Thursday, December 30, 2010

John's "Beard"

Yesterday, I received this amusing e-mail from my father.   It is now my first "guest post."

Holly, your portrait of John (saintly, long-suffering) looked so much like a Renaissance-era portrait, probably of St. Jerome or somebody, that I won't be able to rest till I've found the one it's closest to. No luck so far.


 St. Peter:

Rembrandt self-portrait:

Titian's "Man with a glove":

Titiani self-portrait:

Titian's Portrait of Pietro Aretino:

Another Titian Portrait of Pietro Aretino:

Holbein's portrait of Thomas Cromwell:

John again:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Reflections

I am frazzled.  I blame Christmas entirely.  I don't think the sweet 7 lb 11 oz baby Jesus would approve of the frenzy that surrounds the celebration of his birth.  I swear I have an ulcer.  Or maybe I've just been eating too much junk food.  Either way, it's not good. 

So I'm glad it's pretty much over.  Somehow, I have to get this house recovered by around 5:00 on New Year's Eve.  I can't believe no one got me a free year of Merry Maids. 

There were some splendid moments.  A few minor miracles. 

For instance, I made enough cookies for a pretty Christmas cookie platter.  I'm sad to say the dog ate a good portion of these when she escaped from her crate the other night, but on Christmas Eve, they were lovely.

Our tanenbaum.  The kids decorated it and this year, I didn't rearrange the ornaments.  That's not entirely true.  I moved all the ones on the bottom up higher so the dog wouldn't eat them.  The dog consuming all Christmas-related things was a major theme of our holiday this year.

On Christmas Eve, Ella cuddles with Justin Bieber.  No, it's not really Justin Bieber.  It's Jacob, my friend Janet's son.  I hope his girlfriend doesn't get too jealous over this picture.  (Note Ella's pink boots.  They were also a definite theme this holiday.)

Our friend Billy reads an "interactive" Christmas story to the kids.  This is Caleb interacting. 

Christmas morning at last!  While reading the story of the birth of Christ from the book of Luke- right before we are about to open present when the kids are so excited they look as though they might pee their pants- John sends the kids a look of irritation.  There's nothing more vexing than having your children behave like children on Christmas morning on Christmas morning.  Sheesh. 

Ella opens the first gift on Christmas morning.  It's the gift of- arting!  WE LOVE ARTING!  Boots are a go.

Here is Caleb.  He has just opened up his Spy Net Video Watch, which records audio, video, and takes pictures.  And this is not creepy or annoying at all. 

Note Caleb's busted lip.  He fell off the top bunk, flat onto his face..  He was "trying to sit on the very, very edge of the bed.  But IT DOESN'T HURT MOM!"  Ben, on the other hand, gasped in pain every time he wiggled his newly loose tooth and nearly had a panic attack when it started bleeding.  These are two very different people.

Yes, I bought my husband a machete for Christmas.  Because I am an awesome wife.  And because I am concerned about the inevitable impending zombie apocalypse.

Benjamin lost his tooth during our Christmas dinner!  His very first tooth!  I am so glad it happened Christmas day and not Christmas Eve.  Santa's PR reps try to keep this information under raps, but you should know that Santa and the Tooth Fairy have an unpleasant history and actually cannot stand one another.  (It stems from the following argument:  who works harder?  TF works all year, but Santa visits every child in one night.  It's a tough call.)  I so did not want a confrontation in the middle of the night. 

December 26th= Christmas #2 at the in-laws!  There were three puppies present.  Three.  Is this the Chinese year of the dog? 

I continue to torture Kiah by dressing her in costumes.  So long as she keeps stealing food and breaking precious memorabilia, I will continue to do so.

Ben relaxes with uncle Richie and aunt Michelle. 

Uncle Scott, Ella's favorite person in the entire world thank you very much, has just placed a crown on Ella's head.  We will ignore the fact that it is crooked because he is a man and doesn't have any children yet. 

Ella does love to get dressed up.  She was wearing a new jumper that morning.  She added layers of new clothes as she opened them.  She received a Tinkerbell costume later in the afternoon which she insisted on putting on immediately.  By the end of the day, she looked like a very fancy homeless person.  (Yes.  She is wearing her pink boots.)

Christmas #3 at my dad's...

John shows off his "beard."  He tries this every year.  Silly, silly man. 

On Christmas morning, I opened my gift from John: a netbook.  Which immediately broke.  My toy broke!  I have to get another one.  I will wait for it under my new sherpa blanket, which makes me very, very happy.  Sherpa blankets make winter much more bearable. 

Daniel asked me to take this picture.  So I did.

And that was our Christmas in a nutshell.  A whirlwind of beloved family members, wrapping paper, and dogs. 

In a half an hour, it is my birthday.  I will be 33.  One year older than Sally of Harry and Sally fame, and the same age as Jesus when he died.  (And yes, my birthday totally gets overshadowed by His, but I don't hold it against Him.)  So, of course, there's much reflection on the things I have not accomplished during my time on earth.  (Jesus: masters carpentry, saves the world.  Holly: masters cookie platters, saves leftovers.) 

Of course, comparing myself to the world's ONLY perfect person is folly.  It's convenient that my birthday falls so close to New Year's: I can make grandiose resolutions once instead of twice during the year.  This year, I resolve to emulate Christ without striving for perfection.  You were striving for perfection?  Really?  I would never ever have guessed that in a million years based on the way your house looks and also your hair. 

I was.

You know what happens when you strive for perfection?  You realize how utterly insufficient you are.  You become overwhelmed.  Then paralyzed.  And small hills become the Himalayas.  And you dream of perfection without actually accomplishing... anything at all.  And you become depressed and despondent and numb. 

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14

I am looking forward to year 33.  Pressing on! 

Merry Christmas!  I hope you have had a peaceful and blessed holiday.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

At the Mall

I coerced the husband into meeting us at the mall last evening so that the children could sit upon Santa’s knee and ask him for all their greedy little hearts desire. This may have been a mistake. I did not expect a long, long line, filled with other parents who had procrastinated the Santa visit like me. We watched as proud new moms placed their newborn babies into Santa’s arms, as toddlers screamed the instant they approached the big guy, as fathers held up the line because their video cameras weren’t working properly.

Each of my kids had been waiting for this moment all year. Caleb prepped me while we waited in line.

“Make sure you tell him how well I take care of Kiah. And tell him how good I do in school. He’ll believe it if YOU say it.”

Ben had cut out visual representations of the things he wanted from the Toys R Us catalog. He clutched a picture of the Star Wars Lego Hoth Wampa Cave in his hands. He had refused gloves because he didn’t want to put the picture in his coat pocket, where it might get lost. Unlike Caleb, Ben was unconcerned about whether or not he’d been a good boy. Because last year, he said, he knew he hadn’t been that good, and Santa had still brought him a ton of loot.

Daniel was taking a comprehensive approach to the whole thing; he had decided to tell Santa he wanted “lots of fun toys for boys” this Christmas. That way, Santa was sure not to leave even one totally sweet and awesome fun toy for a little boy out.

Ella has not made any requests for gifts. She was, however, extremely excited about visiting Santa.

“What are you going to tell Santa Claus?” I asked her.

“Hi!” she responded.

Near the entrance of the mall, a homeless man with a long, tangled, silver beard sat on a bench alongside a large bag of bottles and cans. Through the doors, I could hear the jingle of bells from the Salvation Army volunteers. Ella marched up to the man and said,


He grinned, a wide, toothless grin.

The “real” Santa was sweet to my kids. He listened intently and took a long look at Ben’s picture. For the briefest of moments, I believed he really was making a mental note for Christmas Eve. Ella ran up to him and said, “Hi! Hi Santa!” Daniel climbed shyly onto his lap and, in a last minute change of play, requested lego guys. Caleb stood on the periphery, wringing his hands and anxiously awaiting his turn to prove his worthiness.

I love observing the vast differences in their personalities.

Yeah, the greed bothers me. And yes, I’ve said things like, “There are starving children in Africa!” Or, “There are starving children in Asia!” They don’t get it. They’ve never seen it, never experienced poverty or coldness. For God’s sake, Ella thought the homeless man was Santa.

At times, their generosity and caring eclipses the greed. Like when Ben spent an hour designing an elaborate Christmas crown for Daniel. Or when Daniel and Ella proudly bestowed the gift of a candle upon their Sunday School teachers. And when I ask them what Christmas is REALLY about, and they look at me like I have two heads.

“It’s Jesus’s birthday, silly,” said Ben.


Four days until Christmas. Four days to clean the house, get caught up on the laundry, wrap the gifts, make Christmas cookies, buy a ham, and remember that behind the temporary greedy exteriors of my gift-wanting kids are four little souls with incredible gift-giving potential.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A December Post with a Wintery Song

Kiah got spayed today. It had to be done. There’s a male beagle down the road with a nefarious reputation. Kiah doesn’t seem to mind that we took her lady parts away, though it is a strange feeling to have completely removed a beloved member of the family’s right to reproduce. I guess she lost that right when we, well, paid for her. I don’t think she’d be a good mother, anyway. I mean, who am I to judge, but she is a compulsive thief. I’m concerned she may have sociopathic tendencies. Last night she stole my bagel as I was holding it. I suspect she ate the remainder of my sandwich the other day, too. It’s quite possible I finished it, but one can’t be certain. It was turkey and as I recall, it was quite delicious.

I am so not ready for Christmas. We just got our tree. I mean, like a half hour ago. It smells so good. Before John and the boys left to get it, I told Daniel to make sure they chose a tree that didn’t have any birds in it. He took his mission seriously, I think. When they came in, he announced it was a bird-free balsam. No nests or anything.

We caught the mouse, finally. I was sick at the beginning of the week, violently ill as a matter of fact, and had not been diligently checking the mouse traps. Yesterday, a repugnant smell emanated from beneath the stairs, and sure enough, it was a very dead mouse rotting away in a trap. There was great rejoicing in the land, followed by an onslaught of Febreze.

I feel off. Not quite with it. Christmas shopping? Haven’t begun. Christmas cookies? One batch. Christmas cards? Not so much. I left my camera at my in-law’s and have been taking lousy pictures with my cell phone. We will have little photographic record of the Christmas of 2010. Visit to Santa? Nope. Snow? Oh yes. Tons of snow. In fact, I thought it was time to teach the twins an important informational snow song:

Snow is pretty
When it’s white
It falls down
A graceful flight.

I catch snowflakes
On my tongue
It tastes like sugar
When you’re young.

But there is one thing
Mom said I should know
I should never ever ever
Eat the yellow snow.

We don’t eat yellow snow!
No we don’t eat yellow snow!
I want you all to know
That you don't eat yellow snow!

The song's message is all that more pertinent when you have a dog.

Please tell me there’s someone else out there who hasn’t gotten much Christmas shopping done. Please. Someone. Out. There.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I have a cell phone now. It’s a pay-as-you-go phone, $19 at Target. I put $25 on it and immediately spent $1.50 sexting my husband.

Holly’s first text to John: sex ha ha ha ha

Actually, my first text to him consisted of one letter: u. I forget what I was trying to write. Probably u r sexy or something. (And that’s about as sexy at my sexting is going to get.) But I couldn’t find the space button and accidentally spent $.50 sending the letter “u.”

Today’s texts brought to you by the letter… U!

I hate chat abbreviations. I still don’t know if lol is lots of laughs or laughing out loud. The problem with chat abbreviations is that there are a limited number of them, and as we continue to communicate mainly through texts, Twitter, and Facebook, our vocabulary becomes diminished. It’s like Newspeak in the novel 1984- a close relation to English but with greatly reduced vocabulary and grammar. I'm being a tad bit overdramatic.  Maybe. 

Everyone is embracing Newspeak.  Even potential world leaders. Have I ever told you how much I don’t like Sarah Palin? She grates on every fiber of my being. This is a person who wants to be a serious contender for president of the United States, yet she QUIT her job as governor of Alaska to… get rich. Not to spend more time with her family, but to travel the U.S. speaking for outrageous sums of money while promoting her book, Going Rogue.
When I published the dust-jacket of my book, which coincidentally has the same title as Palin's, I did NOT quit my job to promote it and get rich. Which makes me a better person than Sarah Palin.

Palin is a Twitterer. Here are a few gems:

“DCs new $50BILLION local govt bailout? The “spending freeze,pay-as-u-go,fiscal restraint” pledge was as believable as O’s a#*-kickin’outrage”

Dr.Laura:don't retreat ... reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence"isn't American,not fair")

Who hijacked term: 'feminist'? A cackle of rads who want 2 crucify other women w/whom they disagree on a singular issue: it's ironic (& passé).

First of all, I can’t read this gibberish. Second of all, what’s a “cackle of rads?”

Her daughters, Bristol and Willow, are even more pointed as they slam a guy on Facebook for making some rather innocuous comments about the Palin family:

Bristol: You just run your mouth just so you'll get a reaction. You're a typical s**t talker. Talking s**t cause you have nothing else going for. Just like you pretended you didn't know what Dancing With the Stars was.

Willow: Haha your so gay. I have no idea who you are, But what I've seen picutres of, your disgusting... My sister had a kid and is still hot. Tre stfu. Your such a f****t.

Willow is sixteen. I know because I just looked it up. The sixteen year old daughter of a "writer" who is also the former governor of Alaska should know the difference between your and you’re. For that alone her mother should cancel her Facebook account. Not to do so is just bad parenting. I can throw judgment on other mothers because I’m a mom too, which makes me an expert on all things related and pertaining to parenting. And I resent the implication that having a kid makes most “not hot.” I’m sure the stars of 16 and Pregnant would agree with me.

Jon Stewart of The Daily Show tore Palin apart based on the following nonsensical tweet:

Palin: Inexplicable: I recently won in court to stop my book "America by Heart" from being leaked,but US Govt can't stop Wikileaks' treasonous act?

Stewart on Palin’s tweet: "There is the fact that WikiLeaks is in Sweden, and its founder Julian Assange is Australian, so really you can't charge them with treason against America... Because they're not American,"

Finally, in moment where I definitely lol'd, Stewart recalled Abraham Lincoln’s Great Twittersburg Address:

HONEST_ABE: 4 scor & 7 yrs ago: nu nation, all men=!
 Now civil war :(. But! Not die in vain. Gr8 task b4 us: Gvt of- by4-ppl not perish frm earth!

Lincoln to Palin. Sigh.

Oldspeak was better.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mele Kalikimaka

Yesterday. Ella woke up, found a permanent marker (gotta put a tighter lid on my collection of scrapbooking supplies) and drew all over her face and hands. What a debacle this girl is.

I was not in the best of moods. There is still a mouse (mice?) dwelling within these walls, and they are of supreme intelligence. They evade the many mousetraps I have set out. I have spent several late evenings running around the house like a wack-a-doo with a bowl, trying to capture mice (or one mouse- it’s hard to say) I spy scurrying along the sides of the walls. It always ends with the mouse escaping and me making plans to move right away.

On a related note, I did catch Daniel one day. In a mouse trap, not under a bowl. He’s fine, though I suppose we’re lucky his finger is not broken. Please don’t call child services; I’m a capable parent 85% of the time, which I think is a reasonable percentage.

Thursday night, John was off to NY and I was all alone, contending with my unwanted guests. I slept with the covers over my head and got up several times in the night to run around with my bowl. I got four hours of restless sleep. I have this nightmare where a mouse tries to climb into my brain through my ear.

We went grocery shopping after my Friday morning Mothers-in-Touch meeting, where Ella tried to ride my friend’s dog like a horse. The dog was really quite lovely about it.

Then we went to Target. Got Ella new boots- pink suede ones she picked out. Daniel picked out Spiderman sneakers and I bought Caleb new shoes AND boots. I feel a little bad about sending him out in the snow and slush in sneakers that had holes in the toes.

“My teacher said I couldn’t go outside wearing these shoes. She wouldn’t feel right about it, she said.”

So that’s embarrassing.

After I spent a copious amount of money on footwear, we went to Wegmans, where a man in a large landscaping truck screeched through the parking lot, parked across from us, slammed his door, and proceeded to scream a collection of eclectic curse words at his skinny and meek looking female companion. He hit the top of his truck, he was so mad about “how stupid she was.”

Because I am fearless, I said, “Hey! Do you mind? My kids can hear you!”

He responded, “Mind your own *expletive* business!” Then he started walking toward me. He looked angry and I felt threatened. So I stuck my hand in my purse and said,

“You come any closer and you’re going to be very sorry.” He did come closer, so I pepper-sprayed him in the eyeballs.

This is all true, up to the part where I said “Hey! Do you mind?” What I actually did was put the twins into the van very quickly. Then, I unloaded my cereal and bananas with intense focus, making certain not to look in the angry man’s direction while taking care not to smush my bread. I always smush my bread.

I am not fearless. Plus, did you know it can actually be worse for the victim of physical and verbal abuse if you intervene? The abuser will take out their embarrassment and anger on the victim later.

But oh man, sometimes I do fantasize about using my pepper spray. Be forewarned.

Later at home, while sweeping the kitchen floor, I found a long lock of golden Ella hair. This was alarming. I scooped her up and examined her head. Indeed, I found a spot where the golden lock should have remained.

“Ella! Did you cut your hair?” I asked.

“Ella cut my hair, too!” Daniel interjected.

“What? Where?” He pointed to a sparse looking spot on the top of his head. “Why did you let her do that?”

“I need haircut.” This is true. He does need a haircut.

“Well, sweetie- Ella might not be the most qualified person to perform this task. Please don’t let her do that again.”

“Kay.” He shrugged and we all went about our day. No use crying over spilt hair.

John returned home before dinner and I waited expectantly for my gift, because John ALWAYS brings me a gift when he goes to NY without me. It’s Christmas time, so naturally I expected to receive snow globe of the NYC skyline from Saks.

But, no gift. No snow globe. The romance is fizzling.

“Viggo Mortensen would’ve brought me a snow globe,” I thought.

I had waited until John got home to clean up a mess the mice had made. I wanted him to see the extent of the horribleness of living with rodents.

“Look at this? What do you think these are?” I pointed to a mess in the corner of the counter behind the toaster.

“Little dead bugs?” he guessed.

“No. That is mouse EXCREMENT!!! I’ve got no snow globe and I’m living with mice! DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT I AM THIS CLOSE TO HAVING A VERY UNIQUE KIND OF NERVOUS BREAKDOWN?”

So, we now have a fancier mousetrap, and if the mice are not dead, yes dead, by the end of this weekend, the professionals may be called.

Last night, Kiah peed on the rug. Caleb wet the bed. At 5:30 am, Ben puked all over his covers and the rug.

I have gone through two 22 fluid ounces of Resolve Carpet Cleaner for pets (which happily also removes puke smells) since September.

Right now, I’m supposed to be decorating for Christmas. I hauled up the bins, started decorating, and abandoned the project because I felt overwhelmed. Downstairs, it looks very much like Christmas exploded all over my kitchen. This also might be because I stupidly left Ella alone for like ten seconds with a vile of silver glitter.

On Christmas Eve, I’m totally hitchhiking a ride on Santa’s sled- a Hawaiian Christmas sounds lovely.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

GREED and generosity

I am about to share the extent of my greed.   Here are some of the things (and note I said SOME of the things) on my grand holiday wish-list.  I left out the prices so you would not know the extent of my sliminess.

Anthropologie Modeling Clay bag

It's all smushy and pretty.  And soft.  Kiah would have a field day chewing this up.

I don't have a cell phone.  I want this one.  John has one and so do Nate and Mary, and whenever we go to Maryland to visit, there is a moment when they're all doing something with their iPhones (probably texting about me behind my back), and I feel lame.  And I want that app where you hear a song in a store, want to know what song it is so you hold your phone up, and it automatically finds the song for you and tells you the title and artist.  So many major questions in my life could have been answered if I had had that app. 

J. Crew Arabelle dress
 But Holly, they say, where would you ever wear this?

Um, where wouldn't I wear this? This is the closest representation of the white dress Grace Kelly wears in To Catch a Thief I've ever come across. Cary Grant, fireworks, and diamonds sold separately.

The iconic dress...

Atlas 9 Series Snowshoes
Because I live in western New York.   And they go so well with the dress.

Black and Decker FHV1200 Flex Vac Cordless Ultra-Compact Vacuum Cleaner

I feel like the minivan would stay a lot cleaner if I had this. 

Dyson Ball All Floors
 Because the $70 Eureka vacuum isn't cutting it.  Four kids, a puppy, and a John require the big guns. 

Film Noir Classic Collection Vol 1
Detectives and dames :)

Black and Decker Jigsaw
I want to make stuff.

Red Gatsby Newsboy Hat

Because I look good in hats.

Seren Antique Mercury Glass Lamp Bases
 Pottery Barn.  You are my porn. 

Snowglobe from Sundance Catalog

Isn't that peaceful?

Toni Amazing Bangs from Avon

Clip-on bangs!  Ingenious!  The ultimate solution for people with annoying cowlicks. 

So, I don't NEED any of these things.  (Although we could debate my needing the Dyson.)  And as I was making this visual list, I realized how ridiculous I am. 

I don't really need anything.  I have lots of wants, but few needs.  And in that way, I am very fortunate. 

I wanted to have access to a charitable organization on my blog this Christmas- I chose because it is reputable and well-run and because they inundate me with literature every December.  Let's buy some family a cow, people. 

You can make a donation of ANY amount on the sidebar.  Find out more about the organization here.   (All giving, including who donated and how much, is completely anonymous.  We are not Oprah.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Boy Stuff

We celebrated Thanksgiving at my in-laws' this year. We brought Kiah, who spent the majority of the day wrestling with my in-laws’ 10-month old puppy, Bonnie, who is at least 4 times Kiah’s size. John’s brother and wife brought their 2-year old Lhasa Apso, Luna, who was disgusted by the rumpus and spent her time engaging in what she obviously deemed more appropriate behavior: namely, snuggling with Ella.

Every year, my father-in-law the pastor has everyone around the table express what they were thankful to God for in the past year. Which always sends me into a panic. Although I have all year to think of something really meaningful to share, something original instead of the usual “my kids” or “my husband” or “the glorious roof over my head, when the time comes I can only conjure up common Thanksgiving clichés.

I like hearing what everyone else is thankful for, anyway. I wish they’d skip me and just let me listen. My father-in-law was last to go, which is good, because his stories never fail to make my eyes all watery. In the midst of his thankfulness, and right before I had a full-blown emotional breakdown, Daniel walked out of the bathroom with his pants around his ankles, strumming his pint sized tallywacker like a guitar. As he stood there grinning at everyone, Bonnie ran up behind him and started licking his butt.

Mayhem commenced, accompanied by some gasping, and someone quickly rectified the situation (pun totally intended) so we could go back to being thankful.

Occurrences like these no longer surprise me, though I pretend to be aghast. Sometimes I say things like, “He never normally does things like this!” But he does. Daily. And he knows how to pull his own pants up. He’s just lazy and likes me to do it for him.

Daniel is extremely fond of his penis. I’m kind of sorry he knows the word penis; it was less awkward when he called it his pee-pee. For instance, last week, he walked out of the bathroom, pants around his ankles, and declared, “I LOVE MY PENIS!”

“Well, I’m happy for you two,” I said. “Now pull up your pants.”

Yesterday, he came out of the bathroom completely naked from the waste down. He sat down and looked at me, intently.

“Someday,” he said, “my penis will be this big.” He held his arm out a good foot in front of his, um, pee-pee.

“Really?” I said.

“In a little while,” he responded.

Dream big, buddy.

Daniel doesn’t hold back. He is the most uninhibited human being I’ve ever met. He tells me in his garbled speech exactly what he’s thinking and feeling. And his moods run the gamut:

“Mom. I. Mad. AT YOU!”

“I looove you mom. And you really love me.”

Apparently, the school district thinks Daniel is 65% intelligible. In fact, the speech therapist, who is always pragmatic, was impressed by how clearly he said the word “penis.” (She happened to be there during the declaration of love. So horrifying.)

“Very nice word, Daniel!” And then they commenced in labeling other body parts- you know, the ones you can say without turning red like a turnip. Or maybe that’s just me. With three candid and carefree boys whose daily dinner banter generally involves fart jokes and speculations about what would happen if you were caught in a river of lava, I no longer blush or cringe as often as I used to.

Anyway, the good news is that Daniel is about to graduate from speech therapy! He is a great success! He is currently booking speaking engagements into 2011. He’s promised me he will keep his pants on during his lectures.

We are very proud.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bells on Christmas

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I’m back in the choir for Christmas and hopefully beyond, and guess what? I’m a soprano this year. I’m in full-fledged diva mode. I’ve been listening to my Mariah Carey Christmas album and yesterday, in a moment that nearly sent the dog into a full-fledged panic attack (the Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!), I hit a high C. It’s all about air, people. Air in the gullet. (I’m not going to say it sounded pretty, or even socially appropriate, but it was a high C.)

I was pleased to find out that we are singing “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” which is my husband’s favorite carol. I wrinkled my nose when I saw it was NOT the original version, but some newfangled adaptation by the band Casting Crowns.


It is possible that I was born with a very old and cranky soul. Why take a perfectly gorgeous melody and toss it aside for something that is, in my not-so-humble opinion, mediocre? (For the record, the 50’s adaptation by Johnny Marks, who is most notably the author of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” is okay, but Calkin’s melancholy version written in 1872 is the original, and I think, the best. And I’m not even going to tell the story of the day I found “Adagio for Strings” set to techno music on YouTube. There was a hissy-fit of epic proportions.)

The words to “Bells on Christmas Day” were written by the great American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at the tail-end of the Civil War. Several years before, in 1861, Longfellow lost the love of his life, his wife Fanny, in a tragic accident. After cutting her daughter’s hair during a heat wave, Fanny Longfellow decided to preserve the cuttings in some wax, which dripped onto her dress. A breeze from the window set her dress on fire, and in order to protect her children, Fanny ran into the next room, where Henry frantically tried to extinguish the fire with a small rug. When this failed, he threw himself around her, burning himself in the process.

Fanny died the next morning. Henry, recovering from his own burns, was too injured to go to her funeral. His beard remained full and long because his injuries kept him from ever being able to shave his face without excruciating pain.

Longfellow’s journal, Christmas 1861: How inexpressibly sad are all holidays. I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.

Longfellow’s journal, Christmas 1862: A merry Christmas' say the children, but that is no more for me.

In 1863, Longfellow received word that his oldest son had been severely injured and permanently disabled in battle. His journal that Christmas is silent.

In 1864, on Christmas day, he writes the poem “Christmas Bells":

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"

I have never known such sorrow. I can’t imagine what went on in his heart that would bring him from bitterness and misery to hope and faith. It was, in short, some sort of miracle.

And you should all probably know that as I write this, I am listening to Adagio for Strings and crying like a baby. (I have a very sentimental, cranky old soul.)

Here's hoping your have a blessed start to the Christmas season!

Johnny Cash actually sings the Calkin melody; so do the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They seem to be in the minority.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Greyness- A Thanksgiving Post

The husband is going grey at an alarming rate. He thinks he looks “distinguished” or some such malarkey.

The initial onset came during his third year in law school- he was running the law review, studying for the bar exam, taking classes, and juggling both a baby who screamed from 4pm to 2am daily and a wife whose postpartum depression made her most unlovable.

After a bit of research, I was shocked to learn that stress has not been biologically linked to the onset of grey hair. I’ve always been intrigued by the possibility that a sudden trauma could turn just a part of a person’s hair snow white- like that girl in the X-Men. (My brother-in-law has a white patch of hair. I always assumed he was abducted by aliens and returned to earth thoroughly traumatized with a newly obtained white streak of hair. This would also explain why he is the way he is.) However, there is no concrete evidence that stress actually makes a person’s hair go grey, or that trauma can turn a streak of hair white. The white streaks are actually indicative of something called poliosis- a weird melanin thing. (I still submit that it seems highly coincidental that John’s hair went through such a marked change during the aforementioned period of time.)

For the sake of consistency, let’s pretend stress does make one’s hair go grey faster than genetically preordained. John’s hair is getting worse, and he has made it clear he will never cover up his grey with Just for Men or any other hair dye. I don’t think I’d want him to, anyway, but it’s strange to think that in a few years I’ll be sleeping with a man who’s completely grey. A man I made grey.

I fear that this past year I may have contributed to the silvery strands of brittle hair. I mean, the bad economy and the life-sucking job are certainly also to blame, but I definitely helped. And for that I feel very, very sorry.

I feel sorry for all the nights John came home and I hadn’t bothered with dinner because the kids wouldn’t eat it anyway. (I HATE dinner time.)

I feel sorry for taking advantage of his allowing me to sleep in mornings. (And I wonder why he dozes off at 9:00pm just when I’m raring to go.)

I feel most sorry for a lot of other things that I’m just not going to divulge because you’d probably spit at your computer screen. Let’s just say I can be difficult.

I am not sorry for not ironing. I loathe ironing. He can iron his own damn shirts. (We put that in the pre-nup.)

Don’t get me wrong- he causes me unneeded stress, too. He snores. He hoards mugs. Coffee mugs. We have over fifty mugs and he keeps bringing home more. He recently brought home four matching Senator George Maziarz mugs. Four.

He adopts a new catch-phrase every year or so. When we met it was, “For the love of God!” Recently, he would insert “At the end of the day…” into any given conversation. Lately, it’s “That’s great hustle!” I don’t even know what that one means.

He won’t watch a movie filmed before 1985. He insists he will, but he won’t. He’d fall asleep. He couldn’t pick out Humphrey Bogart in a lineup.

But he loves me. I mean, he really loves me. And he’s infinitely patient with me. I see those grey hairs, and I’m reminded how lucky I am. Because he’s never, ever walked away.

So I’m thankful. Thankful for every single hair I’ve made grey, and for the ones I have yet to turn. Infinitely thankful.

(Happy Thanksgiving.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Debussy Girl

I saw a preview last week for the television show Parenthood. A father is in the supermarket with his autistic son, who is throwing an absolute fit over some trivial matter. A looker-on tells the father he should get control of his kid, and the father, who was possibly not having a good day, decks the guy. In the face. It was maybe an overreaction. I kind of want to know what happened to the father.

Ella is not autistic, and has only been labeled with a “severe speech delay” and an “information processing disorder.” Yet, she has quirks. Supermarket quirks. Screaming-for-no-reason-in-the-supermarket quirks.

She hates loud noises, which I find ironic, because of her immense capability for creating vociferous noise. She also hates what she deems “scary music.” Apparently, Mahler’s 3rd symphony falls into this category. She shrieked and carried on so that I had to turn it off. With her lip out (she is an extremely proficient pouter) she requested “Busey.”

And my mind immediately went to… Gary Busey, of course.

“You wanna watch Speed?” I asked.

She marched to the piano and handed me my Debussy music. So I played a shoddy version of Clair De Lune while she happily played with her My Little Pony at my feet.

So to the people who give us reproachful looks at the supermarket, in the church foyer, and at the play museum-

We are doing our best here with what God has given us.

And if they ever cared to know, Ella, I would tell them that you are

Golliwogg’s playmate,
Jimbo’s friend,
You are a jaunty cakewalk
And a Saturday afternoon reverie.
You are
The siren who dwells
Within the sunken cathedral
And the muffled song beneath la mer.
My petit… blanc.
You are dissonance
And melody,
You are dancing snow
And every nocturne that
Sways me to dreams.
The light of my moon,
My Debussy girl.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mouse Tales

There are mice in my house.

I’m beginning to think these are the end of days.

I saw the first, yesterday, scuttle from under my desk to the door that leads to the cubby beneath the stairs. Instinctively and shamefully, I screamed like the stereotypical mammy  as seen on Tom and Jerry. There was much flapping of arms and subsequent shrieking. I startled Daniel so much that he cried.

I calmed down and had a moment of misguided hope. I retrieved my puppy, set her in front of the door the mouse had scampered under, opened it, and jumped up and down, saying, “Get the mouse get the mouse get the mouse- go on, get the mouse! Get it! Get it! Get the mouse get the mouse pleeease get the mouse!”

Kiah sat, tilted her head and stared at me, probably thinking, “And this is the person I have to depend on to feed me. I am definitely screwed.” (To which I respond, “That’s right, bub. And don’t think I won’t trade you in for a cat.")

I called the husband who promised he would bring mousetraps home. He was infuriatingly nonchalant about the whole situation.

“It’s that time of year. The weather gets cold so they come indoors. I’ve heard of three other people at the firm who have had mice in their homes. Plus, the kids leave the door open all the time.”

Yet, his assurances subdued me, and I didn’t even blow a gasket when he forgot to pick up mouse traps on the way home from work.

Then,  late last night, while writing at the computer, I saw a shadow from the corner of my eye behind the paint can in the office doorway. (There’s really no good explanation for why there’s a paint can in the office doorway.) With bated breath, I waited, and sure enough, a mouse that looked a lot like the one I saw earlier ran from the paint can to the closet.

I screamed like Janet Leigh in Psycho. The mice are upstairs. HOW?

When, of its own volition, the scream subsided, I was met with dead silence. Children slumbered peacefully. Husband- alarmingly quiet.

I am all alone in this world.

It could be worse. It could be rats, or snakes, or zombies.

Zombie mice.

It is totally the end of days.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veterans Day

My grandpa didn't talk about the war.  My grandmother gleaned bits and pieces of information from his nightmares: we know that one night he survived an attack by pure chance- he scurried into the wrong foxhole.  His friends perished in the other. 

Grandpa refused to go camping.  He said he did enough camping in the war.  Instead, he maintained his home to a fault, forever grateful for the warmth and comfort it provided him.

He flew his American flag outside his home every day. 

Every day.

I was so proud to be his granddaughter.

Thank you veterans- your sacrifices overwhelm me. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Sum of All These Parts

The hair situation

My hair doesn’t hold scent. I became aware of this in my early teens when I started buying my own shampoo- bottles of bright pink, apple-scented Salon Selectives. After a hair wash, my girlfriends’ hair would smell soapy, fruity, or flowery, but mine always smelled tiresomely neutral. Like hair.

The cell phone situation

I had a cell phone- a pre-paid doohickey that was stolen a while back. 90% of the time, I forgot to charge it. (The other 10% it was charged, but lost in the cavernous depths of my coat pocket.)

I’m still stuck in the era of Salon Selectives. When I tell people I don’t have a cell phone, I get one of two reactions:

1) A roll of the eyes along with, “Oh, I WISH I didn’t have a cell phone.” (Which always strikes me as disingenuous.)

2) A raised eyebrow. It’s surprising how many people can do this.

Everyone, it seems, wants your cell number. I’ve been asked by my primary physician, my OBGYN, the pediatrician, the school nurse, my kids’ teachers, my friends, my family, some hairy guy at the gym… and I have to shake my head with feigned regret.

Payphones are going the way of the dodo bird, which is an inconvenience. I wonder the following: are people less likely these days to help you if your car breaks down on the highway because they assume you are carrying a functional cell phone? And is NOT carrying a cell phone while driving around with four kids in the car considered irresponsible?

The ear situation

The hole pierced in my right ear at Piercing Pagoda in the fifth grade has closed. I tried to wear earrings when we out a couple of weekends ago, but ended up exhibiting naked lobes. I’ve never liked things in my ears. Earphones are okay; ear buds are gross. Some women wear earrings that precariously dangle down the side of their face every day. They don bracelets and rings and drape layers of necklaces around their necks. 90% of the time, I sport only my wedding ring and engagement ring. The other 10%, I want to wear jewelry, so I put on a necklace and find matching earrings only to discover that my ear is no longer pierced.

It seemed like such a big deal to wear earrings in the fifth grade.

The underwear situation

I need new underwear. I can’t remember the last time I got new underwear. Occasionally, while in Target or Walmart, I think I might pick up some Hanes cotton panties, but I know this would depress the husband terribly. The woman has given up entirely, he will think.

I have a coupon for a free pair of panties at Victoria’s Secret, and will probably do their $25 for 5 panties deal. This appalls me, to pay $5 for a pair of underwear. I will throw away $5 on a magazine I’ll read for a half an hour only to pass along to a friend without a thought, but spending $25 on but 5 pairs of underwear? Why does this bother me so?

And, if I should suddenly perish, murdered by thieves in the street because I didn’t have any phone or jewelry to steal, would the undertaker judge me for wearing threadbare undies? With what might appear to be moth holes? And, I think the following question is imperative: if Viggo Mortensen and I were to start a torrid affair, would the threadware undies be a deal breaker?

The sum of all these parts

Sometimes, I think I am more like a shadow than a person. I am among the living, but am tethered only to myself. I lack a scent, style, and I certainly don’t need sexy underwear.

And I don’t know if I like it that way or not.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Maryland Redux

This weekend, we made our annual trek to Maryland, which is still the land of my sister, Mary.

The weather in Maryland did not live up to my expectations this year. The diminutive state remained rather chilly; it really wasn’t much warmer there than New York. I did not go snorkeling in the bay.

We drove down in a deluge. I drove five hours, and John drove three, which was unfair, and I will complain about it relentlessly until next year. A trucker gave me the finger on the beltway, and I responded inappropriately. That’s about all the excitement there was on the drive down.

Nathan and Mary live in a sprawling community where they have to pay homeowner’s association dues and where the neighborhood garden club is extremely active.  It’s a nice neighborhood. Therefore, it was a little bit alarming when, while Nate and Mary were off at a church meeting, the doorbell rang and I was confronted with one Jane Doe, resident meth junkie.

Doorbell rings. Holly answers door.

Holly: Hello.

Jane Doe: Hi. I’m your neighbor. I live two doors down. I’m really sick and I’m looking for someone to help me out until tomorrow.

Holly: Oh no! What’s wrong?

Jane Doe: I have Crohn’s disease. I’m in pretty bad shape and was wondering if you could help me out.

Holly: Okay- what do you need? Help around the house?

Jane Doe: No, no- nothing like that. I need to get my prescription.

Holly: Do you need a ride?

( I will insert here that I am naïve, gullible, and thick.)

Jane Doe: No- I just need money to cover the prescription. Can you loan me $40 until tomorrow?

(This is where John butted in.)

John: We’re not your neighbors. We’re just guests. I think it would be better if you found help from someone you know.

Jane Doe: (Getting desperate.) What. You’re not going to be here tomorrow? Cause I’ll give you the money back tomorrow, if that’s what you’re worried about.

Holly: I’d be happy to drive you to the drugstore and get your prescription for you.

John: I’m sorry we can’t help you.

Jane Doe: Fine. (Leaves in a huff.)

Holly: So nice to meet you!!!

(Later, we find out that there is a warning about Jane Doe on the homeowner’s website because she is a known panhandler. Apparently, she hangs out in front of the Giant and asks passers by for $40: no more, no less. I’m starting to suspect she doesn’t really have Crohn’s disease, which is total affront to those who really DO have this debilitating condition.)

A photographic journey of our journey:

The neighborhood has its own private beach. 

Caleb is quite adept at skipping stones.

I've decided I look best in black and white.  Sigh.
On Saturday, we drove out to the resort town of North Beach!  It was quite deserted.  The candy shop was open and I bought some salt-water taffy for half off.  John and I argued after he said that salt-water taffy is "the most overrated candy ever."  I said, are you daft, man? Anything that bad for your teeth is delish.
Uncle Nate takes the kids longboarding.  You can't go through life always wearing a helmet, people.  That's no way to live.  (I worked really hard not to do any arm flapping and shrieking.)

Caleb, Margot, Adam, and Ben
John, about five seconds before he fell into the bay.
This is called a bluff. 
North Beach clock.  Tally-ho!
My boy.
We spent at least 1/3 of our visit situating the kids into various picture-taking poses.
John's brother, wife, and our nephew Julian met us in Harrisburg for brunch.  The boys would not look at the camera.  But, hey, it's a nice shot of Michael, my good-looking brother-in-law.
The twins were shuffled between three sets of grandparents.  My mother kept Kiah.  During our time in Maryland, she called us several times.  The phone calls became increasingly frenzied, a la the babysitter at the end of the movie The Incredibles.  You know, the one watching baby Jack Jack?  Kiah puts baby Jack Jack to shame. 

Which is why this week, I give up and am looking into obedience school.  For the dog.  And maybe for me.  We could both use some training as I've never been a dog-owner, and she's never been a proper dog.  First, she has to get her rabies shots.  Ouch.

I'd like to bring her to Maryland next year: should John fall into the bay again, I have no doubt Kiah would pull him out.

Last year's trip to Maryland.