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Christmas Group Shot

Silly me, I thought we would never get around to taking a group photo this year, but there we all are!  I guess this is God’s way of telling us to slow down and have ourselves a streppy little New Year.  Also, He hates us.

Oh, just kidding!  If He hated us, the pharmacy would have run out of penicillin before our order was complete.  Oh, wait, it did.

Meh, it could be worse.  My husband isn’t working this weekend, so we can all have one last chance to enjoy a good old-fashioned family vacation together, sitting around the fire and sipping our disgusting pink medicine, trading good old stories about what we imagined we saw on the ceiling when the fever was at its peak, and tapping out the rhythm of our favorite old songs.  Can’t sing.  Throat hurts.

Really, really, it’s not that bad!  The worst part is the crushing guilt I feel when I think about all those friends and family eating all that fudge and peanut brittle and buckeyes I made with my own, two, plague-ridden hands. . .

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7 Slow Takes: Christmas day is over, and now I can die

1.  It’s all very well to say that we should preserve Advent as a penitential season of waiting and preparation, and you shouldn’t jump the gun and celebrate a feast that hasn’t yet arrived.  But you know what that gets you?  One mother having a nervous breakdown trying to get it all together on Christmas eve

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and eight kids who stare at you blankly when you suggest singing Christmas carols. Because they didn’t learn any Christmas carols, because it was Advent.  Next year, we’ll be less liturgical, but more sane.

2.  Homemade peanut brittle is way, way more delicious than store-bought peanut brittle.  But store-bought peanut brittle doesn’t rip hunks of flesh off your hand if you accidentally touch it during the hard crack stage.

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3.  I can’t decide if I’m delighted that our new charter school is so easygoing, or a little disgusted at how truly awful the Christmas concert was.  The upside was that it was held at a Baptist church, so I was able to take the disruptive younguns into a sound proof, glassed-in balcony with fully stocked playroom, complete with changing table, crib, rocking chairs, and piped-in sound (Baptists!).  So I could hear 63 recorders shrieking their way through “Jingle Bells,” but the performers couldn’t hear me moaning in agony through the same.

Meh, the kids are happy, they’re getting a good education, and they sound horrible on the recorder.  Yeah, I guess I’m delighted!

4.  There was a great, big bat swooping around just over the heads of the congregation at midnight Mass, and nobody could figure out what to do.  Isn’t that what the Knights of Columbus are for?

On the other hand, I was blown away by the utter composure of the three priests concelebrating Mass.  They didn’t miss a beat and were utterly focused on the liturgy, even as different sections of the congregation let out little involuntary shrieks and gasps.

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I tried really hard to wrench a metaphor out of the situation, but nothing happened.

5.  We are incapable of not going overboard for Christmas.  It’s far, far too late for us to train the youngsters to be thrilled to find a box of colored pencils and an irregulardickey

under the tree.  So we go a little berserk, and buy them extravagant presents that delight them.  So sue me!  The rest of the year, they’re lucky if I can remember their names.

6.   A few days before Christmas, my son got sick.  Then everyone else got sick, one by one, until everyone except my husband and some miscellaneous toddlers had fever and chills, severe sore throats, vertigo, headaches, muscle aches, and near-fatal surliness.  Some of us were throwing up, some of us were wandering up and down the stairs in a delirium, and one kid developed some rather theatrical Strange Bumps all over his head.

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So on Monday, my husband spent four hours shoveling snow, and then insisted on calling in to work so he could stay home and take care of us, since my limbs weren’t working.  He handed out Tylenol.  He plumped pillows and poured orange juice.  He set up humidifiers, washed pukey sheets, played Go Fish, and sat through countless hours of Wonder Pets.  He cheerfully leaped out of bed half a dozen times to sooth crazed and querelous children who didn’t know why they were up.  In short, he is my favorite husband ever.

7.   I didn’t write a Christmas letter or cards.  It’s been a strange and disconcerting year, and many Things have Changed for our family – – and it was all just too hard to explain in one of those holly jolly update letters.  I’ve been fretting a lot lately, and falling prey to a stupid spiritual distraction, worrying whether there really is something wrong with my attitude about femininity.  Maybe I really am turning my back on womanhood with my pants-wearing, gin-swilling, fart-joke-making ways, and making the world a worser place in which to live in.  It seems like everything I do is lacking, and I’m so tired of being this way.  I was moaning about this to my husband, and said, “Well, this year you accomplished this, and So-and-so did that, and she made so much progress in this — but I didn’t do anything!”

And he said, “But you made it so that all these things could happen.  You kept us going.  You kept us together.”

That is actually the best thing that anyone has ever said to me.

And when I think about it, it’s pretty darn feminine, as long as you’re looking for more than high heels and homemade cookies.  Not that I have no room for improvement, but I guess I’m doing what I was put here to do — and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the person I love the most in the world.

Of course you notice, if you re-read number 6, that we are both under the impression that the other one is the one who is holding this whole freak show together.  ‘Snice, isn’t it?  You should be glad to know us!

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More hope for religious art

Elizabeth Scalia posted a link (on Facebook, not on her blog — but she always has tons of good stuff, so check it out!) to this sculpture of the Annunciation, by John Collier:

(photo source:  The Deacon’s Bench)

I know it’s just about impossible to make a judgment based on a photo, but what do you think?  My first thought was that it made reference to the statue of Apollo and Daphne by Bernini:

(photo source)

The artist seems to be stressing the significance of the fig tree.  Intstresting, no?  I prefer the one true God’s means of preserving his faithful daughter’s virginity!  I also thought the face of Mary in the first sculpture hearkened to the  Ecstasy of St. Theresa, also by Bernini.

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Another quick book recommendation

Since my son left his math book at the dentist’s office, pretty much all we’ve done in home school is a little spelling, a craft or two (you can pretend I didn’t say that if it makes you feel inadequate.  You wouldn’t feel inadequate if you saw our crafts, though), and read The Odyssey retold for children by Geraldine McCaughrean.

Sometimes I read, and sometimes the kids read aloud.  Kids who read silently far above grade level often don’t know how to read aloud, so this is a good exercise; and it also lets you get something done (like making lunch) while home schooling.  It’s also a good way of finding out that your mostly-excellent reader has a few kinks to iron out, phonics-wise.  (Translation:  the kid wouldn’t know a schwa from a hole in the ground.)

Here’s a passage we just read from this very engaging retelling, to give you an idea of the style:

By the light of lightning bolts which rained down around him, Odysseus saw the frightened, colourless eyes of fishes, and the suckered arms of reaching squid.  The waves that folded over him were shot through with eels and peppered with sharp barnacles and razorshells.  The troughs that swallowed him were deeper and darker than Charybdis, and the currents beneath dragged him three times round the ocean like dead Hector was dragged three times round the walls of Troy.

Pretty good, eh?  Nice and rhythmic for reading aloud, but not too complicated.  At the end of one chapter, my six-year-old son asked his eight-year-old brother, “Do you think Odysseus will make it home?  Mama, CAN I LOOK AHEAD?” and his brother said, “No, no, don’t find out!  I don’t know either!”  They haven’t been this excited since there was a dead mole in the sandbox.

Oh, and the illustrations in this book are wild and satisfying, too.  There are a few naked women — Sirens and whatnot — so you will have to use your judgment.  I didn’t want my son to be exposed to the unclothed female form, so when we got to that part, I just hid the book behind the baby, who, um, was nursing.

One final note:  I love ancient Greece.  I mean, I really, really love it.  A few weeks ago, I asked the six-year-old if he wanted to read Bible stories or Greek myths.  He chose Bible stories.  And I tried to talk him out of it.  Yes, I did.  Obviously, I’m not warping him too badly — I mean, he did choose the Bible stories — but it looks like I have a few kinks of my own to iron out.

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Thursday Throwback: sRANTa Claus

It’s posts like the following, written a few years ago, that make me realize that I really have mellowed out quite a bit in the last few years.  Enjoy it if you can!  Sheesh.

 

 

I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee

People who let their children believe in Santa are setting them up for a jaded, psychoanalyst-ridden adulthood of mistrust and paranoia.

People who don’t let their kids believe in Santa are depriving the little ones of their God-given right to the wonder of an innocent childhood.

People who get their kids tons of presents are materialistic swine who are hoping to disguise their guilt over neglecting their children the other 364 days of the year.

People who get their kids only a few presents are disguising the scars of their own deprived childhoods with a holier-than-thou wrapping more falsely tinselly than any Walmart holiday display.

Why aren’t you doing an advent wreath, an advent chain, an advent calendar, achocolate advent calendar, St. Nicholas shoes, a Mary candle with removable baby Jesus hidden behind a satin veil which covers an alcove you dug into the candle (blue, of course), which you will remove on Christmas morning, not that anyone will notice?, and a Jesse tree? And a Christmas tree?

You should get this together on Christmas eve. Any sooner, and you will be of the world, not in the world, because it’s only still Advent, you premature-holly-hanging pushover! Go ahead, listen to secularist sirens, do what they do, and see what happens to your children, your marriage, and your eternal soul!

There. I just saved you a lot of time, and you can now skip everyone else’s blog until Epiphany or so, and concentrate on mine. And while I’m stinging you along, here’s one more pearl of wisdom:

This

 

 

is an abomination.  And not the fun kind, either.

If you grew up with Rudolph and his moth-eaten, hot glue friends, it’s okay: you’re all grown up now, and you can put it behind you. You don’t have to watch it, you don’t have to think about it or acknowledge that it was ever part of your life, and you don’t have to –you must not– introduce your children to it.

What, just because you have fond memories, that means it’s worth something? Wrongo! It’s the lousiest thing ever made. It’s the most destructive, corrosive cultural product of the the 60′s. It’s the most shameful thing about America ever. It’s worse than slavery and war. It’s worse than Scooby Doo. It frightens Satan. Do you hear me?

And no, Burl Ives is not a mitigating factor.

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Yeah, yeah, it’s my birthday.

Today I am 36.  Yesterday I found a gray hair, and a piece of my tooth fell off.  A little piece, but still.

Then my dear friend, the lovely, fecund, and irrepressible Justine Schmiesing sent me this:

And now I feel better.

(Also, my husband woke up early and took the kids to school even though it wasn’t his turn, and he got me lots of presents with receipts, and we’re watching Dumbo for home school today, and we’re going out to my favorite restaurant tonight, and there’s coffee brewing.  But you’re not here to hear about that!)

I’m actually going to close comments so you don’t feel like you have to wish me a happy birthday.  It’s bad enough Facebook is pestering everybody about it.  Yes, I realize I could take my birth date off my profile, but – – but then nobody would wish me a happy birthday!

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I’ve grown accustomed to your apes.

Someday, I’ll write a post for which that would be an appropriate title.  In the meantime, here’s a moderately interesting question:  how much can you tell about a person by studying his face?  Can you tell if he’s basically decent or not?  Does it make a difference if it’s a photo or in person?  Have you ever been terribly wrong?

I saw this picture of the Pope

and thought to myself, “That there is the main reason people don’t like him.”  That’s completely unjust, of course.  Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that this is a kind, humble, and holy man, apparently devoid of selfishness and malice.  But if you were already anti-Catholic, I can see how — well, like everyone says, he just looks like Emperor Palpatine.

People who assume that he stays up late at night, figuring out how to boost  the annual number of African AIDS orphans, might say that they can see his evil on his face.  It’s not hard to find apparent evidence of what they expect to see.  But of course, they’re wrong.

So obviously you can’t assume that someone’s evil just because they look mean and wrinkly.  But there are other things you can see, I think: self-absorbtion or nacissism, for one thing.  Serial killers and movie stars often have that same look.

Of course we can’t know someone’s soul.  Of course there are very few people who are all good, or all bad — maybe there are none at all.  But what do you think?  Who can you think of who, as far as you can see, shows exactly who they are on their face?  Have you ever been taken in — either fooled by a baby-faced villain, or surprised to discover that someone whose face you feared or despised turned out to be a friend or a hero?  Do you have a misunderstood face?

Maybe this isn’t the best post for Advent, when we’re supposed to be searching our own souls and then turning to God, instead of staring at each other, searching out signs of hypocrisy.  Well, what do you want for your money?  You can always cut out more snowflakes.