Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

What says Christmas better than the face of a very happy little boy?

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's A Horrible Life?

Last night David and I snuggled under a blanket for a viewing of "It's a Wonderful Life". This is an annual tradition normally reserved for Christmas Eve, but since we will have David's parents here and a lot going on that day, we thought we would watch it early. It is one of my very favorite movies, and one that I never tire of seeing.

Apparently, I'm not the only one. Wendell Jamieson, writing for The New York Times, declares his affection for the film, even going so far as to state that it still "chokes him up" each time he views it. Ah, how sweet. Me too. But wait...

Mr. Jamieson writes: "Lots of people love this movie of course. But I'm convinced it's for the wrong reasons... 'It’s a Wonderful Life' is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife. It is also a nightmare account of an endless home renovation."

Say what? Were we watching the same movie?

He goes on to wax fondly about the George-less alternate universe "Pottersville", i.e., Bedford Falls under the thumb of black-hearted Henry F. Potter, saying that it would be a lot more fun and a lot more appealing to the adventure-craving George Bailey than the stagnant old town he longed to escape. And not only is Pottersville bigger and better, it would have had a stronger financial future. All those gambling halls and nightclubs would have brought in more money. All that sin would have helped the economy thrive! Mr. Jamieson concludes, "Had George Bailey never been born, the people in his town might very well be better off today."

Well, isn't that sweet? It turns out George should have jumped off that bridge after all. I'm so touched.

In fairness, I suppose Jamieson is right, if your definition of "better off" is exchanging virtue for vice, living a selfish life without concern for others, putting your own desires and dreams ahead of any greater good, and foregoing a family in favor of sowing your oats among the Violet Bicks of the universe.

I don't know about you, but I can just feel the holiday cheer.

Personally, I think we could use a lot more George Baileys and a lot fewer idiotic newspaper columnists.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Something Wicked This Way Comes

A few weeks ago I made an exciting discovery - a Mormon family with two little boys staying just two doors down from us! This could only mean two things (besides the fact that divine intervention is alive and well) - 1. sanity-saving playdates during the day and 2. babysitting swaps! And boy, have we lived it up! We are about to have our fourth and final date tomorrow, as they have the nerve to ditch our perfect arrangement in favor of California so the husband can "keep his job", or something equally lame. (Excuses, excuses). I have tried to bribe them with all manner of enticing things to stay here, but so far my offers of turn-down service and chocolate mints on their pillows have been rejected. Rats.

So we have been having a blast - four dates in two weeks! I feel so... refreshed. And relaxed. And slightly giddy.

What better way to take advantage of date night in NYC than to see a Broadway show? So we did. We saw "Gypsy" (with the original Tony-award winning cast, starring the unhinged but amazing Patti LuPone) and "The Phantom of the Opera" (because, believe it or not, I had never actually seen it). Both shows were wonderful. And there was just something so fun about hopping on the subway to go on a "regular" date and ending up on Broadway. What can I say, we're spoiled rotten? (And our bank account is suspiciously low...)

For our third date we thought we would try putting our names in the "Wicked" lottery, and then when that inevitably failed, we figured we could go out to dinner somewhere totally kid-unfriendly. We had already tried the lottery once (the convenience of on-call babysitters...) but failed, of course. We truly didn't expect to get tickets, especially with the number of people hoping for a seat. But hey, once David won some stickers in a drawing, and once I won the opportunity to clean the port-a-potties at girls camp, so I guess we can't say we've never won anything.

Well, I guess we've now lost our complaining rights forever. David's was the last name called! So we found ourselves on the second row of the Gershwin Theater watching "Wicked" that night. It was awesome, of course. If only we could see it again tomorrow.

I suppose lightning could strike twice, right?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler!

In the news today, it appears that 3-year old New Jersey resident Adolf Hitler Campbell (brother to JoyceLynn Aryan Nation and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie) has been denied a birthday cake after a local ShopRite refused to desecrate one of its sugar confections by writing "Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler!" in what was certainly a request for blue-eyed, blond-haired icing.

In a fit of bewildered self-righteousness appropriate only to those who are fully aware of their own stupidity, the parents insist that "It's only a name... how can a name be offensive?"

Let me count the ways.

"It's not fair!" they say. Well, they should have thought of that before they befouled their children with such hideous monikers. But of course, no one names their child "Adolf Hitler" or "Aryan Nation" hoping to blend into the sidelines. They want to make a statement, and they want to make sure that someone gets sued for discrimination along the way.

I just feel bad for these innocent children who will spend their lives being poisoned by their disgusting parents.

In this case the rose is definitely not as sweet.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ready To Roll

A few days ago while we were out and about we got the following comment:

"That is one warm kid!"

You'll notice this is in stark contrast to being yelled at by strangers for letting our child freeze to death, the superior, I'm-saying-this-loud-enough-for-you-to-hear-but-not-directly-to-you comments like "look at that child - no hat, no gloves" (said as smugly as possible, without knowing that the hat and gloves have been put on by the parents and taken off by the child a thousand times in the last half hour), and the simply dumb comments like "that child must be freezing" when it is 60 degrees outside.

But now Michael is ready to face the super cold days in soft, fuzzy comfort. He's ready to roll.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Strollers And Selective Charity

Yesterday David had the following conversation with an acquaintance:

Acquaintance: You're not one of those annoying people who takes their stroller on the subway, are you?

David: (Proudly) Yeah I am! All the time! What's the problem with that?

A: (Disgusted noise) They just take up so much space!

D: What do you expect me to do?

A: Can't you just fold it up?

D: I need to keep my son contained so he won't take a flying leap onto the tracks or jump in front of a train. And he is really hard to hold onto once he is on the train, especially if you are trying to hold onto something else, like his stroller.

A: Oh, I guess I never thought of it that way.

This exchange is a perfect example of personal experiences preventing someone from having understanding toward other people. As this person does not have any kids, she could not see any need for children to remain in their strollers on the subway. Who knows how many years she has been looking down her nose at harried parents as they push their wiggly children onto the train? At least now she might have a bit of understanding and sympathy when she sees a child taking a ride in his stroller.

I've been thinking about this understanding and sympathy a lot lately as I've walked around the city ignoring the panhandlers who would be happy with a simple dime in their cup. Every time I pass one by I know I should be doing something to help these people. But I let my personal hang-ups prevent me from reaching out a charitable hand. (After all, they might be using it to buy alcohol or drugs!)

David and I have discussed how we can best help the homeless of our city, and have decided to donate to a local shelter each month. The problem with donating to a shelter is that many of the people who spend their time begging for money are not frequenters of the homeless shelters and so wouldn't be helped by that donation. And I'm still not sure that is the full solution to the pangs of guilt I feel as I walk by a decrepit old man holding out his styrofoam cup for my help. I've thought about withdrawing a set amount of money each month in dollar bills and passing them out as I venture around the city, until I run out. I still don't know what the perfect solution is.

Sometimes our charity is so selective. We dole it out after a lengthy interview process to determine if a person or cause is worthy. We seem to have no problems looking at someone and saying, "he isn't worthy of my charity because of A and B" and then patting ourselves on the back for our own wonderfulness in dealing with our personal trials.

The experiences we have so color our perception of the world that sometimes we are rendered truly incapable of having charity towards others. I think this is when the scriptural definition of charity - the pure love of Christ - comes into play. True charity is when we reach past our own human inability to show sympathy, kindness and a little understanding to another person, and find some way to relate to them and love them. With the help of the Lord, we reach past our incapacity to love and care about someone and can often find we have no trouble putting our arms around them and saying things we didn't know we were capable of saying, let alone actually feeling.

The Lord seems to be trying really hard to cement this concept in my brain. As I have struggled and fought through unsuccessful fertility treatments and miscarriage to have the children I always hoped for, I often find it difficult to be around pregnant women, especially when they are doing what many pregnant women seem to do best - complaining. Because I would give anything to trade places with these women, I often cannot see past my own hurt to show them a little sympathy. To reach down past the depths of my broken heart and pull out an understanding comment for a discouraged pregnant woman is often more than I am humanly capable of doing.

But I know the Lord is capable, and can help me find some understanding words, even when I can't come up with them myself. Of course this doesn't stop it from being a daily battle, but it is a lesson to me on what true charity is, and that we cannot expect to have our hearts filled with charity simply from our own efforts or on our own merit. We have to reach past ourselves and allow the Lord to help us.

He's always willing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

So Much For My Theory (And Thank Goodness For Modern Medicine)

For the last twenty-seven years I've been convinced that my entire family is somehow immune to strep. No one ever had it until my oldest brother came down with it this year and blew my theory. Well, I decided to take that a step further and come down with it myself. Man, it's miserable. I'm having trouble deciding if it's better or worse than hand, foot and mouth disease, which I caught from Michael earlier this year. (I'll bet you didn't know adults could get that, did you? Well, they can, and it's not pleasant). Right now the jury is still out. But I think strep might be winning by just a hair, mostly because that's what I'm dealing with now and I can't see far enough past my severe pain to be scientific about it. All I can say is thank goodness for penicillin, and I hope it starts working fast! And thank goodness for the Jamba Juice across the street, which has provided my meals for the past two days.

In other news, thanks to Oliver, I've spent the last hour glued to my computer screen watching this video. Luckily for David, he isn't home to be subjected to the never-ending loop. I am having trouble wrapping my brain around the fact that it is actually humanly possible to play this piece. It is just so amazing! I love the addition of the melody line of "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks" in the middle. And check out those feet! Wow.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Happy Birthday!

It's not truly a birthday unless you try to grab the candle on your cake (or brownies, as the case may be).

Monday, December 8, 2008

Why Do I Do This To Myself?

I have this terrible compulsion to read magazine articles about pregnancy, even knowing it will be emotionally painful for me. I just can't seem to help myself. Today's foray into stupidity was in a magazine David had brought home for me because the lead article was "50 kid-friendly NYC activities". But did I open it to that page and begin reading? No, my eye was drawn to the smaller blurb "Older, Wiser... and Accidentally Pregnant."

Even while telling myself that reading this article would be a mistake, I just couldn't resist. I don't know why I do this to myself. Perhaps it's some sort of masochistic desire to make my heart bleed, maybe I'm hoping that reading an article about ultra-fertile women will somehow rub off on me, sprinkling baby dust on my fingers as they run down each page.

So I found myself ankle-deep in the article, trying to stop myself from wading in any further, my eyes growing bigger and more horrified as I read the tales of "accidents", abortions and babies. All of them yanked on my heartstrings, some exacting my sympathy for women in truly desperate and lonely situations. But there was one name-has-been-changed story that was so disgusting I had to read it again just to make sure I hadn't misunderstood it the first time.

"Nicole", a mother of two children with two abortions under her belt talks about becoming "accidentally" pregnant for the third time:

"I wanted to seize the moment," she says [referring to the accidental conception], and she was sure the timing was safe. Then she sighs, adding, "Our lives are so regimented. On some level, I think I was daring myself to tap into this well of mystery and awe that can come about with an unplanned pregnancy." If she's really honest with herself, she also just wanted to know if her body was "still capable of creating the miracle that is pregnancy."

She terminated that "miracle" with yet another abortion.

So the creation of human life is nothing more than a fun science experiment, a volcanic mixing of vinegar and baking soda to be thrown in the trash when the science fair is over? Well, congratulations, Nicole, you were "womanly" enough to conceive a human being. Good for you and your perfectly functional reproductive system. Don't let any pangs of guilt get to you when you destroy the little "parasite" who is threatening to inconvenience your life.

The idea that someone would purposely get pregnant just for some kind of reproductive gold star, fully intending to terminate the life of the human being resulting from such experimentation chills me to the bone. I don't think it's possible to get any more vile than this woman. This is a case of cold-blooded, pre-meditated murder. And there is nothing sadder or more disgusting than that.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Potty Mouth

Michael has a bit of a potty mouth, if only accidentally. He is having some trouble getting his two-year old tongue wrapped around words like fork, chips, and soup, which all come out as swear words. However amusing it is, (I admit that David and I had a laughing fit the first time he called soup by a more uncouth name) we are working daily to add the right sounds in the right places, correcting him each time he says something the wrong way. And hoping he can say these words like a pro before his Grandma comes to visit and has a heart-attack when her sweet little grandson asks for his silverware.

Of course, all this potty talk could just be something Michael picked up on the street. The language I hear as I walk around this city would have made Jezebel blush. The most common word, the infamous F-word, is used in pretty much every sentence, spoken by pretty much everyone. It doesn't matter whether the person is a fifty-something professional, an eighty-something grandma, a teenager, a construction worker, a policeman, you name it. If I tried to count how many times I hear the F-word in one trip to the grocery store I'd run out of numbers. People use it to add emphasis to every sentence they speak. (Which brings up the question, is it really emphasizing something when you use it seven times per phrase?) People even use it when they mean to compliment you. Just put the word in place of "very" and you've got yourself a glowing commendation. Gee, thanks... I think.

Of course, I say that the F-word is the one I hear most often, but in reality there is one phrase that is used even more - you can't go anywhere without hearing someone say "Oh my God." About anything. And everything. It was even shortened to the cutesy, blonde-ish "omigod" and then to the even more cutesy, teenaged text-friendly "OMG". It's on T-shirts and cell phones. You can't watch anything on TV without hearing it, or go anywhere or do anything without being smacked in the face with it. And since a recent poll showed that 92% of Americans believe in God, I find it disheartening that we have sunk to throwing His name about as if it were nothing more than a brand of cheap perfume. Forget about reverencing or honoring the name of Deity. We throw it in the gutter and stomp on it.

Of course, I'm pretty sure most of these people don't have any idea what they are saying and what it implies (about themselves more than anything). Even the most devout believer seems to forget that whole third commandment thing, or at the very least disconnect it from what is coming out of his or her mouth. People use God's name out of anger and frustration or disbelief, but they also use it to express excitement, gratitude, or any other happy emotion that they are feeling. It's the ultimate all-purpose word. It's even a filler-word, as in, I don't know what to say so I'll just put this word here while I think about it.

It's no wonder that the still small voice has a hard time getting through to anyone. How can it possibly be heard over all the disgusting trash coming out of peoples' mouths?

I guess that's just all the more reason to make sure that these words can never be heard coming out of mine.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

And The Winner Is...

I had this idea to make a cute video of Michael drawing the winning name out of a bowl. Unfortunately my plans had to change when Michael came down with a fever and yucky cough yesterday and asked us to put him to bed early. (There is nothing sadder than your toddler asking to be put to bed, especially when his usual routine involves staying up as late as you will let him, getting more and more hyper by the minute).

So David and I did the drawing ourselves. And the winner is...

Jen Mangum! Congrats! I will email you shortly.

But wait, there's more. I always like to see who comes in second, so we decided to keep drawing. As David pulled the second name I said, "Too bad it wasn't Rachel since she said she never wins anything. She'll probably be drawn last." This got a glance and a smile from David who said, "Let's see!"

So we kept drawing and drawing, waiting for Rachel's name to appear. With no cheating and no peeking or trying in any way to mess with the results, Rachel's name finally appeared... dead last. It was so funny we couldn't help laughing hysterically. Rachel, your luck is as bad as mine (just ask me about the infamous fourth grade tale of woe involving a giant Hershey's kiss and math bees).

But the good news is that we laughed so hard at the situation we decided we simply had to give away another book. So, Rachel, you are getting a prize for coming in last. Congratulations!

Thanks to all who participated! That was really fun.