Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve

We're having a wild and crazy night here: Larry and Susie have fallen asleep on the couch, David is doing college applications, and Brian (with 2 of his friends) is having a Dr. Who marathon in the basement.  Rachel is waiting for me to play cards with her (I know! The excitement!), so - for the final night of 2014 - I will leave you with some of my favorite tweets of the year. A Happy New Year to all of you! 

My superpower is the ability to be the only one in this house who can see the trash overflowing.

If Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel today, instead of saying "what manner of salutation is this? " she'd just say, "OMG, WTF?"
The last machine I raged against had my bag of Funyons stuck on the spindle thingy.
If I were holding my baby, and I saw a spider on my arm, I'm not confident of what my instinct would be.
A tornado siren but for when my daughter rolls her eyes at my wife.
You always hear about how scary clowns are yet nobody ever mentions middle-aged women in pigtails.
"Finish your homework before you get online, Malala." "I must have misplaced it, maybe I'll check here under my NOBEL PEACE PRIZE."
Married with Children was much funnier on TV.
I always see more people walking into Sam's Club than out of Sam's Club, but the meat's cheap, so I don't ask questions.

How dare you refer to the internet as "outrage culture," you stupid talentless hack. Unbelievable.

Sorry pregnant ladies, all of your 3D ultrasounds look like Gollum in an Ikea lampshade.
Nothing helps you realize your parents weren't assholes for no good reason than trying to put a fitted sheet on the top bunk.
The closest we've ever come to time travel is saying, "Hang on I'm just gonna check one thing on the internet," and then it's 5 hours later.
So we’re all just going to keep pretending Putin isn’t Dobby’s long lost brother? Ok cool.
Tennille to Captain: "Look at me. Look at me. I'm the Captain now."
Teenage daughters: because God hates parents.

[Twitter image: Edudemic
[Happy Twitter: The Telegraph]
[Hat Twitter: seoclerks]

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Water, Water Everywhere

You know what's fun? When one of your kids walks up to you at 10 PM and says, "There's water dripping from the fan in the bathroom ceiling."

That would be the ceiling directly under the attic, folks.  I could actually feel Larry's blood pressure shoot up when he heard this.  Especially when I said, "Oh, yes - I kept meaning to ask you about that weird spot near the fan where it looks as though the ceiling is bulging."  He loved that.

We decided to wait until morning to investigate, as we'd need daylight shining through to show us where the roof leak was.  I couldn't sleep, thinking about how much a new roof might cost, so I finished Bel Canto.  I'm very proud of myself for reading a work of fiction, finally.   I might even try another one.  Or maybe not.  We don't want to get too carried away around here.

Remember my week without an IPad? Once I got it back, I (somewhat grudgingly) adopted Christine's suggestion - I now charge up this particularly addictive electronic device only once a week.  When it runs out of battery, that's it - until the next Sunday, anyway.  This approach has definitely helped to limit the time I waste playing Words With Friends and scrolling through Twitter, but I was probably still better off (healthy-living-wise) the week I was without the IPad altogether.

I can't give it up though, I just can't.  My preciousss...

[Gollum image: Wikia]

Thursday, December 25, 2014

True Colors

14-year-old Brian woke us up at 7:10 this morning, which made me so cranky I snarled at everyone for an hour.  I guess we Jews aren't so good at that Merry Christmas thing.

All 6 of my kids were here for Christmas dinner, which made me very happy. We essentially cooked Thanksgiving dinner all over again, as Theo wasn't home for that holiday.  As a side note, I am sick of cooking and have no desire to ever cook anything ever again.  This is it - 24 Christmases and I am done.  DONE.

2 people (including a spouse who shall not be named) gave me scarves that were predominantly black or grey.  Has no one else seen the episode of All in the Family where Edith is going through menopause and flips out over the black suitcases?  I AM THAT WOMAN NOW.  

This is the WRONG green

All the Christmas knitting got done, except the thumbs on Anna's fingerless mitts.  That's pretty good, right?  I managed fingerless mitts for the 2 Girl Scout leaders and my yoga teacher (along with the above-mentioned thumbless ones for Anna), plus a scarf for Theo.  I am content.  Onward to January knitting, which will all be FOR ME (well, except the fingerless mitts I rashly promised to both Rachel and Susie).

Dammit, I tried to take a good picture, but the color of the green mitts (which are, in real life, a stunning emerald green) just won't show up right.  I even brought in a lamp and moved it behind me, and in front of me, and right on top of the darn things, just like I imagine a real photographer would do.  And yet, the color of the purple ones is spot on. What is up with that?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Marriage. For Reals.

So, Larry and I had a cocktail party to go to on Saturday night.  It's an annual thing at a friend's house - someone we don't get to see very often during the year, now that all our kids are older and we spend all our time driving them around.  Other people show up whom we also rarely get to see, so it is a pleasant yearly reunion of sorts.

At 6:45, Larry headed upstairs.  "Oh, yeah," I thought. "I should start getting ready, too."  When I reached the bedroom, however, I discovered that the floor in front of the master bathroom and the master closet was covered by things that Larry had apparently just pulled out from under the sink.  ALL THE THINGS.  A veritable cornucopia of Q-Tips, deodorants, razors, panty liners, and hair appliances effectively blocked my access to my dress-up clothes, my make-up, and my hair goo.  The bathroom door was closed, and I could hear banging going on.  "What happened?" I called to Larry. "Was something leaking?"

"No," he called back. "I'm just fixing the drain."

Fixing the drain...

"You mean the one that has been clogged all month?" I asked.

"Yeah, that one."

Don Draper never fancies himself a plumber
People, I had to go into the other bathroom and sit down with my head between my knees.  The man formerly known as my beloved had just spent a good 4 hours relaxing on the couch with a book - 4 hours during which the urge to fix a long-clogged drain had not once seized him. But now? Right before a party? Hey, why not?

Now, perhaps Larry thinks I am naturally beautiful and isn't aware that this face takes a bit of work if I am going to go out in public.  Or maybe he wrongly assumes that  I keep my party clothes somewhere besides the master closet.  Or maybe he is just a passive-aggressive psycho who likes to destroy the bathroom minutes before his wife needs it to get ready for a fancy party.

And yes, I do think it's that last one, actually.

I returned to my formerly functional living quarters and let loose with all the reasons that attempting to fix a clogged sink 45 minutes before a social engagement is a BAD IDEA.  Larry - apparently sensing displeasure in my tone - left the bathroom, muttering, "I was just trying to help," as if he had the right to feel aggrieved.  And then he acted huffy because I threw him out of the bedroom area altogether while I got dressed.  For better or for worse, people, but not for watching your middle-aged spouse struggle into Spanx and support hose.

[Mad Men image: Queen of Style]

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Flavored Lip Gloss Doesn't Cut It Anymore, I Guess

"Mommy, Alison got an IPhone for her birthday!" Susie informed me while we were out shopping.

"Alison?  As in 12-year-old Alison with the really sensible parents?" I asked, my heart dropping at the thought of yet one more of my girls' tween friends walking around with the Internet in her pocket.

"Yup! Isn't that neat?"

"No. No, it isn't. Not at all."

I know these people well.  They're wonderful parents - loving, strict - and their kids are great.  And now even they are handing out smartphones.  Which says to me that this - IPhones for teens and tweens, that is - has simply become the new norm.

Look, I'm not a Luddite, and - 23 years into this parenting gig - I am certainly not at all idealistic about raising children; I am all too aware that, no matter how you raise them and what rules you may enforce, those kids are going to do what they like the minute they leave your house (and sometimes before that).  Hey, my only prayer now is that none of my children grows up to be an axe murderer. Seriously.

But why does a tween need a smartphone in the first place? I know access to a phone is somewhat of a necessity now - my kids all have dumb phones with talk and text so they can stay in contact with us or with their friends. Heck, a dumb phone is what I use myself, although I certainly wouldn't turn down a better device if someone were to hand it to me (with a free data plan, of course).  But a tween?

Maybe what bothers me is that kids (mine included) act so entitled these days (yes, I just wrote "kids these days" - so sue me) - I mean, don't they have to wait until they are grown-up for anything anymore?  And if you give them an IPhone at age 12, what can you wow them with when they are 16? You know, I remember being excited about tangerine-flavored lip gloss when I was 12. Granted, I was a simple child, but still...

Or perhaps my real problem is that a 12-year-old (and my kids, when they are with her) has unsupervised access to the Internet - do people actually bother to restrict that anymore?  Or is that just too 2010?  Have we all simply given up, what with the Internet being so darn ubiquitous these days?

And how can people risk giving their kids expensive electronics, anyway? Is there special insurance for these things? I'll have you know that, last summer, my 14-year-old managed to jump into a pool with his (luckily cheap) cellphone in his pocket.  I would have killed him if he had done that with an IPhone.  Is there some secret place where all the other parents are buying these things cheaply and no one has told me?

In short, is there something everyone knows that I don't?  Do all your kids have smartphones now? Am I the lone tightwad holdout here? And what IS up with kids these days, anyway?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Impersonating A Gentile

I am inordinately proud of this
So what does a Jew in an interfaith household do on the first night of Chanukah?  She puts up Christmas lights, of course.  It's taken years for me to get the hang of this, but I can now manage to make it look as though I know what I am doing with a long string of icicle lights.  Don't I make a good goy?

In other news, tonight I managed to find the dreidels AND the menorah, all in one fell swoop.  I would like to thank the super-organized me of January 2014, who packed all the holiday things together properly before sending them up to the attic.  I used to be one amazing woman, I tell you.

My only concern is that I cannot find my Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers Christmas CD.  I suspect foul play, as Larry has never evinced much fondness for listening to lyrics such as "Pass the porter, pass the beer, Christmas comes but once a year."  Coal in his stocking, for sure...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Yarn, Paper, Wood

I am knitting thumbs tonight.  I will be very glad when all this is behind me.

I just finished ANOTHER book - The World's Strongest Librarian. Quirky but a good read, and I learned a lot about Tourette's Syndrome.  You'll notice that my memoir habit still exists.  The 2 other books I've just read are Ann Patchett's compilation of non-fiction memoir-type essays This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage (excellent) and David Harris-Gershon's What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife? (which wins the prize for longest title ever).  This last was pretty good, if only for its excellent description of the history behind the state of constant crisis in the Middle East.

Oh, AND The Late Starters Orchestra, by Ari L. Goldman. That one was okay, although the author went on too long about his son's cello lessons.  Also, it could have been titled "If You Have Lots of Money, You Can Do Many Neat Things as You Get Older" or (even better) "With Lots of Money, Middle Age Does Not Have To Suck."  Still, it got me thinking - for an evening, anyway - about asking to audit my kids' summer band camp and learn a new instrument.  So, yeah, sort of inspiring.

You will be noting the effect of my not having my IPad handy, right? I'm almost caught up on my New Yorkers, also.  I did retrieve said IPad this afternoon and spent a blissful 25 minutes on it, catching up on Words With Friends and checking out Twitter.  But not this evening.  This evening, I'm all thumbs.

Get it?  ALL THUMBS.  Oh, man, I'm something else.

I'll try it, but I won't promise I'll like it

So! A variety of novels written by Ann Patchett are winging their way toward me right now, courtesy of PaperbackSwap, as I try once again to revive the interest in literary fiction that abandoned me completely the day my eldest child was born (oh, 23 years ago).  I don't know why that happened, but it did.

In other news, Larry came home early today and took the girls to go buy a Christmas tree.  As mentioned in these pixels before, our family tree tradition consists of selecting one of many pre-cut and reasonably priced trees from the outside lot of our nearby Home Depot. Festive it isn't, but it's definitely efficient.  The three of them came back with a very nice-looking tree that now reminds me of ALL THE THINGS I still need to do over the next 9 days.

Including knitting thumbs - I've got to get back at it now, folks, time's a-wastin'...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Anyone Have A Spare Quill Pen?

Remember this post here?  You know, the one I wrote last Monday, telling you all about my having left my IPad at the art teacher's house and I didn't know how I would even manage until I could retrieve it on Wednesday?

I never picked it up.

Me, without an IPad
That's right, folks - it's been 6 DAYS without it. I've read 2 books, 1/2 a New Yorker, and done a lot of knitting.  There was even some jigsaw puzzling going on. And, I will have you know, I am not the only one surprised by my resilience in the face of hardship. In fact, after dinner tonight, Larry (clutching his trusty IPod Touch) looked at me on the couch, where I was reading Ann Patchett's latest compendium of non-fiction essays (excellent - I highly recommend it) and said, "I didn't think you could do it."

"Yes," I said.  "I did.  It's one week tomorrow."

"I really didn't think you could do it," he repeated, staring at me as if I were wearing a prairie dress and bonnet and churning butter right there in our living room.

"Well," I said, "I guess SOME of us aren't addicted to our electronics." Hey, I earned a little gloating, all right?

Unfortunately, this makes tomorrow my moment (or day, really) of truth: the girls have art class on Mondays, so I will once again be in possession of my beloved IPad. Much as I LOVE playing Words With Friends and trading quips on Twitter, I have to admit that I have felt more grounded and sane not having my nose in the Internet all the time.  So, short of moving to the moon, what am I supposed to do about this pesky conundrum?

In other words, I desperately need to hear what has worked for you in your own quest to limit personal electronic usage.  Considering that you are AT THIS VERY MOMENT wasting your time reading this blog on the Internet, this may turn out to be a matter of the blind leading the blind, right?  But let's give it a try, anyway - especially since I can't seem to remember whom we asked for advice before the advent of the worldwide web.

[Butter churn image: History for Children]

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Jews Have More Pun

Did you wake up this morning thinking, "Gee, today seems nice, but a slew of Yiddishe puns would make it a whole lot better"? Well, look no further, folks - Simcha Fisher has you covered.  Just put down the cookie dough and the shopping list and take a look, will you?  I'd copy and paste the whole thing here, but that wouldn't be right.

And yes, all 3 of those hyperlinks go to the same page.  I really want you to see it, all right?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Fun! Educational! Sort of...anyway, this is what I managed to waste time on today (seeing as how I don't have my IPad to keep me company):

Monday, December 08, 2014

Forced Deprivation

Have I told you about my IPad? I've had it for a little over a year (it was my dad's, actually, and I inherited it when he died). Today I left my IPad at the art teacher's house and didn't realize it until I was all the way home. Now here's what bothers me: 14 months ago I didn't even need an IPad. But today, when I realized I had left it 15 minutes from my house? Well, I don't think "panicked" is too strong a word to describe how I felt, if panicked means that feeling where you can't breathe right and one of your limbs seems to be missing.

My faithful companion
So! I have challenged myself to wait until Wednesday to retrieve my lovely little electronic friend. A little over 48 hours to wait, people, and I do not know if I will be able to do it. I will have to use our balky desktop computer if I need ANYTHING Internet-related. Weather reports, Amazon, Paperback Swap, Ravelry, EMAIL...and believe me, there is nothing efficient or pleasurable about sitting at the computer desk, drumming my fingers on the mouse and waiting for a graphics-heavy page to load. I'm telling you, it makes Morse code look efficient.

There will be no lounging on the couch in the evening, either, happily playing Words With Friends or scrolling through Facebook or Twitter. Heavens - I might actually have to pick up one of these library books I have lying around or catch up on the last 2 issues of The New Yorker. Or maybe I should just finish knitting those last few pairs of fingerless mitts I plan to give as Christmas gifts? This whole experience has the potential to be spiritually regenerative, I guess - a sort of finding my way back to all those things I loved before the blasted Internet became so easy to use. I mean, it's almost like I am going on a retreat, in the comfort of my very own home. That's good, right?

But I still miss that darn IPad.

[IPad image: Amazon]

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Recapturing My Youth

I believe I am beginning to make a fine art out of wasting time.  Darn you, Internet, with your viral videos and you, too, Twitter, with your hashtags and 140-character quips.  I wonder, do you hear of anyone on their deathbeds saying they wished they had spent more time on Facebook?  I'm thinking I will have to pull the plug on all things Internet, just to get a handle on this problem.

Or, maybe no.  Let's not be rash.  After all, what would I do without you lovely readers?

Anywhoo, my fingerless-mitt knitting extravaganza is proceeding apace.  At this rate, I will have to knit, oh, 6 pairs of thumbs some evening next week, all the while bemoaning the fact that I saved them to do all at once.  I don't seem to learn from my mistakes, now do I?

I'm not even shopping for kids' presents until the 21st - I mean, aside from ordering some books from Paperback Swap for Rachel.  That's right, folks - for the SIXTH YEAR RUNNING, I am holding fast to my resolution not to prepare for Christmas until the last week or so.  Stressful?  Not at all.  While the rest of you are talking about running around, looking for gifts, making cookies, and generally doing all things Christmas right now, I am sitting here with my fingers (figuratively) in my ears, singing, "LA, LA, LA, I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"

Yes, it does feel great.  Thanks for asking.  You see, the years previous, I had subscribed to the notion that it was best to get EVERYTHING DONE in November and the beginning of December, which method only resulted in my trying to do everything right, so we would have an awesome Christmas. Because, you see, I had so much time to prepare. This, I can sadly attest, is a very stressful way to approach the holiday season.

Hark back, if you will, to your college days, when you (or at least I) sat in finals until the 21st of December and couldn't even THINK about Christmas until that last exam book was handed in. At that point, it was actually fun to realize, "Oh, hey, it's almost Christmas!" I would go off to the nearest store and buy some silly presents for everyone I knew and maybe even pick up a Charlie-Brown-type Christmas tree for my off-campus apartment.  Then I would call up (or maybe run into?) a few friends (how did we manage to get together without cellphones, anyway?) and invite them over to my place for hot cocoa and Christmas carols on the turntable (that would be a Flintstones-era music player, you young'uns) and probably a game of Trivial Pursuit (it being the 80's and all).

No stress.  No striving for perfection.  Just enjoying one another's company and the end of all that exam pressure.  And that is the feeling I am going for here.  Of course, I don't think anyone at age 51 (particularly someone with 6 kids) could ever feel as carefree as a 20-year-old, but I am certainly going to give it the old college try.

College try...oh, I slay me...

[CB tree image: Digital Bullpen]

Thursday, December 04, 2014

In Over My Head

What's up for today? Oh, not much - just ice skating, and the dentist for 4 kids, and, oh yes, a Girl Scout field trip into the city. I don't know about you, but I tend to get stressed out when there is more than one major thing scheduled per day. Today, therefore, officially ranks as a humdinger.

So, naturally, to make things easier on myself, I stayed up past midnight, playing Words With Friends and hanging out on Twitter. I never claimed to be rational, you know. Wish me luck - I am going to need it.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Show Me The Money

Apparently, my cleaning skills at half-past midnight are not top-notch.  The day after Thanksgiving, the entire bathroom smelled unmistakably like puke, thanks to Susie's overindulgence the day before. It reminded me of my freshman year dorm on Sunday mornings, when the odor of regurgitated beer and pizza filled the air.  In desperation, on Saturday I went to PetCo and picked up this remarkable product:

An essential part of any parent's toolkit....

Yes, this is my new friend.  I SOAKED the affected areas (sink counter, wooden vanity, wall, heating duct, and Little Tykes step stool) with this stuff before I went to bed.  The next morning, miracle of miracles, only a faint smell of pumpkin pie barf still lingered.

Pumpkin Pie Barf - new flavor coming soon to a Starbucks near're welcome.

The cashier at Petco said it worked really well for her also, on the unfortunate occasion when her son spilled milk under the couch and left it. And no, it hasn't escaped me that we both shopped at a pet supply store for cleaning supplies to deal with our kids' messes. It would appear that children are nothing but glorified pets, after all, aside from that whole college tuition thing.

Speaking of which, David has been applying to colleges, which activity always makes for a fun holiday season. Luckily, a couple of the schools have not required essays. Either they have finally realized what a bunch of BS the college-application essay is, or else they take anyone who can fill out a basic form. "Are these places accredited?" I asked, concerned enough about the lack of essays and the comparatively low application fee to put down the scarf I was working on.

"Of course," David said. "They DO ask for my transcripts and my scores, you know."

"I know," I said, "but maybe they just do that for show? What is their acceptance rate, anyway?"

"I think it's about 75%, actually."

"Is that higher than normal? Is this a real school?"

"Well, it looks like one on the website. See, look, there's a quad with a bunch of students walking together and carrying books."

I squinted at the screen. "Are we sure they aren't just actors?"

"I don't know," said David, "but I do know the school offers free tuition and room and board to anyone with test scores like mine."

"Really? Well, then, that sounds real enough to me," I said, returning to my knitting.

I do hope no one reads this blog for a rigorous analysis of the relative merits of various institutions of higher learning.  Around here, we're all about the money.