Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas Traditions: The Cursing of the Lights

The Cursing of the Lights is the oldest of our holiday traditions, begun back when I was about fifteen years old.

To hear my sister and family tell it, the tradition started because I am a bossy, anal-retentive tree decorator. I say, if I hadn't been careful to anchor a mini-light to every branch, AND made sure the garland was evenly spaced, AND hung each ornament equidistant from each other, ya'll would have had one sorry looking, white trash Christmas tree. (And don't think I didn't hear you calling me "Yukon Cornelius" from the other room while I was trying to put up those &%^#$@ lights.)

Anyway. Here is how The Cursing of the Lights takes place.
1. Remove multiple strands of lights from the storage box. Notice that although they were neatly coiled 11 months ago, they now resemble a macramed pot-bellied pig.
2. Spend 20 minutes unknotting lights, muttering under breath.
3. Plug in lights. Notice that strands #2,3, and 7 do not light at all, and strand #4 blinks to the rhythm of The Twelve Days of Christmas.
4. Spend approximately 87 minutes searching for and replacing blown-out bulbs. Mutter slightly louder.
5. Plug in lights again. Notice that strands #5, 6, and 8 do not light. Do not bother muttering, simply curse loudly.
6. Spend another 20 minutes jiggling cords, wiggling bulbs, and threatening to drive over the lights with the car.
7. Plug in lights again. Rejoice! as all bulbs burn steadily.
8. Put lights on tree, carefully spacing them so as to achieve that coveted department store look.
9. Plug in lights. Say words I didn't know I knew as I see that the middle two strands do not light. Threaten to go postal on the factory where they make Christmas tree lights.
10. Spend 45 minutes jiggling, replacing, muttering, and sweating.
11. Plug in lights again. Rejoice! as all bulbs burn steadily.
12. Go outside and look at tree from 100 yards away, to be sure there are no areas with insufficient lighting. Notice a small area near the right side of the tree that needs adjustment.
13. Return to house, move one bulb to a lower branch.
14. Entire tree, with all 800 bulbs, goes dark.
15. Lose my religion.

However, I am sad to say that this tradition has come to an end at our house. Last Christmas, our thirty-year-old tree developed the artificial pine version of leprosy, which is when random branches fall off if someone exhales in its direction. By this time, the tree was more silver than green due to all the duct tape holding it together. So I hoofed it on over to Tarzhay and got us a brand-new, pre-lit tree. This year, Bunhead put it up all by herself and no one had to repent of using foul language. Something just felt ... missing. Until the dog peed on the tree skirt. Then I got into the *&%@# holiday spirit.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Why, yes, as a matter of fact, the Grinch DOES live here.

Another Christmas, another year of having to explain, "Kids, your dad doesn't put up outside lights because he has a headache from drinking too much eggnog. Why don't you make Daddy feel better by playing some soothing music? How about that AC/DC version of Drummer Boy on your electric guitars?"

The truth is, my husband is the original Scrooge. He would like nothing better than for me to put up the tree at 11:00 pm Christmas Eve, take it down before lunch on the 25th, and for everyone to exchange gifts that don't require any money to leave our bank account. You know, things like leaves. Sporks. The classified pages from the newspaper. In his opinion, the best thing about Christmas is getting to eat date bars, which an old family friend used to make on her fireplace hearth. (By "old," I mean "babysat Teddy Roosevelt.") Naturally, Husband thinks I should make them the way she did, and, naturally, I ignore him and continue to feed my family microwaved date bars that resemble radiated road tar mixed with potting soil.

I'm going to write a lot more about our Christmas traditions, but not today. Our home computer is offline, and I have to go pick up the stuff for my husband's stocking - a pencil nub, a purple zipper, and 4 M&Ms that I found under the front seat of my van.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Money must make people stupid.

Acquiring a boat-load of money must make people's brains turn to Cream of Wheat. How else to explain their spending habits?

Take, for instance, clothing. I read that some Hollywood stars will think nothing of spending $158 on a plain, white t-shirt. If I want a nice, white t-shirt, I take myself to the poor woman's upscale store, Tarzhay, where I can get not only the shirt, but a Yoohoo and a pack of HubbaBubba for under $7. The only thing the $158 shirt has that mine doesn't is a special name on the label - where no one can see it. How dumb is that? We poor people know that if you want to show off a name, you go down to the truck stop and get yourself a t-shirt with Dale Earnhardt's number on the front. 'Course, you're gonna pay a little more, around $10, but the extra three dollars is worth the classy feeling you get when you wear that baby down to the auto parts swap meet.

But what's even more astounding is what rich people will pay for entertainment. Our local paper just reported that before the new Cowboys stadium opens, season ticket holders will have to pony up $50,000 for a license to buy a season ticket. Yes, you read that right. That fifty thousand will buy you not the ticket itself, just the opportunity to purchase a ticket. Oh, and for each season ticket you want (approx. $350 each, per game), you have to buy a license. Then there's the parking fee of nearly $800.

Now, I'm thinking that would never fly here in Dirtville. To begin with, we only have two forms of entertainment: Saturday evening shopping at StuffMart with Grandma, Uncle Roy and Aunt Sissie and their eight kids (locally known as "That Family with the Seven-Year-Old Triplets With a Criminal Record"), or going to the seasonal parade. I can just imagine what would happen if the town fathers tried to levy a licensing fee for either one of those events.

If our local StuffMart announced, "For only $50, you can be one of the first customers to be given the chance to buy our new 20-Grit bath towels as soon they become available," well, the faithful StuffMart customers would just drive their Ford Festivas over to the dollar store and buy the 30-Grit bath towels there, instead. They may own cars with only 1 wheel cover and duct tape holding the rear bumper on, but they're not stupid.

And the parade. Parades are a big deal around here. First of all, you get to see a big celebrity, like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or every Texan's hero, the guy who invented air conditioning. My personal favorite is the Pickled Okra Queen. No one really knows if the "pickled" part is supposed to apply to the okra or the Queen, so every year one of the high school football players - usually the guy who's finishing 11th grade for the third time - goes over to the next county and picks up some Boone's Farm Strawberry Wine, and sneaks it into the Queen's cherry Coke. Just to cover all the bases. We hate to mess up tradition.

Another fun thing about the parade is that you get to see the latest in John Deere equipment, especially the tractors that are especially designed to pull a float full of well-fed cheerleaders and two tons of pompoms. And if you're lucky, you'll get to see your neighbor pelted in the eye with a midget Tootsie Roll, which a Boy Scout winged into the crowd from the troop trailer.

Anyway. Suppose the city sent out a letter that said, "If you want to park your XXXL-polyester-pants-covered-butt in a lawn chair on the curb to watch the parade, it's gonna cost you $100." I know what I'd do.

I'd set the kids up in chairs next to our driveway. I'd put my husband in the back of our pickup, wearing one of those cardboard crowns you get at Burger King. Then I'd drive him slowly past the kids, while he waved and tossed ketchup packets into the crowd. Then we'd all go in the house, admire my new white $5 t-shirt, and chew HubbaBubba. And I'd go to bed feeling a whole lot smarter than the fool who paid $50,000+ for the use of a seat.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

This explains all the flamingos that showed up in our turkey pen.

Thanksgiving Thursday Thirteen. Or not.

When I woke up this morning, I had a brainstorm. I would do a Thanksgiving Thursday Thirteen, listing 13 things I'm thankful for that start with "th." Gotta love alliteration.

Here's the actual stream of consciousness that meandered through my mind.

Okay. Let's see. One: thumbs. Two: thread. Three: Thoroughgood, George. Four: .... hmm, this is going to be harder than I thought. ....
Thick ankles.
Thunder thighs.
Wait. I'm not thankful for those. ...
I can pretend I have a lisp.
Thilly Thtring.
That's not gonna work...
Why didn't the Puritans call this "Grateful Day?" I bet I can think of lots of things starting with "gr."
The first thing I come up with is gravy? Well, that explains the thunder thighs.
Ground coffee.
Foie gras. What the heck? Where did that come from? I don't even know what foie gras is. Do rabbits eat it?
Rabbit trails.
Rabbit holes.
Lewis Carroll knew nothing about rabbit holes. My neural connections just veer off into these bizarre dark caverns in my brain. ...
I should donate my brain to science. ...

It went on from there, involving things like thatched roofs, Martha Stewart, and Sesame Street. I'll spare you the details.

In the end, I just decided to wish everyone a warm & blessed Thanksgiving. At our house, the holiday will be fondly remembered as The Year Mom Forgot to Buy Cranberry Sauce and StuffMart Was Sold Out Of It On Wednesday Afternoon.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

How is it my eyebrows are white but my mustache is black?

I've kind of resigned myself to the reality that my hair is going gray. But I still can't wrap my brain around the fact that my eyebrows are turning white. I'm slowly fading. My lips have already mostly disappeared. If I put a twist-tie in my hair, I could lay down by the side of the road and passersby would think I was a Glad kitchen trash bag.

Fortunately, I recently happened upon some eyebrow grooming tips in a magazine. Here is what the expert had to say about white eyebrow hairs: "Clip gray hairs close to the skin."

That's IT?! No miracle beauty products, like The Eyebrow Squeegee? No herbal remedies, like bee jelly or blue tea? No race of Elvises populating another planet? Oh, wait. That was a different article in a different magazine.

Well. Obviously, this expert isn't a day over twenty-three, and the only white thing she's ever seen on her face is a Biore' pore-cleansing strip across her pert little nose. If she were older, she'd know that if one has gray eyebrow hairs, one probably also has poor eyesight and shaky hands, which makes clipping an individual hair a near impossibility. I know this because I tried it and ended up whacking off way too many neighboring hairs. My only consolation was knowing that if my eyebrow should catch on fire, the flames wouldn't spread too far, because I had a good fire break right through the middle there.

And then what are you supposed to do when you've got a LOT of white eyebrow hairs? I can't very well go snipping them all off short. Rumors would go around that I had been in an unfortunate accident involving a hedge trimmer and a couple of OralB toothbrushes.

I'm glad the expert didn't suggest using an eyebrow pencil to color over the gray hair. I already have to draw my lips on every day, and that's challenge enough since I have all the artistic ability of a brick. If I have to start adding on other body parts, my kids are going to call me Mrs. Potato Head.

As I see it, there's only one solution. I'm going to add a new class to our homeschool curriculum. It will be called, "The Care & Grooming of Your Elderly Parents: How to assist your mother in her delusion that she's still 39."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Only 54 more shopping days until Good Friday.

I haven't bought a single Christmas present yet, and I'm afraid I'm too late. At my nearby StuffMart, all the Christmas decorations were up on October 6th. Kids who went trick-or-treating around here got candy canes and chocolate reindeer. When I went in StuffMart yesterday, I saw the stockers unpacking Valentine's Day cards, and there was a pallet of Cadbury Egg boxes on the back dock.

I try not to be paranoid, but if the suntan lotion display shows up on January 1, I'm going to seriously think that Dr. Evil has a giant space magnet which is tilting the earth off its axis.

Friday, November 16, 2007

And no Rent-To-Own Catapult Store for 30 miles.

So the big news in north Texas yesterday was that of a fuel truck that exploded on Interstate 35, one of the busiest roadways in the Dallas area. The highway was shut down in both directions, and thousands of drivers were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic for interminable lengths of time.

I was driver #8,742.

I studied the scowling guy in the landscaping truck over in the next lane. I wondered if this traffic jam was going to be the breaking point for the poor man's mental status, and tomorrow he'd get to work and go postal on the bermuda grass. Hey, you never know. Neighbors shaking their heads and saying, "He's just not the kind of guy you'd think would go berserk and attack innocent shrubbery with a weed whacker."

In the seat next to me, my agitated son was wondering why God would not simply part the ocean of cars in front of us, a la Moses & the Red Sea. To his 12-year-old way of thinking, getting to hockey practice was obviously a lot more important than hiking through the desert in your bathrobe.

Then I got this urgent call on my cell phone, from my oldest son: "Mom, I'm cooking hot dogs and we're out of buns."

Mm. How to respond?
  • Hold on. I have to get out of the car and look to see if it's a delivery truck with an Orowheat emblem on the side.
  • No problem. I keep a emergency package of hot dog buns in the trunk, right there with the jumper cables and first aid kit.
  • I'll stop at the next grocery store I see, buy some buns, and have them sent right over via African swallow. I'd get them there sooner, but my transporter isn't working.
  • I'm at mile marker #118. Bring me some flour, yeast, and milk, and I'll whip some up. They can bake on the idling engine block, which is nearing a gazillion degrees.

Seriously, am I the only mother who gets called to remedy all manner of food crises when she's 60 miles from home? I can be on another continent, in a different time zone, where it costs $40 a second to use my cell phone, and I'll get a call from my kids, "Mom! There's only a tablespoon of wasabi horseradish left in the jar! What are we supposed to do?!" I usually say, "Have you mentioned this to your dad?" And what do they tell me? "No. We didn't want to bother him while he's playing Halo. So can you come home and pick some up on your way into town?"

Well, I'd love to rant more, but I'm approaching mile marker 118.5, and I think we might be off the highway in the next hour or two. Then I have to find a Sam's Club, because I just received a text message, from my kids, consisting of a 94 item grocery list.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I'm sorry, but I have to tell another joke.

A blonde wanted to go ice fishing. She'd seen many books on the subject. Finally getting all the necessary tools together, she made for the ice. After positioning her comfy footstool, she started to make a circular cut in the ice.

Suddenly, from the sky, a voice boomed, "THERE ARE NO FISH UNDER THE ICE."

Startled, the blonde moved farther down the ice, poured a thermos of cappuccino and began to cut yet another hole.

Again from the heavens the voice bellowed, "THERE ARE NO FISH UNDER THE ICE."

The blonde, now worried, moved clear down to the opposite end of the ice. She set up her stool once more and tried again to cut her hole.

The voice came once more, "THERE ARE NO FISH UNDER THE ICE."

She stopped, looked skyward, and asked, "IS THAT YOU, LORD?"


Saturday, November 10, 2007

The New Baby

I love my in-laws. They are here visiting, and they eat apples.

So because I don't have time to write a real entry, I'm just going to post this joke that I received from my mom.

With all the new technology regarding fertility recently, a 65-year-old friend of mine was able to give birth.
When she was discharged from the hospital and went home, I went to visit.
"May I see the new baby?" I asked.
"Not yet," she said. "I'll make coffee and we can visit for a while first."

Thirty minutes had passed, and I asked, "May I see the new baby now?"
"No, not yet," she said.

After another few minutes had elapsed, I asked again, "May I see the baby now?"
"No, not yet," replied my friend.
Growing very impatient, I asked, "Well, when can I see the baby?"
"WHEN HE CRIES!" she told me.
"WHEN HE CRIES?" I demanded. "Why do I have to wait until he CRIES?"


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Piano Story

Sometimes it just becomes crystal clear why God did not call some of us into certain professions. I now know why my parents never worked for a moving company.

When they came to visit us last month, they had quite an unusual assortment of items in the back of their truck.
1. Luggage
2. Enough apples to feed the entire population of Pakistan
3. One half-ton of cherry lumber (Hosts often receive from their house guests gifts like soap or a bottle of wine. We, however, are usually given the remains of small forests.)
4. A radio-controlled boat and an RC airplane kit
5. A spinet piano

If my parents had gotten in an accident, rescuers searching through the wreckage would have thought that my folks were tent preachers for some weird fruit-worshipping cult that also operates a flea market.

Anyway. When they arrived at our house, we discovered that due to a broken latch, we couldn't open the back of the truck to unload the cargo. Here's the actual dialogue of the event, while we were all standing around the back of the truck, peering through the windows.

Dad (who is not only mostly deaf, but who also has the patience of a 4 year old): Get me a sledgehammer! I'll bust it open and we'll get it fixed later!
Dad: At my age, I may not have a minute!
Mom, worriedly: Do you think we brought enough apples?
Son (who hears just fine, but who also has the patience of a 4 year old): Holy cats, there's an airplane kit in there! I'm gonna climb in through the window behind the cab!!
Son proceeds to channel Houdini as he wriggles through the 10-inch-square window.
Son, after 20 seconds in the back of the truck: IT'S HOT IN HERE!
Mom, worriedly: I hope I remembered to pack a coat.
Daughters: Can we climb in there, too, to play the piano?
Dad: Where's that sledgehammer?!
Son makes his way to the tailgate of the truck, with the help of a GPS, and examines the latch.
Son: I need some channel locks!
Husband, ignoring son: I need some oil.
Dad: No, the apples won't spoil!
Mom, worriedly: Do you think we brought enough apples?
Son: Channel locks!
Dad: Flannel socks? Oh, they probably fell out of my suitcase.
Husband, ignoring son, applies oil to latch.
Latch doesn't budge.
Mom, worriedly: I need to buy a new atlas before we go home.
Daughters fight over who gets to play the piano first.
Husband silently studies latch in order to apply a complicated engineering formula.
TC, trying to infuse some humor into the situation: Hey, Dad, maybe you should go home by way of St. Louis and show the piano the arch.
Dad: No, we're not leaving the piano on your porch!
Mom, worriedly: Did I tell you my phone's not working?
Daughters: Mama, can we start piano lessons this afternoon?
Husband finally gets channel locks for son, who proceeds to open the latch in 5 seconds.

Several hours later, after the truck has been disposed of its contents:

Mom, worriedly: Don't you think we ought to unload the piano?

TC: We're gonna get right on it, Mom. Just as soon as my Excedrin Migraine kicks in.

Friday, November 2, 2007

I need a swimming pool full of Calgon.

Good gravy on a biscuit, it's been one of those days.

It started with picking up my dog from the vet, where she had had her leg amputated. Very sad indeed. although her tail doesn't seem to know it. Took my 14 year old shopping, where she spent an hour trying on jackets - all of them tan cordouroy. It was like that parade of pink elephants in the Dumbo movie, but not as happy. I drove 200 miles, most of it in rush-hour traffic, and learned that it's hard to love an idiot with a cellphone in a Volvo going 20 mph under the speed limit. Stopped to pick up dinner at a chicken place, and found out they were out of mashed potatoes, but they could substitute fried okra. What?! How does that happen? It's like a Hallmark store running out of cards. "Sorry, we don't have any birthday cards today. Would you like to send your grandmother this lovely ceramic figurine of a pig on a Harley instead?"

And now I have four teenage boys plus Bunhead here at the house. I'm hearing The Pretenders on Guitar Hero in the living room, migraine-inducing electric guitar feedback out in the garage, and the Transformers movie on the TV. The dogs are trying to commit suicide in their water bowl.

At this point, I'm not even sure I know my own name. So I'm just going to post a photo of my latest apron. It's from the Retro Aprons pattern book by Cindy Taylor Oates.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Kahuna-ness, apples, and MORE SUGAR!

Dang it. I meant to do one of those Thursday Thirteen entries, and I forgot, and now here it is Friday, and everyone knows that someone who posts a Thursday entry on Friday will never be chosen as The Big Kahuna of Blogdom.

I probably should consider doing a weekly Wednesday One. That's more my speed.

I like to tell my Texas friends that, when I was growing up, my parents had connections. My friends, knowing I'm from New Jersey, start eyeing their cutting horses' heads a little nervously and wrack their brains trying to remember if I've ever mentioned an Uncle Guido or Cousin Rocco.

The truth is, my parents' connections were much less interesting. Basically, most of them were farmers who would give us mass quantities of food for little or no money. One even gave me my first job - as an illegal alien. Well, okay, not technically, but I was doing the work of an illegal alien, and that work involved the backbreaking task of picking acres of strawberries for ten cents a quart. Ah, America, the land of opportunity. Come here, and you can live below the poverty line AND blow out your lumbar discs! The party never ends!

Anyway. Another one of my parents' connections is a commercial apple grower. Every fall my parents bring us a big load of apples, just in case Texas breaks away from North America and drifts off into the Gulf of Mexico and we can never buy applesauce again.

So I have been busy making apple pies, apple cake, apple bread, apple cookies, baked apples, and apple pie filling preserves. Because I still have an entire bushel left, I am researching how to make socks and underwear from apples. I'm also toying with a homeschool project idea: I'm going to give each kid 50 apples and tell them to go be Johnny Appleseed. They can come home in a year or when their first tree sprouts, whichever comes first.

While my parents were here, we put up 25 quarts of applesauce. Applesauce production is pretty much a group effort, which is interesting when you've got a teenager who's using a butcher knife as a percussion instrument instead of cutting fruit, another person running the strainer that's spewing Lake Apple Juice underfoot, and four idiot dogs that roam the kitchen, fighting over apple scraps, which give them gas that will cause chemical burns in your nasal passages. And in the midst of it all is my father, a diabetic who hasn't checked his blood sugar in, oh, three years, yelling, "It needs more sugar! Put another five pound bag of sugar in there!"

Actually, I have a theory about apples. I'm almost 100% certain that the fruit with which Satan tempted Eve in the garden was an apple. Maybe a plum. And here's why. I suspect Eve was about 8 months pregnant at the time. I mean, think about it. First of all, the woman is pregnant, so she'll eat everything that can't run away from her. And - this is a key point - the apple was easy to acquire. You think Satan could have tempted her with a strawberry? I don't think so.

Serpent: Hey, doesn't that strawberry down there look sweet and juicy? Don't you want to eat it and have the knowledge God has?

Eve: What are you, nuts? As if I'm gonna bend over with this forty pound belly in front of me. And if I did get down there, how'm I gonna get back up? It's not like you can help me - you ain't even got arms. And that Adam sure won't come help me up. He says I have mood swings. Can you believe that?! The man is hiding over by the lions' den, like he's all scared of me or somethin'. Now push that rock over here so I can sit down. My feet are starting to swell and my bladder's givin' me fits. And is it just me, or is it hotter than Hell today? Seriously. 'Cause you'd know, right?


Parenting tip of the day: Let your kids eat off-brand, half-price Halloween candy all day on November 1st, and by 5:00 pm they'll be begging you for some green beans. Honest to God, it happened at my house.