Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010 Resolutions

I've never really gotten into resolutions, but then I don't like budgets and diets either, and usually January 1st is about restraint, moderation, about self discipline. Already, the animal part of me can feel the presence of a proposed bit and bridle, (to use the Aristotle image) at the mere suggestion of eat less sugar and fat, exercise and cut up the credit cards. Even though I know intellectually, these would be helpful to my well being and long term goods, the horse chafes at the prospect, stamping, snorting and glowering at the would be charioteer in me proposing such a crazy idea.

I've never had much luck with all things in moderation and my chariot is the proof. I haven't asked in prayer for that assistance, and more so, I haven't asked because it isn't my heart's desire. I guess having nine children makes it obvious, mine by nature, is not a moderate soul.

But I know it is not what we do but how we do it that makes a day full, makes a life sparkle. In writing, what determines a writer from a person who writes as a hobby is BIC time. (body in chair). A hobbyist writes when they get to it, when they're inspired, when the ideas are crackling and popping like bacon. When the muse is with us, the very smells of the ideas jazz us to want to do more. But when there are no lines in our head so good we keep repeating them until we can find a crayon and torn envelope to write them down, the blank page of a word perfect program feels like a K2daring the unprepared hiker to take the first step. A hobbyist will wait for inspiration, a Sherpa to guide. A writer starts up the hill daily with or without one.

Now my sister is the introspective one in the family; she is also a natural rider and an expert on horses. She understands what goes on in her own head and heart immediately, intuitively; and she rides magnificently. My charioteer's a bit slow on the uptake and my capacity to ride a horse; it's shamefully amature and worse, seasoned with my own Texas bravado. I can do it, but anyone who knows anything, knows I know nothing but that I think I know what I'm doing.

The one thing I can do, is get on a horse and go VROOM. I love that flying feeling until I remember, I'm not entirely in control and we're going way too fast and man am I an idiot who is going to break her neck if she doesn't pull up, whoa, Whoa, WHOA! It's probably why when I was at camp, they put me in horse musical chairs with the oldest horse in the stable. But I digress.

When I write things, I usually go VROOM and then pull up and have that "Whoa." moment about whatever it is I've been hashing over on the page about my own life after I've written at least 1000-2000 words. She half jokingly told me, "You should write more."

So it is, that I had the "Whoa" moment that writing, like jogging, like riding, budgeting, is a process of being first and foremost, willing to take on whatever it is, to start, and then to edit and refine as you go and keep doing it every day. That whispering to the horse how the chariot could go VROOM if only she submitted a little, might be the charioteer's best bet. The horse might not be receptive to being attached to a chariot via a bit, bridle and all of that, the chariot could use some care and a bit of paint and trim, and the charioteer should get more willing to practice and become more educated about the whole direction they need to be going, but being allowed to run full throttle once they get started, that they all three understand.

So this year, I resolve to stop treating any of my life like a hobby. Every day is a new document demanding my attention and dedication, and every day is also, an old piece requiring editing and refinement. This year, I resolve to go Vroom and learn to say Whoa before I come close to breaking my neck, and also to talk to my sister more often.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monopoly Rules

On December 21st, the President, touting some 41 billion the federal government would save by 2011, said the following. "The Federal government can no longer spend taxpayers' money like it is “monopoly money.” I'd congratulate the President but he already did for himself anyway, and it just means our deficit is 12.1 trillion plus at the moment, as opposed to 12.5 trillion plus at the moment.

Keep in mind, I concede that any government must spend money to function. In Monopoly, every player starts with 1,500 in cash. But the Democrats have gobbled up the utilities, the cars, they're the banker and seem able to roll doubles three times in a row without going to jail. People are selling the houses they've amassed on their properties to pay the bills while Congress never pays the luxury tax and keep raiding the parking lot and community chest for extra dough. We pass go. We do not collect the 200 dollars, they do.

As straw men go, this one is pretty weak Mr. President. It's not like tax payers have been beating on Congress's door saying, "Spend more! Spend more! We know who we're working for!" Like his predecessor, he gets the bills congress passes. They write the bill. He signs the bill. We pay up the bill. It is very convenient.

He's right though, it's not monopoly money, it's ours. Even though both games are made in China, it's not like we can raid the Game of Life for more funds if we run out. This scenario is more like Wheel of Fortune and we landed on Bankrupt. In one year, we've added a third to our total national debt. I'm not sure we can afford much more of the current government's financial restraint. The government plans to pass health care and cap and trade is next and silently, they've raised the debt ceiling so they could borrow more. The president's "I feel your pain and that's why I'm scolding CEO's, banks and Congress." moment does not resonate a real thirst for fiscal thrift.

I sympathize that the problems the current leader of the land received upon taking office were not easy, but to lecture on how the government will be cutting coupons from now on is laughable given the current Congress's monopoly on power and the Executive's fetish for the high life.

The Presidency is supposed to be a symbolic office in addition to being an actual executive office. Let us examine the symbols we've seen. His wife wears 400$ sneakers. He feasts on Wagyu Kobe beef at 100$ a pound. His kids go to Sidwell, a $28,500 per kid per year school. This year, they Christmased in Hawaii at a place that costs more per day than Boardwalk or Park Place with hotels. Now it's okay that the first family wanted to go take a vacation and Hawaii even makes sense for their family; but they've had more than a few. Trips this year included a jaunt to China, Copenhagen, France, Germany, England, Cairo, the Virgin Islands and the pricey date night in New York plus those necessary democratic fundraisers that are scattered throughout the land. I didn't go to Harvard so maybe I'm missing the nuance, but these things do not seem to me like symbollic empathy with the poor, down trodden or economically struggling.

With 10% unemployment and 20% underemployment, 401K's that still offer little hope for a secure future, underwater mortgages, looming higher taxes on a federal and state level to make up the shortfall of projected income for new and reallocated spending, most people scaling back on even everyday things. Maybe he should you know, trim it back a bit, have the staff shop at Costco or use priceline to book his hotels and maybe occasionally order up some ground chuck or pasta for dinner.
Bo could switch from the gourmet can food to dry, just to underscore the "skin in the game" and sacrifical stewardship of the public trust and public funds the President feels those in government ought to be so concerned about.

Then he could say, he understands and that these tight economic times even affect his own family.

But for the rest of us taxpayers, we've got to keep rolling the dice and hope we can keep landing on Chance to get taken to a Railroad we own, Go or directly to jail, and that last one might be cheaper than even just visiting.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pew Sitters and Kneelers take a Stand

Mass two days after Christmas feels like too much church for some of my crew.
Just after the homily, my darling 4 year old grew weary of sitting and stood up. This was fine, as she still barely tops the pew. But when her older brother moved in on her place in the row, she said quite loudly, "That's my spot. HE TOOK MY SPOT."

Thank goodness for my other son, who very deftly explained, "He didn't take your spot. He took mine and I took his." Pew Tetris isn't for the faint of heart. The dynamics of place settings rival a state dinner or an analytic question on the GRE.
She then asked in a loud voice, "Am I being good enough to get donuts?"

If I say yes, she will view every action she takes from this point on as mitigated by that admission against interest. If I say no, I will here heart wrenching caterwauls from the same person for the rest of mass. "We'll see." is the weak response I mumble to put her off for a while.

Midway through the liturgy, I get an urgent memo: "I'm tired." from one who should know better. I also get "When is this over?" during the song for the offeratory. Fortunately, the primary clock watcher can't actually tell time so I said, we're more than half way through the mass and that satisfied.

I don't know if other parents use the responses of the laity in the mass as editorial comments but it seems God understood we would need to occasionally talk in code to our children, to mentally cuff their noses while everything appears perfectly orderly.

"LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION." "PEACE be with you." and "Lord have Mercy." often get special emphasis in our family, such that some of our kids think you are supposed to raise your volume at that point in the prayer. I do know the lady behind me was overcome with a fit of giggles because of all the double meanings being conveyed through everyday responses.

Still, it's hard to get too frustrated with these people who don't quite know how to be present at mass because I too sit there distracted as I try to direct one to wait until after to go to the bathroom, another not to play with the kneelers and a third that he has no excuse for me not hearing his voice when 1) he can read 2) he has the loudest voice at home and anywhere else and 3)I can see his lips moving but no sound is issuing forth.

I too am not fully present, trying to remember our envelope number and scribble a check during the song, making sure we have all 22 gloves and 11 coats. We come back from communion and I keep searching the aisles, looking at all the faces, wanting to see in them what I know they cannot find when they see me.

The distraction is not limited to my family. We are two days from Christmas. We had just received communion. We ought to be lighter, brighter for the gift of the Eucharist. We ought to not be bothered by the coughing in the back or the music coming in late or the occasional opening of the Church doors in the back. We ought to be mirrors of the star that lit that night so long ago. We ought to be awash in light for others. Yet everyone looked worn and tired.

And so when my four year old clapped her hands when the priest finished the announcments, I felt grateful for the reminder via my daughter of how we are to regard this gift of the liturgy, of celebrating the mass and having it mean what it means. For a moment, she understood and was in rapt attention in a way most of us would have to work to find within ourselves.

Then we went back to, "That's my spot." and I was reminded, "Lord, we are not worthy to receive you." Thankfully, He says the word and all is healed.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

This is last year's photo.

I'll be uploading this year's as soon as I figure out how to download it from our new camera.

We close every Christmas Eve with my husband reading "A Night before Christmas" and then carolling his children, closing with "Silent Night."

May all of you have a blessed Christmas.

All I Want for Christmas is NOT As Seen On TV

Over the past few weeks, my kids have been overwhelmed by infomertials that ran in between harmless Christmas specials. They've been brainwashed into thinking the "As seen on TV stuff" I just can't bring myself to buy, would make perfect presents.

First, there was concern about what to leave for Santa as a snack. We didn't have the perfect brownie patented mold. No one had ever complained before. I had always been gracious about eating the ruined ones, but now, there was no excuse for my irregular batches of chocolate gooey goodness. I suggested we make a cake instead.

But I didn't have the giant cupcake mold. I'd seen that commercial: bratty children stick out their tongues at a plate of cupcakes and give gob smacking smiles for the single one the size of a turkey. My oldest daughter looked at it and said, "Isn't that just a cake?" but my middle son took down the phone number.

Indoctrinated by the many opportunities I was letting slip through my fingers, they tried practical suggestions, like the "Your Baby can Read!" program for three payments of 29.95! I explained that I didn't want to fork over 90 dollars for flashcards and videos. My kindergartner shook his head ruefully. I could almost hear the "She's a bad mother." whisper in his head.

When you have nine children, you figure, you're going to disappoint some, but hopefully not all. My easiest to please was brought down by bump-its. My daughter said those hair clips would make her look "fabulous" especially for Christmas. I sighed knowing she would be disappointed by the lack of fat hair December 25th, though I did get her shampoo, conditioner and a hairbrush.

The bathrooms today are toothpaste debris free but only because I cleaned them this morning. They'll have to squeeze the last bit of paste out with manual labor, by rolling it, and they'll have to wipe down the counter because I yell about the gobs of blue goo.

They won't have moonsand or paperoni or chixos or bendaroos because I struggle cleaning up from the endless crafts my kids design with ordinary paper plates, kleenex and cotton balls. I have enough maternal guilt already from all the times I've tossed their creations in the trash, such that I do not want to purchase more craft items I Know I'm going to throw away.

Having openly mocked Snuggie robes as gifts for those who find blankets too complicated, I was surprised when my toddler daughters suggested it as the ideal gift for me. My older ones have heard me rant that they're like the chia-pet version of a sweater and used to be called mu-mus. But if the 2 and four year old use those puppy dog eyes on their daddy because they think the zebra stripe looks pretty, I'm getting one and I'll have to grin and wear it, often.

So next year for the sake of mothers everywhere, I'm creating my own infomertial.

All the perfect gifts for Mom; gourmet chocolate, a silver watch and a red wool wrap available with one phone call. Credit cards accepted. In four easy installments of 39.99, you can have the perfect gifts for your mother! Women all over the fruited plane currently sweating in leopard polar fleece burkhas and eating perfect brownies will thank me. Order now!

Are You Ready for Christmas?

“Are you ready for Christmas?” gets bantered around a lot these days. In past years, most people answered this question by rattling off a list of what they’ve bought, needed to buy, had done or planned to do.

But this year, I’ve heard people lamenting that they don’t quite have a grasp on Christmas yet. They don’t feel ready. They don’t feel prepared. The world feels too dark, too out of control, too angry, too political and divisive, difficult. Overwhelmed by the mere prospect of trying to be ready to celebrate such a festive day, it seems too exhausting to deck the halls and trim the tree or send out cards and hold a feast. Who has the money? Who has the time? It’s just too much hassle over so much tinsel.

However, it is precisely when we feel the grip of the world’s darkness, that we need the joy of this sacred time. It is now when things are hard economically, physically and emotionally, that we must act as luminaries to others, encouraging everyone to prepare even as we ourselves do not quite feel ready. We are called to try whether we are shepherds or kings, soldiers or innkeepers, to recognize our own unwillingness to make room for Jesus in our lives.

None of us are ready or worthy to receive Christ; no one gave His family a place to stay, no one had a perfect home for Him prepared, except for Mary. Thus it is that the Church in its wisdom has given us these four weeks of Advent so we can be about the business of preparing our souls through scrutiny, through prayer, through the sacraments, to rediscover a sense of awe of God.

We can take comfort in knowing that preparing for the pleasure of the presents and the family and the feast is not necessarily selfish or greedy; that our outward actions reveal something of our hearts to the world. Our gifts, our meals, our decorations are all the little things we are called to do with great love. Further, God who knows and loves our whole hearts, will turn whatever we do towards Him to turn us towards Him. So deck the halls. Prepare the way. Enjoy this blessed waiting time and be ready and eager for Christmas. But remember:

The trees were not decorated.
The gifts were not wrapped.
There was no feast prepared.
There was no room ready.
There were unexpected and expected guests.
There was music.
There was light.
There was peace
and there was Christ.

The first Christmas was not ready for the reason of Christmas.

So, rejoice in your unreadiness, for it is why Christmas is at all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Snow Cakes, Turkey Vultures and Extreme Extermination Measures

We have a very long driveway. It clocks out at one tenth of a mile.

We had a very large blizzard; about 18 inches dumped itself all over the DC area.

That driveway is a pain when you just want to get the mail or bring back the recycling cans. But when you have to shovel snow....pass the advil please.

Our children were dutiful. I will give them full marks for their valiant attempts to shovel the white stuff away. We got through 2/3rds of the job but fatigue and darkness postponed completion by one day. So today, in an effort to eliminate the job and keep the kids from despair, my husband hit upon snow cakes.

He shoveled out breaks in the drifted snow, carving out rectangles that were 8x5x2 and then we personalized them with the shovel. Different sizes were rendered for different children. Then we dressed them warmly and sent them outside. The walk was clean within the hour.

So now I'm wondering, if I wrote their names on top of their piles of laundry, would it get put away in sixty minutes?

Snow brings out the crazy in most of us.

So when I saw my kids all staring at the far back trees and throwing snowballs into the air, I assumed they were having a normal sibling scrimmage. My oldest was studying for exams and I decided he needed a break so we dressed warmly and snuck out the front to spring a surprise attack. We ran out to find two of my children lying still on the dry shoveled driveway. The others were motioning for us to ssshhhhhh.

They were trying to lure a Turkey buzzard by pretending to be carrion so they could throw snowballs.

No Turkey Buzzards were fooled by my turkeys, not even close.

Then, the mailman pulled up in his truck. He had to wait for the children to scramble off into the snow as he pulled up to hand out five boxes. Telling him they were bait for scavenger birds didn't even raise an eyebrow. I'd say that meant he'd heard such things before but I doubt it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pesky Facts and other Thoughts

Senator Ben Nelson feels that he has exacted enough pounds of flesh to pay for the pounds of flesh that will be lost in the process, and that the wink and nod he gives government accounting will satisfy his value system. Under the Nelson deal, 45 Million has been allocated over the first ten years for Medicaid and perpetual federal funding for the state of Nebraska's senior citizens and there will be 13 states in which federal funding underwrites abortions.

Comparing Mary Landrieau of Louisiana to Nebraska's senator Nelson is unfair, it is oranges to apples. Mary Landrieau's deal of 300 million for her state's poorest citizens may have cost more fiscally, but at least she didn't sell out morals. She never held the unborn dear in the first place. Nelson, like Adam, couldn't resist the apple.

Reid has the 60 votes to bring the bill to the floor, avoid a filibuster and get the damnable piece of legislation into reconciliation with the house version so that the President can brag of establishing health care. But let's talk about those pesky things; facts.

What the bill doesn't do:
It doesn't lower the deficit. CBO estimates the cost at 2.5 Trillion over the next ten years and I'd add, when has the Government ever come in UNDER budget?
It doesn't fix Medicare (it cuts 470 billion from that program).
It doesn't provide care for the uninsured immediately --it will tax immediately, but the full benefits won't go into effect until 2014.
It isn't fully transparent because it still isn't finished being put together.
It doesn't safeguard the concerns of those who do not want to fund abortions.

What it does do:

It will demand that people and businesses buy coverage or suffer fines.

It will increase premiums (CBO estimates GNP allocations to health care expenses will increase 17 to 24 percent over the next ten years as a result).

It will cover abortions through a wink and a nod of allowing states to opt out and having a monthly premium fee of segregated money used to address this service. 45 million may constitute a fig leaf for Senator Nelson, but for most moral thinkers, dead is still dead and so if you oppose abortion, you don't really care if the abortions are done in Texas or New York, you care that they are done period. You care that your tax dollars pay for an immoral inherently evil act.

It will ration care by adding a layer of bureaucracy.

It will ration care by eventually eliminating much of the private sector. Private schools do compete with public schools but when the economy is tight, guess which ones are suffering?

It will encourage doctors who can retire to do so, rather than be paid less for the same services they provide now.

It will create a whole new segment of government that no one will have read or know much about other than that it costs tons of money and eventually, all of us will pay.

But when things are darkest, we must be lights. Hearts aflame burn brightly.

Call your Senator. Call Congress. Write. Email. Jump up and Down. Speak out. Read. Stay informed and above all else, pray for the strengthening of will, the softening of hearts and true wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Charity towards the poor and the sick does not negate the need to champion the innocent and the helpless. Christ turned away no one and if we would be followers, neither should we.

This bill is many things. People who have argued against it have been called racists, separatists, tools of the insurance companies, uninformed, neanderthals, homophobic, selfish and unpatriotic and unchristian.

This bill is many things, but patriotic, fair, evenhanded, reasonable, good, thoughtful, sensible or helpful to the sick, poor and helpless, and just to all, it isn't. This bill is many things,Christian isn't one of them.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sure I'll Feed the Fish

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 42 meals a day I make, 11x3 squares+snacks for 9, 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, the 20 minutes of quality time per kid and the drop everything and read hour, actual homework and 20 minutes a day we’re supposed to have the kids practice their musical instruments 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.

Yesterday, I 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 of cards and made time for my husband. My to-do list had 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 and had 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, last year, two weeks post-partum, I ran a Fall Festival at my school, complete with an inflatable maze and roughly 600 people in attendance. It was a blast. However, having successfully run a fund-raiser fourteen days after having a baby, 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.

As a result, I began a search for the Mommy Kryptonite excuse. It had to be plausible enough for use to opt out of future obligations. The first few I tried where 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.

And then I thought of it, the kid silver bullet.

We can’t do it because, “Daddy said no.” It worked every time.

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

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Small Success Thursdays Save the World

Every week, Family & Faith Live! celebrates the minutia that actually makes up the macrouniverse. Go to and leave your note!

Parenting is one long struggle to successfully change the world. Changing the world isn't a job for one person or one time. It is an ongoing process that is perpetually incomplete.

Changing the world means being sources of light and comfort and aid and that can take all forms. It can be speaking hard truth. It can be comforting someone because of a hard truth. It is often unthanked, unhearaled and non newsworthy. It is done in inches, in seconds and over long miles and eons of time.

The child that learns to read because the teacher took extra time, will not necessarily recognize until long after when the ah-ha moment, how their world was changed. That teacher changes the world. The nurse that swallows her irritation and her headache to be comforting to a person coping with great pain, changes the world. The person that lets another person who seems to be overcome with emotion while driving, pass without incident, resulting in a calmer safer road, changes the world.

The spouse that stays faithful, the person who says and means, "I'm sorry," The neighbor who decks out their house with color and light and invites everyone over, and the man who ignores his cynicism whenever it threatens to squelch a kind act, these are the people that every day at some point, help change the world.

So, How'd you help change the world today? I changed diapers. (It counts!)
This week:

1) Got husband and self to annual physical.
2) Made pumpkin pies and trimmed the outside of the house with some lights. (Not enough but then there is no such thing)!
3) Got to kid's band concert on time and in a front row where they all saw I was there on time.
4) Stayed in budget. (For now).
5) Made it to reconsilation.

Go, laugh, smile at someone. Change the world.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'm Too Insulated for My Blog...Too Insulated for My Hat...

The most tired people on the planet are not Santa Claus and his entourage. It's the staff at Home Depot. Yesterday, the president paid a visit to a franchise in Virginia and said the following:

"I know the idea may not be very glamorous -- although I get really excited about it. We were at the roundtable and somebody said installation is not sexy. I disagree. (Laughter.) Frank, don't you think installation is sexy stuff? (Applause.) Here's what’s sexy about it: saving money." You can google it to read the rest.

Tiger Woods reportedly has expressed interest in being a spokesman as a result.

But as a consequence of the leader of the free world getting all "wee-wee'd up," these poor souls have spent the last 24 hours listening to every wantabe wit coming in to ask for the Score Baby! section of the store.

"Insulation, aisle 12."

In a related note, Rod Stewart is rewriting his classic 70's sleaze rock for modern ears, now entitled, "Do You Think I'm Weather Proofed?" No word on whether George Michael is going to make a piece, "I Want Your Owen Corning Pink Strips!"

So, in the interest of charity, please, if you must go to visit the big store for toilets, plumbing, wood and more, give the folks there a break. Buy the insulation for home delivery online.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Milking Tiger

Last week, Tiger had contracts with Gatorade, Gillette, Tag Heur, Pepsi and Nike and many others. Before, he was the family guy driving the shining black Buick with his supermodel wife and beautiful kids. Then, it was revealed he had a bevy of women that rivaled Bill Clinton. Now, everyone including Tiger can agree that leaving pleading messages on multiple answering machines to “Erase the tapes” was Nixon type stupid.

Today, his sponsor list has probably dropped into negative numbers. With the number of women coming forward, restarting that gravy train of cash becomes Wood’s number one priority. In light of his desperate need, I offer the following suggestions for reversing his fiscal fortunes.

Solution #1: Humility and Ecology as a form of civic penance.

Picture the following ad with a split screen scene: Tiger on one side testifying, “Before, I drove a big SUV and cheated on my beautiful wife. I was dumb dumb dumb.” The offending SUV pollutes on other side.

“Then, I got caught.”

Pan to Al Gore scolding Tiger and lecturing him using his convenient Oscar winning video. Tiger is attentive, nodding, taking notes.

Next, we see Woods at his home in the morning chasing off a paparazzi. Tiger then digs through the garbage himself to find a coke can that hasn’t been recycled and makes sure the plastic and aluminum are properly sorted. (Promo dollars from Coke-cola for the spot ad without the negative affiliation).

“Now, I’m smart.” and the screen pulls away to show Tiger with his wife and kids all tucked snugly in a SmartCar as they drive off into the sunset.

Solution #2: Tiger has been a bad boy.

Go with it. There are beer commercials a waiting. The set is simple. Tiger holds an imported expensive exotic beer and smiles. Countless beautiful male and fem fatale fans gather to provide company, clearly happy to see him at the bar. “Drink this and you too can have scores of super model women, or at least be in the presence of people who you think look like super models after a few rounds.”

Alternatively, Viagra is currently camped on line two just waiting for Woods to sign on the dotted line to say, “When tonight’s the night for you and you and you and you and you and you and you and you and you.” Finish the plug with Tiger looking at the camera with that iconic smile and saying, “Hey, I’m a golfer. You got to finish the round.” And show him walking off the greens, club over his shoulder and a slew of hottie caddies in tow.

These commercials wouldn’t quite make the current laughable version of family hour but Tiger could hardly be charged with further coarsening of our culture any more than Bob Dole did by ogling skanky Brittany Spears and talking ED. A fabulously wealthy celebrity lacks moral standards. Move along people. Nothing to see here. Nothing new anyway.

Solution #3: Emergency

Tiger seems to have 911 on speed dial these days. I smell a great link in with On-Star. “Hello, this is Tiger.” “Hello Mr. Woods. Is this an accident involving alcohol or an assault by someone armed with a five iron?” He’s crouched in his car. Bonus cash from Volvo or whomever agrees to provide the vehicle. There is clear violent motion of golf clubs outside the windows but it’s muted and tastefully done.

Voice over:” On-Star. We’re available 24-7 even when you can’t reach your cell phone. (Show a woman’s hand flushing cell phone down the toilet). Getting a plug for the mobile phone might be a tough sell but there’s probably some start up company willing to pony up for the spot.

The ad closes with a final crossover coming from that All State guy walking up and mentioning that the car and the clubs are covered, and that he's in good hands.

So Tiger, take advantage of this crisis. This turn of events (admittedly brought on all by your own bad self) will allow for a whole new chapter in your story and when it settles down, you'll have a suitable resume to run for congress. In the meantime, if you need a ghost writer to help you carve out the sorted details in your tell all so you can turn a few more bucks and make the TV talk show rounds, I’m available. ($50,000.00 down, plus all travel expenses, 100,000.00 upon completion and 5% of the gross). If I'm going to cast ethical scruples aside like those super models, I'm going to at least be smart about it; a bargain, yes, but not cheap.

One last dig. Last week, Tiger announced he was giving up golf to work on his marriage. I'm no marriage counselor but I'm thinking, it isn't the golf he needs to give up.

Monday, December 14, 2009

All Rise, The Honorable Judge IMHO Presiding

Hallmark sentimentality is a hallmark of the season, but sometimes, these movies and specials cross from being harmless sugarplums to being something else. The following five films have been charged with injuring the Christmas spirit specifically mine.

Judge IMHO (In my humble opinion for those who don’t speak text) presides and shall issue rulings on each of the accused.

Nestor the Christmas Donkey: Rudolph had his red nose; so obviously, the Nativity must have done some outreach from an outcast that would be identifiable to kids! Those shepherds and kings are so boring. Solution: Create a stop motion donkey with excessively long ears. Have the other mules make fun of him. Have his mother die keeping him warm. Have him cry repeatedly on screen and a slow tin eared poetic cowboy narrator sing a mournful refrain to move the plot along. One plus: It’s not the little Drummer boy.

Judge IMHO’s Verdict: Guilty for hijacking the Christmas story with a plot line from Bambi and adding the donkey mommy’s soul encouraging Nestor on his journey in a Luke Trust your feelings or Lion King Remember me kind of way. It’s also unwatchable for really bad singing.

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer: In 2000, this goofy spoof of a song morphed into a 45 minute animated Scooby Do type mystery/trial of Santa. Who framed Saint Nick? Cousin Nell. (Oh No! I’ve spoiled the surprise!) A deejay got fired for playing this song 15 times, but his offense was truly light, as Time Warner sees fit to re-air this one joke fruitcake every year. There will be a reckoning.

Judge IMHO’s Verdict: Guilty! Being tacky and stupid isn’t supposed to a crime, but this time, it should be. There was a serious debate about whether forcing the creators of this toon to view Nestor could be considered cruel and unusual. Not if I make the Nestor guys watch Grandma . Ahhh parity of pain induced by bad earworm tunes.

Barbie Nutcracker: We own this one. Consequently, I ponied up to take my daughter to a real version of the ballet. It was a shock to her mind to discover the Sugar Plum Fairy was NOT the primary character and that the Rat King was not turning everyone to stone with his magic staff.

Judge IMHO’s Verdict: Probation. My daughter liked the real thing better, but she still watches it. She still loves it. It survives until the DVD gets scratched and I’m free forever. I’d write more but I’m still picking the pink residue dryer lint out of my brain from the last viewing.

The Arthur Christmas Special: Normally, I’m a big fan of Marc Brown and all of Arthur’s adventures. The subtle humor that sometimes sparkles through has made many an afternoon of folding laundry with my kiddos tolerable, especially as the alternative to Pokémon. But this cartoon’s ecumenical outreach program goes astray when the only proclaimed Christians are portrayed as buffoons. (The Crosswires bring the Frenskies a ham and of course, the Frenskies are Jewish). Every other tradition that happens to coincide with December including the agnostic single mom and son Baxter family gets portrayed as having meaning and depth.

Judge IMHO’s Verdict: Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Granted, it’s a cartoon, but is having people attend Church is so controversial that we can’t show that on public television? Never mind, forget I asked. I suppose showing devout Christians taking their holiday seriously like those of other faith is considered more mythological than Santa Claus.

Prosecutor’s Note: The Arthur special beat out Recess’s “Holiday” episode even though the later had two girls dress as druids to explain the Yuletide season because the former still runs on the air seasonally and is financed by tax dollars but it was a close call. I couldn’t send the later up because that one is so obscure. Trust me. Even now, I’m ever so close to wavering. 4th Grade Girl Druids! My brain hurts.

While resolutely refusing to acknowledge anything remotely religious about the existence of Christmas is itself nothing new, it does wear after a time so I take comfort in knowing, that ours is a powerful true God, or else the world would not be so fearful of acknowledging His story or even acknowledging someone acknowledging.

Hmmm. Maybe I should rescind on poor old Nestor. Donkey souls vs. soulless. I’ll have to think on that.

Tune in next time when Judge IMHO considers the radio during the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Girl Who Cried Swiper!

One of my favorite shows to watch was Deep Space Nine. I liked it better than the New Generation, Enterprise or Ugh, Voyager. It ran a close contest with Babylon Five for sheer quotability and the capacity to do something with a sci-fi scenario other than resort to technobable and pc solutions.

The writers used the existence of aliens to allow for different perceptions of reality to be explored in a conversational manner. One of the best at conveying this sort of insight was Garack, the Cardasian tailor/spy ousted from his world and government. When told the story of the Boy who Cried Wolf, he explained a different interpretation of the outcome; "that you should never tell the same lie twice."

Children often make us rethink our preconceptions about how things are understood.

My four year old is a big Dora the Explorer fan. So we've watched her Christmas special about Swiper being placed on Santa's naughty list. The fox must go about his past rectifying times when his past self was selfish and refused to share in order to garner a present from present day old Saint Nick. It's sort of a Christmas Carol with Dora as the guide of past, present and future. What did Dickens do to deserve this...well, there's Little Dorrit, but I digress.

When my sister-in-law gave us two bags full of beautiful outfits, this same four year old kept pouncing on the very best outfits, most of which her younger sister wanted as well. After she'd claimed the patent leather shoes and velvet red dress and a satin blue purse as hers permanently, I reminded her of the Dora special. "Don't you want to share? Didn't you learn like Swiper that it's more important to share."

She flashed those glowering brown eyes at me, "No. Swiper didn't have to share until the end. He got all the toys and then just had to share a little."

In a way, she wasn't wrong, and in the same way, neither was Garack.
So it would seem, I have work to do.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Family & Faith Live Small Successes Thursday!

There's an inspirational talk by Nichole Johnson called "The Invisible Woman" in which she talks about how most of parenting, most of mothering goes unseen except by God. She's right.

It can only be felt when the finished product, the person/persons the child or children become or by the way a home is, such that the very air of the house welcomes the husband and the children and the extended family and friends.

We are all called to love so completely that the everyday chores like laundry and Christmas cards and vacumning and homework help are baseline, like the three squares and the nagging about tooth brushing and showering and whatnot. These tasks simply are what must be if we would love seemlessly. We are called to be translucent, so that Christ is revealed.

However, the world loves to trumpet all these acts as Sysphean drudgery, proof that we are oppressed, proof that we are allowing our SELVES to be caged in a house when we could be out doing so many things that would be so much more blog worthy than feeding a baby an orange, helping a daughter into a velvet dress or putting away the sheets. The world would have us proclaim our despair at the never ending lists and the never ending demands.

But this is Advent. When the world sees darkness, we are to reveal light.
And so again, this season we're reminded, that if we do this out of love, if we serve with humble hearts, even a stable can be a place of warmth and beauty and heavenly light. We are called to make room in our inn, to clear out our stable for Christ and hope that we're graced enough to be an ox or a donkey or a sheep in the scene.

With that in mind, this week's little victories that are as always, only baseline.

1) addressed the Christmas cards. All but 25 went out, as I ran out of stamps.
2) tied stockings to the stairwell.
3) went to Reconsilation last Thursday night. Afterwards, my daughters put up the tree.
4) The laundry is in their rooms. I'll patrol later today to put it away, but for the moment, it's not exploded all over my living room.
5) saw a friend on Friday and we stopped to have hot chocolate and visit.
6) called a good friend of mine I hadn't spoken to in a while.
7) planned a date for my husband. Ordered tickets.

Have a blessed Advent!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Harry Reid's Grand Strategy

I understand the very real need for access not simply to emergency care but everyday long term pain in the neck maintenance care that insurance provides and that should be in this country, available regardless of income. I get it.

What I'd like, is a plan that had a ceiling as to how one qualified, meaning if you could not get work via an employer (as they are now by law required to offer this benefit), and you could not purchase it (unemployed), you would be able to access the system.

But I start to turn cold to the whole process when this level of stupidity constitutes the beginning of a theoretical serious discussion about the matter.

So I can't think it's too expensive as currently envisioned? It is.

I can't worry that it will fund abortions or anything else I find objectionable without being considered the equivalent of a slave holder?

I can't think we shouldn't add spending to an existing and ever growing deficit by creating a new entitlement that seems overly broad and with no exit strategy to cease ever expanding? Why not?

I can't think that this might eventually eliminate existing insurance programs because why would business buy something they could get for free if they got taxed if they did and taxed if they didn't? Why not?

I can't think that the government couldn't manage the very small cash for clunkers well and has found it could pay for things by recapturing fraud it ignored might be playing loose with the fiscal facts? Why not?

I can't think this is a bad plan on top of lots of other bad plans? Why not?

I can't think that this will cost much more than anticipated or reported? Why not?

I can't think that I will lose a lot of privacy by the government overseeing health care? Why shouldn't I?

I can't think that any of the health care plan that is over 2000 pages is full of stuff I don't want and don't want to pay for on a permanent basis and that probably is pork. It is. I don't have to actually think about that question, it's just true.

I can't worry that if Medicare and Medicaid are undercut and are currently going bankrupt (prior to this) that maybe the government taking over this much of our economy might not be a good thing? Because why? Because more spending of what we don't have will solve our problems! Right.

Based on all the screaming by the Democrats and Health Care Reform Advocates claims, If I pause, if I criticize, if I find fault, I'm like a southern Democrat in the days of slavery. The leader of the Senate said so. My concerns are just so much flotsam of a morally inferior soul, like the racists and slave holders of old.

So I'm guessing what's next is if I chose to disagree with Democrats on anything, new federal regulations require (under the not yet passed Fairness doctrine) I admit I'm a big neanderthal meanie who is sadly misinformed and doesn't understand the big picture. Restitution will involve writing that sentence on my blog 1000 times.

Remember, We're from the Government and we're here to help.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


1)According to experts, overpopulation is the gravest threat to the Earth. If this is the case, shouldn't we NOT want universal health care so more of the "surplus population" will die off sooner?

2)If we want more money for government programs, shouldn't we want more people to become rich?

3) Why in modern day Christmas specials, is mention of Druid rites acceptable but not Silent night?

4) Why are we confused about how we've become fat as a nation when P.E. and Recess have been reduced to either a twice a week no contact/no competition activity or a 20 minute period during which tag, kickball, and dodgeball have been banned?

5) According to the EPA, Carbon Dioxide is poisonous. That being said,ought we to give plants a civic award? Ought we to demand that everyone hold their breath for a minute at a time for an hour a day? Maybe we should ban audible speech and exercise as that uses more air?

6) Why does my county cancel classes at the forecast of flakes but not weekend activities when 5 inches have fallen and a hard freeze is forecast?

7) What is left that we can do that isn't taxed? (Hint, don't tell, they'll tax it!)

8) If the stimulus plans have "created or saved" 640,329 jobs, why hasn't the number of uninsurred gone down by something around half a million?

9)If you are gunning for a reality television spot, how can you say publicity ruined your life?

10) If paying taxes is patriotic, aren't tax cheats enemy combatants?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy Bad Poet Society

My name is Sherry and I am a bad poet.

I know because I always got marginal grades in poetry class and once the professor refused to read my poem saying it was too self serving. I never did well in poetry I think because I like happy things like chocolate and Christmas and friends that wear bright colors. Also, I don't drink serious wine, have never lost a love and don't deliberately read edgy literature or watch film noir for film noir's sake. I'm too fat and cheerful to be a poet unless it's a bad one. It's not that I've never suffered or experienced the sublime, but that when I want to express something, prose fits.

Also, I'm not cool and I don't smoke. I never saw what the poets had to be so worked up about, most of them were cricically acclaimed and paid for their terse verse such that they could live a academic life on past laurels.

Poetry also hasn't been good to me personally. When I was asked by my teacher's aid to help her with her poetry critique, I read the two poems she had to compare and contrast. I gave my opinion. She parroted it. She got her paper back and apparently, I was wrong about which poem was best. I thought the question was stupid and that poetry that speaks to you, speaks to you, that "best" doesn't really come into the equation.

Now I was an English major and know how to read poetry. I can break it down, analyze structure, understand rhythms and rhymes, cadence and stanzas and symbolic meaning. It's just I get lost in the modern stream of consciousness pieces that always seem to seek the razor's edge and then splice that, as if all verse must draw blood and proclaim all is meaningless, or else the poetry itself is utter meaninglessness. I happen to like meaning. That's why I'm Catholic.

A high school teacher told me, "There are no happy poems."
I would argue, no happy poems are ever assigned, nor are happy poems ever given a good grade or published willingly.

But all suffering has meaning and my bad poetry has meant that I am an expert at what is no good. Meaning if I like it, it's probably el stinko by the poetry people's standard, and that if I hate it, it's probably universally adored by those far more urbane than me.

So just for fun, I merged two of the most recent poems to be quoted and declared verbal marvels by the educated world; I didn't like either: the Inaugural Poem with Al Gore's piece that was in his book and now is making the rounds to persuade the faithful about Copenhagen.

With some judicious editing, here's my poem. There are plenty of words I removed but not one added. That's right, I just mushed the two together like mix-ins at an ice cream; new words from the happy bad poet, me.


About our business,
The hour of choosing has arrived

Some live to pre-empt grievance
Here are your tools
In today’s sharp winter air,
any thing can be made On the brink

there’s something to find

where are we safe?

We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Did it make any sense? No, not really, but then, it could be that I just don't get myself as a poet either.

Make your own version:

I'd make a badge but I don't know how to do such things. If you do, please email me.

Then declare yourself, "I am a proud memeber of the Happy Bad Poet Society." and reward yourself with an ice cream sundae. It isn't a poetic thing to do, but it makes reading Sylvia Plath or any other poet considered of note by Vanity Fair or otherwise, much less depressing.

Holding an "A"ce

Whenever I request help folding the laundry, washing the dishes or for general cleaning, there is a stampede to the restroom. Having gotten wise to this diversionary tactic, I make my pronoucements armed with the toilet scrubbing brush.

So my older children have sought a new out from the dreaded chores of daily house maintenance. Homework. Even if I've preemptively asked, "Is everyone done with their homework?" and received a yes, they suddenly remember extra assignments.

It's hard to say, "You have to clean" when they are giving me the puppy dog eyes of panic, begging to work on their papers or research or math. This happened all weekend. So, I'm here and I'm cleaning for them while they spend time writing, reading, creating Christmas projects. I haven't complained but I have occasionally asked, "Are you done yet?" The answer remained "No." until it was time to shower up and call it a day. I felt had when I wrangled out of two that they had worked ahead.

But they've started this challenge, so I have a counter. "If I'm working this hard, you better get A's."

It's The Thoughtlessness that Counts

Suffering from writer's block, enjoy another Christmas special recycled for your reading pleasure.
This ran in the Island Park News on December 5th.

Men are hard to shop for, in my humble opinion. Perennial stand-bys like clothing, hobbies, sports and power tools feel rather like Ken doll accessories. Men don’t have an old-reliable, guaranteed “Oh Yes!” type gift like chocolate is for women.

The shops that cater to men smell like ancient leather-bound tomes on a library reference shelf. Their wares are usually are dull brown with a hunter green trim. Even the names of men’s stores seem like an afterthought; like the owner set up the shop and then said, “We should call this something. This store is for men. How about ‘Man’s Store?’ OK! We’re done.”

My husband likes gardening, so I’ve used that crutch for years. Receiving “practical” gifts has ensured my beloved can garden, hedge and weed whack the yard with the best of them, but there is a bit of a let down with these sorts of gifts. In the dead of winter, getting gardening equipment is like receiving electronic toys with batteries not included. He has to wait until the spring thaw to play.

When not giving him a new trowel, I have also admittedly used this season of giving to take care of necessities he needed. But let’s face it; socks wrapped up in a beautiful box are still just socks. My husband deserves an Oscar for his enthusiastic responses to my presents. I may buy them, he many need them, and he may use them; but the gifts themselves lack that lavish quality borne not from the price tag, but from the pleasure that even a passing mention of them might evoke.

I suspect it is lot easier shopping for me. Consider the Christmas day phone call to parents. My husband phones his mom, saying, “I got a shirt, some fishing tackle, a football jersey and a cordless drill.” It does not sound as exciting or evocative as my equivalent, “I got Godiva, a red sweater, a new purse, and a silver cuff.”

He had me at Godiva.

Even decades of receiving truffles has not ever made me think, “You gave me this last year!” In fact, the one year I didn’t get chocolate, I spent the rest of the morning sniffing around the tree to see if I’d missed a present.

My low water mark in gift giving came ten years ago. I ordered a book for my mother for Christmas. My family was coming to stay with us. The week of my parents’ visit, my Mom talked about how much she had enjoyed this book she found in my old room. It was the same book I had ordered for her. My thoughtful husband solved the problem by popping into a book store for some opera CD’s for me to give to her. But as we sat wrapping presents for my family and his, I suddenly realized I hadn’t purchased anything for him.

On Christmas morning, when he opened his lone present from me, he read aloud the book’s inscription, “I was thinking solely of you as I wrapped this gift. Better presents in the years to come, Love, Sher.”

Spousal love, and the fact that I had given birth two days before, mitigated my error, but I now shop for him first no matter what the holiday. I know my long suffering husband deserves better; something exclusive and passionate and fun. Maybe I'll stop by Man's store and pick up a new leather wallet and a hunter green tie./

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Real Christmas Fruit Cake

This piece orriginally ran December 9, 2007, but Christmas specials recycle every year so why not blogs?

We bought an artificial tree this year. Up until now, I had staunchly vowed never to buy a fake tree. I thought plastic trees were as evil as Charlie Brown and Linus thought they were in the Christmas special. I had also vowed never to eat fruit cake.

In both cases, I mocked what I did not understand. As an adult, I’ve actually tasted good fruit cake. It was homemade, scrumptious and left me wanting more. When we assembled the tree and I had a similar epiphany. I didn’t have to sweep half the branches out the door from unpacking it. I wouldn’t have to water it! I didn’t have to crawl underneath, pine sap dripping on me to screw the trunk into the base. I wouldn’t have to water it! The lights were already on it. I wouldn’t have to water it! So I was in an instant perfect Christmas mood and I didn’t have to water it.

Putting on classical Christmas music, I brought up the ornaments from the basement, anticipating, no savoring, a “to be treasured family moment.” Sighing happily, my brain exploded with a holiday list. “We’ll decorate the tree and set up the crèche and take a picture all in our Christmas sweaters and bake cookies…” I had briefly channeled Martha Stewart.

It lasted exactly five minutes and forty three seconds.

After the initial rush of opening boxes and “oohing” at beautiful ornaments had waned, the children began to reassert their personalities.

With eighteen hands reaching into boxes all at the same time, there was a lot of gentle patient nudging. I smiled benevolently and turned the music up a notch. In retrospect, now would have been a good time to sip a bit of Christmas wine.

Ornament placement became a problem. One child started snatching up prime locations on the tree like they were Boardwalk and Park Place. Then there was the “She got all the good ornaments!” issue. A daughter had taken to stockpiling all of the choice pieces. She was bartering with the squatter.

It had to happen. Someone was on a step ladder, someone was hanging a glass ball using a paperclip as a hook, someone wanted their silver reindeer in front of a light, somehow somebody hit the ornament the wrong way and ...“Crash.”

There were great accusations and denials as to who hung the now crushed glass green ball. Clearing out its remains jostled the wiring. Then of course the lights on the tree wouldn’t light on one side. Wrestling with the tree caused a few more ornaments to fall. I turned off the radio with a bit of a sigh. My Christmas mood was fading.

Meanwhile, on the floor disassembling the nativity scene, three not so wise ones were arguing over who got to play with the sheep and who got stuck with the cow. A smug looking older sibling opted to appear pious by hanging only angels, while lecturing on what was “appropriate.” The squabbles lead to two children stomping off. The oldest used the commotion to bug out to play Nintendo, followed quickly by his sister. That left the adults, two toddlers, the baby and one overly helpful kindergartner who only wanted to use the step ladder.

“That’s enough!” I yelled.

I turned on the radio, finding the All Christmas all the time station. “I’m putting on this Season's schmaltziness tunes. Come back here all of you! That means YOU! We’re going to have a Christmas moment and you will feel maudlin sentiment about your family even if I have to play “Christmas Shoes” to get it!”

Five seconds of silence and then recognizing the clear and present danger that loomed, from all directions they came running.

“Mom! I’m coming. Look, I brought our stockings!”

“I’m playing Holly Jolly Christmas on my Trombone!”

“Me next, I’ll do Jingle Bells on the piano.”

“Hey Dad, can we hang lights outside? Please?”

Within minutes, all was calm, all was bright. The tree sparkled, some of the kids were outside trimming the house and a memory had been created. Sweeping up the last of the broken pieces, I looked over at the baby, asleep in her bouncer and the toddlers who are busy playing with some bells. The nativity scene has a hot wheel and a reindeer added to it and is missing a sheep. Martha Stewart wouldn’t approve but I do. My husband brought me a glass of Christmas wine.

“There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays…” played on the radio.
Maybe I’m pushing it if I tell them this year I think we should make homemade fruit cake.

Thankful on Thursday for Small Victories

On Thursday, we celebrate the dust-bunny victories that escape accolades by the rest of the world, but even I feel like I'm pushing it a bit this time around.

1) Last week was my husband's birthday and Thanksgiving. We celebrated all weekend and that included card games, touch football and a serious two hour set of rock-band. We played hard.

2) We picked up the photo Christmas cards. I now can start mailing them. It's the first time we've done a picture card in a very long time.

3) I filled out the financial aid form for Catholic Schools. (It's the mental equivalent of a half marathon).

4) Taking all the kids who can to the sacrament of Reconciliation this evening, Dinner at McDonalds.

5) Working on the very small victory of not overspending.

6) Got teenager to apply to two high schools over the weekend.

7) Found some good gifts through a catalog for nephews and nieces.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent Begins

It's the first week of Advent and already, I'm impatient.

Coming two months early to start, I guess I always have been. It doesn't explain why I'm always late everywhere, but it does shed light on my inability to diet, budget or maintain a cleaning routine. It also explains why I struggle beyond the easy level with Rock Band, I keep jumping the count.

Like everyone, I am my own worst enemy. Original sin just messes with every gift we have if we let it and I do all too often. Delayed gratification is something I struggle with; I like the immediate hit of a comment on a blog and thus often surrender the better prize of a crafted publishable piece. I eat the pie when it's served. I don't take pitches and I panic in the pocket in touch football. The present that is perfect at first glance is too much to not purchase. I don't like looking, I like finding. God knows this, so He placed my future husband in front of me first day of college.

This year's prayer theme was "Wait on the Lord." Essentially, my husband and I have thrown this line out at each other all year long whenever things got hard. Sometimes it has meant serve, other times it has meant patience and most infuriating, sometimes it has meant both. Advent is the Church's "Wait on the Lord" instruction to all of us.

You'd think a year of meditating on this bit of wisdom would have paid off, but I still give hints about presents if they're really cool gifts. I used to do my shopping last minute so I wouldn't mess up and tell people what I'm giving. My current solution had been to tell SOMEONE what I got someone else but even that makes it harder for me not to give more hints to the recipient. It comes down to the fact that I don't like secrets and really stink at surprises. I've always found out what each kid I was having was. I always jumped up and down the last week hoping the time would be sooner than the induced date scheduled. Again, God knows how to work around my flaws and never has indulged my impatience on this point.

Even the one kid who was premature made me sit for a week and the other one that needed an emergency c-section made my husband wait in a room alone to pray while the doctors got ready. I had to wait to find out she'd been born, I didn't feel a thing and she didn't cry at first. Then we got the shock of great joy and that was what we needed, seeing her face and touching her cheek. This is what Christmas is; the shock of the angels, the shock of the star, the shock of the little family in the stable being the salvation of the world; the shock of seeing the one you love completely for the first time.

Christmas is the scheduled delivery day when time will slow down, when we will look around and miss whoever is not there, and feel the day would be better, more and more wonderful if everyone were in one place. We will long for Heaven because Earth only hints with all it's wonder and beauty and bounty but does not satisfy and we really really know it.

So as of today, the all Christmas carols radio station(with the notable exception of a few banned for life tunes), is allowed. We made a list of what we hope to have happen during these next few weeks but have promised not to freak at what doesn't. I will try to "Be still and know He is there." Holding onto the infant Jesus I know will bring the strong true peace not of this world but right now, out in the fields, it's hard not to want to run straight for that star. But then I remember, "Wait on the Lord." So I'm waiting. I'm not patient, but I'm waiting.

Have a blessed Advent.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Scary Phrases

Children have the unique ability to elicit pure terror in their parents by what they say, do, don't say and don't do. The following is by no means an exhaustive list, but if you suffer from tremors after reading, you can't say you weren't warned.

10) Dad to toddler, "Where is the toothpaste?"
9) Five year old to Mom, "I can't find my shoes."
8) "We made a rainbow in our room." (Children are holding open markers, no caps in sight).
7) "Nobody's hurt!" (Most effective when uttered the instant Mom or Dad walks through the door).
6) "I forgot my math book." Always spoken when one is pulling INTO the driveway.
5) "My shoes are still missing." after parent has given a list of places to look.
4) I need a poster...cake...clay...usb....(after 9 pm on a weekday) for tomorrow.
3) "I saw the baby with your keys." in response to parent tearing through house looking for car keys, usually said without looking away from television.
2) "I'm sorry Mom." (No explanation given).
1) "I still can't find my shoes."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mother Goose on Turkey Day

After the big meal as we were closing down for the night, my daughter remembered the assignments given for completion over the long weekend and she moaned, “I can’t wait to be a grown up and have no more homework. My free time will be my own.”

Speaking up and shattering that illusion would have been cruel so I held my comments but writing all of this up and trying to carve out a article with a gut filled with stuffing, cranberries and turkey, I mused over the apparent momentary existence of free time. I was writing on my computer. I was momentarily free. Blogging was a form of mental jogging for me, when the rest of the world would fall away in the process. It was liberating. It was a release. It was…then my oldest son came into the room and said, “Can I update my Facebook?”  and I pointed out that we still had dishes to do. 

"It's too many for just me." he explained. 

"You're in luck.  You have three sisters and a brother capable of helping."

"But Mommmmm, we're on vacation." came the chorus.  "I'm too full." said another.  They suddenly felt the weight of the meal kicking in..."Why didn't we use paper plates?"  "Why did you make all this food?"  "When I'm grown up, I'm making pasta and cresent rolls and that's it."   said one.  Another agreed.  Making a mental note not to go to their house for dinner on the fourth Thursday in November, I insisted that as I took care of the dishes regardless of the dish roughly 360 days out of the year, this was hardly outlandish.  

"But we're on break." they clamored. 
I turned back to the computer and  said, "Me too."

There was danger of a mass mutiny but I held one ace in the hole.   "There are four pumpkin pies and two apple ones.  You little kittens shall have no pie until the dishes are done."  

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I Don't Know How You Do It!

Some variant of this question appears weekly in my life whenever I venture out into public with the kids. My standard response is, "Some days I don't."

But all humor comes with a grain of truth. There have been times when the very edges of every day were brimming with the possibility of failure. I'd get to the end of the day and the list of what I didn't do or get to or finish was so long I'd ache. Maybe if I worked harder, worked smarter, worked better and the systems and the plans and the lists would start in earnest and things would improve for a day or so, and then reality would crash back down like the high waves against the shore, eroding my resolve and all those fine proposals for improved success.

"How do you do it?" someone would ask, and then add, "God doesn't hand off anything He doesn't know you can handle." and I'd chafe internally big time because I could easily rattle off six or seven times from the past three weeks when I knew, I wasn't handling it as well as God would want that's for certain.

Moreover, there were moments when I wanted to not handle it. I didn't want to do laundry every day. I didn't want to do and do and do and do. There were days when I so wanted to just chuck the homework out the window of the car as we drove back home because getting home would mean having to stand over people and nag them to read, to do their math, to color the right things and memorize their tables. There were days when I didn't want to do the bed time routine even though I knew it made things easier. Bath, teeth, story, prayers, bed. I just wanted to go teeth, bed! Maybe even just bed!

But God gives me all of these people with their disparate needs so that I would recognize others are always paramount and submit. Sometimes I would find grace to do this and other times not, but the discipline of the actions, like route prayer, would prevent me from spending every day wallowing in my own world disconnected from all other souls, lost in the words and the mind and the self.

The cacophony of their silliness, of their instant wants, of their "HiMomCanItellyouaboutmyday?" that results in a run through of their school schedules from 7:55 to 2:45 every day only to be followed by the breathless, "What's for snack?" is a form of sublimation. That they want to tell me every day is music to my ears; though sometimes, I concede, I cannot hear it above the jostling for seats and immediate list of things needed from the store, desired dinners and planned activities for the next eight waking hours.

I still fantasize about a day ending before 10:30 with respect to all under the age of 18, and it may one day happen. (I'm hopeful but recognize that when that happens, I'll probably have some people over the age of 18 still in the house).

How do you do it?

When things get hard, I'll rail at God, "I can't do this. It's too much. I feel like I'm supposed to deal with the leftover 12 baskets of loaves and fishes and the enormity of the task is too great. I can't do it." To which God responds with something of a smile, "You're right Sherry." and I'm left to recognize that all Christ asks of me is a willing free heart for others. Our Lord doesn't need the socks or the dishes or the mopped floors or the finished homework. He needs his sheep that I've been given to manage to know Him, to love Him and to want to serve Him.

How do you do it?

Most of the time, I just smile and plunge into it. Keep going. Hold onto that great Peace Christ gives, and share it with the children. Pray whenever worry strikes.

But sometimes the question resonates in areas of my psyche I didn't expect.

"How do you do it?"

On those days, when I mean, "Some days, I don't." the grace of those days is that I'm reminded that in reality, I never did any of this without God, and that without God, I can't do this at all.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Warning...Reading this blog could be Hazardous

Everyone knows about the absurdities of overly protective liability labeling. Things like warning: Hot coffee can scald. Do not remove label under penalty of Federal law, this program is authorized for private use only...consumer/customer/attendee assumes all risk due to injury from using product. It is quite literally, a sign of our times.

As common sense becomes akin to 8 track tapes, records, non HDLCD TV's, dial up and roatary land line phones, I wonder what future labels will include.

First, labels will be upgraded to have computer chips, such that they can flash various label warnings in perpetuity, kind of like the scroll feed that runs along the bottom of news channels.

They'll flash in red when a person picks up the jar of peanut butter: Warning, Warning, danger, PRODUCT CONTAINS PEANUTS, Known to cause problems for some people. If you are one of these people, by merely touching this jar, you assume all responsibility for your own welfare with respect to this product. If you live with one of these people, put the jar back on the shelf NOW!

A retina scan will verify whether or not you can purchase the product without incurring excessive risk. Those who purchase the peanut butter anyway, will find that the jar self vacumn seals to prevent possible contamination and after 30 seconds of being in the new owner's possession, disintegrates.

This sort of technology may seem far fetched, but consider our society's desire to be free from all mishap, combined with the government's desire to alleviate us of all suffering and surplus legal tender. By simply integrating existing technology into the scanner, our society can eliminate obsesity by prohibiting the purchase of transfat laden goodies by anyone who's body mass index exceeds federal regulations.

"This is the Food Police. Put the Ho Ho's Back! And the Hagendize, and the Salt and Vinegar chips. Now."

Then a black market will pop up, selling forbidden sweets at outrageous prices, as corporations work desperately to convince us that Snackwells taste just as good as Oreos, and congress passes legislation to make the truth in advertisement labels on food use unappetizing adjectives. A 12 piece bucket of KFC orriginal, for example, would be labeled thusly: Transfat artery clogging Bucket o'Death. Hershey's Bar: Diabetes Here I Come. Coca-cola: Sugar, Caffeine, and Chemistry.

Will we swallow such nonsense? Sure. For the good of the children. For their future, we must eliminate our carb footprint now. Maybe I can get some Carb credits as an investment, sort of a dietary indulgence. Like Weight watcher's points? Can I redeem them for a Papa John's Thin Crust Supreme Pizza, hold the olives, extra cheese?

Just some food for thought as restuarants race to tell us, "We've selflessly eliminated all unhealthy items from our menu. Sure we've had to raise prices and the food won't taste anywhere near as good as at those rogue greasy spoons that are holding out, just across the border in that unhealthy County but don't worry, we'll get to them soon. Come on in and eat healthy.

We love our customers enough to Nag.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Alien Questions

An alien that regularly text messages me when he/she, it, passes by Earth had some questions for me to answer regarding life in the United States.

Why can schools give out condoms to prevent pregnancy but not Tylenol to prevent cramps?

Why must we leave the earth as if we never existed? And if we did, who would know?

If schools are failing to teach children the basics, why is more school always the answer?

If Rosetta Stone works and Your Baby Can Read Works, and all those "Subject matter for Dummies books" work, why aren't they used in schools?

If every child is different, why do we teach them all the same material and most of them the same way, at the same age?

Why does it cost $160,000 to earn a piece of paper that will only guarantee you a shot at around $40,000.00 unless you take on additional schooling?

Why teach spelling if u cn wrt nd rd ths?

Why teach math if we don't believe in honest accounting, accurate statistical analysis and real numbers when it comes to weight, budgets, crowds, elections, projected costs and actual fiscal demands?

Why do people print and sell countless books on saving the environment rather than e-book the things and save trees?

Why do we teach children not to swear, cheat, fight or lie, hurt animals or engage in other inappropriate behavior, but have hours of television, scores of magazines, blogs and websites focused on celebrity lives that do all these things?

Why do we value free speech except when we disagree?

Why do we say play nice and how we hate negative campaigns but think our guy is justified?

Why do we think taxes will only affect the other guy?

Why are we convinced the other guy is always enjoying life too much?

Why are we convinced that we are never the other guy?

All to which I had only one answer. I texted, "You're the smart one. You're in outer space. I don't know."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday Small Successes

Every Thursday, Family& Faith has a blog chain of small successes where we list a few things that we accomplished and that might have otherwise gone lost in the days and weeks as errands and obligations piled up. Anyone can join, just click on the small successes button and it will take you to Family & Faith Live! where you can add your blog to the list of people celebrating the little victories of life.

1) Took my youngest to get his HINI vaccination.

2) Made it to reconciliation. Priest talked about accepting God's peace and holding onto it tightly, like a treasure. When anxiety about the schedule or what have you threatens, I'm to cling to this, to not let the world extinguish the peace Christ' gives.

3) Ordered my husband's birthday present in advance.

4) Made arrangements to see son's play on Friday --got babysitters.

5) After fretting, calling Mom, thinking about my girl, praying for my girl, talking to her coach, musing my options, getting a call from her all angry and upset, I came home and hugged my 13 year old until she melted. Then we went about our routine. I thought it was a mere moment.

That evening, she fixed my dinner while I was bathing children and when I was finished, she brought me to the table she had decorated with lit candles everywhere.

6) Had a break through regarding studying techniques with daughter that struggles with math and reading and for whom self confidence is also an issue.

7) Got to see a dear friend over the weekend and spend a few hours.

8) Exercised, danced bollywood. (It was fun!)

9) Even the socks are folded right now.

10) Toddler transfered from a crib to a toddler bed. She who seldom speaks now says, "I love you Mom."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Finally have a good Sound Track if not Sound Mind

Anyone who has known me in my childhood or adolescence knows I have the definitive record for the worst music collection from that era for all time. Granted, it was the 70's so there was lots of badness to cherry pick from, but my passionate devotion to poorly chosen tunes began with being exposed to the Eagles by our terribly hip babysitter. She showed me the cover of "One of These Nights" and played the music.

I got nightmares of giant flying cow skulls coming to trap me in my room. I blame her for my subsequent reactive decisions to purchase three seasons of the Kids from Fame's Greatest Hits.

Now most of us have nightmare moments, messy elements of our lives that we hope not to impose or create for our children. Human nature remaining perpetually flawed, I have discovered when we seek to employ countermeasures, we usually exacerbate matters.

Given the many different ages with the choice of music in the car, I get requests for Pokemon or the latest Kids Bop CD from McDonalds, for Disney show tunes and for simple control of the radio to find something good. To eliminate music as proof of the pecking order in our car, I opted to play "None of the above" and put on classical music.

To occasionally allow for a break from Bach, Beethoven and Saint-Sans, I brought tunes that I hoped everyone would like, music I deemed retro enough not to give points to the olders for controlling the sound, and cool enough not to sabotage my children's social future or present. Foreigner, Boston, Styx, the Eagles, Billy Joel, Jimmy Buffet, Cheryl Crow and Faith Hill seemed like a decent enough mix to meet the diversity needs of my kiddos while keeping me from listening to commercials for Viagra or IVF or the political lobbying ads that permeate every hour when you live around DC.

Because toddlers spend more time in the car than the olders, they heard the songs more. My four year old daughter fell in love with the Eagles. Every time we got in the car, she'd beg for a particular song,"There's a New Kid in Town." The first time I heard her croon along with Glen Frey and Joe Walsh, I fell in love. Subsequently, I indulged her request, enjoying the small choir singing "You look in her eyes, the music begins to play..." as her sister would occasionally chime in as well.

Sometimes, she'd ask for it a second time. Again, I'd been charmed and thus saw no danger to the situation, but like peanut butter that becomes the only meal and the blue dress and red socks that become the only outfit, the song became the ONLY song. I understand the psychology behind this choice (unlike the peanut butter or the blue and red thing). Her father told her how we used to sing this one to her as a baby and to her older brother because his name was John, "Johny come lately, there's a new kid in town..."

Suddenly, the very measure I'd used to eliminate pecking order WAS indicating the alpha in the car, and it was my four year old. I tried saying "No." but when you have nine children, is this where you want to engage in battle on a daily basis? She knew I didn't have the steel to nut this one out and she was right. "Who needs it?" I told myself and on went the Eagles. She'd get tired of it... eventually.

My other children were sympathetic at first to my not wanting grief in the car, but they did try removing the CD from the car. "WHERE IS MY JOHNNY SONG? I WANT MY JOHNNY SONG?" until she crashed asleep brought the Eagles greatest hits back to the car pronto. So my oldest daughter tried craft. "This is another Eagles Song. It's a good Halloween song." She considered this for a moment and asked, "Can it be about me?"

"If you want." my daughter responded with the perfect indifference of an adolescent.

We played it. The daughter liked it. She sang along and asked for seconds. Everyone was momentarily charmed and the cycle started again, only now we had a rotation. I'm still not going to fight over the music, but this means we will have to feed this musical narcissist until she tires of it.

Next year, she goes to pre-school. I don't see any trouble for her, but I will have to explain why she croons "Witchy Woman" and glows, "It's my song."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

No Try Zone

Dear Children,

In the interest of your personal homeland security, the following regulations have gone into effect immediately.

1) All whines of minors shall not be served. You must be 21 to have a whine. Then we will serve you wine, and that should deal with the problem or at least abate it.

2) Conversations in the car that begin with the word Mom as Ma-om, indicating "I have the floor and I'm telling." rather than a term of endearment are banned. Violators shall be subjected to Taylor Swift, Barney, Classical music or Show tunes, whatever annoys most. Hint: Even if we are on the driveway, I will back up and go around the block just to enforce this.

3) Peace through Work. We shall be a benevolent dictatorship, or at least the later if you are not benevolent towards each other. There are always socks to be mated and toilets to scrub. If you fight, la sale de bain awaits.

4) If you want your beds made, dishes washed, dinners, lunches and snacks available and the ready chauffeur, you should keep Mommy happy. While Diet coke, chocolate and foot rubs work very well, magic words like please and thank you are all that are needed. Note to older children: Sulks get nothing but boring lectures. Why do you think I give boring lectures? I'm hoping you don't like them and find them dull such that you don't want me to give another one.

5) I know when you say things under your breath, they aren't complimentary and your sister did NOT misunderstand what you said and neither did I. The fact that I cannot prove it in a court of law does not matter because here, I am the court. I am the law. Guilty until proven otherwise works for me.

6) Mom is the criminal court. Dad is the Civil. Meaning: justice comes swifter with Mom but the penalties are much more lasting with Dad. When considering making an appeal for a different venue, chose wisely.

If you have any questions or concerns about these regulations, please check with Mom or Dad. Also, do not cite regulations to each other as a means of illustrating moral or ethical superiority. Doing so will generate complaints (see reg.#1) and most likely result in subsequent HSA violations of rules 2 and 5, leaving you to decide about the outcome of number 6. Just remember, these rules are for your own safety and protection and our sanity.

Have fun.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Today I....

Pulled back the bed, put all the stuff I hid under it on top, vacuumed with both the Dirt Devil and the Shop Vac, put the shoes in the closet and cleaned out the paperwork.


Was I hit by the cleaning fairy during the night causing me to think that it was time for a serious deep down clean?


Was I preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas by getting the house de-cluttered and debris free?


Did I finally channel my inner house cleaning goddess that demanded the home be sans miscellaneous piles of unidentifiable but crucial papers stacked in every corner?

I'd like to say yes, but it would be untrue.

So why have I been pitching and cleaning and clearing like a maniac?

We have an unwanted pet; a mensa mouse that has defied multiple traps stationed around the vents.

My husband has threatened to get a cat.

Given the seriousness of the proposed solution, blogging will be light until the critter gets caught.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thankful for Thursday Small Successes

This was a busy week.

We did get the photos for the Christmas card, and a portrait of all the boys and all the girls. It's not perfect but neither are we. It's very...real. My oldest vowed to buy photo shop and insert everyone next year but I don't consider this to have been a success, merely something we endured.

Here are the moments I'll treasure from this past week.

1) Husband and I went on a real "bonafied" date. We saw a play and shared a glass of wine; it was fun. Who knew grownups got to play?

2) Last week, I got whacked by the cleaning fairy and somehow managed to get through the upstairs and get it into decent shape. Getting ready for round two, attacking the basement.

3) All Autumn, we have played touch football with the oldest 5 or 6 on Sunday. The parents until this past weekend, had never beaten the kids. We were gracious though. We didn't gloat until they all went inside. (We do have one older kid on our side, she was very pleased too).

Bonus items from this week: had a piece run at Family& Faith Live, "Flowers for the Feast," played Mario Cart with the kids and got completely schooled, made my husband laugh five times with a column and arranged a play date for my kindergarten son for Friday.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The NEXT Iron Chef

I love the Food Network but I have to say I don't feel much sympathy for these professionals stressing out over only having 30 minutes to serve three people food when they don't have to do the dishes and the kitchens are fully stocked and gleaming with beautiful cooking tools.

These cooking shows need a dose of real reality. Iron Chef Moms.

We know. We've been there. It's Wednesday. You've served pasta two nights in a row, there aren't enough eggs to make breakfast for dinner for everyone and the whole chickens you forgot to take out of the freezer are poultry ice balls of doom. Defrosting would take so long, it would be time for bed and you have this little nag in the back of your head to fix something that a Mom ought to fix, you know, with vegetables and all so you can't quite rationalize a run to McDonald's or ordering Pizza. No. You've got to suck it up and make something.

Welcome to Extreme Dinner Challenge, Kid style.

Okay folks, she's going in the pantry and grabbing a can of black beans. Good call. If she's got rice and tortillas, she's golden for the adolescent, the picky eater and the happy child that eats everything. She'll still have the teen, tween, two toddlers, kindergarten boy and the baby to deal with, but a 1/3 solved in two easy moves is a good start.

Three pots are on but the burners won't light so she goes to the junk drawer, searching for the matches. She finds a box with a good strike side but no sticks, some paper ones that she knows are old and the lone stick of a camping box. Striking the lone wooden one, it breaks. Match one, two and three from the paper won't light.
She's getting nervous. The broken match is returned to, and lo, it catches. That was close but she's got fire and she's cooking. Twenty minutes to six though, she lost a lot of time.

Improvising, she's filling a pot with water. Good call, pasta won't annoy the toddlers or the five year old boy or the tween, that leaves the baby and the teenager, she's closing in on her goal. Meanwhile, there's an interruption. "MOM? How do I do this?" a child who has refused and insisted she doesn't have homework suddenly remembers and now wants one on one time to get through a phonics paper. She rattles off the instructions and hands an extra sharpened pencil to try and anticipate the next crisis.

Out comes a bag of insta salad and oooh, a bowl of carrots. She's moving now. She's in the zone. She hands the teen the baby and the baby food. "Feed him." He looks annoyed. "You'll get a better dinner. If I have to feed him, you get pasta." She then tells the ten year old that is tormenting the five year old to practice his trumpet.

The water is boiling. Angel hair pasta is scooped out of the pot so it can be reused for brocolli. The beans are boiling. They are turned down. The rice in the microwave is beeping. Butter is added.

A tween shows up. "Clear the table." she is told. She humphs until the bargain is made, she can light a candle at the table and we make chocolate milk. She has to make it though. The tween gets busy mixing in the syrup. Eveyrone is happy in anticipation.

Plating in five minutes. It is 5:52. Mom's got eight minutes to dinnertime. Will she make it. Wait, she's gone back in the pantry for a surprise move. She's opening a can of pineapple.

The dishwasher is raided for the appropriate number of spoons. Bowl one, Rice, beans, two tortillas on the side and a dish of salad. Plate two, tortillas of rice and beans mixed, carrots and a dish of pineapple. Plate three, buttered pasta in a bowl, brocolli and pineapple on the side. Plate four and five are duplicates of plate three. Plate six is pasta, brocolli, salad, carrots and a dish of pineapple. Plate seven is a series of coffee cups, one of rice, one of beans, one of carrots, one of pineapple, one of brocolli and one with salad dressing and a dish of salad. Plate 8 is the bottle of whole milk for the baby to finish off his dinner.

Yes, it's a complete dinner for 8 of the 9 but what about the teen? With one minute to go and no meat defrosted, what's the Iron Mom Chef going to do? She grabs two tortillas, puts provolone, salami and pepperoni on them, microwaves for 30 seconds. Wraps them into Stromboli's and adds a bit of salad on the side and a bowl of pineapple and a few carrots for color.

She's done it! It's six o'clock and it's dinner time. the next round, she'll figure out what she and their father get to eat and in the final competition, what will she do tomorrow when the crutch of pasta has run out?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What Mess?

Visiting other people's homes, I become acutely aware of how accustomed I have become to my own clutter, and it vexes me. Now I read journals and magazines. I've watched shows that illustrate how to de-clutter and I've even asked friends to provide guidance on how to pair down the mess that nine children can make on any given day.

1) The One Room A Day Method. Clean just one room sounds reasonable, but implemented, it fails at the key objective. If we had seven rooms and I cleaned just one each day to its utmost, there would still be six other rooms in dire need of cleaning each day. Alas, we have 21 rooms in total including the bathrooms, garage, basement, back basement and study. Three rooms a day also does not preclude the reality that those three rooms once cleaned, shall be trashed once all 9 get home or when I'm not looking.

2) The One task at a Time Method. Method: Go through the house and just do one thing...picking up trash, vacuuming, or putting away clothes. The problem comes when reality interferes. You go to room 1, and there is trash so you start by picking up the trash and as you are doing it, you discover a plate under the bed. So you begin searching and lo, you find a cup and a fork and a spoon and another plate. So you take them to the sink. And then you find laundry, and toys that obviously belong in another room. Before you know it, it's 11 pm and you've spent all your time in that one kid's room and the task you started on (trash) has long since been forgotten.

3) Designated Chores. Designated Floors. The instant you allow the children out of your sight when cleaning, the goats and sheep separate, and those that would obey, clean. Those that do not, hide. After an hour, even well placed bribes produce only goats.

4) The Martyr Method: Self cleans until self drops. Note: It doesn't work. It doesn't make you happy. It makes you mad at everyone else and no one cares that you blew a Saturday, not even you.

So what's a person to do who wants a clean home?

Proposed methods of addressing this issue, tested and critiqued.

1) Inject fear. Invite company. This results in a collective need to put on a good face. Husband and children will help. Works the first two to three times, then kids start to get wise and have busy schedules that preclude the invite.

2) Withhold food. Make it good food. Pizza ordered when basement is clean. (Keep the job manageable). Pro: It may take several meals but it does work. Con: It's expensive and usually fattening.

3) Call a maid service. Explain that we could have ordered Pizza if the rooms had been kept clean. Explain that Pizza is off the menu as long as maids are required. The thing is, you still then have to fix dinner, and as such, as long as they get fed, (see 2), the impulse to clean can be comfortably supressed.

4) Purge and stash. Go into each room. Clean out, donate, clear out. If it's broken, gone. If it's ripped, gone. Do this sans witnesses or you will be digging through Goodwill bags to locate the happy meal one child loves and wind up emptying the bag as others find things you sought to remove. Then, buy bins. Fill them. Close them. Hide them. Do this until every room is full of filled boxes. Pro: Everything looks organized. Con: You cannot find anything.

5) Recycle all magazines about housekeeping and order. Keep busy until the compulsive desire in you to establish order and clean house subsides. Sedate with chocolate, sangria,sleep, books and blogging as necessary. Repeat as needed.

Upon reflection and research, #5 is the most effective. Pass me that Nutella.

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!