Catch Me Writing Nerdy: Four Books for the Fourth


You get a couple of glasses of wine in me and the conversation usually devolves into boobs, babies, and which former classmate I hid from at Target last week. That is closely followed by a healthy dose of shoving my fingers in my ears and singing “lalalala” so you don’t spoil my latest Netflix binge. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, the awesome is blinding.

It is hard to imagine, but I recently discovered that there are better things to talk about when you’ve been doing alcohol. Apparently there are people who get sauced then hang out and talk about history. I saw this on a television show, and if it is on TV or the internet it is true.

Now that Drunk History has made my weekends taste a little less like a good Pinot and glitter, and a little more like Boone’s Farm and sadness, I have want to get everyone drunk and make them tell me stories. Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, dammit. I wanna get drunk and talk about Elvis meeting Nixon or the invention of Coca Cola!

I’m going to wave my nerd banner a little higher and assign some of the my favorite recent history reads to you all. There will be a test because from here we have no where to go but a dive bar where you will tell me a story, right?

  1. 1493 by Christopher Mann – I have to admit, I picked this up because… food. It turned out to be pretty interesting and definitely featured baked goods prominently. Mann explores post-Columbus America in his book, so read it and let’s discuss.
  2. The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell – She is flipping hilarious, and as such I am going on record that you must read everything she’s written and we’re probably BFF’s in a former life. She combines personal essay, history and a subdued humor that is unique and pulls you in to history and pop culture topics in a way you’ve never been before. (Unless, of course, you’ve read Assassination Vacation, The Wordy Shipmates etc.)
  3. Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Lowen – I picked this one up when I was at Mount Rushmore. It seemed such mid-thirties flavored subversive act to pick it up at a National Monument, and I felt awfully punk-rock reading it. Interesting read and it made me want to get my hands dirty with source material.
  4. A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. – This might not be fair to recommend because I haven’t finished it yet, so if you have don’t tell me how it ends.

Who’s ready for a round of shots?

Mrs SmartyPants

About That Elf on the F’ing Shelf

Don't stare too long, he will steal your soul.
Don’t stare too long, he will steal your soul.

I am not one of those achingly creative Elf on the Shelf moms with Instagram darlings for children and a home for the Pinterest boards. My house looks like I’m training for Hoardersmy kids usually have some type of food in their hair, and I am a complete slacker when it comes to alighting that creepy little shit around the house each evening. Truth be told, The Elf on the Shelf and I have an acrimonious relationship that I didn’t realize would be so difficult to end, and I feel lucky we have four walls still standing by the end of a day with my dynamic duo.

I believe there are legions of us anti-Elf moms out here, and I take solace in my company. And wine. And yoga pants. It wasn’t always this way. Last year I was excited to introduce this little shit to our family. Before the tryptophan and wine overtook me on Thanksgiving night I filled the kids’ bathroom sink with red and green foil-wrapped hershey kisses, and carefully arranged the Elf so he appeared to be lounging in chocolate drops. While arranging those handless and footless limbs I thought of how magical it would be for Boogie to find one of Santa’s very own helpers in her house the next morning.

Said next morning we read up on his backstory, and she bequeathed upon him the name, “Oh.” And so it was, Oh the Elf would be the first Christmas tradition that did not require a slow dance of compromise between spouses. (It is a well guarded secret of marriage that the first Christmas after you’ve had a child you will come to realize your spouse’s family does Christmas completely wrong, and you spend most of Christmas Eve arguing the merits of doing it the right way. Both of you will lose. This should be part of those classes you have to take before you get married.)

Like all honeymoons, ours with Oh the Elf was over far too soon. We hadn’t even made it into the early days of December before reaching the first night when, snuggled underneath the covers, we turned to one another and asked, ‘did you move that stupid elf?’ And then went about the pursuant task of making the spouse who lost the battle of wills get back out of bed, run through a freezing cold the house in their underwear, and wonder where the hell we are supposed to put it this time.

Perhaps you would say this is all my choice and, like all of those parenting newsletters, I should just opt out. However, somewhere along the line I convinced myself that if my child asks her friends even half as many questions in one day as she asks me in an hour that little shit is bound to come up. Then I reasoned I would have to explain why Santa hates us so much he didn’t send an elf to stare at us all day with his hollow, taunting eyes and report back on how dirty our house is and what terrible pet owners we are. I did not consider having to explain to her that the elf didn’t move last night because Santa was at the mall too late so he called and gave him the day off. I’m still holding the ‘he didn’t leave because you were such an asshole to your brother yesterday’ bit in my back pocket. Trust me, it is coming though.

Even with my recently activated superpower of answering dumb questions off the cuff in a perfectly reasonable way, I am not certain I could come up with a good reason for our family’s elflessness that didn’t involve things children shouldn’t know about their parents, or calling my kid an asshole to her face. So we participate, and we lift that little shit off the floor with salad tongs when we accidentally knock him from his perch – lest we take away his “magic.”

We try not to beat ourselves up for not being able to dream up inventive elfin scenes each night that are worthy of Facebook, and just appreciate the fact I don’t have to let my kids play with scissors just for a moment’s peace to post a photo.

Each morning when she wakes up Boogie scours the house trying to find out where Oh the Elf is that morning – a painfully slow, pedestrian game of hide and seek that starts before I’ve even been able to pee and start the coffee pot. Once she finds him she makes sure the neighbors down the street know, SHE FOUND OH THE ELF! Which is all terribly cute, until the barrage of questions starts. “Mommy, why doesn’t Oh go to the bathroom?” “What is Oh’s favorite food?” “What color is Oh the Elf’s butt?”

Forehead, wall.

I can only ask myself why I continue to let a doll that stares me down and moves around in the middle of the night stay out of the realm of true nightmares, and instead make my holidays a nightmare.

Your sister in elficide,