Friday, November 25, 2011
As always, at least once during the day, their dogs will try to eat my kids. Now, the dogs have no teeth, are completely decrepit, and literally are all bark, but my kids don’t actually know that. This means that for the rest of the visit, my daughter will cower in the corner and cry every time the dogs come near her. My mother always blames my child for the dog going nuts too, which adds to the drama.
Then there is always a visit to the Crap Closets. You see, my mom is a hoarder. She’s downgraded quite a bit since last year, but she still hoards closets filled with random junk that she buys at discount stores. Every visit, I have to help her cull the stock. Around the holidays, I always try to grab the good stuff, i.e., items that are actually shrink-wrapped, brand name, and brand new. She always tries to dissuade me because she “could use them for someone.” Who this mysterious “someone” is, I shall never know. I’ve had my eye on a box of Kinetix for two years. It’s still there. My end goal is to make sure this crap does not wind up in my own kid’s stockings. Most of it is open, used, is missing pieces, and just odd.
Dinner this year was a scene straight out of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, the bird actually steamed itself open, it was so dry. I didn’t complain, I was too busy looking around at my parents house slowly realizing that as an only child, all this crap, room after room of discount furniture, yard sale art, cheap collectibles, and consignment store stuff that they bought to fill their too-big house would be mine. There were actually fake china plates with gamboling kittens that would make Dolores Umbridge weep with envy staring at me during dinner! What the hell am I going to do with all this stuff? It’s not like the subject hasn’t come up – my mother has frequently said that if she ever gets ill, she wants me to just let her wander out into the cold woods to freeze to death (why wait til then?), so I have to plan ahead a little bit. A full day in her company certainly seems like the perfect time to estate plan.
By the time we reached dessert, where I am served my “favorite” chocolate cream pie (store-bought crust, instant pudding mix, tub of fake whipped cream), a concoction so disgusting I can barely force myself to eat it, but after almost 37 years on earth, can’t for the life of me figure out how to tell them I hate, I was ready for the exit. That was when I was hit with the piece de resistance, my daughter’s birthday present. As always, we celebrate it on Thanksgiving because it is so close to the holiday. As always, my parents bought her clothes. Usually, I am shown them beforehand and approve them. This year, I was not. This year, the box is going right back to the store. (Which store? Boscov’s of course.) Why? This year, my daughter was gifted a chocolate leopard and hot pink print shirt, with matching chocolate and rhinestone leggings. Holy shitballs Batman, she’s a mini-housewife of New Jersey! She is never putting this atrocity on her body. I honestly don’t know what makes it more offensive – the collar of sequins on the shirt or its see-through quality. For those of you who don’t see my kid on a regular basis, she normally dresses like a Mormon. She actually favors long printed dresses, or at least tunics and leggings. This is not her style. Did I mention the rhinestones on the leggings? Is she Dolly Parton now? It was just awful, from head to toe. Luckily, I was able to successfully lie to my daughter about the size of this particular garment and I can only hope that since the tags are still on it, I can get a store to take it back. Any store. Anywhere. For any price. I will pay cash money for a brand new outfit to replace this one, it’s just that bad.
Needless to say, after that debacle, we high tailed it out of there. I got one car with the kids, the crap, and the good stuffing my dad always makes extra for me. My husband got the dismantled snow blower, a gift from a gadget obsessed father-in-law who just bought the newest model. However, it was still filled with gas, requiring him to drive home with all the windows open so not to be completely overwhelmed by fumes. So while I got a quite ride home, while one kid slept and the other listed to my iPod, he got cold ears, numb fingers, and the sound of I76. Hey, at least we got a snow blower out of the deal.
Once again, I am thankful it is over. Of course, I still have Thanksgiving with his family to serve – the first one ever held at our house. We’re even cooking too, which should be entertaining. Wish me luck. The worst that could happen is that my sister-in-law could deliver my nephew in my dining room. In which case, I am definitely demanding naming rights!
Thursday, November 10, 2011
I met my husband at a dinner party while we were both living in Raleigh, North Carolina. Photographic evidence exists to prove this happened. However, as my husband likes to remind me, I don’t remember our first meeting. He likes to claim it was because I was drunk. I like to claim it is because he excels at being a wall flower, to the point where even though there were fewer than ten people at the table and he was seated directly across from me, he was still able to make himself invisible. He counters that I was too busy flirting with a guy named Thor. I rebut that the guy was actually named Lore, was half my height, and an asshole. This is where the conversation usually runs off the rails entirely as we start making fun of the name Lore.
Ten years ago today we got married on Cape Cod (because we were living in Boston at the time). It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, the weather was mild, there were still plenty of leaves on the trees, and all of my bridesmaids were hanging out in my room eating éclairs, ironing their dresses, while we waited to get our hair done. My hubby-to-be was biding his time watching college football in a bar with his buddies (because, like all good VT alumni, our wedding was scheduled around the game.) There were the usual bits and bobs of drama, all of them caused by my mother, but why discuss the negative? I remember putting on my dress, with the hair, and the makeup, and the veil and the handmade flats (because I totally refused to wear heels, even on my wedding day) and feeling beautiful. I still looked like me, mind you, but I felt beautiful.
We had a Catholic mass, though I ixnayed the kneelers at the last minute. Fainting syndrome + kneeling + wedding dress = very bad idea. I even cried, which I like to blame on the copious amounts of cold medicine I was taking to get rid of the flu symptoms (I was popping Dayquil like they were M&Ms). The reception, though small, was a blast. Though we were honored to have so many friends and family attend from so many different states, our invitations landed in the mail on September 12, 2001, so many balked at traveling. The dance floor was in continuous use, the bartenders never got a rest, and I think it is very safe to say that a good time was had by all. In the bridal suite at the end of the very long night, my husband pulled 67 pins out of my hair and sniggered at my bright blue Smurf butt, the occupational hazard of wearing my something blue bridal panties. I’d love to say that we consummated our union immediately, but I was bone tired, had a throbbing headache from the aforementioned 67 pins, and figured I’d had enough sex in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; I could wait for the Caribbean. TMI alert - it was worth the wait.
So where are we ten years later? I am pleased to report we are still happy, thank you very much. We live a small town life. Every few months, we meet with the same group of friends for dinner. I go to all the small events for the kids; he joins me at the big ones. A good night involves a full DVR, a blanket, and take-out Chinese. Neither of us are high-maintenance when it comes to tokens of affection. Take out the trash, empty the dishwasher, bake some butterscotch cookies, help with the laundry, and make sure there is a big stack of magazines (for me) during Sunday night football (for him). I don’t need diamonds, he doesn’t need lingerie. We are simple people who want simple things. Love. Respect. Laughter. Sex. Sleep. A little bit of common sense when it comes to fighting (I refer to the classic Kenny Roger’s song The Gambler on this score. Know when to hold ‘em, Know when to fold ‘em) and a lot of patience when it comes to dealing with family. Having children certainly complicated matters, those damn things take up all of our time, energy, disposable income, and functioning brain cells, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We made our choice (twice) and we’ll just have to live with them, watch them grow, and try to do our best by them.
But it’s only been a decade. A mere drop in the bucket, a splash in the fountain, a bucket in the ocean of time we have left to spend together. I’m in this til death do us part and there is plenty of time left on my clock. Let’s see where the next ten years takes us, then the next ten, and then the next ten after that. It’s a long way until retirement, then enjoying our twilight years, then letting our kids take care of us for a change. Tonight, we’ll pop in the wedding video, once again explain to the crying daughter that she wasn’t there because she wasn’t born yet, and have fun reliving the first best day of our life together. But it’ll have to be early, because the game’s on at 8 and I’ve got my famous buffalo chicken dip in the fridge. It may not be the lavish week-long beach front vacation we envisioned all those years ago, but it’ll do just fine.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
So, here is my completely unnecessary two cents on the matter. Ready?
In fact, let’s free all the older girls. During the interview Michelle Duggar stated that she spends an hour per day, five to six days per week, on her elliptical machine. Her youngest is not quite two. There are two more under the age of five and a grand total of seven children under the age of ten years old. She should be exhausted by running around after them. How the hell does she find an hour a day to herself? The only way she does it is by having lots of help – her kids! Those older girls are practically indentured servants. They cook, they clean, they do laundry, they teach, they pack for trips, they practically raise the younger kids themselves. In fact, I wonder how well the parents actually know each individual child. It’s more like living in a neighborhood than a family. When asked during interviews, they always speak in generalities about each kid, saying they are sweet, or kind, or fun. But those older girls, I bet they know each little kid really, really well. They are the ones raising them.
During the interview, the oldest kid (the fat, sluggish one who seems to be settling into middle age about 20 years too early) was sitting on the couch with his two little ones. It’s just such a weird family dynamic to have aunts and uncles who are YOUNGER than you are. But that is exactly what is going to happen to the newest Duggar. I am not a family planning expert, but I’m pretty sure that you shouldn’t be raising your kids concurrently with your grandkids.
To be honest, there isn’t much to complain about with the Duggar’s. They can afford each and every one of their kids. Each child appears well-mannered, intelligent, well-spoken, and educated. While their beliefs may not be my beliefs, and while their grasp of science may not be very strong (creationism, shudder!), they aren’t stupid. In fact, I think Jim Bob just plays stupid on TV. The man has made some very savvy off-camera business decisions that have kept his family clothed, fed, and housed (and his house is lovely) in a very tough economy. The medical bills alone for his youngest daughter would have bankrupted a lesser man, no matter the reality TV paychecks. Plus, he helped another family (also enormous) build a house that better fit their needs. He can’t speak a foreign language worth a damn and he seems like the dorkiest dork that ever dorked, but he’s pretty much harmless.
But let’s get down to the nitty gritty here. After 19 children, I want to know how her bladder hasn’t fallen out entirely and how her vagina isn’t wider than the Holland Tunnel. Is Jim Bob hung like a porn star? Otherwise, sex must feel like lobbing a pencil down a parkway - nothing but open space. Now I’m really not trying to be mean. This is physics. You put a bowling ball down a space mean for a golf ball often enough, it is going to stretch. There aren’t enough “husband stitches” in this world that are going to make that tight again. Yet, here they are, happily plugging away, making kid number 20. So, either they have sex like bunnies, (which again brings up the whole issue of they should be exhausted by the end of the day, not randy and ready for action), or she is literally the most fertile woman in the world and every night they have sex, they should play the lottery because their odds are that good.
So, good on you, Duggar clan. Have a safe and healthy pregnancy. But I do think it's time to hang up the stirrups and let the girls out of the house for some good old fashioned courting. There are other names in the alphabet. Let them try out some Oh, oh, oh, OHHHHHs.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Where did he get this idea? The Hammacher Schlemmer catalog. I can’t imagine actually buying anything out it, but it sure is fun to look through. (Yes dear, that includes the damn reindeer. I don’t need its beady little eyes staring directly into my bedroom while I sleep. Plus, it looks like it just got a proctology exam and it isn’t very happy about the results.)
If you want to spend oodles of money on absolutely ridiculous items, this is the place. Would you like a Rolling Stone Pinball Machine? It’s only $5,900 (stench of booze and used condoms not included.) How about the Stock Car Racing Simulator? For a mere $60,000 it can be yours and you won’t even have to worry about dying in a storm of fire, steel, and fumes. For the professional stargazer, there is the Observatory class telescope for $35,000. Obviously, the advanced astronomer buys one of these bad boys out of a run of the mill Christmas catalog, right?
Is a two-story inflatable not your speed? Want to go low tech and light on the wallet? Then, for the pet lover, there is the dogbrella. It’s an umbrella for a dog. You take a normal umbrella, except you put the handle on the top, so that the owner can hold it over the top of the dog. Sort of like a plunger, just really, really large. The umbrella goes on the bottom, the handle on the top, the dog under the umbrella, the owner holding the handle: wet owner, dry dog. Slightly higher tech and for the Harry Potter fan, there is the magic wand remote control. You can wingardium leviosa yourself into a carpel tunnel brace and probably poke your eye out all at the same time. Brilliant! There is also the healthy deep fryer, a contradiction in terms if I ever heard one.
Of course, there are always the basic Star Wars items. The original blueprints to the Death Star, along with the rest of the various vehicles, droids, and ships are available for your purchase. Many Bothan died to bring you that information. Use it wisely. Also available:
- A remote controlled Millennium Falcon. (Can you fly it better than Han? Than Lando? He totally doesn’t get credit for his skills in Jedi.)
- An R2-D2 Projection alarm clock (Since regular beeping noises aren’t bad enough, now you can get beeping and bipping in a “foreign language”)
- An actual voice activated R2-D2 (he can play tag, but he can’t serve drinks)
- Replica lightsabers (the description says they even hum and swoosh)
I’m not impressed, I’ve seen half of these items at the local Toys R Us, and a catalog without a Han Solo in carbonite or even a life-sized Storm Trooper isn’t worth its weight in galactic credits.
The catalog does have an intriguing assortment of what I could best describe as retro-technology. For example, you can turn your iPhone back into a standard handset telephone. Why you would want to, I have absolutely no idea. It also has totally useless baking supplies. Want the equivalent of a personal waffle maker, but for pies? They have it! Do you want heated socks? They have those too! If it is totally useless, completely novel, will only be used once, and will probably be forgotten about in the back of a closet never to be seen again, well by God, this is the catalog for you.
So, my friends, if come the holiday season, you see a reindeer the size of a house standing in my yard, looking like it got The Shocker, please know that my revenge will be swift but deadly. Because buried in the back of the pages, almost unseen, but definitely not unheard, is the Thunderclap Alarm Clock. At 113 decibels, with three flashing LEDs, with a vibrating pad for under the mattress, I’m pretty sure that when that thing goes off, you don’t just get out of bed, you go through the roof. That will be the punishment for the reindeer. I’ll make sure the kids are up first. And for those pesky little BIL’s who are thinking they can get away with an “inflate and run”, thinking impending aunt-hood will get them off, think again. Now I have an alarm clock. Ho! Ho! Ho!
Thursday, October 20, 2011
A goods sci-fi movie has the same things any good movie in any genre should have: good plot, good script, good actors. However, it also needs good science and good internal logic. Inception had neither. If you think about that movie for more than a minute, you need a Tylenol. Lots of summer blockbusters are fun to watch, but don’t even try to be anything other than eye candy. I’m okay with that. But the best sci-fi movies create more than two hours of entertainment. They create worlds. They create a whole new way of seeing reality.
So, here are my top five. I am ignoring the obvious, standard choices such as Blade Runner and Alien mostly because they didn’t resonate with me.
1. The Matrix. Obvious, yes, but still worthy. I remember going to see this in the theater with a work buddy and having literally no idea what I was about to witness. I thought it was going to be a fun ride. It was so much more. The sequels may have been awful, but that original is a shining example of how to think big.
2. Dark City. This is my dark horse contender. It is deliriously weird, but creates a fascinating world where everything can change at a moment’s notice. It’s just cool. I know that isn’t exactly a Roger Ebert worthy review, but I don’t want to spoil any part of it for those who haven’t seen it. So go see it.
3. Serenity. My love of all things Whedon-esque is well documented. This movie, a love note to all the fans of the cancelled TV series, Firefly, was a fantastic way to bid farewell to our intrepid crew. I think it works as a stand-alone movie too though. It’s funny and sad and cool and fun and it even has a Buffy-Bot. What more could you possibly want out of a film?
4. The Abyss. Sure, Terminator is probably the best of Cameron, but Linda Hamilton’s Minnie Mouse voice drives me to distraction. Plus, I can never get my head around the chicken/egg conundrum of how John Conner had to send his dad to knock his mom up. I much prefer The Abyss. The ending sort of sucked (What happened to decompression?) but the very real fear of being trapped under the ocean and dying a slow, cold, wet death really hit home for me.
5. The Star Wars Trilogy. The original series, not the second set of movies and not any of the special edition versions George Lucas keeps releasing. Nope, I am talking about Luke, Vader, Leia, Han, Chewie, C-3PO, and R2-D2. These movies are part of my DNA. I still get my dad Star Wars related gifts and always will.
I may have very basic tastes and my geek cred might be in jeopardy, but the list stands.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Consider this your fair warning – I recognize my wife is the superior talent when it comes to communication, be it verbal or written. I attempt here not to duplicate or replace, but simply borrow an established medium to vent.
Those of you who are regular followers of the blog are aware, I’m sure, that we have just moved into the home that we will, by the grace of God, finish raising our family in. We’re done. No more moves. No more real estate transactions, ever. I’ve said more than once in the past month that I’ll burn this fucker down before I pack another box.
But this isn’t about that. This is about me confronting my issues, and confessing to the cyber world my shortcomings. The entirety of that list is enormous, but there’s one that surpasses all others.
I hate stupid people. Not the normal, average, every day stupid people, but that segment of the population that really makes me question whether or not Darwin was wrong. The ones that really make you think, “How the hell do these people reproduce?” These are not the folks who stop at yield signs, nor are they the folks who use the 10 items or fewer lane to check out 45 items. These aren’t the morons who try to talk on cell phones in elevators, or the ignorant assholes who can’t seem to park between the white lines. I’m even willing to forgive those idiots who can’t merge onto the highway (it’s really simple, if you can’t figure it out, you probably shouldn’t be driving).
No, the ones who have me currently wishing for the ability to use the force to choke the living shit out of them, are the folks who answer the phones at my TV/Internet provider. It shouldn’t be all that difficult. I call, they answer, the issue gets resolved. Under no circumstances should it take 3 fucking weeks, 18 phone calls, 3 supervisors, 4 tech visits, 2 routers, and 4 set top boxes in order for me to watch a simple football game as I surf the web, and use the fucking DVR I am paying an arm and a leg for in order to record something for later viewing. Jimminy freakin Christmas!
I realize that this is, as my lovely wife would phrase it, a first world problem. There are many people throughout the world who don’t have enough to eat, a roof over their heads, or the freedom to make choices to try and enrich their lives. But none of them are reading this, and I can’t solve their problems today – cause I‘m too busy trying to figure out how to make my fucking TV work properly.
I am a college educated man, with a degree in engineering, and pretty well versed in most things technological. I actually have a soft spot in my heart for tech support folks - throughout my career, I’ve had some sort of Customer Service responsibility in just about every job I’ve had. During one fateful late night support call, I actually had to utter the words “Is the CD in the drive?” I get it – people are stupid, and when I was on the other end of the line, it was always the moron calling in who couldn’t find his ass with both hands and a map.
But really – where the fuck do they find these people? Isn’t unemployment still at 9.something percent? Why the hell are the people at my internet provider still employed? Are there no better qualified people out there? There has to be – it’s statistically impossible for all the unemployed folks to be stupider than these guys. How fucking hard is it to get dispatch on the other line and find out when the tech will be at my house? You’ve got e-mail, instant messaging, chat, text messaging, a multi-line phone system, and can’t get through to an internal department? Jezzus – please tell me you are sterile.
Also, when I get transferred to another department, why the hell do I have to re-verify my name, account number, address where the service is installed, e-mail address, and alternate phone number to contact me in case we are disconnected? I’ve seen CRM systems from the other side – they not only know all that, but my shoe size, what I’ve had for breakfast and the last time I got laid. Don’t make me fucking go through the entire script again – use the information in the system – it’s not like we’re passing Post-It notes around with a name scribbled on it.
And I sure as shit should not have to describe the problem I am currently experiencing. If the first fucker didn’t note the problem with enough detail, then go ask him – I’m tired of reciting the same facts over and over again. I’m not lying, you’re not fucking Matlock, and this isn’t a murder case. My freaking cable’s out – fix it.
And goddamn it, you can see that this the 15th time I’ve called in the past three weeks – don’t you think the previous 14 people had me unplug the box, wait 15 seconds, and plug it back in? Or do you just assume that the previous idiots didn’t know what they were doing either? I’m sure you were listening when I told you that I have three other boxes, my original and two replacements that you have already sent – and it still doesn’t work. What makes you think that the box that you send out is going to work? What part of “DON’T SEND ME ANOTHER BOX” did you not understand? Please, don’t have kids – just buy a dog instead.
In the end, it turned out to be crossed wires. Literally – wires plugged into the wrong hole. Why it took 4 visits, 18 phone calls, 4 set box boxes, 2 routers, 3 supervisors and 3 weeks to figure this out, I don’t know. But I do know that all the time I invested in this first world problem of mine is time I will never get back. Let that be a lesson to you all –when all else fails, unplug all the wires and start over.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Etsy just went to see Rick Springfield. She gleefully posted pictures of herself rubbing his sweaty back. (I hope there is a shot for that.) Now, let’s do a little math. Jessie’s Girl came out in 1981. Giving old Rick the benefit of the doubt that the girl in question (never named, because let’s face it, the fact that she is Jessie’s is what makes her desirable, not any actual quality she possesses in her own right) was of legal age and you add the full thirty years since that song came out, then if I do my math right, Jessie’s girl is getting ready to turn 50. Do you feel old yet?
What I wonder is this - what do those aging rockers see when they look into the current crowd? Back in their heyday, their fans were bra-less teenagers and come hither 20-somethings. Now? Not so much. There isn’t a bra in the world that could help most of his current fans pass the pencil test. That goes for all the aging rockers out there. I went to see Duran Duran back in college. Even back in those dark ages, we thought they were retro - and they are still touring! Can you imagine night after night after night after night having to sing the same songs, with the same level of enthusiasm, all while watching your audience creep toward middle age right along with you? That’s got to be a level of hell created solely for musicians.
For nostalgia purposes, let’s discuss New Kids On The Block. I wasn’t into them, but many of my friends were. They were only a few years older, so their concerts must have looked like all-you-could-shag buffets. What did it look like this past summer? I can’t imagine they gained a new crop of teenage fans, so it’s those same women who had their posters on the wall all those years ago, relieving their high school years singing along to all the worlds. That buffet must look pretty damn unappetizing.
So, do you think they rockers play make believe? Do you think they still send out security to find the youngest, prettiest girls to send back to their dressing rooms? The ones who still think sleeping with Rick Springfield would be a notch on their bedpost and not an immediate appointment to a clinic? I know half of them must be married by now, with kids, and the only thing they find interesting in their fans pants is their wallets. But the other half, the ones with the plastic faces that barely move who still struggle into leather pants and vests? How much longer can Rick look out into the crowd and sing about Jessie’s girl without said girl being hauled up onstage in a wheelchair?
It’s a sad, sad fate to be an aging rocker. Sadder still to be Etsy, the girl whose love for them will never, ever die.
Friday, September 30, 2011
However, that didn’t stop me from whining about it from start to finish. I have friends who moved while pregnant, who moved across state lines while pregnant AND starting new jobs, and who moved across state line while pregnant AND whose husband’s new job required his overseas deployment to a hot, sandy place. While my husband did change jobs (twice!) during the year, both were at his own choice. Sure, it added to the stress of life, but what doesn’t?
But I bitched, and I moaned, and then I bitched and moaned so more, and then, during the last two weeks, I bored people to tears with the intricacies of environmental law. (Did I mention my dream home came with its own 10-ton pile of contaminated dirt?) I practically put out hourly reports on the status of my packing and unpacking, and acted, as a whole, as if my real estate transaction was of monumental significance to many instead of just significant to me. In short, I was a right ass.
Thankfully, I have a legion of wonderful friends who never complained about my admittedly self-centered behavior. They allowed me to vent. They offered advice, opinions, and options. They cared for and fed my children when I needed time to get stuff done. They acted as lawyers, counselors, design experts, and handy men. They put a beer in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other when the stress of selling/buying was done but the stress of moving/unpacking had yet to begin. They sent encouraging texts, e-mails, and FB posts. They got my kids from point A to point B when I wasn’t able to ferry them myself. They brought donuts. They brought cards. They literally plucked my crying son out of my arms and brought him into his classroom. They brought history books on my new neighborhood. My husband affectionately refers to this group of people as the Gaggle. If it weren’t for the Gaggle, I never would have survived the past year. In fact, without the Gaggle, I wouldn't have survived the past five years. I love the Gaggle
Without family, I wouldn’t have survived move-in weekend. Seeing all of your stuff in boxes, piled high, room after room is both exhilarating and overwhelming. Where the hell does it all go? And how the hell do I put it away without tripping over a kid? Eldest BIL and SIL to the rescue! They took the kids out in style, spoiling them rotten and giving them a day of fun to remember. Youngest BIL and SIL did just as much heavy lifting by literally doing the heavy lifting. Forty boxes of books, six crates of Christmas decorations and several boxes simply marked “misc. attic” were all hauled in during a day of high humidity. Plus, as an added bonus I got to give hours of unsolicited advice to my pregnant SIL. A captive audience! Fun!
So, what have I learned during the last year of my life? First off, that I am incredibly lucky. I didn’t grow up in this area. I only moved here eight years ago, knowing no one and nothing. But now, less than a decade later, I am rich with friends. I have The Gaggle, many of them strangers I met at library story time, whom I could now call in the middle of the night in an emergency. I have people who have helped me in innumerable ways for no reason other than they wanted to help. They weren’t looking for thanks. They weren’t looking for anything other than a way to help a friend. And to all of you, I say thank you. Sincerely and utterly, thank you.
I will now never utter the words real estate, closing, or moving ever, ever gain. You’re welcome. ;)
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
It’s weird, that first showing, when you realize someone is going to walk into your house, the place where you raised your babies, where you make late breakfast on Sundays, where you walk around naked after a shower, and consider whether they want it for their own. They are going to look at your nursery, with all the animals inexpertly hand-painted on the walls and consider what color they will paint over it. The room you sat and rocked a child in, night after night, for years, is suddenly going to be childless. There will be no nightlight softly illuminating its walls, no music box adding birdsong and falling water to the darkness. I have spent more time in that room than any other, soothing, changing, comforting, loving, reading, and playing with my children. I taught my children that their bedrooms were safe havens, places of shelter from storms, nightmares, and the world outside. My son, with his animals smiling down on him, my daughter, with her princesses watching over her will now have to get used to new configurations of light on their walls, new sounds of night falling outside their windows, and a new path to the bathroom.
Before the endless packing started and the walls started to close in due to all the boxes, I could walk around my house in a blindfold and never bump into a wall. I knew where the furniture was placed, which step was last before the floor, how wide the bathroom door was left open all by sense of touch. I always thought that in case of emergency, it would be effortless to grab what I needed and get out because it was placed in the same spot night after night. How long will it take me to find my way in my new home? How long before I understand its configuration without stubbed toes and muffled curses? When I won’t need to turn on a light to wander downstairs for a late-night drink out of the fridge?
In a home, everything has a place. Your keys go here, your shoes go there. This shelf holds boxes of pasta, that shelf holds the olive oil. You know where to find a flashlight when the power goes out, and how far to turn on the hose when the sun comes out. Right now, I feel like I am living in a really crappy hotel. It has only the most rudimentary supplies, nothing has a place, and everything feels temporary.
While I will miss the quiet stability of this house, I am quite looking forward to the adventure of the new one. The first trip to Target will be epic. After years of bemoaning the lack of counter space, the closeness of quarters, it will be nice to have a little more elbow room. I already live so much of my life in the new town that the move will be more of a homecoming than a farewell.
For seven of the eight years in this home, my job has been my kids. So when we pull into the new one, with real oak floors instead of laminate, with a stone façade instead of siding, with real wood-burning fireplaces instead of push-button gas ones, with windows and skylights and porches galore, I hope my husband feels proud of what he has accomplished for his family. I hope he surveys his expanded little kingdom and is happy. I know I will be. That house, with its unknown corners and undiscovered delights, is going to be our new home.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
In the end, I picked movies that stuck with me, like a good stew, adding weight to my life. They may not be your choices, but they are mine.
(I will note that like most of my top comedic choices, my husband either hates these movies or has never seen them. How we have survived our entire marriage with only one television is a mystery to both of us.)
So, in no particular order, here are my top five movies, drama.
1. Heavenly Creatures. I still remember watching this for the first time. (Hi MJ!) It is visually stunning, emotionally upsetting, and features Kate Winslet’s debut performance on film. It is based on a true story about two teenage girls who formed an unusually strong attachment to each other and committed murder in order to keep from being separated. It sounds blah on paper, but in execution, it is fantastic. Trust me.
2. Schindler’s List. Obviously, this movie is just a tad depressing. A bit, really. Some of the scenes are almost painful to watch, they are so horrifying. However, the performances are all around stunning. Ralph Fiennes made being a sociopath look good. Plus, I think a large part of my love for this movie comes from Liam Neeson as Schindler. In every scene, he looms large, he cannot be ignored, even just sitting quietly, he is riveting.
3. The Godfather, Part II. This movie is better than Part I because of Fredo. Plus, there is no whiny Italian bride wasting any of my time. God, that woman was shrill. The second movie in the trilogy (which should have been the last), really gets you invested in past Vito and present Michael and shows that it really is all about who you can trust.
4. Goodfellas. The end all and be all of mob movies. If the Godfather is the epic tale of one family’s rise to prominence in the world of the mafia, Goodfellas is the down and dirty story of one guy in the mob. Sounds similar, but they couldn’t be more different. Joe Pesci manages to be horrifying and hilarious all in the same line reading, leading to some incredibly quotable lines of dialogue.
5. The Age of Innocence. I hemmed and hawed about this one, but I watched it practically on repeat and loved it every single time. If Joanne Woodward could narrate my life with the same dry wit and eye toward detail, I would be a very happy person indeed. In fact, I think it is the narration that sells it for me. It’s a simple story about repressed love in early New York society, which sounds tedious, but it actually quite torrid. No one gets nekkid and the ending is heart-breaking, but the actors sell it, even Winona Ryder.
So, once again, agree, disagree, just watch them at least once.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
I happened to be sitting at my desk in the back room of my home. I had guys working under the house on my crawlspace all day. My kids were upstairs watching a movie. Quite suddenly, my desk started to shake. My initial thought was that it was the guys under the house. As I started to make my way through my kitchen and down the hallway to my front door, the entire house started shaking around me and there was n noise somewhere between the growl of wolves and the odd sound of wood under pressure. Walking through the hall, I felt like I was in a horror movie – things seemed so much slower, everything was in Shaky-cam, and the hallway seemed to go on forever. I realized I wasn’t having some sort of massive dizzy spell/psychotic break when I heard my daughter crying from upstairs. Surely, she and I were not hallucinating at the same time. By the time I made it out the front door with my daughter by my side, my mailbox (built on top of a pole) was swaying as if in a stiff breeze. The guys in the truck looked at me like I was nuts when I asked them if they had just caused my house to shake. Only when the neighbor came out looking as surprised as I was did I realize it probably wasn’t the contractors.
I know it didn’t take long, didn’t do any damage, didn’t hurt anyone, but what it did do was shake me to my core. I have taught my kids that home is a safe place. It doesn’t matter what type of storm is raging outside. Under my roof, within my walls, with me and my husband, they are safe and sound. And then the walls shook.
It took me all day to get my equilibrium back. Now, I know Left Coasters can “stir their coffee with a 5.8”. That’s great. But us East Coaster’s are considered more grounded for a reason: because our ground doesn’t shake. It has always been firm beneath our feet. I don’t think there were any hysterics, no holy men coming forward to proclaim that the end was near and that it was time to sacrifice a goat to appease the dogs. Well, except for my husband, and he was just hoping to forestall Hurricane Irene from ruining our coastal vacation this week. In fact, the coolest part of the experience is how much we all shared it. Facebook lit up like a Christmas tree. The Twitterverse went nuts. With cell phone towers jammed, texting became the communication of choice with my husband and his family. Sure, we didn’t need to check in with each other. The already infamous picture of one plastic lawn chair out of four being knocked over by the jolt does indeed give the right picture of how minor the quake really was. However, we weren’t calling to find out if our houses were still standing; we were calling to share stories.
Let’s be honest. The earth should only move for some very specific occasions: great sex, powerful thunder, bombs, and nearness to public transportation. If you were lucky enough to be getting lucky when the quake moved the world, then I hope you enjoyed it. You’ll never have better again. If you were unlucky enough to be driving or in motion enough that you missed the motion of plates shifting, then I am sorry for you. You missed out on an experience that will hopefully never be repeated. A moment when a dozen states, with countless millions of people, all stopped at the same moment in time and thought, “What the fuck?”
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
There, I said it. Now, to true movie snobs, the ones that see every indie movie, every classic, hell, every film (not flick, those are different) that have been made in the last 50 years, I am but a babe in the woods (infant, not hottie). My movie viewing has become somewhat limited after having children. Why waste a date night sitting next to my husband, but not talking? I can do that on my own couch. Plus, most movies are crap anyway, so I can either pay for a month’s subscription to Netflix and HBO combined and watch unlimited crap, or buy two tickets to the newest blockbuster and pay top dollar for two hours worth of crap. It’s not a hard decision.
Now don’t get me wrong, I was raised on 80s action movies and I still love them. Christmas Eve tradition is to watch Die Hard while wrapping the kid’s presents. “Now I have a machine gun. Ho.Ho.Ho.” See, it’s a Christmas movie! Also required for the holiday’s is A Christmas Story, and sadly, because my brothers/sisters-in law all have no taste but have made me watch the movie so many times I can now actually quote it and have actually started to enjoy it, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. “Shitter’s full” is a rallying cry among my husband’s family. Plus, I have seen the original Star Wars trilogy so many times that I have no idea if it is good or bad. It is a classic part of my childhood and my life and I am proud to say that my son got his first Star Wars book for his birthday and loved it. May the force be with him.
It’s not like I am only a fan of black & white movies from the silent era, I just hate Ben Stiller (excluding Tropic Thunder which was quite surprisingly hysterical). I also hate Vince Vaughn, Jim Carrey, and pretty much anything Judd Apatow has ever made. I would rather have surgery than watch Swingers, get hungover than watch the Hangover again, and nothing on heaven and earth will get me to watch any “comedy” with Cameron Diaz. Do I have a sense of humor? I think so. I just don’t do stupid. Or slap-stick. Or gross-out. (I also don’t do horror or westerns but that’s another blog.)
But recently, at a night out with some Smurfy friends, I was asked for a list of my top movies. In the interest of brevity, today I will focus on comedy. Here are the top five movies that make me laugh. They are in no particular order.
1. The Princess Bride. I unabashedly love this movie from start to finish. It’s just so silly and lovable and quotable. I honestly could find a quote for every situation. I could gush, but it would be unseemly. “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
2. Galaxy Quest. Take all the jokes about Star Trek, roll them up into a ball, and then stuff them into a totally self-aware movie about a fake sci-fi show and add an actual plot. There are red shirts, shirtless captains, Shakespearean actors lamenting their lot in life, and geeks. I only wish they would make a sequel. “Maybe you’re just the plucky comic relief?”
3. Cookie’s Fortune. It’s a Robert Altman movie starring Glenn Close, Julianne Moore, and a gallery of actors all putting on Southern accents. It’s sweet, and funny, and has lot of character moments, but also lots of little asides that make it worth watching multiple times. “So I’m part black!”
4. Clerks. Foul-mouthed, bottom of the barrel humor, and some pretty crappy acting, yet this movie is still hilarious. It launched Kevin Smith’s career (for better or worse), and made Jay and Silent Bob a cultural phenomenon. Plus, it made the number 37 infamous. “I’m not even supposed to be here today!”
5. My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Arguably, more of a chick flick, but still funny. It perfectly captured the sort of big family, big craziness feeling of throwing a big wedding. Plus, the fact that the groom noticed the bride when she was still schlubby makes it easier to digest than all of those, girl only gets guy when she gets hot. In this movie, she gets the guy because she gets self-esteem. It’s a mild difference in a rom-com, but still a noticeable one. “Put some Windex on it.”
I’m sure I’ll kick myself for forgetting some that changed my life in some way or that make me laugh until I cried, but those choices are out of my own personal movie cabinet. Agree, disagree, just try to watch them at least once.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
In light of today’s awful announcement, I think all reality tv people should take a good, hard look at their lives. Do you want all the nitty gritty details to become public? Have you checked your financial statements? Is your job secure? Any kids with mental/physical/emotional issues? How is the family doing? Are you close with all your brothers and sisters? How is your marriage? Obviously no one has a crystal ball and can predict how your future will turn out, but if you know that your whites are a bit dingy, then don’t air your laundry in public!
We’ve seen this time and time again. Jon and Kate started out all right, I might even say cautiously happy. Now, not only are they divorced, but it was an angry, bitter, public divorce that dragged their precious kids down with it. How many Housewives have lost their husbands or their homes? Half? How many of their kids needed counseling, not cameras? All? I don’t yell at my kids as much in fall and spring because my windows are open. I couldn’t imagine having all of my windows open, all year long, with millions of people peeping in at all hours of the day and night. That, right there, is my version of hell on earth.
So why do these people choose to be on television? Fame? Money? Love? I bet all three. Prostitution is the oldest profession because it requires the least skill. The only think you need to make money is a pulse. There is nothing to learn from any of the shows on Bravo, or MTV, or Discovery, or TLC other than people are crazy, people are stupid, and when you put people in stressful situations, they will react accordingly. None of this is exactly rocket science. Teenagers get drunk, mothers relive childhood through their children, money can’t buy you class, or taste, or true friends, and simply saying that you are a singer/author/designer doesn’t mean you actually are. All of these are known facts. I don’t need to watch TV to learn them.
However, train wreck television has become appointment viewing. I DVR most of the RH series, plus a host of other reality shows and I am both embarrassed by them and addicted to them. Why? Simple – they make me feel better about myself as a wife, mother, friend, and person. I don’t put my kids through pageants, begging the audience to believe that the child is the one who loves it while said child screams and cries her way through the day. I don’t pretend I am rich. I don’t pretend that all of my acquaintances are my true friends and that every minor slight is a duel to the death offense. I am not really a dramatic person. I try to tell a good story. I try to make people laugh. I gossip. But do I stir shit intentionally in order to cause others pain and suffering? No. I most emphatically do not. I’m just me. Pantless. Often braless. Usually tasteless. I may live quite a bit of my life publicly on FB and on my blog, but I choose what gets published. I choose what I say and how I say it. I can’t blame editing. I can’t blame Andy Cohen or Jon Gosselin or any of the behind the scenes production crew because there isn’t anyone else. Anything I say or do is my fault, good or bad.
So goodbye Russell Armstrong. I hope you get in the afterlife what you denied yourself in this one – peace and quiet.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Now, I love me some Neil Patrick Harris. He’s part of the Whedonverse and if you haven’t yet seen Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog, I highly suggest you download it from iTunes immediately. Actually, just go ahead and YouTube his opening number at the Tony Awards while you are at it. If you don’t laugh out loud at least once, well, we can’t be friends. I honestly believed that with NPH in it, it truly couldn’t be that bad. Sadly, I was mistaken.
For the record, my kids loved it. They actually laughed out loud at times and were really into it. Obviously, they have no taste.
Let’s start by discussing language. In this movie, the words “fuck” and “smurf” were interchangeable. Fuck you became Smurf You. Abso-fucking-lutely, became Abso-Smurf-ly. Perhaps my childhood memory is playing tricks on me, but I don’t remember Smurf being a curse word before. It certainly became one in this movie. It is just modernization? Was it an attempt to amuse the parents in the audience? I don’t know, but it got old pretty quickly. However, if I could get Samuel L. Jackson to record “Go the Smurf to Bed!” I would die happy.
My problems with the movie itself were numerous. It’s like someone at Sony decided they needed to make money on merchandising and built a movie around that concept. Big brands paid big money to be in this movie. But never was the product placement anything but egregious; every product felt like it was shoehorned into the script by marketing. Plus, who did Joan Rivers blow to get in this movie? The woman hasn’t been relevant since Papa Smurf was growing his first ‘stache, yet she still managed to get a line. And don’t think I didn’t notice James Beard award winner and Top Chef host Tom Colicchio just randomly standing around in one scene looking embarrassed. What on earth was he doing there?
The movie picked up and dropped plot lines worse than Glee, which is really saying something. Every joke was obvious. Even New York City got dumbed down. I think little blue creatures three apples tall are easier to believe in that finding Central Park deserted on a warm spring night. Also, could we put a moratorium on FAO Schwartz in movies? Please? For me? Poor Hank Azaria acted like he wandered off the set of Enchanted while the rest of the actors just gamely did their best to interact with empty sightlines. It was a mess. Child friendly doesn’t have to mean stupid. Just ask Pixar.
I know I sound crazy nitpicking a PG movie for kids, and I openly admit that I am a movie snob and am so not the target audience, but still! I think everyone should always do their best at their craft. At this was by far, not the best that NPH has to offer. Not by a long shot.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
My children are well indoctrinated into lake culture. However, their experience is quite a bit different than that of their father’s childhood. For starters, there are no dirty cabins filled with spiders. Instead, they get to enjoy all the benefits of home (and then some) because their grandparents now own a lakefront cabin and a boat bigger than my living room. Fishing is a side interest at best, because they spend all of their time on the flotilla of flotation devices owned by their uncle. At six, my daughter has already been on a Jet Ski and gone tubing. She stays with her grandparents in comfort and splendor. My husband and I stay at my BIL/SIL’s gorgeous, custom-build log cabin in an alcoholic haze. It’s awesome.
This past weekend was one of the many “family weekends” that are scheduled where all four sets of children/spouses, their parents, the two grandchildren, and the grandchild-to-be all gather to make merry on land and lake. Sadly, we were without one set and they were dearly missed. But, the weather was a perfect 85 degrees with not a cloud in the sky and the alcohol flowed to the point where all three brothers were contemplating ditching work to go to a Motley Crüe concert. My daughter took her first turn ‘round the lake on a tube and loved it, my son continued his quest to be the youngest pontoon boat captain ever, and my husband I got to walk away from our earthly cares (and kids) to just relax.
This brings us to the damn Jet Ski. As Saturday afternoon was winding down, my daughter begged for one last run on it. Never having been known to say no to his niece, her uncle immediately agreed. In a kind turn, he invited my husband to be the driver and said I should go as well as it sat three. The obligatory picture was snapped and off we went. Straight was fine, straight was good. It was the turn that did us in. Within sight of the dock and our watching family (who, as it turned out, weren’t watching at all), we fell off the stupid floating death trap into the lake, flipping it over entirely. Luckily, my daughter took it rather well and after the ski was righted, clambered right back aboard and was ready to keep going. I thought this was an excellent attitude and meant to do the same. Except, well, every time we tried to get all three of us back on, we all fell off. Over and over and over again. By the sixth time we were unceremoniously dumped back into the drink, my daughter was no longer laughing. She was crying. So, once again, she climbs up, her father climbs up, and as I start swimming over to climb up, she turns to him as says,
“Let’s just leave Mommy and go.”
One the one hand, the tang of steel sliding between my shoulder blades hurt as she twisted that particular knife. On the other hand, I was actually proud of her rather bloodless ability to analyze the situation, find the flaw, and come up with a solution. Screw the no man left behind business, she really and honestly wanted to leave me floating in the middle of a lake to fend for myself while she got herself to safety. After years of believing that she was 100 percent her father’s daughter, I finally saw a glimmer of myself in her. It’s my own fault if that glimmer was reflecting off her cold, cold heart.
It was around this time that the monkey bunch back on the dock realized that the tomfoolery going on within binocular range involved their immediate family and they came to our aid. The girls climbed aboard, my husband got on the back of the godforsaken water beast and we were off. Except we weren’t – because we had broken the Jet Ski.
Now, this is not the first time we’ve been in this particular situation. Seven years ago, my father-in-law handed over the keys to the boat for a sunset cruise: my husband as captain, me as pregnant passenger. Off we went. A good ways away from land, the boat stopped. Just decided it was done. It was late in the season and there weren’t many boats on the water as dusk fell. Luckily, just ahead of us were my brothers-in-law, with wives! I waved, they waved back. I waved again, this time a bit more vigorously. They waved back cheerfully. They proceed to sit and have a snack while my husband desperately attempted to get us moving again. I start waving again, this time while shouting and using a red sweatshirt for a bit of exclamatory color. They wave back. It was at this point that I honestly thought they were going to pull anchor and leave us to a watery grave. Finally, finally, common sense kicked in and they realized that something must be wrong and floated to our aid. We ended the evening being towed back to the dock via rope while they threw pretzels at us for sustenance.
So here we were, another lake weekend, another broken piece of equipment, being towed back to the dock by rope. The only difference was the lack of pretzels. I’m pretty sure my Jet Ski career is over and only a fool would give my husband the keys to anything else again. But I’m sure we will be back, year after year, to that particular lake, with that particular family, making memories. Just hopefully, not more ones of us breaking shit – because that is going to get expensive.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Have you ever watched the episode of Mythbusters where Tory, Kari, and Grant make goats faint just by scaring them? That’s what I have. Have you ever wondered why Greg, the Yellow Wiggle, left the band? He has orthostatic intolerance. Also what I have. Officially, it’s called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). Unofficially, it’s a right pain in the ass. In short, every time you stand up, your heart rate and blood pressure have to rebalance. Mine don’t always play nice together, so my heart rate soars and my blood pressure drops. When this happens, I must go horizontal (and usually unconscious) for the time it takes my body to stabilize. Fun, huh? I would be remiss if I didn’t shout to the heavens that I actually have a very, very mild case and that I am very lucky. Hear that God? Very lucky!
To explain how it feels, imagine being drunk. Not passing out, taking naked pictures of yourself drunk, but that pleasantly woozy feeling where all you want is a slice of pizza and a warm bed. Now, take away the alcohol (and pizza), but triple the need to lie down (flat as a board, not reclining in any way). Add in a little loss of fine-motor skills and a dash of heat and proceed to lose the next two hours of your day. Now know what it feels like to have what I refer to as, “an episode.”
The reason I bring this up today is that heat made my condition more prevalent. The hotter it is, the harder it is for my body to regulate itself. It is expected to reach 99 degrees for the next few days. In this type of weather, I obey the warnings and advisories posted for old people and stay the hell indoors. However, due to doctor’s orders, I am temporarily barred from any form of cardiovascular movement and cannot engage in any activity that will elevate my heart rate. Basically, I am stuck indoors with both kids trying to stay calm. Anyone else see a problem with that?
Obviously, my first line of defense is the DVD player. However, my kids have a saturation point when it comes to movies. Next comes the Activity Jar, but honestly they are so over each other that whatever comes out has to be separate activities or I’ll have to pick teeth up off the floor. Neither kid enjoys shopping so walking the mall is out. Unless I can cajole other families into joining us at a play place, it just boils down to my kids fighting with each other (again), only I’ve paid for the privilege of them doing so in public. We’ve seen Cars 2. In short, I’m SOL.
Luckily, my kids know that I don’t do well in heat. My son very sweetly brings me my blood pressure monitor in bed. My daughter is always admonishing me to “be careful.” They both know that this is only a short-lived captivity and that tomorrow is always another chance to go to a camp, or for daddy to come home early and liberate them, or for them to find a new movie they haven’t seen on Apple TV. Just like the heat, this too shall pass. But until then, no Wiggles.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
My daughter had been out of school for exactly seven days before I received my first brochure in the mail hawking back to school supplies. Seven days. I barely had enough time to air out her lunchbox and wash all of her water bottles before TRU, Land’s End, and L.L. Bean started stuffing my mail box with glossy pictures of next season’s items. I went into Staples the other day and had to wind my way around display after display of heavily discounted crayons, scissors, markers, and pens. In a quick stop at Hallmark, I was dumb enough to ask why an entire section was covered in Christmas paper only to be dumbstruck by the response that they are going to unveil their entire line of Christmas ornaments this coming Saturday.
Which leads me to the obvious question, who is buying these products?
There has to be a reason that Hallmark is trying to sell Christmas in July, or Staples is trying to hustle Crayola in June. But surely, it can’t be based on customer demand, right? Does anyone need to decorate a tree in summer? Can you get a cut pine without getting arrested? Honestly, I applaud the person who can make these purchases and actually put them away until the time is ready to use them. I am not that person. I assure you, if I bought an ornament any earlier than November, I would find it months later, still in its bag, probably crushed to bits. The same would happen with pre-bought school supplies. I would stash them someplace the kids couldn’t find them and lose them forever.
Which brings us right back around to wondering who is doing the purchasing? I swear, back when I was a kid, this shit came out in-season. School supplies didn’t hit stores until the first checks were due for school tuitions. (Don’t get me started on all the college junk for sale. Where was Target when I was in school, eh?) Halloween decorations didn’t come in until school supplies went out. No one had Thanksgiving decorations (thankfully, since those little Pilgrims make me twitch), and Christmas decorations only arrived once all the last of the Halloween stuff went out. It also seemed to be a more gradual end. I remember having to go to Walgreens the day before school started because on the day of, everything would be back to regular price. Still in the store mind you, just no longer on sale. Everything wasn’t yanked at midnight on October 31st or December 25th. I was in charge of the Valentine craft for my son’s preschool class this year and was had to scramble to purchase the last two craft kits, at 75 percent discount, a full two weeks before February 14th. What’s up with that? What is the rush to jump right into the next holiday before we get a chance to enjoy the previous one?
If I ran the world, beyond switching the health benefits of sugar and vegetables, I would force stores to produce items only in season. If food should only be eaten in season for the best flavor, the same should be said for swing sets, and snow suits, and knee-high boots. Surely, if you only sold Christmas ornaments say between Black Friday and Boxing Day, you would build more of a demand for the product? If you kept everything full price, but only out for a limited time, instead of out for a long period of time, but discounted, you would make more money? I have the brain of an English major and my only retail experience is in book stores, but there has to be a better way to bring demand than to encourage excessive supply. I don’t want to have to buy my kid’s Halloween costume by Labor Day because it won’t be in stock by Columbus Day and spend the intervening time praying the kid doesn’t change her mind. I want to shop to the calendar – I want to buy shorts in July and a coat in February, not vice versa.
At some point, jumping the seasons is going to jump the shark and those will be happy days indeed.
Friday, July 8, 2011
My son is a different kettle of fish entirely. I don’t have 17 days to devote to him. I don’t even have 17 hours. He gets dragged out of the house every few hours every single day. He also cannot be bribed. Matchbox cars, books, M&Ms, you name it, I’ve tried it. He simply says, “No thank you” in a tone of utter politeness and dismissal and goes on with his day. Every few weeks, we start the process again. I have done everything in my power short of duct-taping the child to the bowl to get him to pee in it.
The week my husband was home we tried a different tactic. Target practice! Every 15 minutes, a timer went off and my husband and son whipped out their respective equipment and aimed at off-brand Fruit Loops. My husband got quite good at it. My son, on the other hand, never even managed to open fire. I’m also pretty sure he started developing PTSD from the timer.
Finally, finally, there was a breakthrough. The kid peed in the potty. Of course, he did it for daddy, not me, and couldn’t replicate the process again for love or money. Then, breakthrough number two (pun intended) happened at his grandparent’s house. Once again, I missed it and once again it could not be replicated. Worse, I had to give him the big reward I had been holding over him for months (the 2010 Hess truck with fighter jet). Days passed. Nothing. The dude has a bladder like a steel drum. Not only that, but if you don’t watch him like a hawk, his “tell” of grabbing his crotch, only gives you a 30-second window before the floodgates open and he pees on the floor.
I know you are supposed to hop the kid up on liquid, but short of sticking him with an IV, I can’t force him to drink. I made smoothies – he spent hours relishing every mouthful. We took water bottles wherever we went – and they always came home full. I offered him chocolate milk – the equivalent of 30-year old aged scotch to an alcoholic – and he would take a few sips and then leave the cup behind. It was maddening.
Finally, I had to do what I felt was necessary. I broke very single rule of parenting and potty training. I told the little bastard that I would start punishing him for it. Not, obviously, a tried and true, couldn’t-make-it-to-the-potty-in-time accident. But a go hide in the corner, poop his brains out, then come back and ask me to be changed “accident” would result in the loss of Matchbox cars. Two days of this and he caved. He can still go hours in between pit stops, but that just means that he has a larger bladder than my oldest sister-in-law. I heaved a big sigh of relief, bought a bucketload of new Cars II cars and dangled them in front of him as rewards for the other half of the problem. Yet again, he could have cared less.
So this time, it was the threat of not getting to go to the pool or to any summer camps that encouraged him. Never have I heard a child as happy as the day he finally let some drop. He sang. He danced. He ran around in the house reveling in the thrill of victory. He enthusiastically replayed every moment to anyone who would listen. After almost a full freaking year of trying with the little guy, I honestly think this developmental milestone was met with greater levels of celebration than my getting pregnant with him in the first place. Sure, I knew diaper changing was part of the deal, I just didn’t think ahead to realize I was signing up for six and a half years of it. So while we are still wearing pull-ups at night (at least until the box runs out), we are almost in the clear. Now, every morning, he decides which of his colorful “unders” he wants to wear. Some days, he matches them to his shirts. Other days, he picks based on his desire to be a car, or a train, or a super hero. But every single day for a few weeks now, he is free of accidents.
Now I can proudly say that while shit happens, it is confined to the appropriate receptacle.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
I had a family wedding on Long Island last week. There was a Wednesday night rehearsal dinner, the Thursday night wedding, and then the Friday morning brunch – all because my daughter was the flower girl. This, of course, meant that my workaholic husband had to take a full three days off work in order to spend oodles of quality time with my parents. Please use your imagination on how well that conversation went.
Wednesday: My husband spent his “vacation” time by being on endless conference calls. I spent the entire four-hour drive listening to his side of techno-babble engineer-speak in complete silence, excluding the occasional requests for a movie change, snack, or drink from the back seat. That left me a lot of time with my thoughts and what I was primarily thinking was – I hate driving in New York. As a state, they seem to believe that signaling is for suckers, the line markers are private, motorcycle-only lanes, and that stop-and-go traffic means that you stop so they can go. When we finally arrived at our destination, I never wanted to curse more or hear “sku” less.
I was not in the best mood upon arrival and it only got worse when I was told up on check-in that my parents were in the next room. No sooner had we put the card key in the lock than she had poked her head out the door. She helped with nothing, got in the way more than the kids, and managed to make a rude comment about how I looked before the bride-to-be even emerged for the rehearsal. The kids were ill-behaved due to exhaustion (the dinner started well after their usual bed time), my parents were pissed that they weren’t at the head table, and my husband still had calls to make. It was a long, long dinner.
Thursday: The wedding day dawned bright and clear. I was so stressed out I couldn’t even take a deep breath. Like an ill wind, wherever we went, my parents were already there and were talking about death. While the butcher bill might be high in my family, I hardly think the best place to discuss for whom the bell tolled is at a wedding. Yet it was the constant topic of discussion. I spent the day getting a mani/pedi (sounds relaxing, but wasn’t), getting my daughter’s hair done, getting her pictures, getting her in place, etc. I had to stay with her because while everyone involved was family, none were family she had ever met. By the time I was handed a glass of champagne in the bridal lounge while we waited for the guests to be seated, I could have drank down an entire bottle.
With fifteen minutes to go before the wedding, my husband knocked at the door. My son, who was for the first time in his life, wearing a tie, was soaking, dripping wet. He had leaves in his hair. His shoes were making puddles. And he looked at me with the saddest, biggest eyes and said, “Mommy, I fell in the fountain.”
Oh, for fuck’s sake!
I gave the boy a kiss, smacked my husband on the ass for laughing, and sent them back to the room post-haste for a change. Lucky for my husband, three things were in his favor: I had already started drinking, our room was onsite, and we had a change of clothes packed. The bride thought it was hysterical, several guests took pictures, and my son was much happier in his shorts and polo than he would have been in his button-down and tie. I only learned afterward that the “fountain” was actually a pond with a three-foot drop, ringed in rocks, and deeper than he could stand. How he didn’t hurt himself on the way down, we’ll never know. In my husband’s defense, he was actively watching the child at the time of his fall because there is a picture of the moment before taken by his camera. It was a pure, simple accident.
So, onto the actual wedding; my daughter threw her petals with precision and did her best not to fidget during the ceremony. She then proved to be the life of the party and danced more than every other guest combined. While we were once again seated with my parents, this time the music was so loud that talking was impossible. My son was so exhausted that he sat glassy-eyed and dazed through most of the reception. By the time the very long night ended, I could have wept with relief and did actually utter a deep, unearthly moan when I finally shucked my Spanx, heels, and push-up bra.
Friday: My husband was up at 4 a.m. taking calls, my kids barely slept much later, and we had to attend the brunch before leaving for the drive home, which this time, meant driving in full-on holiday traffic as it was the first day of the Fourth of July weekend. Pictures of my sodden son were passed around, promises to get together soon were made, and we were finally, finally on our way home. But not, of course, without the box of crumbly, car-destroying cookies that my mom insisted on buying for the kids from a “real New York bakery.” Our GPS led us on a scenic tour of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty before taking us safely back to Jersey, and minutes within entering our front door, I sent the kids out the back door to burn energy in the sprinkler.
While I was broken, battered, and beaten down from three days of wedded bliss, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Family is family. And while I would have liked to have added my mother’s name to the roll call of the dearly departed, that woman has the constitution of a cockroach and I’m sure I’ll still have reason to bitch for many weddings to come.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
And then, summer vacation began.
My kids, like most, prefer structure. Give them an empty day and they try to fill it with murder and destruction. My son’s last question to me at night is to ask what we are going to do the next day. My daughter chooses her wardrobe based on the day’s events so prior knowledge is essential. However, the first week of vacation, I made the rookie mistake of assuming that since the week prior had been a madcap dash of parties and dance commitments, and the week ahead would be spent in a family-themed episode of Say Yes to the Stress, that a week of calm was in order. It’s not like we sat home and stared at each other. We went to the movies, we went to a birthday party, we went to play with friends, we went to the toy store, we went to a picnic, and we even went to a local pool. Do those sound like empty days?
unfortunately, they were not busy enough. They still managed to try to kill each other a dozen times per day. There were screaming matches, WWF-style throw downs, copious amounts of tears, and some actual bloodshed. If one asked for grapes, the other wanted blueberries and then fought over which one wanted which. If one stopped to read quietly, the other would stomp like a T-Rex all across the books. Using the stamp and ink pads resulted in a Smurf for a child, using scissors and paper made it look like an Origami convention gone horribly awry, and anything that required them to actually clean up after themselves ensured a Chernobyl-level explosion. In short, my kids were right bastards.
I did what any parent would do – I complained to my friends. Luckily, one gave me the fantastic suggestion of creating a fun jar. Just take regular every day fun things, like riding a bike or breaking out the Play-Doh, write them down on slips of paper, put them in a jar, and when a kid inevitably whines that he or she is bored, out comes the jar, out comes a slip and they get to do that activity. Enforced fun – what’s not to like? We divided our slips of paper into three categories: inside, outside, and special events. This gave me the ability to keep us indoors on the hottest days and help monitor the amount of money spent on crazy activities. Kids may bowl free this summer, but that’s about all that’s free. Given a choice, my kids would go out to eat every night, which I am sure has nothing to do with my cooking and everything to do with the novelty of getting both M&M’s and ice cream for dessert. So far, we are still working on the choices. I vetoed play dates as an option because I like to set them up in advance. They vetoed nap time because, really, who wants to pull that as an activity? I may keep some blank paper and palm some of the more date-specific rewards such as the dollar movies, open plays at indoor sports centers, and other random activities.
We have a crazy busy week ahead of us with incoming visits from out-of-town guests and outgoing events where we are the incoming guests, so the jar won’t go into effect until next week where I can test its effectiveness. Currently, I’m cautiously optimistic about its success. My only hope is that I don’t have to add a fourth category that includes such choices as Sam Adams, Captain Morgan, and Jack Daniels or worse, Cooper, Virtua, and CHOP.
Friday, June 17, 2011
1. Backpack. Size matters. It has to be big enough to fit in a standard-sized lunchbox, but small enough not to overbalance them in a stiff wind (even though it will almost ever hold any books.) It must be checked daily. Water bottles, hair clips, the occasional small toy, and the never-ending stray crayons must be removed and put into their proper home.
2. Folder. She had a folder that came home every day. It contained every single piece of paper she had colored, cut, and pasted, as well as every note from the teacher, PTA, student council, cafeteria, superintendent, nurse, and room mom. It was also the source of birthday party invitations. This folder was a gaping hole of environmental destruction and had to be sifted very carefully, piece by piece to separate the actual useful information from the random art. Placement in this folder was very important: left side for home, right side for school. I intend to burn it in effigy.
3. Paperwork. In this day and age of e-mail, paper was still king in her elementary school. Nothing was sent electronically. Everything had to be signed, initialed, notarized, and practically fingerprinted. I learned the hard way to fill everything out and send it back immediately lest it get lost. (Putting it in a “safe place” just meant finding it two weeks past deadline.)
4. Money. There is no such thing as spare change once your child is in school. Quarters are a hot commodity. They buy pretzels. Small bills are also essential. No mother carries a twenty. What would we do with it? Fives and singles are the currency of the school yard.
5. Art. There is no craft as precious as the one you put in the trash yesterday. Random scraps are treasured gifts from friends. Everyone has a different way to deal with crafts. Find your own and stick to it. I employed a three prong method: fridge, playroom wall, or (after a suitable waiting period) trash.
6. Gossip. All the best gossip occurred at drop-off and pick-up. I made sure to figure out who had the best gossip and immediately befriended her. She had all the good stuff, not the water-down PTA version of events. I shall miss her. Luckily, I already know who has the goods at our new school.
7. Play Dates. Just say no.
8. Teachers. Nothing says “thoughtful parent” like the occasional gift of tissues, wipes, and sanitizer. I bought in bulk and deliver new supplies at the first outbreak of cold, flu, or stomach bug. A hand-pump of Purell a day could keep the doctor away.
9. Lunch. The school lunch is still a frightening thing. What are chicken fries? When did nachos become healthy? I let buy once a week on a pre-approved day. The rest of the time, she got water or milk, a sandwich, and fruit. No snacks, no cookies, no chips. Trust me, she got enough extra junk food during her school day, I didn’t need to add to it.
10. Volunteer. By doing what I could to get into my kid’s classroom as often as possible, I was able to get a much better idea of which kid to avoid, which teacher did what, and how well (or not) her classroom was handled. Of course, the downside was that once you go in once, you wind up going in for everything. The upside, lovely end-of-year gifts for being a good parent.
Next year, we are going parochial. God help us all.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
One of fellow bloggers recently found a web site that will determine how your blog would be rated if it were a movie. (Not only am I ripping off her idea, I am totally ripping off her latest blog post. Remember She Who Must Not Be Named, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.) Of course, I had to try this. Hers was rated NC-17, which impressed me to no end. Sadly, I only earned an R. Is it wrong that I am disappointed?
As with the MPAA, the site listed the specific examples of what made my blog rated R. I used the word porn four times, death three times, sex twice, and dead once. That’s it. Ugh. I feel like there are Curious George episodes that are dirtier. Plus, I am sure I used the word fuck at least three times, which should surely bump me up into NC-17 territory. When did I become so friendly? I don’t want to be friendly. I want to be snarky and rude and funny and intelligent and witty and odd and occasionally morbid. To steal yet another joke from the other blog, I feel like there should be far more necrophilia posts based on my rating. In this day and age, just going pantless is enough to earn you a PG-13. Maybe I need to start going braless too?
Plus, who decides if talking about death is only for mature audiences? True, I try not to discuss porn with my kids and sex jokes tend to go right over their heads, but kids understand death. Hell, last year in pre-k, the children in my daughter’s class were asked to draw a picture of their favorite pet and the resulting gallery was like a modern art wailing wall of the recently deceased. It would have been disturbing if it wasn’t so funny.
I don’t necessarily aspire to raunchy, but I’ll take naughty if I can get it. I should actually be glad I at least earned a red-band R. If there were a Blockbuster for the blog world, at least I’d still be available to rent. The big box retailers would still carry my words. I may even wind up in the dollar stores of the world, deeply discounted, but still available to own. My NC-17 rated friend cannot say the same.
So at least I’ve got that going for me.
Friday, June 3, 2011
When I couldn’t get basic errands run yesterday, I sent my husband an e-mail asking for him to run them for me. This is a pretty common occurrence as it is basically a get out of jail free card. He works late, but blames in on the errand. I get a necessary task done, so ignore how long it takes him to do it. It’s one of the little ways we stay happily married. However, sending my dearly beloved an e-mail can be a tricky thing. He has a habit of ignoring them or reading and deleting. My most common messages are sent via text and read either, ETA? or Milk, please. There are no cutesy messages about missing him or looking forward to the weekend. Those would immediately put me on the Do Not Open list, never to be read again.
However, I figured both he and I needed a little bit of humor to get through our days. Luckily, he felt the same. So, my few readers, here is the e-mail chain between the two of us about running errands. Enjoy.
I am having problems motivating my employees. They refuse to dress appropriately and that is causing a breakdown in my ability to handle my daily responsibilities. Also, they seem to want me to micromanage every aspect of their performance which is leaving me very little to no time to actually manage any of my own. One employee seems to have an undiagnosed hearing loss, temporary memory loss, as well as separation anxiety from his partner, Lightning McQueen. The older, more experienced employee seems willing to take control, however, I fear her ideas of appropriate behavior and mine are vastly different.
As such, I have been entirely prevented from achieving my three goals for the day: the acquisition of rolls from the purveyor of choice, the acquisition of beef gravy from the grocery store, and a quick stop at a local pharmacy for such much needed medicines.
I would have used a more immediate form of communication to confer this information to you, but unfortunately, our employees are also now using company communication equipment for personal use.
Your Wife, SAHM
Thank you for bringing this to my attention.I appreciate your help in attaining the perfectly medicated state necessary for me to do my job properly. This will avoid my heart exploding and the extra hours that would cause maintenance. While I realize that managing my charges falls squarely under my job description, the attainment of our vertically-challenged staff was actually a dual venture and dual responsibility must be accepted. As to the tasks that are not deemed mission critical, no alternatives can be discussed until there is a set deadline placed on when they will be presented to management.
I do hope that you realize that your employee’s behavior is your responsibility, and your inability to lead them reflects poorly on your managerial skills.
Your unsuccessful completion of your tasks will result in disciplinary action, please be on the lookout for the form that I will require you to sign and return, in duplicate.
As it is a mission critical task, I will handle task 3, and pick up your medications this evening.
The other two tasks will have to be delayed until you can complete them tomorrow, and alternative plans will have to be made. I am open to suggestions at this point in time.
Unfortunately, due to our current corporate culture, any deadline given will undoubtedly be changed abruptly and without warning, so I may have to call in a third-party vendor to provide sustenance.
Also, will happily fill out all forms, in triplicate, if only I can then file them appropriately.
Your appreciation of my completing your tasks is noted, and the maintenance department is thankful for the OT avoided, as they have been under some resource strain lately.And that, dear readers, is how we wound up having take-out Chinese for dinner last night (at 8:30) after he stopped at CVS.
While some responsibility for the recruitment of the vertically-challenged staff is mine, and the responsibility for leading and training these staffers is also a shared responsibility, in this instance, I cannot accept responsibility for their current behavior.
Using a third-party to fulfill the gaps left by the non-completion of tasks 1 and 2 shows good “out of the box” thinking, and you are to be commended for that. This allows the team to complete the assigned mission, without adversely affecting the overall timeline. Please follow the established procedures for purchasing from a third-party vendor, with the expectation that the purchasing dept should be able to complete their tasks by 7pm ET.
Due to the current economic environment, and the ongoing green initiative, the filing of forms in triplicate is prohibited; please consult your handbook for the proper completion steps of those forms.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
The Rapture wasn't until nightfall, the children were visiting the grandparents, and the sun was shining – it was a perfect day to hit the outlets. Now, let me give a little background on shopping with the husband. He will not leave a store until all sizes and types of clothing have been rooted out of hiding and put on my body – the brighter the color, the better. No blacks, dark blues, or grays are tolerated unless absolutely necessary. His philosophy is thus, if he’s going to be stuck at the stores, then by God, he’s going to make it worthwhile. I, on the other hand, have a habit of walking into a store, heaving a deep sigh, then walking right back out. This is not acceptable to the husband. If it looks worthy, it will be tried, and if it fits, it will be bought. Due to him, I had a kick-ass maternity wardrobe. And thanks to him, I now have something of a summer wardrobe. But let’s be clear, he only enjoys it because it only happens every decade or so. If he had to do it regularly, I assure you, it would be a different story. But when the choice is listen to me bitch about how nothing fits every single day or take one entire day to buy clothes, he’ll go the shortest distance every time.
The day started well. One pink summer dress, one purple summer dress, one dark blue summer dress (allowable only because the alternative was white and that wouldn’t hold up on the playground), a handful of shirts, and a standard issue denim skirt provided an excellent start. I agreed on a hot-pink skirt, but turned down all efforts at lime green, lemon yellow, and Lysol blue. Who wears those colors besides the Queen? Nothing would draw more attention to my ass than bedecking it in violently violet-colored skorts. I avoided any attire that looked like I was about to play tennis, croquet, or golf. Clearly, I don’t do sports, so why pretend?
I hit the mother lode when I found a LBD for a Long Island wedding. It looked a bit Real Housewife on the rack, but on my rack, it looked great. Hugged all the right places and hit exactly the right price point. A few stores for him, a few more stores for me and we were almost done for the day.
But then, like a cloud on the horizon loomed the bra store. See, the little black dress needed a little black strapless bra, which I did not own. Normally, I shop for unmentionables with my SILs. The oldest usually takes before and after pictures of me in new bras, the middle one likes to find the loudest, most obnoxious colors and textures, and the youngest likes to wear them on her head. When they sort through the stacks for size, it’s like a circus act of underpants flying through the air. Left to their devices, I have wound up with some truly hideous undies. I once found myself in a pair of high-waisted granny panties with martinis printed all over them. Another time, I put on a cute little red pair only to realize they butt instructed the viewer to “unwrap me.” As the viewer at the time was my six-year old, this started quite a conversation. But without my darling SILs for guidance, I was left only with my husband and the ever helpful sales clerk who pointed me in the direction of a bra that would, she promised, make me look like a porn star.
Jesus, Mary, and the oft-forgotten Joseph.
Do I look like porn star material? I’m a fat housewife from Jersey. I’m pretty sure I am as far away from porn star material as you can get without actually going the fetish route. If it was physically possible for a Muggle to Apparate, my husband would have done so at that very moment. This sales woman was not for the timid. Once she found my size and directed me to the fitting room, she even went so far as to fetch my husband so that he could make appreciative noises at her handiwork. The poor man was then forced to find the balance between appropriate and leering about my bound boobage. I honestly thought he was going to die. However, all was not lost. After buying the necessary equipment needed to haul, hoist, hike, and hold my lovely ladies in place for the duration of an evening (at twice the cost of the dress covering them), we did manage to leave the store with an ever so small amount of our dignity intact.
This leaves us with two important questions:
1. Did I buy the porn star bra? Yes, oh yes I did – with the undies to match.
2. Do I have enough clothes to stop dressing like an overgrown teenage boy? Sort of.
But with the Rapture on hold until October, at least I’ll get good use out of them.