28 December 2011


Well, you haven't heard about our Christmas yet because we were on a super top-secret trip (well, top-secret to Matt's mom) to Virginia.  We left  home on Thursday night, drove through the night, and surprised Matt's mom by standing (probably somewhat creepily) at the foot of her bed when she woke up Friday morning.

And for the next four days we shopped and ate and cooked and were spoiled rotten and and saw old friends and put together Barbie townhouses (damn you, elevator!) and basically did experiments to see just how much food the ol' human body could consume without actually exploding.

Right now, after sitting in the car for most of the day yesterday with soaking wet, cold jeans and a dog who would only rest if he could also steal my pillow and blanket, I feel like this.

But I'm working to muster up the energy to ellipt, and the I will reward myself with a trip to Target, because I haven't been to my home Target in like 5 days and I miss my favorite cashier and I have gift cards to use and I think I'm in dire need of a pair of work pants that won't put a giant dent in my child's head.

So, what about you?  How was your Christmas?  What'd you do?  What'd you get?

19 December 2011


So, like a year or so ago, I saw this little craft project on Martha Stewart and flipped out over its awesomeness.

I also figured that, assuming that I didn't use Martha's $2,000 canvas and her $95 paint, I could do this one on the cheap.  Originally, I wanted to put this in our living room on the mantle, so I painted it the color that I paint pretty much everything in our house these days: light turquoise.  I didn't know what design to do, and I figured that I wouldn't start the actual project until I knew for sure, until I had that "Oh, there you are, Peter" moment.

And then I got knocked up, and I decided that the grown-up lite brite didn't need to be grown-up at all, because it would be awesome as nursery decor, and could also function as a nightlight for little ole' Blast and for us.  So then I decided that it needed to be a shark.

But, after careful consideration, I decided that 1.) I needed to repaint the canvas because Blast's room is already light turquoise, and 2.) a shark might be too scary.  (Trying to use all of my allotted scaring-the-bab tokens for telling him about Krampus.)  So, after a very informal polling of friends, I decided to instead paint the canvas orange and to do a design that was even be better.  A DINOSAUR!

So here's how the process went.

1.  Paint canvas. (Using little sample thing of paint from Home Depot--$3)

2.  Borrow overhead projector from school.  (Def made it easier for me, but you could totes do this project without one.)

3.  Google "brontosaurus silhouette" and find this.

4.  Trace silhouette onto transparency.

5.  Pencil silhouette onto back of canvas.

Maybe next I should work on actually putting pictures in the frames in our gallery wall?

6.  Mark spots for lights to go through with a pencil.
7. Cut small slits into canvas with an exacto knife where lights would go.
8. Pop lights through spots.

And, voila!

I actually used button lights from Target, which worked perfectly for this project because of their size.  You can do it with regularly-sized lights, but you'll need to use craft glue or a glue gun to secure each light.  I would highly recommend using the button lights because they're not only much simpler, but you can also easily replace the strand if the strand goes kaput.

Also, you should know that it is really hard to get a good picture of the dino-brite, especially if you're impatient and hungry and wishing that you were lying on the couch watching Parenthood instead.  The dino-brite looks approximately 50 times better in person. Plus, it only cost like $15 to do, which makes me happy because I'm a cheaposaurus.

Mitch is also a big fan.

Now I kind of want to make a million of these, so I've been trying to think of other shapes and designs to do.  A bicycle!  A squirrel!  A snowflake!  A Mitch!

What else?  

18 December 2011


So, I've mentioned before that my parents never taught my brother or me about Santa Claus.  They also didn't let us go trick-or-treating.  (But our sister, who is 15 years younger than me, both believed in Santa and got to go trick-or-treating.  It seems that by the time you're on your third kid you don't care if it frolics around with Satan.)  And while I'm very bitter about being denied the chance to go door-to-door seeking out candy, I'm kind of whatevs about the whole Santa thing.  I think I even enjoyed the power that came with being the only kid in the first grade who wasn't so silly as to believe in some bearded fat guy coming down a chimney.  Plus, even if my parents had tried to tell us about Santa, our belief would have been short-lived because I was the master at finding my presents hidden around the house.

Matt, on the other hand, believed in Santa [for an appropriate amount of time], and enjoyed the magic and wonder that accompanied the whole North Pole/fat man/elf/toys legend.

Now, as Matt and I have these weird moments where we realize that this time next year there will be a [likely mobile] little human in our home, we're faced with some big decisions.  Do I really have to make my beautiful tree kid-friendly?  What do we do when Mitch steals the baby's toys?  What do we do when the baby steals Mitch's toys?  Can a 9-month old eat marshmallows?  And, finally, Are we going to tell our kid about Santa?

Now, next year we're probably in the clear, but the year after that we have to know.  And I'm a little blah about telling the kid about Santa, but Matt thinks we probably should.  Actually, I should say that I was a little blah about telling the kid about Santa, until I learned about the best part of the Santa story that nobody ever told me.


Now, you're probably way more hip and knowledgeable than I am, and you've probably known about Krampus for decades, but I just found out about him. But if you're like me and didn't know, well, let me fill you in.  Krampus, according to the almighty Wikipedia, is a scary/evil mythical creature recognized in Alpine countries who accompanies Santa on his Christmas Eve journey around the world.  While Santa leaves gifts for the good children, Krampus kidnaps the bad children, puts them in his sack, and takes them back to his lair where he devours them for his Christmas supper.


Please please please can we tell our kid about Krampus?  It just makes the whole Santa story come alive for me!  Matt says it might be too scary (especially when I suggested that if our little spawn had been bad, then I could plant a burlap sack that was stamped "Property of Krampus" somewhere in the house) and Shecky said that it borders on child abuse.  But people, think of all of the fun possibilities!*

I tried to argue to Matt that there is no crime in Alpine countries**, and that it was probably because people believed in Krampus there.  He rebutted that, no, instead they have really high suicide rates.  Then he stopped, thought, and added, "Or maybe those weren't suicides.  Maybe Krampus just ate them all."

So, it's big grown-up decision-making time.  Do we tell our kid about Krampus or no?

*Like, "Oh, I used to have a brother named Darryl, but he got taken by the Krampus when he was six"  or "See this scar on my arm?  It's from where Krampus grabbed me when I was seven.  I narrowly escaped."

**Which is probably not true at all.

14 December 2011

Video Therapy

The days leading up to Christmas break can be a little wild, and sometimes I begin to wonder about the direction my life has taken, you know, when I utter sentences like, "Stop hitting him with that Slim Jim" or when I have to insist that there was nothing racial in my request that a student put away his box of Chicken in a Biscuit* crackers. This break is going to be much-deserved, methinks.

And since my brain has pretty much been fried, and I've spent much of the last few weeks being pissed off or frustrated (But not this week. This week is going swimmingly. Don't mess with me, universe!), I've resorted to a few little comfort tactics to keep myself sane. One of these tactics involves food (I know you're really surprised about that), but since I saw that I'd put on five pounds last month**, I'm working to scale that strategy back.

One of my other favorite tactics is great because it makes me smile without taking up too much time. I like to watch favorite scenes from movies and tv shows or music videos. They provide a little pick-me-up (since margaritas are out for the time being) and lighten my mood. And I wanted to share some of these scenes with you. So, without further ado, here they are.

1. Love Actually cute guy with signs. This is how Matt and I ended up getting together. Except not. But for now, let's just pretend. (And while you're at it, go watch Hugh Grant dancing, too.)

2. Buddy the Elf. Pretty much all of Elf is my favorite, but I'm only putting this one because I love the song so much.

3. The final scene from Dirty Dancing. I particularly enjoy the part where Johnny squints his eyes and mouths the words "And I owe it all to you" to Baby.  I also really love when he jumps off the stage in the most manly of ways.

4. C-Lo Green's "Fuck You." Why is it that I'm so unhip that I didn't know about this song until Tanya put it on a car CD that I demanded she burn for me? And why did it take me listening to the song approximately 30 times before I realized what he was saying? Grandma, you might even like this one. It's awfully catchy.

5. The final scene from Slumdog Millionaire. One of my students asked me the other day if I was going to name the baby Jamal, and I actually considered it, you know, with the hope that our spawn would be as sweet and delightful as Jamal from the movie.

6. Cool Hand Luke eats 50 eggs. This is kind of gross, but mostly just awesome.

7.  Wet Hot American Summer's big secret pizza party.  Always made me want to be a camp counselor and wear cutoff jean shorts.

8.  Don Draper says "What?"  So much handsome I can hardly stand it.

9. Run Forrest, Run.  Love that kid's face.

10. All things Coach Taylor.  I want to see him in a handsome-off with Don Draper.

11. Top Gun. I almost put the volleyball scene here, but this one's better. That's right. I am dangerous.

Those are just a few of my favorites.  What am I missing?

*Those crackers are so disgusting and so delicious at the same time. I should have confiscated them!

**Upon reflection, I've realized that I really did spend the entire month being cocky and gluttonous, and it turns out that it wasn't consequence-free. Who knew? PLUS, I was wearing shoes instead of flip-flops, and when I went home and weighed them on my food scale, they weighed over a pound! So I only gained 4 lbs. Plus, I'm sure the baby has gained like three pounds in the last month, so I only gained one pound. Plus, I'm pretty sure it was a full moon and there was more of a gravitational pull, so that would account for another 2. So, really, I lost a pound. Right? Right? It's amazing that I was able to eat so much last month and still lose a pound.

12 December 2011

Weekend Fun

This weekend was as lovely as the week preceding it was annoying.  After four days of work that turned me into a cranky, grumpy, mean, horrible shrew, the last couple of days have been lazy and warm and delicious and perfect.  And in only five more days (or 111 hours, but, really, who's counting?), I'll be on Christmas break, which is basically the best thing ever.

Today was especially wonderful.  I watched 5 episodes of Parenthood (and even got Matt sucked into it), snuggled with my cuddle soulmate pup, and I tried to see just how many things Matt would get for me so that I wouldn't have to get off of the couch.  (He drew the line at bedpan.  We don't even have a bedpan.)  We stayed in our pajamas until late afternoon and ordered delivery so that we wouldn't have to do anything but lie around in our cozy, Christmasy living room.

Here's what it's looking like around here these days.

Some of the Christmas decor didn't survive the Savannah summer. 

Get out of here with the beauty that is snowflake-shaped marshmallows! 

 Completely in love with the Christmas tree.  It was the first one we looked at, and it is perfect.

 Because 1-800-Pet-Meds boxes come with a treat inside, Mitch has decided that all packages contain treats for him.

Brown sugaring.  Did you know that brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses?  I didn't know that until recently, and now I'm determined never to buy brown sugar again.

Omigod, this dinner was delicious.  Adapted from this recipe, except that we used the juice from two lemons and, since we needed bacon fat anyway, we went ahead and added 1/3 lb. bacon, too.  

Hope you have a great week.  And I hope the next 111 hours go by in a flash!

06 December 2011

Christmas to Me

Oh man, I'm kind of disappointed with myself because here I am, almost two weeks after Thanksgiving, and the only Christmas decoration I have up in my house is a strand of lights that I draped over a curtain rod to make it feel like the tree is here.  I did manage to get the Christmas stuff down from the attic, but it's just sitting here in boxes.  There's no tree smell in our house because we don't have our tree yet, and the rooms are woefully devoid of my garish and gaudy Christmas decor.

The mantle last year.  Or the year before that.  Who knows?

And because I've been so busy/lazy (Matt says that the only difference between my awake self and my asleep self is whether the ipod in my hand is illuminated), I haven't even managed to muster up the excitement about Christmas that I usually have.  Shoot.  But I'm working on it.  And I've decided to start here, with an essay that is sure to ignite in me some excitement for Christmas.

I didn't even know that this essay existed until a couple of months ago when I was teaching To Kill a Mockingbird to my ninth graders and one of my coworkers loaned me a new documentary about Harper Lee and the book,  Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird.  If you're a big fan of the book (and, for real though, why wouldn't you be?), I'd really recommend putting this documentary on your Netflix queue*.  It was engaging enough to keep 37 ninth graders awake at 8:00 in the morning, and it had this really interesting little story in it, which Lee wrote about in "Christmas to Me."  So now I'll turn things over to ol' Harpy (she loves it when you call her that), even though I'm a little loath to put my words right next to hers.  Enjoy.

Christmas to Me: an essay by Harper Lee

Several years ago, I was living in New York and working for an airline, so I never got home to Alabama for Christmas—if, indeed, I got the day off. To a displaced Southerner, Christmas in New York can be rather a melancholy occasion, not because the scene is strange to one far from home, but because it is familiar: New York shoppers evince the same singleness of purpose as slow moving Southerners; Salvation Army bands and Christmas carols are alike the world over: at that time of year, New York streets shine wet with the same gentle farmer’s rain that soaks Alabama’s winter fields.

I missed Christmas away from home, I thought. What I really missed was a memory, an old memory of people long since gone, of my grandparents’ house bursting with cousins, smilax, and holly. I missed the sound of hunting boots, the sudden open-door gusts of chilly air that cut through the aroma of pine needles and oyster dressing. I missed my brother’s night-before-Christmas mask of rectitude and my father’s bumblebee bass humming “Joy to the World.”

In New York, I usually spent the day, or what was left of it, with my closest friends in Manhattan. They were a young family in periodically well-to-do circumstances. Periodically, because the head of the household employed the precarious craft of writing for their living. He was brilliant and lively; his one defect of character was an inordinate love of puns. He possessed a trait curious not only in a writer but in a young man with dependents; there was about him a quality of fearless optimism—not of the wishing-makes-it-so variety, but that of seeing an attainable goal and daring to take risks in its pursuit. His audacity sometimes left his friends breathless—who in his circumstances would venture to buy a townhouse in Manhattan? His shrewd generalship made the undertaking successful: while most young people are content to dream of such things, he made his dream a reality for his family and satisfied his tribal longing for his own ground beneath his feet. He had come to New York from the Southwest and, in a manner characteristic of all natives thereof, had found the most beautiful girl in the east and married her.

To this ethereal, utterly feminine creature were born two strapping sons, who, as they grew, discovered that their fragile mother packed a wallop that was second to nobody’s. Her capacity to love was enormous, and she spent hours in her kitchen, producing dark, viscous delights for her family and friends.

They were a handsome pair, healthy in mind and body, happy in their extremely active lives. Common interests as well as love drew me to them: and endless flow of reading material circulated amongst us; we took pleasure in the same theatre, films, music: we laughed at the same things, and we laughed so much in those days.

Our Christmases together were simple. We limited our gifts to pennies and wits and all-out competition. Who would come up with the most outrageous for the least? The real Christmas was for the children, an idea I found totally compatible, for I had long ago ceased to speculate on the meaning of Christmas as anything other than a day for children. Christmas to me was only a memory of old loves and empty rooms, something I buried with the past that underwent a vague, aching resurrection every year.

One Christmas, though, was different. I was lucky. I had the whole day off, and I spent Christmas Eve with them. When morning came, I awoke to a small hand kneading my face. “Dup,” was all its owner had time to say. I got downstairs just in time to see the little boys’ faces as they beheld the pocket rockets and space equipment Santa Claus had left them. At first, their fingers went almost timidly over their toys. When their inspection had been completed, the two boys dragged everything into the center of the living room.

Bedlam prevailed until they discovered there was more. As their father began distributing gifts, I grinned to myself, wondering how my exceptionally wily unearthments this year would be received. His was a print of a portrait of Sydney Smith I’d found for thirty-five cents; hers was the complete works of Margot Asquith, the result of a year’s patient search. The children were in agonies of indecision over which package to open next, and as I waited, I noticed that while a small stack of present mounted beside their mother’s chair, I had received not a single one. My disappointment was growing steadily, but I tried not to show it.

They took their time. Finally she said, “We haven’t forgotten you. Look on the tree.”

There was an envelope on the tree, addressed to me. I opened it and read: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.”

“What does this mean?” I asked.

“What it says,” I was told.

They assured me that it was not some sort of joke. They’d had a good year, they said. They’d saved some money and thought it was high time they did something about me.

“What do you mean, do something about me?”

To tell the truth—if I really wanted to know—they thought I had a great talent, and—

“What makes you think that?”

It was plain to anyone who knew me, they said, if anyone would stop to look. They wanted to show their faith in me the best way they knew how. Whether I ever sold a line was immaterial. They wanted to give me a full, fair chance to learn my craft, free from the harassments of a regular job. Would I accept their gift? There were no strings at all. Please accept, with their love.

It took some time to find my voice. When I did, I asked if they were out of their minds. What made them think anything would come of this? They didn’t have that kind of money to throw away. A year was a long time. What if the children came down with something horrible? As objection crowded upon objection, each was overruled. “We’re all young,” they said. “We can cope with whatever happens. If disaster strikes, you can always find a job of some kind. Okay, consider it a loan, then, if you wish. We just want you to accept. Just permit us to believe in you. You must.”

“It’s a fantastic gamble,” I murmured. “It’s such a great risk.”

My friend looked around his living room, at his boys, half buried under a pile of bright Christmas wrapping paper. His eyes sparkled as they met his wife’s, and they exchanged a glance of what seemed to me insufferable smugness. Then he looked at me and said softly; “No, honey. It’s not a risk. It’s a sure thing.”

Outside, snow was falling, an odd event for a New York Christmas. I went to the window, stunned by the day’s miracle. Christmas trees blurred softly across the street, and firelight made the children’s shadows dance on the wall beside me. A full, fair chance for a new life. Not given me by an act of generosity, but by an act of love. Our faith in you was really all I had heard them say. I would do my best not to fail them. Snow still fell on the pavement below. Brownstone roofs gradually whitened. Lights in distant skyscrapers shone with yellow symbols of a road’s lonely end, and as I stood at the window, looking at the lights and the snow, the ache of an old memory left me forever.

This essay was originally published in McCall’s in December 1961.

*Oh, hey, there's a word I can play to use up all of those damned U's I have in Words with Friends!

05 December 2011

Hey There!

Pssssht.  Last week was hard.  After a full week off for Thanksgiving, I returned to the harsh reality that, well, work is hard.  And kids are annoying right before Christmas.  And accreditation years at school are their own personal hell.  It was one of those weeks where I had to groan and pout and peel myself out of bed each morning, and where the only thing I wanted to do when I got home was take a coma nap.  So that's what happened.  There were coma naps and that was about it.

But this weekend brought with it returned motivation, a can-do attitude, and enough energy for me to become, (as Cassie always puts it and I always want to steal, but then I don't want to steal because then I'm a big fat stealer) "a whirling dervish of productivity."  And then I was feeling back on top of the world.  While the Christmas tasks aren't even close to being done, the miserable school tasks are well on their way--or at least enough on their way that I don't have to worry about them when I exit my classroom.

I'm so happy right now.  Happy that we have 1 1/2 episodes of Boardwalk Empire to catch up on, that my Christmas cards are ordered (and that I didn't have to pay anything for them because I won a $100 Shutterfly credit earlier this year!), happy that maybe--just maybe!--Newt Gingrich will be the Republican nominee, and happy that there's a big bowl of peppermint marshmallows just waiting for me to go ellipt so that I can eat them up without feeling guilty.  I'm happy that I get to read one of my faves, The Great Gatsby, with my juniors twice every day, and I'm happy that after nine more school days I won't have to see those same juniors for a while.  I'm happy that we're getting our tree this week and that I get to make my house into a really busy, super tacky, a little bit white-trash winter wonderland.  And I'm happy that I get to share this fun Christmas season with the cutest dog ever and the best husband ever and an active little fetus who's been going all Michael Flatley* on my insides today.

Here's what it's been looking like around here.

 Mitch needed to help load the refrigerator with beer.

 And tell Matt a very funny secret.

 This is how far I am with Christmas decorating.

 Cupcakes for a baby shower!  You probably forgot that I'm basically a professional baker.

 Pup was feeling a little down this weekend, which was probably more upsetting to Matt and me than it was to him.

 Talking to Shecky on speakerphone during ellipting.  It's kind of awesome.

 Peppermint creamy goodness.

 Human child has some work to do if he's going to be cuter than his brother.

 This totes could have been our Christmas card photo--you know, if Mitch didn't look like he had rabies and I didn't look like a ghost.  Oh well.

Soul. Mates.  

Happy week to you!  May it be full of marshmallows and Nucky Thompson.  And dogs.  Always dogs.

*His legs flail about as though independent of his body!


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