7 Quick Takes: “The Have-Nots” Edition

7 things it’s kind of weird that we don’t have

The other day, as I was getting all wet, I thought to myself, “Why don’t we have an umbrella?”  I guess the real reason is that you can’t have one or two umbrellas for a family of ten, but who wants ten umbrellas?  Not us, that’s who.

There’s other things that we don’t seem to have, for some reason.  I don’t mean things that we have that keep on breaking, like a vacuum cleaner — or things we keep on trying to have, but can’t seem to keep in the house, like pens or Band-aids or money (that would spoil some vast, eternal plan).  I’m talking about things that we seem to have opted out of — things our household just doesn’t do.

Okay, so #1 is ten umbrellas.

#2:  A mop.  The last two times I had a mop, the kids used them to stir up the mud puddle at the bottom of the slide.  Then, when I told them I wanted my mop back, they threw it in the swamp, and then it started to snow.  So, the way the kitchen floor looks?  Their fault, 100%.

#3:  Paper towels.  This is a holdover from our super-poor days, when the kids would get one hot dog each, and I would get an empty bun.  Just couldn’t get myself to spend money on paper towels, and I still can’t, even though nowadays we’re so flush I buy hot dogs by the dozen.  I’m pathetically attached to my stack of cloth dish towels, and know what each one is especially good for:  this one for absorbancy, that one for scrubbing power, these two for their lack of funky smell (when you’re drying something for company), etc.  I would take a picture, if I felt like getting up right now.

#4:  Microwave oven.  When we moved here, our adorable kitchen (proportions of a hobbit hole, ambiance of Mordor) had about 5 square inches of counter space — and most of that was taken up by my enormously pregnant belly  which I rested on the countertop while shrieking at the other kids to stop jumping off of the moving boxes (it took . . . a while  . . . to unpack), so I got rid of the microwave (which wasn’t actually a very good one, since I originally found it on the side of the road one rainy day).  So now I just remember to defrost meat in the morning (sometimes I decide what’s for dinner by having a meat race!  Two small chickens, or one large roast — who will it be?  Ready . . . defrost!  It’s so much fun), and have explained to the children that microwaved popcorn causes tooth cancer.

#5:  TV.  I mean, we have a monitor and a DVD player, but no dish or antenna or whatever.  I don’t feel self-righteous about it, because I waste gobs and gobs of precious time rotting my brain with Netflix and the internet.  To give you an idea of the level of cultural purity in our household, my husband and I recently had a startlingly long discussion about character development in the third season of Reno 911.

#6:  SKIRTS!  How many times do I have to tell you, I don’t have any skirts!  Except the long black one I wear to Mass, the brown dress I wear to parties, the blue dotted one I wear on dates, the two denim ones for warm days, the white flouncy one for happy spring days,  the brown one with flowers for happy fall days, the long flowered one for sad fall days, the gray wool one for winter Mass, the straight plaid one for when I want to look smart, the skimpy brown one with gold beads for covering up at the beach, the retro red dress my husband is convinced still fits me, and of course the red satin formal skirt for next time I’m a pregnant bridesmaid.  And the blue, empire-waisted one for the next next time I’m a pregnant bridesmaid.  There, I just wanted to clear that up: I do not wear skirts or dresses, and do not own any.  It’s all part of my strident feminist plan to destroy the institution of marriage.

#7:  Jen, can we just change this to six quick takes?



  1. #2, 3, and 4 are so environmentally friendly… see, having a bunch of kids is actually reducing your carbon footprint, contrary to what all the zpg wackos say!

  2. We don’t have any top sheets, and we don’t own a salt shaker. Also, no napkins (we have some cloth ones that we throw at child number six when he’s being extraordinarily messy). Not long ago, I realized that since there were no more toddlers, I could buy something I never had but always wanted: toilet brushes! One for each bathroom!

  3. Yeah, we have one umbrella. That sits in my car unused. Because when it’s raining, my kids stay at home…as was witnessed last week when Shelby didn’t go to school all week because of the tropical system we had.

  4. We don’t have a microwave or paper towels, either. Or paper napkins. We have the TV, DVD player, and a homemade antenna (wire coat hanger and aluminum foil – classy!), but no cable, satellite etc. We’re considering getting Netflix again. We don’t have any dry-clean-only clothes. I don’t care how cute it is, I don’t have time or energy or the mental capacity to keep up with dry cleaning. At one time we didn’t have a sofa but we’ve grown up a lot since then.

  5. Oh wow, this is a fun topic. We have an umbrella, since we only have three kids, and sometimes we use it.

    I have a cooler, but I do not own those nifty blue plastic refreezable things that you’re supposed to use. I use bags of ice I buy at the store.

    I don’t have a knife sharpener. I’m still using the same Cutco knife (one of a set I got as a bride), and if it’s dull I can’t tell. Someday I’ll chop of a digit and decide it’s time to get a new knife.

    I don’t have an iron. Any adorable homeschooling crafts that require an iron get tossed out the window here.

    Same for sewing. I do not own a sewing machine.

    I do not have an Ipod, an Ibook, or a Kindle. My phone does not text or receive email. Or, rather, I suppose it does, but i don’t use it for that. I use it for actually calling people.

    In the same vein, we do not have a landline. It’s cell phones only.

  6. Thank you! After laughing that hard, there’s no way I’m going to have a bad day, no matter what happens later on.

    Which dishtowel works best at wiping tears (of laughter) away?

  7. We also never had an umbrella, except for my husband, and he hid it somewhere. Recently, we went on a long camping trip, and I bought 9 umbrellas, one for each of us except the toddler. Since then, we’ve lost/broken at least 4 of them, but I still can usually find an umbrella in an emergency, and it’s such a comfort to me.

    Also, no TV, no microwave, no kitchen counter space, no mud room, and I only have one washing machine. NO markers. The “washable” ones stained our once perfect dining room table.

    Oh, and I don’t have a playroom. Every room is a playroom in our house! Also, no schoolroom. Somehow we’ve managed to homeschool without desks.

    I love your blog — my husband found the pants fiasco, and we got so much entertainment value out of it. Thanks for sharing your joys and frustrations in being the mother of a big family. So much of what you write about is what I would say if I had the time and eloquence.

  8. We don’t have a car, but that’s pretty common around here. We also lacked umbrellas until two day ago, when my pathetic whining (because I have lugged toddler and baby through five rainstorms recently) resulted in my husband coming home with three golf-sized ones.

    No tv either.

    And aside from my green corduroy skirt, black flounced skirt, purple pinstripe skirt, taffeta flounce skirt, black knit skirt, and fine collection of vintage-style dresses I don’t have any skirts or dresses either. That’s unfair. I should get some.

  9. No Legos.
    No glitter. Ever.
    No ironing board, but two irons.
    No MP3 players.
    No lawn mower for a couple months. That ended when some nice Morman boys offered to mow the lawn when they stopped by to evangelize.
    No landline.
    No camera.

    Oh, and I grew up with no paper towels or tissues, only washcloths, towels, and hankerchieves. I now use both these products, but feel guilty every single time.

  10. No umbrellas because the kids always, always break them. What fun is having an umbrella if you can’t open it up and sit in it a la Christopher Robin?

    Paper towels are a guilty indulgence. The standby for when I’m behind in laundry and don’t have any clean cloth napkins for the table.

    No microwave. A crockpot is more essential for that counter space. And my husband has been convinced since he was 7 years old that microwaves are dangerous.

    No TV or VCR or DVD player because my husband is convinced it they are more dangerous than the microwave since they suck out your brains through your eyeballs.

    No cell phone (no, it’s not because my husband thinks the brain is sucked out through the ear). We like to be inconveniently unavailable. If anyone really wants to get in touch they know where we live.

    • Kate, thank you. Whenever anyone asks me why I don’t have a cell phone, I will tell them I like to be inconveniently unavailable. I don’t really want an electronic leash, thanks.

    • We don’t have cell phones either. I never really wanted one, but I was absolutely convinced by witnessing this conversation between the owner of the company I worked for and her second-in-command:

      Owner: I wish you’d get a cell phone.
      Employee: I don’t want a cell phone. I don’t need a cell phone. It’s a waste of money.
      Owner: Well, let me buy you one. The company will pay for it.
      Employee: No. I don’t want one.
      Owner: But I can never get ahold of you when you’re not at work!
      Employee: Exactly.

  11. About no TV: there are a lot of people in this boat I find myself in! We don’t have a television for obvious reasons (brain-sucking, etc.). But we have Netflix. And we use it to watch TV shows. We watched all the Star Trek shows as a family, and now my husband and I and older kids guiltily watch the X-Files…um…most nights, after the little kids are in bed. How did this happen?

    Well, I guess Netflix TV is better in a lot of ways. No commercials, of course, and no channel-flipping to see what’s on. I suppose that’s an improvement. Still, we used to be media purists until the internet snuck in our back door.

  12. I don’t have a clean house. I don’t have accolades or a prestigious office. I don’t have a polished wardrobe. I don’t have highlights in my hair or a cool or for that matter, mostly clean car. I don’t have a Ph.D, book deal, secretary, assistant, paycheck or a day off. I am missing half of my mind as it has been replaced with a to-do list. I am not employed but I do have job security. I’m a mom.

  13. You found your microwave by the side of the road one rainy day. Oohhh, that’s so surreal I’m laughing. How come I never find any half-ass usable things by the side of the road? Hmmm. I’ll have to look harder.

    Enjoyed everyone’s lists. I feel like a complete pig now, thanks.

    I feel bad because I have the Sam’s club case of napkins, and never put them out. My children don’t even know of the existence of such things. Isn’t that what shirt sleeves and the underside of the table are for?

    Let me think… we have a really great tent but no sleeping bags. We dig through the garage when we want to camp and find all the old, rank, dank pillows and half-disintegrated blankets and use those. A little embarrassing when kids come over to camp in the backyard.

    We have a TV, but no channels. We watch movies, if anything. It’s a big screen. Man, I feel bad.

    Proper children’s clothing. Sunday comes every week, as well as regular dressy occasions, but do you think anyone ever has anything that’s clean, or fits correctly, or matches? It’s always a red-alert damage control issue. We must look like vagabonds. It’s not necessarily a lack of clothing money (have you seen some of the great stuff in second hand stores???), but really it’s just more of the HUGE pain it is to try to keep a tribe of kids all in appropriate clothing. Shoes, jackets dress/every day, boots, brown or black? Navy? Oh no! Ugh. Too lazy. Too frustrating. What ever happened to two winter dresses/ two summer dresses?

    No toothpicks. Drives my father crazy when he visits.

    We had no kitchen clock for a few years- drove both my parents crazy when they visited.

    Oh, and no vehicle that everyone fits in. Double buckle, anyone?

    • “I feel bad because I have the Sam’s club case of napkins, and never put them out. My children don’t even know of the existence of such things. Isn’t that what shirt sleeves and the underside of the table are for?”

      No, Martha, that’s what the dog is for.

  14. I’ll tell you what I DO have: a really bad haircut. And an aching side from laughing. Thanks Simcha. I also have two toddlers that I have to wake up so I can go pick up the other kids. I guess I DON’T have any time.

  15. I’m an internet obsessed home schooling slacker mom, who pfts at socialization arguments, and then sends her son to school for the socialization. What’s his problem, anyway? Dang kindergartners and their mouths.

    We have paper towels, but I hide them and ration them at my discretion. Occasionally, they have to be moved to a safe house when someone detects their location. No paper napkins, lots of white floursack dishtowels.

    We have no microwave, and really haven’t missed it – did y’all know that a regular old stove will heat up food and tea kettles? Amazing. I’m fairly freaked out, however, about melting chocolate old school, because now that my chocolate aesthetic has blossomed, having twenty bucks worth of the stuff seize up over a double boiler ain’t my i-dear of fun.

    I have at least five umbrellas, all conveniently stashed in the trunk of my un-garaged car…I like to call to them from the front door when it’s pouring rain and I need to be somewhere five minutes ago. Ritual is so soothing.

    Awesome seven, SF.

  16. Microwaves are great for softening butter when you want to make cookies now! We originally got ours, though, because my husband’s way of reheating leftovers was to fry them in lots of butter, and I didn’t want him to die.

  17. We never had a microwave growing up, and someone once told us we were the only people he’d met without one. It wasn’t so much the defrosting that was inconvenient, but the heating up of leftovers. Having to add some liquid to the bottom of a pot and hover over it so it didn’t scorch was annoying.
    We don’t have a TV (like you, we waste plenty of brain cells on the internet). We tried to get one for football season last year, but didn’t have a place to put it, and the kids broke it after a month of it sitting on the floor.

  18. Ha. We also have no mop! I keep meaning to get one – I threw my old, nasty one away so that it would FORCE me to get a new one. I should have known better…

    We would have cable tv (since we only have a 15 mo old who couldn’t care less about tv, so not too worried about him being exposed to all the garbage) except that I just can’t allow myself another way to waste time. Unfortunately, I have no self-control when it comes to the food channel.

    And I am I the only one who has scads of things I do occasionally need, like umbrellas, which are absolutely everywhere until I need one and then I can’t find ANY of them and end up adding another one to the collection which reappears in it’s entirety on the next sunny day. Sigh. That is what I feel guilty about, when I have to buy something I know we have but I can’t find! I hate it. But I looove my paper towels!!

  19. Don’t have: proper church clothes for the kids. Proper clothes for any of us, period. A bra that is not ripped. Underwear with no holes in it. Hair conditionner. The will to cook meals every day (how ’bout fried eggs and toast again, kids?). A house, apartment or a car (but hey, I’ve got the internet!).

  20. I don’t have a couch for the living room. We threw away the ratty old one when we moved and never got around to replacing it. No TV either. Well, technically we do have one; it’s in the garage. I put it there when we moved and never got around to bringing it into the house. And now there’s no point since it’s too old to pick up signals since that recent change to digital. I play DVDs on the computer.

  21. At the risk of fawning, Simcha, your blog is the funniest, most real and down to earth on the internet. I so enjoy your honesty and humor.

    I feel quite spoiled having read this post and the comments. I do have an umbrella (four actually), a mop and a microwave. We also have a TV (though no cable) a family room couch (and a living room couch), but my kids are often not the best dressed ones at Mass.

    I love the comment about having a bad hair cut. Who can tell? I put mine up so much because I only shower 3 times a week (is that too much information?).

    Keep doing what you’re doing, Simcha! You are a modern Erma Bombeck!

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