Saturday, December 31, 2011


I am not the type to make New Year's resolutions; in fact, I'm not sure that I have ever done so. But motivated in part by a friend's loss of 15lbs (over Christmas no less!) and also by Venomous Kate's recently-posted resolutions, I am making an exception this year.

First of all, as a general resolution that effects how seriously I take the rest of these, I resolve to worry less in 2012. I desperately need to try to take more things in stride, and to look actively and consistently for less stress in my life instead of more. In addition, if such things can be accomplished at the same time, I would like to:

1. Lose 15-20lbs
2. Quit drinking diet soda forever
3. Exercise several times a week, even if it's just an evening walk
4. Pray more and cuss less
5. Speak and think positively - both about myself and those around me

I could go on forever, but likely all of these things will still need quite a bit of work one year from now, so I think I'll stop now.

Happy New Year, y'all.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Twenty Questions

"People are not objects"

That was the bumper sticker on the ridiculously underpowered Mercedes sedan in front of me on the Tollway this morning. As an aside, a 200 series, really? With four people in it? I'm surprised it could actually accelerate enough to make in onto the freeway. Blech. People do really stupid things for what they perceive as status, yes?

Anyway, the sticker. What does this mean to you, that people are not objects? That you've figured out basic human biology? That you remember "animal, vegetable or mineral" from childhood? Or what? It had some veeerrryy tiny print underneath it, that another driver could only read if they slammed into the Mercedes from behind - sort of the last thing you see before you're dead, that kind of print. Not. Helpful. All I know is, it is a beautiful sunny day, ELO was very loud and cheerful, and sententious, self-righteous people need to keep themselves to themselves a little bit more.

Thank you very much. That is all.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Battle of the Go-Go's

Two has come to love these little toys, so they were (of course) the main feature on his note to Santa this year. I like them, too, even though they do make Husband sing "We Got the Beat" every time he sees them. One is willing to play these with his brother at home, although I think he would draw the line at bringing them to school, as Two loves to do. Here the two of them are, enjoying Christmas vacation with small, brightly-colored plastic objects.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Comfort Food

I made this Braised Red Cabbage dish as a part of Christmas dinner, and wow, was it a perfect side dish for a cold, rainy day. It paired so well with prime rib; I suspect it would do the same with any hearty beef dish. I'm not usually much of a cabbage fan so I didn't tinker with this one at all - and thankfully it came out just right the first time. It comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, David Waltuck's Staff Meals, which is sadly out of print. Here you go:

Braised Red Cabbage

5 strips bacon cut into 1/4" pieces
4 T unsalted butter
2 medium red onions, halved and cut into thin slices
2 minced cloves garlic
3 T sugar
1 large head purple cabbage, cored and sliced thin
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock (I like Pacific brand)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup honey
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T cider vinegar
2 bay leaves
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Start with a very large pot. Saute the bacon and butter over medium heat for a bit, then add the onions and cook until translucent (10-15 minutes). Add the garlic, cook a minute, then add the sugar and cook a minute more.

Add the cabbage along with everything that's left. Increase the heat to high and bring things to a boil, then reduce to medium low. Cover and simmer for at least an hour - maybe an hour and a half. You want the cabbage tender but not mushy. Remove bay leaves, add more salt and pepper if needed, and serve.

Note: getting everything together before you start this recipe is a must. I was trying to prep this and au gratin potatoes at the same time and arrgh!, my head almost flew off. Next time I will do my mise en place and things will be more organized, yes? Yes.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Two's View of Christmas

Two is a bon vivant. He is the child who ate eight pieces of candy, a Cadbury bar, Pop Rocks, and a serving of chocolate mousse on Christmas day alone. But he's also more serious that most people (including me, most of the time) give him credit for.

Here is his picture that he drew for his 3rd grade school concert - they ran a slideshow of "what the holidays mean to you" during one of the songs, and this is what Christmas means to Two.

As the carol says "...Born that men no more may die. Born to raise the sons of Earth, Born to give them second birth." Indeed.

Notes on Christmas

The Grass Widow household had a perfect Christmas. The past two+ days have been filled with sleep, presents, food and peace. Here are some vignettes:

Santa is going to get an angry letter from me, because this was one of Two's presents. Yes, it's sharp and dangerous. He has reassured us at least 30 times, "don't worry." Thanks, sweetie; just what we all need to hear.

One received many, many books, this being the worst (and, of course, one of the favorites - thank you, Husband). He didn't feel very well yesterday, so he curled up and read four books in his beloved new chair. Yes. Four. And I carried that enormous chair upstairs by myself last night - no mean feat, if I do say so myself.

I didn't take many food pictures, although we ate like royalty, feasting on prime rib, au gratin potatoes, braised red cabbage, roasted brussel sprouts, carrots sauteéd with orange peel and thyme, and chocolate mousse for dessert. Here is part of our mid-day snack, minus the paté and baguette.

Two received a Lego project much larger than his head, and is still working on it. He's also created a number of new and interesting creatures, including the house-sized Mangmar fish, which is the sworn enemy of the Quacktable squid (yet to be made).

The family member who enjoyed Christmas the most: Knight. He thought the novelty of spending an evening at Gaga's was delightful, surpassed only by Christmas day at home. He hasn't been this happy since Lambie left us.

Just in case you think Husband and I didn't enjoy ourselves as well, I have evidence to the contrary. Here he is, laughing so hard he's crying (I'll take credit for that) and I'm looking cute in my favorite new pair of red shoes. Our 15th Christmas as Mr. and Mrs. Happiness: pure bliss.

I hope y'all's Christmas was as warm, relaxing and wonderful as ours.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Two's Debut

He talked me into posting his Harry Potter Lego video. Help me.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Things That Make Me Happy

Do you remember this guy? His name is Jorge Narvaez and he and his precious daughter Alexa made this video 11 months ago. He's putting himself through college and raising Alexa and her sister at the same time. The video had close to 17 million hits on You Tube - given that it's arguably better than the original version, that's not too surprising.

So tonight Husband is channel surfing and look what we found:

Merry Christmas, Jorge and Alexa!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Unrelated Thoughts

1. Why does my middle schooler have to go without water all day (unless he braves the grotty drinking fountains)? He can't bring a drink from home and have it in the halls or in class - not even in morning homeroom, which is where the school breakfast is provided. One child out of a thousand would bring alcohol, so rather than deal with 1 drunk student, 999 are left to get dehydrated every day. Well, whatever makes your job easier, Mr. and Ms. Administrator. Be my guest.

2. Today was a free dress day at middle school (or apparently so - not that One knew about it) and as I drove away from dropping him off I saw two 7th or 8th grade boys all decked out. They had skinny jeans, Tejano-star style shirts, and their hair was all spiky and slick. And they each carried (a) a bag of food for their homeroom Christmas party and (b) a dozen roses for their homeroom teacher. So. Dang. Cute.

3. Two has taken to filming himself making new Lego creations, and he is demanding I post said videos on YouTube so he can share his knowledge with the world. Is this my fault? Might be.

Whew. Finally, that horribly ugly dog is off the top of the blog. Now I'm happy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

How I Almost Became Famous

Yesterday I went to Natural Pawz to buy the spoiled Knight a treat for his Christmas stocking and they were having Pug Rescue Day. I'm agnostic on pugs, so whatever. However, as I was leaving I happened upon this dog:

His name is Elmo, otherwise known as Sampson, and he's half boxer and half pug.

He is the ugliest dog I have ever seen in my entire life.

And I wanted to adopt him so badly, because I was suddenly overwhelmed by the desire to be famous, and with a dog like Elmo, I would be so famous. Just. Like. That. He is so ugly everyone would want to know about him. I could have entered him in the World's Ugliest Dog Contest and won; in fact, all the others contestants would have gone home crying as soon as they saw Elmo, because they would know: there is no beating this dog.

I could tell right away: he would be so famous he would put Jenny Lawson's giant rooster, Beyonce, in the shade. I'm telling you, this dog was my ticket to the fame I have never even craved. I would be on TV in five minutes' time if I owned this dog. Suddenly, when I saw him I wanted to be on TV. That's never happened before - clearly Elmo exudes some seriously influential vibes, because not only did I want to adopt him, I wanted to be seen on TV with him.

If only Husband would say yes and let me adopt Elmo, oh how my life would change. Seriously, he said no: no to the ugliest dog in the world. I'm thinking, though, that's just because he didn't get to see Elmo in person. If he sees Elmo in person, like if I send Husband on an errand next week and it just happens to be to the place where Pug Hearts Rescue is having an adoption day, maybe I still have a chance. Fingers crossed.

If that doesn't work one of y'all will just have to adopt him. Then I can be slightly famous, because it will have been all my idea. If I can't have Elmo myself, I'd like to think I'm still connected to him in some way. Go on, go get him. You know you want to be on TV.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why I'm Not Worried

Two is my media consumer. He would watch movies, play video games and surf the Internet all day if I'd let him. He's never met a screen he didn't like. We've have to step in and make a host of rules about the time he spends with his two best friends, the TV and the computer (we've banned gaming systems altogether out of an abundance of caution), but strangely enough he doesn't object. I think he knows his habits are a little excessive and he welcomes the chance to take a break and try something different. To be honest, as much as I've griped about his media addiction over the years, I have to say it doesn't have me that worried. Because what he uses all that screen time for is insipration more than anything else.

These are two creations that he invented today:

Harry Potter's Potions Cabinet: Harry has no hair and an angry face because the potion he concocted made him bald.

Some Kind of Spaceship: Cobbled together from four or five Star Wars kits. The propeller at the back makes me think it floats, too. This might have been inspired in part by The Incredibles.

If this is why he loves movies so much, then I love them, too.

Happy Birthday to my Dad

It's my Dad's birthday today - the day we used to set up the Christmas tree when I was a child, and then have steak and baked potatoes, my Dad's favorite special meal. Here's to the man who spent 13 of his own birthdays wrestling with a cold, snow-covered Christmas tree just to make me smile.

Happy Birthday, Daddy. I love you.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Heard Around the House

One to his Dad while wrestling: "Hey, a little higher and you can kiss those grandchildren goodbye. Watch it."

One on buying a llama at Heifer International: "It's not every day you can buy someone an animal that can spit from 15 feet with pinpoint accuracy."

Two on the llama purchase: "But how are we going to pick who gets the llama?"

Me, at 9:45pm: "Hurry up - it's past your bedtime." One: "What is our bedtime, anyway?" Me: "8pm - has been since you were a litte boy." One: "So that's always been just a goal for you, I take it?"

Either child, when I get near the bathroom door they have left ajar while showering/dressing: "DON'T LOOK!" Yes, as I said, the door is always ajar. And this comes from the same two monkeys who continue to talk to me through the bathroom door every time I take a potty break.


I feel beaten up most of the time these days, as if people and circumstances are contriving to put me through round after round with Manny Pacquiao. It makes me tired, all this fighting, especially since so much of it seems to be about whether I have the right or the ability to make good decisions. I'm constantly on the lookout for another wound, another verbal punch that is meant to tell me "I blame you for this" or "What you did caused it to all to go to hell."

I'm used to having my judgment and worth questioned, and I'm used to fighting back. I'm covered in wounds and yet, I'm still here. After all, I'm the one whose birth parents dumped her because 21 is "too young" to be a parent. I'm the one whose mother said "your fiance is possessed by demons", and I fought back and married him anyway, because it was my decision to make, not hers. I'm the one whose father said "I'm tired of all this shit" and walked away because I wasn't worth the trouble, and I still stayed alive. What I don't understand is why these attacks continue to come, over and over no matter how old I am. Why everyone around me inevitably reaches the point where they openly question everything about me. Where they wonder what the hell they are doing with this mulish, difficult woman who won't shut up and do what they want her to do. Where they begin to openly doubt my ability to do anything right. Sometimes that doubt is unspoken, but really, come on: I'm not stupid. If you really think I'm capable of making the right decision, why are you standing there fighting with me?

All I want is the benefit of the doubt. I just want someone to respect my judgment and my opinions, to think my decisions will be and are solid. I want someone to defend me, not attack me. And I don't have that. Not anywhere I look.

I'm getting pretty damn tired of getting beaten up, I have to say. Really. Freaking. Tired.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Two still believes in Santa as fervently as he ever has and none of us - not even One - has the heart to tell him the truth. When his friends tell him Santa is really just mom and dad he denounces them as heartless liars and goes along his merry, believing way.

God how I love this child!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What Did You Learn in School Today, Sweetie?

One's answer: "Today I learned in Health class that the dad of one of my classmates is in prison serving a life sentence. We've been talking about who we are and what we like about ourselves and what we don't, and when it was his turn he started talking about this and then he was just sobbing all of a sudden. It was awful."

Two's answer: "We did math, like, almost all day, even fractions. Because fractions are going to be on the STARR test and it's going to be a really hard test so we have to study a lot for it."

So I feel overwhelmed by One's answer. 11 is too young to deal with that. I don't want him to go to private school with kids whose parents have private jets at their disposal, but did he have to learn about "dads who go to jail" today? Really? Not that I blame that poor child for talking about it: I wouldn't want to do an "All About Me" project in Health class either if that was one of my talking points. But I'm feeling very much like a protective mama bear right now, and part of me wants to stuff One back into a shell for a few more years before releasing him into the wild.

Two's answer today is, in reality, the more troubling one (and yes, he frequently talks in onelongsentencelikethat. just in case you were wondering). This STARR test is the replacement for the state-wide TAKS, and most of what we've been told equates to "if you were commended on TAKS you'll barely pass STARR." For all of that, I don't give a rat's patootie about the damn test. I don't want anyone teaching anything because it's on some test written by a bunch of yahoos in Austin. I want my child to have a good, intelligent teacher and I want her to teach my child what a third grader should learn. Why does it have to be more complicated than that? Yes, I am aware that is merely a rhetorical question. But why does it have to be?

Fortunately for everyone, neither of the boys seem horribly upset about his day. It's just mom who got all stressed out. And that would be, of course, business as usual.

Monday, December 5, 2011

School Frustration

I have many moments in my life when I am grateful for the boys' schools. Our experience with our elementary school has been overwhelmingly good: a sensible, intelligent principal, good, solid teachers, an overall nice group of kids, and intelligent and involved parents.

Correspondingly, our experience with middle school so far has been more positive than negative. It's free, it's safe, most of the teachers are good (math right now looking like the only exception), the kids seem decent (from what One has told me - I have yet to meet any of them, as there are no opportunities to do so) and One has ridiculously good grades without an overwhelming amount of homework every night. But there are problems, and the problems are not ones that can be fixed. They are endemic to life in a 1,100 kid school in the 7th largest school district in the country. So far this year we have:

1. The lack-of-parent-communication problem. No fix for this, other than One has learned to borrow the office phone if he needs me (after I wrote every conceivable phone number in Sharpie in his go-everywhere binder, of course). Yes, Mom will fix it if it's broken. That's my job.

2. The lunch room problem, which consists of a 6th grade principal who thinks the proper punishment for loud and obnoxious students is to ban an entire third of the lunchroom from talking. Because he can't possibly find out who is making the noise: he's only interested in ferreting out the general direction from which it comes. I asked One if I could email this man about it, since One is not in the group making the noise, and he paled in fear. Please don't let Mr. W. learn my name. It will only come back to hurt me, because he's not a person you want to cross. Well, now: that's nice to know. I'm glad they've put him in charge.

3. The district-wide surprise testing, taking up an entire week. New this year: how fun. Four 2 1/2 hour tests, one on each core subject. The teachers weren't allowed to tell the students about it until today and the tests start tomorrow. We don't know if the teachers have prepared the students by covering the material beforehand, or even if the teachers will count this test as a grade (it's up to them individually). Just show up, pencil in hand, spend 10 hours taking tests you can't study for and live with the fact that you have no idea if it will affect your grade or not. Sounds just fine to me. And these tests are all in addition to the yearly Stanford and the new STARR (replacing the state-wide TAKS). How many weeks are we going to spend on standardized testing again? And who exactly does it benefit? Somehow, someone forgot to tell me the answers to those questions. Or maybe the answers don't exist. Who can tell?

4. The rumor-based problem: One's has a friend and fellow 6th grader who was given days of detention for filming a bus driver screaming at a fellow student. He took his video to the school administration and threatened to put it on You Tube; the threat may have been what earned him the detention instead of the filming. Nonetheless, you have to admit: it's disturbing. It makes me very glad I put in the extra effort to drive One to and from from school every day, rather than leave him to the tender mercies of a bus driver.

I know very well that, while these problems would be solved by a move to private school, others would crop up to take their place. Homework would double, for one. And there are other problems - perhaps mostly social ones - that I don't know if we are prepared to deal with. Never mind the cost: adjusted for inflation I make 25% less than I did when One was 6 months old, so spending $20,000 a year to educate him really isn't very palatable. Or possible. And even if it were, at this point we're stuck for another 18 months at the very least: you can't put together an application to the kind of private school One deserves to attend on a whim, nor do we have friends influential enough at those kinds of schools to make his acceptance possible without us jumping through all the standard hoops. We have made our public school bed, and likely we will lie in it until he goes to high school.

Overall, I still think we've made the right decision in choosing to keep One in public school. But if you think that once a decision is made I stop thinking critically, you have another thing coming.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Cards

Kristen Howerton at Rage Against The Minivan has a post on what to do with Christmas cards post-Christmas, and I thought since I hadn't posted on this in a long time I would put up a picture of what we do every year with all the beautiful photo cards we receive.

So if your card is up there, please know that we stop and visit you frequently as we head in and out of the house through the kitchen door. And we all like that, very much.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Getting There

It's been a deliberately quiet weekend for all of us: a gorgeous dinner on Thursday, lots of reading and napping, football-watching, and the beginnings of Christmas decorating. I have to finish the dining room and I'd like something extra in the front hall. I also may decorate a little outside, but that remains to be seen. Here's where we are so far:

I've never started this early before, and wow, am I glad I did!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The First Time I Fell in Love with Texas

The first time I fell in love with Texas was in January, 1990. I was on a month-long study trip to Guatemala and was trying to call home. Standard operating procedure for homesick college students in Guatemala City (as I was assured by my professor and the students who had been on the trip before) was to go to the national telephone company and ask to place a collect call. While there you waited in line, reciting words and numbers in Spanish to yourself and hoping to get it right. When it was your turn at the counter you blabbered out all the Spanish you knew regarding telephone calls, adding an "o" to the word "collect" to make it sound more authentic. Surrounding you were not just expats but many locals, making calls this way because none of them owned a phone of their own. When you were done in the line, you sat in the waiting room, listening carefully for your name to be called in rapid-fire Spanish, and hoping you'd catch the phone booth number they gave you at the same time. When called, you went to the booth in question, and (with a little luck) there were mom and dad on the other line. After you hung up, you were let out of a locked gate by a 16 year old with a machine gun (aka: the soldier making sure the non-collect-call people paid up) and you skipped merrily back to your $4/night hotel.

And so one evening, after having returned to Guatemala City from the rainforest and wanting to make sure my mother knew of my survival, there I was. I'd had my turn in line and was waiting patiently for my call to go through. While I was waiting, I noticed a number of what those of my generation would recognize as "normal pay phones" on one of the walls. I wandered over to them and started following the directions, which some kind soul had written in English. Suddenly, the phone began to ring. Bracing myself for a torrent of Spanish, I was instead greeted by a loud and cheerful (and decidedly non-New Englandish) voice: "AT&T, Haw mah I hep you tu-day?!?" All I could stutter out in response was "Oh my Lord, where ARE you?" "CorpusChristiTexasMa'am!" was the happy answer. And with that, I not only politely requested a collect call to New York, but I also fell in love with Texas. And with the sweet operator who made it forever unnecessary for me to stand in line, sit in a booth, and have my stomach poked by an AK-47 before exiting the building.

Ahhh, sweet Texas. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Another Advent Fast began yesterday, and as with the Lenten Fast last spring, I am less than excited. You see, I absolutely suck at fasting. I almost never fast the two days a week (Wednesday and Friday) that I should during the regular times of the year, and these long, six to eight week fasts? I’m horrible.

I know: one of the points of fasting is that you work at it, and you fail, and then you go back and try again, and through all that you learn self-discipline and humility. I get it: it makes sense to me. I just hate the idea that I have to participate in yet another activity that involves me falling flat on my face, getting up, trying again, falling down, getting up, and so on and so forth. That’s what my entire life is about. I’m a good mom, then I suck as a mom, I ask forgiveness and try again, and then some time later I fall back into “bad mom” world, and … well, you get the point. It’s the same with being a wife: snippy and critical, apologetic, sweet and supportive, SNAP, apologetic, patient and normal, mental breakdown, apologies, and back and forth all over again. Work? Lazy, guilty, burst of work, loss of temper, apology, sweet and patient – are you getting the point here, people!?! I don’t just suck at fasting, I suck at most of what I do, and I’m forever trying again, resolving to do better, falling down and crawling back up. I just really can’t take another category of my life in which this pattern repeats itself. I. Just. Can’t.

And so, the next six weeks to Christmas sprawls before me. No meals as a family, because Husband excels at fasting*, as he does at being a litigator and, well, just being Husband. No meals. This kills me. Not only do I have the guilt that comes from being the lazy, loser member of the family, I also go without the only time when we connect together, just the four of us. Not that we sit down together as a family and eat every day – hell no, not with our schedules! But the best thing about weekends is that they bring meals together (especially meals out) – chances for us to sit down and be four again, instead of Tari and the kids and Husband much later on, or the kids together and Tari and Husband some other time. So no four: not until Christmas Day, baby.

Added to all of this is the guilt I feel because I haven’t been to confession in a year, and therefore haven’t been taking communion since August. I’ve been trying to fit it in, but it never happens. Now that it’s the Fast, why bother? I will confess that I haven’t been fasting, and then I will go forth and not fast, and once I do that, how can I take communion with a clean heart knowing I’m not even trying to obey? So no communion, and that’s depressing beyond all other things.

Allow me to be the first to point out (if I don’t Husband will point it out to me as soon as he reads this): I got myself into this. I wanted to convert from Protestantism to Orthodoxy. I did so a year ago with a completely open heart and mind. This was all my idea. So I have no one to blame but myself. But again, I blame myself for so many things, I’m really not up to welcoming yet another to my list. I still believe with all my heart that Orthodoxy is right for me; maybe I’m okay with accepting that I’m just not very good at it**. It’s not like I haven’t done that before – it doesn’t stop me from being a lawyer, a mother or a wife, so why should it stop me from being a Christian?

::cricketschirping:: I don’t know, either.

*I have to say that I am incredibly impressed and proud of Husband's ability to fast and pray regularly. It amazes me. He so much stronger than I am! And he doesn't cycle through life like I do - he's the steady, sane member of the pack.

**That comment will send Husband’s head rolling around the room! How can you accept not being good at something!?! What planet were you raised on? How does this happen??? This is a not-so-infrequent topic of conversation in our house, as you might imagine.

Not So Good Advice

So I read this thing a while ago, about how to avoid germs when using a public restroom.

Yes, I did used to read the back of the cereal box at breakfast when I was a child. What made you ask that?

Anyway, as any woman knows, we all pretty much live in fear of the public restroom, since we are not blessed with the ability to pee standing up. Germs. Ugh. The only time public restrooms seem like a good idea are when we're drunk and we need to talk to our best friend right away in private about whether we should go home with that cute guy who just bought us a drink.

Back to the advice. The article said "Always use the first stall in the restroom because no one else wants to - it doesn't seem private enough. It will therefore be the cleanest."

I've been road-testing this bit of advice for a while and I wanted to let you all know: that first stall is NOT any cleaner than the rest of them. There's still pee on the seat, despite what this expert told me. It is not, unfortunately, a viable solution to the "OMG I have to use that restroom" problem.

I have deduced that therefore, everyone else must have read this same internet article at the same time as me. And that's why the coveted first stall is ruined forever. Thanks, internet. Thanks a lot.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How I'm Known at Work

I don't blog a lot about work, with good reason. If you don't know what that good reason is, you live under a rock. But I thought I would share with you how I am known by my work-mates.

I am the lawyer who brushes her teeth after lunch.

I know this because, well, I used to make quite a habit of brushing my teeth after lunch and apparently, the identification of toothbrush to Tari just became so inseparable that, even though I rarely brush my teeth after lunch anymore, it's what people think of when they think of me.

When they're not thinking other, meaner things, I guess.

Today this was all confirmed to me when I did actually brush my teeth after lunch (which was a very nutty salad, by the way, with very small greens in it - it was the nuts-and-greens-sticking-in-my-teeth sensation that drove me to it). I left my toothbrush and cute little tube of toothpaste in the ladies' room, and when I went back a few hours later for another purpose, one of my co-workers pointed to them and said "That's yours, isn't it? I was just going to pick it up and bring it back to you, but here you are." Uh, thanks.

So don't forget: when you think of me at work, all professional and whatnot at my desk, remember that I am really just a lawyer who brushes her teeth after lunch. That is all.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Love and Fear

I saw a bumper sticker at Whole Foods yesterday...

Let me pause to say that I know you are automatically thinking "Tari saw a bumper sticker that was so far to the political left it made her head spin around 360." But you'd be wrong, because this is Houston. And while there are more than the usual percentage of "Democracy Now!" bumper stickers at Whole Foods, there are also quite a few other points of view, as this piece illustrates.

So, back to the bumper sticker. It read:

"Most people who plan on turning to God in the eleventh hour die at 10:30."

I've been chewing on that one off and on for a while, and I have this to say:

Yes, I will admit, the Bible does discuss the necessity of being ready for God's return. The parable of the wise and foolish women with their oil lamps comes to mind right away. It's a valid point, and the idea that one should follow God faithfully because no one understands his timing is certainly not heretical.

But. However. On the other hand.

As CS Lewis put it very succinctly, we are always moving either closer or farther away from God. There is no stasis in life. Our thoughts and actions propel us in one direction or the other, and we need to be mindful at all times of that direction. As an aside, I have to tell you that Two loves it when we talk about this subject; he turns one light off in my room and walks back and forth between the light side of the room and the dark side of the room, thinking about what it all means (and talking all the while, of course). What Lewis wrote is also what the Orthodox Church teaches quite clearly. Our lives are meant to be a journey in which we move closer to God and become more like him: this process is called "theosis" and is the center of Orthodox theology and praxis. It is the reason we fast and pray. So we have at least two Christian traditions, both teaching the same thing: the necessity of living a life that brings one closer to God, both in action and thought.

Where does fear fit into that picture? If our work in life is to become more like God, how does acting based on the fear of damnation - as this bumper sticker is clearly encouraging people to do - bring us closer to Him? Is God a god of fear (in the "terrified" sense of the word - not "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" sense. Darn English language)? No, He isn't. Perfect love casts out fear, doesn't it? And God is more than anything else the embodiment of love. And seeking Him, following after Him, becoming more like Him, should be a process that fills us with love and light, that heals us as our habits of sin fall away from us slowly.

What do we want others to think of us as Christians? What do we want them to think motivates our decision to draw closer to God? Do we want to preach fear or love? This isn't just a question of catching more flies with honey than with vinegar. This is for real: who on earth wants to draw closer to a Creater of whom (s)he is terrified? Instead of hapharzardly scaring the pants off people, let's instead show them God's love, the power He has to heal our souls from the scars of sin, and the mercy He waits so patiently to drop like a balm on the head of the broken.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

France 1, Texas 0

A expatriate friend posted on Facebook yesterday about the glories of Armistice Day* in Paris, where she now lives. Schools, government and most businesses were closed, at precisely 11am church bells throughout the city rang out, and jumbo-trons around the Arc de Triomphe broadcast the national celebration. Sounds absolutely beautiful, doesn't it? Honorable, respectful, and altogether the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, back home in the land of the freest and the home of the bravest (that's Texas to the rest of y'all) my boys came home from public school and were surprised when I told them it was Veterans' Day. No announcement had been made in either of their schools, no lessons given in class about the hundreds of thousands of people whose work past and present makes our children's lives possible. There was nothing. Nada. Zilch.

So tell me, what exactly does the Houston Independent School District think about our veterans? It seems to me they're somewhere in between uncaring and downright ashamed. Unlike the French. And when Texas loses to France in the patriotism stakes, it's a very sorry day indeed.

*Yes, I know that, to the French, Armistice Day is more like our Memorial Day, in that it honors primarily war dead and not just those who served. But when was the last time your child's teacher told him why he was getting a three day weekend at the end of May? Yup, I didn't think so.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Boys' Dreams

On Veterans' Day this year I'm thinking of my boys, and how they, like all boys, dream of being soldiers one day. It occupies so much of their imagination for such a long part of their childhood, even if it is not a dream that will ever come true for them. This year I would like to say thank you to all veterans:

• for the dreams your service inspires in boys like mine,
• for your honor, because it gives meaning to such dreams, and
• for your brave and selfless service, without which none of these boys would be free to dream at all.

God bless you.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Day in the Life

And we go up, and we go down. And then we go up, and then we go down.

Such is life with a middle schooler in the house.

Most of the time, I have to admit, One is on the "up" side of things. He is "on his game", as it were. He remembers his responsibilities, he works hard, and he still manages to have a lot of fun. He's walking perfection ... with a teeny, tiny zit on his nose occasionally, but who's looking? Seriously, he is doing really well for almost 12. He had a great first middle school report card, he's working hard at football, and he's still reading like the bibliophile he has always been. Today, the high point of "up" was a trip to the opera to watch The Barber of Seville. One's reaction to opera: "It was fantastic! So funny! And can you believe B fell asleep during it? I mean, it was The Barber of Seville! How can you fall asleep during that?" And opera was followed by a picnic lunch outside and an early dismissal from school. How can things be any better?

And then we go "down". Because of things like, oh, the little math quiz he took today before the opera trip. "What did you get on it?" "Um, a 60, because I, well, I didn't really pay attention and I made mistakes on multiplication and division." Crash. Burn. Mayday. Complete with me yelling "How can you not care enough to make mistakes from 4th grade? How could you not check your work? What were you thinking?" Let it be known that this is not the first bad math grade of the grading period, or I wouldn't be so steamed. Yes, it was mature of him to immediately admit the cause of his mistake - and to own up to the fact that he was the cause - I've given him credit for that. He didn't stonewall, refuse to tell me, or outright lie, thank the Lord. But... but... but ... oh, it's so frustrating!

It's like one minute he's firing on all cylinders (I am on the metaphors tonight, aren't I?) and the next he's just standing there with his mouth open, watching the world go by. He did this quite literally at his football game two weeks ago, where he pretty much decided that being a spectator was more fun than being an offensive lineman, and stood and watched calmly as his teammates were sacked. Play after play after play. And they lost. And he was snarky and angry when I told him that if he was going to be absent for a game, he shouldn't put on his uniform and go out on the field.

Up, and then down. Up and down. When does he grow out of this - 25? Boy, that's an awfully long way away.

*The picture is One doing his air guitar on the swings at 9. Wow - nine.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I read the Atlantic's cover piece, All the Single Ladies, a few weeks ago, and I've been chewing on whether to write something on it or not. I think it's pretty obvious that author Kate Bolick and I couldn't lead more different lives. It's probably only slightly less obvious that I find hers to be almost completely shallow and lacking in meaning, mainly because she has deliberately separated herself from belonging to the most quintessential "community" mankind has ever created: a family.

I find her decision shallow because she seems to have made it in order to search further in life for self-satisfaction and happiness: some kind of "meaning" that apparently continues to elude her. She fails to realize that most of us find exactly these things by taking the path that she dismisses. In fact, the very reason that marriage and families endure as bulwarks of society despite the many attacks on them is because so many people have realized that focusing solely on their own happiness and fulfillment just doesn't get them there. When they take the lens off themselves, and turn towards helping others - that is when not just happiness but true joy descend. Does that mean that married life and family life is a peach? Of course not. But anything we do that has a higher purpose - even if that purpose is not a religous or metaphysical one, but simply the desire to consistently put another's needs before our own - will bring back gifts we can never hope to measure.

Ms. Bolick has lived her life lacking practically any kind of moral compass and now it is beginning to show. She has put herself first and all others who could have made her life richer second, and now writes with some bewilderment how this order of things could have failed her. It fails everyone, Ms. Bolick; even without a mother interested in teaching you this lesson (and yours clearly was not), you could have looked about you and discovered that quite quickly. But the mirror must have been much more fascinating, and so you missed it. Instead of grasping why people get married and have families - not for sociological or economic reasons, but for real, human reasons such as love and companionship - All the Single Ladies looks at marriage as a curiosity that can't quite be understood and can be easily dismissed as "just another odd way some people order their lives." In this conclusion, Bolick misses the raison d'etre of the vast majority of her fellow human beings; not just her long, meandering article but her life itself is the poorer for it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Boomers Love Themselves

Is anyone surprised that nothing has changed for the most obnoxious generation ever to "grace" this country's shores? The latest news: they are still as selfish and self-centered as they always were, and still just as out of touch with reality. Today's evidence? A Smart Money article on "10 Things Baby Boomers Won't Tell You." Among them:

1. I'm spending your inheritance now.
2. I'm spending it so fast, I'll be living with you (and on you) very soon.
3. We'd have more money to live on if we hadn't had you at all dammit.

The world won't be rid of this awful group of people soon enough. Thanks, worthless Boomers. Thanks for AIDS, skyrocketing divorce rates, disco, "finding yourself", latchkey kids and all the other ills you brought on the world. Now get to the county nursing home and eat your lime jell-o. It's more than you'll ever deserve.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Links on Wednesday

Seven links for the middle of the week:

1. A good op-ed on the controversy about whether the Girl Scouts are or are not abortion-supporting feminists. The article focuses on two girls who recently left the Girl Scouts and then put up a website explaining why: they felt the organization did not comport with their Catholic values. I have to agree with the author: good for them.

2. From the same online magazine, an excellent piece on a controversial piece of legislation being voted on in Mississippi this fall. To me, scary stuff that takes very important and personal decisions away from the people most concerned about them. Government intervention usually does not = help, and MS is out to prove it.

3. Linked by Instapundit: the importance of s*x to our health - including the fact that men who have s*x at least three times a week reduce their risk of stroke and heart attack by 50%. Yes girls, that's 50%. Better put the kids to bed early a few more nights a week from now on ...

4. Experts are now going to recommend that boys receive the HPV vaccine as well as girls. What say you, MOBs - are you going to line them up and get them the shot? I'm waiting to ask the boys' pediatrician when we go in for flu shots in the next week or so. I'm not a big vaccinophobe, so I don't know that I care much if they get the shot. But I'm sure someone does. Michele Bachmann, call your office...

5. Bettina Siegel at The Lunch Tray is talking about Halloween candy, and you should read it - before Halloween, of course.

6. Did you know you can grow lettuce in a shipping container? Apparently, yes you can. Well, let me just say that you may be able to, and these guys may be able to, but I can't grow anything - not even herbs on the kitchen windowsill. So y'all go take care of the lettuce: me and my black thumb will hide in the corner and stay out of y'all's way.

7. And finally, are vegans ethical or not? Here's an interesting "not" (or a "not any more than us meat eaters", actually) that you might want to check out.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ahoy, Matey!

This morning the boys watched this:

Which, of course, led to this:

Having boys is THE BEST THING, ever.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lamb's Last Day

Today ay 5pm we will take Lambie to the vet for the last time. Despite that this is the 3rd trip I've made to do this - Oscar and Lucy having preceded Lamb - it completely and utterly sucks. Six short years, for a dog who deserved 20 or more being treated like a princess. I hate today, I hate the cancer that has killed her, I hate knowing that the right thing to do is so hard and I hate doing it anyway. She is so sick. She needs to go. But no matter how many times this happens it never gets remotely easy.

I will hunt up some more pictures of my sweet in a few days, and write a little more about her silly, happy, just-dumb-enough-t0-get-my-way personality. Right now I'm busy saying goodbye.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Don't Know When

I really don't know when I've been this angry. It must have been at least a few days ... I mean years. Here's the ridiculous idiocy that has me furious:

1. It all begins when One's debate club, scheduled for after school today, was cancelled. It was announced to the students only this morning. This isn't bad in and of itself: it just starts the ball rolling. Because then:

2. One's stupid, uncaring, worthless public school didn't bother to call or email parents about said cancellation. Instead, they left it up to 11 year olds to call their parents. On their cell phones. Which we don't (and never will) have for our children. Eleven year olds. Cell phones. Call at the end of the day, 7 1/2 hours after being told to do so. Sure, that works.

3. One decided that he would sit in the office for an hour and a half without asking for help. Without asking "may I use the phone to call my mom?" Without asking "can you look up her cell phone number for me? I seem to have forgotten it?" Nothing. Nada. Zip. He didn't even do his stinking homework while he sat there, thankyouverymuch.

I am definitely angrier at the school for thinking they have ZERO responsibility in this situation. An email? A phone call? Something? They knew from 8am on that this was happening, and we got ... nothing. Worthless people sucking up my tax dollars, that's what they are. I really don't care one damn bit that this is middle school - they're still children, for Heaven's sake. The adults are still adults, aren't they? Who is responsible for whom in this situation? I'm guessing it's adults responsible for children - but what do I know? Obviously not enough.

But I'm also angry at One, who didn't take the slightest bit of initiative to help himself out of his predicament. One minute I think he's all mature, the next he acts like a 5 year old. God help me: I may never live through his teenage years.

The only thing I can think of to do is to turn this one over to Husband. As the possessor of his horribly frightening litigator's voice, I think he owes the school at least one phone call. The thought of that almost makes me un-angry again. Almost, but not quite.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Go Tigers: 5-0

One's football team, the Tigers, are now 5-0 for the season. Today they beat a very tough Tarheel team 18-6; the game was tied 6-6 for far too long, and parents were pacing the sidelines, alternating between chewing on fists and cheering madly. Here are a few pictures of my #44 and his amazing teammates.

Go Tigers!