Wednesday, June 30, 2010

25. House Schizophrenia

I love my New House. Not in the I-am-happy-I-live-here kind of way, but more in the Before-I-lived-here-I-stalked-the-New-House kind of way. I am not particularly proud of my behavior: I stalked a house.

The Husband and I had been looking at new houses for about a year when I stumbled upon this particular New House. I don't know if it was a cocktail of infatuation and desperation or just plain ol' being tired of looking, but we KNEW this was the one. We put in a (lowball) bid-- yeah, just like dating, we played games. The bid was unceremoniously rejected-- just like dating! Other suitors were involved (five! what a slutty New House!). The games continued. The stalking began.

Our Old House (which still was not "technically" sold yet-- minor trivial detail-- and did I mention that we needed that money to move on?) was only a mile away from the new object of my affection. Did Old House realize that I was cheating on It? I like to think that It did not, but I know in my heart It did. It gave a weary sigh. This had been coming for some time.

The floorplan had ceased to work for a growing family. The main area where the children liked to play was on a different level from the kitchen, so I could not see the kids while I prepared their sandwiches. The two-car garage, such an important feature when we purchased Old House, now sat there mocking me, as if to say, "I knew you would not turn Me into a gym! you lied! you just store old junk in here, not even a car for goshsakes!" (Old House would never swear). Old House was proud of Its newly-renovated granite-countered kitchen worthy of a magazine cover (well, if that magazine were called "Teeny Tiny Glam Kitchens"), but now comprehended that it was merely a ploy to get it sold.

Old House glared at me and shook Its head in disgust.

I started getting up about 5:30 AM, before the sun was even creeping into the sky. I would silently put on my running clothes, give The Husband a cursory kiss on the cheek and off I would go. These runs cleared my head. I was reflecting on Old House and all the wonderful times we had had, but a break-up was imminent. It was a great relationship while it lasted, but now I was ready to move on. And no matter what Old House said, my new relationship was NOT a rebound! I kept thinking about New House and how I could get It and all my Big Plans once It was mine. I can now see in retrospect how this could be considered, umm, slightly deranged.

The run took me past New House. How convenient. This is the spot where I would need to take a short break from running, maybe even walk for a minute. How about a stretch? Yep, those calves feel a little tight. New House winked at me and said, "You're not fooling no one," (New House did not have the best grammar). At first, this would happen maybe two or three days a week. Soon, I was up to five days, then every day. I told myself, I can quit at any time. But no, I could not quit: I was addicted.

I became brazen. New House was empty (part of Its appeal) and so I started to drift into the yard, a little too close. If I was New House, I would have called the police about me. But New House continued to welcome me.

I pretended not to notice New House's flaws. The Scary Mold.

"Oh, come on, it's not like mold is dangerous or anything!" said New House.

"Ummm, yeah, it kind of is", I muttered under my breath.

Or how about the bizarre pump that was hand-rigged in the yard to half-heartedly attempt to stop water from accumulating in the basement? Or the asbestos linoleum? Huh? What about that?

Nothing could shake me from my reverie. I was falling in lust with New House and I accepted all the flaws and quirky personality traits that came with It.

The Husband had morphed from a mere spectator and was now a willing participant in the Stalk-a-rama that had become my life. He would run to New House too, but in the evening. He told me later that he would drive past New House on his way to work (do I need to bother adding that his work was in the opposite direction?).

What did I do on those mornings when I stalked New House? I stood in the yard gawking at New House, inspecting the scalene bricks of the back patio and deciding what kind of fence to install to keep random nosy joggers out, and all the while I was getting eaten alive by dinosaur mosquitoes. I could take it. It didn't matter. I would be with New House even if it was on New House's terms and not mine.

Of course, this could not continue. That's when it happened.

I remember it vividly. It was 6 AM on a Sunday morning and I was about three houses away from New House, my palms starting to sweat. Like a crazed junkie who has lost all perspective, I was about to get my fix. The anticipation! The elation! Did New House like me as much as I liked New House? Would New House look the same? How do I look?

A strange man walked out of New House (!) and towards me on the sidewalk. Oh, the betrayal! Who ARE you, Strange Man? And what the hell are you doing at New House? (New House had forced me to swear.)

"Can I help you?" said Ralph, the owner, as he walked toward me.

I gasped for air. My head was spinning. Had he seen me all those other mornings? And even if he had, what does that prove anyway? That I have a brick fetish? that I am somehow genetically immune to mosquitoes?

I chose to take the high road. I started rambling,

"Ralph, it's great to see you-- remember me? I'm MOV and I'm buying your house and The Husband and I are so excited and we just can't wait and I thought I would just walk past and did I mention we are excited and we have started packing and what was your favorite thing about the house and I know you grew up in the house and by the way we have two sons and THEY are going to grow up in the house and we are not going to bulldoze it and we totally love it exactly the way it is and I know it must be hard for you and I'm so sorry about your mom dying and how are the neighbors and do you hear any noise from the bike path and gosh I know it's early isn't it, well I guess I'll let you go now, bye!"

To which, bless his heart, Ralph kindly responded, "We are really glad to be selling to you."

I guess Ralph might be a little crazy too.

("Medley Of Visions")

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

24. Haiku 2

Happiness is lunch
at my favorite cafe
It's called Natalia's.

The food's delicious
Sublime Caprese Sandwich
and an iced latte.

Then, for my dessert
I always choose the same thing:
Panne cotta-- YUM!

The Husband is mad
Frivolous spending for lunch
The splurge is worth it.


23. Pink Lego's

I just had another one of my BRILLIANT ideas. I am very serious here. And Lego, I want my cut.

I am talking about Pink Lego's. Humor me, if you will.

My sons love Lego's. "Love" might be too tame a word. "Adore" is more like it. "Worship at the Altar of All That Is Lego-ness". They build cars and spaceships and buildings and shooters (whatever that is) in their bright primary colors........... and all the time I am thinking about this amazing untapped market that exists Out There. That's right: Girls.

By my rudimentary calculations, Lego Corporation has slashed its target market by 50%. I did take Economics 101 in college, and in the immortal words of my wise professor, "That's just stupid." I mean, come on! Why would you want to LIMIT your market appeal? Diminish your potential target audience? Cut your profits in (now I am not that good at math, but I think this is right) HALF? Think about it. Pink Lego's. As my 3-year-old says, "Easy-peezy lemon squeezy."

Instead of StarWars (registered trademark) little itty bitty Lego people, make some Lego doll people. Lego ponies. Lego Eiffel Tower. Pink Lego houses. Pink Lego cars. PINK! Oh, the novelty of it all! Why has no one thought of this before? (and where is my big fat royalty check for effectively DOUBLING business?)

Mattel does not limit themselves to only Caucasian blonde Barbie (registered trademark). Oh, no. They also have African-American Barbies with dark skin to (presumably) appeal to little girls of this possible demographic. That's right: Mattel is smart! They have decided that more than just one type of person might be interested in purchasing their product, and so, by golly, they are going to attempt to appeal to the masses.

And, Lego, the masses are boys AND girls.

("Must Outsource to Vietnam")

22. Mental Aerobics

You know you have one friend like Her, everyone does. She is the one that, when you meet Her for lunch or coffee, you must be up to date on all current events, including ones that have not yet happened. Because you will be quizzed. You don't realize it yet, but just think back to last time.

Now, after knowing Her for a long time, you have gotten smart. You go to the drug store and buy three  newspapers (and consider purchasing one in French, even though you do not actually speak or understand French-- but Her father is French, and She speaks the flawless French of a native; maybe reading French will instantaneously make you fluent as well? or at least smarter? like osmosis).

You grasp your receipt as you walk out with your Washington Post, your New York Times, and your Wall St. Journal (while you look longingly in the direction of USA Today-- no! not that! too pedestrian! Her potential dismay mocks you). At home, you flip thru your husband's Consumer News and World Report, just in case. You are gorging on information, the way that Morgan Spurlock gorged on fast food in his documentary "Supersize Me."  Please, dear God, you think, supersize my brain.

She will want your opinion (She always does). It is difficult to finesse your way out of the situation. You think up possible replies to Her in your head ("My opinion?! Umm, I infinitely respect your opinion, and would love to hear what you think."). No. That will not work. It did not work with Her last time nor the time before that. You have to be Prepared.

Why is She like this? Why are you even friends with Miss Know-It-All anymore? Just because you were friends in college? Just because She whispered to you in Economics class Buy stock in Starbucks back in 1993 and you did and you made a boatload of money on that one tip? (Random Stock Tip #2: Buy stock in Starbucks.) Just because She introduced you to your future (current) husband and all kinds of other fabulous people because She was always super-outgoing? Just because She is kind and generous and always remembers your birthday and calls just to say hi and that something reminded Her of you (maybe Starbucks)? Just because She has a razor-sharp wit and is charming and funny as hell and you admire Her and look up to Her and wish you were more like Her? Well, yeah, you think, that is probably why.

But back to the task at hand. The News. She will nonchalantly bounce back and forth between the oil spill and politics and Sarah Palin (is she current? do you need to refresh about her too?) and the Polish plane crash in Russia (is that current? should you even mention that?) and maybe even something about American Idol or Lost or some other quick nod to pop culture. It is exhausting to be Her friend.

What if you get something wrong? What if (the horror) She corrects you? in front of other people? Why do you feel that She is ... condescending? Is She? Is it because you are a tad bit insecure? Is She really acting superior, or is She naturally very confident (which She obviously has every right to be)? Is She genuinely glad to have you as a friend, or ... was Her schedule surprisingly empty this day you proposed to get together? Wait, did you call Her or did She call you? you can't remember. It doesn't matter.

You decide to peruse another book, this one with a bit of dust on the cover. That's right: the dictionary. You need a better vocabulary when She is around. She is like a rotating 3-dimensional Scrabble game while you are talking to Her. Why use "impatient" when "petulant" is a better choice? Why say "everywhere" when you can get the point across with "ubiquitous"?

Your husband sees all the new reading material ubiquitously scattered about. He, at this stage in your marriage, knows better than to ask. He of course knows Her, and he knows how crazy (demented? insane?) you can become before you plan to see Her. He asks (jokingly?) if you want him to quiz you. For a moment you think he's serious, and you are about to say, "YES! That would be GREAT!" when you realize he's smirking at you. He asks earnestly if you plan to stay up until 2 AM (he is perhaps familiar with last time as well).

The next morning, you awaken and petulantly scoot the kids off to school. You're ready to see Her. You are not relaxed nor refreshed (having slept only four hours), but you've crammed just like you did back in college, and now you will be rewarded for your valiant efforts.

You put on a cute top. No, not that one. You try a different one. (You have not seen Her in over a year.) Now four wrinkled tops lay on the ground (lay? lie? She would know the proper usage of those words). You decide on an outfit, finally. You grab your purse and head out the door.

You hear your cell phone ring deep in the recesses of your purse. It is Her. Her dog has suddenly become very ill, and She's calling you from the vet. They think it might be some sort of internal bleeding. She sounds shaken (perturbed, agitated, flustered) because Fido (yes, that really is his name-- She was always one for irony) is about 199 in dog years. You want to offer your dear friend some sort of solace, even though you are simultaneously realizing that She is indeed cancelling on you.

You offer the only thing you can: you tell Her who won American Idol last night.

("Marks Obscure Volumes")

Friday, June 25, 2010

21. Interrupted

So pathetic that I have to FIGHT for "Me" time. I am desperate for this time alone. Here is a sample list of how my typical "Me" time gets eaten up while I have my very precious 9 hours per week to myself:

  • get 2 sticks of butter out of frig and lay on counter to make chocolate chip cookies
  • make doctor's appointment on phone (don't want to be interrupted)
  • knock out 2 loads of laundry
  • go to bookstore to buy b-day gift for son's friend (preferable to go solo, so won't endure Will you buy me a book too?)
  • clean house a little bit (because cannot stand filth any longer)
  • order new raincoat online (don't want to be interrupted-- let's just abbreviate to DWTBI)
  • write & mail a birthday card and thank you note
  • order some photos online (DWTBI)
  • take shower (first time in 2 days)
  • watch 20 minutes of Top Chef that I taped 3 weeks ago (DWTBI)
  • go through junk mail and throw out (glamorous! exciting!)
  • realize no time to make cookies after all, put butter back in frig (repeat this butter out, butter back 3 more days in a row)

Arghhhh! Whatever happened to leisurely perusing a magazine? Whatever happened to going for a run (whenever you felt like it, not just when there was a 45-minute chunk of child-free time)? MOV ("Mistress Of Vignettes")

Thursday, June 24, 2010

20. Warped

A very dear friend of mine (you know who you are) has a profound bit of wisdom as part of her signature on her emails. Without permission, I'm reprinting it here:

"Work like you don't need the money,
Love like you've never been hurt,
and dance like you do when nobody's watching."
~ Satchel Paige

I started thinking about this phrase ... and then (with apologies to Satchel Paige), I decided to tweak it a bit. Here goes:

Run like you're being chased,
Laugh like you get the joke,
and sing like you know the words.

But why stop there?

Cry like your mascara won't run,
Eat like you won't gain weight,
Spend like you have the money.

Dress like you have a job,
Party like you were invited,
Cheat like you won't get caught,

Listen like you care,
Nod like you understand,
Help like you want to,

Smile like you're happy,
Email like it will be read,
Tell jokes like you're funny,

Drive like you're not lost,
Write checks like there's money in your account,
Drink like you're not driving.

("Makes Original Verses")

19. How My Life Has Changed

Besides the "ideal vacation" thing (the new ideal being a vacation by myself with no husband and no kids, and possibly not even any other people at all), other ways my life (after kids) is different:

  • Before: wanted to change the world
  • After: want to change a load of clothes before they turn mildewy
  • Before: wanted to fix world problems
  • After: want to fix up the basement
  • Before: like a glass of wine occasionally
  • After: need a glass of wine (or two) with dinner nightly
  • Before: require five minutes to get ready to leave
  • After: require one hour to get three people ready to leave 
  • Before: would read a book or two per week
  • After: not counting "Dr. Seuss", read a book or two per year
  • Before: write, paint, draw, exercise, go out, travel
  • After: (what do all those things mean?)
  • Before: keep my home immaculate
  • After: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
  • Before: spend extra money on manicures
  • After: spend extra money on Play-Doh and Elmo videos
  • Before: only buy clothes that make me look cute
  • After: only buy clothes that don't show stains
  • Before: sleep
  • After: dream about sleep
I could go on to 100, but since I'm a mom of young children, do I really have the attention span for that?

("Missing Our Vacations")

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

18. McIcky's

I loved a certain restaurant with a giant yellow "M" when I was a child ... it was a treat to go there and I have many fond memories of this experience. Then why do I deny my darling sons this innocent reward of childhood?

In a word: knowledge.

When I was 16, I got a job at a fast food restaurant (not McIcky's, but in fact one of their West Coast competitors). Suddenly, all my grand illusions of this type of cuisine (I use the word "cuisine" in the loosest sense of the word) were shattered. Dead rats. Live rats. Rats on the grill. Frozen meat that looked about as appetizing as a hockey puck. Milk shakes that I dare say did not even contain milk or even ice-cream (I remember looking at the carton that I had to pour into the milkshake machine; as I read the very long list of all-UNnatural ingredients-- including plasticizers!-- I was nauseated). Dirty bathrooms. Dirty floors. Green tomatoes. Food that would sit under the heat lamp for an hour. The list goes on.

This particular epiphany ("The food is unappetizing and quite possibly illness-inducing") of my restaurant education sticks with me, much as I suspect those plasticizers would. Yes, I have read the book "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser. (An excellent resource!) My personal fast food experience was only the veneer of what this fabulous author uncovers in his scathing report.

I avoid fast food restaurants and I shield my children from exposure to them as well. I remember when Tall was around three years old, and we drove past the familiar yellow M. Tall sweetly asked, Why don't we ever go to McIcky's like my friends do?  I decided this was what many parenting and child psychology experts refer to as a "teachable moment", so I embraced it as such. I replied, Honey, it's because there are rats there.

Realizing this might not be quite as dramatic as I had hoped, I added as a hasty afterthought, And the food is poison.

Tall paused to consider this new information. Then he said simply, If the food is poison, then why would the rats eat there?  Gotta love the wisdom of a 3 year old!

Now before you think that I've gone completely Vegan (don't worry, I haven't), let me say that we do occasionally eat at a "version" of a fast food restaurant called "Elevation Burger" (no, I don't have stock in this company, but maybe I should). It's fast food, but on the next level. The meat is organic. The french fries are fried in olive oil. The shakes are mixed by hand with real ice cream (what a concept!).

After knowing the history of McIcky's founder (who formerly sold milkshake machines), I think Elevation Burger is actually more in keeping with the original vision of what McIcky's was striving for. So what happened? I believe it was a case of too much success and losing the original vision, the initial concept that made Mr. McIcky buy his first restaurant from brothers who had purchased FIVE milkshake machines from him for their restaurant (to put that in perspective, most restaurants were buying one or two milkshake machines). Clearly, the brothers were on to a successful formula. Good food. Maybe even delicious food that would make you want to come back again. All at a good price, and prepared quickly.

Isn't that what we all want?

No. Short laments to me why he wants to go to McIcky's like all his friends: They give you toys with your food at McIcky's!

("Meat Or Vegetables"?)

Monday, June 21, 2010

17. Haiku 1

I enjoy my work,
I get to talk to people,
But do they listen?
Reality shows:
Does unscripted mean it's real?
It seems fake to me.
I drove past the gym,
It was a sunny day out,
Gym rats on treadmills.
What does haiku mean?
Poems of five-seven-five,
Infused with meaning.
We drove to the sea,
We had lunch by the water,
Relaxing and fun.

("Mom's Original Verse")

Sunday, June 20, 2010

16. Gift Wars

I love gifts. I really do. I love Christmas and my birthday and any other Hallmark holiday moment that might produce a gift.

My children have inherited my trait of loving gifts. If UPS knocks on our door, we are a happy bunch! We know we must reciprocate, and we do.

I buy things year 'round especially if I happen to see that "perfect" gift for a particular person. I have duplicated my grandmother's clever habit of maintaining a "gift closet". But I feel like it has gotten out of hand. Easter and Mother's Day and Valentine's and Groundhog Day and St. Patrick's Day and Mardi Gras (and we are not even past the month of May).

What is a sane woman to do to (hopefully) remain sane? That's right: pull the plug. Which is exactly what I did last year.

To bring you up to speed, last year, we were in the process of selling our old house, moving (fun times!), and renovating our new house. This was a tad bit of a financial strain, so we made the executive decision to eliminate ALL gifts for the 2009 calendar year. Most of our family and friends dismissed us as crazy, although they tried to be supportive. We stuck to our guns, and we bought (and received) NO GIFTS last year, with the exception of a few small gifts for our sons on their birthdays and Christmas. (A few kind friends and relatives ignored our "Year of Living Giftlessly", so we sheepishly accepted some token presents, while feeling quite uncomfortable about not reciprocating.)

How was the "No Gift Year" experiment? It was incredibly liberating.

Let me explain. All of a sudden, this huge weight was lifted of "being obligated to" or "wanting to" buy a gift for someone. It was merely the standard statement of "We are taking a break from gifts this year-- we just bought a house. I'm sure you understand."

Now that I've had a year to reevaluate and decide exactly how I feel about gifts (both giving and receiving), I'm much more careful of how I spend our money. I try to buy on sale if possible. As a mentioned in a previous blog, I work at a high-end kitchen store, which entitles me to a very attractive discount. So, many recipients on my gift list are now receiving beautiful items from the high-end kitchen store, purchased with the help of my discount.

Gifts are tricky. You only get married once (hopefully) so that requires a present. A new baby requires a present. Then there is graduation. Add Father's Day and assorted birthdays to the mix. There's so much social pressure to buy a gift! WHY? Why are we that way?

You know who is worse than us: Japan. The Japanese have turned gifts into an art form (literally). The way the gift is actually WRAPPED is of utmost importance. I have witnessed (at the kitchen store) Japanese customers who will adamantly refuse to buy a particular item they came in for if the box happens to be dented (even thought the item is perfectly fine inside). It's a cultural distinction that they want the box to be PRISTINE and anything less shows disrespect for the recipient.

I'm at a certain age (ummm, slightly over 20 or even 30) where I can buy most things I like. (Maybe not the Ferrari.) A gift is a gesture: it says, "I'm thinking about you," and "You matter to me." That is why we agonize. If no gift arrives on our special day, we feel slightly dejected. Or worse: forgotten. It's our special day! Shouldn't others remember and want to help us to commemorate the occasion? Then why have gifts become like the "Gift Wars"?

Why do I feel obligated to out-do you, to outshine you? What is underlying that sentiment? Why the competition? Maybe the best gift would be to just to go out to lunch. Which is what I think I'll do right now.


Friday, June 18, 2010

15. Have We Met?

The Husband and I moved to Crazy Town six years ago. I knew no one. A dear family friend told me, "Now that you have your new baby, Tall," (he was about 9 months old at the time) "You will meet soooooooo many people." I thought, huh, what a wack-o that family friend is.

Turns out she was right. If I do not know you, chances are that Tall will introduce us. We will meet at a birthday party at a bowling alley or at Starbucks with Tall in tow, or at the library, or at the park or at the grocery store or at (disclaimer: you knew this was coming) Target. I WILL MEET YOU ANYWHERE because I have the ultimate "please meet me" accessory: a child.

But it is not even like I meet you because we have similar interests or backgrounds or anything......... no. It is because we are all in the trenches and we are bonded together because we have been up all night (more nights than we care to remember) with an infant who is projectile vomiting, we have changed poopy diapers of the small newborn while attempting to potty-train the toddler, we have heard eardrum-piercing screaming and endured tantrums (from The Husband, not the child), we have been to the ER so often that we are on a first-name basis with the admissions staff, we have glanced at each other with a knowing look as we frantically scoop up back-to-school supplies on September 2nd, we have listened to Elmo singing incessantly and back-to-back episodes of Backyardigans, we have sat through soccer matches in 95 degree heat (seriously? that needs to be illegal); we're all in this together.

What I am saying is: I can be your friend because I know that your life is exactly like mine. People who do not have children (The Husband and I have a code name for these people: rich) have no idea what our everyday lives are like. They do not know the madness that is "The Morning Routine"; they are blissfully unaware that merely "getting out the door" (which should take all of five minutes) has become a 45-minute endeavor since having children. You and I are bonded together by the indisputable fact that we are responsible for a little person's health and happiness (not to mention education and vacations). It is mind-boggling when you think about it (which I usually don't have time to).

When I lived in California, I knew no one. I lived in the same apartment for over three years, and yet, I literally knew no one. The Husband and I referred to the guy upstairs as, well, The Guy Upstairs (do you mean the blond guy or the brown-haired Guy Upstairs?). The girl in the front apartment was The Waitress At-Least-I-Think-She's-A-Waitress. Why should I bother meeting people or getting to know them, when I was content in my little bubble..................

Then I had kids, and everything changed.

All of a sudden, I'm talking to people in the check-out line at the grocery store ("Do you really like those organic Cheerios? will he eat them?"). People I never would've uttered a single word to before are suddenly on my radar. Tall has a much more active social life than I do. It's true. It is not something I'm particularly proud of, it just "is". Most week-ends seem to be gobbled up with soccer games or birthday parties or playdates (who coined that term? what did we call it when we were growing up? I know we did not call it a playdate).

And because of Tall, and now more and more because of Short too, I seem to know everyone everywhere I go. It has gotten so bad that I must put on mascara before zipping out to the drug store because I will know someone there. It's strange. I'm no longer MOV, I'm "Tall's Mom".


("Me Officially Vanished")

Thursday, June 17, 2010

14. Parenting Technique

So, Tall is in the backyard playing with two neighbor friends who are about the same age. Tall is not being very nice to Short, who is also trying to play along. I am getting more and more irritated as I see Tall go out of his way to be mean, pushing Short and making him cry.

I calmly walk up to Tall, lean over and whisper something in his ear. He immediately shakes his head no, then proceeds to do a complete 180 and starts being VERY nice to Short. Mission accomplished.

I go back in the kitchen and do a few dishes while I watch them out the window. I marvel at how simple this was and wonder why I did not think of it sooner. In fact, why are there not books written with entire chapters devoted to this stealth (and might I say, stellar) technique? It will now become a staple of my Parenting Repertoire.

What was it that I whispered?

"Tall, do you want me to embarrass you in front of your friends?"

("Mother Of Varmints")

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

13. Something New

Short and I were leaving the house today to take him to preschool (oops, I mean summer "camp", see previous blog). He asked what I was going to do while he was in camp, and I told him (truthfully) that I was going to Target. This was a big mistake. This is where the "little white lie" should come into play.

What I should have said was something along the lines of "grocery store" or "to get the oil changed in my car" or even "the gym". No. Dumb Old Mommy admits the true destination, which immediately sends Short into a tailspin. "But I want to go too! Can I just go with you?" Then he went on to say that he wanted to go because he wanted a new toy. I reminded him that he has plenty of nice toys already (more than plenty, if you ask me), to which he responded simply, "But I just want something new."

His profound statement caught me off guard. His one sentence pretty much sums up our existence, doesn't it? We always want something new. Who wants to watch a re-run on TV? No, we want the latest episode (we already saw the other episode, so why bother sitting thru it twice). Have you ever bought the same book or magazine twice by mistake? I have. Then you start to read it and realize that it is suddenly sounding VERY familiar. Who wants to waste time on something you have already done? Who wants to wear the same dress twice?

As Americans (and I'm generalizing here, but it is MY blog, so I guess I can do that), we want the latest and greatest. We want to be stimulated! We want to be impressed and impressive! We want to know what is happening RIGHT NOW, not what happened yesterday (yesterday's news). Unfaithful men trade in their first wives for "trophy" wives. They want the newest model.

But I just want something new. I am trying to teach Short exactly the opposite of this: be happy with what you have. But then where did he and I spend all afternoon? In the upscale tile store looking at bathroom tile. Do I really need the extra half bath? No, we could live without it, but I just want something new. It would be so great.

We want to introduce Tall and Short to the world via travel. That is also something new, but I'm hoping that they'll relish the experience and not just the souvenirs. We have not really taken them too far yet (a trip to Colorado, a beach vacation), but plans are on the horizon. Maybe DisneyWorld next year? Will the trip be intoxicating? Will they appreciate it and remember it and treasure it? Or will they gobble up the experience like Pac-Man gobbling up (what did he gobble up, anyway? dots? ghosts?) those flashing lights.

More more more. Give me more. But I just want something new.

("More Overseas Vacations"?)

Monday, June 14, 2010

12. Exclamationer!

Hello Friends!

If you communicate with your pals via email like I do, then surely you have noticed an alarming trend: that's right, I am talking about the Exclamationer! The Exclamationer is a person who makes every email into one long breathless must-read punctuated by the QUITE NECESSARY (ooh-- another friend has been introduced now: THE CAPITALIZER) and ubiquitous exclamation point. Everyone has a least one email relationship going with a person like this.

Here is a sample email from my good friend:

"Hi MOV!
It was so great seeing you the other night! How funny that we ran into each other at the dry cleaners, the kids' school, and then the gym, all in the same day! Too funny! What are you, like, stalking me! Ha ha, LOL, I am soooooooooo kidding!
Anyway, the reason I am emailing is because I think Owen might have left his Frisbee at your house last week! Could you possibly take a peek in your yard and see if it is there? I would really appreciate it! Owen is getting so good at Frisbee, he might be in the Frisbee Olympics! (Ha ha, if there even IS such a thing, which I don't think there is, but how ironic if there were!).
Ok, obviously, I am rambling here! So, give me a call! When can I stop by? Talk to you soon! (or maybe I will just see you at the carpool lane again!)
Best regards,

Poor Exclamationer. She never learned the importance of restraint. Everything! Is! So! Important! And! Exciting! I swear, I get worn out just reading her post-its ("MOV! Here is Tall's sweater back! He left it in our car!"). And if by chance, Exclamationer, you are reading my blog (along with 23 other people-- see previous blog), then, honestly, no hard feelings! There was not much to write about today! I had to pick something!


11. Craigslist

My sister Oakley adores Craigslist. She buys things, finds vacation house rentals, gives stuff away, sell things, you get the idea. I, being the non-techno-savvy person that I am, was really not that familiar with it, knowing merely that you could probably get rid of an old futon thru Craigslist.

Turns out, you can get a damn nice pedestal sink thru Craigslist. I did.

Here's my story: The Husband and I decided to remodel our basement's half bath (we affectionately referred to this 1970's relic as "The Chevron Station Bathroom"). So, we hired a wonderful contractor to start the work in a few weeks, and he told us we were responsible for purchasing the new tile, toilet, and pedestal sink.

Like any good remodeler, I immediately went to Lowe's on a reconnaissance mission. AND THERE IT WAS. My beautiful future sink. Tall, stately, heavy, enamel, gorgeous lines, and did I mention that it was VERY large-- exactly what we had been looking for. It was reminiscent of a 1930's Art Deco style grandeur and grace that one does not typically see in today's ubiquitous McMansions. (Unfortunately, it had the "grand" price tag to match: $300 for the pedestal base--that's right, it is sold separately!-- and another $300 for the basin. If you are as good at math as I am, you know that is $852.) And this does not even include the faucet.

My premature swoon morphed into a wistful sigh. Enter Craigslist. I was justaboutthisclose to going back to Lowe's and splurging, when I thought, "Huh, Oakley always says how great Craigslist is, why not take a peek?" It was easy and fun.

I typed in my city, clicked on the section called "for sale", typed in "pedestal sink", and voila! There it was. My EXACT same sink from Lowe's. Unbelievable. It is, have I mentioned, quite distinctive and quite expensive. The brand is Kohler and the price was only $300 FOR THE ENTIRE THING.

Back to our advanced Calculus and Algebraic equations, I immediately knew this was a savings of 23%-- quite a good deal. If the photos posted and the brief description were to be trusted, then the sink was in "excellent" and "practically brand new" condition.

I quickly grabbed my cell phone (Short has renamed it my "cell-a-phone") and punched in the number. I left a brief message, trying to make my voice sound "contractor-like", "all business", and maybe even "bossy".

The Guy called me a couple hours later, and after giving me the condensed history of the sink (it was indeed from Lowe's originally; he'd bought it off Craigslist himself from people who had the sink installed and changed their minds, but Lowe's would not accept a return on a used item-- THANK YOU, LOWE'S; now it didn't fit in The Guy's tiny bathroom.). We set a time to meet, I showed up, and there was the perfect sink. I paid The Guy $300, the crisp bills still stuck together after the ATM had furiously spit them out, and The Guy helped me load the two pristine pieces into The Husband's truck.

If you are looking for a twist, you won't find one.  The story has a happy ending. The sink is waiting in our basement for the nice contractor to start the job, and I sleep a little easier knowing that I have saved 500%. Oakley would be impressed.


Friday, June 11, 2010

10. Camp

I am noticing a disturbing trend, and that is: calling something a name that it is NOT. I am referring here to Short's summer "camp".

Short is in preschool, which has just ended. Now he is signed up for something his preschool calls "camp". Hmmmmm. It costs just the same as his regular school. He goes the same days and the same hours as he did before. The students in his class are the same ones. They do the same types of art activities.

Then for goshsakes, why is it called "camp"? Are they pitching a tent? (uh, no.) Are they roasting hot dogs and making s'mores? (what do you think?) Do they carry a flashlight to school every day and wear an Indiana Jones hat? (they do not.)

When I was a child, I went to something called "camp" and it was, in fact, a camp! We did completely different activities than we normally do. It was held in a different place (not at my school). We were outside most of the day. My point is, let's call things what they ARE. What Short is going to right now, should be called "school".

Short is in for quite an awakening when he eventually DOES go to a "real" camp. Then he will realize that we were all just calling "school" by a different name.

("Munches Outside Vittles")

Thursday, June 10, 2010

9. Target

Today's topic is something that makes me very, very happy. That's right: Target.

They have everything there, and it is all arranged in a pretty and aesthetically pleasing way that beckons me to purchase or at least browse. The moment of infinite potential: my house can be beautiful and I can be beautiful and my kids can get along and I can have elaborate impromptu dinner parties on the patio and make it all look effortless, all with a little help from Target. Yes, I can attain "The Dream".

Everything looks pretty, shiny, new. One of my favorite things about Target is that there is no music playing. You get to shop and daydream in a blissful cloud of quiet. I detest stores that insist on blaring loud music or worse yet, ads (you know who you are, Wal-mart). In fact, I abhor loud stores so much that I simply refuse to shop there (TV ads in your face at Giant? I now only shop at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, thankyouverymuch).

Which brings me back to Target. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. I am having a Zen moment just thinking about it. I used to take Tall there, back when he was an only child. Then Short came along, and I quickly realized that it was too difficult to navigate a store with eight toy aisles while having two little children in tow. I started to take just one child with me and leave the other with The Husband. (What other store has the brilliance to have a $1 section near the front door that can be used for bribery purposes? "Tall, if you have very good behavior for the next hour while Mommy gets paper towels, then you can choose ONE THING from the dollar section! Yay!")

Now I save the extra dollar and just go by myself. It is Retail Therapy at its finest. You can tell The Husband that you have run out of paper towels and MUST go to Target right this second, and then you can peruse the cute summer clothes and the new dishes and outdoor patio furniture after locating aforementioned paper towels. Maybe grab a magazine or three.

To do Target "right", the MOV way, it is crucial to go at the exact moment they open. You will frequently find me there at 8 AM on a Sunday, wandering aimlessly about with a silly grin on my face. "Me Time"! The worst possible moment to shop at Target is 11 AM, as all my fellow moms are there with their impatient toddlers clogging up the aisles. 4 PM is another time to avoid as it is the window of opportunity right after school.

Don't even get me started on the 9:30 at night crowd; suffice it to say DO NOT SHOP THEN. The store is quite congested and picked over. By the time they are ready to close, Target is indeed out of whatever item you specifically came in for. Cat food? No. Maybe dog food is similar enough at this hour. Hand soap? No. But let's get creative: how different can it really be from shampoo? Out of toilet paper too? Well, just buy a couple boxes of Kleenex to tide you over. I have learned my lesson, and so I pass on words of wisdom to you: Do yourself a favor and be an early shopper.

What I especially love about Target (besides the nice cheap prices!) is the fact that everything is cute and trendy and current. Who can feel guilty buying a couple summer t-shirts for the kids when they are only $5 each? That is pretty much the price of one giant latte from Starbucks.

I also love the cute "non-uniform" the employees wear: red shirt, khaki pants. (Which reminds me, I accidentally shopped there once while I was coincidentally wearing a red shirt and khaki pants........... I could not figure out why other customers kept asking me for assistance. Did I just give off the aura of a helpful person, or had all these people seen me at Target one Sunday morning too many? should I start to worry when I receive shareholder stock dividend checks in the mail? Random Stock Tip #1: buy stock in Target.)

Why is Target perfect? What is their formula? Heck if I know. I have tried to analyze it. Suffice it to say, just tuck this column away and commit to memory what I wrote here the next time my birthday rolls around.

("Musing On Variety")

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

8. Party Favors

Today's topic is the dreaded Party Gift Bags for kids. I am not talking about the gifts the actual birthday child receives, no: I mean the "door prizes" that we mommies feel obligated to give out to each and every child who attends our party (and maybe even to a random sibling or three). This. Must. Stop.

What are we, sheep? Why are we competing? You know the drill: you run out to Target the day before the party (P-Day) and load up on these stupid paper bags in charming colors and grab a bunch of those plastic junky things (can they even properly be called "toys"?) plus lots of cheap candy................. voila! gift bags complete!

Don't even get me started if there is a theme involved.

This is wrong on so many levels, and I will attempt to address them all.

First of all, whose party is it, anyway? It is the Birthday Kid's! Why must the guests receive a gift? This  sends the wrong message. Out culture is so "Me"-centric and so kid-centric as it is, can't we at least seize the occasion to say to our child, "No-- you do not get a gift today, this is not your special day.  Today is about someone else."  What about the joy in choosing a gift for a special recipient? And surely the little guests will receive a piece of birthday cake, isn't that enough?

Second, this sets up an unrealistic expectation in the young guests that all future parties (Uncle Howard's too?) will include free stuff for them.

Third, does your child really "need" this extra junk that is in these "goody" bags? A whistle (what did I ever do to you, Mom-friend? are you trying to pierce my eardrums?), a plastic monster, some marbles (to get lost/and or to trip on! fun!), a couple stickers, some gum (still scraping THAT off the wall, thanks), and some melty M&M's. I understand the gesture, I truly do. But I think it is really more peer pressure than anything else.

Fourth, all that stuff ends up either cluttering up your child's (already full) room, or it ends up in the garbage and eventually clogging up the landfills. This is the complete opposite of environmentalism and what we "say" we are desperate to teach our children ("Suzie, don't be materialistic! Things don't mean anything!" and "Re-use! Recycle! Don't buy what you don't need!"). Please don't say one thing and then your actions exhibit the other end of the spectrum.

And let me tell you, this is a slippery slope. If you start doling out the goody bags now when your child is, say, two years old ........... how many more years of that are you expected to do the same? or worse, have to top your own goody bags? So, I say STOP THE MADNESS NOW! We must band together, sisters (do you ever see a lone DAD at Target buying that crap?! Uh, no). I personally vow to
  1. not give out goody bags anymore (yes, I was guilty of it too once........... but no longer)
  2. not be judgmental of my fellow moms for eliminating goody bags
  3. embrace the improvement and
  4. even thank these brave moms for helping to blaze the trail
  5. donate the extra savings of $5 per kid, or $50 or so to my favorite charity
Either that or a manicure and pedicure. Now THAT is a grown-up prize worth having.

("Materialism Outranks Virtue")

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

7. Alphabet Soup

Absolute authority is what I’ve got
Brandished on me. It’s a heavy weight when you are surrounded by
Chaos, and
Dying to see a movie (any movie, just get me out of the house).
........I remind myself that my children are really just tiny
Fragile on the inside, try to be careful what you put into their brains.
Giggly, is how they sound (except when they’re crying or screaming at each other).
..........They are the pieces that comprise my
Heart now. And yet, I find myself saddened at how
Ineffective my parenting can be sometimes to these human
Jumping beans. I am barely
Keeping my sanity. So many
Lessons to teach (but mostly I am the one learning).
“Mother”—an honor (and yet a curse at times; what happened to MY identity?).
...........The word I use most often is (can you guess?)
Only to be ignored. My
Patience is tested yet again. I find myself in the center of pandemonium.
........With sons, you remain the
(Recluse would be better.
Stranded on a desert island sounds pretty damn good about right now.)
............I determine consequences; outsiders view me as a
.......I don’t care. I have the strength of
Ulysses now. People's words don't affect me; I'm my own worst critic.
......Is there a
Verb for “hysteria”? There should be. And possibly a
Warrant for my arrest (“Yes, m’am, says right here you told the kid to eat lima beans.”)
X-ray my brain, you won’t find much left. Oh, and my
Youth’s gone too. By the way, where did I put my
Zzzzz’s? Let me know if you find them.

("Momentum Over Velocity")

6. Free Time

I work part-time at a high-end kitchen store (you know the one). It's a beautiful store, has beautiful products, and the people I work with are great. I basically love everything about it, including how helpful my boss is when it comes to the schedule.

Due to a recent calendar error on my part (my inability to read complicated numbers, like 5-6-7, in square boxes on a calendar and write them down correctly), I had inadvertently asked for the wrong days off. My boss graciously accommodated my (incorrect) request.

When I realized the error, I asked her if there were any extra shifts she needed filled? Sadly, there were not.

I was bemoaning to The Husband the fact that I would have zero money on my next paycheck because of not working. He said, "Honey, that's why it's called 'FREE' time--- because no one pays you for it."

("Meet Our Vice-President") <------yeah, he came into our store once

5. Unicorn Mom

So, we are sitting at the dinner table the other night, saying what kind of animal each family member would be if they were an animal.

I told Short that he could be a giraffe because he is getting bigger (he loves to think he is as big as his older brother).

The Husband said Short could be a monkey because he is funny and silly.

Tall said his dad could be a bear because he is big. I said Tall could maybe be a cheetah because he is a fast runner.

I asked Tall what I would be. He said, "Mommy, you would be a Unicorn,"

WAIT FOR IT............................................

"or a goat."

Why is everyone laughing except me???????????

("Mother's On Valium")

Friday, June 4, 2010

4. The Queen Of Laundryville

I am the Duchess of Domestic Chores, aka the Laundry Queen. Before, when I was single and childless and insulated in my own private bubble of bliss (manicure, anyone? how about reading the entire Sunday paper in one sitting only being interrupted to refill my latte?), I did not fully realize how easy I had it. For gosh sakes, I only had to get ONE person ready in the morning-- Me! It was all Me, all the time. The Me Channel. And let Me tell you, Me does not generate that much laundry.

Enter scene: The Husband (with his laundry). Now add Tall and Short, with all THEIR laundry. Guess what? I now do laundry approximately 7 days per week. It is a law of physics that dirt is attracted to boys. Someone's clothes are always getting dirty! If I get lazy and skip a day of doing laundry, then the next day I will pay by having to scale the Mt. Everest of Laundry pile. Ugh. It is never-ending.

Tall is just getting into sports now-- soccer. We all know that can mean only one thing (no, not future sports scholarship to Harvard): more laundry. The most depressing thing is when I have been doing laundry literally all day and it is finally folded, and maybe even put away and then The Husband gets home from work and dumps the contents of his gym bag on the floor: voila! more laundry!

I would like to take a vacation from the laundry, and believe me, sometimes I do. Those are the days that I am sending my children to school in pajamas and I am in a taffeta ball gown to zip to the grocery store. If you see me or my kids grossly underdressed or overdressed for the occasion, it is due to a Laundry Crisis of epic proportions.

("Missing Obsolete Verve")

Thursday, June 3, 2010

3. GLAD Method

Can we start a movement to eliminate all toys with small pieces? I am talking about Lego's, Mr. Potato Head, Tangoes, Thomas the Train, 5000 different race cars, kid tool kits, etc. If you have daughters, add Barbie and her multitude of shoes to the list (really? does she need Mango-colored shoes to match her latest Flamenco-dancing European party dress? does basic black not cover it anymore?).

Why do the manufacturers (I'm talkin' to you, Mattel) make so many little itty bitty teeny tiny annoying pieces?! So we can step on them in the middle of the night, that's why. My boys are pretty good about cleaning up their toys. We have in our house what we refer to as the "GLAD" clean-up method. Brace yourself, I know you are expecting some clever acronym for GLAD, but alas.................... GLAD simply refers to the large industrial size GLAD trash bag I wave around as I say, "Boys, time to clean up! If you would rather not clean up, I can help you."

The message implied is that the toys languishing on the floor will have a new home in the trash. Brutal, I know. Effective indeed. This begs the question, Miss MOV, have you ever actually thrown a beloved toy in the trash? (Oh, the horror.)

And the answer is a resounding "YES". Not once, but probably more like 5 or 6 times. Let's break down the cost of such a Draconian child-rearing method, shall we? The average nice toy like a large truck that talks or a Buzz Lightyear or a small Lego creature might cost around $25 or $30. If I have thrown away 5 x $30, that calculates to $150. And I surmise that my method is MUCH cheaper than dragging my kid to special classes where some "expert" can teach him to follow directions in the first place.

How do Tall and Short (misnamed, as he will easily pass up Tall for height in the next few years) react to this GLAD method? A serious, and somewhat panicked look comes across their little faces. They know I mean business; they clean up their toys. I rarely have to throw one away.

The key for me is the consistency: I threaten and then I follow thru. Yes, it breaks my heart to throw a perfectly good toy in the trash. But, The Husband and I have found this method to have EXCELLENT and swift results. Why, you say, do I not donate the toys to the Goodwill? Well, it is more dramatic for them to go in the trash! Also, I do take my children to the Goodwill to drop off toys and clothes, they understand that they are helping other children who have less and need these things. I do not want these two lessons (1. take care of your things and put them away, and 2. we donate things to those in need) to become unfortunately intertwined into the unintentional hybrid of "if I don't put my things away, a needy child gets them, therefore I hate needy children!"

So, the lesson of the day is this: Buy stock in GLAD trash bags.

("Might Obey the Vacuum")

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

2. The Virtues Of Patterned Carpet

My cat threw up this morning. She was not considerate enough to do so on, say, the tile floor in the bathroom nor even the hardwood floors throughout most of our home. No, Kitty decided that her indigestion would best be relieved in the living room on the beautiful Oriental rug. Times like these, I am soooooooo glad I had convinced The Husband to purchase a patterned rug. I cleaned up the offending pile of, well, you know, and voila! can't even tell there was ever a problem!

Yes, patterned carpets hide a multitude of sins just as a cute patterned shirt can hide the occasional dribble of coffee or perhaps chocolate. Once, when I was eight years old, someone bumped into me accidentally at a crowded ice cream shop. I spilled the entire contents of my lemon-lime 7-Up float all over my plain t-shirt. In retrospect, oh, how I wish I had been wearing a patterned top instead (on the up side, it was approximately 92 degrees out, so the sudden dousing in ice cream was refreshing after all).

I say that we, as a collective community, push for patterns everywhere. Why stop with patterned carpets, shirts, and sofas? Let's introduce pattern where solids have previously prevailed: car interiors, shoes, notebook covers, soccer uniforms. You name it, I will put a pattern on it. Does not have to be floral. No: too pedestrian. Let's embrace stripes, checks, plaids and paisley, sometimes all at once. My job as Chief Cleaner of the House just got a little bit easier, oh, and what's that? a commission check from Lilly Pulitzer.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

1. How TiVo Save My Life

What did we do before TiVo? We sat thru lots of commercials, that's what. We also planned our lives around stupid TV shows (Who Shot JR, anyone? If that doesn't give my age away, I don't know what does). Now, with merely a few clicks of a button, my shows are ready when I want even if that means 2AM.

I'll admit it: TiVo has (somewhat) evolved into my electronic babysitter. This is not something I am particularly proud of. We do attempt to avoid "empty calorie" TV, and instead we try to have the boys watch things like "Between the Lions" and "Electric Company". This works most of the time, buying me a half hour to do something super-indulgent, like, I don't know, take a shower.

My 6-yr-old is now smart enough to know how to program TiVo himself! How does he know this?!? I did not teach him. I grill The Husband who also denies teaching him (we shun teachable moments better left to our schools, and if you don't realize I am joking here, you have found the wrong blog). So, the 6-yr-old (we'll call him Tall, just as my husband and I call him as our secret code so he won't figure out who we are talking about, alas he has figured that out too) decides to tape things like "Sponge Bob Square Pants" and "Phinneus and Ferb", shows that we would rather he not watch. Grrrrrrrr. Delete, delete, delete!

Anyway, guess this is good for an intro into blogging. Stay tuned and check back often for LOTS of this English Lit Major/ frustrated writer wannabe's musings and observations on what it means to be a Mother Of Brothers.

("My Only Viewings")