It’s been a banner night here on the couch. We’re watching NASA’s Unexplained on the Science channel — did you know, by the way, that the surface of Mars can form dust devils up to three miles tall? I know.

Well, something about the space mysteries, combined with a long, long day after a late night of Unitarian-Universalist Standing Committee action made for a whole bunch of tuckered talking:

He: “Bipeds. That’s why it’s so hard…” (starts laughing)
Me: “Bipeds?”
He: (still laughing) “Yes. That’s why it’s so hard for them to bowl. But quadrupeds. I said bipeds.”
Me: “But you meant quadrupeds?”
He: “You know what I meant.”
Me: “I really, really don’t.”


He: “Who’s in the shopping cart? It doesn’t make a difference. I need to go to bed.”
Me: “No, don’t go to bed! You’re very entertaining!”


(I’m watching an ad for a show about a man base-jumping off Everest.)

Me: “But WHY?”
He: “Because he’s a self-important moron. What?”
Me: “Guy wants to base-jump off Everest. Want to change your assessment?”
He: “Noo… that’s about right.”


Possum is lying on her front across our bed, feet waving in the air, playing “Hungry Shark”. Chris is sitting next to her, offering sage advice:

Chris: Oh, by the way, those aren’t the giant crabs — the giant ones are off to the left, way down deep.

Possum: Oh, cool.

(Possum perpetrates further shark attacks)

Chris: You have pretty feet.

Possum (still absorbed in shark attacks but without missing a beat): Not when they’re in your face.

(Possum bats at Chris’s face with her pretty feet, which [duh] he promptly captures and tickles. Kerfuffle ensues.)

Chris nominated me for an “Actual Conversation”:

Me: (affectionately) Oh, Hawthorne. You wordy bastard.

Chris: Only at my house…

It’s that time of year again, time for my annual re-posting of Christmas Among the Uptight Yankees. I used to do this because my sister Stacey liked it (SURELY the fact that it is all about her smarty-pantsedness had NOTHING to do with that…) Now I re-post it in her memory. This is our second Christmas without her and, although I think we’re all a bit more stable, Stacey is still conspicuously absent. Miss you, dude. 

All right, that’s enough of that — here’s the story.

Christmas Among the Uptight Yankees

Any number of people have commented on the fact that my sister Stacey is the rockin’-est. And I generally respond with my favorite way to describe Stacey: My sister is like a pinata. She’s hard to get open… but there’s candy inside.

And why is she hard to get open? Well… we’re Yankees, start with that. We are from a looooong line of practical, no frills, cheap… I mean, frugal Yankees. This is our heritage: waste not, want not, thou shalt flaunt not.

But you should know that uptight Yankees have the same feelings that more effusive people do, maybe more — we just don’t fling them about willy nilly. And why? Because emotions are important, and their intensity is to be respected. Sure, I could chirp “I love you!” to everyone who crosses my path, but then how would you know you were special? It’s the difference between watery spring sap and maple sugar candy. (Which is, of course, what’s inside the pinata.)

Christmastime is here by golly (disapproval would be folly) so I thought I’d tell this story about one time when my sister was shakin’ down the sugar.

Once upon a time, my nephew (we’ll call him ‘PuterBoy. When he was three years old, he showed me how to set up his dad’s desktop and speakers so he could play his Lowly Worm CD-ROM. Smartypants.) Anyway, when ‘PuterBoy was about five, he became obsessed with the idea of colored lights on the Christmas tree. “Thomas has colors on his tree, the trees in the stores have colors, I want colors, I want colors, WAAAAAAAAH!!!”

Settling the little boy on her lap, my sister explained: “A long time ago, 1630 to be exact” (true fact!) “your ancestors sailed from England to this new land to oppress its native people, plant crops in obsessively tidy rows, wear high-necked woolens in the summertime, and generally drive themselves and everyone else crazy with their reserved natures and repressed emotions. These ancestors were called the White Anglo Saxon Protestants, and to this day we follow their customs of precise speech, reluctant hugging, and preposterously tasteful holiday displays.”

“Mommy,” said the little boy, “you talk too much.”

Stacey sighed. “Yes, I know — we do that too. But the upshot is that we have white lights on our Christmas tree because we just do, the end.”

Ah, but in her crafty little noggin, my sister started schemin’.

On Christmas morning, ‘PuterBoy awoke, ran to the tree and…

“Mommy! Mommy!”

It had all the same tasteful ornaments, but now it shone with wonderfully tacky… I mean, vivid… colored lights! Blinking, even!

“Mommy! Come see the tree!” Stacey came to look, not at the tree but at the little boy, who was positively spazzy with delight. “What happened, Mommy?”

My sister smiled. “Must be a Christmas miracle, baby.”

Little ‘PuterBoy scored any number of fantabulous presents that day, but he kept running back to the tree to watch his blinking colored lights. Because he’s a Yankee boy. And he knows where Mommy keeps the candy.




Emptying the Trash:

Remove the full garbage bag from the can, leaving a bag-free can for the next person. Extra points if the next person is holding a dripping coffee filter. 



If you have ever said the following words, you are a giant Music Nerd:

“Woah! Straight to the descant! And this is the O-L-D-E arrangement, too — all dotted eighth notes and stuff. Marsh Chapel is not kidding around this morning!”

I refuse to identify my source on the grounds that I might incriminate my… uh, herself. Yeah.

Chris: Look at this (on Huffington Post) “White Supremacist Home Defaced by Racist Graffiti after Revelations About His African DNA.” Apparently, the graffiti was done by members of his own white supremacist group.

Me: Can you continue to be a white supremacist if you have African DNA?

Chris: I mean, maybe you could find some open-minded white supremacists…


(Actually, I was wondering more about what happens to your mindset with a revelation like that but, as usual, his was funnier.)

Willow (14) has taken to watching Supernatural. It is apparently about two suspiciously handsome guys wandering the earth helping a variety of suspiciously gorgeous young women rid themselves of ghosts and demons and whatnot.

So, from the other room, I hear sort of Supernatural-y screams and moans and groans… then realize that some of the cacophony is actually Willow, curled up tight in her chair, hand over her mouth, eyes big as platters.

Me: Anything I can do to help you?
She: Um… make the asylum less scary?
Me: Is it an abandoned asylum?
She: Yeah…?
Me: (shrug) Honey, some things…

As we know, my 8-yr-old, Possum, is exceptionally fabulous in many ways. She is also an ADHD kid, and a rare girl with extra H (most girls are inattentive). She’s very bright (and we have the tests to prove it) but has difficulty with a lot of practical things.

We also know that I WILL NOT hear one single word about overdiagnosis of ADHD or pathologizing normal childhood behavior unless YOU YOURSELF have had to break tasks like “Get dressed” into redirectable steps as small as “Pick up your other sock.”

Because when something gets in the way of this very bright girl getting herself dressed, and it gets in the way every single day, that something is a real thing. She has to deal with this stuff all day long, and we are constantly trying to find ways to make it easier. So when something works, there is cause for celebration. Viva Head to Toe!

Here’s how it happened: one morning, as I was walking her through all her getting ready tasks (still in my pajamas, mind you, because if I walk away to get myself ready I’ll come down to find that although she has written a symphony for water glasses and established a talking school for the dogs, she still has only one sock on) She got distracted. I tried to get her back on task by saying “OK, what else do you have to do? Try this: go head to toe and tell me all the things you need to do in the morning. You need to brush your hair, right?”

To my shock, she started sing-songing: “I… brushed my hair, I washed my face, I brushed my teeth, I ate my breakfast” (we’re at the esophagus now, of course), “I have my snack for later, I have my water bottle, I took my medicine… I have clean clothes, I have clean undies, I have… only one sock!” And off she goes to look for the other sock.

WHAT?! I know. Totally worked, from the first day, and still works. If it doesn’t work for your kid, I have no advice: I don’t know why it worked for mine, it just did. A good supplement is, “Pretend you’re walking out the door to go to school. Missing anything?” That’s good for backpack, homework, extras like umbrellas or boots.

Thing is, we try very hard not to punish symptoms if we know that she’s doing her part and just having trouble. It’s much easier to determine that if you can find some tools that really help her get the job done — then “trying” isn’t about whether she puts the sock on, it’s about whether she’s using her tools.

Watching “Sherlock” (Yes, again, shut up!) The Blind Banker this time, and we’re about to find out how Soo Lin Yao knows the killer:

SOO LIN: He came to my flat. He asked me to help him to track down something that was stolen.
JOHN: And you’ve no idea what it was?
SOO LIN: I refused to help.
JOHN (leaning forward): So you knew him well when you were living back in China?
(She nods.)
SOO LIN: Oh yes…

Chris: Oh yes… he was my father.

SOO LIN: … he was my brother.

Chris: (Still in SOO LIN voice): Close. They both end in… “ther”.


Now, by the way, here’s a public service announcement: Don’t ever go to the movies with my husband. Or, in my case, do always go to the movies with my husband, because I am the same kind of jerk, the “that would never happen!” jerk. And yes, since you asked, YES, Tony Stark’s MIRACULOUS survival after launching himself into low orbit in the prototype Iron Man suit and landing hard enough to break the suit apart BUT NOT, apparently, hard enough to break his fragile human skull apart… YES, that IS my biggest problem with the story.

Chris LOVES to put words into characters’ mouths — this one was pretty tame, but let it not be said that there was ever a lewd misinterpretation or repulsive bodily function my husband couldn’t drop into the running dialog. I have, in fact, missed crucial plot points because my husband was saying “heh… heh heh… she said ‘duty’!”

Our favorite ruin-the-movie game, aside from “Spot the Wilhelm“, is called “Dead, Dead, EXTRA Dead”. It goes like this: HUGE explosion, ridiculously huge, big enough to take out the whole city. Our heroes are running (human speed record = 28 mph, Usain Bolt) and so yes, of course, safely escaping explosive velocity (always faster than the local speed of sound in the materials; speed of sound in dry air at 68 degrees = roughly 768 mph) but oh, dear, getting a little close so they DIVE away from the blast… KABLOOM! Cut to our heroes on the ground, coughing.

“Hey! That would never happen!” So we feel the need to point at various characters and name their fates based on how far away they were: “Dead… dead… EXTRA dead… maimed… traumatized…”

I understand that our running patter drives people insane — “Stop it! You’re ruining it! Just watch the movie!” It’s just one more reason we’re glad we found each other because no one else could stand it.

Unless you could…? In which case, come on over! We’ll have an Avengers film festival and a heated argument about Thor’s hammer and the “laws” of physics.