Monday, December 22, 2008


Sissy was felled by a foul gastric virus, so I spent the day at her house Saturday, babysitting. In addition to Sprite and chicken soup mix, I brought rubber gloves and Clorox.When I talked to her the next day- she was asleep when I left that afternoon- I told her "I went 'Nino' on your house's ass downstairs."
My mother, who was a little- okay, a lot- OC, cleaned every suitable surface with chlorine bleach. While this kept her house spotless, it also may have been a factor in the COPD that kept her bedridden for the last year of her life.So, kids, don't try this at home. Unless someone has the throw-up flu, okay?
"Oh, thank you. Jake's got it now. I think he was just too close to me."

When I arrived home, I found that Ro had put up the tree, cleaned, and decorated. She was having some friends over to watch "White Christmas', a holiday tradition for them. What a lovely surprise, having a shining and festive house, 'cause I was pooped.
And yes, all us girls did sing along with the Haynes:
"Sisters, sisters
There were never such devoted sisters-"
I waited until a particulary egregious example of Technicolor:
"Hey, Ro."
"'The Fifties were an oddly-hued decade..."

Why my Husband is the Best: leaving Sis's, I found I had a message from Cathy, the volunteer co-ordinator, that we were running out of filled food boxes and would have an emergency work party in the morning before the Holiday Store opened at 1:00 on Sunday.I swung by on my way to Mass in the morning (I have a key) and decided that if we set up before the work party arrived, they'd have just that much more time to fill boxes. So, I called him and he came over and helped me set up the tables with food items and back stock underneath. He made some boxes, as well, and I even had six filled before Cathy arrived at 10:30. The work party made about 140, to add to the 255 we already had, so they're good until Tuesday.
(I occurs to me that all this volunteer reportage might sound as if we're braggin' on ourselves, but it's not meant to. This is just what I do- if I bred corgis or flew jets or wrestled alligators, I'd write about that.)

I was washing dishes at Sissy's and Bubs comes up and beats a tatoo on my behind.
"Ouch!" I said. "What are you doing, Bubbie?"
"It's otay, Mimi. I just patting you."
Well, pat a little more softly, please.

Have I mentioned that MJ is a gastric reflux baby? Her Mimi thinks even this is adorable, because it reminds her of Uncle Brother and Auntie Ro when they were babies. But it's wearing her mom down, having to do triple the usual amount of baby wash. A lesser person would have cratered by now and invested in a big pile of Gerber T-shirts and just popped a new one on about eight times a day, but Sis is still dressing her in her Naartjes and Baby Gap and Gymboree, so she looks precious.
But damp.
I assure her that the second Morgie can sit up by herself this will stop, just like turning off a faucet.

Target comes over to do laundry and make some peppermint bark for her employer.
"I have a new most-hated Christmas song."
"Yeah- It's a Marshmallow World".
"That is pretty bad. Of course nothing can ever beat out The Christmas Shoes-"
"I haven't heard that once this year."
"I think that's because mobs of people converge on the radio station with torches and pitchforks, if they play it."
"So, anyway, there was this version by Sinatra and Dean Martin. They sound absolutely hammered."
"I'm thinking that to get them to record Marshmallow World, liquor was probably involved."
"Well, they sounded awful, like they were just fooling around. I mean, I know you're hugely famous and all , but people might remember you for this."
"I doubt that, darling. My most-hated is still "And So This is Christmas".
"With those atonal kids?"
"Yes- but to me it's more the guilt trip: Hope you're having fun here at the Hobby Lobby when people are starving, heartless b."
"You know what I like that a lot of people hate, though? Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmas Time"."
"Well, I think that has more to do with 'Sure, Sir Paul- you're having a wonderful Christmas time because you're a billionaire' than the tinkly tune."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Goes Around, Comes Around
"It's like learning to be a parent all over again, with him!" said Sis. "Ni would go in her room and play by herself for hours- and he won't stay back here and he always wants someone to play with him!"

Really, Mrs. Pot? Wants someone to play with him? I can't imagine where Mr. Kettle could have gotten that trait, unless it was from someone who used to insist I sit on the couch for hours and watch her concoct involved psycho-dramas using the Fisher-Price Farm.

These were usually about a very good little girl and her very naughty big brother, who got up to all sorts of shenanigans for which he was soundly punished.

Or the ongoing saga of Strawberry Shortcake and her posse of smelly friends...
Or the Fisher-Price dollhouse family...

I just can't imagine (smiling a secret Mimi smile)...
Good times.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Good Day at the Site
(and we deserved one, too)

A big department store chain sent us about 20 folks from their corporate office here in Dallas for three hours yesterday, who lifted our spirits by turning out an amazing amount of work.
My group sorted and boxed up four food donations- three medium, one large and the group working with Dru whipped through the entire Toys for Tots delivery and various little donations that trickled in the door. The TfT items took up about 245 cubic feet and it was a lovely empty spot waiting for more gifts when they were through.
They didn't have to work quite as hard as my crew, because most of their stuff were manufacturer donations- a whole box full of the same thing- instead of sorting through thousands of various canned goods, but it was still impressive. We sort out the foods we're using in the food boxes, to keep on site, and we box up the other items to send back to the agency for further sorting, so it's a lot to remember.
One man, who I bet is an accountant, filed filled boxes in their proper spots and straightened up the whole food backstock area. It was beautiful, and even though the Key Club and the Young Men's Service League may wreck it today, I was very grateful. Makes you feel more efficient if you can find things.
I've never been able to figure this out, though I've seen it over and over again- sorting food in a group always takes on a race-against-the-clock atmosphere. I don't know if it's the challenge of emptying the box, or the grocery cart, or watching the block of filled boxes grow or what. But Man, the Classifying Animal, loves to sort food. I had a pack of young to late middle-aged ladies racing around the U like they were on a game show, shedding their sweaters and jackets and taking water breaks, like they were running a marathon. It never fails.
I regret to report that Kent (Jake's elementary school) gave Rosemeade (Sissy and the other's elementary school) a major beat-down in the donations department.
"So what do ya'll do, exactly?" I asked the boss.
"We're the team that designs the store label men's sportswear."
"So, this is like having Project Runway sort our food and toys?"
"Well, yes."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Consumer Alert!
But then the playfull fun of it all went out the frost
covered window. I found it a little off-putting that the first thing your "elf" asked us was what size photo package we would like to order. Nothing says The Joy Of Seeing Santa, like forced consumerism! And when I asked your elf if we
could just see you and take one of our own photos since they are
so expensive, she replied with a festive, "Yea, but ONLY 2." When she turned to you and told you we were "just visiting", I did not know this was Santa Code for "They are not paying us, so don't act like you care about them."

Bad Santa.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

'Twas the (staged) night before Christmas...

The Temple Telegraph sent a photographer out to our house one evening shortly before Christmas to take this picture, which appeared in the paper Christmas Eve of 1959. At least that's the date that I've got written on the back of my copy, but I question that- I think it might have been 1960. Since Bob is in Temple, doing research in the paper archives, I've asked him to look it up. Since inquiring minds want to know. (Update: my research assistant reports that it was 1960, so my instincts were correct. In '59, I still had a ponytail.)

I'm not sure how we wound up with this gig- who mentioned that a resident at Scott and White had five close together in age kids that would look good in a Christmas Eve shot- but here we are, in our co-ordinated nightwear, looking cute as puddin' pie.

Mom had knocked herself out buying matching red and white striped pajamas for the boys (luckily, the flannel nightgowns from our Grandma Bryce had already arrived for Nance and me), getting their hair cut, curling my sister's and my hair, cleaning house and making sure everyone was dressed in time. She hadn't intended to be in the picture herself, which explains her disheveled appearance and grim expression. Nothing like appearing in the pages of your small town newspaper in an old skirt, rumpled blouse, and no makeup to put a smile on your face.
The universal reaction of all my kids, to this picture, is "Wow, Nino looks pissed!"

Very unfair, too, as she was a beautiful woman. She's all of about 27 or 28 in this shot.

Nevertheless, I love the details in this picture, which I can remember as a kid. The inglenook fireplace with the pine settles, the Nile green curtains, the knotty-pine paneling, the brightly colored papier-mache nativity scene from Japan, the armchair in which I read a lot of books, Daddy's cool rolled-up jeans and green and blue tartan bathrobe. We had flannel scraps from those pajamas in the rag bag through the mid-60's. Somewhere out of camera range is a Christmas tree with those burn-your-house-down multi-colored fat bulbs, foil icecicles, and a china-head angel with a feather dress on top. I don't remember what random Little Golden Book Daddy is 'reading' to us, but I know it's not 'The Night Before Christmas'. The third stocking from the left, with the donkey and the little church and a name spelled out in seed beads? That's mine. I still have it.

Good times.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


These folks sent me their Advent/Christmas CD with a solicitation letter. It's my in-car listening for the season. It has an unassuming, un-orchestrated quality that is very appealing. The selections range from chant to Holst's "In the Bleak Midwinter". There is an especially charming version of "Silent Night", with simple guitar accompaniment. I'm definitely sending them the requested donation.
It's an interesting looking college- one of the ones that have sprung up from the realization of Catholic parents that instead of sending their kid to Notre Dame, et al., they could have sent them to Secular State U. for half the price and gotten the exact same education.

Re: college. Ro has bailed on her third, and according to her, last school. It's not higher education she minds, it's college life. So, she will be working full-time while she decides how to proceed from here and living here and paying us a little rent. Maybe some community college in her spare time...

Bob took his van to Denton to pick up 76 Marie Osmond porcelain dolls, which were donated to the agency for the holiday store. The donation was a kind gesture, but I fear we may have quite a few left over after Christmas. Now if they'd been Barbies...

Went by the Holiday Store to check on the Household Gifts and wound up working Family Night last night. That is always such fun- entire families come to sort food donations or fill food boxes and the little kids, who are too young to be regular volunteers, get such a sense of accomplishment from doing real work to help somebody. One young lady brought her youth group and she was one of those natural leaders, who are so great to work with. They immediately grasp what the project is and they know exactly how to assign their kids.
A few problems: they open on Sunday, so the store has to be laid out and stocked on Saturday. But unless they can make 550 food boxes by then, we'll still need an area for box filling tables.
As boxes get filled, we can estimate how much stock we'll need to finish and can then start moving excess food to the agency or storage, which will free up some space.

But thanks to a generous donation from a company,we have large cartons full of bagged snacks everywhere. We'd stack them, but they're heavy and the bags contain liquids, so you can imagine the possibilities. We might move some of them into storage and bring them back as needed. Extra work for the CSR's, but that's what they're there for. We also need someplace to put the bagged school supplies (we package the leftovers from August and make them a freebie for the holidays). Gee, it's tough when your problem is you have TOO MUCH stuff, thanks to the kindness of your community...
I'm working again tonight and Wednesday.

Already broke my resolution. We only have 8' tables in the garage, so the Enchanted Forest had to go on one of them. And it looked a little sparse- so I bought two more Made in China trees at the Hobby Lobby. And some more birds. And some butterflies. And some LED mini-lights. Which are at least ecological, if you don't count the manufacturing and shipping them from across the world. It's all set up and ready to decorate when Nini gets back from Austin.
They were here yesterday and we discussed putting my little Tyrolean creche in, but she vetoed that. The Holy Family needs their own space on the end table.

Went to IKEA to buy our fourth living room bookcase and found a wonderful step-stool, which makes not only a fine library stool, but can also be used as a seat by the little ones at the coffee table. If it warms up today, I may take my four-pieces-of-bare-pine-screwed-together-made-in-Poland end table outside and give it a couple of coats of the stuff with which I refinished the top of the coffee table.

I regret to announce that Nini, who is a freak of nature in so many wonderful respects, has inherited her mother's inability to spell. Anything. She reads like a champ, but there's a disconnect somewhere from the seeing to the putting it down on paper. They do not get this from me, btw.

I forgot my tote when I was babysitting and Sissy brought it out to the car for me. She saw the open bags of bears in the back and asked about them. When she spotted the one that was made out of the leftovers from Morgan's afghan, she gave me the Big Bambi Eyes that got her so many things as a kid and said 'Morgie needs a bear!" So Morgan has a bear and I'll work up one more fast to make an even decade for Mother Bear. I like to dedicate the work on these and other charity projects as a prayer intention.