Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Adieu, Notre Petite Maison

Something that 2008 will always be, in my mind, is the year of Ike.  Hurricane Ike hit us during the second week of September, and the effects still linger.  Sven and I were lucky- no real damage to the house, no long-term loss of power- but the communities and landmarks so dear to us were not so lucky.

On Monday, we decided to drive down to Crystal Beach and see for ourselves what became of Sven's childhood vacation home.  This house was a huge part of his life, and remained so after we met and married.  It was our first home together.  Sven's mother sold it in 2002, but we miss it.  Here it is now:

Even though it wasn't ours anymore when the storm hit, it was still a hard thing to see.  Most of Bolivar Peninsula still has no power; when we went to board the ferry to cross to Galveston the landing was lit by portable lights and generators.  There wasn't a functioning gas station, restaurant, or supermarket that we saw.

Please keep the people of the Bolivar Peninsula, Galveston, Smith Point, High Island, and other communities hit hard by the storm in your thoughts.  I promise more humor and fun in tomorrow's post.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


It was a solemn occasion.  The excitement of the gathered crowd was palpable.  Cameras flashed, conversations were conducted in a subdued murmur, and all became silent as the graduates filed into the room.

There were ten of them, clearly feeling the import of the occasion.  After all, it is not every day that one graduates from Nursery.  They walked into the Primary room and took their places in the Sunbeam row, conscious of their elevation from babyhood to that of the Primary child- aloof, mature, sanguine.

The nursery leader called them up, one by one, to accept their certificates.  Heedless of convention, this group of free spirits had the confidence to wander around the room, talk to the electrical outlets, scream for daddy, and pick their noses.  They are individuals.  They do what feels right.  I have to respect that kind of integrity.

And, in the middle of it all, was my first born.  Deb Jr., in her lavender Easter dress, black tights, and white shoes, handling it all with her customary poise.  "Mommy!" she cried.  "I can't sit here!"

"Sit there!" Mommy hissed from behind the piano.  "Don't make me count to five!"  Of course she made me count to five, knowing that I couldn't get up from behind the piano until the "Hello Song" was complete.  

But, then, they don't let just anyone graduate from Nursery.  Only the most special, intelligent, beautiful children (by which I mean, "children with birthdays within the calendar year 2005") graduated from Nursery today.  Next week, she'll be a Sunbeam, and I'll be much, much older.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Six

Recently, a blog I love issued a challenge to list six holiday-related things about yourself.  I love that idea, so I thought I'd do what she did, and list my six holiday traditions.  Some are traditions I had growing up, some are traditions I have now, and maybe one or two are traditions I'd like to start.

1. Christmas Eve is a pain, Christmas Day is fun.  This one was the way my family did it growing up.  Christmas Eve was divided between my mom's family (morning) and my dad's family (evening).  The difference really was like night and day.  Mom's family were LDS pioneer stock, transplanted Idohoans in Houston, and our holidays with them were constant and unchanging.  We did no gift exchanges, we focused on eating and fellowship.  Dad's parents, on the other hand, were chain-smoking, wine-drinking folks who thought the only good thing the Mormons did was make peanut butter.  (We have a peanut butter factory in Houston.)  The focus of our gathering there was also food, but not eating it- Grandpa would hold forth for hours about what "good" food really was, and while lighting a new cigarette with the butt of the old one, would lecture us at length about how white sugar would kill us all.
Christmas morning, on the other hand, was just us kids with Mom and Dad.  Mom held Christmas day to be inviolate- no one went anywhere, no one came to was a day we had to be together, and I liked it a lot.
Now, we are beginning new traditions.  Christmas morning is at home, brunch with Mom, mid-afternoon dinner with Sven's mom.  I loved our Christmas Eve-Hanukah celebration at Liz and Harry's, and that may become a tradition as well...

2. Christmas must contain at least one weird food item, sometimes delicious, but sometimes mind-numbingly horrible.  Dad's mother made some of the delicious items...her Hello Dolly cookies were staples every year.  Grandma Pratt, on the other hand, was known for a dish called "Corn and Oysters," made with canned creamed corn and canned oysters.  It smelled as good as it sounds.  Dad always explained to us that it was because Grandma was from the north, so she didn't know any better.  Sven's mom made the sweetest fruit salad imaginable, from canned fruits in heavy syrup, then coated in sugar and left in the refrigerator overnight.  This was the healthy portion of the meal.  He still resents that I can't make fruit salad like his mom.

3. I refuse to make anything for Christmas dinner that I don't like.  This is a new tradition, started by me once I began making Christmas dinner on my own.  Sven and I sat down together one year and listed all of the items we associated with Christmas dinner, and when the list reached 20 items, we agreed it was ridiculous.  So now, each year I personally make the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and token green vegetable.  Sven, the real cook in the family, is in charge of the gravy and the experimental dish.  So far the biggest success was the Sweet Potato Mousse of 2005, which is still the only way I can eat sweet potatoes.

4. "Frosty The Snowman" runs 24 hours a day in our home beginning on Thanksgiving day, and ending on Christmas Eve.  This is a tradition begun by Deb Jr. last year, and one I intend to break as soon as humanly possible.

5. Sven tolerates my year-end clip-down fest.  The Soup, Best Year Ever, Top 40 Videos of the Year- he hates this stuff, but as a special gift to me, he limits his criticism to passive aggressive eye rolls, gusting sighs, and remote-control battery removal.

6. I'm thinking, in the future, of starting a traditional New Year's trip.  If we left the day after Christmas, we could have a few days to enjoy a mini-vacation.  Deb Jr. loves caves, and there are several within a day's drive of us.  We could also try a new place every year, or return to old favorites.  I'm thinking four days total- day to travel, two days there, day to come back- so it wouldn't be our whole vacation, but I think a little getaway might be just the thing to prevent the post-Christmas lazies from causing my clothing to shrink the way it always seems to...

This has been fun!  Try it, let me know when you do!  

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Book Review: The Host

In which Deb tries to review The Host by Stephenie Meyer without referencing Twilight more than once per sentence...

The Host bills itself as "science fiction for those who don't like sci-fi," and I would guess that is pretty close to the truth.  I would also imagine the converse to be true- real fans of sci-fi probably won't like this book.  And, adding a third permutation, if you are, like me, somewhat "meh" towards sci-fi, you will probably experience some degree of "meh" about this book as well.

The Host also bills itself as Stephenie Meyer's first book targeted at adult readers.  Rest easy, Twilight fans who liked the lack of cursing, explicit sex, and offensive content in the Twilight series: Stephenie hasn't let you down.  If you were not offended by the Twilight series, you won't be offended by The Host.

Plot summary (nutshell edition): Earth has been taken over by "souls," which are small parasites that attach to the brain of the "host" organism.  The soul takes over the host's body and mind.  Humans, though, have formed some pockets of resistance.  Melanie Stryder, one of these human rebels, has been caught and is given a very special soul: Wanderer, who has lived eight lifetimes on eight different worlds.  Melanie clings to her life tenaciously, however, and Wanderer must decide whether to fight Melanie or join her in the struggle to free humanity from the souls.  There is also a very unique love triangle/square going on.

My take?  While nowhere near as entertaining as  Twilight, The Host did eventually make an interesting, easy read.  There is very little "science" in this book, so I was spared the pages-long explanations about how something works...Meyer states the conditions and limits of her settings and characters and the reader must accept them, and fortunately, her stuff seems to work well.

Frankly, the unbelievable parts for me were in the relationships.  I won't spoil the book, but I will say that elements of the romantic conflict seemed, to me, contrived.  Some of what bothered me were things Meyer has used in Twilight, but for whatever reason, what worked for me in that book bothered me in this one.  Sorry to be so cryptic, but, again- I don't want to spoil anything, and I do think this book is worth a read.

I would give 3.5 stars out of 5.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah!

Tonight, Sven, the kids, and I went to my cousin's new house for a Christmas Eve/Hanukah dinner.  It was a lovely evening, my cousin and her husband (Liz and Harry) were gracious and wonderful, helping chase the kids around and taking us for a walk through the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights.  Deb Jr. lit the Hanukah candles and attempted to sing the prayers, which was the cutest thing I've ever seen.  Liz even made our grandmother's famous Hello Dolly cookies, and they were just perfect.

So, thank you to my wonderful cousin Liz and her husband Harry for the nicest Christmas Eve I've had in a long, long time.  I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season this year.


Monday, December 22, 2008

New Year's Resolution

I will probably be riffing on this for a while, but it's never too early to ponder one's self-improvement, no?

1. I will attempt to limit my Twilight reading.  My goal now is to read the series, then read another book before beginning the series again.  I am currently reading "The Host" by Stephenie Meyer, who is, of course, the author of Twilight, but it is a start.

I can only go without Edward for so long, but I try.

2. I will sing again.  Since having my children, I have been sadly neglectful of my voice.  I will stop telling myself that singing "Run Around" by Blues Traveler while driving counts as a warm-up.  I commit to warming up for 10-15 minutes daily, ceasing all caffeinated drinks, and only using my voice properly during teaching.

3. No babies this year!  I had one in 2005 and one in 2007.  I will break the streak in 2009.   I have undeniably cute babies, no doubt about it, but two is/are enough.
I will try to stick to this one, but Sven Jr. (the little one) is in the sloppy open-mouth kiss stage, which is so cute and weakens me.

4. I will stop crying during the Sara McLachlan/ASPCA commercials, in which my daughter relentlessly points out "That doggy is sad, Mommy.  That kitty is sad, Mommy.  Where is the kitty's mommy?"  I will also try to stop crying when the news shows clips of people meeting celebrities, or when the fat woman wins on The Price Is Right.

5. I will stop making excuses about not shaving my legs.  This will just make the occasions when I do it more special.

That's enough for now...any more self-improvement and I might just eat raw brownie dough and cry myself to sleep.  I love this time of year!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The holidays...

I love the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, New Year's...I love them all. I spend an appalling amount of money buying songs and materials for my students to do holiday lessons, just waiting for that four-week period where I get to do this sort of stuff.

I especially love '80's Christmas music. Sometime, when you have a second, go back and listen to "Last Christmas" as recorded by Wham!. How did we ever, ever believe that George Michael was straight? Also, check out the video- I downloaded it from iTunes. Seriously, George and the other guy are feuding over an extremely '80's-looking girl. It is craptastic.

While you're in the land of the '80's, give a listen to "Do They Know It's Christmastime" by Band-Aid, the most defunct celebrity supergroup ever. You can tell they thought Boy George would be a superstar for a long time, with all the solo lines he got to sing.

Bono sounds the same, thank goodness...
What bothers me, though, are the Christmas songs designed to make you feel bad. "Do They Know It's Christmastime" is on the cusp, but because of its awful cheesy goodness, I accept it. I heard a song on the radio the other day, though, about a pathetic little boy buying shoes for his dying mother to wear in her coffin, or something, and I was sobbing by the third syllable. Why?? Why do that to me at Christmastime? Stop it!
Give me Willie Nelson singing "Frosty The Snowman." Or Carrie Underwood singing "Do You Hear What I Hear." Give me happy cheesy goopy glurgy holiday cheer. I can't get enough.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Name my husband!

I've added a poll, please help me out, readers...all 5-10 of you.  You know you're there!

Sven found out I was calling him Sven, and I got the patented Cajun-Scandinavian-Jewish eye roll. "Sven?" he said.  "What am I, a gay Viking?"  Really, I have no idea why that genetic makeup provides so much in the way of sarcasm, but as a bonus, he fishes.  Lucky me!

So, I've given some choices, feel free to select.  If you have a good suggestion, or a bad one, or a really funny one, please leave me a comment.  I'd love to have him say, "No, no...Sven is fine."

On being a HOB...

For fans of The Soup, HOB should be a familiar phrase. It is Joel McHale's response to the word "cougar," or an older woman who dates/stalks/kills/eats younger men. While I certainly don't date younger men, I cherish my young men crushes and delight in the thought that I am just barely old enough to qualify as a HOB. (HOB stands for Horny Old Broad.)

My current HOB crush is Zac Efron, pictured below:
Perhaps it is my '80's childhood, but I find very pretty boys dreamy. Those eyebrows, those eyes, the brows upon them...I just love it.
What would I get Zac for Christmas? A scarf and some pomade, probably. Zac, as befits any dream crush, would be easy to shop for. Not like my husband, whose politely appreciated and immediately forgotten Christmas and birthday presents make a sturdy pile in our garage. Why is it so hard to shop for the person you know best? Sven (not his real name, I'm sure it will change when he finds out what I'm calling him) and I have been together for almost 15 years, so why can I not figure out what to get him?
I'll tell you why. He is not, even a little bit, materialistic. He doesn't like anyone else to buy him clothes. He spends most of his leisure time fishing, an activity I cannot comprehend to the extent necessary to come up with a gift. I gave him two children fairly close to Christmas, but even I can't count them as gifts again this year...
I've bought him two things I hope he likes. One is a toy, one is a hobby. I'll update after the
holiday to let you know if he likes his gifts this year. And that scarf and pomade for Zac is under the tree, too...just in case.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's just a crush!

As a married lady, I have to be very careful about managing my crushes. I don't have "romantic" crushes per se, but I have some very specific crushes that have endured with me for a while.

My Gay Uncle Crush: Tim Gunn

As someone with four extremely wonderful, typical, avuncular uncles (I have two Uncle Johns, an uncle Ernie, and an Uncle Jim), I am in desperate need of a witty and fabulous gay uncle.  My gay uncle would be confidant, comforter, cheerleader, and gossip partner.  Tim would fit this description nicely by using impeccable vocabulary, watching the Oscars with me, and buying my children coordinating outfits. We would lunch together once a month (with him, I could use "lunch" as a verb) and he would encourage me to order salad, then split a rich dessert, assuring me that I had earned it.

My Fictional Character Crush, Book -and- My Fictional Character Crush, Movie:

The Cullens.

All of them. But especially Edward. But, all of them. My Fictional Crushes allow me to believe, for a moment, that I am a waifish, delicate flower of a lady who must be protected at all times from the evil forces that find me, as they do, irresistable. Then my toddler vomits on me, and my Fictional Crushes don't mind it at all, they claim it makes me more adorable.

My Fake Interview Crush: Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

Jon and I would enjoy witty repartee when I visit to plug my new novel, or album, whichever. He would delve into my unique political views, admitting that his were, perhaps, a bit simplistic. However, we would be great friends and I would evenutally share a segment with John Hodgman, who would then invite me to be in the next Mac ad campaign.

It's a hard life, here in my head, but I like it.

Coming soon: My HOB Fantasy Boy Crush, my Comedy Writing Team Crush...

Leave your own crushes in the comment section!!  It's loads of non-adulterous fun!

Snow day 2008!

It is sort of a snow day today- last night's snow stuck around, it looks like we got between 2 and 3 inches.  We don't really have a "snow day," though- we have a "snow morning."  We don't have to be to work until 9, students won't be there until 10.  It feels like a snow day right now, with the kids eating Pop-Tarts in front of Sponge Bob, leaving chocolate handprints everywhere.

Here is Deb Jr., my 3-year-old daughter, playing in the snow last night.  She added mittens later, then discarded them.  The hat is her daddy's, in case anyone is wondering.  it was the only one she would keep on her head.

Here is Deb Jr.'s snowman.  It is sitting on the stump of the tree we lost in Hurricane Ike.  I think it is wonderful that we can now use it for such a noble purpose.  The snowman's name is Frosty, and, according to D.J., he is a jolly, happy soul, with corn, and a butt, and two eyes.  Or something like that.

I know it won't last; by the time we leave to take the kids to day care, the snow will be gone.  It has been great while it lasted, though, and I hope D.J. remembers last night for a long, long time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

An actual conversation

I hadn't intended to do another blog entry, but I had to write this down...

This evening, I was sitting on the couch with my son, age 1, tucked in my left arm and my daughter, age 3, tucked in my right.  (They each had birthdays in the last week or so, so these are their brand-new ages.)  We were all snuggled into the couch, warm and cozy, when I realize that my daughter is, to use the vernacular, honking my boob.

"Honey," I said.  "Don't honk Mommy's boobie."

Here is her actual reply:

"No, we shouldn't honk Mommy's boobies.  Why don't I honk my own boobies?  Oh yeah, I forgot.  I don't have boobies."

I can't wait to see how she does in Primary...

Let it snow, okay?

In other parts of the world, cold weather this time of year is normal.

Here in Southeast Texas, "cold" has a different meaning.  We generally begin to don jackets when the daytime high is in the 60's, a high in the 50's calls for more serious layering, and we seriously consider canceling appointments, schools, and garbage pickup for anything colder.

Hence, the madness that is today.  An "arctic blast" has been assaulting us all day.  This morning, when I left, I was promised that the rain would let up and the high temperature would get into the 40's.  Excuse me as I laugh bitterly, looking out my window to the ice accumulating on my cactus.

It seems now that the "high" today was in the mid-thirties.  We have had rain, off and on, all day, but now the rain is making ominous ticking sounds that can only mean one thing: really cold rain. 

Don't mind me.  I'm just crabby.  Today I found out that I have a new nickname, given to me by my fourth grade students.  Mrs. Witch.  Nice, huh?  I must be doing something right...

Update at 8:10 p.m. Wednesday night: It is snowing, and the snow appears to be sticking!  My husband has the 3-year-old outside now taking pictures, it is her first snow.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Why are you messing with a good thing?

I heard on the news this morning that "New Moon," the sequel to the best movie ever made, "Twilight," will continue through its production with a new director.

The story I heard was that Catherine Hardwicke, who directed "Twilight," wanted more time in pre-production than the studio, looking for a release in late 2009/early 2010, wanted to give.

To some extent, I understand their thinking. "Twilight" is such a phenomenon that it almost doesn't matter who directs it, right? The Twilight fans will see it, whether it is terrible or wonderful. And, no matter how wonderful the movie is, it will not satisfy the most die-hard Twilight fans, who will see it repeatedly only to memorize the flaws.

Which reminds me: I get it. I know what it's like to see a beloved book adapted into a movie, miniseries, or (heaven forfend) a TV movie. What die-hard fans often forget is, a movie is not a book. You cannot adapt a book line-for-line into a movie. Some of the BBC adaptations come close, but they last in the neighborhood of 6 hours and consist mostly of British people having conversations. You see the flaws right there. Twilight fans should stop moaning that Bella's shirt wasn't blue and Edward's couch wasn't black leather when she saw his room for the first time. It's a different work of art than the book, okay? They are going to take some liberties. Read some of your favorite lines aloud, and imagine how dumb they would sound in actual conversation, and you'll get my point.

That being said, I'm a little nervous about "New Moon." There is precious little Edward, which means much less face time with my beloved Rob. There is way too much Bella, so Kristen needs to learn to stop spluttering. And Jacob...the director needs to remember that Jacob is a complete jerk, but some girls prefer him to Edward, so figure that one out, okay? Because I can't. At all. Alice must be amazing, but Alice was awesome in "Twilight," so that's okay...

So, "New Moon" is, in a sense, doomed to spectacular success no matter how bad it is. Still, for perspective, the Harry Potter movies have had several different directors who have taken each movie in a different direction. Maybe that will happen here...I hope.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Getting the horns off the pot

I love it when people use the wrong word.  Remember "The Summer of George" on Seinfeld, where Jerry used "decompose" instead of "decompress?"  That's what I'm talking about.  I particularly love it when people are trying to impress somebody by using a "big word," and they use the wrong one.

I also love to mix metaphors.  I think it is hilarious.  However, when I do it, people either correct me or don't get it at all.  When did people stop using those funny, metaphorical sayings?  "We've got to strike while the iron is hot," for example.  I know no one smelts anything anymore, but one doesn't need to be a smelter to understand the reference, right?  But I digest...

Mixing up vocabulary can be a wonderful humor test.  If you watch The Real Housewives of Atlanta (which I do, but ironically), you remember Kim spelling "cat" with a "k," seeming to not know that she had just spelled the word wrong?  Wasn't that great?  That's how I feel when someone uses the word "continent" instead of "consonant," or "detonation" instead of "denotation."  I love it, and laugh merrily on the inside while, externally, I am frowning to indicate my level of commitment to the conversation.

So, to circumcise: Using a totally inappropriate word is something I find completely hysterical.  I intend to continue to enjoy it; I might as well have my cake and go to Rome when my pants catch fire in the bush.

I've been Cited!

I ran into my mentor the other night (yes, I have a mentor, doesn't everyone?) and she told me some amazing news.

I don't like to toot my own horn, as a rule, but if you can't toot through your blog, where can you?

I love to write.  If I could be anything I wanted, I would be a professional student.  I would change majors every time I earned a degree, as log as it was in something fairly useless and academic.  I'd get degrees in history, literature, psychology, sociology, humanities, and anything else I could use to put pen to paper.  Then, by night, I would be a crime-fighting vampire novelist, but that's another entry.

As a music major, I had the opportunity to write several extremely useless research papers.  Several of these were presented at conferences, including one at a national conference of vocal teachers.  (Toot!)  During my presentation, I was introduced to a famous voice teacher and pedagogue.  This teacher has recently updated one of her most famous books.

The updated version cites my paper as a source!!  Me!!  Toot!!

I'm ordering the book from Amazon, so shortly I should be able to give more details, but I was too excited to wait.  If you happen to read this, send out a toot for me.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Okay, I have been reading all of the "critiques" of the new reason for my existence, the Twilight series of books. (The movie will join my obsession, possibly, once the DVD comes out.) Some of these critiques are very funny and true, but it doesn't change the horrible truth: I love Twilight. I'm a 33 year old mother of two. Kill me now.

Reason 1 why I love Twilight: Tension. Good, old-fashioned, I-know-they-won't-but-maybe-they-will-no-wait,-they-won't sexual tension. I love it.

Okay, so it's not Pulizter prize-level writing. I don't think it's bad writing, either, because it conveys a compelling story effectively.

Reason 2 why I love Twilight: Rob Pattinson (yes, Kristina!!!) as Edward Cullen. I actually find Rob Pattinson fascinating, but oddly unattractive. As Edward, though, he is my wild teenage fantasy boy incarnate.

It's pure wish fulfillment- scratch any Twilight fan and you'll find a lonely, bookish teenage girl who watched the hot boy and secretly dreamed of him falling for her. The fact that the hot boy in this case is a vampire is even hotter. As the fat girl with straws up her nose, I would dream of being delicate and imperiled, waiting for that beautiful angel-like teenage god to come and rescue me.

Reality, of course, is that most teenage boys are bepimpled and rude. Even Mike Newton would stand out compared to most of the teenaged boys I encounter. (No, I won't tell you who he is, read the book.)

Reason 3 why I love Twilight: Reality sucks. This is better.

Friday, November 7, 2008


Howdy, folks! I'm Deb, new to the blogosphere, but not to thought.


Age: 33
Married: Yes
Kids: Two
Profession: Teacher
Location: Texas
Religion: LDS (or, as Texans say, "weird.")
Interests: Reading, music, movies
Obsessions: Tim Gunn, Sweeney Todd, Pride & Prejudice, Christmas music
Ultimate Obsession: Twilight. Don't judge me.
Likes to complain about: Politics

I look forward to entering the blogosphere!