Tuesday, August 31, 2010

118. But I Don't Want Your Help

Will I automatically be nominated for Worst Mother Ever if I don’t want my preschooler to help me in the kitchen?

About an hour before I need to get ready for work, I decide to make cookies. Without much fanfare, I start to line up the ingredients in a neat little row (in the correct order they will be used) on the counter. Poof! —out of nowhere materializes the same child who typically must be called eight times to put his shoes on when we need to leave.

Are you making cookies?! I’ll help you!” he offers with the breathless enthusiasm normally reserved for million-dollar lottery winners.

“Uh, that’s okay, Short, I don’t have a lot of time, I’ll just make them really fast here. You go back and play with your brother’s Lego’s some more.”

He ignores me and grabs a step-stool so he can “help” me stir.

“Short, really, I’ve got it. If Mommy can make them fast, you can have THREE cookies to eat after they bake.”

“NO!” he insists, “I break the eggs!” He looks up at me with big blue eyes and a huge grin. The thought that immediately pops to mind is why won't you ever smile in photos?

He reaches for the whisk.

"Short! Wait!"

I know what you’re thinking: Wow, that MOV sure is a mean mom. What's her problem?

I’ll tell you what my problem is. The last time we indulged in this “family togetherness cooking fantasy”, the following occurred (not necessarily in this order):
  • half the flour ended up on me (too lazy to wear an apron, natch)
  • several pieces of egg shell added to the overall crunchiness of the cookies
  • the bottle of vanilla was broken on the floor (why do we not buy plastic bottles for everything?)
  • ONE WHOLE BAG OF CHOCOLATE CHIPS WAS DEPOSITED ON THE FLOOR (why can't we spill things on the counter, or even the sink? what is it about the floor? is there some sort of secret magnetic force-field there beyond basic gravity that I am unaware of?) and
  • it was a miracle that our family (mercifully the only guinea pigs subjected to this cruel baking experiment) didn't get sick eating these “cookies” because the entire bowl of batter was sneezed on by my preschooler
It's enough to make a mom run out and buy a bag of stale Chips Ahoy.

I love my sons, and I truly want them to learn about cooking and baking, but it is just really really hard for me to “let the mess happen”. I am beyond a Typical Virgo (you know, the ones who just iron their socks?). I have graduated into the realm of Hyper-Virgo: if I had my way, my house would look ready for a real estate open house 24/7. I have been known to yell at The Husband for “sleeping too messy” (would it kill him to not kick all the covers off every single night?). I have actually folded up the newspapers so they line up the same way.  For the recycling bin.

So you can see how difficult it is for me to reconcile the twin desires competing for dominance: keep kitchen looking half-way decent (and my sanity intact) OR teach children valuable life skills.


Wait a second ... ” I hear myself say, “let me help you put on your Star Wars apron.”

(“Messy Official Volunteer”)

117. Coffee

Does anyone out there in cyber-space know if it is bad to spill coffee on your computer keyboard? Because, well, I was in the middle of typing a really funny story that I thought of and then I sort of ljhbsr asd;D AfLN edf error: 217 GFP99./+ is it the kind of thing that would affect something right away? I mean, do I have to go out and buy a whole new keyboard becawe’otrj’o bn’wm ,eb oe0934u0EIJ R’ OIJDNf* mG:lm (gf:MEklke Fl) 67@09KMDF G$ CODE 996258 LOADING Error: 170035K wait restarting ( ) DO NOT TOUCH KEYBOARD OR DATA WILL BE LOST oops……………… MOV (“Misprint Oscillating Voltage”)

Monday, August 30, 2010

116. Scheduling Friend Try-Out's

Friend Try-Out’s


  • My house, tomorrow afternoon, 3 PM
  • Might only take 10 minutes if we "click" immediately; if you are up against several qualified candidates, may take a few hours (make sure you are ready for time commitment)
  • Bring a sharpened pencil (there may be a short quiz possibly involving gardening)
  • What I am looking for: someone to gossip with, someone who mostly says either really funny things (about others) or really nice things (about me). Bonus points if you are willing to watch my kids for a couple hours while I do Important Things (necessary things like "write my blog" or "sleep" or "catch up on TiVo'd shows")

Need not apply if:

  • You are an Underminer (I can undermine myself just fine, thankyouverymuch, I do not need my New Best Friend to do it for me)
  • You don't understand my sense of humor (read blogs 77--85 or 109--112; if none of those make you laugh, well, you can just go read that Prairie Woman's blog instead. Maybe she is more your cup of tea.)

Application Fee:

  • $15 (will be waived if you submit home-made brownies with paperwork)


  • You get to be in my company! Isn’t that enough? (if it's not enough, maybe I can talk to Absolut about a fun little Corporate Sponsorship—I’ll keep you posted)

MOV ("Mantra Of Value")

115. Gardening Update

I know you are eagerly awaiting the latest installment on the status of my front yard. Well, I have some bad news for you. I would have mentioned it sooner but I just noticed it today. One of my newly-planted-practically-fresh-from-the-nursery small trees is wearing (it’s difficult for me to even type this without sobbing) …… A Hospital Bracelet. I know what you are thinking: how can a tree wear a Hospital Bracelet? I wondered the same thing. Some things are just better left up to the mysterious ways of God and the Jesus CD. I was out there, attempting to water my sad little dying plants and THERE it was, in all its glory, mocking me: the Tree Hospital Bracelet. It was sporting it as if to say, I have checked into the Great Nature Reserve In The Sky, and it’s all your fault! What now? Seriously, who marked my little tree? Did some do-gooder freighbor come by and stick that sucker on there? Why would he/ or she do that? Is this like some sort of indication to the whole neighborhood that I am really lousy as a Yard Owner? sort of a big red flag? I have tried to be a responsible Yard Owner, really I have. I water occasionally. If I remember. Or if I’m not that busy that day. Or if I don’t have to drive someone somewhere at some point. So, in response to this terrible turn-of-events, I have drafted a brief letter to the oh-so-helpful-freighbor responsible for making my life a living hell. Just to warn you, I am a really really good letter-writer (this stems from my years, decades even, of writing complaint letters to, uh, pretty much everyone). Here goes: Dear Freighbor, I thought we were more than just neighbors, I thought we had been promoted to the status of friends. Apparently not. What am I talking about? Oh, don’t deny it; don’t act so coy. You know exactly what you did…….. you know what this letter is about. I just want to find out one thing: WHY? Why would you publicly want to “call me out” and publicly ridicule me in front of, you know, uh, the public? It’s like you’re saying that I’m a bad Yard Owner. How dare you? How dare you! HOW DARE YOU!!!! I already know that I’m a bad Yard Owner, I don’t need you, or anyone else or no one or others for that matter, to point it out to me. Now all the other neighbors are going to make fun of me (well, I mean more than they do already). These are the same people I must face at my child’s bus stop! Have some compassion! That Tree Hospital Bracelet is a new low. Where do you even buy such a thing? I hope you’re happy and I hope you can sleep at night, knowing that you have given me a complex about my tree and my yard (well, in all honesty, I guess you didn’t “give” me a tree complex, more like you just exacerbated my already previously existing tree complex). In case you’re wanting to apologize, I, too, would like to put this unfortunate incident behind us. I know what you can do to make it up to me (not wine, although that does work for me in 99% of situations). No. It’s not going to be that easy. I will see you bright and early in my front yard at 9 AM tomorrow morning. And the morning after that. And all week. Bring your garden hose. Your neighbor, MOV (“Mutilating Obsolete Vegetation”)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

114. Excuse Me, Are You Famous?

(Fun Airline flashback moment)

So I’m working in coach today on a narrow-body, 757. It’s a full flight from Los Angeles to Maui. This is not my typical schedule due to my very low seniority (I like to call it “juniority”); I've only been flying the better part of a decade for United at this point.

This particular flight is fully staffed by five other “Senior Mamas” (with minimum 35 years flying experience each) and somehow somewhere some crazy lazy person (who has probably already been to Maui 317 times) calls in sick, enabling ME the final spot on the jumpseat and the awesome opportunity to go to Maui for 24 hours.

Yippee! Maui. Who cares if I am way back here in coach?  Heck, I’d work out on the wing if it gives me the chance to go to Hawaii.

Flight’s full. We're in the middle of our meal service when I see it. A script. The person who holds it looks scraggly. I don’t really care. Besides being a fabulous flight attendant, I also am an aspiring screen-writer.  

I'm bold. I internally register the title of the script (a well-researched novel currently on the New York Times best seller list) and then I go up to Script Holder and whisper, “Are you a producer?”

Script Holder is somewhat taken aback (as well he should be). He laughs and says, “No.” And nothing more.

Am I supposed to guess? It looks that way:







"Uhhh," grasping at straws here, "... camera man?"

Script Holder thinks this is really really funny. He laughs a hearty laugh, as does his wife who has overheard most of our conversation.


I walk away, dejected. Who randomly sits around on flights to Maui reading scripts? This guy must have some sort of job related to some sort of Hollywood-type thing.

I am very very curious now.

This has obviously become a game to him. I pick up trash from other passengers for a while and then I go back to his seat to bother him some more (who cares about getting fired when this Script Holder might hold the key to my Hollywood future as a Very Important Writer!).

“Hi, me again. Sorry. Uh, if you don’t mind me asking, what exactly do you DO?”

I am leaning in here, trying not to garner any attention from any other passengers in the vicinity. Script Holder is REALLY suppressing a smirk here. His wife rolls her eyes (she is wondering if she’s being punk’d). Script Holder looks me in the eye with his penetratingly gorgeous blue eyes and says,

“I’m an actor.”

I give a blank look. What the hell? He looks like a homeless person who hasn’t showered in 8 days. He is older, early 50’s or so. He's wearing an old ratty (ratty, not natty) Hawaiian print shirt, khaki shorts, worn-out flip- flops. He has long, almost shoulder-length dirty blond hair, and his skin is a sun-burnt reddish tan. He is tall, all elbows and knees, and his lanky frame (6 foot something?) is quite bent and folded in his cramped coach seat. Maybe he is a character actor? or possibly he just does voice-over's?

Due to my penchant to make an absolute fool of myself in any given situation, I just CANNOT let it go.

“An actor. Oh, that’s nice. Huh," ... long pause (not 100% believing him) ... "Have you been in anything I might have seen?”

The formerly lowly flying-in-coach Script Holder, who has now morphed into Self-Proclaimed "Actor" status, chuckles. He shakes his head like he just got out of a swimming pool. Another laugh, actually more like a guffaw this time--he's really enjoying this. Relishing it, even. He sizes me up and finally replies,

“As a matter of fact, I just did a little film you might of heard of with Kevin Spacey.”

“Kevin Spacey! Wow!” I say, impressed. Everyone knows who Kevin Spacey is! This guy has met Kevin Spacey! That’s pretty good for an “extra” or someone just starting out.

I wander off because another paying passenger (but not a Hollywood Connection) asks me for a pillow. After thinking about it for a couple minutes, I decide that (due to Script Holder’s laughter) I must be stupid, and so I go up to First Class and nonchalantly as the situation can allow ask the Purser if I can view the Passenger Manifest. I start to scan the seat numbers and names. 32D—oh, shit.

Jeff Bridges.

Academy Award Winner, Jeff Bridges. Fabulous Baker Boy, Jeff Bridges. Big Lebowski, Jeff Bridges. Why would I make this up? Oh, yeah, and the script he reading? Seabiscuit. I need to apologize to him. I need to somehow erase my bizarre behavior (and as an aside, just between you and me, what the hell is he doing in coach? Come on! Doesn’t he make, I dunno, like a gazillion million dollars per picture? Shouldn’t the Jeff Bridges that you and I have both heard of be kickin’ it with his lovely wife and three daughters in First Class? Or possibly a private jet? It dawns on me that he is trying to “go incognito” this trip.)

I want to redeem myself somehow. I know this whole encounter is the story he is telling his local Maui friends tonight over drinks and dinner.

What can I do at this point? I go up to the very famous and talented actor Jeff Bridges and say, “Mr. Bridges, your secret is safe with me.”

He looks me in the eye, with possibly the same look he gave Michelle Pfeiffer when she was lounging on that piano hitting the high notes, and says simply, “Thank you.”

(“Master Of Vagueness”)

113. Prizes!

It has come to my attention that some of you prefer blogs with prize giveaways. My friend B. at work says, “You know, MOV, that Prairie Woman gives away things on her blog.” Apparently, Prairie Woman gives away cameras and toasters and i-pads and Kitchen-Aid stand-mixers. Sigh. How can I compete with THAT? So, I remind B. that I am just starting out with writing my blog; I've only been doing it for about three months. She looks me in the eye, carefully considers my statement, and then replies, “I’m just saying.” Fine, B. Be that way. You know what? I CAN GIVE STUFF AWAY TOO. So, dear readers, welcome to my first giveaway blog. Today is your lucky day! Now, keep in mind that Prairie Woman has been posting her blog for a couple years now, she probably has big-wig corporate sponsors and such (Absolut, are you listening? Vodka always makes a nice prize). So, PW may possibly have slightly better prizes than I do. But, that’s OK, because I don’t have to pay shipping charges on my prizes. Ha! That’s right: I'm going to give away words. Here is our first prize up for the day: “ambiguous”. This is a great word to incorporate into just about any conversation. You’re welcome! Which brings me to my second (runner-up) prize, which is not just a single word, but actually a whole phrase: “you’re welcome”. This is something we just do not have enough of. Try it out! “You’re welcome!” “You are welcome too!” Okay, I know that's a lot on my very first day of handing out prizes. I don’t want to just pass them out indiscriminately. That brings me to our last and final prize of the day: “indiscriminately”. Try that one at Scrabble! You’re welcome again! Well, you know what? I'm feeling generous. As a tiny little small bonus, I have a couple letters left over, that I guess could be sort of like door prizes. Here ya go: letter “S”. Add that puppy onto just about anything desirable, like dollar. Now you have dollars! You’re welcome! (Remember not to add that “S” onto things you don’t want, like car accident. Oooh, car accidents. Bad.) Last letter of the day: “O”. You can use it right now! As in, “O, that MOV is just about the best writer EVER, and you know who else thinks so? Oprah.” (Well, she would if she read any of my writing.) And just wait till you see tomorrow’s prizes. (You’re welcome.) MOV ("Mother Of Vowels")

Friday, August 27, 2010

112. Spam

Everyone has one: a friend or family member who “means well” but litters your in-box mercilessly with Spam. The Spamerator is a wonderful person in real life, but you put her behind the keyboard and she only knows how to do one thing: click that mouse on the tiny icon that says “forward”, clickclickclickclick.

She must spend hours at the keyboard, being unproductive and single-handedly transferring computer viruses to half of America. I ask myself, HOW did I get on her list? What exactly did I do to annoy and upset her so?

Here are some real subject lines from recent Spams I have received from the friend I like to call “The Spamerator”:
  • Fw: Red-neck merry-go-round
  • Fw: Desperate times call for desperate “pleasures”
  • Fw: Bible study for the non-religious
  • Fw: 22 easy ways to make your life more green
  • Fw: Fashion tips for the Fashion-impaired
  • Fw: TRIP TO COSTCO—just too funny
  • Fw: Fw: Worse things than oil on the beach
  • Fw: Refuse these coins (don’t delete)
  • Fw: Fw: Cameron Diaz is Hot—her EZ workout routine
  • Fw: grapefruit recall (please read immediately)
  • Fw: Fw: Reduce your Carbon Footprint (DO IT NOW)
  • Fw: Shock on NBC this morning
  • Fw: All Tylenol made in China (DO NOT BUY)
  • Fw: Why the apology Obama?
  • Fw: Infant carseat warning
  • Fw: Tax Time!!!!! (don’t delete this)
  • Fw: Go Arizona
  • Fw: Silent Killer (useful information)
  • Fw: Why Housing Market Collapsed (not Y U think)
  • Fw: Fwd: Animal Thoughts
  • Fw: He said, she barked (Hilarious!)
  • Fw: This explains a lot (UNCLASSIFIED)
  • Fw: What Doctors DON'T Know (scary)
  • Fw: FW: Jesus knows your here and forgeves your sins
  • Fw: This is NOT a chain letter—this is for kids’ books!
  • Fw: Just a reminder
  • Fw: Gotta love the logic (TOO TRUE)
  • Fw: Election day coming—vote like me
  • Fw: Fwd: Worry less, laugh more
  • Fw: 7 degrees of blonde (FUNNY)
Somehow, if she has to alert me in advance that it is “FUNNY” or “Hilarious!” then I automatically know it’s not. I have better things to do (like watching paint dry) than “please read immediately.”

I love this friend dearly and have tried to bring up the topic of her Excessive Forwarding Tendencies (she is borderline Spamaholic), but guess what she says? “I only send you things that are completely relevant.”

Huh? How exactly is “Homeless Man’s Funeral” relevant to me? or “Neil Armstrong’s Secret”? I have asked her nicely to please take me off her mass mailing list, and she just laughs—she thinks I'm trying to make a joke. So I ask her a third time and now she pouts—apparently, I've hurt her feelings.

As a last resort, I say to her, “Look, I’m really busy! I don’t have time to read them all ... do you think you could just send me emails that you yourself have written?” She nods slowly in the up-down, up-down, up-down, universal way that means “yes”, but later I find my in-box overloaded with, surprise! more of her virtual cyber-diarrhea.

Because “Desperate times call for desperate pleasures”, I have come up with a simple solution. It’s EZ, and you can try it for the Spamerator in your life too (“DO IT NOW”). I have decided to forward her a few choice emails of my own:
  • Fw: What to do when you have no life
  • Fw: I’m Bored—Now You Can Be Too!
  • Fw: How to lose friends and alienate people
  • Fw: If you have too much time on your hands, you can come to MOV’s house and fold laundry!
  • Fw: fw: Easy Ways To Be More Productive (don’t delete this!)
  • Fw: Jesus knows how to spell and you don’t
  • Fw: Jesus would like you more if you’d go water MOV’s lawn
  • Fw: Reminder—Don’t send spam to your so-called “friends”
  • Fw: How To Apologize For Wasting People’s Time (TOO TRUE)
  • Fw: HOW TO USE THE DELETE KEY (useful information)
  • Fw: Easy ways to make friends (#1—pick up telephone)
  • Fw: Make Jesus happy—go to Costco for MOV
  • Fw: Self-quiz: What level of Spam is acceptable?
  • Fw: You would laugh more if you stopped reading so much spam
(And, sweet Spamerator, if you happen to be reading my blog instead of sending more Spam, consider this your long overdue “spamervention”. Now turn off your computer and let’s go out to lunch.)

(“Magnifies Own Viewpoint”)

111. Parenting Algorithm

algorithm (as defined by Webster’s New World Dictionary): any systematic method of solving a certain kind of mathematical problem It is a mathematical certainty that, in any given day, your children will exhibit specific unacceptable behaviors and outbursts. You may be perplexed as to what is the most straightforward and effective way to deal with reoccurring stresses caused by your (otherwise) angelic little children.

For that reason, I have devoted today’s entire column to a helpful easy-to-read algorithm chart that first lists the child’s inappropriate behavior and then is followed by a very simple solution for the parent to easily cope with the situation and maintain any shreds of sanity. Think of it as your parenting “cheat-sheet”. This chart can offer great comfort to you and those closest to you (for example, your husband) for times when measures such as “time-outs”, “using a confident tone”, “taking away privileges”, “reasoning”, “offering choices”, “ignoring bad behavior”, and other psycho-babble bullshit have failed. I hope you are able to obtain the same excellent results that I have. If not, come over to my house and I will show you what you are doing wrong.

  • Child's Behavior ...... Recommended Solution For Parent
  • Meltdown tantrum @ Target= vodka tonic
  • Meltdown tantrum @ Target with an audience= double
  • Broken collarbone for running preschooler who tripped on rocks= Southern Comfort, rocks
  • 3rd potty “accident” of the day = 3 glasses of Chardonnay
  • Scream for no apparent reason whatsoever while Mommy is in shower = screwdriver
  • Kicking brother without provocation= tequila shot
  • Excessive whining= another glass of wine
  • Hurling Lego’s @ cat= margarita
  • Hurling Lego’s @ Mommy (and hitting her in the eye)= margarita with a tequila chaser
  • “helping” Mommy by putting all dirty clothes and clean clothes together in one pile= vodka neat
  • Picking a scab and getting blood all over the white couch= Bloody Mary
  • Spilling entire glass of milk on clean outfit right before family needs to leave= Kahlua and cream
  • Forgetting to tell Mommy that today is her turn to bring homemade brownies to school bake sale= Jack & coke
  • Not eating any of nutritious lunch Mommy packed (“today was pizza day”)= apple martini
  • Biting fellow preschooler= mojito
  • Locking Mommy out of house accidentally= glass of Merlot
  • Locking Mommy out of house intentionally when she needs to use the bathroom= bottle of Merlot
  • Calling Mommy “stupid-head”= gin & tonic
  • Dropping Mommy’s favorite necklace in the toilet= lemon drop
  • Getting out of bed 7 times= 7 & 7
  • Fear of dark= Pinot Noir
  • Too much Chuggington= chug a beer

Feel free to adapt this list to your own specific needs (and please remember to drink responsibly—a reminder from our generous corporate sponsor Absolut). Focus on the REAL reason that 5 PM is called “happy hour”: that is when your husband gets home from work and takes the kids for a while so you can finally get a break. MOV (“Margarita Or Vodka”?)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

110. Guilt Quiz

How can you attain the title of Best Mom Ever if you are not monitoring your Daily Guilt Levels (DGL)? To do this, I have devised this simple quiz to assess your personal DGL and help you identify areas that need improvement.

1. Which most accurately describes your parenting style?
A. Mother Theresa
B. Desperate Housewives
C. Old Yeller

2. What is your first thought when waking up in the morning?
A. I can’t wait to change a poopy diaper!
B. Please, God, let today be a week-day so they have preschool
C. I think I’ll go to the gym, oh, wait, I can’t: I have kids now

3. Your definition of “dinner” is (circle all that apply):
A. Filet mignon and lobster
B. Grilled Chilean sea bass with a side of asparagus
C. Anything McDonald’s serves
D. The chicken nuggets my kids didn’t finish eating

4. Your idea of a “vacation” is (choose one):
A. Paris for two weeks
B. Hawaii (preferably the Big Island) for one week
C. A quick drive up the coast to stay in a charming Bed and Breakfast for a week-end
D. What’s a “vacation”?

5. When your friends see you on the street, they
A. stop to chat
B. tell you that you look fabulous and ask if you’ve lost weight
C. want to schedule lunch soon
D. don’t recognize you

6. The last time you got your hair cut was
A. yesterday
B. last week
. 3 months ago
D. What’s a “haircut”?

7. Your ideal fun night consists of
A. dancing the night away
B. watching a movie
C. watching “Dancing with the Stars”

8. Your “Dream Team” consists of
A. Hairdresser, personal trainer, stylist
B. Maid, cook, chauffeur
C. Me, Myself, and I

9. When you want to celebrate as a family, you go to
A. Chart House
B. Gramma’s house
C. Chuck E. Cheese’s house

10. Number of errands you accomplish on a “good” day:
A. At least six sometimes seven
B. Usually three, maybe even four if the places are all close together
C. People get more than one thing done in a day?

11. If you were arrested, it would be for
A. running an unlicensed day-care in your home—the neighbors’ kids are always at your house playing!
B. running all the appliances at once: dishwasher, washing machine, outdoor sprinklers
C. running a yellow light (trying to get too many things done)
D. running away from it all by yourself (to Hawaii or maybe Paris)

12. Fill in the blank: “My car is ______________.”
A. spotless, just got back from the car-wash
B. empty, need to stop and get gas
C. being towed, forgot to move it for street sweeping

13. When you think of the word “water,” you automatically think
A. of California beaches
B. need to give the kids a bath tonight
C. ohhh, was I supposed to water the lawn this morning?

14. Fill in the blank: “Paper is for____________.”
A. reading
B. writing on
C. wrapping gifts
D. wiping bottoms

15. Finish the phrase: “Home is where__________.”
A. the heart is
B. the mess is
C. I don’t have to change out of my sweatpants

16. Which work-out describes your typical routine?
A. Brisk 5 mile run daily
B. Weights, some cardio
C. Wait around for kids, cart them off
D. Work-out? Huh?

17. Finish the phrase: “The grass is always ________.”
A. soft, lush, and well-manicured
B. greener on the other side
C. dead. Wait, is it supposed to be green?

18. Define “make-up”:
A. Foundation, eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, blush
B. What you and your husband do after an argument
C. Synonym for “invent” (invent/ make-up excuses for why you are late again)

19. If you won a million dollars, how would you spend it?
A. I really have everything I need. I would donate it all to charity.
B. Pay off the house; set the rest aside for the kids’ college funds
C. Vegas, baby!

Mostly A’s—do you even have children? This is a mom’s quiz. Go back to reading your Travel and Leisure magazine (the one with Tahiti on the cover).
Mostly B’s—you maintain a good balance of staying true to yourself and your kids. What’s your secret? Mostly C’s or D’s—you are a miserable failure. Welcome to Motherhood.

(“Motherhood Or ... Vegas”)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

109. Movie Night

So I am standing in line by myself to buy my ticket at the movies (I got there early to meet some friends that drove separately). My happiness at getting out of the house alone is quickly eclipsed by the annoying person behind me in this very long line. She is in her 50’s, has olive skin, very dark hair, is a bit overweight, and I can tell by the way she is dressed in multiple flowing scarves that she is not from America originally. I immediately realize where she is from. She is from the country called IStandTooCloseToOtherPeople.

Perhaps you have met others from this foreign land? It is rather unnerving. I can feel her breath on my neck. I can smell her (she smells strangely of vinegar). Is she trying to pick my pocket? I try to inconspicuously shift my purse to the other side of my body, and I place my hand across the zipper.

The line moves forward, and she is still glued to my back. In the past, when this sort of thing has happened to me (I say happened “to” me because it is most definitely NOT a situation I seek out), I will turn and pretend to cough in the offending person’s direction. You wanna stand this close? You’re gonna get some germs! Hack, hack, take that! Other tactics I have used include stepping backwards and “inadvertently” stepping on the person’s toes—Oh! I guess I didn’t see you there! I am mentally mulling over my options.

I have a medium-sized shopping bag full of popcorn with me (I refuse to pay $6 for a tiny bag of stale popcorn, so I make it at home first and smuggle in enough for me and my friends). I decide to strategically move the shopping bag between me and this woman. The only thing this accomplishes is that she almost steps on my bag and knocks popcorn everywhere. Yikes. This would be bad: if the popcorn spilled out. Would the teen-aged movie theater usher take me to “Mall Jail”? What would my penalty be—no movies for three years? (Wait, isn’t that the default punishment of having children?)

The line is not even moving now and she steps forward anyway. If it were winter and I was wearing a coat, we would definitely be sharing it. What is her deal? Is she trying to cut in front of me? I can’t take it anymore; I am exasperated. I turn to look her in the eye (which means I turn and practically kiss her).

What I want to say is, listen lady, back off! You are making me claustrophobic of my own skin!

What I do say is: “Did you want to go in front of me?”

She gives me a blank stare; I think she might not speak English. Then she says plainly, “Why? Have you not decided yet which movie you want to see?”

She is looking at me in such a puzzled and genuinely kind way that now I feel like a jerk. Is it really her fault that she is from Another Land where they don’t believe in the pointless luxury of personal space?

So I say, “Yeah, I don’t know which movie yet.” Now she has decided that this is a Conversation Opener and that I want to be Friendly (which I most certainly don’t).

She volunteers, “I’m going to see ‘Eat Pray Love’. It got great reviews. But I heard the ending is very predictable, that the character that Juliet Rogers plays goes and tells the…”

“Maybe I’ll see that one,” I cut her off. I do not want to discuss the review nor the plot summary nor the mangled name of the Oscar-winning star nor the ending of the movie my friends and I are buying tickets for.

She smiles sweetly at me and moves forward again. Are you kidding me? I don’t stand this close to my own husband. WhatdoIdowhatdoIdowhatdoIdowhatdoIdo?

I could pour popcorn on her. That is not any more offensive than her choosing to stand so close to me. I could sneeze and not cover my mouth. That is probably worse than a fake cough. I know! I could faint and land on her (but then I might not get to see my movie, you know, if an ambulance shows up to take me away).

Oh, thank God. I am finally at the very front of the line. I only have to put up with this woman for another minute or two. The clerk selling tickets motions for me to come forward to her booth. I start to walk towards her when my friend Wendy shouts out to me from the side.

“MOV—Laura and I already got your ticket! Come on!”

(“Maneuvering Over Veils”)

Monday, August 23, 2010

108. Punishment

We are finishing another busy week-end. I did some preliminary sorting of the kids’ clothes and assessed their back-to-school needs. The nice thing about having two sons is that you get twice the opportunity to see a child in a cute (read: expensive) outfit. You don’t agonize quite so much about the cost as long as both of them got to cycle through the Janie & Jack sailboat sweater. At dinner, The Husband and I try to discuss our plans for Monday: “Well, we have our monthly meeting of all our division heads tomorrow. This time it’s....." "Pop, I hate salad! Here, YOU eat it." "Tall, stop interrupting! I'm trying to discuss some things with your mother." "Fine. I'm sorry," Tall sulks as he says it. "So, anyway, like I was saying, it's going to be held at ‘Type A Café’ so obviously I’m really looking forward to it.” I look up from my pasta. “Oh, I guess I shouldn’t have told you that.” The Husband looks sheepish now, as he knows I have been dying to go to “Type A Café”. It is a new trendy bistro that just opened near Crazy Town. Why is it that he gets to enjoy these leisurely “work” lunches and I’m lucky if I remember to scarf down a few crackers? “Don’t even tell me if you..." I begin. "He kicked me!" screeches Short. "I didn't even DO anything to him!" "Tall, did you kick him?" I initiate the interrogation. "No," he retorts. "Tall........?" I coax. "Well, I did sort of, you know, rest my feet on him, and then I might have moved my feet a little, like to practice dancing. But I know it was NOT a kick!" I catch The Husband out of the corner of my eye smirking at me: to practice dancing? "Tall, you just lost 2 smiley faces on your chart." This time I am the one to dole out the anticipated punishment. I walk over to the refrigerator where we keep the boys' reward charts and I take a pen out of a nearby drawer to neatly "x" out the hard-won smileys. "NOOOOO! That is so unfair," Tall pouts. He know he is now two steps further away from a special prize-- like those silly bands shaped like animals. The husband starts to open his mouth. I give him the look: the look that says, "Don't you dare undermine my punishment!" "MOV?" he semi-whispers, "Don't you think you might have jumped the gun a little? Aren't you supposed to give a warning first? Because you didn't. And don't you think two smileys is a bit excessive?" I open my eyes very wide, as if to say, please come inside my brain Dear Husband, so we can go over the tapes together. The tapes where we say, whichever one of us happens to give out the consequences, the other parent will 100% without fail support the decision. "Okay, okay. I know what you are thinking," concedes The Husband, who after being stuck with me for over a decade has gotten really really good at mind-reading. "All right, what were you saying before, Honey? I think the boys cut you off. Something about 'Type A Cafe'?" "Just that I am insanely jealous and would it be okay if the boys and I crash your work luncheon? No, I'm just kidding. But, if you get the lobster salad, I won’t speak to you for a week,” I tease. “If I eat two lobster salads, does that mean I’ll get peace and quiet for two weeks?” he volleys back. “Ha ha. No actually, you know what? It doesn’t matter anyway. Tomorrow’s the day before the charity pick-up and I’m going to need the entire day to finish getting all the boys’ old clothes and toys together. Camp is over, so it’ll be tough—the boys are just going to have to entertain themselves. We’ll probably be watching lots of videos,” I say with a sigh. Tall squeals, "Mommmm! Now he is kicking ME!" “Ugh, I don’t think I’d want to trade places with you. Thank God for Cartoon Network!” The Husband smiles. I am trying to decipher if it is a smile of sympathy directed at me, or if it is a smile of sheer happiness at Going Out To Lunch With The Grown-Ups tomorrow. We get the boys ready for bed. After a quick bath, they brush their teeth amidst much punching and stepping on each other’s toes (literally). We struggle to get them in their pajamas. Why the resistance?! They have been playing outside most of the day; they should be worn out. We read two books to them, and they’re still not sleepy. Finally, we get them into bed, give a good night kiss, and turn the lights out. Over the course of the next 10—15 minutes, they get up (between the two of them) no fewer than five times. The Husband is starting to lose his patience. He just wants to finish his beer and watch a couple minutes of Sports Channel. I can’t say that I blame him: we are both exhausted. Tall appears yet again. “Pop, can I ge—“ “GO TO BED!” The Husband bellows. “IT IS 9 PM AND WAY PAST YOUR BED-TIME!” and then, impulsively, “This is the 100th time I have had to tell you! You know what? That’s it: absolutely NO TV for you or your brother tomorrow! None! All day!” Tall frowns and slinks away. The consequences of this drastic action are not lost on me. I give The Husband a withering look, which he either doesn’t see or wisely chooses to ignore. “Hello?!?” I begin, sarcastically. “You could have taken away their Lego’s or their sticker books or their Star Wars people or more smileys on their charts …………… were you not listening to a word I said at dinner? I have about a gazillion things to do tomorrow and I was counting on the Electronic Babysitter to help me out, and you place a ban on TV?!?” Which begs the question: who is being punished exactly? MOV (“Mom’s Out Videos”)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

107. Vice

So I have this disturbing habit. Wait, let me back up. I don’t drink (excessively, anyway), I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs, my shop-til-you-drop days are over, I don’t have an eating disorder (unless you consider hoarding m&m’s to be “grossly dysfunctional”), I don’t lie, nor cheat, nor steal……………. But, I have something. Something I do, that, others (maybe you, maybe police officers) might not generally approve of. That’s right: I go in Houses Being Built. DON’T JUDGE ME!!!!!!!!! It’s not like I sought out this “disease”, this crazy “illness”. It’s more like being an alcoholic: hereditary. If your name is Rodney, then you can stop reading right here. My wonderful (in so many other ways) father corrupted me at a very young age: he took me into “houses on the market”. That, as we all know, is just the Gateway Drug into the very appealing “model homes”. The progression continues, and before you know it, you are into the hardcore drugs, the FRAMEWORK stage. My personal heroin? 2 x 4’s. I’m sorry. It is hard to even type this, through tears and sawdust. I’m sorry! I never thought it would get this out of hand! And, like a drug addict who decides to study to become a “doctor” or a “pharmacist” to be able to legally access his filthy and disgusting habit, I, too, decided to study: I majored in Architecture in college. Oh, sure, you say, that’s safe: she needs to look at that framework, because, Gawd, that is what she does! She designs! (What you DON’T know is: I dropped out of Architecture school because it was too…………. difficult. I was getting C’s. Insert sad face here. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish that I had that Architecture degree so I could wave it around in people’s faces and say AHA! They gave me a hard-hat and a compass, and by golly, I am going to use them both! I belong here in this framework because maybe—how would you know—I designed it!) Sigh. Fast forward to my life today: model citizen, local mom, married, working part-time at the high-end kitchen store, pushing 40 (or maybe even 41). I meet new people around Crazy Town. Nice people who just moved in. Nice people, who say things like, “We just moved in, and you have to stop by and see our new house!” How do I tell them nicely: I've already met your house? It's Sunday. I’m out for a run, because that is what I do (besides stalk houses I mean). It’s maybe 8 AM? There’s a “new” house on my radar, and I choose TODAY as the day to check it out (note of interest to fellow “would-be” house abusers: usually Sunday is The Best Day to go into the framework houses because people like to sleep in and also workers have the day off. NO ONE WILL SEE YOU AND REPORT YOU TO THE AUTHORITIES.) I walk up the muddy hill. I do not “look back” because that is the sign of a novice. Never look back. Just go. You must act like You Belong. I lift up the yellow caution tape so I can get in and I laugh internally at the superfluous "No Trespassing" sign. I climb (literally--there are no front outside stairs yet) up to the front porch area. I walk in the front door (natch). Then I immediately switch into hyper-critical-oh-yeah-I’m-an-Architect mode. Huh, would I design things this way? Okay, this must be the front entry. I do like it. I walk through a wall. Lots of closets, that's good planning. Wait, what is the floorplan doing over here? I am not sure what room this is supposed to be: formal dining? guest room? study? These pipes must be for a bathroom, but I thought that over there is a half bath. I don't understand, because the kitchen is on this side, so………. huh. I’m stumped. All right: kitchen. I like this layout. Obviously that spray paint indicates a big center island's going to go in this spot, LOVE the high ceilings and view of the fireplace into the family room, private screened porch is framed off the obvious breakfast area, seems like maybe an expanse of counter over there with a big window and…….. THUMP. THUMP. Oh, f---. Workers? On a Sunday? Yikes! Panic Mode. WhatdoIdowhatdoIdowhatdoIdo? This has happened before. Okay, MOV, you know how to speak Spanish. I’m just about to blurt out, “Hola! Que tal? Quisiera ver esta casa que Usted esta construido, esta bien? Parece muy bonita!” I stop and think for a moment. Maybe that thump was just a harmless and cute little squirrel. Or raccoon. Or very large and possibly quite fat bear. A loud and heavy thump sound does not necessarily mean workers? Perhaps my fun self-guided tour can continue after all. I call out a tentative, “Helloooooo?" (short pause.) "Is it okay if I look at your new house?” A lovely blonde woman in her late 30's descends the ladder from the upstairs. Oh, string-of-four-letter-words (Rodney are you still reading?). This lady does not look like a construction worker. “Hi!” I say, ultra-enthusiastically, needing to dial it down a notch, but afraid to. “Hi! I’m MOV, and I’m your new neighbor and you must be the owner! Wow! So great that you are here right now and I get the unexpected pleasure of meeting you! Great house! I’m sorry I’m just, you know, barging in on a Sunday morning, I was so intrigued and captivated, it’s such a gorgeous home!” Okay, what the f---, I am rambling now. “Hello,” begins The Lovely Woman, “My name is Ella. Please don’t apologize, I like to look at new houses, too,” Ella smiles sincerely at me, “in fact, even thought I’m not officially trained as an Architect, I actually designed this house myself.” Now we both smile. She’s a fellow User.

MOV ("Mastermind Or Villain"?)

106. Why 3 Bowls Of Ice Cream Is Never A Good Idea

Because you will get sick, and maybe even throw up. Dummy. (Try to think back to last time before scooping.)

105. DryerMates

Dryermates, definition of: 2 socks, that in your lust and zeal to complete laundry in a timely manner (read: less that one week) you think (and would bet $100 if pressed) go together to make a simple and cohesive pair but, upon further inspection (not in the morning, when you are getting dressed, which would be useful but actually much much later when you are away from home, possibly at work, and there is nothing you can do about it now except be made fun of by your Eagle-eyed co-workers) reveal themselves to NOT match after all, not even close. GET GLASSES.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

104. Chauffeur In Momland

You know how really rich people have a driver? Well, that’s me. (The driver, I mean, not really rich.) I signed up my sons for various summer camps because I knew that I could not keep them entertained for three months solid. So, we have all kinds of planned activities that are meant to be fun and enriching: swimming and art and music and movement in the park and organized field trips to museums and ice-skating rinks and outdoor theater and ………. Wait, how exactly are they supposed to GET all those places? Oh, yeah: ME. I am "The Driver" (not necessarily a title I relish, nor the unpaid title I thought I'd eventually have when I was getting straight A's in college). There is a lot of orchestrating behind the scenes to get everyone where they need to be when they are supposed to be there. We criss-cross. We zig. We zag. It is more complicated than pulling off a military coup. Some activities overlap, and some conflict. Sometimes I have to drop off one child, zoom to pick up the other, and then right back to get the first one. I am getting worn out just thinking about it. And, oh yeah, don't forget what was in the back of my mind as I was signing up Tall and Short for all those camps originally: that now I'd have so much "free time". (I make excellent use of my newfound "free time" by doing such leisurely activities as unfastening my seat-belt and putting gas in the car.) I remember back when I was a child overhearing my mom commiserating with her friends about how tiring it was to be The Chauffeur all the time. I would laugh in my head, because, come on—how hard can it be really? to drive people places? Now I understand. And we are not even talking about traffic. Traffic is the least of my worries--traffic is not THAT bad in Crazy Town, if you must know. The main traffic is in and out of my own driveway. I got in and out of my car EIGHT times today! And that was before noon. The Local Mom Police should declare this illegal (and my "fine" should be that I have to go to a movie and enjoy myself-- and the movie should NOT be Toy Story 3). I live by the clock. Surprisingly, I look at my watch more now than I EVER did back when I was a flight attendant. Ack! It’s almost 9 AM! We have to go pick up Pal for carpool! We’re going to be late! Egads! Swim lessons start in 10 minutes and you can’t even find your swimsuit! Oh, no—I haven’t packed you a snack yet for music camp and your brother just drank the last juice box! Even when I make a (futile) attempt to prep everything in advance so we can be calm and happy and relaxed and nonchalant, it never quite turns out that way. There is always a shoe mysteriously "missing" or someone has to go to the bathroom at the last minute or we forgot the sunblock in The Husband’s truck or my keys have vanished. A little obstacle presents itself, as if to say: you should not have laughed in your head at your mom all those years ago. My Wish List of helpers always included a maid and a cook and gardener and (why not) a part-time nanny. I think I will have to add full-time driver to the list. That way my time will be freed up so I can lie by the pool and read my book. (You know, if we had a pool. Or if I ever had time to go to the bookstore and actually BUY a book.) MOV (“Mom’s Other Vehicle”—a limo?)

103. New Best Friend

So I am visiting my mom in California. She is quite ill. She has been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, but she is fighting it and taking her medications and modifying her diet. She is young, in her 60’s, and she wants to live a lot longer.

She makes every effort to reach out to others and to live a normal life. She mostly pretends that she does not have cancer, and she’d rather not discuss it because it’s depressing. Instead, she wants to have fun and be around friends. She likes people, she likes new people, and she wants to introduce me to a young neighbor mom that just bought a new house three doors down a few months ago.

My mom tells me ahead of time, “I invited Candace over for coffee so you could meet her and then you could have a local friend here when you visit me!” (She seems to possibly forget that I lived in California most of my life, went to high school and college here as well as lived just down the street for many years working a variety of jobs. I already do have a few friends here.)

I want to humor my mom, so I say, “Fine, let’s have Candace over.” Then I start thinking about it: she is constantly reminding me how much Candace and I have in common, and maybe she’s right—it would be nice to have a new friend walking distance for when I visit; maybe we could go to the gym together. I know Candace has two sons (just like me), and one is the exact same age as Tall (to the day—as my mom tells me repeatedly). I know she studied abroad in college (apparently, my mom and Candace have had many nice long chats). I know her husband is a multi-millionaire and started his own company (okay, so we don’t have THAT in common). My mom tells me that Candace likes to write, and that she is a runner.

Candace can be my New Best Friend!

The appointed day arrives. Candace shows up at 10 AM on the dot. The hyper-punctual Virgo in me thinks, This is a good sign. She knocks on the door and through the peep-hole I see a very sweet-looking woman in a red embroidered top and linen khaki capris (does she know she is sporting the unofficial Target uniform?! is she being ironic?), wearing a delicate necklace with red stones. She has a small build, pale skin, sleek dark hair, and big friendly eyes. If you were casting a movie, Selma Blair would play Candace.

She greets me warmly, “Hello, MOV, it's so nice to finally meet you!”

She has a grizzly voice, like someone who smokes five packs of unfiltered cigarettes a day. The voice does not match the cute perky girl standing in front of me. It's like one of those flip books you have as a child, where the picture of the person is divided into three sections: you flip the head to a different torso to different legs. Girl’s face with a hat (head), boy’s mid-section with a guitar (torso), zebra hooves (legs).

She walks inside and we sit on the couch. My mom offers to bring us tea (which, in itself, is strange on so many levels: I don’t drink tea, if I did drink tea I could certainly get it myself—she has cancer! she should lie down!—plus, I don’t think my mom even has any tea in the house, and oh by the way didn’t she say she invited Candace for coffee?). Candace hoarsely says that she will just have water (which, considering how her voice sounds, is probably a good idea).

This feels oddly like a first date.

Or a very awkward job interview.

“Candace, my mom told me that you write? I write too! I have a blog! You would like it, it’s called mothersofbrothersblog,” I beam, always happy to talk about myself. “I can give you the link! I know you would enjoy the stories about, you know, having sons.”

Candace gives me a sterile what-the-hell-are-you-talking-about grin. After what seems like about 8000 seconds, she says, “Uh, write?”

Does this girl not speak English?

“Right. Write.” We stare at each other.

“Ohhhhhhhhhh! I RIDE! That must be what your mom meant! Ha ha ha ha! Ride! Ride horses!” Now she is nodding, even though “write” and “ride” are not even remotely the same thing, at least we are (sort of) communicating.

Candace continues, “My husband and I have four horses that we keep up at our ranch just outside of Ventura. I loooooove to ride. I used to jump competitively. I'm teaching the kids how to ride. So you ride, too?”

I am nodding-nodding-nodding-YES, a little bobble-headed writer: “No.”

“You don’t ride?”



Candace looks around the room. We can hear the ceiling fan whoosh-whoosh-whoosh. Candace rubs her head a little. Her forehead has become transparent: the lights in her brain are flashing “FIND SOMETHING TO COMMENT ON!”

She tries, “Well, like I was saying, I am trying to teach Kyle and Elizabeth to ride ... ”

I cut her off:  “Who?”

Now she speaks s-l-o-w-l-y like I might be the one who doesn't understand English. “My ... son ... Kyle ... and ... my ... tod-dler ... Eee ... liz ... uh ... beth.”

I know a lot of trendy moms are picking unisex names for their sons these days. There’s Ryan, Bryce, Taylor, Grayson, Alex, Dylan, Aidan, Sam, Hunter ...

“Elizabeth, my two-year-old daughter,” she repeats. Even with the Nicotine voice, she is clear: “DOT-TER.”

“I thought you had two sons?” I inquire, utterly bewildered.


We stare at each other again. She glances around the room. She tries not to look at her watch (vintage Rolex), but she does.

She rallies, “MOV, your mom said that your son Tall has the same exact birthday as Kyle! That is so funny! What are the chances? June first,” she is triumphant at last. She knows that AT THE VERY LEAST, we have THIS in common. She smiles.

I frown. “Uh, Tall’s birthday is in December?” I say, unsure, like maybe it might have changed when I wasn’t looking.

Right then, my mom walks in to save us. I am interviewing for the retail buyer position, and this Candace person thinks I am here for the legal research opening. Everyone is confused. (And when I say "everyone", I mean "me".) Uh, what exactly has brought us together?

“Mom, Candace has a daughter?” I semi-ask, trying to sound patient.

“Bert?” my mom says, almost as puzzled as we are.

“BETH.” Candace says, emphatic. She knows her child’s name and her child’s gender (and unlike me, she probably knows her child’s birthday, too).

“Also, uh, Mom? Candace said Kyle’s birthday is in June?” I toss out.

My mother blinks at us. Then she blinks some more. Blink-blink-blink. What is she, I Dream of Jeannie? Does she think blinking changes dates, sex, age, oh and maybe favorite hobbies (writing/riding)?

“They don’t have the same birthday? Oh, really? I thought they did—I guess I was wrong on that one. Huh. Well, they are the same age. That’s all that really matters.” She has rescued the larger pieces of the conversation, and hastily glued them back together.

“That’s true, they are both six and a half and going into first grade,” I confirm, feeling my shoulders relax a little.

Candace shakes her head. “Just turned five. Kindergarten.”

“Oh,” says my mom, shocked at this discrepancy. And then, back-pedaling, “Well, you two, MOV and Candace, you two are the same age.”  Then she cocks her head to the side a bit, as if to say: right?

“I’m 40,” I blurt out.

“I’m 27,” says much-younger-than-we-thought-and-now-slightly-insulted Candace.

“Does anyone want anything else? I might have some crackers,” my mom says hopefully, as she sets the ice-waters on the coffee table. Without waiting for an answer, she scoots off.

“Oh, well, Kyle and Tall are close to the same age! I’m sure they both love Star Wars and Legos,” I say a little too eagerly. We are stumbling our way through this audition to be each other’s New Best Friend. I don’t think she’ll even make understudy at this point.

Candace gets a serious look on her pretty (27-year-old) face. Uh, oh, is she going to say the plastic in Legos is poisonous? Or maybe she doesn’t care for movie/ toy tie-ins. Perhaps she’ll start jabbering about the excessive violence in Star Wars and that it is really inappropriate for small children? or that we are way too materialistic as a society? I don’t think I could deal with any of that rubbish right now.

“Can I ask you something?” Candace semi-whispers, leaning in.

“Sure,” I lean in a little too, conspiratorially—plus, it makes it easier to decipher that raspy voice.

She waits. I nod. Still waiting. Maybe she didn’t hear me?

“Sure,” I repeat a little louder, still nodding as I say it.

She is looking at me, but sort of right through me at the same time. Now my curiosity is really getting to me! What is she wanting to ask me? If I think my mom is crazy? (sometimes, but cut her some slack, she’s on aggressive chemo.) Where I got my cute sweater? (Macy’s, on sale.) Does she really look 40, or do I—MOV—actually look 27? (neither.) If I will go to that new gym with her tomorrow? (yes.) Where the bathroom is? (down the hall, second door on the right.) If having two boys is easier than having a boy and a girl? (probably not, but I don't know.)

She is waiting so long, I think she might have forgotten the question.

“Have you accepted Christ as your personal Savior?” she begins reticently, like an 8-year-old who must give her history report out loud in front of the entire class.

Uh, oh. Here we go.

I am not sure how to respond. What I want to say is
  • that is really none of your business or
  • can we talk about horses again or
  • did you study in Paris or was it really Peru and my mom got that wrong too or
  • I do believe in God but I am not particularly religious or
  • I really like your necklace are those real rubies or
  • come to think of it, Tall’s birthday IS June first!
What I do say is:  "Did you meet my mom at some church somewhere? does my mom go to church now? who drives her there?"

Now my mom, already the victim of cancer/ chemotherapy/ slight memory loss/ trying-to-do-something-nice-for-her-daughter, also becomes the victim of poor timing. She chooses this precise moment to walk back in with a plate of neatly-cut cheddar cheese squares and wheat crackers shaped like butterflies.

Candace and I both swivel to her. I am sending her a mental telepathy message, “What exactly do Candace and I have in common? Besides the fact that we are both here in this same room at this same moment?”

I look back at Candace.

Now Candace has a HUGE grin on her face. Her entire face is teeth and lipstick.

Oh, I finally get it now, it’s a joke! My mom told her in advance to say that to me, to make fun of me, because maybe I’m a little sensitive about People. Shoving. Religion. Down. My. Throat. Ha ha ha , that must be it! They are going to start laughing any second, and then say, Wow, MOV you are so uptight! We sure got you!

But wait, why would my mom be trying to play a joke like that on me? That’s kind of weird, isn’t it? I’m only visiting for a few days ... now that I think about it, this joke is a little mean. Does cancer make you play mean jokes on your daughter and neighbors?

“Join us, friend! We were just talking about Jesus and how we are all children of God,” Candace says enthusiastically to my mom, her previous 8-year-old student persona melting away now.

I try to gauge my mom’s mannerisms for what I am supposed to do next: still laugh? is that the game plan? Oh, wait, are we Being Serious? What is wrong with me? why can I not read the social cues in this situation?

And besides the whole Christ/ God/ Jesus/ church thing, the continual thread in my thought process is: was Tall really born on June first after all? Did I write it down wrong? Did I dream it?

In my (admittedly warped) state of mind, the situation is morphing from sweet little Selma Blair into the Blair Witch Project. Pretty girl, opens her mouth, strange things happen—maybe religious things. Is it my turn to stand in the corner?

My mom sits down with us. She abruptly changes the topic (when I say abrupt, I mean like SWERVE—tire track marks!) and just like that we are talking about Paris. Ahh, back to my comfort zone—who doesn’t like Paris? Candace takes a sip of the ice-water. I nibble on a butterfly cracker’s wing. Then my mom comments on Candace’s lovely ruby necklace. Candace laughs and says her husband surprised her with it for their eight-year anniversary. (I am pretty sure it’s real.)

Sorry, Candace: I'm sure you must be a very nice person, but you’re just not New Best Friend material.

(“Misreads Others' Vibes”)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

102. Standby Blogs

Hi Loyal Readers!

I often run into friends who "say" they have read my blog, but then after I quiz them heavily (note to self: not a good way to make friends nor keep friends) it turns out they might have read just one or two. Then they will say something like, "Well, it was kinda funny, I might've laughed once but then I had to do some laundry," OR "Yeah, I started to read it, but then I noticed that there were about 100 blogs you had posted--God, are we really THAT good of friends that I have to read all 100?!-- and I was worried my husband put my favorite black ribbed top in the dryer (the one from Nordstrom's and it will definitely shrink)".

My point is: they did not even get to the really good stuff yet. Since I am not just an extremely talented writer but also an extremely thoughtful one, I thought I would highlight some of my all-time favorite blogs for you to read. If you only have a limited amount of time to see what I am all about, then check these out. (Consider this a "MOV Primer".) Enjoy.

Thank you for stopping by.

MOV ("Minnesota, Oklahoma, Vermont"-- places where I'm famous; well, not yet)

101. Kendra Twin

So I have this friend/ neighbor Kendra. Well, actually, if you must know, she is a very nice person and seems like she could be a friend if we had a chance to get to know each other better……. but right now we are probably more like “acquaintances”. We honestly don’t know that much about each other, but I do know her a little, so maybe half a step up from acquaintances? What are we: frecquaintances? Acqfriends? Neighbor friends? Freighbors? We need a new word for this relationship.

Anyway, back to the story. She and I both have kids the same ages, and in fact, her son’s in the same class as Tall. They are buddies, they have playdates. I see Kendra, by default, a lot, but never really get much of a chance to talk to her.

Herein lies the problem. I know her, but I don’t really know her.

Kendra has a twin. Not a “true” twin, as in identical twin from the same mom, just a random person who must live in town and who looks frickin’ exactly like Kendra. (Yes, just in case, I have even verified with the Real Kendra that she does not, in fact, have a twin.) Yikes!

I see this Kendra Twin Person everywhere. I’m always eager to let my freighbors know what a nice person I am, that any rumors of me being nice, or even exceptionally nice, are absolutely true. I want to be Social and Friendly and Approachable and not seem like I am ignoring someone even if I am distracted. I always get ready to wave to Kendra Twin because of course I think that it is Kendra. “Kendra!” I start to shout out, like an idiot, my hand partially in the air, “Kend---oh. Oh, it’s not who I first thought it was so….. nevermind.”

This happens a lot more than you might think. It is getting to the alarming and disturbing point where Kendra Twin could potentially think I was semi-stalking her. Which I am not.

Should I maybe try to make friends with Kendra Twin? Hmmm, is that, uh, weird? Because I do see her quite often, maybe even more often than the Real Kendra. We obviously like to go the same places, we're in the same Crazy Town orbit.

Look, there’s Kendra Twin at the grocery store! Now there she is at Target! Kendra Twin at the gas-station! Indeed, it’s Kendra Twin at Starbucks (maybe Kendra Twin is stalking ME, come to think of it)! She is everywhere!

When I say they are twins, Kendra and Her Imposter, I am not exaggerating. They both have the same petite build, the same red hair cut in the same chic bob, the same big green eyes, the same wholesome smile, the same bone structure, the same style of clothes, the same mannerisms. (I met the Real Kendra’s real sister one time, and guess who looks more like Kendra? that’s right—Kendra Twin.)

I stare at Kendra Twin. Is it her? Which one is it? I don’t know! Tall even gets in on the act—“Mommy, shouldn’t you say hi to Paul’s mom?” Well, yeah, duh, if I knew that it WAS Paul’s mom.

Flash forward to this morning. I am at the library dropping off (overdue again) books. A gorgeous petite red-head comes over to me. “MOV? MOV, is that you?! How are you? I’m sorry, I wasn’t sure if it was you at first….. I thought maybe you were ignoring me,” and then Kendra gives me a warm smile and leans in for a hug. (Maybe Kendra has graduated from freighbor to actual friend now.)

(“Mistaken Overlooked Variations”)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

100. One Hundred

Did you notice that today is officially the 100th Blog? Wow! To kick off the fiesta, let’s make a fun list of 100 things you want, and 100 things you don’t. Here goes: 100 Things You Want: 100 dollars 100 flattering photo angles 100 happy memories 100 recipes you know how to make 100 pieces of museum-caliber art work 100 friends 100 presents to receive at Christmas time 100 blades of grass in your yard (might be happy with 70 at this point) 100 trash bags so you never run out 100 good ideas to keep the kids entertained on a rainy day 100 minutes to work-out 100 good excuses not to 100 hours by yourself 100 pens that work (how about even one) 100 pages of a really great novel to read 100 minutes to read it 100 outfits that fit, look good, and are clean 100 kisses from your husband 100 days to travel to Italy (or Hawaii) for vacation 100 songs you know all the words to 100 things you’re really good at (laundry does not count) 100 people to work for you (might want to start with Laundry Girl) 100 hours of free-babysitting 100 M&M’s 100 pounds of gold 100 shiny pennies to give the kids for wishing in fountains 100 sunny days 100 hysterically funny blogs (well, maybe 30 were "pretty good"?) 100 Things You Don’t: 100 vaccinations 100 chocolate milkshakes (one would be nice though) 100 degree weather (especially not in conjunction with melty milkshakes, see above) 100 grasshoppers (or crickets), especially if they live in your basement 100 days of rain 100 minutes of Sponge Bob Square Pants (or Chuggington) 100 teacher gifts you have to buy 100 Christmas cards you have to write 100 enemies 100 parking tickets (actually, even 2 or 3 really suck) 100 bug bites (typical day in Crazy Town backyards) 100 gallons of bugspray (see above) 100 emails to return 100 emails to delete 100 voice mails to ignore 100 missed opportunities 100 Lego’s to step on 100 marbles to slip on 100 small pieces of toys that somehow don’t go to anything 100 songs you botch the words to 100 nights of missed sleep 100 movies you didn’t get to see 100 places you’ll never get to visit 100 diseases 100 gray hairs 100 things to feel guilty about 100 clothes your kids have outgrown in the past 100 days 100 THOUSAND people at the mall trying to buy back-to-school stuff at the same time as you 100 bounced checks 100 miles to drive 100 chunks of hail 100 bolts of lightening (maybe it just seems like it) 100 tantrums 100 pieces of junk mail 100 family members that no longer speak to you (wait, should that be on the first list?) MOV (“Mileage On Vacation”)

99. Pool

(Fun Flashback Moment—second in a series) So I am almost 9-months pregnant with Short, and chasing after my lovely 2-year-old toddler, Tall, when my (then) neighbor Helga suggests we join her pool. She is a lovely elderly woman, probably in her late 70’s, and she would be the cover model if there was a magazine called Graceful Aging. She sports salon hair 24/7, a different Neiman Marcus outfit every day (pressed, natch), and a Colgate grin. As for her meticulously-tended backyard rose garden, well, Versailles could take lessons. She is a retired airline executive, so she often uses her hard-earned travel passes, jetting off in first class to film festivals, African safaris, and hiking expeditions to Mt. Kilimanjaro. Plus, she’s a considerate and helpful neighbor, bringing us home-made bread or the latest magazines she has finished reading (Travel & Leisure, Health and Fitness, Vanity Fair, Vogue). Helga is, in essence, Martha Stewart on crack. I hate her. She basically makes me feel…… substandard. And obligated. I remind myself that I don’t have the energy to feel obligated: this Mothering-a-toddler-while-obesely-pregnant thing is wearing me out. I don’t have time to make home-made brownies to reciprocate and get this Guilt Monkey off my back, nor do I have time to read her cast-off Fun-Glittery-Lifestyle magazines. I wish I did, but I don’t. Instead, the alluring magazines mock me from the recycle bin: MOV! You used to be “fun”! You used to care what Sarah Jessica Parker was wearing! You used to want to read about Tahiti—heck, you’ve BEEN to Tahiti! You used to wear nice clothes that weren’t covered in apple sauce and magic markers! Helga is a constant reminder of tiny beautiful droplets of my personality that have evaporated but I wish to reclaim. I often avoid her; but the rational part of my brain (that 5% or so) is acutely aware that she means well. She leans over the back fence one day, purple roses tucked under one arm, and waves to catch my attention, “MOVey, darling, have you given any consideration to which pool you’re going to belong to?” I look up from my spot with Tall at the sand box under the giant beach umbrella where I am trying to prevent him from eating too much sand. Now, he brandishes a large construction vehicle and is covertly using it to dump copious amounts of sand onto the grass. “Huh?” I shoot back intelligently. “Well, once the baby comes you will need to join a pool,” she remarks matter-of-fact, as if those two are inextricably linked: Baby/ Pool. “Have you decided, you know, which one yet?” Have I decided which pool? Heck, I haven’t decided what we’re having for lunch yet and this woman wants me to commit to a pool? “I dunno, Helga,” I say unconvincingly. “Why don’t you join our pool, Pinnacle Provenance?” she asks sweetly. “It’s only $8000 per summer. I do happen to have some extra guest passes if you want to go try it out with me. We can try it out the day after tomorrow; it’ll be fun!” I don’t want to try it out her pool with her. The pool I want to try out in MOV’s Perfect Universe offers unlimited free peach margaritas and all-day child care. If I go to Helga’s pool, I know I will have to bring a diaper bag and extra swim diapers and healthy snacks and water bottles and sunscreen and bug spray and a change of clothes and two beach towels and several toys as diversionary tactics if Behavior Unravels. Ugh, I am tired just thinking about it. Oh, and don’t forget: I will have to wear a swimsuit. A maternity swimsuit. That doesn’t sound like fun. In fact, it sounds exactly like the opposite of fun. “Sure, Helga,” I hear my lips say. Hello, LIPS? I understand betrayal by my big fat belly that used to be flat and even mildly attractive. But my lips? They have never argued with me before. They normally say what I want them to. Why the sudden rebelliousness? Have the Unpredictable Pregnancy Hormones afflicted my lips as well? “Oh, come on,” The Husband says later over dinner, “it’ll be fun! Besides, it’s not like we’re going to actually join Pinnacle at that ridiculous price. Anyway, Helga was just being neighborly to even ask you. The least you can do is just go one time to the pool with her.” Pool. Pool. The only pool I feel remotely comfortable with is the Pool Of Hormones that I’m already engulfed in. I don’t wanna go to the pool, I pout, I wanna stay home and look at photos of how skinny I used to be! Helga wants me to go to the pool, The Husband wants me to go to the pool, Tall wants to go to the pool (well, he would if he knew it were an option). Even though I think it is A Very Bad Idea, I eventually relent. I wake up in the middle of the night obsessing about the pool. You know how with the movie Titanic, everyone in the audience knows from the very first scene how it will all turn out (uh, badly)? That is how I am feeling about the pool. The appointed day starts off amazingly well. Despite my midnight ruminations, I feel rested—energized even. Tall has eaten a healthy breakfast of strawberries and Cheerios. Even though he is getting a new molar, he is remarkably cheery. I put on my black maternity swimsuit with the hot pink trim that makes me resemble not so much a couture pregnant woman, but more a water buffalo (who designs these things?). My Saving Grace is my rather large, stunningly chic, and trendy fuchsia-colored sunhat. It frames my face nicely, and it actually makes me look quite young, possibly even teen-ager-ish (well, knocked-up and teen-ager-ish). It was an expensive hat, but worth every penny for the compliments I know it will garner today. I dress Tall in bright-yellow Hawaiian-print surfer trunks, and he miraculously cooperates. He looks ready to hula. We gather up our gear and walk (or in my case, waddle) to Helga’s house. I knock on her door and she answers eagerly. I immediately notice that she is wearing my identical sun-hat. We look like we planned it. Need I remind you that she is approximately 900- years-old? I feel stupid, and not exactly hip and stylish and YOUNG like I did a mere ten minutes ago. I instantly wonder if Helga would be offended if I take off my hat and inconspicuously crumple it up and throw it in the trash. She seizes the opportunity to say, “Oh! We have the same hat! It looks lovely on you! I guess brilliant minds think alike.” This is not the compliment I was originally going for. She smiles broadly and says, “This is going to be so much fun!” Be nice, MOV, be nice. We arrive at the pool and it is not yet crowded. This could turn out okay, I tell myself. We find a nice shady spot by the kiddie pool, which is essentially a very shallow fountain. The babies and toddlers are having a blast getting wet, and they seem genuinely shocked when the (predictable) fountain sprays in their direction. Tall loves it. “Fun, Mommy, FUN!!!” he giggles. Tall makes a new friend, an adorable little girl named Janelle. They are tossing a small orange-and-white beach ball back and forth. Right now, with her strawberry-blonde ringlets and his surfer appeal, they could be a TV commercial for Pinnacle Provenance. Then Janelle, in all her three-year-old wisdom, spontaneously decides it would be fun to take off her swimsuit. Tall is giving me a puzzled look. Wow—she is taking off her swimsuit! Is that what you do here at the Fantastic Fountain Pool? (Here his demeanor shifts.) Well, I want to participate in that action! Ziiiiiiip, Tall’s swimsuit is off. I crawl over to him and attempt to wrestle him back into it. He is having none of it. Now he is screaming. “Lemme go! No swimsuit! Stop! You hurt me! Aaaargh! NOOOO! GET AWAY FROM ME!” People are starting to look over at us. Have they never seen an upset child in the kiddie pool? Do they think I am actually beating my child? I hate it when complete strangers are staring at me; I despise being the center of a “scene”. “Tall! Tall! You must wear your swimsuit. Let’s get you back in your swimsuit or we’ll have to leave,” I hiss. Now Janelle has gotten out of the baby pool and is doing a naked dance on the side. Where is her mother anyway? Tall stops screaming because he is suddenly mesmerized by this miniature Britney Spears. He gets out of the pool (at least he’s dressed again at this point) and attempts his version of Janelle’s disco-mania. My child could be such a perfect angel all the time if it weren’t for the Very Poor Example of other people’s bratty children. Tall gets a little too close to the edge and before I can reach him, he has slipped and cut his lip on the edge of a metal part of the fountain. Oh, shit. There is blood everywhere. The pool looks like a baby-eating piranha has just been set loose. The only thing worse than the sight of your child’s blood all over the baby pool (magnified by the water, natch) is the horrible sound of your child wailing because he has cut his lip. No wait, scratch that. The only thing worse that the blood or the wailing is the sheer numbers (dozens) of emergency helpers and teen-aged life guards that miraculously appear out of nowhere to offer assistance. The activities of the entire pool have come to a screeching halt and All Eyes Are On Us. The previous swimsuit/no swimsuit debacle was just a warm-up. Helga, God bless her, handles it all like a pro. “Don’t you worry, MOV, I have nine grandchildren and someone somewhere is always getting injured.” She effortlessly scoops up all our personal belongings as if they are just more purple roses. She continues calmly, “Let’s get him to the ER and see if he needs stitches.” Which is what we do. Tall is not particularly happy to be at the hospital but his wailing has subsided and been replaced by the Universal Injured-Toddler Language of breathy sobs punctuated with sniffles. We are seen be a nurse practitioner fairly quickly, and then a pediatrician; the general consensus is that he—luckily—does not need stitches after all. The blood (bright red) has now been replaced with bruising (dark purplish-blue). Helga offers to stay with us, but after much prodding, finally leaves. I fill out myriad insurance forms while the doctor finishes up with Tall and we wait for The Husband to pick us up. The baby who-is-almost-ready-to-be-born is kicking me hard. Please wait, Baby, I pray, I do not want to go into labor on this particular hospital visit. A different doctor I have not noticed before comes over to us; he reminds me of a very handsome lanky tennis player. He is tall, blonde, has great dimples, and is wearing tortoiseshell glasses. For a split second, I fantasize about flirting with him, and then the reality sinks in that I have matted wet hair (never a good look), am wearing my swimsuit cover-up, am almost 9-months-pregnant, and oh yeah, married. Dr. Tennis opens his mouth and says, “I’m glad your son is okay. I’ve gotta tell you, in my professional opinion, it’s just A Very Bad Idea for you to be at the pool running after such an active child when you are so close to giving birth. I’m sure you just wanted to have some ‘fun’ before the new baby arrives, but you should really just stay home the next couple days and take it easy.” I agree with Dr. Tennis: turns out the pool was A Very Bad Idea after all. I think it will be fun to stay home tomorrow, and maybe watch my Titanic DVD. MOV (“Maternity On the Verge”)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

98. Feed What?

So my friend NeighborMom and her family are taking a much-deserved vacation to Rome and Capri. Before they leave, I run into her husband and make a whole-hearted and genuine offer to feed their dog while they are gone. My kids love dogs and I think it would be great for Tall and Short to have this experience of helping out the neighbor.

NeighborDad graciously thanks me for the offer and says the dog will be staying with his sister who lives an hour away and has a dog too, but could we feed their other pets? Uh, wait, what other pets? I didn’t know they had other pets. Do they have a gorilla locked up in their basement? A caged talking parrot that Tall has neglected to mention after his many playdates over there?

How bad can it be? If that phrase is echoing in your head, then the answer is: much much worse than you thought.

They have a pet lizard. I have a huuuuuuuuuge fear of lizards that goes back to this one time when I was in a hotel in Australia and a lizard ran across my pillow and over my face. I had been in that groggy moment where I was thisclose to being asleep. I was so terrorized by this lizard (Gecko? whatever) that I could not go back to sleep. I knew that he was going to bite me and give me some Deadly Disease or possibly eat my eyeballs. To this day, I still have nightmares with giant lizards taking the starring role.

So, when NeighborDad says “lizard”, I just laugh out loud because I think maybe I must have told Neighbor Mom my Australia story and maybe she had told her husband because it was funny and now maybe it was all an Inside Joke and he was taking it full circle to get me to laugh like how does he know about my crazy fear of lizards?

No. NeighborDad does not understand why I am laughing, and he takes my laughing (wrongly) as an indication of my happy-go-lucky nature and my wonderful-approach-to-life.

Do you know what lizards eat (besides Flight Attendant eyeballs)? I did not know either, and NeighborDad was going to show me. “Just pop over tomorrow afternoon while we are packing and I will give you a quick reptorial.” Did he just say “reptorial”?

I show up with my assistant, Tall. We are ready to learn All Things Lizard. Since it is 4 PM, I have had a glass of chardonnay as a precautionary measure and am ready to tackle whatever NeighborDad and Lizard have in store for me. (Obviously, this Feeding Of The Lizard is a job I normally would have pawned off on The Husband. Fortuitously for him, he was out of town for work.)

We walk into their foyer, which is fairly small, just enough room for a little table. The floor is covered in a breath-taking mosaic pattern of ocean waves. Thousands of teeny tiny tiles form this elaborate masterpiece. That they walk on everyday. With their feet. (Wow, I realize I have never actually been inside before! I mostly drop off Tall or pick up Tall from a playdate.) This floor belongs in a museum. I am almost afraid to walk on it.

Tall and I follow NeighborDad upstairs to see the habitat of the lizard. Just a glass box. Ahhh, he is 100% contained. So far, so good. Then, we go into the laundry room to get the special food. On the counter, I see what looks like hamster food—a bag of seeds and dried corn and pieces of wheat. Of course! Lizards normally live outside, and this is the type of food you find in a field. THEY EAT EXACTLY THE SAME THING THAT HAMSTERS EAT. I breathe a big sigh of relief. This is going to be easy!

I pick up the bag of hamster food. See, I know what I am doing! I don’t need a “reptorial” on how to feed a lizard. Just dump the hamster-style food in the glass box, done.

NeighborDad watches me hugging the hamster food and gives me what can only be described as a quizzical look. “MOV, we will feed Gertie the Gerbil afterwards. She’s easy. Let’s feed Arizona the Lizard first.”

Wait, there are two pets now?

I put the hamster, I mean gerbil, food back. I look around. What does the lizard eat then? laundry detergent? dryer sheets? NeighborDad picks up a square plastic holder. It looks like something you might put art supplies in. Sure enough, there is a piece of a cardboard egg carton in there. Acckkk! There are bugs in there! Large bugs! Grasshoppers!

“…. other day, and then just check their water. Got it?”

Is he talking to me? I look over at Tall. I send him a typical mental telepathy message, “Were you just paying attention? because I wasn’t.” Tall is ignoring me because he has decided it is a good time to go through NeighborKid’s toy bin to compare Star Wars items.

So I ask NeighborDad, “Are you saying I have to give Texas these dead grasshoppers?”

NeighborDad smiles a tight smile. I know he is instantly regretting (as am I) accepting my offer to feed their pets. I can read on his face: you were a Flight Attendant for 10 years? you made people feel safe and you really knew what to do in an emergency?

He takes a deep breath and he switches gears. He is talking to me patiently, slowly, and kindly, like you might talk to someone who looks perfectly normal but you just found out to be mentally-challenged.

“MOV. The lizard’s name is Arizona, not Texas. She eats crickets. But not dead ones. They must be alive. If you give her dead ones, they will make her sick. They must be alive.”

“Okay, got it.” Come on, MOV! You have changed a thousand poopy diapers. What is a cricket or two compared to that on the Yucky Scale Of Gross Things? “I dump all those crickets in the glass box and Arizona will eat them. I check her water. Uhh, do I have to change out the area where she, uhhh, poops?” please say no please say no please say no.

“Oh, God, no! Are you kidding? Ha ha! We are so grateful that you and Tall are doing this favor for us. But, please, do not dump ALL the crickets in. That is too much and you will also run out if you do that. Just about 2 or 3 every other day. It is better not to dump them out. Use these special tweezers instead.”

I look at Arizona. She blinks up at me: my life is in your hands, MOV, don’t screw this up.

I had not looked closely at Arizona before. She is mostly a greenish-brown, but her tail is coming off and she looks as if she has a strange skin disorder. What is left of her tail has turned pink.

Great, I think, she is going to die of her Mysterious Skin Disorder while my neighbors are on vacation. Welcome home! Here’s your mail, and by the way, Arizona is dead. I don’t think I have much chance of winning the trophy for Best Pet-Sitter Ever.

As if he is reading my mind (or notices that I am riveted by Arizona’s tail), NeighborDad says, “Don’t worry about her tail. That’s normal: she is shedding.”

Ahh, of course! That’s what reptiles do, isn’t it? that’s what makes them reptiles. I remember that (vaguely) from my 8th grade science class. Come to think of it, maybe I was absent that day.

Now we head into the other room to meet the gerbil and learn how to feed her (which will obviously be a piece of cake compared to Arizona). NeighborDad is telling me I need to dump out the food bowl first before I refill it and while he is talking and I am trying to suppress my ADD tendencies……………….. a terrible thought enters my brain.

“Uh, NeighborDad? Umm, back to the lizard: do the crickets ever try to, you know, hop away? like out of the container before I even have a chance to grab them with the tweezers?” Even asking the question is making me queasy.

“MOV, of course the crickets hop away! You just have to be careful. If. One. Gets. Away. You. Catch. It.” Again with the we-chose-the-wrong-pet-sitter slow talk.

I must really like these friends. Or I must be really dumb. I am not sure which one yet.

Tall puts the Star Wars paraphernalia away and we get ready to leave. NeighborDad hands me the keys, which share space on the silver key chain with a decorative small blue tile that is painted with an intricate fleur-de-lis pattern. Molto Italiano.

He smiles and says, “Thanks again, MOV, for doing this. It’s really nice of you. We appreciate it. And…… I know you’ll be great at feeding them!” Again with the misplaced confidence.

The first day, we pull off without incident. We pick up the mail and put it on the kitchen counter near the sink with the gorgeous hand-painted tile backsplash. I study the details of this magnificent design. It looks like something from a church, a Really Famous Church where people go to pray but get distracted thinking, wow—pretty stunning tile Jesus has over here!

I want my kitchen to look like this, maybe I should take some pictures? I think my cell phone has a built-in camera in it. Would NeighborDad and NeighborMom be mad if I took a picture of their sink? Is that weird? My Good Sense (what tiny sliver of it there is) gets the better of me, and I decide to ask them after they get home if I can take a photo of their tile-work. We focus on the task at hand, as opposed to the hand-painted tile. Tall assists with watering the plants.

The gerbil is very happy to see us and Tall does a great job giving her the special mix of seeds and wheat and corn. Then, Tall feeds Arizona exactly two live crickets and she gobbles them up quickly. Walking home, Tall says merrily, “This is the best day of my life!” and then, “Can we get a lizard?” For a split-second, I think sure.

That night, though, I have what can only be described as a Premonition Dream. NeighborDad and NeighborMom get back from vacation early. They walk in on me just as I am feeding the gerbil the last of the crickets. A stuffed parrot has come to life and is making a mess shedding colorful feathers made of tiles everywhere. In the background, Tall and Short are doing back-flips with the lizard on NeighborKid’s race-car bed and they are all brandishing Star Wars light sabers (even the lizard, although hers is a bit smaller).

NeighborMom glares at me in disgust and says, “I thought we told you not to let the lizard out of the cage,” and then to her husband, “When did we get the parrot?”

NeighborDad whispers to her, “Maybe we should consider moving.” He looks me in the eye and finishes the thought, “To a galaxy far far away.”

I wake up in a cold sweat.

Like the dream, the next day does not go smoothly.

First, I cannot find their keys.  I tear the house apart, and eventually Tall says he thinks he saw them in the car. That makes no sense whatsoever. We live just a few houses away from them, we would have walked there so why would the keys be in the car? After 45 minutes of searching, I’m at the point of giving up in despair. I see a glimmer of blue tile poking out from under the backseat. Maybe Short was playing with the key chain? maybe he has a tile fetish like his mommy? Regardless, it looks like we were so lazy that we drove to their house last time to feed the pets.

Our entrance to the house is blocked by a pyramid of boxes (is this still part of my dream?). As I carry in their packages, I am reminded as to what NeighborDad does for a living: he owns his own company which distributes hand-painted tiles from Italy. The. Boxes. Are. Full. Of. Tiles. The tiles are very very heavy, and I also know they are fragile.

I struggle to bring them in without accidentally dropping any of them (26 boxes in all) and then I start to wonder if I was supposed to put them in the garage. That is not going to happen. They sit in the foyer, like an abandoned Andy Warhol project gone hopelessly awry. (As a delusional aside: I wonder if NeighborDad would notice if one or possibly two of the boxes went mysteriously “missing”?)

Tall is already at the kitchen sink helping me to put water in the watering can for the plants. The watering can slips from his 6-year-old grasp and water goes all over everything, including the mail. Damn it. I try to dry off their mail as best I can, and I whisper I’m sorry to the drenched Travel & Leisure with the picture of Venice on the front cover. The water in the photo looks especially, uh, "realistic" now.

We go upstairs. Today, Tall wants to take the gerbil out of the cage to pet it. Absolutely not, I insist, as a nod to last night’s Evil Dream Sequence. We feed the gerbil and are walking out of the room when we notice a frog. The frog is in a small tank with some plants.

Was I supposed to feed the frog? am I still in the dream? I start to feel panicky. When I was sucked into the Mental Vortex of oh-my-god-lizards-eat-crickets, did I just not hear the part about the frog?

How many pets do these people have?

Tall looks at the frog, then back at me. “It’s a good thing we don’t have to feed Kermie!”

Wait, what do you mean? do frogs not eat? are they like, uh, statues? or camels? “Tall, did NeighborDad mention the frog?” I say as nonchalantly as possible, given the circumstances.

“Yeah, he said that Kermie lives in his own little eco-system which means that the plant provides him with food and he provides the plant with oxygen and they are self-sustaining and don’t need any outside interference.” Times like this, I'm so glad Tall watches all those Nature Shows on the Discovery Channel.

Into the bathroom. Hello, Arizona! The tail looks good today, lovely shade of lavender. We retrieve the box of crickets, and Tall stands by anxiously, tweezers ready. We open the box cautiously and one Olympic Hero flings himself out. Jeez! What do we do now? My first instinct of course is the wrong one: I try to step on him.

Tall screeches, “Mom! The lizard won’t eat crickets that are dead!”

I know our cricket supply is running low. Tall is right: if I kill this escapee instead of catching him, we will definitely run out of food before our shaky stint as pet-sitters is up. My next thought is: what if cricket lays eggs or splits in two and clones itself or however they reproduce and there are baby crickets everywhere when NeighborFamily gets back? They will never trust me again, and they will know that I cannot follow even simple instructions.

We have no choice. We corner the cricket. HOP! Man, those things can jump! Almost got you….. HOP! HOP!!! Angry HOP! We are chasing this silly cricket around the bathroom like we are on some sort of Game Show on TV: if you catch the cricket, you will win five lizards and a lifetime supply of free crickets!

Carelessly, we have left the box of crickets unattended and several more have managed to hop out as well. HOP! HOP-HOP-HOP! We are part of the Anti-Gravity Experiment. HOP!!!!

After what seems like an hour, but looking at my watch I confirm is around 7 minutes, we find all the crickets and return them to their box. I am exhausted. I catch Tall’s eye in the giant mirror bordered in silver miniature tiles.

He says slowly, “Mom, remember yesterday when I said it was the best day of my life?” He smiles slyly, “I was wrong. Today is.”

(“Mentally On Vacation”)