Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Christmas Letter, 2010

Esteemed Friends, Relations, Etc.

Once again the time has come for the annual faux-modesty fest, I mean snark fest, I mean holiday letter.   Have you written yours?  Well get on it.  I’m waiting!  I confess at the time of this writing I am perhaps just a touch hung over.  Whether this bodes well remains to be seen. 

It has been a year full of good stuff, which makes for letters that sound like bragging.  Sorry.  To make this more palatable, I will try to couch it in the most deprecating terms.

Here’s an example:  We are slumlords now.  The rental house next door came up for sale.  We bought it.  If we had known what a jerk the seller was before making an offer, we would have let someone else give him money.  Oh well.  Our first tenants moved in.  6 weeks later they told us they had great news:  they’d gotten a puppy! .  The kind that digs up the shrubs and shreds the carpet!  Oh, and they didn’t believe in cleaning up the poop!  Then they broke up.  Perhaps they disagreed over whose responsibility it was to deal with the puppy.  Fortunately the girl’s dad paid the full rent for the rest of their lease.  Thank you, Dad.  A few weeks after she moved out, she called to see if I was going to refund her deposit. Funnily enough, I was on the other line with the carpet guy.  Hmmm.  No. 

The new tenants are Chinese undergraduates.  Despite having very limited English, they like to give bartering their best shot.  There were some issues in the beginning because they wanted to negotiate the rent price down, and get me to be their chauffeur.  We had to hire a translator to convince them that 1) the rent is not negotiable and 2) I only chauffeur my children.  With that established, things seem to be fine.  They are very quiet.  We keep thinking maybe they’ve hightailed it back to Shanghai.  Hopefully the party we threw last night did not bother them. 

More good stuff:  those children, what are their names again?  Oh yes, the Larger Hooligan (10) and Smaller Hooligan (7).  This year they are mostly on the nice list, and make up for their transgressions by being willing to eat ANYTHING, as long as there is a lot of it.  We took a big crazy awesome trip to Italy and France last summer.  There were many highlights.  My favorite was the food in general, and watching the Hooligans fight over the last snail in particular.  I gained seven pounds.  What they say about your metabolism slowing down after 40?  It seems to be true.  

On the subject of sibling fighting, I am not bragging when I say that mostly, they don’t.  However, I have noticed that my sons get along best when they are in cahoots.  Examples: Climbing out the Larger Hooligan’s window to launch paper airplanes off the roof ("They go really far!"); Leaning the extension ladder up the doug fir so they can start climbing @ fifteen feet.  I discovered them @ 40 feet ("It's fun up here!").  They have taken the axiom:  “It is better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission and be denied,” to heart.  THIS IS WHY I HAVE GREY HAIR!!! As I type this I am noticing it’s  very quiet upstairs.  I am afraid to look.

Eugene’s public school district is facing a 20-30 million dollar budget shortfall—I’m not sure this is something to brag about, but hey!  That’s a LOT--Like 15-25% of the District’s operating budget!  Wowza!  I’ve been keeping busy going to meetings, writing letters, talking to lobbyists, and agitating for a city income tax--oh, sorry, revenue enhancement.  I’m not supposed to say tax.  People don’t like it.  I’m learning a lot, which is ironic since Eugene kids’ education looks to be severely curtailed. 

The Birthday Fairy brought The Man Who Lives In My House a mountain bike.  This brings his bike collection up to 4.5.  The .5 is the front half of the tandem.  Now he can grind up mountains and come hurtling down over cliffs and logs and streams, getting covered with mud, whipped in the face by twigs, and maybe breaking a collarbone or worse in the process.  Doesn’t that sound fun?  He thinks I would like it, but my mind is just not that open.  

I do like hanging out on the back of the tandem while The Man Who Lives In My House bikes us along the river.  Apparently I am not a good stoker.  What can I say?  Nobody’s perfect.  Maybe if I pedaled harder, I would burn off some of that gelato I’m still hauling around.  It’s doing wonders for The Man.   He has grown a beard and garners comments from his co-workers such as: “Raw steel and sex appeal!”  Theoretically he’s not shaving until the Ducks go to nationals, but with that kind of feedback, I think he’ll end up looking like ZZ Top. 

Speaking of macho stuff, how about those Ducks?  Kidding!  The only good thing about football is the game broadcast over the PA is preferable to The Little Drummer Boy.  I realize that  (locally)I am in the minority in this opinion and I don’t care.  The Man Who Lives In My House is making his peace with the realization that I will never bike with him across the country or watch football, and I am accepting that he will never enjoy thrift stores or Miss Marple mysteries on public television.

Around this time last year, I was polishing up the annual letter and enjoying myself immensely.  I decided once a year was not enough.  I have a blog now!  I have fans!  Never mind that they are mostly relatives!  If you read it, you know that several of the preceding paragraphs are regurgitated from recent posts.  I have to cite my sources, even when they’re me.  The Man says that my snark muscle has grown thanks to regular workouts.  I’m interpreting that as a compliment.  I’m hoping to host a Christmas-Letter-Off on line.  Please submit your most extreme examples to  All names will be changed to preserve privacy.

Snarkiness aside, every morning when we read the headlines we are reminded of our good fortune in our families, our friends and our lives.  We feel lucky to know and love so many people who are working to make the world a better place.  Our thanks and best wishes go out to all of you.

The Hooligans' Family

A poem, for Festivus

All the new toys
Make horrible noise.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Hooligan Rescues Dessert

When I cook, I like to listen to This American Life, check my facebook, maybe talk on the phone, more or less all at once.  This can lead to problems.

Like today, when I grabbed a little brown bottle.  I uncapped it, intending to pour a slug of vanilla into the melted chocolate.  Fortunately, a Hooligan happened by.  The Hooligans like to sniff the vanilla.  "AARGh," howled the Hooligan, "That is NOT vanilla!  What are you making?"

It was fish sauce.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mamie's Holiday Mantra

My Mother (the Virgo) had Christmas down to a science.  Here's her system, to which I adhere rigorously:

For each deserving Child:

--something to read (she's a sucker for good illustrations)
--something to wear (this has little resonance with The Hooligans, so I usually just replenish their socks and underwear, or knit them an itchy sweater that they refuse to wear*)
--something to play with (sometimes I expand this to include a gross motor item (Skateboard) and a fine motor (lego thingy))
--a stocking full of random things like slinkies, marbles, , mittens, packages of colored pencils, and candy

When my sister and I were in our teens, the "something to wear" became the big deal.  The "something to read" included books like the illustrated greek myth anthology that I wrapped up for the Larger Hooligan last year.  Anyway, it helps me not get overwhelmed.  I do recommend NOT having a baby 2 days before Christmas, or 2 weeks after, as this only adds to the chaos and excess.  It is SERIOUSLY FESTIVE around here. When the Smaller Hooligan's birthday is over (Jan. 9th) I feel like I need a vacation.   I bet that's how accountants feel on April 16th.  Except instead of getting paid, I've spent all my money.  So I just enjoy the relative tranquillity at home.

*a note to Mamie:  They like YOUR sweaters.  So do I :).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Festive Snacks

If you are having a party and want to serve something nibbly and elegant that requires very little effort, I recommend this:

One or two heads Endive, leaves separated.
1/2 lb. chicken salad from the deli

Place a spoonful or so of chicken salad on the thicker white end of the endive leaves, arrange on a tray.
People will think you are very talented  if you hide the deli container.

Friday, December 17, 2010

a small poem, by the Small Hooligan

It's weird:
Word means word
And it's a word.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I had a fairly productive morning, involving cleaning, mostly,  and clean sheets.  I feel like I accomplished something if I get around to changing the sheets.  My mother does it every Monday, but then, she is a Virgo.

The Dog got randomly freaky, and decided he had to be right next to me.  I find clinginess to be irritating in all life forms.  He was trying to tell me something but I failed to read his signals.  Hobo going though our recycling?  Raccoon in the Vicinity?  Please wash my dog bed cover, while you're at it?  Who knows.  I did not kick him, but I did accidentally step on his paw, at which point he gave up and sulked under the table.

After making copies of the Christmas letter (to be posted here on Dec. 24th) at Kinkos, I swung by school to pick up the Hooligans.  The larger one needed to be dropped off at a friend's.  The smaller one had a vision that involved going home with his friend Lucas, which was logistically difficult.  I explained that playing with Lucas could happen soon, but not immediately.  He became enraged.

Annoyed, I could understand, I mean, I don't like to delay my gratification, either, but this was ridiculous.  I got tired of being berated.  I pulled over and spoke to him firmly, something to the effect of:  "If I hear one more negative word out of you, you will not get to play with anybody.  You will have to stay by yourself in your room.  Is that clear?"

He became quiet, but the atmosphere was charged with his indignation.  As we rounded the corner, I heard a tiny voice "My mom tortures me."

I covered up my laugh with a fake cough.  Torture my ass.  At least I didn't stomp on his paw.  When we got home, I forced him to eat, in case low blood sugar was the issue.  I made him unload the dishwasher, as penance.  Then we walked over to Lucas' together.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Obtuse Husband? Or Shrill Fishwife? You decide.

The Man Who Lives In My House has acquired a mountain bike.  He is very excited about this.  I was completely neutral on the subject until today (Sunday) when it was (miraculously) not raining.  It seemed like an auspicious moment for some raking, maybe a trip to the dog park, and taking turns shuttling the Hooligans to various birthday parties, playdates, and an indoor soccer game.  We went to a terrific party* last night--one would think our fun needs had been met for one weekend--but then......the phone rang around 10 a.m.  It was fellow mountain biking enthusiast Mark, hoping The Man could go for a ride.  Could he?  Sure he could.

Which I assumed would be fine, because he'd be home in plenty of time to take the larger Hooligan to his 2:30 playdate, while I took the smaller one to soccer?

2:30?  They were aghast.  A combined twelve and a half feet of man were looking at me like I was the world's biggest party pooper/battle ax/ball and chain/old lady.   No way could they make it home by 2:30.

It's 10:30.  2:30 is four hours away.  Where are you going?  California?

It turns out that you can't get a "decent ride" any closer than 45 minutes away.  And a ride could take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours, depending on speed, flat tires, washed out bridges, cougar attacks, etc.

I coped.  It was actually an easy and enjoyable day.  No one fought or even made an excessive mess.  Friends came and went, parties and playdates were attended.  We skipped the soccer game.  Nonetheless it was not what I envisioned.  I did not have an adult to banter with!  I look forward to this all week!

You will not be surprised to learn that I failed to meet the Man Who Lives House at the door with an icy cold drink when he rolled in around 4:30.  I was surly, actually.  I did make a very good dinner (beet, chevre and wilted spinach salad with orange vinaigrette, italian sausage, fresh bread and molasses cookies).  It could have been worse--I could have made roast chicken (see past post "Who Hates Roast Chicken?).  If I were really mad I'd have made Tuna Casserole.  Ha.

He had a spectacular fall right on his face, first thing.  This is Karma.  He is perhaps very slightly chagrined.  He keeps making little references to how he's going to be really sore, and should take more ibuprofen.  My lack of sympathy baffles him.  After 15 and a half years, you'd think he'd have noticed:  I'm not that nice.

*Where I met Holly, who reads this blog!  I was uncharacteristically tongue tied.  What is there to say?  she's read it already. Thanks for reading, and so nice to meet you, Holly!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sage words from Nana

Nana, the sherry drinker (scroll back to mid-October), is a snappy dresser.  My father refers to her as "Lady Got-rocks."  She likes some bling, mixed with an artsy sweater, blouse, wool slacks and wild socks.  Her shoe assortment is vast, despite having been forced to give up heels some years back.  She strives to look hip, but also appropriate.  She loathes frumpiness.  Despite this, she rejects many trends as being too young.  She shakes her head and says, "I'd be mutton dressed as lamb in that."

I bring this up because the Larger Hooligan came shambling downstairs this morning, fully dressed in dark skinny jeans.  We noticed they fit him oddly.  "What's wrong with your jeans?" I asked,  "Do you need a belt?"

"They fit weird,"  he said. "Did you get me new ones?"  Upon closer inspection, we realized that he was wearing my jeans.  He went upstairs and changed.

I have been wearing jeans that are confused with those worn by pre-teen boys.  I just turned 42.  I fear that I am committing a grave fashion error, according to Nana, anyway:  Mutton Dressed as Lamb.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Oracle of DOOM

The Smaller Hooligan likes to go straight to the worst case scenario. I call him Baby Doomsayer.* No sunny side of the street for that guy.  It is dark and stormy, with a 101% chance of a tornado and a hurricane, followed by an earthquake and an outbreak of cholera.  Obviously I should turn off NPR.

Anyway, he is coming down with a cold, which means his asthma gets aggravated.  Usually we start treating him and it's well controlled, no big deal.  But this time despite starting the inhaled steroids and the oral steroids, it was just not going away.  As a result, at 8:15 last night, I was bundling him into his boots to run him over to the urgent care clinic for a round of the nebulizer treatment.

He was not happy about this.  "What are they going to do to me?" he hollered.   "Are they going to give me a shot?  They are going to give me a shot.  I will die from the shot because of the PAIN!"

"No shot," we said, "NO SHOT!  Not even a little one.  They are just going to give you some breathing medicine that you breath for a longer time than your inhaler.  It will work better and you will stop wheezing and coughing."

"They will make me breath acid and I will DIE."

We tried hard not to laugh.  The oral steroids seem to make him more wiggidy-wack than usual.  It makes for dialog that is riddled with non-sequiteurs.

12 hours later he devoured two waffles and an egg. (The prednisone makes him hungry.)  His friend stopped by to walk to school and he grabbed his backpack and rushed out the door, hatless and coatless.  He seems to have forgotten that he is sick and we are all conspiring against him.

*The predilection for doomsaying comes directly from the father and grandfather of this child.  For once it is not my fault.  The asthma comes from me.