Day: June 5, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: aleteia.org

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

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

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

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

Source: aleteia.org

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: aleteia.org

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, I’m not really the sociable type.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But . . . but –

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

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

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

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

Source: aleteia.org

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(photo source)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: aleteia.org

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(photo source)

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

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

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

So tell me. . .

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay?  Okay, go!

Source: aleteia.org

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

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

Blossoming, as you can see.

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

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

Source: aleteia.org

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I do not like okra.  It’s pretty much the worst vegetable you can imagine,  kind of like the Newt Gingrich of the produce world:  hairy and fibrous on the outside, seedy and slimy on the inside.   It just makes you wonder, why is it even here?  What is the point of this food, other than to make you glad when it finally goes out of season?

 

And yet there it is in the supermarket.  Every week I pass it by with a shudder; but I know someone must buy it, because they keep putting more out.

Life is so short, I would hate to miss out on some valuable experience.  On the other hand, I’m a lazy, lazy woman.  So when I want to meet life head on, when I feel the urge to stretch out a wondering hand and pluck the fruit of some new experience that our amazing world has to offer, it usually takes the form of — say, eating fruit.  Or listening to a new kind of music.  You know, something I can do sitting down.

A recent (not terribly fruitful) conversation in the comment box of Inside Catholic has brought up a few interesting points.  I put up a video of a song by The Black Keys, who are a pretty good rock band.  Okay, so they’re not Mozart.  They’re not even the Rolling Stones.  They just sound pretty good to me.  So once the huffing and puffing subsided (did you realize that, despite claiming to be Catholic, I listen to things which are not Gregorian Chant?), someone who didn’t like the music asked why I do like it.  A fair question.  She didn’t hear what I heard, and was curious.

I simply don’t have the mental energy at the moment to explain why rock music sounds good to me.  But since I do have a policy of at least trying to listen carefully to something new,  I thought I’d ask you all:  how do you listen to music?  Specifically, if someone tells you, “Hey, this stuff is great!” and you don’t hear it right away?

Here is what I listen for:

Does the singer or musician sound like he means it?  He doesn’t have to be wrenching his guts out and laying them at your feet like Otis Redding does, but is he really present in the performance, or is he  just letting the music trot him around?

Was there some self-control in the crafting of song?  Writing is easy; it’s editing that kills you.  That’s what (among other things) was so great about the Beatles:  they always knew when to stop.  Say what you have to say, make it good, and then go away.  I’m looking at you, Led Zeppelin.

Does anything come to mind when I hear this song?  If it sounds like something to me, then it looks like something, too, mentally.  It’s not usually a literal illustration of what the song is about (and obviously that couldn’t be the case if there are no lyrics) — it’s just some colorful or textural image, which worthless music is not capable of producing.

I also like to think about what instrumental works would be saying if they had words, and I’ve noticed that musicians are generally saying the same thing over and over, no matter what different kinds of work they produce throughout their career.   For instance, I think that most of Brahms’ instrumental work is saying, “Death is sweet, but life is sweeter” (or sometimes I think it’s the other way around).

I guess the funny thing about listening attentively is that you have to tune out most of what you normally hear.  You have to forget that, “okay, this is an electric guitar, that guy sounds nasal, I bet this is from the early 90′s, or from the late Baroque period; this is the song that goes with that Sprite commercial, this is the song that that jerk in 8th grade study hall used to sing all the time,” etc.  You have to, as it were, listen on the slant, and try and hear through to where the song lives – -what kind of house it’s built for itself.  In this way, you will not only discover why some famous musicians are famous, but you will wonder why some other famous people are even allowed on the stage.

And sometimes it just sounds good to you, and you can’t say why.  You know what?  I like Roxette.  I know there’s nothing there; I just like them.

But The Black Eyed Peas? I know they’re famous, but man, they’re just okra.

Okay, so what are your standards?  How do you decide if what you’re hearing is worth your time?

(okra photo source)

(Gingrich photo source)

Source: aleteia.org

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The fabulous Jen at Conversion Diary invented this neat reciprocal deal:  you post your seven quick takes on any topic at your blog, and leave a link to your list at her blog.  Links all around!  Just don’t forget to link to Jen, and take a look at her blog, if you haven’t already — she always has something new and surprising to say about her life as a Catholic convert.

After a long winter and a damp and chilly spring, we are groggily recalling that the outside doors can be used for other purposes than getting into the car.   So here are my seven quick takes:  “It turns out we have an outdoors!” edition.

1

We’ve been making great use of our firepit this year.  Easiest project in the world:  you just dig a round hole about six inches deep and 2 feet in diameter, and surround it with the biggest rocks you can find.  If you can stand it, you can roast marshmallows with the kids

and if you can peel yourself off the couch once the kids have gone to bed (where they will surely stay, being stuck to the sheets with grassy, ashy goo), a backyard campfire is a lovely cheap date with your husband.  Add a couple of cheap beers, and let the dew collect on the two of you as the fireflies come out.

–2–

Spreaking of fireflies, aren’t you glad they don’t make noise?  Imagine if, instead of that mystical, silent, sailing glow, they went, “BLAAAAT . . . Blat . . blat. . .blat BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAT . . . “

3

While it is pleasant and beneficial to water one’s garden in the cool and dim light of dusk, be prepared for a horrible shock when you go back in the bright light of noon to weed.  That’s not a metaphor, it’s just the truth.  Eek!  Sorry, peas, help is on the way.

4

Another luna moth has plastered itself to my kitchen window screen.  I know you’re supposed to feel honored when a rare and luminous specimen graces you with a visit, but I do.  Not.  Like.  Moths.  They are the only insect which make me break into a sweat on sight.  I keep imagining, what if they got into my mouth?

5

Miss Baby tolerates a bath, but refuses to sit down, and she panics at the touch of a damp washcloth, on the rare occasion that I get fed up with the perpetual ring o’ grime she sports around her “neck.”  Not a fan of getting wet.  But water at the beach?  That, my friends, is another matter.  When she spots that sparkling blue, she wrenches herself out of my arms, takes off at a bobbling trot, falls down, picks herself up, and doesn’t stop until she hits the water.  She then spends the next three hours just wallowing.  You’ve never seen such a happy person.  Boy, I love the beach.

6

One of these days, I am going on a rampage to liberate all those wretched upside-down hanging tomato plants.  WHO’S WITH ME?  Okay, no one, fine.

–7–

This doesn’t exactly have anything to do with being outdoors, but I just love this picture of the biggest guy and the littlest girl in the house.

In the words of Scrooge, “I don’t deserve to be so happy.  But I can’t help it!”

Source: aleteia.org

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In a world where Jay Leno asks people where Illinois is, and people don’t know, and then that’s considered funny, I think it’s our duty to bring back The Joke.

So I’ll tell you my favorite joke, and then you send me yours.  If it makes me laugh, I’ll post it next time, so you can grab a piece of my rapidly-dwindling traffic before it disappears completely due to people realizing that, although I talk more when I’m tired, I say much, much less,  ha ha ha!

Don’t put your joke in the comments — email me at [email protected]  Oh, and if I choose your joke, I will do my best to waste a good chunk of family time hunting for an appropriate illustration, too.

Okay, here it is:

Source: aleteia.org

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photo source

I’m 35.  Maybe it’s the humidity, or the grandmultiparidity, but boy, do I feel old.

When I was younger, I used to be able to lose weight by cutting out condiments.  No kidding:  skip butter or mayo for a week, and that was enough to dramatically improve my bathing suit shopping experience.  Now it takes the organization, effort, and emotional upheaval usually associated with a military operation in Bosnia just to achieve stasis on the scale.  How to actually lose weight (besides giving birth), I do not know.

When I was younger, two Tylenol and a quick stop in the confessional could easily neutralize whatever stupidity I’d indulged in the day before.*  But today, I’m finding that I pay more and more dearly even for morally neutral activities.  I get murderous sciatic pain if I commit the indiscretion of (irony alert!) crossing my legs.  Two cookies or a handful of M&M’s will give me a blinding sugar hangover in the morning.  And if I stay up too late, I will get caught up on sleep the next day, whether I’m behind the wheel or not.

On the other hand, most of getting older is a relief.  This is probably a function of how unnecessarily miserable I made myself as a child and young adult, but the fact is that life is just so much easier now.

The other night, for example,  my husband was out, so I figured I’d watch something that he would never choose on Netflix.  I went for the opposite of Bruce Willis:  some arty-looking animated short for adults.   It opened with some droning, atonal music, and then the lighting started to flicker and twitch.  A hunched woman in mismatched clothing slouched over to a toilet, where she proceeded to–well, it involved a snake, and although you couldn’t see her face, she seemed really, really sad.  So I says to myself, I says, “I don’t have time for this bullshit,” and I turned it off.

Seems obvious, right?  But fifteen years ago, I would have struggled against the good sense God gave me, and given this piece of junk the benefit of the doubt.  I would have striven to grasp what the artist was trying to convey, to rise above the conventions of my bourgeois upbringing** and pierce through to the tortured heart of this achingly arcane artistic experience.  And then I’d feel smug about it, too.  Sheesh.

More improvements that came with age:  In the last ten years or so, I’ve picked up a few social skills.  And I do mean “a few” — but even these are better than the none I used to possess.   I smile at people, for instance, rather than glowering.  They seem to like that!   When they ask how I am, I tell them (i.e., “Oh, I’m fine.”), and then–listen to this!–I ask them how they are (e.g., “How about you?”)!  Good, eh?  I also say things like, “That necklace is so pretty,” and “How is your mother?”  I have also found that that sophisticated maneuver that some people do of bringing food or wine to a party can be replicated in my own life; so, now, like, I bring food or wine to parties.

I have also gained the skill of asking stupid questions.  When I was younger, if I was uncertain about whether a steamroller were headed my way, I would sit there and be crushed to a pulp, rather than risk looking silly by asking someone.  Today, however, I am more or less impervious to feeling stupid.  I think I’ve just felt so stupid for so long that it doesn’t mean anything anymore.   If I’m not sure, I will ask the person at Home Depot, “Is this wire cutter for cutting wire?”  If I’m at the bank and have temporarily lost the ability to add two numbers together, I will just dump my papers and my little wadded up dollar bills on the counter and say, “Can you do this for me?”  And they will, because it’s their job.  I will call 911 because there is a big fat Canada goose in the road outside my house, and you know what?  I’ll tell the dispatcher my real name, because that thing was going to cause an accident.  Or maybe it wasn’t.  Who cares?

Other benefits of making it this far:

If something (say, Christmas) goes wrong one year, I have noticed that there’s always next year.

I can now stop biting my nails whenever I want.

I mostly know what to do in bed.  (This one is somewhat related to the one about not being afraid to ask stupid questions.)

On the other hand, I have learned not to ask questions if I really don’t want to know the answer.

I have learned –well, I’m still learning– that it’s okay to be misunderstood sometimes.  (Thank  you, mother internet, for teaching me this difficult lesson.)  There are times when people are going to think what they want to think, and you can kill yourself trying to show them your point of view . . . or you can just skip it.  The latter is much easier on you and on your family.  And on your nails.

These are the kinds of things that more than make up for realizing that I’m well on my way down that road to The End, and that the days when I feel droopy, achy, and encumbered are probably not going to go away.  I know, I know, I’m only 35.  You’re probably laughing at me for acting like I’m ancient.  But seriously.  I can’t even cross my legs anymore? That is old.

Still waiting for that precipitous drop-off in fertility, though.  In my family, 48 is the new 35–so maybe I still have more to learn.

But how about you?  Whatever age you’re at, what’s your favorite part about getting older?

*Dear protestants:  this is a joke.  I don’t know any Catholics who actually believe that it’s fine to sin, because you can just go to confession and X it out.  Also, if you have any questions about why we confess to a priest instead of straight to God, I can answer them, I guess; but I warn you, we Catholics read the Bible, too, and can play  Gospel Quote Gotcha® with the best of you.

**which I didn’t actually experience.

Source: aleteia.org

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I’ll admit it, I felt great watching the first half of Inglourious Basterds.  We saw it a few weeks ago, and it was exactly the palate cleanser I thought I needed after that appalling gorgon Helen Thomas gave tongue to her revolting little swan song.  It wasn’t Thomas herself who gave me concentration camp nightmares.  What really made my flesh crawl were the throngs of little cockroach voices cheering her on in comboxes everywhere. (They feel safe to come out when it’s dark, you know).  I know that people are at their worst when anonymously reacting to a news story, but I was horrified by the sheer numbers of those who felt comfortable shrieking out in fury against the Jews.  Things have changed.  You don’t have to be paranoid to realize that antisemitism is creeping back into style.

So I enjoyed this movie, at first. Who wouldn’t want to see pure evil get some payback for a change?  The story was fascinating, and each scene was, of course, gorgeously shot.  I laughed and laughed at the funny scenes, and in the tense scenes, I nearly chewed through the arm of the couch.  Even though I covered my eyes while the avenging basterds carved up helpless Nazis by the dozen, I enjoyed it.  On the whole, it was an entertaining, wildly original movie.  But I felt sick and guilty by the end.

Not because of its incredibly brutal and graphic violence, which was, according to the Tarantino tradition, lovingly caressed by the camera so that not a single splat of brain tissue was left behind or forgotten.  I think his ultraviolent genre is tiresome, but I can work around it and enjoy a movie, as long as my husband tells me when it’s safe to look.

The movie annoyed me because I don’t know what it was for.  I guess it was, in part, supposed to be an indulgent revenge fantasy which makes reparations for the Holocaust,  using the only means a movie maker has:  by redoing it all on screen.  This is the way things should have happened, right?  It scratched that anti-evil itch.  And as I said, I enjoyed it at first.

I don’t mind a movie that isn’t for or about anything, as long as it’s entertaining . . . unless it’s this one.  Why?  Because every time the Jews won, I was reminded of how, in real life, they didn’t.  The revenge was so complete, so over-the-top, it stopped working for me.  Hitler wasn’t merely  gunned down at close range — his killer went back and sprayed more bullets, and more and more and more bullets, back and forth across his dead face.  The sheer boundless triumph of the victory was answered, in my mind, by a persistent echo which said, louder and louder as the movie went on, “The opposite happened.”  I’m sorry, I know this is terribly melodramatic, but the piles of dead children in my recent  nightmares didn’t get much satisfaction from this film.

I had other problems with it, too.  Why were there no Jews in it?  I know there were supposed to be — but why did those characters not appear Jewish in any way?  Okay, some of the actors had big brown eyes, but aside from that, there was not a speck of Jewish culture or sensibility to be found.  That would have made the revenge more satisfying, if some of the avengers had been identifiable as Jews in anything but their thirst for vengeance.

There’s another big problem:  vengeance isn’t actually an especially Jewish trait.  Oh, in personal matters, maybe (just ask my husband).  But in large matters, Jews thinktoo much to be able to carry out a plot so simple as utterly blotting out the enemy.  Jews are never single-minded, but in this movie, all they had to say was “YAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!” as they gouged out larynxes with their bare hands, or whatever.  No argument, no analysis, no guilt, and no jokes?  Come on.

There was no sadness in the movie, either, only rage.  That struck me as unforgivably lacking in a movie about Jews.  Jews are always sad, even when they’re enjoying themselves.

I know you can argue that this wasn’t really a movie about the Holocaust, or about Jews, or about the war.  I get that:  it was about revenge in general.  My husband thinks that, if the movie was saying anything at all, it was saying that revenge is hollow.  It certainly felt that way by the end, with the distorted image of the giant face laughing maniacally as everything went up in flames — an image so tawdry and overblown that it had to be deliberately clichéd, right?  So it wasn’t just a regular cliché, but an ironic cliché?  Meant to show you that . . . what?

It was also clearly supposed to be a movie about movies.  Everything happens within a theater, either literally (at the end, when all the biggest Nazis die) or figuratively (when the “German Sergeant York” is rewarded for killing Allies by starring as himself in a movie about killing Allies).  References and homages to other films abound.  Okay, so it’s about movies.  But . . . what about movies?

Tarantino is so childish, but he frames scenes like a god, so it’s hard to stay away.  He keeps hinting at gargantuan talent, but he’s so darn lazy:  his movies are set up to be meaningful, but rarely deliver. Once again in this film, Tarantino is under the impression that he is actually saying something, when he merely sets the stage, and then rolls the credits.

I wouldn’t say “don’t watch this movie.”  I would just caution you that you will feel agitated and unhappy inside after you do (and not only because of the nearly illegible yellow subtitles) .  Quentin Tarantino is not going to grow up, so I just wish he would would hire a partner who could take his original ideas, his brilliant comic inspirations, his wild pairings of image and sound, and turn them into a movie that knows what it’s about.

What do you think?  Am I missing something here?  I was fully prepared to enjoy this movie, but it didn’t happen.

Source: aleteia.org

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Jane (The View From the Foothills) gave me a lift by asking,

Well, I am happy to oblige, and even happier to post something I don’t have to write!  So here it is:

The baby, with her Svengali eyes,

hypnotized me into believing that she was sleeping through the night.

We would solemnly put her into her bed promptly at 9:30, and she would sleep until 6 AM.

After several nights of this, I would actually be in tears by morning, unable to believe that it was already morning again, and sleeping time was all over, and why was I so tired, when the baby was sleeping through the night?

Sure, she would get up for a little snack when we came into bed and disturbed her; and occasionally, when she has a cold, or was fighting off a cold, or recovering from a cold, she would need to get hydrated; and all of us, including babies who can’t tell time, were a little confused by daylight savings time; and as long as the sun is almost up, or almost up, that counts as breakfast time. And of course she’s often teething. Butbasically, she was sleeping through the night, I would say.

For as much as two hours at a stretch, all through the night.

I couldn’t make toast without consulting the recipe. I would try and start the car when it was already running. I would use “thing” to substitute not only for nouns, but for any part of speech, as in: “Could you please thing this thing in the other thing over there? Yes, you. Thing with the red thing on.”

And of course I lost things — school books, hot cups of coffee, children . . . you know, things. I spent a good half hour hunting for a misplaced bag of parsley, which couldn’t have roamed very far from the soup pot of origin, could it? By sheer chance, while searching for my keys, I discovered the parsley tucked safely inside the dishwasher, where, oh yeah, I put it because, um, because of some reason, surely.

In light of this mental disintegration, my husband suggested that the baby might sleep better across the room, where she can’t easily see, hear, or smell me. She can still be nice and close in case an eagle breaks into the house and I need to be there for her, but a little distance will encourage her to quit sucking the life force out of me night after night.

Well, it worked. She now sleeps from 9:30 to 7:30 — for real, as in remaining quietly in her crib, and waking up happy and hungry. She’s been doing this for almost two weeks. I’ve been getting 7 or 8 hours of sleep, day after day . . . and I’m still stumbling through my life like a amnesiac with autism and a death wish.

Yesterday I lost three-and-a-half pounds of ground beef. Where could that meat be, where could it be? The previous day, I had forgotten to take it out in time to have hamburgers, but left it out so that, if I forgot again the next day, it would at least be partially defrosted. But then I forgot to put it away. So where was it now?

So I asked my husband, who knows me, What the hell did I do with that meat? and he had an inspiration: maybe it’s in the washing machine! In fact, it must be in the washing machine. That’s where I put it to defrost, because — I dunno, to make room in the refrigerator for some laundry?

Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I know you were looking forward to reading about how I didn’t notice that the meat was in the washing machine until the horrible, gristly disaster was complete — how I let all the cycles run, including “agitate,” which is very hard on chop meat — how I didn’t even notice how oleaginous the wet clothes were, even though all the hundreds of tiny drainage holes were each stuffed with a wad of raw, soapy hamburger — and chunked the whole meaty mess into the dryer, and of course set it to “high heat,” and how now my husband will be getting sock jerky for lunch and hamburger khaki casserole for supper for the next few days, which is not covered under the warranty.

Nope. All that happened was that I located the meat while the washer was only half-full of water and soap. The situation was saved before any kind of whirring, churning, or centripetal force came into play.

The worst part was that the blood leaked all over the clothes; but if you think about it, that’s really pretty good timing in a bad situation. It’s like breaking your leg in the lobby of the hospital, or punching your brother while in the confession line.

Well, at least that hamburger got defrosted. And clean! (Yes yes, I threw it away. It sat out for 36 hours, was sopping wet, and smelled like a combination of a mountain breeze and warm, wet meat. We’re just going to have to eat socks or something tonight.)

So that’s one mystery solved: I did find the meat. But where did I put my brain? Now let me see, I was using it to correct some math the other night, and then I put it down somewhere . . .

 

Source: aleteia.org

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Hope This Helps Edition

In which I solve seven common problems

 

1

Did you spill soy sauce all over the place?   Need a mother’s day present?  Or just a crapload of squares?  Try this amazing new product.

2

Are you a really, really good mother who somehow understandably forgot to brush your daughter’s hair for a week, and as a result did not catch her major head lice infestation until a well-meaning relative, who probably mostly just wanted everyone to realize that the BBQ was dragging on a little too long, saw fit to do a “Hey, everybody,guess who has HIGH ANXIETY?”

to let you (and everyone within a forty mile radius) know that your daughter has a major lice infestation?  Well, you should try this fairly new system of blow-drying Cetaphil.  It Actually Works (although our kids needed four weeks of treatment, not three), and you don’t have to wash everything you own and spend a million hours picking nits, which isn’t as much fun as it sounds like.

3

Are you ready to leave the beach, but are miles away from home with a miserable baby whose fat, fat leg folds are coated with gritty sand?  I am all for packing lightly for the beach (three rules:  no food unless it’s a major birthday;  if you want a toy, you have to wait till a non-resident beach goer is looking the other way; and I don’t want to hear about your towel), but one thing we always bring is baby powder.  Sprinkle it generously on the baby (or anyone else, koff koff, whose fat legs make them cranky), and the wet sand comes right off, and you won’t feel like such a monster strapping an uncomfortable little one into her car seat.

4

Are you craving chips and salsa, but looking for a healthier alternative?  Try pretzelsand salsa.  It’s less fatty, and tastes just as good as pretzels and salsa.

5

Were you absent during grades K-12?  Here is a handy reference to all you need to know:

  • The Indians helped the Colonists by showing them you can put a dead fish on corn
  • Eli Whitney
  • Suffragettes (1912-1913)
  • Typing

Bonus College Quick Reference:

  • When something drops a horrible, rotten dead fish in your yard, you should consult an oracle to see what this means for the future of the republic.  If no oracle is available, just get your husband to throw it in the bushes.

There, now you are all caught up.

6

Thinking of home schooling?  Here is the single greatest  piece of advice I’ve heard (and I just gave the book away, and can’t come up with the author’s name).  I was immediately drawn to this book because, unlike most home schooling books, the cover didn’t look anything like this:

source

Which is a lovely picture, but discouraging.  Look at that posture!  And the kid is wearing white, and her face, while solemn, is not tear-stained!  And the curtains don’t appear to have any poop on them!  So instead, on the cover of this book was picture of a girl wearing a bathing suit and cowboy boots, doing her math on the floor under the kitchen table.   Now, add someone smearing Spaghettios on the wall and calling it art, and another kid deliberately ripping the first kid’s math work and calling it justice, and that would be a good day in our home school.  So the piece of advice was this:  whatever kind of mother you are

source

that’s the kind of home schooler you will be.

This sounds terribly obvious, but every year I fell into the trap of hoping that home schooling would, among other things, fix my defects as a mother.  It would force me to become organized, encourage me to be patient, ensure that I would follow through on projects, motivate me to go out and meet other people, etc. etc.   Now, I did improve in all of these things.  But I did not become transformed.  I was just me, home schooling.  This should not discourage you from deciding to home school; it’s just something you ought to know.

–7–

I don’t know exactly what this is good for, but it seems like it might come in handy.

Well, I hope that answers all your questions.  See Jen at Conversion Diary to leave a link to your own Seven Quick Takes, and don’t forget to link back to Jen!  Have a lovely weekend, everyone, and remember, it’s important to throw a firecracker when you light it, but NOT AT DADDY.

 

Source: aleteia.org

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Good morning!  Last week, I told you my favorite joke, and asked for yours.  (If you still want to send me yours for pubbloglication, don’t put it in the comments – mail it to [email protected])

So my second favorite joke was actually sent to me twice!  More coincidence:  it was sent to me by two sisters!  Furthermore, if you can believe it, they both happened to bymy sisters, which may explain why the joke hit that sweet spot for me.  Nepotism schmepotism, it made me laugh. (I also have twoadditional sisters, for a grand total of five people who liked the last joke) but one of them has six little kids and is in Arizona in July, is temporarily carless and husbandless, while she prepares to move; and the other is in her eleventieth month of pregnancy — so asking either of them to make with the ha ha seems a little rude.)

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Second order of business:  starting tomorrow, this blog will become a GROUP BLOG.  A very small group.  I invited some guy I met in the woods to join me, and he will be writing movie reviews for your reading pleasure (not to be confused with reviewing movies you would watch for your viewing pleasure.  Not).  If you are going to read his work while eating hot dogs, I suggest cutting them up.  Not into disks!  What kind of a mother are you.  Cut them into spears, then dice them.

“He’s . . . so . . . funny–”

photo source

So please join us tomorrow to give a warm and hearty welcome to . . .

When he gets finished, there won’t be a dry seat in the house.

Source: aleteia.org