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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

No, YOU bow your head and pray for God's blessing. I'm keeping track of the terrifying bat at all times.

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

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

This image is to save you from having to Google "dickey" on this, the second holiest time of the year.

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

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

Who took my just-in-case bowl?

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. What happens if you google “irregular” dicky instead of just “dicky”?

    Do you live near Atlanta? We had the same illness!

    If you held your family together and cleaned up any vomit this year, you’re probably doing just fine.

  2. You always have the best blog pics but I do I wonder how you got the picture of my scotch tape breakdown off my hard drive, are you a hacker as well?

    Merry Christmas and thank you so much for your blog writing. You are making my world better, not worser.

  3. You are making the world a MUCH better place in myriad ways, one of which is making me laugh in a public cafe until people stare at me.

  4. Oh, Simcha! I am so glad to know you! YOU are a DELIGHT!

    “And when I think about it, it’s pretty darn feminine, as long as you’re looking for more than high heels and homemade cookies.” I love this. I sorta want to write an entire post around that sentence. I’ll probably think about it for a long time and then shelve it because I won’t be able to do justice to the truth expressed there.

    And OY, the Baptists and their hermetically sealed cry rooms! Heaven above forbid that anyone have the preciousness of their worship experience interrupted by the little ones the Lord Jesus welcomed into His arms. (Yes, I’m bitter, and yes, I’m Baptist, so I can speak with disdain on The Cry Room.) I am glad, however, it saved you from the torture of recorders.

    I am FULLY looking forward to reading more from you in 2011!!!

    • Megan, I want you to know that I spent a good ten minutes hunting for the right photo of an obnoxiously luxurious megachurch to illustrate the Baptist part, but I held off JUST FOR YOU. Not that I thought you attend a megachurch, but it didn’t seem right to pick any fights during Christmas. I actually took out a LOT of stuff from this post, for that reason!

      Alert us when you write that femininity post! There’s always more to talk about.

    • Funny y’all would bring that up, because I actually went to Christmas Eve Midnight mass at a Catholic church with a cry room. And there was a little sign on the door that said something like, “If you have small children, you may want to sit near the end of the pews near this room.” Looks like Baptists don’t have a corner on the market, after all. 😛

  5. That illness was nationwide. We had it in time-released stages, so that we were going to the doctor — that is, I, with at least one child, was going to see the doctor — roughly every four days. The nurse would open the door, call out our surname, and laugh. Bless her heart.

    Nothing makes recorders sound better. Nooooothing. Except an adult, professional-musician, full-time medievalist recorder-player. I had a choir friend in England who was just that — she was miraculous. Other than that, the recorder is the chief instrument in the Hell Symphony Orchestra.

    Well, maybe full youth-orchestra ensembles (ie, 84 violins and a tuba) playing the Hallelujah Chorus make recorders sound better.

    That same thought re Christmas carols struck me this year, too. I had my younger kids memorize Christmas poems to perform for their Grammy when she came for Christmas, but it occurred to me too late that practicing Christmas carols might actually fall under the rubric of “preparation” and therefore be appropriate. If you think long enough, you can find a loophole for practically anything, but you have to find it in time or it does you no good.

    I can’t write those Christmas letters, though we did send cards for the first time in about 5 years (just in time not to get any ourselves, because everyone we know has struck us from their list). I did make up a little “who’s who” to accompany the card, because I figured that people would have forgotten who we are. That way I could at least get in a little character sketch for each person: “Bosco. Rabbit. Age Unknown. Fat.” “Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. Deceased.” And so on. That way I didn’t lapse into either flowery prose or outright lies, which I hope the recipients of our cards appreciated.

    Thanks for the laugh, and Merry Christmas!

    • As one who can be a real liturgical, pain in the butt, I see no problem practicing Christmas music during Advent. Choirs certainly have to do it!

      But I really do appreciate trying to differentiate the seasons, too. (I managed to get our chapel to not decorate for Christmas until after Mass on the 4th Sunday of Advent…even if it fell on Christmas Eve! I can be THAT fussy…)

      My family, at least, thinks I’m a bit nutty. But they can relate to the ‘scotch tape’ meltdown!

  6. Ah, Simmy: while I always enjoy your posts, some, like this one, make me tear up and feel like the Grinch-post-conversion. I felt my heart swell. Seems like you guys are living some kind of Gift-of-The-Magi situation. I can’t express myself without hyphenated-made-up-kinds-of-words. Merry Christmas, you overindulgent Fishers!

  7. “Maybe I really am turning my back on womanhood with my pants-wearing, gin-swilling, fart-joke-making ways.”

    It’s clear to me that what you need is a dose of black-and-white movies. Not that there are many fart jokes to be had, but some Katharine Hepburn might help.

  8. See, Simcha, this is why I love you! You are what happens when a whole family of Jews enters the Church…..Jewish humor and Catholic spirituality. All in all a good combo.

    When I first saw the raging angel up there at #1, I though the caption read “who took my Scotch”? You see where my head is at.

    This is a superior post.

    • Ditto on the scotch comment. Incidentally, my husband’s dear friend bought *ME* a numbered bottle of single barrel scotch for Christmas. It’s got this lovely honey color and my husband is ridiculously jealous. This dear friend said that he wanted something kind of feminine. Isn’t that awesome?

      I don’t think there’s a problem with femininity in THIS house!

  9. Don’t know where to begin…gar! I so appreciate your self deprecating ways, and JOIN you in them…you make us all feel like it is okay to be human beings rather than Super-Human-Mommies. Reading too many blogs can result in such a feeling of utter can’t measure up-ness that it is good to know we are not alone in our brass tacks lives.

    Cry rooms–I am a convert to Catholicism and have often kind of missed a place for folks to take their little ones, even if it is just to change them, soothe them, or whatever and still not miss everything. I just think Catholic parents should not ever miss Mass if they fear the toddler/infant melt down.I think too many just stay home. I don’t see anything wrong with making it a little easier for them. I am NOT saying it is wrong to have a kid make a peep–I am always glad to her the kid noises, knowing that they are there!

    So sorry about the Sick. We had it a bit, not to the extent that you did, but the Just in Case Bowl is at our house.

    Love your posts. I think we are related.


  10. First, the picture of the Weeping Angel delighted me and my Doctor Who obsessed husband. Second, I’m a convert, too, and while I understand why the little ones need to be in Mass I quite often long for the birth-through-age-fourteen Sunday School at my family’s Anglican church, and believe that our toddler and baby are too irritating to manage at church, and for everyone’s sakes we should keep them at home until they’re twenty.

    Third- does anyone else’s house still look like a bomb hit it? My husband has eleven blessed days off and it’s only today (day five) that it feel like we’re making any progress on the amazing Christmas-induced chaos.

  11. i’m wth sally thomas – nothing makes a recorder ensemble sound good. i’ve played in them, and i think it’s something about clashing sound waves that dooms them from the start. that, and there’s no spit valve. on the othe hand, the bigger ones (tenor?) look like overgrown peppergrinders, which is kind of cool in a random way.

  12. Our parish has one of those hermetically-sealed cry rooms, and I’m actually kind of thankful that it hasn’t been turned into an Adoration chapel yet, though I’d also love to have an Adoration chapel. Right now the cry room functions as a place for approximately 800 latecomers to sit — they emerge for Communion, and it’s like one of those clown cars. Our church isn’t that big, and these people keep coming and coming. For a long time I thought they were literally coming in off the highway, but no, it’s the cry room coughing them up. Father will occasionally make some announcement that the cry room is for parents to calm their children, and for a week or two there will be more people packed into the pew outside the confessional, then it’s back to 800 people in the cry room and the magically expanding Communion line.

  13. You had me at the first picture! I’m sure my teenager would say that it’s a wonderful picture of his mom in full raging mode. Good thing I shared your post on Facebook and with my husband!

  14. oh, thank you Simcha and those who comment upon Simcha. For the past 10 minutes, reading this, I have felt so.understood. These are my people.

  15. God bless you–you sound like a wonderful mother! We’ve had Christmases like that and wonder “what’s it all about Alfee?” Kepp praying fo rthe graces of Matrimony to get you through. Thanks for making me chuckle as I recover from surgery (I’m supposed to be taking it easy while the whole house falls apart–right!).

  16. As always, thank you for this. I found an odd consolation in the entire post. Well, not in the part where you and your people were barfing. There is no consolation in that kind of misery. Ever.

    But the part about not getting the cards out (even though you are an iconic blogger) makes perfect sense.

    It’s too bad you don’t live next door to me. We could collectively let our collective 17 children run non collectively amock (amuck? askew?) while we sipped martini’s in the garage.

  17. That scotch tape picture made me laugh out loud. As that was me looking for the scotch tape Christmas Eve. I swore this year I was not going to wait until Christmas Eve to wrap presents, but there my husband and I were, frantically wrapping presents in the bedroom before Midnight Mass with me mumbling under my breath.

    My kids go to a Charter school too. The kids design, write, organize their own performances without any help from adults. ( I hope that’s right, because that’s what it looks like to me.) They are kind of like watching a play/performance at home without the comfortable couch. It used to bother me, but my oldest is doing so amazing at his traditional high school now, I just enjoying the craziness.

    Feminine sheminine. You’re just suppose to be you. It’s your uniqueness that makes you the compliment to your husband. Obviously, I only know about you through your posts, but I can imagine your husband fell in love with YOU, so just be that person.

  18. There are so many things I loved about this post! Thank you for making me laugh out loud.

    I drink gin and love fart jokes. We also laugh at burping and poop. But I do wear skirts.

  19. In our beautiful Spanish built church that had to be retro-fitted for one unisex bathroom…there is no cry-room and it would help. A child making a tiny noise echoes as if there is no tomorrow and the priest with the microphone is barely heard. I am far from a child-hater at mass, but I have an autistic daughter who squeals and shrieks loudly with no rhyme or reason and it would be nice to have a place where we could be at mass and still hear the priest without disturbing the entire congregation.

    That being said…I am so grateful the ick has (so far) missed us. But don’t sharpen your pitch-forks for me yet. The same beautiful autistic little girl has had her eczema break out all over her entire body…the horror.

  20. “And when I think about it, it’s pretty darn feminine, as long as you’re looking for more than high heels and homemade cookies.”

    Do you mean boobs?

  21. As a woman who has often had a hard time connecting with other women, I really sympathize with your femininity doubts. I don’t have any femininity angst from the dress/pants issue (I wear skirts usually, but pants when I want), it’s mostly from not getting the female thing. I can’t figure out why a woman would waste time painting her fingernails or toenails and why doing so with one’s daughter is “bonding.” I don’t get the whole hair dye thing. I don’t get the whole hugging (when or to whom) or crying (I lock myself in my room on the rare occasions I cry). I swear under my breath when I’m mad (usually more prevelant during PMS) and find that much more satisfying than eating chocolate. And I know I would definitely like to live next door to you and come over for a drink.

  22. I agree with Christy – it’s so nice to feel like there is a place full of my kind of people! Your blog seriously is a bright spot in my day, Simcha!

    And about school concerts… We are terrible parents who can’t stop ourselves from snickering through them. After every concert, I swear to myself that the next time I will hold it together….and then the next time comes and I see the pained-but-polite look on my husbands face and it’s like I’m 12 years old again trying not to laugh in church.

  23. “Isn’t that what the Knights of Columbus are for?”

    Yeah, that laugh actually hurt.

    Good tidings to you and Damien and all the little Fishers.

  24. At least you got “Jingle Bells” on the recorder. My husband still remembers “Born Free” on the flutophone. Talk about tolerating the intolerable!

  25. I laughed out loud so many times through this. Thank you.

    Was there really a bat at midnight Mass or was it delirium brought on by the family virus?

  26. I think KofC have to be 4th degree to have received training in bat removal. Isn’t 4th degree when they get the swords and hats?

  27. Bravo! As a whiskey loving, pants wearing, salty-tongued mother of eight, I heartily relate to this post, in almost every way. Except my husband never takes care of the sick. He miraculously always becomes the sickest, no matter what. Aside from that, I raise my glass to you!

  28. As to serial/coterminous puking, my Dearly Beloved had a quasi-remedy.

    We’d put all the affected chilluns in the hallway outside the bathroom to sleep there overnight. Covered the carpeting with sheets (and covered the kids w/blankets.)

    That way, when the Call came, they’d only have a few feet to travel AND no carpeting or small furry animals were harmed.

    Their guardian angels assisted, as they managed to take turns puking, rather than all hitting the porcelain at one time.

  29. We had the Knights at our Midnight Mass. Can’t think of what else they could do except the bat duty. All in all, I find them creepy, they passed quaint and anachronistic about 5 years ago. It’s the costumes, like the Shriners.

  30. …who took my just in case bowl – *snort*

    Is there anyone who doesn’t sound terrible on the recorder? I decided in second grade they used that as a wash out instrument for the non-committal (most 7 to 8 year old kids, as it turns out). Kind of like a low self esteem/questionable talent two-fer.

    Happy New Year! You always make me laugh out loud.

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