Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lyrical Gangster

Ah, nuts.  I was all ready to write a post about all the horrible music I love and am not ashamed to admit, when I read over there on Aiming Low a similar post.  It wasn’t the first time I imagined something and then saw it out there in Internetland, as if my brainwaves were somehow sucked into my laptop screen and filtered through the brains of others looking at the same content at a particular time.  Our thoughts intermingle and filter back to our respective brains with the same idea, and I came around too late, probably because I was too busy diatribing about the sluttiness of Milk or something else utterly idiotic.  Anyway, I still have that list of terrible music I love, and the reasons for this love, which is so wrong but feels so right.

  1. Copacabana (Barry Manilow):  I’m a total sucker for a song with a story.  Barry Manilow’s disco saga encompasses everything I love about a song: a strong latin beat, love and loss, an old lady drinking herself blind in a disco wearing a faded showgirl dress.  Timeless; classic.

  1. Dinosaur (Ke$ha):  This song turns me into a nineteen-year-old with a short skirt and fake ID who thinks she is the toast of the bar she snuck into.  I’ve listened to it so much that my family has heard “Hittin’ on me WHAAA?  You need a CAT SCAN!” about twelve too many times.

  1. Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You (Frankie Valli, also Lauryn Hill): This is the ultimate lounge lizard song.  I’d like to say that I kill this at karaoke, except I’ve never done it.  Love the raw emotion of this one, which pairs well with white patent leather loafers and an open-collar shirt, lots of gold chains and possibly a velvet jacket.  I guess I’m also a 70’s-era cross dresser when hearing this song.

  1. Party in the U.S.A. (Miley Cyrus):  I love, love, love this song.  When it came out, I immediately fell in love with it and downloaded it from iTunes and listened to it endlessly and without shame, because my kids were as awed of it as I was.  I even have my own little internal video of me singing this song, complete with winking and hip-jerks. Now, when I kick it up into high gear, my kids roll their eyes.  Sorry kids.  I don’t care if your friends are with us.  Mommy’s playing her jam.

  1. Dental Care (Owl City):  I especially love this ode to the dentist visit because I hate going to the dentist, stemming from a particularly torturous appointment where I was stabbed in the mouth five times with Novocain and ended with me sobbing uncontrollably and with a massive pounding headache and a numb face that lasted several hours past the norm.  I listen to this song when I have an appointment, and it makes my teeth hurt, it’s so sweet.  A friend said that it makes her ears hurt because it’s so bad.  But I still love it.

  1. Livin’ La Vida Loca (Ricky Martin): I’ll never forget seeing Ricky Martin perform this song on the Grammys before he became popular again, years after Menudo.  I was like, “Whaaaa…? Whooo…?  And drooled just a little bit on my green moleskin jeans.  I couldn’t get enough of older Ricky, his dazzling smile and big brown eyes. Excuse me for a moment while I remember that moment again.

  1. Rocky Raccoon (The Beatles):  Another song with a story.  I love it because it’s mostly talking, sharing a good story with a little bit of singing.  A good campfire song.  Which would be awesome if I liked campfires, or being outside, but since I like neither one of those, I like to sing it in my car at the top of my lungs, inflecting in all the right places.

  1. Praise You (Fatboy Slim): This isn’t really a terrible song, but it’s also not one that too many people would herald as one of their favorites.  I love this song because it played at our wedding reception after my husband and I left for our honeymoon. This was a big mistake, because it was when all the action took place.  When we watch the video of our guests dancing to this song, a wide shot shows so many drunken people doing so many questionable dance moves and activities that we cannot show it to any of them.

  1. The Promise (When in Rome): One of my favorite terrible 80’s songs.  It takes me back to high school and the wish for that perfect 80’s John Hughes moment that included Andrew McCarthy wanting me back after ditching me at prom.

  1.  Round and Round (Ratt): Something about the simple nature of crashing guitars and repeating tune of the lyrics in this song knock me right out.  It’s so tough, yet it talks about shooting arrows through hearts – pure love, I just know it.

So that's my top ten.  There are others that I enjoy on the sly, but they’re too embarrassing to admit.  What terrible music are you listening to, o sneaky one?


Seat of My Pants

Planning is a huge part of life.  We plan schedules, shopping trips, meals, even fun and alone time for ourselves and time with spouses and friends.  In families with important events happening seemingly every day, it takes little for even the loosest plan to be thwarted, and restructuring to take priority.  I don’t relish plans being interrupted by heavy traffic making us late for a plane departure or sudden sickness cancelling a dinner party, but it typically doesn’t throw me into panic mode when these things just happen.  I’ve got to handle what’s being laid down on the floor in front of me.  It may suck, but carry on.

I’ve never been a brilliant planner beyond writing stuff down on a calendar and then following my own written instructions when the day comes.   Planning is different from strategizing, which my dear husband oh-so-compassionately pointed out that I simply don’t have the knack for; his ability to beat the pants off of any adult at checkers when he was a child indicates the birth of his genius-level ability to see events occurring ten steps into the future, while my stark inability to discern that we need to take two cars to an event because he and I will part ways at the end of it points to my alarming deficit in strategic thinking.  

I was a better planner in the past when I only had myself to worry about, a gift I accuse my husband of hoarding on days I feel overwhelmed with a million menial tasks.  I’ve come to think that planning is a luxury only those who have a majority of control over their lives can afford.  Because my life at any given time is divided into four parts, I only get a maximum of 25% control over my life.  Most days, I whine that the percentage is much smaller.  Therefore, making plans is not really on my list of priorities.  Organic flow is probably the best way to describe how each day goes.  

What’s problematic about my laissez-faire attitude towards planning is that because I don’t make them, I also don’t often get a chance to make them if I wanted.  My family has lots of things they want to do, and if there is a free afternoon or evening, it is often suddenly filled with something to do, days in advance and way before I see it.  This shouldn’t bother me, but it does.  I’m a slow mover, made slower by the constant doing and being for everyone else around me.  Sometimes I’m quick enough to deem a free evening or weekend MINE and no one is allowed to make any plans, but usually each new days rolls in already encumbered by one or two other priorities.  These usually are plans made by others that invariably include me, or some part of my offering.

As a new year looms, most of the plans that have already been made for the future roll into a time for which I have no calendar prepared.  I have a new calendar in the top drawer of my desk, just inches from my elbow right now.  Its presence is almost audible, and it thrums louder and louder from its resting place as the days get shorter and the first of the year approaches, and as more and more plans are scribbled on post-its and thrust into the back of my current calendar.

I can hardly bring myself to open it and fill in the days with meetings, doctor appointments, parties, visits, and scheduled practices and children’s activities.  For a while, I like to think of those empty calendar pages as staying empty, ready for my own haphazard plans, made when I feel like it, or no plans at all.


Friday, October 28, 2011

House of Chores

My husband and I joke that we had kids so we could raise them to do undesirable jobs like mowing the lawn and taking out the garbage.  Our kids hate it when we mention this to them, and scream “UNFAIR!”  “NO!”  “YOU CAN’T MAKE US!  “WE ARE NOT SLAVES!”  I can see their point, but that doesn’t stop my husband and me from giggling and winking at each other while clinking our wine glasses when our children trudge around us, clearing the table of the fifteen different platters and plates we use after dinner.

When our son was eight, we taught him how to make coffee.  It was a glorious time after the initial lesson when he got up every morning before us and made a perfect pot of coffee to demonstrate his new skills.  He was so proud of himself with his newfound knowledge, and we heaped on the praise and accolades like he split the atom or wrote a symphony.  Eventually, the novelty of doing good wore off, and he stopped making coffee every day.  Now and then he’ll make a pot, like on our birthdays or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, and it is as wonderful as it was those few shining weeks when he first learned how.  We haven’t yet figured out how to motivate him to keep the coffee ball rolling on a consistent basis, but those few days he does it are really, really nice.

It’s been a long time since our kids were willing to acquire a new skill just to please mom and dad, though I really can’t say I blame them.  In fact, sometimes the reaction we get upon asking them to do something chore-related is downright hostile.  Kids don’t really want to work for nothing, like everyone else.  But as parents, I believe it is our duty to teach kids that even though the toilets are clean and the refrigerator is stocked, the person who performed those chores did not necessarily desire to do them.  Things just have to get done.

And we have to teach them that sometimes, it’s just nice to do nice things for each other.  In a family where we all get on each other’s nerves on a regular basis, sometimes we just do stuff for each other because we care.  For some people this is easier to do than for others, and if you’re the type that doesn’t naturally want to do nice things for others, you have to try harder. 

Take this morning, for instance.  I made coffee, and sat down while it brewed.  My son came through the kitchen, and as he passed by the coffee machine, I asked him if he would pour me a cup.  He instantly retaliated, complaining of child labor laws or some such nonsense.  I sat there patiently, and tried to make the task more appealing, stating, “You can pick my mug for me.”  He stopped complaining, opened the cabinet door, and contemplated.  I felt like it was a breakthrough moment – he realized that this was his chance to do something nice for his mother.  His old, decrepit, lazy-ass mother.

Here’s the mug he chose:

Listen, I stepped into it.  Asked for it, even.  But I was so pleased that my chore-avoiding child actually did something nice with minimal pleading, I happily drank my coffee out of a ghost’s head all morning long.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Animal Farm

The recent news story about a man in Ohio who set all of his exotic pets loose has wormed itself into my brain for about a week now.  I can’t get it out of my head.  Aside from the sadness of the predicament that this man presumably found himself in – that he felt the only solution out of falling behind in taking care of these animals was through letting them go and then suicide – the thought of man-eating animals running loose in the countryside gives me the shakes.  I have a slight fear of the outdoors due to wild animals (and wild people, for that matter).  I grew up in the country, where deer and groundhogs and the occasional bear wander around and ruin shrubbery or bird feeders.  Remarkably, I never got used to the idea of sharing a backyard with local fauna, even though it’s not a novelty for me.  I’m not comfortable with the fact that I may cross paths with a bear or raccoon while walking to get my newspaper.  This is why we live in the suburbs, where the wildlife is comprised of squirrels, rabbits, and birds.

(I’ve also watched Jurassic Park too many times and I think it might be plausible that a pair of Raptors have been planning their attack according to my normal outing schedule.  All I have to do is step outside and I will be ripped to shreds by their cruel, sharp, prehistoric teeth and claws.) 

Animals amaze and thrill me, and I respect them.  I respect their instinctual urges, their mating rituals, their glorious plumage and fur coats, and their adaptations to their homes.  To this point, I feel that they should live their lives in their own terrain and not in zoos or exotic pet farms, and not sleep on fluffy beds in our bedrooms, or swim alone in bowls with only a plastic pirate skeleton holding a sign reading “Show Me Your Booty” for company. 

I’m no stranger to keeping pets.  My family kept cats and dogs and the occasional hermit crab which, one by one, either ran away or was killed while crossing the busy highway in front of our house.  Our house was not conducive to outside pets, and at some point my parents decided to stop keeping them.

When my husband and I were dating, we, like many others, adopted a dog.  We called her Bailey, and she was the brattiest, sneakiest, cutest dog in the world.  She resembled a miniature pinscher, and we bought rescued her from this guy who probably stole her and who kept her in a cage with a full-grown Rottweiler that abused her by putting her head in its mouth.  She was full of worms and had a skin disease when we brought her home, but in no time we fell in love with her.  We took her everywhere, we dressed her up for Christmas, we bought her baskets full of toys, and we let her sleep under the covers with us.  She completed our little family. 

Then we had kids.

We were excited to show our children to her each time they were born, and she seemed to like them as well, if not as much as we did.  She loved the baby stages, where they threw food on the floor so she could clean it up.  Not so much the toddler stages, where they fascinated with her ears and little wiggling tail.  Bailey spent a good deal of time lounging in sunny spots on the carpet, out of the range of curious pinching fingers and clumsily stepping children.

As the kids grew, and needed more of our time and attention, Bailey’s status in the family declined.  No more did we allow her to sleep in our bed.  She was relegated to a bed in the corner on the floor.  Each night she’d hop on our bed and each night I’d yell at her to get down.  She didn’t understand why her rank had lowered, but I did.

It was because I felt I had enough to take care of.  It was like I expected her to know by now where her food was kept, how to change her water, how to let herself out to pee.  I had BABIES to take care of, for goodness sakes!  I didn’t have time for the dog.  Bailey, you have to go out AGAIN?  You want to sit here AGAIN?  You need to eat AGAIN?

I’m not proud.  The dog took the brunt of my fear and exasperation with being a new mom, at the time working from home, with all family and friends out of town, and a husband who traveled frequently for work.  I was goggle-eyed and overwhelmed, and the dog was the last thing I wanted to worry about.  My reaction to her was unfair, unwarranted, and yes, even downright mean.

Then Bailey got sick.

It was very sudden, and she started throwing up everywhere.  Mainly on the carpet.  We corralled her into the tiled kitchen, where she vomited food, water, and then bile.  We let her outside, where she hunched to pee, but nothing came out.  We called the vet.

The vet prescribed her a medication that I can’t recall.  She couldn’t keep it down.  We stopped trying to give it to her.

One day soon after, I woke up to thin trails of blood throughout the house.  Bailey was lying in her bed, trembling.  The blood trails went from carpeted room to carpeted room, little pools just off the tile.  She was urinating blood, uncontrollably, at the spots where she was most comfortable.  I called my husband, who had left for work already.  We quickly decided that I would call the vet and take Bailey in to be put down.

I stayed with her through the injection, and I cried the whole day.

When my tears were gone, I gathered up her bed, her toys, and other accessories and I threw them away.  I saved her collar and keep it in my bedside drawer. 

I vowed that I would never have a dog again.

That was almost six years ago.  I kept my vow – we have never again kept a dog.  But my children are wily beggars, and we have had other pets: fish, hermit crabs, a salamander, a kitten.  All but the kitten died (he discovered doggie-doors in the neighborhood and we decided to give him away to help with the hate-mail problem we began having).  Each death was sad for me.  We tried our best to take care of these pets, but they still died.  And I noticed that their lives weren’t really high quality.  Kept in cages and bowls, with few or no family members around, and no natural environment to speak of, I started to see that these creatures were living purely for my entertainment.  It made me feel selfish and wrong, so I decided that I can’t allow myself to keep an animal from its natural habitat just for my own enjoyment purposes, even if it is an animal that is specifically bred for our enjoyment.

I know pet owners and animal lovers say that their pets love them.  I know Bailey seemed to be happy with us, but I also felt sad that she was living with us instead of other dogs.  She couldn’t really communicate with us – she had to adapt her ways to get us to understand her needs.  Likewise, our little fish in a bowl swam in circles all day, and while it was cute when she seemed to follow us around the room when we’d feed her, I found it sad that she was in there all alone, with no one else around and nowhere to go. 

I feel the same about all those animals we see in the zoo and on exotic animal farms, ripped from their natural habitats for our enjoyment.  I can barely look at a mother orangutan in the zoo, huge in her age and power yet meekly and absently nibbling on a banana that a zookeeper threw into her “habitat” built with glass walls so that two hundred screaming children and I can peer at her.  I wonder what kind of lives the animals on that Ohio man’s farm could have had if they weren’t living in cages and pens, slowly starving because he was running out of money to feed them.

He set them free, and they died because they were a danger to the people who lived there.

I do not cry about dead deer on the side of the road, and I am not against hunting for food purposes.  I’m okay with using farm animals for food, work or transportation.  I am afraid of bears and would rather stay safely indoors where it is unlikely that I will ever meet one.  I do not want a pet.  This does not mean that I am not an animal person; actually, I wish they were free, that we didn’t breed them for mass consumerism, able to be bought in a department store, or at auction, or on a breeding farm.  I wish people didn’t use them for entertainment purposes, like fighting or racing.  I wish they were respected more. 

I know this is not possible in our world, and that it never will be.  My part is to avoid the pain and work of keeping a pet, and also the joy of having a companion who accepts me for who and what I am, at all times.  That’s fine with me for now.  I’ve tasted the bitterness of losing a pet that I never knew how much I cared for, and I know that even if my dog had a better life with me than she might have otherwise, making the decision to end her life, like that man in Ohio did with his pets, was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and not one I’d soon repeat.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Home and Garden

Less than five miles from my house, there is a young woman who lives in a refurbished one-room schoolhouse.  I’m not sure of the history or age of this building, but on the roof of her house still rests the bell which I assume saw the start of many new mornings, clanging loudly to announce the start of a new school day way back when.

It is a charming house, and if you peered at it through a photo instead of from your car window on the high-traffic road that zips by her front yard, you’d think it was the cottage of a princess-in-hiding found in a fairy tale.  There is a consistently colorful garden of flowers exploding around and partially obscuring the large rocks that everyone landscapes with, primordial rocks that hide under two inches of topsoil and which prevent simple tasks like banging in tent stakes for a backyard campout in nearly every lawn in town. 

I’ve never seen a car in the driveway of this home.  No scrap of trash, empty flower pot, or errant toy has ever been seen marring the tranquility of this home and its setting.  I have never seen a dog running through or digging up the flower beds and no cats stalking mice, but keeping pets might not be such a great idea in this location due to the proximity of the road and the cars speeding by. 

I’ve seen the owner mowing her lawn when I drive past.  Once, she was wearing a flowered-and-checked apron dress with a matching sun bonnet on her head, work boots and long-sleeved t-shirt.  Her dress could be handmade, and the bonnet is decorated with yellow silk flowers.  She was muscling her push mower up the bank that met the road that my car was driving on.  She is a small woman, and when I drove past, she looked at me, probably because I was looking at her.  I felt her determination to make a beautiful yard to surround her pleasant house in this town, no matter who stared at her and her unusual clothing, and was happy for her.

To me, she is Little House on the Prairie, Holly Hobbie, and Pioneer Woman all in one.  I love how she has created this beautiful home in a busy location, beside mid-twentieth century homes and a road teeming with most people going too fast to notice her efforts.  I love her home, her garden, her haven.  I can only assume that she loves it too.


Thursday, October 20, 2011


I love being on vacation.

Anytime I think of somebody taking a vacation, I think of the kids' song She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain.  And as far as kids' songs go, this one has always been one of my least favorites.  Which really doesn't fit into my idea of taking a vacation.  Which is bad because now that vacation is on my mind, I've got that song stuck in my head.  And now you do too.  :)


Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I recently committed a major offense against my kids, which amounted to not letting them go to a school-sponsored roller-skating party.  Part of my reason had to do with just not having enough time in the day for it; the party was scheduled on a day where we already had other things planned, and adding one more thing was going to involve fast driving, quick changes, and McDonald’s for dinner again.  The biggest part of my decision was that I didn’t want to go.  Sitting in a chilly, smelly, broken-down roller rink, with holey rental skates and bits of metal sticking up through the steps leading to a wooden-seated spectator area is not my idea of time well spent.  I had my reasons and stuck to my guns.  They were not happy.

It was a lame excuse.  We have friends who would have happily taken them, but the decision to stay home instead of letting them out to careen headfirst into fifty other kids wobbling on wheels was final.  My pronouncement resulted in several venomous kid-sized rants about my “totally mean” parenting style and attempts to make me feel like a horrible witch of a mother who never lets her children do ANYTHING.  Sigh.  I’ve got enough experience at this job to not let this sort of thing faze me too deeply, yet I’m also sensitive enough to second-guess my decision.  Am I a horrible witch of a mother?

I know that the memory of this particular judgment will go down in the steel traps of my children’s minds as one of the worst transgressions I ever made, right up there with the sin I committed against my daughter last year, when I came to school at a pre-appointed time to help in her classroom, then left without helping after reading a note on the classroom door which proclaimed: “Testing!  Shhhhh!”  Her excitement over having her mom in class that day quickly turned to profound confusion and sadness when she realized that I would not be coming. I might not ever live that one down.

My children remember everything I tell them except for the things that are slightly important, like brushing teeth or putting on clean underwear.  They remember everything that is special to them, and because they see each personal experience as especially important, every single event is a potential drama that unfolds before my eyes each day.

It’s the never-ending weight of Mother Guilt that gets me.  I always felt that my job was to bravely navigate the crushing waves of life with my children, there to help them when they fall and to teach them the ways of the world and how best to find their own way. 

Never did I think that I would be the obstacle that keeps them from growing, the roadblock that keeps them from making their own paths.  I could be a considerable variable in the stunting of their growth if I don’t examine my own motivations for refusing them life experiences. 

Staying home from the roller skating party notwithstanding, the kids and I had a fun night together at home.  Likewise, my daughter never died of shame or disappointment the one day I failed to show up in her class.  It’s not that bad; I’m only human, and never received any formal instructions on parenting.  The kids know this because I tell them, I apologize, and I explain my point of view as much as I can.  I hope that my communication will help them see me as a person who tries, who errs, and who should be forgiven.  It’s yet another life lesson for all of us to absorb.  But inside me, Mother Guilt still lingers, and goes away just long enough to allow me to recover before striking again. 


Monday, October 17, 2011

Made From Concentrate

Parenthood is intense.  Sometimes it’s funny and sweet and sad and scary, but from the moment a child pops from the womb into your arms into your home then to a home of their own, it’s intense.  You let that kid right into your heart, and your life is forever changed.  I hear things and have done things I never imagined before I became a parent, like when my pediatrician advised me that my baby probably has pinworms and the only way to tell for sure was to wait until nighttime, shine a light on the baby’s rectum and look for the pinworm’s head, at which point I was then advised to grab it and pull it right out of the baby’s butt.  THAT is some intense shit.

FYI:  My baby did not have pinworms, and we do have a different pediatrician.

I recall a precise moment where my life took a turn at which I spent a good amount of time doing things like documenting world-wide trips made by a paper boy named Flat Stanley.  Never before I became a parent did I consider that vacations taken by a laminated paper-and-crayon man would be a thing.  Yet there I was, printing out and labeling pictures of Flat Stanley in front of the Birdnest in Beijing at the Olympic Village, on top of the Great Wall of China, and in front of a panda at the Shanghai Zoo.

I think about my husband, who found himself reading together with our child on family sex-education night about how “A woman has a clitoris at the top of her vagina to experience pleasure during sex.”  Intense.

It never stops.  Last night at dinner, I was rummaging around my purse for a stick of gum, and this is what I came up with:

Rich experiences, these are.  Fodder for funny conversations, material for blog posts, and unique memories – all parents have them.  A life with children, no matter how you came upon them, is not for the faint of heart, impatient, or humorless.  It’s a consistently intense learning experience which may be made easier if you consider that at any moment, you might find an athletic cup in your purse.


Saturday, October 15, 2011


Affixed to the Milk in my refrigerator is a coupon advertisement for Oreo cookies.  The text reads, “Milk’s Favorite Cookie.”  This worries me; it makes me uncertain about Milk’s future.  I can’t help but feel that Milk is going down a path of ruined reputation, hanging out with the kids from the wrong side of the tracks, being corrupted by delicious yet highly non-nutritious Oreo.

Milk has been in my family for a long time; in fact, it has been a part of my life since as long as I can remember.  Milk was the wholesome valedictorian of the senior class, president of every school club, editor of the school newspaper and winner of the Young Teen Sparkles Glitter Pageant Parade, and it suddenly started spending time under the bleachers with the pimpled detention junkies, cutting class to score beers and weed. 

Milk doesn’t need any bad press lately.  Once touted as sublimely healthy, it has fallen down in the ranks.  Health news tells me that after all those years of lovingly feeding it to our babies, Milk has been shown to be unnecessary in child development.  Additionally, Milk does nothing positive for our adult bodies and that it contains any number of poisons including pus, poop, hormones, and antibiotics. I didn’t give any of this much thought until Milk was found in my fridge aiding and abetting certain junk food punks.

Junk food has a bad reputation for being unhealthful and harmful anyway, so luring Milk into its web of lies means nothing more than collecting another minion to do its quiet yet deadly bidding.  I’m concerned for Milk’s public downward spiral. We enjoy its company on cereal, in baked goods, in creamy chowders, and as a crucial ingredient in White Russian cocktails.  I’m disappointed, and frankly, demoralized.  There doesn’t seem to be much I can do to stop the choices Milk has made.

I’m at an impasse.  I don’t know that I will be able to untangle myself from Milk.  I don’t want to.  I want to shake Milk and say, Milk, what’s up with this behavior?  I think you need an intervention.  If Milk doesn’t shape up, will I be strong enough to cut it from my life?

I think so.  Knowing that Milk may be adding pus to my diet is somewhat of a deal-breaker.  I only hope that Milk will see the error of its ways so that I can come back to it someday.  Until then, I will profess my love to Coffee with much the same passion that I once did to Milk.  I only hope that it can stay on the straight and narrow and not fall victim to similar temptations.


Friday, October 14, 2011


I can be a spoiled brass monkey.

For instance, I love lavender, so I buy it in laundry detergent, lotion, and air freshener form when it’s available.  What I really want are cases of French-milled lavender soap and a lavender field to retire on. 

When my husband travels for work and brings me a gift, even if he’s traveling to Minooka, Illinois, I expect Bulgari jewels.  The last gift he brought me?  Airport chocolate bar.

Sweet?  YES.  I said I was spoiled.  I have good peeps here.  My expectations *may* need to be adjusted a little.

My family appreciates all that I do for them.  They say so.  They say, “Good job on cleaning/cooking/paying the bills/keeping us alive.”  I know they mean “Thank you for doing all of the tedious crap you do to keep us comfortable, because if we had to do it, we’d go all Texas Chainsaw Massacre up in here.”

At least they don’t wonder why I drink.

At least my own spoiled brattiness allows me to understand why, when I ask my kids what they want for Christmas, they present me with lists a mile long full of items that cost five hundred bucks each.

Or when, a couple of years ago, we decided that instead of getting the kids gifts for their birthdays, we’d all go somewhere as a family and celebrate.  We let the kids choose their destinations.  I was expecting day trips to the zoo or a nearby amusement park.  What they asked for were weekends at Great Wolf Lodge and New York City to see Broadway shows.  I was impressed with their imagination and the innocent yet grandiose expectations, and so of course we complied, and we all had a fabulous time.  Memories were made on those birthdays that the kids still talk about with stars in their eyes.

Because of this, I just know that expectations of fields of lavender and Bulgari jewels, however outrageous, if given, would create memories unsurpassed in my lifetime. 

Until these expectations are met, I’ll just chomp on my chocolate and be satisfied with what I have, because it really isn't so bad.


Thursday, October 13, 2011


Answering questions is not my favorite thing in the world to do.  Sometimes I’m not completely confident in having all the right answers when I think I should.  I also see the world in shades of gray, so I can be really quite inept at clarity in any form.  Any answer is sufficient, depending on the situation, and it's a matter of choosing the right one from a pool of many good ones.  I am averse to committing to one answer because in my experience things rarely stay the same.  Plus I often get negative reactions when I give an answer that isn't expected, and that stinks.

Or maybe it's because I inadvertently chose a mate who has a conversational style which lends itself to constant questioning, and because I spend a lot of time with children who are naturally question machines. Maybe questions bother me because in the course of any 24 hour period, I am asked roughly 18,349 questions.  They exhaust me, and yes - I have counted.

In one day, I might get asked the following: What do you have planned nine weeks from Friday? What are you thinking about for dinner?  Why do we have to have fish for dinner again?  Are we having salad?  Do I have to eat salad?  Do I have to eat the carrots in my salad?  Can you do me several favors?  Can you get me some water?  Can you pick me up?  Can I have a friend over?  Can I have five friends over?  Can my friends stay for dinner?  Where are you?  Where will you be when I go to sleep?  When are you going to bed?  Can we have a snack now?  Can we have dessert now?  What is the weather like outside?  Did you go to the gym today?  What did you do today?  What did the kids do today?  Do the kids want to go to the movies? Why did you choose this grocery store instead of that one?  Why are we going this way?  Do you want to go out to dinner?  Where do you want to go?  Did you get a babysitter?  Can we go roller skating?

Holy crap, I think I’m having heart palpitations.

In my family, I’m the sage.  I’m that bearded guy, on the top of the mountain, with his legs crossed and eyes closed, whose sole purpose in life is to answer questions.  Which would be great if that’s the only thing I have to do.  Obviously, answering questions is not the only thing I have to do, so I get a little yell-y when they start coming quickly. 

There are a couple of upsides to all of the questions.  One is that because I have so much practice at answering questions, I am really quite awesome at it, despite the occasional lack of confidence.  Ask me anything, and I will get you an answer.  Maybe it won’t help you, and maybe my answer is useful only for the purpose of amusing myself.  That’s the price that comes from asking me, the reluctant wise man.  In reflection, I do enjoy that my family thinks so much of my opinion that they are comfortable asking me any little thing that crosses their minds, and I am thankful that my kids and husband actually value my opinion.

And that my friends, is worth answering all those questions.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Costume Change

It’s time for Halloween.  I like it - the cool fall air, earthy pumpkins, spiced cider, spooky decorations, all that wonderful candy, and the costumes.  Halloween is one of my top favorite holidays of the year, except for that one last element.  Seriously.  The costumes are ruining it.

Holidays, like beauty treatments, are ranked in my mind on a spectrum of most difficult, therefore least favorite (Valentine’s Day and bikini waxing) to easiest and best liked (Easter and haircuts).  In addition, in my holidays I like a combination of candy-centric celebrations and nice weather.  Easter, with all its chocolate-and-peanut butter egg glory, its mark as the end of winter and the beginning of a new life in spring, has always been my favorite.  Halloween, joined by cozy dark nights and beautiful autumn foliage, and again its never-ending candy-filled grandeur, has always been a close #2.

Every year on November 1, my children, fresh from trick-or-treating and resultant sugar comas, announce what they are going to dress as for next Halloween.  Their pupils dilate with excitement as they rhapsodize about next year’s costume designs that will be so mind-blowingly spectacular that they will receive a million times more candy than this year. These ideas change one thousand times from November 1 to October 30 the next year, as they come up with a range of costumes from the simple and straightforward to those with a craftiness level at which even Martha Stewart would struggle.

When the kids were little, things were easy costume-wise.  I squeezed my daughter into an increasingly stretched-out black cat costume three years in a row.  My son was a ghost twice, and something with a black cape twice.  If face paint was needed, we used the same makeup kit for all their personas.

As they got older, things got harder.  Costume catalogs started showing up in the mail, and my kids would hoard them in their rooms and pore over pictures of kids dressed as superheroes and the latest licensed characters, and beg to send away for them.  And we did.  I’m not particularly crafty, and figured that $39.99 was worth it if I didn’t have to figure out how to make a Boba Fett mask.   All was going reasonably well until their universes started to expand.

My son decided that he was going as a different well-known person two years in a row.  Now, unless you are going as “celebrity” or “rock star,” a costume as a real person can be pretty labor-intensive.  You’ve got to go for the hair, the clothing, any specific accessories, shoes and props to really resemble a person.  Unfortunately, we do not have access to SNL’s treasure trove of wigs and jewelry and clothing that make one famous person uncannily resemble another famous person. So during the month before Halloween, I find myself combing every thrift store in a 50-mile radius for items for my kids’ costumes.  I find myself thinking around mid-October that if only those costume catalogs carried the costumes my kids want, I’d pay anything.

Maybe I’m too obsessive with getting the details right.  It’s possible.  All I know is that at this point in time, at just under three weeks before Halloween, I know what my kids want to be, and I got nothing.  I also know that Halloween is slowly moving down the list of favorite holidays this year.

Oh well.  Halloween is safe as long as Valentine’s Day is in the picture.  Suck it, Valentine’s Day.  You always lose in my book.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

TV Guidance

Every fall, I wait for a new season of television shows with almost the same excitement as my kids do about going back to school.  Because.  Life at home with two medium-sized eating and arguing machines, by the end of the summer, unhinges me at best.

I wait, and I wait.  Finally, in late August, when my cherubs release me from their exhaustive circus act to a magical world where more than one person is responsible for teaching and discipline, and where all the rules are different in the form of Public Education, the TV listings go up, the advertisements are aired, and I wait each day for the new shows patiently.

And every year I watch all the new pilot shows, and with very few exceptions (Hello, Modern Family.  I MISS YOU, Mad Men.)  I turn them off, one by one.

I admit, I’m choosy.  Reality shows for the most part don’t interest me much.  I know this drastically cuts into my choices of even established shows, but I can’t help but wince at the idea of women fighting over One Man on The Bachelor.  I’m sure that those girls would have loads more fun without the guy who’s there to have his ego (and other things) stroked just a little bit more.  Don’t get me started on the ongoing dramas of Jersey Shore and Real Housewives.  I’ve watched these shows, and always felt a little dumber after watching them.  I don’t need anything helping me destroy more brain cells – I do a fine job of it by myself, thanks.  No more American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, America’s Got Talent, X Factor – it’s enough already.  I never liked Star Search the first time around, when it was a thing in the 80’s.

Look.  I know TV is for entertainment purposes.  We’re not asked to think too hard about what we are feeding our eyes and our minds when we plop down on the couch for some serious vegetative action.  I like hi jinks and impossible situations like everyone else, but I can’t get into vampire romance, have no love for crime scene investigation, and – it hurts me to say this – I can’t even bring myself to care about Ashton Kutcher’s partial nudity and the constant sex jokes that go along with it.  I’m sorry Ashton.  I love you, I really do.  But I just can’t get into your show.

I guess it’s okay – who has time to watch all these new shows anyway? – my DVR is always filled to capacity with episodes of favorite programs, so I’m not having a hard time finding something worthwhile to watch.  But I’d like to find something new on TV that I really love watching, to have something to fall back on those days when all I have is my program to look forward to.  Sound pathetic?  It is.  But not as pathetic as some of the TV I’ve been watching recently.  Mad Men, WHERE ARE YOU?


Friday, October 7, 2011

Turn, Turn, Turn

It’s getting colder here in the Northeast, despite my fist shaking, hair-pulling, and constant agonizing over the waning tropical temps and wishing that winter would spare us from October to April cold, wind, and snow.  Annual exercise in futility over, I turn to a more practical yet no less disheartening issue: tackling the seasonal closet turning.  I fondly bid a teary farewell to my white skirts and pants, bright prints, shorts, tank tops, and the courageous bathing suits that served me well by defying gravity this summer, and put on my most dazzling fake smile to “welcome” back the dark legion of long-sleeved T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts that shroud me in bulky warmth for the fall, winter and most of spring.  My last ditch effort to avoid this dreaded chore, a genuine plea to move to San Diego, is once again rebuffed with a “she’s losing it” stare-down by my husband. 
I open the under-the-bed containers and one big cardboard box that store my humble winter apparel with a flicker of hope that things are not as dreary as I remember from a mere five months ago, that somehow wardrobe fairies have transformed my clothing with up-to-the-moment trends and higher-quality items than those that went into the boxes in the spring.  Alas, this is not the case.  As I unfold one dark cloak of resignation after another, I see my near future all too clearly, and it isn’t interesting or particularly stylish. 

To make things less depressing, I thought I’d mix up this year’s closet switcheroo by doing things a little bit differently.  Instead of arranging my winter wear by category (long-sleeved crewneck T-shirts, long-sleeved V-neck T-shirts, nicer long-sleeved T-shirts that I can wear out of the house), I’ll do it by color, like they often do in swanky clothing boutiques where it appears that there is only one of each item, none of which I can afford to buy nor wear in my life that is filled with grocery store shopping, avoiding the gym, and sitting at kids’ sporting events in a muddy field three-fourths of the year.  I’ll create a welcome environment where I can happily anticipate mixing and matching outfits from a new point of view that all the fashion magazines tell us is possible simply from looking at your pieces as separate entities and no longer as parts of outfits.

I mean, I think this is what the magazines tell us.

And it takes me four hours.

The result is stupendous, beautiful, inspiring.  Here’s a photo: 

Nice, right?   

The trouble is, even with all the shine and expected optimism that a turned closet promises (a newly organized closet no less), my clothes still suck.

Ah well, summer will be upon us soon.  Wake me when it's here.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Magic Place

As a person with an intense need for peace and solitude for recharging purposes, I find it difficult to function pleasantly when things get wild and action-packed and loud and destructive like a Transformers movie.  For me, this chaos may only be a matter of the house being full of kids while my husband works from home.  I can deal magnificently, but if play time bumps up into my planned half-day of focused loafing, I can get a little out of sorts.  And by out of sorts I mean that I start yelling.

It was this need for peace that led me to look for a hiding place in our home when I needed time for silence.  It soon dawned on me that there aren’t any comfy rooms in our house that are suitable for hiding.  All of our most comfortable furniture, which is really only suitable if you are peace-seeking, are found in rooms that are wide open and central to the heart of our house.  Stupid open floor plan. 

Imagine my surprise (and initial dismay) when, on my quest, I found a place within our house which has a special kind of magic that finds people when I enter it, usually within one minute.  I have researched this phenomenon thoroughly, and there is a 100% success rate.  No kidding; each and every time I enter this one room and close the door, people just appear.  I call this magic place the Bathroom.

In addition, there is a specialty feature that I use only in emergencies, and only if I need to find the males in my house quickly.  It could be a super power.  All I have to do is take my clothes off.  I try as hard as I can to stay perfectly silent as I perform this mundane task, and within seconds – SECONDS, I tell you – my son or my husband appear.  It really is quite stupefying.  I still haven’t pinpointed exactly what the special element is - is it the room I'm in, or the action I'm carrying out?  Regardless, my initial research supports a very strong success rate.

So I guess the universe is working against me here.  Maybe I’m not meant to have peace and silence and calm.  Maybe I can accept that when my family is around, there will really be no peace.  They don’t have need for it, so I won’t enforce my needs on them.  They know I like it, but they don’t really get why.  Plus maybe I’m just a tad bit kooky for needing it in the first place.  Anyway, even if I found a hidey-hole, no walls are thick enough to drown out the sounds of children playing “chin people” and husbands who like the radio turned up real loud any time Taylor Swift is on.

In the meantime, I am considering loaning my Bathroom to the FBI to aid them in missing persons cases, in order to make a little cash.  And to find missing persons.  OF COURSE to find missing persons. 


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hoo Rah

Today I am SOOOO EXCITED to see one of my posts featured on the Awesomely Funny website Aiming Low.  I knew it was coming; I sent it in to be considered for their Guest Writer feature, and it was accepted.  The real surprise was a few weeks ago when they told me that my post was going to be on the website.  Please take a few minutes to follow the links that I posted to get the full-blown exposure to this thing that has made my day in so many ways.

YAY!  It’s hard to appear suitably excited online.

I told my husband and my kids and my mom who were extremely happy to see my name and picture in something other than a family photo album or the local police blotter.  I also told my friends through Facebook, which is tricky to maneuver if you're not good at bragging.  I never posted “I WROTE THIS.  PLEASE READ IT AND COMMENT ENDLESSLY TO BUILD UP MY EGO” or anything.  I just posted it.  People don’t have time to read every little post that everyone puts out there.  We are all busy stalking each other’s pictures, and pictures of our friends, and pictures of our friends’ friends.   Or cleaning our houses or making dinner for their families, like I should have done today.  Or working for pay, which is what most people who don’t “do” Facebook or Twitter or Foursquare or MySpace or even Google+ claim even though we all know they do it and are just secret snoopers who look at everyone else’s business and make those of us who do it out in the open feel all judged and wrong for saying we think that Uncle Albert’s ex-wife’s new baby totally looks like Throw Momma From the Train.

Anyway, my kids were so pumped for mom’s being funny to others besides herself that they presented their own little comedy routine at our cobbled-together dinner of leftovers because I was too involved in my own little world to put together a decent meal.  This routine resulted in one glass of water laughed through the nose, one completely inappropriate (and honestly, played out) joke about wieners, and lots of giggling giddiness.  It was tremendous. My husband pledged to tell everyone about it at work.  All of these little things made a big impact on me.

It gives me perspective.  Somewhere in the world, an online features editor thinks something I’ve written is funny enough to be posted on a website.  The immediate validation of all the hours I’ve spent laughing inwardly at my own comic genius is exciting and satisfying.  My family’s approval is satisfying and comforting.  The people that commented on the online article, on Twitter and in this blog helped to make my day even sweeter.  I’m no Tina Fey or Phyllis Diller - every other jackwagon out there has a blog just like mine.  I’m just a woman with a laptop and a little bit of a crazy outlook on life.  I’m glad that I have the freedom to try and be funny online, to the world and to you, and certainly to myself. 


Monday, October 3, 2011

Love Affair

My love affairs are few and far between, but none is sweeter than the one I have currently going on with Monday.  Monday has a bad reputation for being unforgiving and unforgivable, but to me, Monday is quiet, solitude, a break from the never-ending chore race that traps my weekend days.

Monday is the day when I get the house to myself, the coffee pot to myself, the newspaper, the computer, and the television ALL TO MYSELF.  I don’t have to worry about small children’s curious eyes while watching Weeds or Californication.  I don’t have to worry about someone commandeering my plan to kick back and eat chips with their own greedy, greasy fingers.  I don’t have to think twice about who I’m stalking on Facebook.  I can look at anyone’s pictures I want, and I don’t have to explain to anyone who just might be reading over my shoulder, exactly why are you looking at that or who is that, or isn’t that Batman from the 60’s TV show? 

Yes.  It is.

I can have a mimosa at 9 am if I want to and not have to make anyone else a mimosa.  I can stay in my pajamas and not brush my teeth all day and there will not be anyone around that feels the need to tell me that my breath reeks or that I should maybe think about getting dressed.  No one else to feed, and no one around to teach that sometimes Mommy eats chocolate for breakfast, and that doesn’t mean you should.

In short, Monday means that I am no longer anything to anyone.  I have my self, my space, my thoughts and my time all to myself. 

When I worked at a job on the outside, these thoughts never occurred to me.  I lived for the weekends just like any other normal, breathing human being.  I hated Monday because it began a long stretch of scheduled time, difficult challenges, work drudgery, and little time to get my stuff done.  Now that my work is at home, my business can get done first.  There are many weeks when I’m working to get to the weekend, but the weekend brings its own set of work in the form of three extra people who bring their own business to my workspace.

Sometimes I’m not very gracious about it.  My loved ones pour into the house after a week at school and outside work, and dump their crap all over my tranquil center, and my eyes widen and my heart beats fast and I watch as they thoughtlessly trample the order I’ve so carefully cultivated all week.  I ask them to pick up, clean up, watch what you’re doing, put that back where you found it.  Most times I’m not so bitchy.  They are home, happy to be here, grateful to be ensconced in a place where they are not graded or judged on their performance.  They are safe, and I am happy that they are here, and that we are all together again.  I am also happy because in two short days, Monday and I will be together again.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

You Belong

This weekend is one in which my family did not have any plans to do anything.  We weren’t traveling to meet family, traveling to attend a football game, attending a fall festival, going to a party, or even hosting a party.  We had an open weekend – blissful, non-structured time.  I usually spend time like this going blind drinking wine and reading Vogue, but this weekend I thought I’d do something a little more productive.  Besides, I did the wine and the magazine last night.

My husband decided that he was going to spend this weekend drinking beer and watching football, so I locked him the basement and announced that I would be decorating the house for fall.  Here in the Northeast, the temperatures are dropping and it is time for pumpkins and placing motion-detecting screaming skeleton heads around the house to torment small children.

We have a large bin full of Halloween costumes from years past, including costumes from when my children were very small.  My daughter wanted to spend some time perusing the contents of the Halloween bin, because she is, in her words, “new to this family and I don’t always know what's going on.” 

My daughter is eight.  She is not new to this family.  She has been in this family for three-quarters of the time we have actually been a family.  My husband and I got married and had our son a year later.  Two years after him, we had her.  I am not (always) a complete moron, and my parenting skills might as well have been learned from a pamphlet found in the grocery store checkout line, but I am intuitive enough to know that she just wanted to spend time with me.  What a sweetie.  I totally don’t deserve her.

We sat down, emptied the Halloween bin, and went through the costumes.  Here’s the witch costume your brother wore when he was three.  Here’s your black cat costume from when you were one.  And two.  And maybe even three.  Here’s your hula dancer wig.  Here’s Darth Vader’s cape.  Here’s daddy’s handcuffs from… oh wait.  Here, Mommy will take those.  We had a fine time going through the bin, and cooing over the smallest outfits.  I realized that while rehashing memories, we were making a new memory.

When we were all done and the costumes put back in the bin, I felt I had to set my daughter straight about something.  I said, “Look. You are not new to this family.  You have barely missed anything we’ve done.”  I knew that she wouldn’t understand that the time she missed, before she was born and when she and her brother were babies, was a time that I spent mostly worrying about just how the hell my husband and I were equipped to raise children.  Instead I said, “We go on trips, we yell and we kiss and we laugh about balls and wieners.  That’s our family, and that’s all you need to know.”

I think she was okay with that.