image one would wish to project. Currently elephants are on the endangered list. Again, a party that aspires to the highest office in the land might want to embrace a more popular animal or at least a more prolific one.

The DNC donkey.

It would seem that this is obvious. Being a braying noisy spavined mule in no way could ever be considered a compliment. Being called a Jack...again, what's to love? These creatures have bad teeth, mean tempers and a stubborn streak a mile long. Does anyone in the Democrat party think this is a good selling point?

In the spirit of bi-partisanship which Pelosi and Biden assure us will take place once there is a near veto-proof Senate and so many Dems in the House that no Republican can so much as sign off on a piece of legislation without permission, I submit a new mascot for both parties.

Since the Republicans are in danger of becoming extinct, I propose the Polar Bears.

They've resurged from near extinction. They apparently are only welcome in Alaska. They also are near invisible when walking in their environment, even with others of their own kind. Polar Bears also don't play well with others. Sometimes, if hungry, they eat their own. They are considered even cute as long as they are viewed from a distance. They also support corporations like Coke-cola via commercials. They are willing to sell out if the oil pipe gets them an easier meal.

For the Democrats, I propose deer. Everyone thinks they love them. They appear innocent, natural, beautiful and soft. They are in reality muscular creatures that actually destroy and eat a tremendous amount of vegetation. The ones with horns appear tough, but usually run from a fight if the other side makes enough noise. They are however dangerous when cornered and can destroy an SUV if they get out on the road. Sure they carry Lyme disease, but hey, the Dems have an answer for this, universal health care.

The Senate and the House as a whole, also need a mascot, and I propose a stuffed boar. Pork with pork sausage is the perfect meal for a congress that believes it’s all their money. Here's hoping there's a pig roast with the new congress.

Finally, for any Republicans that survive Election Day, I propose the sitting duck, or maybe a PiƱata.

Baring these changes, I hope that everyone in this country, including congress will remember our system of government is not founded on the principle "We're okay but those people from the other party are idiots."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

And Sometimes Why

Kids require one to consider the imponderables of life.

Is shampoo edible?

How long can I let them watch cartoons before it becomes bad parenting?

Should I worry that my daughter plans to write about her childhood when she's an adult?

Why does my oldest insist on wearing a faded Hawaiian shirt every Friday? Can I burn it?

Why does my three year old need so little sleep?

Do the candy wrappers of Hershey's kisses add fiber to the diet?

What is the proper response to two children fighting over one blue block when there are fifty identical blocks in the box next to them? Is it legal?

How come the shirts I buy for the one kid who needs new clothing, shrink to fit the kid who has the most?

Why does my twelve year old have a fetish against buttons? Ditto for the ten year old on sweaters?

When did my son decide he would only use plastic silverware? Is his fetish an insult or a serious editorial comment to me?

Why can I think of all the things I need to do if I make a list but none of them if I don't?

Outside of helping the next generation with high school math, when is algebra needed in the real world?

Why are most works of literature, theatre and movies considered great, depressing?

Should my oldest feel concern that he gets Greek tragedies like King Oedipus better than "coming of age" works like Things Fall Apart? Should I?

Why can my kids memorize all the pokemon and their attack powers, weaknesses, and evolutionary traits, but not the state capitals, 43 presidents or the periodic table?

Why do I know all the pokemon and their attack powers, weaknesses and evolutionary traits but not the state capitals, 43 presidents or the periodic table?

Why if I think knowing things like the periodic table are important, can I not summon the mental will to memorize the state capitals, 43 presidents or periodic table myself?

How is it that every grade seems to be getting more complicated, the more children I send through it? Was I just not paying attention the first three times?

When is Spring Break?

Friday, October 31, 2008

I Made the B-team

A year ago, I applied for the B-team Catholics,a group of Catholic bloggers --you submit and if you are accepted, you get this nifty B-team Catholic Blogger widget to add to your blog. I got accepted. Now I have to figure out how to install said nifty widget. Anyway, here was my application.

If the saints are the All Stars, then aren't we all b-team Catholics?

I mean, aren't we all sitting on the bench waiting, hoping, in some cases even praying that somehow we will be the star of an ABC afterschool special? You know, the one where the really mean but exceptionally talented popular girl insults us publicly in the lunch room about our pathetic athletic skills and we cry in the bathroom but then in the game, she gets hurt and we're put in while she recovers? Then, in a string of no less than miraculous events, we play well enough to not completly lose the game for the team such that the former real mean girl recognizes our worth both as a player and a person and the whole crowd cheers as we score the winning point with our oddly awkward serve.

Making the B-team Catholics of bloggers would be like the denoument of the show, where the whole team goes out for ice cream and the coach awards the player of the year trophy to the orriginally thought stinky players who turn out to be a loveable bunch of scrubs that everyone underestimated. Cue music, credits and fade out.

Please don't make me sit on the bench for both games. I'll work on my serve and being able to set and bump and spike I promise! Or make me manager. That's right, I won't even be on the team, I'll just be with the team. I'll carry equipment. I'll clean up. I'll pass out snacks. I won't even eat one. Just, let me ride on the bus with all the really cool people please?

Sherry Antonetti, Catholic mom, blogger and B-team wantabe.

Why We Fast

Today, I got to shake things up a bit at our house. My youngest decided he needed a trip to the Shady Grove Spa, (nickname for all hospitals in our home), courtesy of his Pediatrician. So this Halloween, I'm pretending to be a mom of one, and their dad is pretending he works from home.

We arrived at 4, were admitted around 9 and I wanted food. (It was 11 when I expressed this idea that I should eat something). The cafeteria was closed but the vending machines remained.

One of the machines sold burritos and microwave fries and frozen pizza and one more thing, a "Fish and Cheese" sandwich. Being in a hospital, maybe you could take the risk on food poisoning, but I couldn't help but think the two dollar couldn't cut it as a Filet O Fish sandwich had to be in that machine as part of a lost bad bet or possibly, a dare.

Maybe there were some strict Catholics who needed a viable option for abstaining times of the church calendar year. The problem with that idea, there are no days of fasting in the Fall. Old Fish and Cheese sounded almost as bad as Preemptive Fish and cheese. I could not imagine how desperate one would have to be to eat such a thing.

It did however, encourage me to skip dinner. Fasting is good for the soul, particularly when the dish served is Sole.

p.s. Paul is doing very well. This is just part of the process of moving towards his eventual heart surgery.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Been Talking to Mother Teresa about Many Things

Thursday is my Rant day. Last Thursday, I got an Annoymous comment where the person told me "Shame on her and Shame on me." for supporting Sarah Palin. She said we should be ashamed for the lies she tells and that I apparently support. The person did not state the lies, nor what I should be ashamed of, nor have the courage to give their name and thus I declined to post the comment.

Now I like healthy debate, so I agonized about not posting it. There were people who disagreed with my politics and did so with great respect, and I did post the one that I received in this vein. But the idea of having engaged in unfair censorship bothered me. Granted, this is my soap box, but I dislike when one side just shouts down or shuts out the other, so I worried I was committing the same fault. Having felt lately to pray to Blessed Mother Teresa, I asked for guidance.

Immediately, my kids interrupted the prayer with a fight. "MOMMM...She called me Stupid!" my son cried.

Reflexively, I responded. "It's never nice to call people names."

The immediacy of the wisdom of the Holy Spirit never ceases to amaze me. The fact that I did not publish the ugly response troubled me no more.

Speaking of Mother Teresa, here is a letter she wrote to the Supreme Court --I only just found out about this and felt compelled to post it here. It is the year of Paul, people are much less afraid to speak out on important issues like Abortion.
People like Mother Teresa however, never lacked courage to say what was true.

Mother Theresa of Calcutta’s Letter to the Supreme Court (1994)

Here is the letter that Mother Theresa wrote to the Supreme Court for reconsideration of Roe v. Wade.

This amicus brief was filed before the U.S. Supreme Court in the cases of Loce v. New Jersey and Krail et al. v. New Jersey in February 1994, by Mother Teresa.

I hope you will count it no presumption that I seek your leave to address you on behalf of the unborn child. Like that child I can be considered an outsider. I am not an American citizen.

My parents were Albanian. I was born before the First World War in a part of what was not yet, and is no longer, Yugoslavia .
In many senses I know what it is like to be without a country.
I also know what is like to feel an adopted citizen of other lands. When I was still a young girl I traveled to India .
I found my work among the poor and the sick of that nation, and I have lived there ever since.

Since 1950 I have worked with my many sisters from around the world as one of the Missionaries of Charity. Our congregation now has over four hundred foundations in more that one hundred countries, including the United States of America .
We have almost five thousand sisters.

We care for those who are often treated as outsiders in their own communities by their own neighbors—the starving, the crippled, the impoverished, and the diseased, from the old woman with a brain tumor in Calcutta to the young man with AIDS in New York City .
A special focus of our care are mothers and their children.

This includes mothers who feel pressured to sacrifice their unborn children by want, neglect, despair, and philosophies and government policies that promote the dehumanization of inconvenient human life. And it includes the children themselves, innocent and utterly defenseless, who are at the mercy of those who would deny their humanity.

So, in a sense, my sisters and those we serve are all outsiders together. At the same time, we are supremely conscious of the common bonds of humanity that unite us and transcend national boundaries.

In another sense, no one in the world who prizes liberty and human rights can feel anything but a strong kinship with America . Yours is the one great nation in all of history that was founded on the precept of equal rights and respect for all humankind, for the poorest and weakest of us as well as the richest and strongest.

As your Declaration of Independence put it, in words that have never lost their power to stir the heart: “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” A nation founded on these principles holds a sacred trust: to stand as an example to the rest of the world, to climb ever higher in its practical realization of the ideals of human dignity, brotherhood, and mutual respect. Your constant efforts in fulfillment of that mission, far more that your size or your wealth or your military might, have made America an inspiration to all mankind.

It must be recognized that your model was never one of realized perfection, but of ceaseless aspiration. From the outset, for example, America denied the African slave his freedom and human dignity. But in time you righted that wrong, albeit at an incalculable cost in human suffering and loss of life.

Your impetus has almost always been toward a fuller, more all embracing conception and assurance of the rights that your founding fathers recognized as inherent and God-given.
Yours has ever been an inclusive, not an exclusive, society. And your steps, though they may have paused or faltered now and then, have been pointed in the right direction and have trod the right path. The task has not always been an easy one, and each new generation has faced its own challenges and temptations. But in a uniquely courageous and inspiring way, America has
kept faith.

Yet there has been one infinitely tragic and destructive departure from those American ideals in recent memory. It was this Court's own decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) to exclude the unborn child from the human family. You ruled that a mother, in consultation with her doctor, has broad discretion, guaranteed against infringement by the United States Constitution, to choose to destroy her unborn child.

Your opinion stated that you did not need to “resolve the difficult question of when life begins.” That question is inescapable. If the right to life in an inherent and inalienable right, it must surely exist wherever life exists. No one can deny that the unborn child is a distinct being, that it is human, and that it is alive. It is unjust, therefore, to deprive the unborn child of its fundamental right to life on the basis of its age, size, or condition of dependency.

It was a sad infidelity to America 's highest ideals when this Court said that it did not matter, or could not be determined, when the inalienable right to life began for a child in its mother's womb.

America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships.

It has aggravated the derogation of the father's role in an increasingly fatherless society.
It has portrayed the greatest of gifts—a child—as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered domination over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters.

And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners.

Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being's entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.

The Constitutional Court of the Federal Republic of Germany recently ruled that “ the unborn child is entitled to its rights to life independently of acceptance by its mother; this is an elementary and inalienable right that emanates from the dignity of the human being.” Americans may feel justly proud that Germany in 1993 was able to recognize the sanctity of human life. You must weep that your own government, at present, seems blind to this truth.

I have no new teaching for America . I seek only to recall you to faithfulness to what you once taught the world. Your nation was founded on the proposition—very old as a moral precept, but startling and innovative as a political insight—that human life is a gift of immeasurable worth, and that it deserves, always and everywhere, to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect.

I urge the Court to take the opportunity presented by the petitions in these cases to consider the fundamental question of when human life begins and to declare without equivocation the inalienable rights which it possesses.


Lastly, her most famous quote on the matter, "It is poverty to say that a child must die that you may live as you wish." is one that no one has ever been able to refute.

For those who say, it's been over 30 years, get over it, "No." We must never tire of speaking out against injustice, against wrong, even if no one seems to be hearing the message.

I always wanted to tackle this issue with humor. But How?

Well in Houston, there are no Zoning laws. So I always thought the perfect solution would be to open up a daycare and a maternity store and a baby clothing boutique all next door to every clinic that provided abortions.

Personally, I'd have lined up the babies to play outside all afternoon everyday as part of the business and have piped Twinkle Twinkle and Rock A Bye Baby outside the store just to make sure the message wasn't missed. The name of the materinity store, "Unexpected Joys." The daycare, "Mommy's Little Angels" and the baby store, "Best Baby Gifts."

Yes, I know I don't fight fair.

It's probably why God didn't allow me to become a business major. Too much mischief.

Lead us not into temptation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Haiku Haiku, I don't know how to do...

I’ve never been any good at Haikus, I’m not even sure how to write the plural of Haiku. Seventeen syllables has always seemed arbitrary to me, like having a plastic flower in a glass vase at the dinner table to create ambiance. Still, I picked up a very funny book, Haiku Mama –because 17 syllables is all the time you have to read which inspired this piece.

And Now, My Haiku

Printing Books
On cereal boxes
Would solve child literacy over breakfast.

Or at least they would in my house.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Short Definition of an Optimist

At a Comic Book Shop in the mall, there was a rack of costumes. While Batman, Spiderman and Superman were well represented in all sizes, only two costumes appeared to have been ordered to fit women wanting to indulge in Halloween traditions: Halle Berry' Catwoman and Daredevil's Sai wielding ninja girlfriend, Electra.

Good luck fellas.

Now I read and have read comic books since I could read. To this day, I am puzzled that the costume purveyors don't have Marvel Girl, Storm, Kitty Pryde, Phoenix, Dark Phoenix, all manner of Catwoman and Batgirl costumes available for October 31st. Who wouldn't want to dress like the Winsome Wasp or Megan of Excalibur, or Emma Frost after she joined the X-men. Honestly, I'd have suited up my entire group as the X-men if the manufacturers had created any options other than Wolverine.

But it isn't just the X-men that suffer from this problem. It happens with Lord of the Rings and Star Wars too. I mean, Eowyn rides into battle, hacks up the Witch King, providing the turning point in the battle and is there a costume for her? No. Not even a wig and pretty dress from her time in the Rohan court!

And I remember when Star wars first came out. There were Han Solo figures, R2D2, C3PO, Chewbacca, even the unfortunate ewoks and Jabba the Hut, but Leia? Forget about it. Princess Amidala is available but most people over the age of 20 would like to erase from their adult memory, any recall of Lucas' second trilogy that prequelled the first.

Searching the costume sites is a dicey endeavor. Lots of the potential outfits border on the pornographic. I mean, they make the Halle Barre and the Electra pieces look a bit like Maid Marian and Juliette. Maybe the comic book guys are banking on desperation to close the deal.

I've however come up with my own idea for Halloween, and I'll even get to be a superhero in the process. This year, I'm the Invisible Woman.

Happy Halloween Week!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Silver Fox

For years I've toyed with the idea of dying my hair.

I've never done it.

Part of the reason I haven't up to now is, I've been pregnant or nursing for much of the past decade during which my hair has progressed from straight brown black to having a skunk stripe to having a white swath across the top. Whenever I've mentioned the idea, my husband has said something sweet like, "I've loved you in all your seasons." or "You've earned every one of those." which has melted me into laughing at my momentary vanity.

However, the amount of grey alarmed me when I viewed a recent photo of myself. As if to seal the deal, my six year old in all her tactful joy said to me, "Mommy, your hair looks really old."

I bought a loving care Clariol can that day.

Opening it in the bathroom, I looked at the happy woman on the box. I worried I would stain the sink. I worried I would stain my clothes. I worried I would look like one of those lego people with a cap of solid black hair on my head. I read the directions. I was losing my nerve. I reread the directions. More nerve lost. Now I taught my kids always to read the instructions three times before starting anything new, so I followed my own advice. The can remained unopened in my medicine cabinet.

But a friend has offered (she does this all the time), to teach me the secret ways of hair color on Tuesday.

I figure, if I screw up, I'll look good at least for Halloween.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday Politics (My Rant)

I took down the story upon reflection, because it was too close to the bone.

I left the end part because it still applies.

Courage isn't given out at a university. Neither is a moral
compass. Sarah Palin didn't get into politics to impress anyone. She saw a problem and she took it on, and that lead to being asked to take on bigger issues, which she
willingly did. She faced real struggles and pain and did so with courage and grace.

Sarah Palin has walked into the lion's den, facing a hostile media
and a relentless assassination attempt of her entire life/family by
those who disagree with her political views. She has been declared
stupid/vapid, clueless, vulgar, niave and utterly unfit despite
having risen to the position of Governor not because she was rich or
powerful, but because she was willing to do the hard thing, to act
rather than just talk about the problems in the parking lot. Her
motherhood and her professional career have been derided without
mercy, all because she was willing to reach higher than others deemed
she ought. Anyone can disagree with what must be done or why, but
the attacks have not been on what and why or even how, they've been
on WHO.

Vote for the ticket you believe will best help the country. As for
me, someone who is willing to take on something because
it is the right thing to do, is a better choice than someone who puts
other people down for not having been the smartest in the class
before daring to act.

--Sherry Antonetti, p.s. Hey Sarah, Let's get Trig and Paul together for a play date in 2009.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's Not Just My Kids...but it Could be

Most of these stories are plucked from my life with slight modifications. Sometimes, I get stories from family or friends. Here's one I got from sitting at a softball game. Much thanks to K.

They had come home from a carnival. The kids had a blast. All three had balloons. Going to the kitchen, one of them decided her balloon lacked style. It needed detailing. So, she broke out the markers. Her sisters quickly followed suit. The balloons now were a multitude of colors, heavy on the purple. Play could resume.

Five minutes later, the balloons floated up to the ceiling.

It's not quite how one sponge paints a wall to create texture but it was a conversation piece.

I'm now imagining my little darlings decorating our living room which is two stories high via balloons. I'm also envisioning me attempting to attach a Mr. Clean bar to a pool cue duck taped to another pool cue and scrubbing the ceiling from the second floor.

Memo to me: No balloons. Secondary memo to me: No markers! Third Memo to me: Surrender and paint the walls purple now.

More fun than a home makeover! Humor-Blogs.com!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Home School?

No other aspect of parenting taxes my personal reserves like having to provide oversight during homework time to my kids.

Looking over my daughter’s math book, I spotted an error. “Two plus five doesn’t equal eight, you need to check that problem again.”

She pouts; her eyes begin to water, “I’m stupid! I’m never going to get this, never never never!” She folds her arms and puts her head down on the table and wails.

Over the two years of helping this one with homework, I’ve tried various responses, soothing tones of reassurance, militant aggressive “you’ll learn it and you’ll like it” boot camp, incentive offerings that make me feel like a time share seller. “Add now and get this glorious peanut butter jelly cookie, fresh baked from the oven…add two and get an additional glass of milk, Vitamin D enriched to ensure that even though you are missing prime playing outside time by doing your homework, you won’t get rickets.”

I've even tried praising her every attempt. Because it made me feel vapid, I used song. Cue Perry Cuomo! “You know that doing your work is… Wonderful! It’s Wonderful…so they say…” She'd humph, bury her blonde head on the table and refuse to move. But then, it might have been my singing.

Research within my own home has revealed all approaches equally ineffective, so now I just stay with the time honored, “I’ll get back to you.” when this happens.

“Do you like my essay?” My eldest daughter brings me her first draft. The writing is excellent but the spelling makes it hard to read. I praise her use of words and turn of phrase effusively as she beams. Then, I gently offer to underline the wrong words so she can look them up.

A cloud appears on her face, she draws in a deep breath and screams. “I can’t spell alright? It’s just too hard!”

“I know you can do this.” And I hand her the dictionary
“I don’t want to!” she shouts tearfully and stomps off.

Now this one, I know. She’ll huff, she’ll puff, she’ll pout up and down but in the end, she’ll fix the errors.

The first one had forgotten her pout until the sister’s response reminded her, “Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be upset.” She reboots her sad face.

Buying time, I check on my son.
“How’s it going?”

Having to read assigned books for school has reduced his verbal expressive skills to annoyed and angry.

“You know, I loved Charlotte’s Web when I was in third grade.” I started.

“Humph! That’s because YOU WERE A GIRL!”

“Whatever! RRRAGHH!” and he thrust the book back in front of his face with a scowl.

O for 3.

I don’t remember fighting this hard with my parents over homework, although I do remember getting poor grades for what felt like forever until I figured out what the teacher wanted. It involved actually paying attention. Who knew?

“I don’t like the book!” my son was insisting. I tried sympathy. I told him about hating “Lord of the Flies.”
“That book sounds cool! Can I read it instead?”

“No.” Ack! Conversation veering out of control. Going in very wrong direction!
“Why not?”

Think fast! Ummmm…..“You’re not old enough.”
“Do we have it?”

Knowing that if I say yes, there will be a wild gleam in his eyes as he then spends the time that should be allocated to discovering the lyrical joys of E.B. White to find the verboten tome that epitomizes adolescent male rage run amok, I swallow and answer honestly, “I don’t think so anymore.” It is vague enough to cause disappointment. I know in a moment, the spark to be contrary will be extinguished by the return to school work.

“I still don’t like this book.” He explains, thumbing the pages.

“That doesn’t matter. This is the book that was assigned. This is the book for the project. Here is the rubric. Just answer the questions.”

Reading the actual assignment for what oddly feels like the first time, he discovers he can make a 3-D poster instead of a report. Suddenly, Charlotte’s Web rocks as he breaks out the scissors, construction paper and glue.

The fourth child is nowhere to be seen. She has used the commotion to escape to the basement. It takes every fiber of parental discipline I have to call down to her to return. I discover she’s been spelling the words for her older sister. They both give me a mild look of, “and I would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for you and your meddling!” before sitting down.

Meanwhile, the pouter has returned to coloring and may be safely redirected to math once her masterpiece is completed. She bolts through it like a champ and gushes, “This is easy! I’m really smart in math. You were right Mommy!” complete with a very earnest warm hug. Melted beyond my own willingness to admit, Perry unbidden comes back into my head to finish the song.

“It’s wonderful…so they say.”

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!