Friday, December 31, 2010

Never Judge a Book by Its Movie

Everyone is running a Best Of list at this time of year, so once again, I am going to jump on the bandwagon and do the same. My medium of choice – books! I read 60 books this year, frontloaded with lots of non-fiction, rounded out nicely by a wide selection of historical fiction, all if it taking place in either England or Italy, and as always, dipping shallowly into the pool of vampire lore. I ended the year rather limply, with just a collection of essays about living with children in New York that had almost nothing to do with children and everything to do with being congratulatory about living in New York. To me, this is a singularly unimpressive feat. There are roughly 8 million people living in Manhattan. You want to impress me? Take your kids to the Antarctic.

After perusing my list, I actually think all of my top reads are non-fiction. The Mockingjay series was engaging, but the last book was seriously flawed and the last chapter was almost insulting. Steig Larsson has gotten enough press and while his books are good, they really aren’t great. I also found myself unimpressed with many second-time around authors such as Stephanie Kallos (Broken), Stephen L. Carter (Jericho’s Fall), and Christopher Moore (Fool).

My top five reads of 2010 were:

1. Columbine – Dave Cullen. He gets the worst over with first and then moves into figuring out exactly what brought the two boys to commit such a heinous crime. Fascinating, horrifying, and moving, it tells the stories of the students, faculty, and law enforcement that were on the scene that day. An absolute must-read.

2. Game Change – John Heilemann and Mark Halpern. The 2008 presidential race was fun to watch, but going behind the scenes of how decisions were made is riveting. Even if you aren’t a fan of politics and didn’t vote for Obama, this book shows the gains and losses of Edwards, McCain, Palin, Clinton, Obama, and Biden in a way that humanizes all of them.

3. My Life in France – Julia Child. I have never eaten French food. I am not a gourmand. My idea of happiness is a cheeseburger and chocolate cake. I have never cooked anything that took longer than 30 minutes and would not eat 99 percent of anything on the Food Network. And yet, the story is more than food, it is about her marriage, her drive to be more than just a housewife, and her love of sharing her passion with others.

4. Monday Night Mayhem – Marc Gunther & Bill Carter. My husband loves football. I love movies and television. This book, found at a library sale, combined both of those loves and made for some really interesting reading. Unfortunately, it was written in the mid-80s, so it definitely more for those who are interested in the backstory of how Monday Night Football was created and not any of the current issues surrounding it.

5. The Blind Side – Michael Lewis. More football, but this time, the story focuses on the machinery behind turning talented kids into pro football players. This book confirmed my already strongly-held belief that no child of mine will ever play pro sports.

And the dubious distinction of the top five books I wish I hadn’t wasted my time reading goes to:

1. In the President’s Secret Service – Ronald Kessler. Too gossipy and bitchy, but not in a good way.

2. A Reliable Wife – Robert Goolrick. If any character had once been honest with another, the entire story would have collapsed.

3. American Adulterer – Jed Mercurio. It could have been a good story, but the structure and narrative killed any chances of that actually happening.

4. Through the Children’s Gate – Adam Gopnik. How he didn’t sprain his arm reaching around to pat himself on the back, I will never know.

5. The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder – Rebecca Wells. Dumb. From start to finish, just dumb.

And that my friends, is that. Happy New Year and happy reading.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Working 9 to 5

My husband is a workaholic. It’s like a disease, only dumber. Last night, I had to call and remind him that 18 hours is more than enough for one day. I made the call at 2:30 am in the morning and I think it is a sign of how used to his symptoms I have become that when he called me at 9:30 pm to tell me he would be late(r), I was more surprised he called at all than the lateness of the hour.

It is not like this is a new illness that has recently come upon him. Oh no, he was like this when I met him. He and his friend M would show up at my friend MJ’s after work on Friday night for drinks. They never came over earlier than 8:30 pm and often, it was closer to 9:30. One of the first times we were supposed to “hang out” without others around (which I didn’t realize was a date and I don’t think counts as one because of the rest of the story), he showed up two hours late to pick me up - on a Saturday morning. Where was he? He was at work, of course! We may have missed the beer fest in Chapel Hill, but we did have a nice time all the same. Once we actually started dating (much easier to identify with the sex and all), his habits didn’t change, but at least he didn’t have to eat Chinese alone.

I am going to skip the brief, nightmarish period of our lives together where he worked out of our shared apartment. The less said about it the better, but how we managed to get married when he worked from sunup EST to sundown PST I will never know.

Anyway, onto a new job, a new city, and new levels of work dementia – our first Christmas Eve in our home, we had his brother and lovely wife over for dinner. My dippy dear came home mid-afternoon. An early day! Yay! However, during dinner, his brother seemed perplexed that the office had even been open at all and forced to either lie or confess, my husband sheepishly replied that well, yes, the office actually had been closed. While I stared at him in shock, he explained that he really hadn’t realized it was closed, but since he was there, he figured he’d get a lot of work done. And, he went on to point out, he had come home early.

My husband in a nutshell: the office was closed, but at least he got a lot of work done.

There are benefits to being married to a workaholic. I get to watch whatever I want on TV at night. I get to hog the blankets on the couch. On the nights he is home, I get to foist the kids off on him with nary a pang of guilt. Lest you think I am a pushover, he also does get punished for egregious lateness. End-of-quarter, end-of-year, or holiday season (he’s senior management for an e-retailer), lateness is expected. When end-of-quarter falls on every major holiday, as it did this year, trapping him in the office over Easter, the Fourth of July weekend, and New Years? I grin and bear it. But working late just for the sake of working? That is punishable by a fine of one $25 gift card to BN. This year I earned so many I actually have a few stashed away. As my friend C explains, being late is not the problem, being late when you say you are going to be early is. So, on the rare nights when I cooked a nice meal, or needed him home for an event, or was sick – kaching!

I’d complain (more than just in a blog) but really, when there is one paycheck for four people, how do you tell the guy earning it not to work so hard? True, I did honestly believe you couldn’t turn off a CrackBerry because I had never seen one in a resting state, I have threatened to throw it in various bodies of water, and considering his work habits, a less self-confident woman might believe he is cheating – but I just let it all pass. Sure, we were once SIX HOURS LATE to a weekend getaway (with his family), and every friend can tell a story of how I arrived late because I was waiting for my husband to get home, but now they just lie to me and tell me earlier times and it all works out. As for cheating? Never. He was so subtle about asking me out on dates that we went on three of them before I realized what they were. The man hasn’t spoken to a stranger since 1982 and practically has to be stepped on to make a sound in front of friends we have known for years. The only mistress he has is strapped to his belt and allows him to play Angry Birds in the bathroom.

So when he does come home “early” so that I can attend book club, or PTA meetings, or mom’s night out, I do try to appreciate his efforts. This year, he made great strides and actually took two separate vacations without his laptop. He doesn’t check e-mail under the table at dinner anymore (mostly) and has been known to make it through an entire movie without getting up to check his messages. He may even use all of his vacation days. Baby steps, but I’ll take them. Because really - what would I do if he suddenly started showing up in time for a hot meal every night? Learn to cook? Only if he, he himself, the Grinch carved the roast beast.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Good Intentions

The road to Christmas, much like hell, is paved with good intentions. We all start the season thinking we’ll get all of our shopping done early, will pare down the number of gifts we buy, and will really try to enjoy the season. I know that worked not at all for me. Nope. Once again, I found myself buried under a mountain of gifts, making Internet purchases on the knife’s edge of pre-Christmas delivery, and spending way more than I thought I would. How does this happen every year? In a word – marketing.

This year, the Back-to-School decorations were barely down in stores before they were putting up Christmas lights. What other event, besides a wedding or birth, do you prepare for so far in advance? Stores create the sense of urgency by making you believe that if you don’t shop early, you will miss out. Personally, I think that is just poor logistical planning on the part of the store. If they can’t figure out supply and demand, then why should that become my problem? Why should I help stores reduce inventory?

Sales are also ever-present during the extended holiday season. This is price fixing at its best. If a widget costs a dollar, then it should always cost a dollar. It shouldn’t cost $1.50 on a Wednesday and $.50 on a Friday. It especially shouldn’t be three for a dollar on Black Friday. This year, some poor guy got trampled at a Target. There is video of him desperately calling out for help as people just rush over top of him. News flash: there is nothing in any store, at any time of year, for any price that is worth a human life. Don’t believe me? Just ask the family of the guy who was killed at Wal-Mart in 2008. I bet Christmas is pretty bleak for them, but I sure hope the people who murdered him are enjoying their half-priced electronics. The bottom line is this - unless zombies have actually risen from the dead and your only shelter, food, and water is available at a big box store, you don’t need to push and shove to get inside of it. Ever.

Even the best laid shopping plans cannot withstand the blitzkrieg of marketing. I personally bought into the Sing-a-ma-jig “craze” and bought two of them, full-priced, on Amazon (even though I already made fun of them on the blog). As it turns out, I sort of can’t stop playing with them whenever I see them, but therein is the problem – I see them everywhere. Every store has them. Picking up a prescription? CVS has them. Picking up groceries? Shoprite has them too. I bet Petco has them as dog toys (and the thought of the noises they must make as the animals rip them to shreds may just keep me up nights.) They might have been the “must-have” toy of the year, but I’m pretty sure everyone was able to get them. Forget zombies, it’s the Sing-a-ma-jigs that are going to rise up in one unending chorus.

I think the more kids you have, the more crazy you go around the holidays. Just trying to keep track of who got what requires a spreadsheet. I found myself frantically texting my husband (on my brand new iPhone – thanks Santa) to order one extra gift for my son because I had picked up an extra one for my daughter. I even made sure to wrap their shared gift in a combination of their personal wrapping paper. And yes, I just admitted to purchasing different paper for each kid. I even went so far as to use their special-ordered name stamps (my daughter has a unique name that has yet to be found on a carousel of mugs, nametags, etc.) for each present lest my handwriting give me away.

Thankfully, Christmas is almost here. I already did my parental duty and read my son’s favorite holiday book to his class – it is a delightful story about aliens stealing all of Santa’s toys and replacing them with underpants. He giggled through the entire reading, the rest of the kids just stared at me in horror. I just have to get through the last few days and then it will be Christmas Eve – where this year, I may put out more than cookies.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Harry Connick Christmas

Another year, another SIL shopathon – but this was one was a little different. To recap, every year, A, B, C, and me go shopping at the largest mall on the East Coast, then the outlets, all in two days, all on a weekend during December. We shop until we drop starting from the moment the first doors at the first anchor store open and ending only when we have run out of money. There are preplanned routes, routines, and rules to follow. This year, we broke them all.

It all started with C. Four months ago, we booked our shopping weekend. Four weeks ago, C wound up with a work commitment. No matter how we begged and cajoled, she could not be induced to possibly lose her job and career to go shopping with us. Rescheduling was out of the question due to everyone’s already crowded calendars. A then asked to limit us to one day of shopping due to her work commitments. Down our fearless leader (and greatest shopper) and facing a severe time crunch, I advocated hitting the stores in reverse order to get more bang for our bucks. Rules, what rules?

As always, in times of change, there are design flaws that had to be worked out. Without the tiniest bladder in Christendom to keep us merrily potty-breaking along, we hit a crisis moment where kidney failure was imminent. In the rush not to wet ourselves, we actually didn’t use one of the pre-ordained bathrooms (high-end anchor stores only) and had to deign to pee with the downtrodden masses in the food court restroom. There were multiple White Rabbit moments as B would start sprinting through the mall madly checking her watch and trying to hurry us along to our next destination. And, without the Buddy System in place, we couldn’t split up into pairs and every store (excluding Sephora which makes me itch) required the attendance of all three of us.

But all was not lost. Williams Sonoma took quite a lot of time and money, but allowed me the opportunity for a mid-morning snack. One pre-packed oatmeal bar (thanks A!), some free peppermint hot chocolate with whipped cream to wash it down, and a dollop of free peppermint ice cream for dessert and I left that store sated and sugared. This helped me deal with the usual shenanigans at the plus-sized lingerie store, though to give credit where it is due, A did not walk around with a bra on her head (per usual) but did actually get me to purchase some sassy undies. This made her (and I imagine my husband) very happy. In fact, a ridiculous amount of time was spent mentioning ladies unmentionables, shopping for them, and discussing when and where to take them off. There is always something new to learn about the sex life of my SILs (much to my BILs chagrin).

After exhausting the mall (and the patience of those in the parking lot who wanted our spots but didn’t seem to understand that they needed to let us OUT of them in order to get IN them, the outlets proved to be a veritable goldmine of bargains and though it was damn cold outside, we kept warm by constantly exercising our wallets. Sheets, slankets, and snack food all added weight to our arms, and by dark, we had crossed the last person off the last list and were trudging with heavy bags and light bank accounts back to the car. It was at that very moment when I spied the cutest purse ever and broke the last and most pivotal rule. C, thousands of miles away in a world where a bright shiny orb filled the sky and air with warmth, must have felt her heart grow three sizes as I, the thriftiest of thrifty, bought my first real Kate Spade bag.(In my own defense, it was 80 perent off.)

And thus ended this year’s annual SILS. C was dearly missed, B actually found this year’s impossible-to-find item, A realized that she has been wearing the wrong bra for fifteen years, and I, I found that Christmas indeed, can be found in a store.

Friday, December 10, 2010


So my house was on the market for the “second best” realtor season. Not a single showing. Out of two open houses, we had a grand total of two visitors. I have de-cluttered, de-booked, and absolutely delighted in making sure every single item is put away exactly where it belongs every time we leave the house. (That last part is a lie.) I have a sister-in-law who lives in a home that is sparkling and neat at all times. I once had to stop her from Windexing her front door until after I had left because my son kept licking it and I was afraid he was going to become brain damaged. I have never seen so much as a remote control in plain sight. Even she would find the level of “house for sale” cleanliness exhausting to maintain.

Kids and clutter go hand in hand. Every day, their book bags disgorge craft projects, artwork, and various odds and ends. I tried slyly throwing out most of it. My daughter not only caught me, but she cried. Never will a child cry so hard over a forgotten item as to think that said item will go in the trash. I have tried to get my kids to help me keep the house clean. However, getting my three-year old to make his bed is difficult at best - the stuffed animals take up more room in bed than the child. We had more luck teaching more daughter, but that is mostly because she is anal-retentive about where each doll and stuffed dog belong. Between the two of them, they require more electricity to go to sleep at night than I do to work at home during the day. My backyard is filled with plastic graveyard of slides and swings and my bathtub is filled with foam letters and numbers. This is my life. Unless I throw out the kids, I can’t exactly throw out all of their stuff.

At one point, the few realtors who attended the broker’s open house felt that I needed to stage it even more. They believe that in order to sell it, it has to be an absolutely blank slate. If it is personal, or if is not absolutely essential to living, it needs to be put away. Sound easy? Sure! Oh wait, but I have two kids. How can I turn their playroom, where they spend 80 percent of their waking moments, into a bland and featureless “multi-purpose” room? How can I paint over all the animals on my son’s walls or tell my daughter that all of the toys in her room need to be put in storage? I promise you that if I have to hide the bananas and apples every time I leave the house, I will never find them again.

Personally, I thought the realtors should spend less time pointing out that the grout in the bathroom is wavy instead of straight and more time actually bringing people into the damn house. My job is to make the house presentable and sellable, but if they don’t actually bring people to see it, then it won’t matter what it looks like inside. I have kept up my end of the bargain – but they didn’t keep up theirs. No sale.

I was told that people like to come through homes during the holidays to check out their directions. To that I say, bah humbug. There are a plethora of Holiday House tours to attend – but mine isn’t going to be on any of them. Until the spring thaw, my house will remain unlisted and unstaged. There will be mail on the table, shoes on the floor, and books on every available surface. This house is going to be mine for a few months longer – I might as well enjoy it in its natural state.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

To quote Granny Weatherwax, "I Aint Dead."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Something Old, Something New

I just read that 80 to 90 percent of athletes cheat on their wives. My first question is how on earth did they get men to admit to that? I assume that even if the survey results are supposed to be completely anonymous, men would still lie. Right? It’s like the penis size survey. Supposedly, the average is six inches, but if you are a guy and you think you have a small dick, are you really going to have it measured? More than likely, only men who believe they are hung like a horse are going to be proud enough to drop trou. Those who are hung like a pony are not going to participate. Same with the number of cheating men – there are always going to be some who lie and some who boast. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. (And which sports did they measure? Do football players cheat more than basketball players? Surely, hockey players get less action on the side, than say, baseball players?)

So let’s half that number and go with 40 percent of professional athletes cheat on their wives. What woman in her right mind is willing to take on those odds? The pressure of always being thin, well-groomed, pleasant and sweet-tempered, and let me emphasize this – willing to put out, must be exhausting. If the culture is to score as many broads as you score points, then how on earth can the average woman compete? We aren’t even playing the same game.

A normal guy, after a rough day of work, comes home to his wife. His ability to pick up a PYT between the door of his office and the door of his home is probably pretty slim. Sure, there is always the time-dishonored work affair, but since those always leave pretty obvious repercussions (Favre), let’s ignore them in favor of the stranger quickie. The athlete (or actor, or politician, or rich old guy) does not leave the [insert gym, studio, Senate, or office] and head directly home. There are lots of steps in between, i.e., business dinners, hotels, flights, meet-and-greets, etc. The guy doesn’t have to initiate conversation, wine and dine, even really impress a woman – in fact, he might not even have to talk to her directly at all and just have a handler do it for him. They can order a piece of ass the way others order a piece of steak. That’s got to be very, very tempting. Plus, you have to eliminate the natural barriers to complete stupidity – friends. Sure, they’ll take your picture when you are drunk and post it on Facebook, but will they hand you a condom as you go cheat on your wife? A good one won’t, but a paid one? Please. Tiger’s caddy probably kept them in a range of flavors. Add in being on the road alot and what happens in Colorado supposedly staying in Colorado seems like a pretty solid plan.

So, what is a scorned woman to do? She played the odds and lost. Does she rise above (which in celebrity-gossip is almost always the road not taken)? What fun is that? Eva Longoria (I’m pretty sure the Parker is long, long gone) is practically pulling a public Lorena Bobbit on her husband. And why shouldn’t she? It’s humiliating enough to realize your husband is slam-dunking his balls in someone else’s court, quite another to know that it is going to be aired on ESPN.

Cheating is never an accident. I am pretty sure that you can’t trip and accidentally stick your dick in someone. I can’t even imagine the position a woman would have to be in for that to happen. Some clothes have to be removed. The flag doesn’t rise on its own (past the age of say 17). There is a level of premeditation involved that cannot be ignored. Room service and hookers must both be ordered; they don’t just show up at your door. And if you go to as strip club and take home a stripper, it’s a lot like taking home leftovers in a doggy bag – you still paid for the food.

In a perfect world, the sanctity of marriage would be revered, power would not be an aphrodisiac, and sex would not be news. But we don’t live in that world. In this world,” til death do us part” is just another slogan and marriage to an athlete is just another game for the wagering.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

And We're Off!

The bet is on! My friend S and I have conferred and decided that we must go to the gym three times per week. If not, we have to pay the other $10. Big ups to S for taking this on with me!

First things first - going to a gym meant joining a gym. Stop one was the big box gym. Gleaming equipment, more televisions than a Best Buy, a sauna, and an enormous playroom (mysteriously empty of toys). After the tour, we sat down to discuss cost. This is where things got shady. First of all, the membership price should not change daily – it’s not the NASDAQ. Second, it should be non-negotiable. The longer we sat, the lower the price. I didn’t appreciate the used car feeling of it all. So, onto the second choice: old equipment, a handful of TVs, no extras, and a small playroom. Obviously, I chose the second one. No joining fee, reasonable membership dues, personal training sessions (with follow-ups to keep me honest), and lots of classes. And did I mention the old ladies? Yeah, I’ll come back to them.

(By the way, during my tours, I also discovered my body mass index. As an FYI, if you are about to freeze to death on an ice planet, slitting me open will indeed keep you warm. I could also be used to make lots of candles or soap, whichever you prefer.)

So today was my first class and I am happy to report that I did not, at any point, need defibrillators. But I swear it was touch and go for a while. My first class was step. Step on, step off. Sounds simple? Not when you have the coordination of a drunken hippo. I tried not to take it personally when the woman behind me left the class early. I think I was making her nauseas with my bobbing and weaving. Luckily, the woman directly in front of me was a friend, though I am not sure this made the fact that I spent the entire class staring at her ass more or less embarrassing. (I was just trying to follow along- honest!) I just couldn’t follow the instructor – she was facing us, so all of her footwork was backward. Since I am the type of visual learner who actually has to turn the map in the direction in which we are going to understand it and who could still use am L and R on my shoes, this was a nightmare. To keep myself motivated, I kept up a steady string of inaudible swearing. I dropped more f-bombs than a Tarantino movie. I also laughed a lot. What else can you do when the instructor calls out, “Be light on your feet” when you can’t even pick them off the ground fully because you are so tired? Or when you are a full two beats behind the music, using the wrong leg, on the wrong side of the step? Or when the little old lady who is twice your age and half your size is not only keeping up, but seems to be barely breaking a sweat and is using hand weights to make it that much more challenging? Laugh. And curse.

Will I be back? Yup. Will I continue to hate it? Yup. Will I eventually stay on the step and not make a total ass out of myself? Questionable. But I will certainly keep trying. If not, I’m going to owe S a whole lot of money.

Friday, November 5, 2010

There Can Be Only One

So this was my first experience suffering through teacher convention week. I still have teacher conferences yet to get through and already I am considering locking my children together in a steel cage and just letting them fight to the pain. (Not to the death, obviously, that would make me a horrible mother, but just to an obscure Princess Bride reference.)

Let me give you an idea of how much time children spend in school this week – in Disney, this seven-day period is referred to as “Jersey Week.” My daughter had school two days out of five (but only attended one day due to a stomach bug). My son had it one day out of two. Their days at school did not overlap. Do you know what this means? It means that I did not get my much needed, deserved, relied upon, and dreamed about four hours off this week. And yes, I realize that since my kids go to bed ridiculously early, that nighttime counts as free time – but with a husband in another state this week, it’s not like I could go run errands or anything. Leaving them home alone is decidedly frowned upon.

It doesn’t get much better as the month progresses. I can’t imagine how much she’ll actually learn in school this month with six days off and six half days. After-school activities also become erratic as everyone tries to adjust to the crazy schedule. Now, I’m a SAHM. A conference in the middle of the day, random dismissal times, and more time off than in is nothing more than a bother for me. Since taking care of them is my job, I can’t really complain about the extra hours. But what about all those parents who don’t have my level of freedom? The ones who are paid hourly? Who only get a handful of days off to try to spread through an entire year? Who only have a certain budget for after-care? November just has to suck for them. Reduced pay checks and pissed off bosses will not make the holiday season any more merry.

So, what to do with kids with endless days off in November? My kids just want to sit on the couch and watch movies. Sounds great in theory, but the execution is the tricky part. Who gets to pick the movie? Pixar or Disney? Scholastic or PBS? My son never sits still for an entire movie, especially once he has seen often. He plays cars by racing them around and around our coffee table while he watches. This means my daughter has to sit herself on the couch and put her feet up on the coffee table – effectively blocking his path. It’s like clockwork. He does A, she does B to piss him off. This hardly makes for a quiet, relaxing afternoon. Instead, it’s like modern warfare. In fact, the longer my children spend in the same room together, the closer we get to visiting CHOP.

I’ve tried to fill the days with fun things, but “The best laid plans of mice and men oft goes astray,” should be the rallying cry of parenthood. No matter what I planned, one child wound up crying, in time out, or both. The main problem is that they are just far apart in age and ability right now that what amuses the youngest bores the oldest, and what amuses the oldest baffles the youngest. The only middle ground is Candyland – and they both cheat.

My new goal is to keep them separated long enough to send them back to school. Because of course, since karma is a spiteful wench, my husband has to work this weekend and I honestly think that if I try to force any more “fun” time on them, it is going to become very Lord of the Flies around here, and I’m Piggy.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Muffin

Back in college, my friends and I were really into making bets. No, we didn’t wager on sports, or horses, or even the Oscars. Nope, we wagered on each other. Who could hook up with a person first? (Kissing, not sex; we weren’t THAT bad). Who could last the longest during Drinking Uno? Drinking Jenga? The Hour of Power? The most shots? We made a drinking game out of the absolutely atrocious, yet infectious song, Whoomp, There It Is! You get the picture. But, since we were always broke, the bets were small. They usually involved humiliation rather than restitution. Once, they involved both and a truly stirring rendition of Denis Leary’s I’m An Asshole. No matter the end result, they were always inspiring. No one wanted to lose a bet. In fact, in my senior year, I accidentally dyed my very, very long hair jet black. I looked like I had a bad witch wig permanently affixed to my head. When I claimed it was a result of a bet, people just shook their heads at me.

Fast forward more years than I care to count and I am at a crossroads. I need motivation. I need a good old-fashioned bet to get me going. But this time, I need higher stakes. I’ve only got one guy to kiss, I can’t even smell tequila without shuddering, and if I tried to drink my way through Candyland I would find myself joining Sookie in Fairyland. What’s a fat woman to do?

So, I am calling on all my friends both old and new to help turn me from the Stay-Puft Marshmallow mom into Stacy’s Mom (has got it going on). Your goals do not have to be the same. I’d kill most of the women I know for their post-baby look, so think outside the body. What if you always wanted to write a book? Always wanted to scrapbook all of your family photos? Organize them (with names and dates)? Any task, as long as it is long and arduous is a good task.

Then, the sky is the limit on the bet. What have you always wanted but refused to buy for yourself? Try to win it in the bet! What chore do you absolutely dread and secretly wish someone else would do for you? Make it a bet! Make it worthwhile. Make it outlandish. Make it something I would absolutely despise doing or something so pricey that it would kill me to buy it for you (and not for me). Come on, use your imagination. Let’s have fun with this. I know I should just be able to put down the cookie and pick up the carrot, but seriously, if I enjoyed vegetables, then I wouldn’t need to diet, would it?

My husband and I have tried this. However, as a man, he always loses a ton of weight early in the process, then I get discouraged, then he tries to slow down to encourage me, and next thing I know, we are back to ordering take-out instead of making a salad. I’ve tried to motivate myself with things, but since I have to buy them myself and I’m cheap, it is self-defeating.

I am looking to you readers! The Pantless Wonder needs to be able to take her pants off without fear of being speared by a delusional fisherman. I no longer want to be the cautionary whale of what NOT to eat.

So . . . wanna make a bet?

Monday, October 25, 2010

All Hallow's Eve

This is the first year that both of my kids truly understand the spirit of Halloween. You dress up, you get candy. The end. It is a simple holiday, but second only to Christmas in fun. This being my fifth year of actively engaging in the holiday, I have learned some very simple lessons that I will share with you about children, costumes, and candy.

1. Never, ever put your child in a sports-themed costume unless that team is winning. For example, this would not be the year to send them around in Phillies gear. I learned this lesson the hard way when I took my then almost two-year old out and about in an Eagle’s cheerleading costume during a losing streak. She was inexhaustible and spent three full hours trick or treating. She was also very, very confused as to why some adults kept pulling the candy bowl away, yelling rude things at her, and making her work twice as hard for her treat as the next kid. You wouldn’t think she looked anything like Andy Reid, but yet, she kept getting treated like him. Never again.

2. Let them pick what they like out of the candy bowl. That same year, my daughter decided that lollipops were her candy of choice. Bowl after chocolate filled bowl, she went for the suckers and even requested a special bag just for carrying her lollipops. With visions of dental bills dancing in my head, I kept trying to steer her away from sugar on a stick. She kept going back for more. We came home with enough DumDums and Blowpops for several raves. She never ate one. Turns out, she had no actual interest in them as candy and just liked how they fit in her hand.

3. Plan ahead. This year, my daughter is Jessie from Toy Story. She gave her brother the choice of being either Buzz or Woody. (She always picks for him. Last year, she was Princess Leia to his Ewok. Another year, she was Dorothy and he was the Cowardly Lion.) He chose Buzz. I bought both (and by bought, I mean, I got both Buzz and Woody pajamas, which are the actual basis of his costume). And wouldn’t you know, turns out he is afraid of the inflatable wings I bought for Buzz. Ten dollars in foresight saved me a fortune in agida.

4. If the kids needs a weapon to make the costume complete, choose a different costume. At a Halloween event this past weekend, I saw a kid dressed as a gangster, complete with prop Tommy gun. Does he watch a lot of The Sopranos on Saturday mornings? I also saw a kid dressed in full Viking gear, complete with anvil. Indy with his whip and Obi-Wan with his light saber is one thing, but an anvil? Why don’t you just give him a mace and call it a day. Surely kids totally hopped up on sugar and excitement will remember to always play nice with their medieval weaponry.

5. Donate your candy. My children are like Ferengi on their quest for candy, but unlike gold-pressed latinum, candy, once gathered, accrues nothing but dust. They gather untold pounds of it but really can only eat a few ounces without getting heartily sick. Sure, those first few days of picking through and eating all the good stuff (which in our house are any Reese’s products and the 100,000 Grand bars) is fun for me and my husband, but my kids lose interest the moment we finish the first sort. So every year, I find a place that sends the candy oversees to our military troops. Just make sure you don’t pick out all the good stuff. No one wants to receive a box of Tootsie Rolls.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas?

It is mid-October. Mums are in bloom, kids are prepping for Halloween, pumpkins are being picked, and apple recipes are being tested in kitchens all over the Northeast. So of course, Wal-Mart sent out a press-release about Christmas.

Now, I love Christmas. There is much making of merry come holiday season. But this isn’t it. It isn’t even cold out. I can still shop in sandals. Back to school shopping should not morph directly into Christmas shopping –it’s just not right.

But of course, being the glutton for punishment, I clicked on the Top Picks link to see what toys I am going to studiously avoid this year. And number one on that list would be the child-sized version of Beer Pong. Sure, they are calling it “Cuponk” but the basic stratagem is the same: bounce balls off table into cup. First and foremost, what crazy-ass parent chooses to give their child a projectile and unleash it into their dining room? “Sure son, please feel free to wing that bouncy ball as hard as you can at your great-great grandmother’s dining room table. Just make sure you don’t hit the china cabinet. And make sure to chug your milk if you get it in the cup.” Please. This gift will indeed be hard to find this year if only because every college student in America is going to snatch it up at the first opportunity.

Then there is, of course, the newest version of the Disney Princesses. The marketing machine at Disney is nothing if not robust. At 18 inches high, the damn things are practically child-sized and are scary as hell. Let me tell you what – until those things actually start doing the domesticated chores they embrace so happily in their movies, cooking, cleaning, mending, etc., then the dolls don’t need hands large enough to hold a spoon, broom, or needle. And I don’t know what a “Monster High” is, but I can sure as hell promise you that my daughter will not be finding out anytime soon. Those dolls are freaky.

I’ll skip the remote-controlled Bigfoot, monster truck, and motorcross racing bike. My son can destroy things well enough on his own, thanks. I would like to know what idiot created the Hot Wheels Stealth Rides though. A remote-controlled car that is smaller than a deck of cards but retails for $24.99 just seems like a really bad idea. Any wagers on how long before that particular toy gets lost? It might be easier to just buy one of those monster collections of Match Box cars and throw them into random corners and under hard-to-reach pieces of furniture and call it a day.

Also on my do-not-buy list, the Nerf N-Strike Stampede which looks exactly like a miniature machine gun, but in bright orange. The perfect toy for keeping terrorists off the San Francisco Bay Bridge! I will also be studiously avoiding the weird “Loopz” game that does nothing more than remind me of that really uncomfortable Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where Wesley has to stop everyone from playing that sexually-charged video game alongside a fetal Ashley Judd. Riker’s “o” face gave me nightmares for weeks and the thought of seeing a preschool version on my son’s face leaves me at a loss for words.

However, I do like the Pillow Pets, though I’m not sure how they are a new toy being as half the people I know bought one last year. The Sing-a-ma-jigs seem cute, it not really poorly named and Electronic Scrabble just seems like a waste of batteries especially since it appears to be a rip-off of Boggle more than anything else. The Leapster Explorer seems fun, but my daughter is still quite happy with her regular Leapster and until I need to pass it along to her younger brother, she isn’t getting a new one.

So, once again, the Must Have list leaves me cold and short of ideas. Once again, I will have to undertake exploratory trips to toy stores, will have to leave catalogues open for perusing, and will have to plant ideas in their heads like I do every year. Once again, I will try to get them to want what I want them to have, not what marketing companies have decided they need based on supply. But for now, I am going to ignore Christmas entirely. I still have Halloween costumes to finish and lots and lots of candy to gather. Only after the pumpkins have been thoroughly ravaged by squirrels and socks need to be worn on a regular basis will I start Christmas shopping. And no amount of prodding from Wal-Mart will make me start any earlier.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Adventures in Bargain Shopping

My excuse this week was that my paying gig (I’m a freelance editor) was pretty busy, forcing me to slouch off on my non-paying, but way more fun habit of writing for you, my little tiny reading audience. So, in the style of David Sedaris, I am going to include a few very short anecdotes about shopping to get you through the long holiday weekend.

Size Does Matter
I recently decided I needed a new sports bra so that I could batten down my baguettes so that I could exercise without being hit in the eye. While at the store, I decided to try on shirts. There were nine regular dressing rooms and one family-sized/handicapped one. Guess which one the itty bitty ninny used to try on her teeny weeny skinny-legged jeans? That’s right, the family one. I guess it had the best views of her ass. When she finally emerged, she seemed completely surprised that there were two kids right outside her half-door, which means she must have been deaf as well as stupid because Thing One and Thing Two were not exactly quiet as they waited. The best part of this shopping trip – the shirts I waited ten minutes to try on didn’t even fit and the sports bras didn’t come in my size. I guess only skinny people are supposed to work out. The rest of us will just have to make do with oversized t-shirts and heat-stroke inducing track pants made out of itchiest, sweatiest blend of fabrics known to mankind.

To add insult to injury, I then decided to try on coats. I currently wear either a shapeless fleece that, while toasty, isn’t exactly flattering or my men’s Old Navy pea coat that gives me shoulders like a linebacker and is heavier than it is warm. Guess what I found? First, that I actually do have shoulders like a linebacker, which makes me look ridiculous in short-waisted, wide-lapel jackets, and second, that coats that look oh so jaunty and hip on the rack just make me look and gigantic and hippy . Sigh. Over to the dreaded “women’s” section I went only to discover that the material in my size is practically fire-retardant. It was shiny and slippery and looked like they put the inner lining on the outside by accident. Why Lord? Why can’t fat people look nice too? I dream of some day owning a long, brown trench, reminiscent of Captain Mal’s. Of course, in my dream, I don’t look like a giant sack of potatoes in it, but that’s a whole other problem. In reality, I just want a coat that fits well, that keeps me warm, and that matches my Gryffindor scarf. (You know you want one.) Maybe someday, that dream will come true.

Mine! Mine! Mine!
I know many people view shopping as a competitive sport and we all know that unless it has books in it, stores don’t interest me at all. But unless you are a superstar and can afford to have a shop closed down for your own personal amusement, then share the space. Don’t park your oversized cart filled with oversized products directly in the middle of the aisle at the local warehouse store. Don’t go to a consignment sale and grab all the costumes off the Halloween rack to drag to a dark, deserted corner to go through in secret. You aren’t Gollum and the clothes aren’t all that precious. Share. You do not exist in a bubble and the world is not your oyster. (Shuck you if you think it is). If you want it, take it and move on. Don’t stand there and ruminate over the bargain bin. Trust me, if you don’t need it, then even if it is cheap, you are still paying more for it than it is worth. Don’t read all the labels in the baking aisle on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. People have been killed for less. And finally, don’t offer advice to a harried parent who is desperately trying to just get through the grocery store before the screaming, crying, whining child she is carting around self-implodes. A knowing smile and an “I’ve been there” grin will go a lot further than any “kind” words you want to offer and those enormous, difficult to maneuver driving carts she is probably shoving with all of her might through the store are going to hurt like a sonafabitch when she just gives in and runs over your toes with them.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Do! (And Do! And Do! and Do!)

I have not watched Sister Wives. I have seen clips of the “cast” on The Today Show and I’ve seen various commercials. And while I firmly and strongly believe that what happens between two consenting adults in their own bedroom is their own business, the whole concept of polygamy grosses me out. It’s like sloppy seconds to the nth degree.

Let’s talk about sex (baby). So the one husband has to put out enough to satisfy three women. That part doesn’t seem all that difficult. How long does the average middle-aged guy take anyway? He could hit all four rooms and still be sound asleep before the nightly news. It does appears that he only has to hit one room per night, which seems more hygienic, but infinitely more problematic. What if one of the women has her period? Does she get a bye night, like in football? If he is gone one night, does that woman get skipped in the rotation or does it pick up where it left off, like in school schedules? Does he only have to tuck in children from that particular mother? Do all the wives sit around and compare notes when he isn’t around? Does he ever call out the wrong name? I assume since they are very religious, the standard “Oh God” might be a commandment breaker. (But to be honest, I’m not sure polygamist Mormons follow the Ten Commandments. Taking the Lord’s name FTW!)

In an effort to be a bit more informed on this issue, I watched some of the clips posted on TLC. What I learned is that this husband has more wives than brain cells. Instead of buying say, a small apartment building, he gutted his house and built three distinct apartments (containing bedroom, kitchen, and living room). The fourth wife is still waiting for her addition. Why not build one huge McMansion and everyone can actually share cooking and cleaning it? Plus, not that I think the Dugger’s are the shining model of family normalcy, but at least they cook for all 19 children at once. If I only have the possibility of getting laid every fourth night, then I damn sure shouldn’t have to cook on the other three.

I also learned that while they learned how to merge many of their different family traditions, such as birthday rituals or Tooth Fairy rewards, they were not willing to compromise on their own individual Christmas celebrations. Instead, Christmas lasts for three full days as each wife gets to do it her own way. Jesus Christ indeed. Throw in the fourth wife and her traditions and that newborn king will be walking before the wrapping paper is even cleared away.

It’s all just very odd. Wife number two is excited she finally has a toaster. A plain, non-descript two-slice toaster. Not even a bagel toaster or one that burns Mickey Mouse or Hello Kitty into the bread. Just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill toaster. Now, I know they live in middle America, but do they also live in the middle ages? Who doesn’t have a toaster? And why is he driving a Lexus (which probably comes with a built-in espresso machine) while she is trying to toast bread in an oven?

The fourth wife is the newest one. She’s only been around one year to the others 13 years. Which really begs the question, is she high? Most women I know don’t even want to join a book club that has long-standing members, let alone a family. The best part is the first wife is the one who sent her husband on the prowl. It’s like every guy’s fantasy, “Hey hon, that girl is hot, wanna bring her home?” Except in this case, they kept her.

Now let’s talk about the inner, thornier issue of why any woman should accept just one piece of the proverbial man-pie. What sad, misguided, and delusional part of her thinks that the best she deserves is one-quarter of this guy’s time? I’ve seen the guy. He isn’t on anyone’s Top Five. He wouldn’t even make the annual hot Polygamist Calendar. If I have to share my bed with three other women (without the Sapphic overtones which would at least make it more fun for those who swing that way), then the guy I am sharing it for better be “hot like Tyson Bedford with the charm of Robert Redford.” And this guy? Looks like an overgrown puppet from Avenue Q. Why should they all accept one night out of four? Why should they accept a “marriage” with is actually a third-degree felony? I don’t particularly care if the marriage bed contains two men, two women, or one of each, but I’m pretty sure it should be limited to two. Why? Because I believe every one person deserves to be the sun in someone else’s sky, not some minor moon on a rotation.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gleek is the Word

The second season of Glee is about to begin. This makes me happy. I watched every episode of last season the way other people watch porn – in the dark, in private, rewinding all the good parts. And there were always lots of good parts. Sure, the writers often seemed to forget who was dating whom and opened and closed secondary storylines completely at random. Sure, Sue Sylvester and Mr. Schu seemed to fight the same battle over and over again and yes, his hair does probably smell like cookies. But all that is beside the point. It’s fun. It contains a character whose sole purpose is to just play the piano. (How does he always know what song to play? Why doesn’t he ever need sheet music? Is he a voice-activated robot? Does Principal Figgins know about him? Curious minds want to know.) I may not let my daughter watch it, but I play (most) of the songs for her the next day.

I read somewhere that many people like the show better when they are not singing. iTunes couldn’t disagree more. I love when they sing. It’s the singing that makes the show. While I am not totally lame and have not bought every Glee album, I have created a playlist of all my fave showstoppers, some by the original artist, some by the cast. It’s long, it’s odd, and it manages to contain both KISS and Barbra Streisand, which just can’t be right. But that is the beauty of Glee. It brings all sort of disparate genres together. It has also helped me to overcome my severe and utter hatred of Journey.

So, to get you all hyped up for tonight’s season premiere (and to keep you interested during a week where major life changes, illness, and new schedules have kept me from blogging), here is my Glee playlist in no particular order. I should warn you that I lost my musical taste somewhere in the 90s, around the time I attended my last concert. The list:

4 Minutes – Madonna and Justin Timberlake
You Can’t Always Get What You Want – Rolling Stones
Take A Bow – Rihanna
Single Ladies – Beyonce
No Air – Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown
My Life Would Suck Without You – Kelly Clarkson
Loser – Beck
Keep Holding On – Avril Lavigne
It’s My Life/Confessions – Glee Cast
Hate on Me – Jill Scott
Halo – Beyonce
Gold Digger – Kanye West
Gives You Hell – The All-American Rejects
Don’t Rain on My Parade – Barbra Streisand
Defying Gravity – Idina Menzel & Kristen Chenoweth
The Boy Is Mine – Glee Cast
Beth – The Rolling Stones
Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going – Jennifer Holliday
Don’t Stop Believing – Glee Cast Version
To Sir, With Love – Lulu
Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Sadly, my bonus video by Mark Salling singing about why he loved working on Glee had to be removed due to copyright infringement. You'll just have to seek it out on YouTube.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Back in Black

The headline was, "Diner Burns to Ground in South Jersey." Make your own jokes, I’m too tired. You see, when the fire alarms started ringing in every town within earshot (and several I had previously thought were out of earshot), I thought I was dreaming. Why, I thought, are they running the sirens before dawn? Are we under attack? Am I in Camden? ‘Nam? My windows were open to take in the first real breeze of the season so the sound carried over hill and vale (or in this instance, brick and mortar) to my bedroom. I swear I could hear each individual firehouse light up and get going. I could even follow their drive through town based on how the sirens varied.

Too lazy to get out of bed (which I had already done three time during the night in service of my son and my bladder), I hunched under the covers and tried to go back to sleep. When that didn’t work, I tried to figure out what target the terrorists would want to hit in my area on the eve of September 11th. The sirens were going in the opposite direction of the local bridges, which also eliminated them going to Philly, and there isn’t a nuclear power plant or government base anywhere close. Finally, I realized that terrorists couldn’t find my town with a map and compass (which would oddly prove to be true of local newscasters as well) and drifted off into a fitful sleep.

Twenty minutes later, I woke again, this time to the sound of a helicopter hovering above my roof. Funny, I didn’t know I had a landing pad up there. Sure, Santa finds it every year but I don’t remember extending the invitation to the local aviation industry. I have never heard such a cacophony of noise in my life (and I've been to Gymboree). It was a form of aural torture that was like trying to take in a wall of sound. Think of the loudest point in any professional sports game, when you are surrounded by thousands of screaming (and in Philly, bloodthirsty) fans. Multiply that sound by ten, expand it so that it lasts for a full hour, and then pinpoint it directly above your head. I actually had to go outside my home and look up to find the damn thing it was so close. Not close enough to curse them roundly, but close enough to discover it was my usual nemesis at play: Fox News. This is when I was finally able to see the smoke billowing into the sky mere blocks from my home.

Obviously wide awake now and curious, I turned on the television. I flipped channels a bit while I waited to get a clear shot of what the hell was so important that they had to get a news copter out to record it when I finally uncovered the truth – a diner had caught fire. In New Jersey. Good lord people. There are more diners in Jersey than guidos and mobsters combined. In fact, before they even named the diner, I was trying to figure out which one of the four within a one-mile radius it could have been. And yes, it is devastating to the owners of the property, the employees, even the regular customers, but did it deserve a news copter? Are we really still at the caveman stage where we have to stand around a fire and say “ooooohhh pretty?” If so, can you stand a bit to the side? I can’t see around you.

It must have been a big f’ing fire if only because the diner apparently stretched across three separate towns. That’s a lot of cheese fries. Now, I know South Jersey is just one, continuous, traffic-clogged road that leads down the shore for most people, but there are individual towns here. Fox News got the name of the town wrong. ABC got the name of the town wrong. Philadelphia is a large metropolitan area with multiple media outlets. They employ a lot of people. If they can afford a chopper, they can afford a freakin’ fact checker.

And so, I did not have a good morning. Obviously, the owners of the diner had a far worse one and the brave and noble volunteer and professional firefighters had a rough one as well putting out the blaze and keeping safe. I’m sure they will all need an extra cup of coffee or a Red Bull this afternoon. And for those people, I feel sorry. But for the mothertrucker who decided that X marked the spot on my roof and used it as his (or her) fixed location for filming – I wish dark and evil thoughts unto you. Involving rotor blades. And wind shear.

(Fun fact: never post "read about me trying to build a ground-to-air missle out of Legos" on the anniversary of a terrorist attack on Facebook. It will get pulled.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

In The Beginning

And so it begins.


I sent my daughter to kindergarten today. Sure, the morning started out with happy smiles and lots of shouting, but the closer we got to school, the quieter she became. Our neighbor’s daughters walked with us, and my daughter switched back and forth between Daddy (holding up the rear with a coffee cup) and Mommy (leading the procession with the stroller.) There was more hand-holding this morning than at a fifth-grade dance. She was brave and did not cry. (Neither did I, although my husband did have a somewhat suspicious allergy problem.) She didn’t smile, but she didn’t cry. Once the children went indoors, the parents rushed to the windows like tourists at a zoo to see how the little people behaved. I watched as my daughter found her cubby and coat hook, found her spot at the (severely overcrowded) table, carefully analyzed each person already sitting at it, then sat down. She looked outside, blew me a wave and a kiss, and then seemed to dismiss me from her mind entirely.

The drop-off was immediately followed by a welcome PTA tea. There were no familiar faces, excluding one: the mother with the ugly kids about whom I have previously written ( Karma is a bitch. Otherwise, the environs and fellow participants were as unfamiliar to me as they were to my child. There were, of course, the usual stereotypes: the parent who already declared that she does not give her child flu shots (and thank you for giving me even more reasons to get my child vaccinated), the pregnant mom, the anxious grandparents, etc. Then there were a few new ones: the visibly and numerously tattooed, the hangover helmet, and the too-short leopard print dress (and that one was on a child.) Toto, we are not preschool anymore. Obviously, I have nothing against the tattooed (having some myself), tying one on, or animal prints (as long as I’m not wearing them), but it being the first day of school and all, I sort of expected all the kids (and parents) to be scrubbed and wearing their best. One child looked like he had been slapped awake just minutes prior and was still wearing yesterday’s clothes. Obviously, I’m being a judgmental be-yotch here as everyone with a small child knows that fighting over clothes is a losing battle, but a little cold water and a brush never did anyone any harm.

Strangely enough, it is her brother who seems the most upset at the change in routine. The victim of her crimes, the tortured and abused younger child was really sad this morning. He screamed, he cried, he refused to put on his shoes, and kept asking where she was going. After the PTA tea (where no tea was served) he wanted to know why we were leaving his sister behind. He was one very unhappy child. However, once we arrived back home and he realized it was just the two of us, he cheered up considerably. I’m sure he’ll be even happier when he realizes that his naptime is all but forgotten as well as his sister’s pick-up time cuts directly into it. Lose one kid, gain the other.

And so, I don’t have to pick up my daughter until almost three o’clock in the afternoon. Even her longest day at preschool was two-hours shorter than her first day of kindergarten. I can't wait to hear all about her day and her new friends. It's a toss-up if she'll go stealthy and silent, keeping everything to herself as she processes it all, or if she goes wide and loud and not only tells me every detail, but insists on calling both sets of grandparents and her father to share as well. Also up for debate is whether she is excited about returning tomorrow. Only time will tell - lots and lots of time. Hours and hours of it before she's back home with me. I bet she'll get used to it quicker than I will.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kate Plus Hate

If you can give me a plausible explanation why Kate Gosselin still exists as a “celebrity” and further expand on your thesis to explain why she was at the Emmy Awards, I will give you a cookie.

I think I have reached maximum exposure to fake celebrities. Why it a Kardashian and why is it on my television screen? Why does Matthew Morrison, who sings, dances, and acts his hot little ass off on Glee make as much per episode as Snookie, the vile orange Oompa Loompa from The Jersey Shore whose sole marketable skill seems to be drinking to the point of falling down? A few years ago, admitting to using an online dating service to find true love was considered embarrassing. Now, going on a televised dating show to do the same is worthy of magazine covers. And I bet there was a lot less sex on than there is on The Bachelor/Bachelorette and your grandmother wasn’t watching you do it.

I understand reality television, but not what about being on television constitutes reality. Even as I type, I am wearing yoga shorts and my husband’s faded college tee, glasses, and a ponytail. Breakfast consisted of me throwing the occasional granola bar at my kids whenever they wandered past me in their quest to cover my house in Matchbox cars and musical instruments. Does anyone need to see that? Nope. But would they if I had a television crew in my house? Nope.

Let’s use for example, the evil incarnate that is Kate Gosselin. In the beginning, her show really was just about a mousy SAHM, her relatively useless working husband, and their litter of babies. (I’m going to ignore the older two much the same way their parents do.) They appeared, if not happy, then at least settled into their lives of quiet desperation. Then product placement reared its ugly head, whoring out the kids became a full-time job for both of them, and their small day trips to local attractions spiraled into all-expense paid trip to exotic locales. At one point exactly do you think Kate realized that her reality was no longer very real? That without the show, there was no life? Obviously, for anyone who watched Dancing with the Stars or any episode of her awful television show, the answer is that she can’t tell the difference between what is real (she’s a soulless shrew with no talent or personality) and what is reality (she is a hot commodity who brings in ratings and money). She got to dance with the cast of Glee on an award show that supposedly celebrates the best of all that is televised and now thinks she should be an actor! What the hell is wrong with the world?

If video killed the radio star, then what can we do to kill the reality star? How can we teach people the difference between famous and infamous? I sure as hell don’t know. I live in Jersey, where reality has reached an all-time low. You want an onyx, granite, and marble mansion filled with leopard print and fur? I know where you can get one - cheap. You want all manner of STD and ‘roid rage fueled violence? I know just the town. You want the lowest common denominator of all humankind, preening for a camera? “Come See for Yourself” indeed.

My only hope is that one day, Kate Gosselin gets her comeuppance. One day, her world, built entirely on the backs of her children, will come crumbling down. One day, in the not-so-distant future, those neglected older children will, taking a page from their mother’s bible of selling your soul for a sou, write a tell-all that will put Mommy Dearest to shame. And I will read it. Oh yes I will.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Sixth Sense

My daughter asked me the other day if I have eyes in the back of my head. Of course, I answered in the affirmative. Why allow her to think otherwise? Then I sat and thought about it and realized the obvious truth, she really does have no idea how easy it is to use my basic senses (we’ll leave out taste since I have no intention of eating my young anytime soon) to be a good (or at least moderately successful) parent.

Sound It is a mystery to my child that I can tell when she has not flushed the toilet or washed her hands. She is amazed when I tell her to sit back down at the kitchen table when I am in another room. My ability to suss out when her brother hasn’t taken his shoes off, or when he has stopped eating his dinner, or when she has left her bedroom without permission is practically epic in her eyes. And they are all such easy tricks. Bathroom fixtures and moving chairs make noise. The boys’ shoes have bells on them - he’s practically a walking musical instrument. He sings when he should be eating (as does she), so the only time the dinner hour is actually silent is when they are stuffing their faces. I have a chain of bells on her bedroom room (DYI motion detectors), plus the door itself sticks a bit, so she has to heave-ho her little body into the frame to get it open. This is not a quiet procedure. And yet, she is always amazed when I yell up the stairs for her to flush, wash, and get back into bed. She’s not deaf. I assure you, the child will pick out the one word in a sentence that you don’t want her to hear – from two rooms away, with the TV on – even if you say it under your breath and/or using sign language. But the average every day sounds of daily living are not pertinent to her, so they become just so much background static.

Sight My children seem to think they have the gift of invisibility. Hide under the covers, and no matter how big the lump, how loud the giggling, and how often this hiding place is chosen, they will shriek with surprise when they are found. My daughter once sent her brother on a top secret mission to get Goldfish from the kitchen. To do so, he had to walk past me in the dining room. He waved. He also, as noted above, jingled. Plan thwarted. However, she really did think that if he just walked quietly enough, I wouldn’t notice. My children are also terrible liars (a skill upon which I do not want them to improve). Ask my daughter a question and she either tells the truth or umms herself into trouble. No imagination equals a complete inability to manufacture a lie. Thus, my ability to simply look at her and tell what she is planning to do or what she just did is no harder than glancing at ESPN for a sports score.

Smell My son has a habit of denying his bowel movements. No amount of sewage smell emanating from his general direction like a real-life Pigpen will convince him that I can tell when he’s pooped. I have often walked into his room after nap to find that the air has a toxic quality comparable to a low-grade fertilizer factory – and yet there he is, breathing it all in and entirely bewildered by my retching noises. It must be some sort of built-in survival mechanism.

Touch I can heal the sick with just the touch of my hands. Didn’t know I possessed that little trick, eh? It’s magic! In reality, it is simply the strong belief by the little people in my life that if I kiss it, it will get better. No matter what the ailment, real or imaginary, I can heal it instantly. It’s a pretty neat skill and probably the most fun one to have.

Umami I have always understood this sense to mean sort of the distillation of all the senses. It is essence of what you are experiencing. For example, when eating a mushroom, you would be able to smell the forest and the earth in which it was grown while simultaneously enjoying the sight of the food and the texture of it. I could be wrong. I watch a lot of cooking shows, but until they come in Smell-O-Vision, I am taking my best guess. With kids, I think this occurs in the exact moment before the crying starts, before something falls, before something burns, and before the fever actually starts. It is the whisper in the air that wakes us up to tell us something is wrong just moments the shit really hits the fan. Everyone has it – but with parents, we can focus it with pinpoint precision on our children’s daily existence.

One day in the far, far, far distant future (after they have achieved college degrees, matrimony, and financial, emotional, and personal stability of course), my kids will have kids. And they will learn all the little tricks of the trade that come with that duty. But until then, I much prefer for my kids to think that I can see through walls and read their souls in a glance. It keeps them on their toes. Learning right from wrong is important, but learning how not to get caught, well, that is something else entirely.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Another Brick in the Wall

Can someone please explain to me the logic behind one store carrying the same character, made by the same brand, but in completely different styles and patterns? As in, why is there a Hello Kitty black and silver star backpack but only a hot pink with blue butterflies lunch box? Does that make any sense? I can’t have the only child in the world who wants everything to match, right? Wouldn’t it make more sense to sell them by sets? Double the price, throw in a “bonus” reusable bottle and it would fly off the shelves. Fly!

And what the hell is going on with reusable bottles nowadays? Back in the day when I had to walk five miles to school, each way, barefoot, each tin lunchbox came with a thermos. The lunchboxes were probably pounded out by convicts at the local penitentiary for pennies an hour. The thermos took on the smell of anything you put it in and one bad milk day could ruin it forever. But they were cheap. Now, with plastic being completely verboten, all reusable bottles are made of hard metals. Steel, titanium, hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to find some made of kryptonite considering how much they freaking cost. My kids went to dance camp six days this summer. (Yes, the boy went and yes, he loved it, particularly the tap shoes. What boy doesn’t like making noise?) Anyway, while there, they managed to lose three different pieces of Tupperware. I buy it in bulk and I buy it cheap, so it was no great loss. But at $10 per metal bottle ($12 if it has a character), the only way I’m sending one to school with her is if I shackle it to her wrist, nuclear code style.

Once I do find non-poisonous bottles to go in her lunchbox (and thank God indeed for the Christmas Tree shop, proud purveyor of crap, nonsense, miscellaneous, off-brand, and unnecessary items for selling them at $2 a pop), I also have to find tree-hugging ways to send the food to school. To help save the environment, should I wrap her sandwiches in newspaper? Better make sure it isn’t the funnies as I don’t want to get in trouble for accidentally letting red ink into her food. Plus, what am I supposed to do with the metric ton of Disney brand plastic snack bags I already picked up to help make her lunch special? I like the idea of reusing the bags, but I also bought little motivational stickers to put on her lunch every day. I think she’ll notice if she gets the same one for a week. I doubt my mother had these problems. Then again, my mom probably sent me off to school with a bowie knife to hunt my own food.

On top of the sartorial and environmental concerns, I also have to focus on nutrition. This is my first year packing a daily lunch and snack. (Or, to give credit where credit is due, this is the first year her father will have to do it. Daddy does mornings.) Her occasional forays into after-care at preschool allowed me to focus on carb-loading to get her through the extended play day. She didn’t have to learn anything after 11:15, so I didn’t worry about making sure she had her essential food groups. Now, however, she needs a “healthy” snack for midmorning, her lunch, and I assume that as soon as she gets home, a second lunch because my child is nothing but Hobbit-like when it comes to meals. I anticipate much higher grocery bills come September. Luckily, my daughter loves fruit, carrot sticks, hummus, and whole wheat. Sure, she’ll cut your heart out with a spoon for bowl of ice cream or a bag of popcorn, but everyone has a vice. Many a night, the only reason my husband isn’t locked out of the house entirely is because he comes home bearing Rita’s mango water ice. Who am I to judge?

So, come fall, we’ll begin the next stage of our life – lunch at school. Biodegradable, environmentally-friendly, ecologically sound, and nutritiously delicious. I wonder if it might just be easier to give her a cardboard box to eat.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

You Are A Toy!

Is it just me, or are the “classic” toys of yesteryear kind of crappy? My kids love to play Hungry, Hungry, Hippo. My son cheats by using his fingers to hand-feed his hippo and my daughter cheats by dumping all her balls into the middle first so that she is also the first to scoop them back up. I cheat my giving my hippo lockjaw. Fun is had by all (though my tolerance for the game is much, much shorter than theirs.) But I have to admit that the first time I took it out of the box, I was appalled at how poorly made it was. Every time you put it away, you have to detach the cheap plastic hippos from the base. I live in fear that I am going accidentally rip a hippos butt off and have to explain to my children what euthanasia means.

Lincoln Logs have proved similarly disappointing. My son just received a set for his birthday and I was really looking forward to helping him build a veritable dream cabin to rival his uncle’s. My son has a good imagination and likes to manipulate his toys (as opposed to my daughter who has no imagination and expects her toys to come to life and entertain her, a la Toy Story) so anything he can build, take apart, etc. makes him happy. Imagine my surprise when I dumped out the gigantic box and realized that there were barely enough pieces inside to build a shack. Sure, you could build the exact model pictured on the front, but where is the imagination in that? (Fun fact, the original sets came with instructions on how to build Uncle Tom’s Cabin! Imagine explaining that one to your kids.) When I was a child, I remember my cousin having a veritable forest of logs at his disposal. Maybe he had multiple sets, maybe everything seems different through the haze of time, but he surely had enough for three cousins to play simultaneously. My son and I built his “Old West Jailhouse” yesterday and thought the set comes with wee little lawmen to make the structure seem that much more imposing, it didn’t fool him and he just keeps begging me to make it bigger.

I’m sure it is just my memory playing tricks on me. The tea sets of the past were probably coated in lead paint, the train sets probably ran on oil, and the toy kitchens didn’t even come with microwaves. After all, I was raised in a home where my first Barbie was actually a knock-off called Darcy who was two sizes too big for all the clothes. In fact, when I finally was given a real Barbie, her “fun” accessory was a briefcase and she was wearing a boring gray suit. Who wants Working Girl Barbie unless her profession is the oldest one in the world? The few memories I do have of playing with actual brand-name toys are all away from home. One cousin had an actual Donkey Kong machine in her basement. Full size! In the 80s! The other was actually allowed to use Play-Doh indoors! He had buckets of Lego’s (which were banned in my home for being too easy to step on), the aforementioned Lincoln Logs, and these odd, round plastic building toys that I can’t for the life of me remember the name of, but we would use to build fanciful towers Rapunzel would have been proud to call home. Surely, they weren’t sold in sets of ten, right?

I guess in my head, the toys were classic because they were unbreakable, abundant, and offered unending hours of delight. In reality, they were probably just as shoddily made, probably came in even smaller sets, and probably played with in the same ten minute increments that my children use now. Ah well. Who knows what my children will remember playing with when they grow up? With my luck, it won’t be the huge playhouse, the cabinet filled with crafts, or the backyard filled with a bone yard of plastic toys. It will be the one gadget, gizmo, or geegaw that I didn’t buy them.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Total Eclipse of the Heart

My theme for today is simple. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse movie is ridiculously bad. Discuss.

Let’s start with the basics. I could have trained some dogs, scavenged McKinley High’s prop department, and hired a local children’s theater company as my actors – and I could have done no worse than the director of this movie. Summit Entertainment spent $70 million on what? Wigs RuPaul wouldn’t wear, dialogue written by a fifth grader, and day-for-night shooting FX so bad that basic cable wept for it. You could see the freaking contacts in the actor’s eyes for Christ’s sake. I mean come on!

There is no internal logic to this movie. A scene in which a man climbs a hill in daylight suddenly shifts to him cresting it in full darkness. Ed Wood would have been proud. A woman camping on the top of a mountain is so cold that she is in danger of both hypothermia and frostbite can walk out of the tent the next morning wearing nothing but a pair of jeans and a rolled up flannel? The ground is still covered in snow, so it is obviously still cold and, by the way, she’s at the top of a goddamn mountain in the Pacific Northwest, so you know its not balmy by any stretch of the imagination. Yet nary a shiver or a long sleeve in sight. Better yet, two scenes later, she is hanging out in a field of wildflowers. Glad they weren’t killed off by that sudden biting snowstorm or anything. (And by the way, while a shot of the moon might be appropriate when a werewolf is present, if it is SNOWING OUTSIDE, then it is CLOUDY and hence, no moon. Jesus.)

In another scene, we are very clearly shown that any vampire can smell any other vampire, even after the first vamp has left the premises. Got it? Like a dog pissing on a tree. This point is reinforced several times. So, much later in the movie when a vampire just wanders out from behind a rock without any other of the other vampires standing ten feet away noticing, I honestly thought for a split second that it must be a zombie. I lost complete control of my senses and assumed that the teenage vampire/werewolf movie took a left turn at Albuquerque and suddenly turned into World War Z.

I have mentioned that I never took physics. My concept of it is sketchy at best. (I once almost caused a grown man to cry while discussing aerodynamics.) Yet, I’m pretty sure that a 125 lb man should only be able to turn into a 125 lb wolf. Right? So why do the men in this movie turn into wolves of Hippogriff-like proportions? Seriously, these wolves wouldn’t need to huff and puff a house down, they would merely have to sit on it. It is absolutely ludicrous to see a tiny hairless boy turn into a giant beast. (His fur doesn’t even match his hair color! Like what is that? Do the drapes not match the carpet or something?) Along these lines, I am sorry to say that my lust for underage abs has ended. I’ve seen what a real wolf can look like (Alcide Herveaux, I am slobbering in your general direction) and hence, Jacob is nothing but a puppy to me now.

What I know about filmmaking could fit on a Chinese food menu, but I do know that if every single solitary shot is in close-up, you have defeated the purpose of the close-up. Also, if you are going to shoot the pores of your actors, then your makeup shouldn’t (a) look like it was put on by a drunk clown and/or (b) look like it wore off when the actor last showered days ago. There was no happy medium. Everyone either looked coated in pancake or greasy. They also looked like they bought all their clothes at the SalVal the day before shooting started and no one had time to get them altered.

I’ve read the books, I know they are crap. I’ve seen the other movies, I know they are crap. But still, I was unprepared by how, well, crappy, everything was. A bracelet created by a character (who yes, is supposedly to be mechanically inclined, but was never supposed to be a damn jeweler) looks like it came right off the rack of Claire’s. When an “expensive” diamond is added to it, it looks exactly like what it is – a mass-produced CZ that I can get in multi-packs for the princess party of my dreams. Now, I know the marketing department needs to keep manufacturing costs down when it sells these bracelets in bulk at a retailer near you, but the original should still look like it is, you know, real. Not made of spit and bailing wire.

I don’t expect a lot from these movies. See above about them being crap. But I’ve seen better production values on a Lifetime Original. I am not expecting Oscar-caliber performances (thought these people should definitely be up for a Razzie), or an epic score (which would randomly cut in and out, including at the end of one scene before the dialogue was even complete), or hell, even fantastic locations (if the epic battle didn’t take place on a soundstage, I’ll eat your lunch). But when a bad, evil vampire is about to kill an innocent, she shouldn’t be backlit like she “is never going to go hungry again.” That may well be the case her being a vampire and all, but the red eyes are a dead giveaway that she is not Scarlett O’Hara, so how ‘bout not shooting her like she is?

So, in summary: this movie was awful and I am actually really sad I didn’t wind up going with my fellow fanbangers to MST3K it while at the theater. But I do look forward to watching it with them when the DVD comes out. Will I go see The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (parts I and II) in the theater? Hell yeah. Despite the ridiculously lond and overly pretentious title I’m like a dog with a bad master. I just keep coming back for more hoping that this time, he'll love me instead of hurt me.

By the way, if you want to read a really complex and fantastic review of why this movie is awful in terms of social relations between men and women then check out this link. Never has anyone better explained why this epic story of romance is anything but romantic.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Under the Boardwalk

Sorry for the delay in posts, but I have been on vacation. The whole family went down the shore for a week of surf, sand, sun, and fun. My husband only checked his CrackBerry every two hours instead of every half-hour. I would have preferred the damn thing get turned off entirely as it would make the entire beach bag shake with is constant new e-mail alerts, but I suppose I should be glad he didn’t figure out a way to waterproof it and attach it to his bathing suit.

The hotel we stayed at was awesome. A kiddie pool with slides and lazy river, a family pool with swim-up bar, daily kid’s crafts, and you could walk right out of the hotel and onto the beach. What more could you ask for? Our room was on the 12th floor and we had good views of dolphin rush hour (9 to 10 am, Wednesday only), the invading alien armada (11pm Tuesday night), and biplanes that flew so close I could have asked the pilot for Grey Poupon.

Bathing in general was kept to a minimum. The jetted whirlpool tub seemed really inviting the first night, but after it developed a fine layer of sand, it really lost its allure. In fact, the damn thing was so high and so deep that it required I turn into Ms. Fantastic with bendy, stretchy arms to actually reach and clean two small children. My usual backup plan of just standing them in the shower was thwarted by a low pressure rainforest shower head. Spray bottles produce more water than that shower did. In fact, I learned early in the week that the outdoor hose the hotel provided to guests was better at removing sand than any indoor plumbing they provided.

Cooking was also kept to a minimum, but that was not the initial plan. Our first day, we stocked the fridge with morning essentials so that the entire family would eat a large, yummy breakfast of eggs, toast, and chocolate-chip pancakes cooked in the fully-stocked galley kitchen in our suite. As it turned out, their cookware was horrible and I couldn’t get a pancake to unstick and actually flip to save my life. My husband’s efforts at trying to fry an egg were similarly unsuccessful and the length of time it took for our toaster to crisp a piece of bread could be measured in five-minute increments. Cereal and muffins for everyone!

We took the vacation very seriously. We were at the beach every morning and the pool every afternoon. I’m honestly surprised the lot of us didn’t wind up with diaper rash considering we spent an entire week in damp drawers. My son graduated from eating sand to actually playing in it but never made if further than his knees into the ocean. We tried, he cried. He did enjoy finding seashells for me and proved adept at dropping them into my pockets for safekeeping. By mid-morning, I had pants full of sand and pockets filled with shards. My daughter attempted body surfing, but was limited by the amount of actual surf. Afternoons were spent either at the kiddie pool or the family pool where decked out in giant yellow swimmies, my son floated in the water like a duck, turning this way and that at random and occasionally stopping to tread and drink the water. My daughter just begged to be tossed. It is disturbing how satisfying it is to really throw a child and how satisfying her sputtering splash can be.

My daughter also attended at least one class per day at the hotel. Cooking, clowning, and crafts were her respite away from us and, to be honest, ours away from her. A five year old requires a lot of energy, especially when dealing with her from the moment her eyes open to the moment they close (one bedroom to rule them all). At the very least, her classes allowed my husband and I to enjoy a few kid-free hours (The boy was too young to attend.) What did we do with them? Well, read, of course! Duh. Her classes usually coincided with his naps (when he deigned to take them). A napping child only provides so much freedom. My husband read at the swim-up bar, I read on our balcony. As tempting as any other activity might have been, I’ve been walked in on once before, and what can be forgotten as a dream cannot be denied by a head poking out of a pack-n-play in broad daylight.

We mostly skipped the boardwalk this year due to excessive crowds. No one missed it. Sure, a night of skeet-ball, the Ferris wheel, and crappy food would have been fun, fighting the throng for it wouldn’t have been. And while my husband seemed to briefly forget that kite-flying is not a competitive sport and that his sand castle crew were not union and could not be controlled, he did seem to relax and enjoy the week. We kicked four bottle of sunscreen, successfully avoiding any burns, and at least a pack of swim diapers, successfully avoiding any pool-related accidents.

All in all, a good time was had by all. Next up, a short family weekend in the Poconos and then (hopefully) weekly one-day outings until the summer ends and the school year begins. I don’t require much – I’m not a fan of long plane rides, exotic food, or outdoor adventures. Give me a warm sun, a cool pool, and room for my family to splash and I am one happy woman.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Third Time’s the Charm

I know, I know, I just finished an entry about VBS. What more could I possibly have to say about it? Well, since I essentially wound up volunteering at a third one, a whole damn lot.

The week at my planned volunteer stop has been fine, if a bit odd. When you find yourself outdoors during a thunderstorm, surrounded by seven year-olds attempting to make fake blood, you really have to rethink your life choices. The forecast called for storms, it was raining before I even got to VBS that morning, but with the faith of God behind them, everyone at VBS assured me that it wasn’t going to storm. It did. Violently. Loudly. Wetly. And there I was, with my adult leader, a handful of teenagers, and the aforementioned seven year olds, trying to teach kids about the viscosity of our bodily fluids. Why? I have no idea because I couldn’t hear the lesson being offered at the other end of the table since the thunder kept rolling over all of our words. We couldn’t even see past the confines of our tent – which I have to admit, kept us nice and dry. The second tent housing our supplies was also relatively dry – however, the two inch gap between the tents made those of us who had to go back and forth to get stuff pretty wet. Thankfully, I’m pretty sure any naughty thoughts brought on by our soaking white t-shirts was ruined by the religious logos covering our girly bits (and by the fact that I’m too old to even be a MILF to these kids). The rest of the week was pretty tame in comparison.

But here is where things got wonky. My kids attend a preschool that is affiliated with a church. As it turns out, that church was running a nighttime VBS for free, dinner included, and was being led by Mr. Steve. You’ve never heard of Mr. Steve? He officially goes by the name of Bigsby and he sings children’s Christian music. In fact, he sings it at my kids’ school and they love it like chocolate and ice cream and puppies and rainbows. When he put on a free concert for the school, those kids rocked out. They swarmed the stage, knew the words to every song, and would have waved lighters in the air if they were allowed to play with fire yet. His is the only children’s CD allowed in my car and putting on his music is certain to soothe my savage beasts back to sensibility as they invariably stop hitting each other long enough to sing along. And while Christian music isn’t my usual choice of music (like ever), his stuff really is catchy. So how could I pass up a chance for them to listen to their own personal Dave Matthews?

I didn’t. I wound up taking them to not one, but two VBS’s per day. And since the boy isn’t potty trained, I had to stay in case of accidents. And since a good portion of the kids knew me, but didn’t know the women running the program, I became, quite by accident, a volunteer. I helped with crafts. I helped serve drinks. I helped resolve disputes. I watched Mr. Steve lead his merry band of followers in a variety of activities and they loved every minute of it. And I, well I didn’t have to cook and the food was pretty yummy and since my husband didn’t make it in the door before 9pm most nights, at least it gave me something to do.

But now? I am done. Done. Done. Done. It was lovely to be of service, and I have racked up quite a few karma points in my favor, but damn, am I tired of small children and religion.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The H Stands for Hallowed

I am not a religious woman.

Out of the Ten Commandments, I’ve broken eight. I have never and will never cheat on my husband and I haven’t committed murder. (Only because I’d never get away with it. If my mother ever turned up dead, everyone I know would provide so many alibis that I’d be jailed for sure). But coveting, taking the Lord’s name, idolatry, not honoring (others and the Sabbath), and theft (college was a hazy time) are definitely in my wheelhouse. I am, at best, a lapsed Catholic, and at worst, almost Lutheran. I haven’t been to mass in years, haven’t been to confession in decades, and am way more comfortable talking about the Elf on the Shelf than the Nativity.

So, how did I wind up volunteering at not one, but two different vacation bible schools? It all started way back, such a long, long time back . . . when I felt guilty. See, one of my friends belonged to a church that was hosting a vacation bible school. Twenty bucks for three hours, five days, was a bargain I was not willing to pass up, but I felt like I was taking advantage of them, so I volunteered to help out. There would be a nursery for my infant son and other people taking care of my daughter. My (flawed) reasoning was thus: why take care of my own two when I can keep watch over 200 others?

I wound up outside, in 100+ degree heat, under a tent, teaching kids “science”. First, let’s appreciate for a moment the woman who took chemistry twice in college (and technically failed both times), has never taken physics even once, and had to memorize a mnemonic for the planets. Science is not my thing. Second, I have never, ever taught anything to anyone. I took a few English education classes in my day, but always chose to write a paper instead of a lesson plan. Third and most importantly, I feel faintly goofy using the word Jesus ardently in anything other than the throes of passion. Building a bible story around a science experiment is absolutely beyond my ability. Thankfully, the woman with whom I was paired was actually religious and she handled the godliness while I managed to avoid all hints of cleanliness while showering the kids in a mix of Mentos and Coke. I don’t remember how that tied into the bible story of the day, but it sure was fun. As it turned out, I had a blast, my daughter was thrilled to see me one “class” per day and I felt like I had earned some nice karma points.

The second year, the same reasoning applied. Giving away my two for a few hours still seemed like a deal. Plus, the little guy was too young to go and rather than cart him around like luggage every morning while I used my “free” time to run errands, I thought it would be more beneficial if he got to play in a nursery with other kids. My new partner was an actual friend, I was no longer terrified of the gaggle of teenagers who wandered around in packs, and fun was indeed had by all.

This year, my reasoning was much more selfish. If I volunteered, I could get my son into the program (he’s a month younger than the required age). Woohoo! Now the poor bastard can actually attend something of his own instead of spend his life dropping off and picking up his sister like some sort of midget valet service. Plus, if he freaks out, I won’t exactly have to cancel my massage and skip my pedicure. I’ll already be at the school, so he’ll just be another child underfoot, except he’ll call me Mommy instead of the random noises and such little kids use to get your attention when they don’t know your (almost unpronounceable) last name.

As to the second VBS (though it was first on the calendar), I was hoodwinked! A friend told me to volunteer for crafts with her so we could have a fun week, while, once again, someone else watched my kids. (Are you sensing a theme here? Truly, I love my little teacup-sized humans, but a little separation is a good thing.) Once again, the older would go into the program, the younger into the nursery. Alas, this was not to be as she bailed entirely. Boo! Hiss! And instead of getting put into crafts, I was a classroom aid. See above about my classroom skills. Not good. Not good at all.

It actually turned out to be a fun week. Once again, the real teacher was good and kind and religious, taking over all actual teaching duties, leaving me the random fun stuff. I made the kids act like different animals as we walked the halls. I did constant headcounts, kept track of who was in the bathroom, who was leaving early, and who had food allergies, and generally spent my days singing along to the disturbingly chirpy music. My son wound up the only child in the nursery and spent the week surrounded by doting teenagers, or as he called them, “his girls.” My daughter woke up two hours early every day in anticipation, so I think it is safe to say that she liked it as well.

And me, well, I’m a SAHM for a reason, right? If I don’t take the opportunity to do as much with my kids as I can, then why the hell am I at home? My mother claims she didn’t go back to work until I was in third grade, but I have no memory of her at school functions, outings, etc. Was she there and I don’t remember? It’s possible. Her outfits were probably traumatic enough to trigger memory loss. But I want to be able to say that I was there. I saw you dance. I saw you sing. I hugged you every time I passed you in the halls and I knew your teachers by their first names. And if I took the Lord’s name in vain a few times under my breath, I think He understood. Points for trying, right?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

When I say that it felt hot as hell out, I really don’t think I need to actually experience the underworld personally. If I were to burn for eternity in a landscape of fire and brimstone, I cannot imagine that it would feel much different than South Jersey right now. (And yes, I do realize some people would consider South Jersey a form of hell, no matter the weather, but those people would be wrong. That would be North Jersey.)

As it will be like this for the foreseeable future, I thought I should start trucking out other sayings. My husband is fond of saying it is “cold as a witch’s tit” outside. I imagine the opposite of that would be “hot as a wizard’s balls.” Being of the female persuasion, I am not entirely sure how hot balls get vis-รก-vis the rest of the male body but I can assure you that my tits can get pretty damn cold, so perhaps the gender switch is apt.

Hot enough to fry an egg. I think that depends on the surface on which the egg rests. Is tarmac preferable to cement? Would a car hood be better than a roof, and does it matter what type of car? How long do you have to leave it outside? Unless it happens fairly rapidly, I don’t think you can count it as fried so much as rotten. Also, what kind of egg? An ostrich egg would take much longer than say, a quail egg? Is the chicken egg the gold standard in terms of frying?

Hot enough to boil water. I haven’t seen a pool erupt into a bubbling cauldron yet, but taking into account evaporation, I think it is pretty safe to say that it is boiling out.

Hotter than a cat on a hot tin roof. What the hell does that even mean? Why is the cat on the roof? Why does the roof have to be tin? Can it be copper? Iron? Who has to get the cat down? Personally, I think the fireman in full-out gear is going to be way hotter than the cat, even if it is a long-haired breed.

Hotter than [insert small animals] in a [insert small space]. Apparently, there are a multitude of animals you can insert into that phrase as well as a multitude of places that add up to the same final image – woodland creatures and farm animals, if placed in a very small space, will create a ferocious amount of heat. Squirrels in wool socks, snakes in a wagon, goats in a pepper patch. You get the picture. For extra fun, you can give the animal in question extra genetalia. So, say, it is hotter than a three-balled tomcat in a barn loft.

Hotter than whore in church. Personally, as long as the whore is praying for forgiveness, I think she’ll be fine. Even if she’s just attending a wedding, I have never heard of a thunderbolt cleaving a bridesmaid in two yet. And if if didn't happen at my wedding, it isn't going to. Plus, when I hear this, I always think of the Old West, where the whores all wore tattered red clothing and lots of rouge. Kind of hard to think of her using her knees to pray, as it were.

Let’s take a left turn at Albuquerque and talk about Hell. Hell on wheels makes me think of a little shark cage filled with moving flame, being carted around on the back of a Red Rider wagon. Not exactly awe inspiring. Hell in a hand basket inspires a similar picture, except this time, a ball of flames is contained within a Longaberger basket. Hell is other people is just a fact of life. Nothing particularly weather-specific there. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions (or Good Samaritans) is just silly. Why use people for pavers? Way too messy and they don’t squish down real well.

I’m sure as the week wears on, I will hear more colorful phrases describing the heat. But after writing a blog complaining about the cold back in February, I think the best saying about Hell comes from the man himself, Neil Gaiman.

“What power would Hell have if those imprisoned there were not able to dream of Heaven?”