Last Tuesday, Ivan (the child formerly known as “Thing Two”) broke his arm*. He broke his arm at the wrist of his right hand, and the fracture was bad; the distal radius slipped under the wrist bone, and the ulna was also fractured. His wrist looked like a distorted letter S. There was a trip to the hospital in an ambulance, as well as two sedations and multiple attempts to set the break, and there was a lot of pain, post-break (which explains, in part, where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing). He’s doing much better now (and showing off his black cast decorated with silver Sharpie), and I plan on writing more about the break later.
Friday, though, his dad John drove down from Portland to pick up the girls. Ivan had decided he didn’t want to spend the weekend at his dad’s, said he just wanted to be at home, and I understood that impulse. So John came down to get 2 out of 3 children, and he brought a gift for Ivan: a new lightsaber. One that lit up, and changed colors from green to red, and made realistic lightsaber sounds, and had Sith spikes that shot out with the touch of a button
There are two ways this entry could go next. I could make a note of the coincidence and the fact that it wasn’t a purple lightsaber. I could also mention the fact that neither John nor Ivan could find the item in question’s “on” button, but that I found it in mere seconds. But this is not a blog post about sex toys masquerading as children’s toys, or vice versa. Because Chloe, the eldest, took one look at the lightsaber and said, “Hey! Why does Ivan get wrist presents?”
“Ivan gets wrist presents,” I said, “because he broke his wrist.”
“I want wrist presents!” said Giselle, the youngest.Chloe sighed. “Remember Thanksgiving? You got asthma presents.” Chloe crossed her arms. “I never get anything like that.”
Which was a statement decidedly not true, and I wasted no time in pointing that out. “You, Ma’am, got both pneumonia presents and drug-resistant staph-infection presents.”
It was at that moment—the moment in which I recognized that everyone in the room was speaking some weird dialect, and that we all understood it—that I made a quick mental tabulation of all of our unique turns of phrases. Our family idiom, if you will. If I were a cultural linguist, I would have also noted the date—August 2008—and then the etymology of the phrase (Ivan breaking his wrist and receiving a toy immediately after breaking said wrist).
Other examples abound. To continue with the random infirmities theme, we often say, “Made in a factory.” This phrase, however, never concludes “these new pants were,” or something like that, but rather is spoken like this:
Chloe: Did you get ice cream?
Chloe: Was it made in a factory?
Me: No. It’s fine.
A reasonable person, upon hearing this, might assume that a: we were crazy hippies that only bought local, small-batch made, organic foods or that b: we didn’t know what a factory was or had no idea how ice cream is made. Or maybe both. But the truth is that “made in a factory” is shorthand for “made in a factory with peanuts.” Chloe is allergic to the legumes from Georgia, and cannot ingest even 1/64 of their peanutty goodness. Lots of foods without peanuts or peanut oil are made in factories where other goods with the offending ingredient are made. Hence, the phrase “made in a factory with peanuts,” and hence our shortening of it. I’ve found myself yelling to Ivan, across the busy grocery store, “you can’t get those bagels. They are MADE IN A FACTORY!”
But are these our only family turns of phrase? Come on, Fan Base**, you know they aren’t:
Don’t play the card
Etymology: created circa 2005. First used by Heather on or around the occasion when she discovered that her son, Ivan, was capable of manipulation of the highest order. Is often dealt* to Ivan when he says something crazy like “I can’t take out the trash. Because I’m autistic” or “I don’t like peas because I’m autistic.” Is sometimes used with other children, but then the specific card is explicated, as in “don’t play the ‘I’m the oldest so I have more chores’ card.”
Off the tile
Etymology: created December 12, 2006, approximately 7:45 pm. Another phrase first coined by Heather when her three children refused to leave the dining area where she and her friends were consuming wine and discussing their lives. “Off the tile” meant that the children had to leave the immediate area, and has since been used as a way to say “We adults need to talk about adult things. And perhaps consume cocktails. Sometimes, we need to knit.”
Etymology: created circa 2008. A loser who is unaware of his loser status. First coined by Chloe. Also used extensively in the game MASH, as in “you are going to have four kids, live in a shack, and be married to Mike Huckabee.”
Etymology : created November 2006. First use was not noted but can probably be credited to Chloe after watching her mother cook a delicious risotto to Weezer’s Green Album. Often it is used to describe both a style of music (a good beat, generally rock-influenced) and a song or songs that would result in an excellent culinary delight. As in “Fergie’s new song would be good cooking music,” though sometimes the phrase itself is merely implied, as in “Neko Case would make a good soup.”
Quack-a-mole (rhymes with “guacamole”)
Etymology: created December 2007. This phrase was designed to declare ownership or “users rights” on a specific item at a specific time. “Quack-a-mole” referred initially to a plate decorated by Chloe. Said decoration consists of a 2-dimensional duck quacking out the phrase “quack-a-mole.” Despite the fact that this is a: not a real food item and that b: ducks do not talk, the children bicker over it mercilessly. Soon after the implementation of the plate, the phrase was used for a variety of items, and has come to mean “I get that excellent and wonderful thing that all of the rest of you want.”
I am WRITING
Etymology: creation unknown. This phrase was initially used by Heather upon the occasions when she was writing, or sometimes, looking at naked photos of Gerard Butler. For full meaning to be communicated, the phrase must be said in a loud voice, with the final word drawn out substantially. Heather’s children, however, have begun saying the phrase to her, and as a way to communicate “I am doing something important; please leave me alone,” or, quite possibly, as a way to poke fun at Heather. Sometimes, when Chloe wants to really drive the point home, she says, “I am WRITING. A POEM!” Heather doesn’t write poems, but she has spoken greatly of her love of them, and how they often move her to tears, and Chloe intends these moments as a way to say “whatever I’m doing is way more important than what you want me to do. Also, it may involve angst.”
All phrases are still in use, though this writer notes that all are said with a good deal of affection, and even love.
*Which is one of the reasons why I've been totally MIA. The other reason is that I lack a way to access the Internet at home, at least for the next, oh, month or so.
**So, on my other blog, which is creepily like this blog, I use the phrase Fan Base to refer to my readers. I mean this in a sorta funny way, not in a "I'm the ruler of blog world" way. Just so you know.
***It's super weird to be writing with my real name. Super weird.