Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Spared No Expense

We went to a mega-church this Christmas Eve. I wanted to hate it, but we might go back. It’s a Christmas miracle, if you ask me.

Walking into the place, one could tell we were within a stone’s skip of Hollywood. This church consisted mostly of a sparkly sound stage, dominated by an enormous hanging sculpture that resembled a graphic designer’s depiction of Big Bang. It was simultaneously seductive and pop science-y, and there was no altar to be seen.

There were about 80 rows of wraparound stadium seating in the auditorium, and at least two TV cameras nestled within the studio audience. Most entertainingly of all, the pastor looked like the guy who played Dr. Malcolm in Jurassic Park, and he opened the sermon by likening himself to Oprah and throwing stuff out into the audience à la O’s Favorite Things. And the music. It was like Guster with all its new-agey percussion and harmony, and then sang a woman who could have been a Celine Dion sound-alike. The crowning glory was in the bass guitar player’s exquisite and technically improbable rendition of It Came Upon A Midnight Clear.

Maybe all of this contributed to why I began to let Dr. Malcolm into my narrow, uncharitable little mind. Based on his looks and likeness alone (and glasses—oh, the Geek Glasses, they get me listening every time!), I expected academics. Khan Academy, even (if Sal Khan wore geek glasses). Surely this man was about to start talking about chaos theory or superstrings, or the hallowed principles of evolution, or anything at all besides Jesus. And then, before I could fully shuck my biases, the musicgasm swept in, followed shortly by these amazing little self-contained communion cups (wine and crackers together in a teensy cup). Hallelujah.

It took me by surprise, this swift and sudden acquiescence to Jesus, the rising and flowing of the J-tide, and the ebbing of the science one. And ironically I expected the whole process to involve more science. The beginnings of the sermon, in fact, were predictably wholesome, anecdotal, and precipitated by God-themed video clips viewable on one of two jumbotron screens. So, what happened?

I suppose there was one nod to the empirical in one of these video clips. At one point we virtually “roller-coasted” down, opening-movie-credits style, upon an unwound strand of a DNA double-helix. This was amidst narration about us allllll having parts of God’s DNA. Wowsa! That’s kind of a compelling idea, there, Ian Malcolm: if we are all related on a molecular level, and some of us here in the studio audience or on stage are at one with God, we have logical proof (of my own personal association with God, that is) by deduction. And so I started floating on this proof and was buoyed up by it, as if going along by inner tube. Irrefutable, lazy river faith.

In the end, I was really moved, though. Maybe it was due to the holy music of Christmas, which is the reason we sought out Church-with-a-Capital-C that night rather than the scrappy, lovable UU church with its honest budget and feebler singing. Likely it was my feelings of loss for a particular few folks these last few years—my folks, who, while they are technically still alive, have turned out to be weak excuses for grown-ups. Probably it was the pastor’s insistence that we are all allowed, nay, invited to feel joy at the birth of a stranger’s child.

Mostly, it was this idea: We are welcome; I am welcome to feel joy about God.

I cried off all my mascara and Tammy Faye eyeliner—had to bring my A-game to a real-life Hollywood venue, you know—and decided to come back.

It won’t be easy. There is so much resistance from the kids these days when we try to go anywhere or do anything. They are a little overscheduled and would spend the entire day on the Wii if allowed. Fortunately, one of the premises of this church is accessibility to the unshowered masses; it’s available online as a live stream. Now I can cry about the beauty of the birth of Christ in the privacy of my own home, and this time I will skip the mascera.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

More Kid Quotations

"I have a friend; she has a Spanish aroma..." -Will, on his classmate's accent

"Let's see the buttcheeks of the tree!" -James, looking at leaf stomata under a toy microscope



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Quote of the Day

"He's got a really good sense of stink" -James, talking about his dad's farting

Thursday, December 13, 2012

And Speaking of Letters

It's late in the game for the Holiday 2012 Season, but I've opened an Etsy. If your family or small business is in need of some holiday card custom calligraphy for your addresses, give me a holler.




http://www.etsy.com/shop/XmasCardCalligraphy

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Chess Man

My seven-year-old might be a chess prodigy tournament player. Okay, I made that part up about there being a tournament of any kind (that we know of, yet). But he should, he really should enter some kind of competition. Will's got talent. It's eerie.

We started playing chess with him just before he turned six. Well, when I say "we", I mean I delegated the task to Joe, since I suck at chess. Badly. In fact, that has been the fun of it. Joe taught Will, who picked it up easily. Will taught me the rules, and continues to remind me of them to this day. We'll play, and it is a win-win for all. Those who are watching as Will roundly beats me are delighted. I am delighted (which is weird, because normally I hate losing). And, of course, Will is stoked.

The chess set we have is missing some of its cheap, plastic pieces. Instead of kings, we have Skylanders Giants. They are too fat and unwieldy for the board, but this adds to the amusement of all parties.

The only bad part about it is Will's reaction to losing, which has happened exactly twice. It would seem all this winning has made him downright averse to not winning! During that infamous game I charged forward and with a haphazard-to-nonexistent strategy. He'd laughed pretty hard and pointed out the futility of several of my moves, right up until my knight was checkmating him, or whatever it's called. Then, stuff got real. He wanted a re-do. He begged to break the rules. I told him I was sorry, but we'd play again after I won. After all, he'd taught me everything I knew and beaten me dozens of times and it was my first win ever! He swept the board and ran away, shouting about the injustice.

Tonight, I beat him for the second time ever (pure luck, I assure you, and also, the fact that he blurts out advantageous move possibilities for his opponents that I'd never even considered). He took it in stride. Now that he may be at a maturity level where he can deal gracefully with the outcome of a game, I think we'll ask him if he wants to join a club.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What, No Invisibility Cloak?


I just hope I can find the fore headed belcher dragon at Wal-Mart before it is all sold out.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Frankenblankie





I'm making a knitted blankie from yarn remnants of other projects. Scarves, mostly. This is fun. I made it up (I think). Mind you, I'm no craft bloggeress. If you want to read a real blog about crafts that is refreshing, clear, and Tori Spelling-free, check out my cousin's blog, The Craft Nest. (http://www.alannageorge.com/). Formal learning aside, I am really enjoying myself with this homespun, motley blankie thing.

--

We attempted to take a wholesome family picture for our Christmas cards this weekend. This involved a modest amount of trespassing into a nearby neighborhood for its attractive water features. It's also been the one solid week per year that it rains in SoCal, but it stopped raining long enough for a few shots of the kids. The only hiccup is that a few of the kids happen to be at a toothy, oversmiling stage that makes them look a little bit like nonhuman primates in said-pictures. Oh well. Faces a mother could love.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Gifts for the Soul

1. Listen to your sons take turns reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas out loud, in their Boris Karloff voices.

2. Let go of people in your life that aren't bringing you higher. Nope, that's not a 420 reference!

3. Learn to knit (YouTube can help!). Make someone a scarf, and picture them wearing it.



Thursday, November 29, 2012

Brought lunch to James at school today. He’s had to eat in the office since he’s been on the crutches. Yesterday, the school nurse told me he’d eaten alone (the better to take away the sting about not getting to have outdoor recess?). When I asked him about it, James threw me a soft toss. He said, “Hey, how about if tomorrow you bring me Subway? Do you know my recipe?”

James’ Subway Special
turkey and roast beef on wheat
extra black olives, a shred or two of lettuce
vodka martini vinaigrette, just a splash
shaken, not stirred

I brought it. He seemed stoked. We sat together for a few minutes. This time, his friend Aidan was there with him. Suddenly, he goes, “Okay, Mom, you can leave now!”

So, here I will take the obligatory turn toward the philosophical. This blog would be nothing if not for the flashbacks to my oft-shitty childhood. Oh, it was not all bad; after all, these are letters to Aunt Kay, who was/is my mom figure for reals. Without Aunt Kay, whom my kids refer to as The Great Aunt Kay (or, my favourite, Aunt Kay, The Great), there is certainty in my bones that I could not endure the painful growth of motherhood, the work and humility of it, the shame of getting it wrong and the triumph of getting it right. Nor could I care one iota about other humans. She is truly the reason for the season. However, sometimes when I do something a little bit nice for one of my children (in the spirit of W.W. A.K.D., or What Would Aunt Kay Do?) it reminds me of something less good that happened between me and my parents.

West Hills Middle School, my thirteenth birthday (and my fourteenth), in the large, open front entryway. My mother, in her nurse’s scrubs. She has a huge bunch of mylar balloons; some are pink. It is the timing, really, that is sad. Around lunchtime, and the whole school is lingering. She breaks into a run, which is easy because she is in those orthopaedic nursing shoes that belie her youth. I am impossibly small and under-pubertized for my age, and so very mortified by this random entry of my mother into my everyday life. She envelopes me in a hug, which is so enthusiastic it is almost like a dip between ballroom dancers. I feel so conflicted, so embarrassed. What The Fuck, do you want to scare away what few friends I have? They are watching, and I can feel from across the room that they feel badly for me and are laughing a little. Oh, and right there’s the school bully, who picks equally on girls and guys. He is pantomiming the whole scene in the background, which is hilarious and so unfair at the same time. My mother doesn’t do this shit for me, guys. Ever. Don’t, like, discourage her or something.

So, Thank God. Thank God that James doesn’t feel responsible for all of my feelings at a young age. Thank God he asks freely for what he wants and needs from me, without filtering these things first for possibility. Thank God he has friends, and the front-office staff of the elementary school looking out for him, and M and Q, and a host of good gadgets, and maybe even a flying car for his birthday one day, and as many balloons as he pleases. But not in front of his friends.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Thanksgiving Story

Dear Aunt Kay,

We had an eventful thanksgiving, and I was thinking of you.

William had four whole days of hives, full-body ones; we noticed the rash all over him when he was getting into the bath after turkey dinner. Benadryl, swollen lips and hands, Urgent Care, Prednisone, more Benadryl. The hives seem to come and go, but he went to school successfully today and hopefully the ordeal is over. We still don’t know why it happened or what he may have eaten or drank to have had such a huge allergic response, but Joe is convinced it was the rosemary and thyme. I LOL’d at that; I’m pretty sure it was the eggnog.

Then, tonight, James jumped off the couch for some reason and landed funny on his ankle. Back to urgent care--not broken, but strained. I got kind of mad at Joe, since the scene of the injury was a little bit like the beginning scene in Mrs. Doubtfire. So, the part that was making me think of you was this: tomorrow I drive a five-kid carpool to school, one of them is on crutches. How did you do it all when you were raising your kids, plus one or two from down the street?

Thanksgiving dinner itself was so-so, but Dad is hopelessly disinhibited. He’s telling this wildly inappropriate story...Joe’s co-worker and all three of our kids are in the audience. It’s after we’ve eaten dinner. Or before dinner, I can’t even remember, there were so many lovely moments. It was bad. My mind is blocking it out but at one point he was putting both his middle fingers up, presumably imitating the attitude of that lead actress from Top Gun as she was hit on by one too many navy guys. [[Editorial note: Dad was there when they were filming Top Gun, okay, okay, I get it. But has yet to receive the memo about Kelly McGillis being gay.]] I know I stopped him at several points, shouting, “Dad, Kelly McGillis is not ‘weird’; she happens to be a lesbian, and anyway, maybe straight actors don’t like being swarmed by military dudes, either.” Pretty much nothing fazed him; he just kept talking over me to make his retarded point, whatever it was.

Luckily for us, I had said something a few weeks ago to Joe’s co-worker about the possibility of Dad: Live and Unfiltered version. Hopefully he and his wife will still want to hang out with us after this. It is hard enough to make friends with busy everyday life, and this is more than I can stand. Oh yeah, and Meryl was here for Thanksgiving, which was nice.


I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving. Did you visit Jessie?


Yours in Serenity.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Conversation of the Day

Elise: Why do you keep looking at me like that and smiling?
Me: Because you're beautiful.
Elise, with mock indignation: No...
Me: Why not?
Elise: I'm just kidding! I am!