Let There Be Light

My kitchen light dimmed today and now only flickers weakly. The geniuses who designed this house installed four fluorescent light bulbs overhead in the kitchen. Over the kitchen sink is . . . nothing. No light whatsoever and might I remind you that my house lives in the gloomy, cloudy Pacific Northwest? Yeah. So, my kitchen sink, also known as Where I Spend Half My Waking Hours Washing Dishes and Plunging Old Food Into the Garbage Disposal, is poorly illuminated. This bugs me. A lot. But what’s a girl to do?

Half a year ago, I bought a small halogen light fixture to install under the kitchen cabinets. Not, mind you, close to the sink, but over the one stretch of counter space I have, the space which fights a losing battle against detritus, flotsam, jetsam and school papers. The light fixture was half off at Target and I thought it would be a fine addition to my kitchen. And it was only ten bucks. I envisioned peering at junk mail by the light of this bargain.

And then I didn’t have time so I stashed the box containing the light fixture in the entryway closet, the one where I keep my wedding gown and two royal purple bridesmaid dresses with bubble skirts. Remember bubble skirts? Well, that’s where they hang, along with the vacuum cleaner, an Oreck handheld vacuum that someone gave me after it didn’t sell at a garage sale, the board games we never play, including a Deluxe Scrabble game, a hideous oil painting we don’t have the heart to discard, a bunch of coats, including my husband’s high school letterman jacket (sports, not David) and a partridge in a pear tree. No, actually, there’s more, but for the sake of this paragraph, I’ll stop.

But here’s a tip. I hung a clear plastic shoe holder, the kind with rows of pockets, over the door and I organize gloves, mittens, hats and suntan lotion in those pockets. It’s ever so Martha Stewart of me, though she’d probably have labeled everything. I don’t have a label maker, though I long for one with every fiber of my being. I just can’t justify the expense. But it’s a secret desire of my heart.

Today, I cleaned out that closet and came upon the light fixture. Since my overhead kitchen light died and the rainclouds darkened the skies all day, I decided to haul out my portable Black and Decker drill. I installed the light fixture in a jiffy.

I am Woman. Hear me Roar.

So, let’s review. I now have:

1) One clean and organized 7-year old’s room, including closet;
2) One clean and organized 3-year old’s room, including giant closet;
3) One closet, clean and organized;
4) One installed light fixture in my kitchen.

I also have:

1) An unvacuumed family room;
2) Laundry! Dirty laundry!
3) No cat food or cat litter;
4) Rapidly deteriorating Christmas decorations, baubles being absconded daily from the tree while my daughter ransacks the nativity and leaves Baby Jesus here and there;
5) A filthy kitchen floor.

While I am busy accomplishing a long-term task, my short-term life is disintegrating into chaos. But I say, “Let there be light!” and keep my eyes on the glare, pretending not to see the shadows.

Let There Be Light

Back and Better Than Ever, Though Insufferably Proud

What is today? Tuesday? And where was I yesterday? Let’s think. I went shopping with a gift card and bought Christmas wrapping paper and assorted paraphernalia for 50% off the regular (already discounted price). Then I went to see “The Family Stone.” While waiting for the movie to begin, I endured what may possibly be the worst holiday song ever recorded: “Saving Up Christmas” by the “Captain” (Daryl Dragon) and Tennille.

Now, see, I feel sort of rotten because I just linked to their official website and I liked Captain and Tennille back in the day–despite listening to my sister repeatedly play a scratchy record on her rickety record player when I was a kid–but that song! Oh dear, that Christmas song was not one of their better efforts–though perhaps my judgment was clouded by the popcorn and the sticky floors and the movie starting ten minutes late–but really, the duo recorded a song about muskrat love, so it’s not exactly as if the bar was set unrealistically high in my mind. Maybe a true Captain and Tennille fan would slap me for saying so, but I didn’t like that song. (And who even knew they were still around?)

I thought the movie itself was well-done with an impressive ensemble cast. I give it two thumbs up, but don’t take my word for it. (Disclaimer: I’m not as sanctified as some church folk are, you know. Check Screenit if you have any concerns about what you might see.)

Sometime yesterday, I cleaned out the hall closet where the linens reside. “Linens” is such a fancy word for the balled up sheets that threaten to tumble from the closet when I open the door in search of a pillowcase. My fitted sheets never resemble the tidy rectangle I’ve seen Martha Stewart picture in her magazines. And I follow the directions, too, for tidy rectangles. Maybe my thread counts are too low. Anyway, I cleaned out that closet and threw away a giant box full of stuff. I’m ruthless sometimes, and only later when I hunt for a white queen-sized bed-skirt do I conjure up a fuzzy image of a box destined for Goodwill and taste bitter regret.

Last night, then, I cleaned my 7-year old’s room. I used a big black trash bag so he wouldn’t see what I tossed. I sorted through clothes and stuffed them into the bag, too, except for the ones small enough for the neighbor boy to wear. When I finally emerged, everything was in its place and there was a place for everything. It helps that we didn’t go overboard with gifts at Christmas. Enough is enough, even on Jesus’ birthday.

Today, then, I tackled my daughter’s room. She has a large closet the length of one wall, the kind with a long rod and a shelf and sliding doors. I have traditionally stored the bins of off-size clothing in that closet and today was the day that I went through things again and weeded out what we don’t need. I sorted them into piles and when my husband checked on me, he remarked that he was shocked so much stuff fit into that closet. I know. I’m a master closet-filler. But today was about emptying it out, not filling it up. I did linger over some of the smaller pajamas and frilly dresses and wonder how it’s possible that a babyhood rushes by so quickly. If we pay closer attention, will that slow down the sweet moments?

My husband made two trips to Goodwill today, dragging huge black trash bags full of things we don’t need. I have separate bags labeled in the closet–one of baby boy clothes, one of clothes destined for the consignment shop, one for a baby girl at church, and one full of sizes 0-3 months for some baby girl who hasn’t been born yet. My daughter honed in on the pretty items and begged to wear various items of size 3-6 months clothing. She is so insistent (her mother says through gritted teeth).

During nap-time, I finished my task and now, that closet is tidy.

Something about a tidy closet makes me feel so virtuous. Add that to my insufferable pride over the the finished thank-you notes and I’m practically unbearable. Practically? Well. I am unbearable. Even I can’t stand that gloating expression in my eyes.

Now, if I could only find the other child’s size 9 purple boot, I’d be all set. I’m hoping it’s in tomorrow’s horror the front hall closet, the depository for all items which have no home and cannot simply live in the kitchen and so must be stashed somewhere when company is coming. (For instance: diapers for babies I babysit shoved onto the floor which crowd the vacuum cleaner, a food processor I got for free when I came into possession of a recalled toaster oven–when I called the company for a new part, they informed me it was recalled and gave me a choice of several difference appliances and I chose a food processor that I hardly ever use–games, with pieces missing, my wedding gown, winter coats, the George Foreman Grill, a box of Hickory Farms cheeses from Christmas 2004. And hopefully, one purple boot. . . )

Back and Better Than Ever, Though Insufferably Proud

Mary (and Joseph) Christmas!

Today, I did what any sane housewife and mother ought to do on Christmas Eve. I treated myself to a movie at noon. (I stopped by Barnes & Noble to buy one final gift (an “American Girl” magazine for my niece) first.) I had no trouble finding parking at the theater, unlike a normal weekend. No line to buy tickets, only one person ahead of me in the popcorn line. Perfect!

Only a few days ago, I finished reading Memoirs of a Geisha. The book was well-written and (I thought) offered insight into some unfamiliar Japanese customs. I enjoyed reading it and thought it would be a great introduction to the movie.

Alas, I spent a lot of time during the movie thinking, Hey, that’s not how it was in the book! and, Well, that doesn’t make any sense if you compare it to the book! And then I wondered if I should reread the book when I got home just to refresh my memory. And then I realized I might possibly be insane.

I did like the movie, though. But I liked the book better. (Isn’t that always how it works?)

My husband left for church at about 4 p.m. By that time, I was deep in the midst of preparations for my Annual Christmas Eve Dinner of Nachos. I made a warm dip with melted Velveeta (fake cheese of the middle class–I haven’t bought a box in, well, forever. My mother always kept in on hand when I was a kid, but now, I am a little snobbish about my cheese . . . but, my kids like that bright orange melty cheese in a can for their nachos, so I splurged and bought the giant 2-pound bar of Velveeta . . . do I sound like I’m justifying my actions? Because I feel like I am on the defense stand, on trial . . . because I might possibly be insane). . . um, where was I? Oh yes, dip with Velveeta, canned chilies and cooked sausage. I put the whole mess in my brand spanking new crock pot (only $9.99 at JC Penney’s with a $10 off coupon that came in the mail). Then I made seven layer bean dip, only I couldn’t find my recipe, so mine had five layers, improvised. (Beans, sour cream/mayonnaise mixed with taco seasoning, guacamole made with four avocados, sliced olives, shredded sharp cheddar cheese.) I also opened two cans of that weird melty cheese and dumped it into a small crock pot. Voila! Add root beer and you have a festive meal.

My sister and her husband, daughter and son joined us. We ate our nachos off the Christmas Tree Spode china and drank out of mismatched glasses because I didn’t have the time to get out all the Christmas glasses. My daughter dined on nearly a whole can of black olives, which she called “envelopes” and then harassed me while I attempted to eat. “I want to put on my beautiful dress. Is it time to put on my beautiful dress? Let’s go put on my beautiful dress.”

We arrived at church pretty much on time so two of my boys could dress for the children’s pageant. The older son was a king and wore a regal red robe. The younger son was a shepherd, much to his chagrin, and wore peasant clothing and a sporty blue headdress. My extremely pathologically shy 3-year old daughter saw the other kids dressing and wanted to be a horse. I deftly distracted her with empty promises and a sparkling gold garland halo for her curls and rushed her upstairs to our front row seat where my other son sprawled out, saving our place.

When the pageant began and “Joseph,” “Mary,” a “donkey,” assorted “shepherds” and their “sheep,” were sitting on the steps of the stage, Miss Very-Shy herself begged to go sit, too. I warned her she’d have to sit alone, without me and she said, “okay,” and marched herself right up to the stage, as the congregation sang a Christmas carol (“O Little Town of Bethlehem,” I think it was).

She went right up to her buddy, the little boy I babysit and he very dramatically stood and showed her where she could sit, about six feet away, on the end. She followed him, turned and sat demurely on the steps with her little hands tucked primly on her black-velveted lap.

Then she gave me a little wave which made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. I waved and then grinned through my tears. A two-year old wandered around the stage while the other children somewhat grimly glared at him and attempted to listen and sing. I was just glad that two-year old didn’t belong to me. When the pageant ended, my daughter returned to me and broke into tears. I whispered in her ear, “What’s the matter?” and she said, “I want to go sit up there!” and she pointed back to the stage.

I was dumbfounded and again, I whispered empty promises back to her.

At that point, she remembered “Baby Jesus.” Unlike last year, when Baby Jesus was played by a new baby in our church, this year, the role went to a blue-eyed dolly. The second my daughter saw that dolly, she wanted it something fierce. She returned to my lap just in time to see someone carry out Baby Jesus. She wanted it.

My girl does not give up easily and sometimes, I just cave in early to save us both time and effort. While the congregation stood and sang a Christmas hymn, we slipped out through the side door and found the pageant director carrying the doll. I asked if we could borrow it for awhile and the lady said, “Yes.”

While my husband preached, my daughter cradled Baby Jesus, then unwrapped his swaddling clothes, then re-wrapped him, then rocked him, then unwrapped him, and so on and so forth. She kept asking, “Can I take dolly home?” in a stage whisper. I’m afraid we are very distracting in church.

So, when we finished singing “Silent Night” while holding our lit candles (me, watching ever so vigilantly to make sure none of my kids set their hair aflame), we ran into the woman who loaned Baby Jesus to the church for the night. My shy girl, the one who will not look anyone in the eye and who certainly does not speak to anyone, said to this woman, “Can I take it home?”

And that’s the story of how we brought Baby Jesus home with us. He is sleeping in heavenly peace under a Piglet blanket, right next to my little angel.

Mary (and Joseph) Christmas!


Today, I did what was important and that explains the unwashed laundry.

I took the children over to my 99-year old grandma’s house to visit.

Details later when I have more time.

As my uncle says, “Mary (and Joseph) Christmas!”