Wednesday, September 29, 2010

150. Champion

Today it finally happened. It was about 7:30 PM and I was putting the umpteenth pair of pajamas away; I glanced down at the laundry basket and realized that I was finished. That’s right (I hope you are sitting down): finished. Every shred of fabric* that we own, every t-shirt, every pillow case, every pair of pants, was washed, dried, folded, and put away (*with the exception of the bathmat, but I don’t think that really counts).

It has taken me six and a half years to accomplish this goal. After Tall was born, I quickly learned that Laundry is a competitive sport, one that requires hours of dedication, daily training, and relentless focus. And what, pray tell, happens if you dare to take a day off from the regime (pansy)? You will be regretting that (unfortunate) choice for days to come. There are no second chances in Laundry World: a lapse produces infinitely more clothing to wash and (somehow) less time to do it.

I had gotten myself into a nice little rhythm with some longer endurance-building stretches of Laundry (12 or 13 hours) interspersed with quick sprints (a simple load of whites here, a half-cycle of delicates there), but then Short joined our family along with his 26 suitcases full of doll-sized clothing. He instantly threw my system into a tailspin; it has taken me a full four years to recover (long enough to earn a college degree, majoring in—you guessed it—Laundry Sciences).

So back to today. I was tucking those StarWars jammies into their proper location (which would be the dresser, not, as popular opinion might have it, the laundry room floor), when there was a loud knocking, almost commotion if you will, at the front door.

You know what comes next: two men in dark neatly-tailored suits and Ray-Ban’s were waiting for me on the front porch with a limo in the background. I smiled at them. They smiled back at me. I immediately noticed that the younger one was holding a large trophy.

“Miss MOV?” began the older one (he seemed like he was in charge), “You know who we are, right? and why we’re here?”

I felt myself trembling; this was the stuff of urban legends. I had rehearsed this scene in my head a million times before, but now that it was finally here, I froze.

“I…. I….I….” I stammered, “I think I know why. I’ve read about you, or someone told me about you, or I had a dream about you, I can’t remember exactly, but, uh, yes, I know all about you.”

The two men looked at each other, pleased. The older one got out a camera. The younger one leaned in to me and said admiringly, “We would like to present you with this Laundry Dedication Trophy for completing ALL of your family’s laundry! People with children say it can’t be done, but you have proven them wrong, Miss MOV,” and then, “you should be very proud of yourself.”

I reached out tentatively for the trophy, which was shimmering under the porch light. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Would I be considered a braggart if I permanently exhibited it on the fireplace mantle? Should I have a special display case made for it, maybe one with mirrors on the back of the interior?

“Wow,” I managed to utter, and then once I could speak coherently again, I added, “I mean, wow.” I inspected the heavy trophy a little more closely. Now I could see that it was a gold trophy of a washer and dryer, intricately designed with little tiny knobs for spin cycle. My heart swelled with pride. I wiped away a tear.

The camera flashed and I immediately became self-conscious: this photo would probably be on the front page of tomorrow's paper. I automatically adjusted my (freshly laundered) baseball hat.

"That’s not all,” said the younger one, winking. He reached in his pocket and produced a beautiful large award medal on a thick red ribbon, similar to the ones worn by actual Olympic athletes, only instead of Olympic rings embossed on the front, there was a picture of a stray sock. “Here is your Special Laundry Medal. You've earned it.”

I leaned forward and let the man put the medal around my neck. Appropriate music was playing somewhere (I think it was the theme song for “Rocky”), confetti was falling, and doves were flying around in formation. This was truly My Moment, and I was basking in the full glory of it.

The older man shook my hand and murmured, “It’s been an honor,” and then he and his comrade and their lovely limo vanished into the cool gray dusk.

Almost on cue, a beat-up pick-up truck pulled up in front of the house, and Tall and The Husband got out. Tall looked especially grungy after his soccer game.

“I scored three goals, Mom!” he beamed. “Ugh, I feel itchy.” He started stripping off his uniform right then and there on the front porch. “Here ya go, Mom, I need you to wash these right away for tomorrow’s game.”

NO-NO-NO-NO-NO-NO-NO, don’t do that here, not now, stop! My mind was spinning.

Seconds later, the limo returned. I gulped: I was afraid this might happen.

The Husband looked at the black limo, and then back at me. “What's going on?” he demanded, his voice suddenly urgent. “And what are you holding?” he said, noticing my trophy for the first time.

“Yeah,” chimed in Tall, “and what is that shiny thing around your neck?”

“You wouldn’t understand,” I shook my head forlornly.

The older gentleman in the suit walked toward me. He frowned. “I need those back,” he said simply.

I couldn't bear the thought of being disqualified. I begged desperately, my voice beginning to take on an unappealing screechiness. “But……but.... I mean….. I don’t think the uniform should count!

"Oh, it doesn’t,” he said coolly, as he snatched the trophy out of my hands. “We found out about the bathmat.”

(“Mom’s Ostensible Victory”)

149. Bus-Stop Etiquette

There are certain rules and regulations, an implied "code of conduct" if you will, for proper behavior while you are waiting at the school bus-stop for your child to be whisked away and you to be granted a child-free existence for eight whole hours. You must observe these guidelines at all times. If you have recently moved into the neighborhood and are not yet aware of what they are, you are in luck because I happen to have my old wrinkled and coffee-stained copy right here. Feel free to commit it to memory, or at the very least, Xerox it:
  • You must look presentable. Even though “presentable” in your old neighborhood back in California meant pajamas, that is not what we are looking for here. In fact, pajamas for the most part would be considered NOT presentable (*exception: if your child’s teacher designates this as “Pajama Day”, then your CHILD may wear pajamas and you can possibly get away with pajamas too, but only if you are being “ironic”).
  • If your hair is messy and you have zero time to brush it because you forgot to put money in the on-line bank account for buying school lunch so now you have to run around like a crazy person and pack a suitable lunch, then a baseball cap is acceptable.
  • Try not to wear a baseball cap 178 days in a row.
  • As far as make-up goes, if you have not yet brushed your hair, then you certainly cannot be expected to find time for lipstick.
  • Try to learn everyone’s names, including the students and their random siblings, the first day. If you don’t, you will be reduced to a fun year of mumbling (“Hi Dave..uh..Johnuh, I mean Jim??”).
  • If you did not learn everyone's name last year and now you are expected to know their names this year, do your best to eavesdrop if they are introducing themselves to someone new. Go over and pretend you want to meet the new person too, even though what you really want to know is if your neighbor's name is Sarah or actually Serena (you hope it's Sarah, because that is what you have been mumbling all last year and you will be really embarrassed if it is Serena or worse, Tara).
  • You must make polite small talk with the other victims parents waiting with you, or at least make eye-contact and smile semi-genuinely (if they have not yet had their coffee, chances are they will not be able to decipher the difference between genuine and semi-genuine at the ungodly hour of 8 AM so don’t stress about that too much).
  • Polite small talk topics include but are not limited to the following: how hot it is; how cold it is; how rainy it is; how dry it is; if the City is going to cut the tree down; how the City needs to cut the tree down; how distressed you are that they City did indeed cut the tree down; how long you have been waiting for the bus; how you almost overslept; how your child overslept; how your child never oversleeps; what sports your kid plays; how much time the sports eat up; how much you love your child’s teacher (even if you actually hate her); how your child has too much homework; how your child does not have enough homework; how you never had homework at that age; what you are doing this week-end; what you did last week-end; your miserable failures at gardening; your admiration for other people’s gardening skills.
  • You may also have an elaborate discussion about what time the bus will be dropping the children off later (even though you all know the answer is 3:52 PM and that it has not changed in 5 years, it is still good to talk about it, at least on a semi-weekly basis).
  • It is also acceptable to compliment other parents on their shoes, or even their children’s shoes.
  • Do not under any circumstances ask Annabelle how much her outfit cost. Again. Why do you think she stands far away from you now?
  • It is rude to look at your watch more than 7 times in 5 minutes. Try to only look at it once during the entire wait (otherwise it looks like you don’t want to talk to the other parents and that you would rather be watching your TiVo of last night’s episode of TopChef—even though that might be true, but just because it was the season finale and you fell asleep).
  • If you must look at your watch, do so only in the context of “Gosh, I can’t believe how late the bus is again!” Then laugh. Also good to shake your head.
  • If someone else comments on how late the bus is, it’s a good idea to laugh and say, “I know!”
  • A great fall-back topic of conversation if you have already blitzed through all the above suggestions is how nice you think the bus driver is, and how she has a really tough job with all those screaming kids and how glad you are that it is not your job (a good thing to say here is, “Better her than me!” and then smile).
  • Try not to ask the guy who just lost his job “How’s work going?” Try to remember that he just lost his job. (He might start standing away from you, maybe next to Annabelle.)
  • If you bring donuts one morning out-of-the-blue, everyone will forget how you insulted Lost His Job Guy.
  • If you see someone’s child hit your child in the face, say nicely, “Gosh, what are the kids up to over there?” Under no circumstances say, “Your kid punched my child in the face!” even if there is blood everywhere. If an ambulance is called, then you are free to say whatever you want.
  • If your child hits another kid right in the face, say, “Oh, I'm so sorry! He never does that at home!” even if he really does do that at home every day to his poor little brother. If the poor little brother chimes in and says, “But Mommy, he hits me in the face all day long,” pretend you didn't hear him and mention how cold it is.
  • If you forget to pick your child up in the afternoon for the 4th day in a row and your very kind and helpful freighbor brings him home to you, do not say, “Uh, jeez, it was so peaceful and I was so happy that I guess I forgot my own child again!” Instead, say something like, “I was just walking out there this exact second—wow, I think the bus might’ve been early for once. Hey, I really appreciate you getting my son for me, here’s a nice bottle of wine to say thank you.”
Hope this Information Guide helps. It should get you through at least the first week or so.

(“Meeting Other Villagers”)

Monday, September 27, 2010

148. Some Homework Is Terrible

Another assignment
Conveniently appears.
Really? Who remembers how to do this stuff?
Old people like me
Sure don’t. The Homework
Taunts me and other
Idiots who never
Completely learned it the first time around.

Please help your child create an
Original acrostic poem.
(Every first letter spells out a word)—
*Must make sense!

Frantically trying to
Understand the assignment
Crafting bizarre combinations of words
Kudos to my son for explaining it to me.

(“Misusing Odd Vowels”)

147. I'm Here To Complain About My Free Sample

So I work part-time in a high-end kitchen store (is it possibly the kitchen store you are imagining in your mind right now?  yes).  My days there are usually uneventful, but I must confess, it's a hell of a lot more interesting when the professional entertainers arrive:   

"Excuse me, Miss?  I'd like to complain about my free sample.  What's the problem? well, the cake is dry and there's too little of it.  I'd like another piece."

"Can I talk to a manager?  I feel sick after eating that sample.  I think it must have nuts in it and you didn't warn me about that and I have allergies.  Oh, the large sign that says, 'Contains Nuts' right next to the samples?  Well, how could I be expected to read that while I'm eating?" 

"I need to return this $2000 espresso machine.  Yeah, I've owned it, oh, I guess about seven years and one day it just stopped working!  Here's my original receipt I saved.  Can I have a brand new upgraded espresso machine now for free?"

"Is your gift-wrapping service free?  yes?  Great, will you please gift-wrap these items."  Five minutes later: "Huh.  That looks ugly.  I don't care for that wrapping paper you used.  What other choices are there?" 

"Where are the free samples?  You're not doing them today?  WHY NOT?  WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?"

"Huh, I saw that same pan at Target for, like, $40 less.  It's a different material?  So?  Yours is still too pricey."

"I bought this at the Outlet for like 50% off.  I don't like it anymore.  Can I return it here even though the receipt says 'All Sales Final'?" 

"Do you sell clocks?"

"So you sell bath towels?"

"Do you sell wicker baskets to store magazines in?"

"Do you sell ice-cream?  I don't mean ice-cream mix.  I mean already frozen ice-cream.  Why not?" 

"Is there alcohol in this margarita sample?  why not?" 

"Can I return this pepper grinder I stole?"

"I'd like to buy this delicious topping I bought here last year.  Uh, I can't remember the exact name, but I think it had the word 'Sauce' in the title."

"I went to make a pumpkin cheesecake and I bought all the special ingredients and had them all mixed and then when I went to pour it in your special cheesecake pan, the pan had a tiny scratch on it and I had to throw EVERYTHING away!  It's all your fault and I want my money back PLUS the money for the ingredients.  No, I don't have my receipt." 

"Do you carry your 'Santa-Blend Holiday Cocoa' all year or just in December?" 

"Do you carry the latest book by that really famous cookbook author who is on the cooking channel?  Uh, I can't remember her name.  She's older, and usually wears a red apron.  Oh, wait, maybe it's a guy."

"I am not happy with your free cooking class because you didn't serve enough to make me full.  I still have to go buy lunch somewhere now." 

"I just ate one of those pink cupcakes you have in your front window display, but they taste stale!"

"The girl put it on hold for me, I called about four weeks ago.  You only have a three-day hold policy?  What do you mean you put it back on the sales floor and sold it now?" 

"My husband dropped this new porcelain platter we got for a wedding present and it broke.  I don't have a gift receipt, but I need to exchange it for a new one that is not broken.  For free." 

"I'd like to look up my best friend's wedding registry." Five minutes later:  "Ugh, she sure registered for a lot of stupid stuff!  She'll never use these things.  Wow, is she dumber than I thought.  I guess I'll just buy her what I like."

"This knife broke when I was using it to pry our kitchen window open when it was stuck.  I'd like to exchange it because it is obviously defective."

"I should be in your system."  (They are paying in cash.)

"I shop here all the time." (You have never seen them in the three years you've worked here.)

"Have you seen my child?"

"Have you seen my purse?"

"Have you seen my cell phone?"

"Have you seen my keys?"

"Have you seen my shopping bags?"

"I can't find my car in the parking lot, can you help me?" 

"Have you seen my husband?"

"Have you seen my Starbucks cup?"

"Are you open on Thanksgiving?  why not?"

Corporate, if you're listening:  Thank you for sending in the entertainers!  They give us something to laugh about every day. 

("Marvelling Over Variety")

Sunday, September 26, 2010

146. "Allergies" vs. Flu

So I’m at work and one of my dear co-worker friends (co-friend?) tells me that she does not feel very good. I say with as much compassion and sympathy as I can muster, oh no, you poor dear thing, are you sick (rough translation: get away from me, Sick-o, do not sneeze on me and give me your hateful germs) and she replies merrily, “Oh, no, I’m not sick…….. it’s just allergies.”

Huh. Not sick. Allergies. Where have I heard that before? Wait, wasn’t there a movie called, “True Lies”? Also, wasn’t there a movie called “The Body Snatchers” because that is how I know I will be feeling in approximately 24 hours (after said co-friend “helpfully” hands me my water bottle after she has put her grungey grimy germy paws all over it). Someone should just snatch my body RIGHT NOW because I need to lie down and go to sleep so I can stop hacking up my lungs.

Allergies. Who the hell does this co-friend she think she’s fooling? We all know that “allergies” is just an euphemism for I-have-my-vacation-to-Tahiti-all-planned-and-I-don’t-want-to-waste-my-precious-leave-on-sick-days.

Please tell me exactly what you are allergic to, Miss Suzie Sneezesalot, because I'm strangely suspicious that you are allergic to a slightly smaller paycheck.   

I know a thing or two about these so-called “allergies”. In fact, let’s refer to my handy-dandy chart to notice the similarities and/or differences between my lovely co-friend’s “allergies” versus an actual flu-like situation.
  • “Allergy” symptom …… vs……… Actual Life-Threatening Flu
  • Runny nose………………………Runny nose
  • Cough………………………….Cough
  • Bad headache………………….Bad headache
  • Watery eyes……………………..Watery eyes! (are we noticing a pattern?)
  • Can’t breathe……………………..Can’t breathe
  • Chills……………………………Chills
  • Sore throat……………………….Surprise! sore throat!
  • Sneezing every 5 seconds………..Sneezing every 5 seconds
See? See all the differences?

Also, I feel compelled to point out that this is all just a giant scam to say, "Even though I seem highly contagious, I am absolutely not.  I could sneeze and cough on you ALL DAY and it would have absolutely zero impact-- you won't get sick!  I promise!  and if you do, by some strange coincidence or chance of fate happen to get sick after all, I am happy to share my Claritin."       

(“Multivitamin Or Valium?”)

Friday, September 24, 2010

145. Purge-O-Rama

I have just begun the dreaded Purge-O-Rama of 2010 in my house. Somehow, probably in the dead of night when we are doing unnecessary and unproductive things like “sleeping”, the stuff goes through a series of higher math calculations and algebraic equations and silently multiplies.

It starts out innocently enough: a kitchen gadget here, a new book there, a saved scribbled-on menu from a special (weekly) night out at Pizza World. Before you know it, the clutter has morphed into 200 bushels of Crucial Papers And Documents, 8000 Lego pieces, 17 incomplete puzzles, 450 broken crayons and dried out markers, 58 back-issues of Elle Decor magazine, all accompanied by 5 trillion shoes of various colors and sizes (none of them mine).

If you are a personal friend of mine and have actually set foot in my house, I know you are thinking, MOV, you’re crazy! Your house always looks nice, and everything is put away.

Ha ha, my friend, this is where you would be wrong. My house might seem nice and neat, “presentable” even. But, in the 30 minutes prior to your visit, I zoomed around like a fictitious cartoon character (that would be Road Runner) shoving things in drawers and closets, right on top of the things that were shoved there the last time a friend dared to accept my (empty) invitation to come over for coffee.  Don’t let the neighbors see that I am a normal person with normal junk everywhere! NO NO NO! Keep up the façade that my house always looks like an ad for Pottery Barn!

What this all means is: today, these same drawers and closets are threatening to crash through the floor to the basement, what with all the extra weight that has been repeatedly crammed inside them. I imagine being the one in the basement when one too many tote bags or board games or soccer balls or baseball hats comes crashing through a giant hole above my head and lands in an angry heap of dust and drywall next to the once pristine pile of unfolded laundry. Why oh why did we buy the 10th anniversary memorial ping-pong tournament umbrella? Did we really need it? My internal time clock of shame has been activated: I must purge.

The Husband scolds, “Why are you bothering to do this? First of all, it's a big waste of time because it will only get messed up again. Second, we might need some of these things you are getting rid of! Third, the items you are tossing were originally very expensive.” 

I mention this tidbit of conversation to my dear friend Sammi while I nibble at my panne cotta at the Ritual Procrastination Lunch Out. She looks at me in disbelief and says sternly, “MOV, you have just broken the Cardinal Rule Of Purging: never, oh, never involve any husbands or children. The purge must be family member-free. Otherwise, they will all want to have to have their ‘say’ in the matter and you will not get anything accomplished.”

This is why Sammi is my friend—she doesn’t just say what I want her to say; no. Instead, she is not afraid to dole out tough love where needed.

Obviously, Sammi was right. I change my tack. “Beloved,” I say to The Husband right before he leaves for work, “I'm going to take what you said into consideration. I will be very careful about getting rid of anything. Instead, I will just organize it all.” I smile as I think, organize it into the trashcan.

Sadly, the Purge-O-Rama does not go exactly as anticipated. In a fit of nostalgia, I find myself merely relocating the offending clutter to another place for further inspection and analysis at a later date (there's that date on my calendar: "Never"). Ack! THIS WAS NOT IN THE PLAN. Breathe, MOV, breathe. Focus on the task at hand. You can do this.  Be ruthless. 

All the offending junk in the laundry room? Transferred neatly to the Guest Room. All the extra old sheets and blankets and towels that are still deemed “perfectly good” but I have zero need for? Guest Room. Files I have not looked at in over a decade, books I cannot bear to part with, sweaters that are too itchy?  Uh, Guest Room. Random drawings and art projects, photos of people I don’t know, electrical and computer cords and instruction manuals that go to appliances WE NO LONGER OWN?? Guest Room!

The Guest Room is mad. The Guest Room glares at me.

“How dare you,” Guest Room begins, “why am I the repository for old junk and clutter that no one wants? You know damn well that you should just donate this crap or throw it away or at the very least shove it in the Garage,”

“Hey!” interrupts Garage, “I heard that!” (Who knew Garage had such good ears?)

Guest Room ignores Garage like I ignore my 4-year-old when I am talking on the phone. “As I was saying, I am not happy with this latest development. No self-respecting guest would want to stay here! Is this some passive-aggressive thing you’re doing so guests WON’T want to visit us?!”

I don’t have time to psychoanalyze my motives for storing items in Guest Room. “Look, Guest Room,” I begin patiently in a calm tone, like I do with my mailman when I beg him not to drop all my mail and my latest magazines from my subscription to Important Home Decor Magazines in a messy pile on my front porch floor and instead use the designated MAILBOX, “look, this is just a temporary arrangement. You know I don’t want to store these things here forever. How about being a little understanding, huh?”

Guest Room is having none of it. “I didn’t complain when you put the chair-everyone-hates in here. I was accommodating. I didn’t even say anything when you didn’t bother to paint, nor when you placed the tattered hand-me-down rug in here. I realize that I am somewhat of a forgotten step-child in this arrangement. But you know what? I've had enough! I must draw the line somewhere!” Guest Room is in a huff.

As a parent of two small boys, I am trained in how to handle these types of tantrums. I set a large box of broken Christmas ornaments on the bed in the Guest Room, walk out, and shut the door.

(“Manic-Obsessive Victory?”)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

144. Costume Change

Well, it’s almost time for that glorious October ritual:  time to panic about Halloween costumes. Luckily, Short is pretty easy-going and will eagerly wear his older brother’s cast-offs. This year, Short will be donning pirate attire, complete with eye patch and fake hook hand.  He has been trying the ensemble on all summer, in hopes of perfecting his pirate scowl and sound effects ("Arrrrr, matey!"). 

Now, Tall.......Tall’s another subject. As the firstborn, he's always reveled in the de facto role of Wearer Of Great Costumes. We have spared no expense to make that kid look like a viable first place contender for any costume competition in the tri-state area.

For his first foray into the multiple choice world of costumes for babies, he was a darling little bumble bee.  Our photo album is full of documentation of his yellow-and-black striped cuteness.  (He posed cooperatively for the first twenty or so shots, and the next ones are of him in a quasi-sedated chocolate coma).

The following year, as an opinionated one-and-a-half-year-old with distinct ideas about fashion and his role in it, he chose a fire-fighter costume. That costume was a flash of divine inspiration, and he fell so deeply in love with it that he refused to change out of it to sleep on Halloween night, or the five consecutive nights after that. I must admit, he made an adorable little fire-fighter.

The problem arose the next Halloween. The previous year, the fire-fighter outfit had been a bit too big for him.  Undaunted, we rolled up the pant legs so he could walk and rolled up the sleeves so he could reach out for candy.  By the time the next October 31st rolled around, he could easily still fit in it. This bossy two-and-a-half-year-old told me that he wanted to be a fire-fighter for Halloween.

“Really?” I asked in earnest, “The same thing again? Let me show you the photos, that is exactly what you were last year.”

He smiled fondly at the photos and then looked up at me. “Mommy, I look good in the picture. I look so han-sum! I be a great fireman ‘nother time too!” Honestly, how can a mom say no to that?

The Husband was holding the lion-attired baby when I walked down the stairs with fire-fighter Tall. He immediately gave me A Look. To Tall he said, “Wow! You look ready to put out a fire! Let’s go trick-or-treating!” Then to me, under his breath, “Isn’t that what he was last year?” I shrugged and gave him the universal Mom-Code mental telepathy message of, "Don't make this a big deal, no one is crying, let's leave it at that."      

Now Tall was three-and-a-half. The well-used and well-loved fire-fighter costume had inhabited the dress-up box along with a football helmet and an alien mask. Tall and I had a brief discussion about his Halloween options. It went something like this:

Me: Tall, let’s take Short to the mall and we can go to the costume store and you can pick out a fun costume for Halloween!
Tall: No. I be a fireman, like forever.

He would not budge. So, for the third year in a row, I scrunched him into the fire-fighter costume, which at this point was bursting at the seams. He looked approvingly at his exposed ankles in the mirror, entranced with his greatness. “I look so fireman!” he said proudly. He begged me to take more pictures.  (These are the same photos that I anticipate years later he will look at and say, “Wow, my mom sure was cheap! I had to wear the same Halloween costume three years running!")

I took my miniature fire-fighter and his brother the hot-dog (a true hot “dog”—it was a dog costume from Target that exactly fit my one-year-old) out into the cool night to collect candy from generous neighbors. I was looking forward to the tradition of friends admiring my children’s costumes and admittedly also the newer tradition of me devouring all their candy later (hello, Kit-Kat!).

We knocked on our next-door neighbor’s door. The kindly older gentleman appeared brandishing a giant basket filled with mini-Snickers bars. He took one look at Tall, turned to me and whispered, “I thought he already was that costume last year?” I nodded quickly and grabbed two Snickers bars.

The next year, Tall was devastated by a terrible turn of events. Let me explain.  We were anticipating that his preschool would put on its annual Halloween Parade (although so as not to offend anyone in a climate of overly-politically-correctness, they referred to it as “Let’s Pretend Dress-Up Time”). Two days before the celebration, he went to our box of costumes and pulled out the (by now) tattered remnants of the fire-fighter outfit. He hugged it and smiled. Then he started to put the jacket on. His face registered a look of shock and dismay when he could not get his skinny arm into the very tight sleeve.

“Mom!” he cried out, “Come quick! Something’s wrong, I think my costume shrunk in the laundry!”

This was My Moment.  Hoping he'd forget all about the fire-fighter idea, I pulled out a wonderful costume that I'd been saving for just this occasion: a very realistic Buzz Lightyear, complete with pop-up wings. Tall dropped the fire-fighter costume on the floor like a pair of dirty pajamas.

“Buzz Lightyear!” he beamed.

Last year, at age five, he made a dashing pirate, a costume I had to really rally for. I introduced the idea, then let him chew on it a while until it became his own (have you seen the movie "Inception"?  think along those lines). A few days before Halloween, he woke up one morning and informed me, “Mom, I think I’ll be a pirate this time!”

I took him to a costume store the other day to get a general idea of what was out there. I know it is still "technically" September, but that is equivalent to 3 seconds away from the despair that is non-existent costume choices in Retail Land.  Great retro Gumby costume—oh, they only have size 12.  Perfect Spiderman costume—oh, they only have toddler sizes.  I'm forever fearful of being dubbed the Loser Mom Who Waited Too Long and then my child ends up shoving his giant pillow case in strangers' faces while wearing a non-descript black turtleneck, bandana, and messy black face-paint.  ("What are YOU supposed to be?" "I'm a burglar.")

Tall is now six and still has very distinct ideas about what he will and won’t wear (see blog 142: What They Wear). He went right to the vampire and skeleton costumes, and then transformers (I am loathe to admit I don’t know exactly what a transformer is, but I don’t want my son to be one). I tried pushing him toward the cute surgeon costume. No dice. The cowboy? Uh-uh. A fun dragon was quickly deemed “too baby”. Sigh.

I wish I could sew; I remember my mom made us darling costumes. Once I was a black cat and then years later my younger sister followed in my feline footsteps.  I also recall gypsy costumes, witches, and a giant Oreo cookie at some point. 

Last year, the neighbor kids that impressed me the most were a little boy dressed as a giant Lego and a teen-age girl costumed as a large container of McDonald’s French fries. Kudos to those parents (see blog 143: Homework For Mom).

Tall doesn’t know it yet, but this year he will be sporting an astronaut’s flight suit. I bought the last one they had in his size back in July.

(“Mother Of Vampires?”)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

143. Homework For Mom

So Tall walks in from school practically levitating. “Mommmmm! Guesswhatguesswhatguesswhat! You’ll never guess!” he shrieks.

“What?” I say, wondering if I should call the News Team or at least grab a pack of band-aids.

“I’ve got homework!” His grin is neon.

Why would any child exhibit these (demented) signs of happiness about the dreaded homework? One word: novelty. Tall is in first grade at Crazy Town Elementary, and this is his very first encounter with this mysterious thing called homework, formerly the bastion of Big Kids or at least gap-toothed second-graders.

“Here, I’ll show you. This is so cool. Okay, so my teacher gave us this worksheet on something called Ecomonics,” he begins, slowly, like Mommy might be too stupid to understand the concept of Ecomonics.

Economics,” I correct.

“Mom! This is MY homework! Anyway, I need to do a chart and explain the different prices for pizzas for the Ecomonics hand-out.” He glances up, then continues, “Then, we have to practice writing all these words for our spelling test and then, we have to work on some math evasions,”


“You’re doing it again! Stop it,” he hisses. “All right, next, we have to figure out how camels store all that water and then my teacher wants me to read two chapters of this book,” he pauses to hold up an unabridged-dictionary-sized tome.

I have started to zone out to a place far far away, a place called I Can’t Believe I Have To Do All This Homework. This, as we all know, is not Tall’s homework. No. This is Mommy’s homework. Oh, sure, he will ultimately do all the homework, but I will be required to sit patiently by, like some kind of unpaid tutor, helping whenever needed.

Okay, that sounds bad. I want to be a good parent, I want to help with homework, it’s just that, Really? First grade? Can’t they maybe finish anything they were working on at school during regular business hours?

I don't send them my unfolded laundry or last night's dirty dinner dishes and ask if they can just "finish it up" for me.  I expect the same courtesy. 

Three days ago was the worst: Tall removed a special paper from his StarWars backpack with a slight flourish. “Look, Mom! Something YOU get to do!” And sure enough, it was a sweet little project the teacher had dreamt up for the parents. Below is the note that was attached:

“Dear Parents/ Care-Givers,

I know that you want to be involved in every step of the education process.  Please take this opportunity to design and color in this special ‘Handprint of Encouragement’ for your child. Be as creative as possible! Write supportive comments on the hand, like 'I love you!' and 'You can do it!'
*Please do not feel any pressure to make this a masterpiece—just draw from the heart.  :)

Tall’s Very Nice Teacher With A Master’s Degree In Teaching (and a minor in Fine Arts)

PS—this is due tomorrow, or today, whichever.”

I read the note and immediately started looking for a small paper bag in which to hyperventilate (or throw up, whichever). “Handprint of Encouragement”? Is this something new? The only “Handprint of Encouragement” I remember as a small child was the “Handprint of Spanking”.  That was some pretty effective encouragement.

I decided to play along. I wanted to be supportive and, ahem, encouraging. I looked at the blank piece of paper with the computer-generated outline of a hand. What-should-I-draw-what-should-I-draw-what-should-I-draw. Hmmmmm. And more importantly, what should I write?

A horrible Thought entered my brain. I tried to push it out (“Exit’s over there, jack-ass!” I sneered). Too late. The Thought said,

THE TEACHERS WILL JUDGE YOU. Yeah, okay, I can deal with that. They already judge me on what my son wears to school and the lunch I pack him: is MOV a good parent or a lackadaisical one? So they see my little drawing, who cares?

The Thought’s evil cousin, Thought-On-Steroids, chimed in:

THEY WILL HANG THIS IN THE CLASSROOM AND THE KIDS WILL JUDGE YOU AND THE PRINCIPAL WILL JUDGE YOU. Oh, I did not really consider that. Well, uh, I’m up for the challenge! I studied Architecture, for goshsakes. My major was English Literature. I should be able to eke out something.

Out of nowhere, in spun Thought-On-Steroids-Infinity just to cap things off:


Twenty Xeroxes and two large glasses of Chardonnay later, I had come up with a stellar and appropriate design. Wine labels! How cool would that be! I could cut out the words on the labels and apply them to Tall: well-balanced, crisp, grown in America.  Luckily, The Husband walked in at just about this time. He asked what I was doing and I told him. Now he wanted in on the act.

“Why don’t you just take some of the duplicate family photos we have laying around and make sort of an artsy collage or something?” This from a man who majored in Ecomonics and knew his way around a math Evasion.

“I have it under control,” I glared. “This is MY project.”

“I thought it was Tall’s project?” he countered innocently.

I shoved the information sheet in his face, pointing at the word “Parent”.

“I’ve got it. You just do dinner and baths. I need to work on this so the other parents are impressed with my brilliance and creativity or at the very least, so they don’t laugh at me.”

“You are obsessed,” The Husband rolled his eyes, “they’ll laugh about that.”

Three hours floated away. I was very proud of my photo collage surrounded by neatly written words of encouragement.

The next day, I put it in Tall’s folder. Before he walked out the door, he removed it to inspect its greatness.

“Oh,” he murmured.

“What? is that a good ‘oh’ or a bad ‘oh’? what does ‘oh’ mean?” I queried.

“Why are all the people, you know, 'chopped up'?” he asked, perplexed.

“They’re not 'chopped up', it’s a collage, that’s how you do a collage.”

He shrugged. After all my worry, I don’t think he really cared that much.

When he got off the school bus later that day, the interrogation began: “Did your teacher like it? what did she say?”

“Like what? What are you talking about? Hey, I got 100% on my spelling test! And the teacher says I am one of the very best readers. I got an A on my drawing of a bridge and oh, I forgot my library book, so the librarian wouldn’t let me check…”

“THE COLLAGE,” I interrupted, like a deranged Art Student Who Pulled An All-Nighter. “What did your teacher say about the collage?”

“Oh, that. Yeah, I gave it to her. I told her you made it. She and the assistant teacher were talking about it for a little while, and talking about you, too.  I guess you did an okay job.”

I smiled inside.  She and the assistant teacher were talking about it?  That was a good sign!  “Anything else?  Or is that it?"  I pressed.

“Yep, that’s it. Oh, and Mom? what does that mean when someone says ‘zero design skills’?”

(“My Ossified Visage”)

142. What They Wear

So the one day I don’t want him to wear his “Sponge Bob Square Pants” t-shirt (that would be picture day) is the day he chooses it. How did this piece of apparel even make it into his potential wardrobe selections? I mean, seriously. It’s not like I bought it for him.

I hatch a plan. Certain articles of clothing mysteriously “disappear”. First, they need to be “washed”. Then, they might languish in the “laundry” for a very long time. (“Mommy? Have you seen my ‘Phinneas and Ferb’ t-shirt? You know, the one that Grandmom got me?” The only proper response here is, “It must be in the laundry.”)

The next step in the progression is to pray that your child forgets about the item all together. This is the point where you curse yourself for playing hour upon hour of memory games with him when he was two and bragging to your friends how he is gifted and can remember events from years ago in minute detail. He is intimately acquainted with every t-shirt that has made its way into his closet. He is well-versed in who bought him the shirt, for what occasion (5th birthday, Christmas, Easter, souvenir from the beach, etc), when he wore it last, and exactly how long it has been missing (three seconds).

Another tactic I have been forced to use is the sketchy It-Doesn’t-Fit-You-Anymore Ploy. I doubt this would hold up in a court of law, but Pokemon will drive you to extreme measures. My problem is that my son challenges me (“What do you mean, it doesn’t fit? It did when I wore it two days ago! Go get it,” like the deranged dictator that he is, “and let me try it on. I think you’re wrong, Mommy.”)

I have also been known to employ the Huh-Maybe-You-Lost-It Option (be warned, this exercise is not for amateurs—it is very very difficult to pull this one off). I normally have to utilize this one in conjunction with my friend the TV, as in “I’m sorry you lost your ‘Star Wars Battle of the Clones’ shirt, honey, oh look—‘Penguins of Madagascar’ is on! I think it’s a new episode!”

The problem with well-meaning friends (“I know it’s a hand-me-down, but I really thought Tall would love the Halloween ‘Headless Horseman with Machete’ t-shirt!") and generous family members (“The lady at Old Navy said that all the boys are wearing these shirts with ‘Capture The Killer’ logos”) is that they give the item in question to your child directly. There is no Mom Censorship Intermediate Step (which should be mandatory, sort of like the waiting period for buying guns). No. They say things like, “Tall! I have a present for you!” and get the child’s heart rate up, and then guess who looks like the bad guy?

So this begs the question:  How would my children dress in my ideal world, the World Without Arguing? They would wear preppy little outfits, composed almost exclusively of plaid shorts, polo tops, and sweater vests or khaki pants paired with little denim shirts and white sneakers……. a rhapsody in mini-J.Crew. You cannot imagine the bickering that ensues to get these ensembles on their little bodies.

Naturally, I have been reduced to bribery. On our refrigerator, each child has a Smiley Face Chart for doing chores or random acts of kindness. 20 smiley faces earns a special prize. The currency works something like this: setting the table warrants one smiley; brushing teeth without being asked is also one smiley; putting all their toys away is two. The going rate for wearing a plaid button-down shirt and coordinating shorts? That would be an extortion-worthy four smileys.

All evidence to the contrary, I am not obsessed with what my children are wearing.  It’s just that they are so little—6 and 4—and I feel like this is my last tiny window of opportunity to dress them the way I want (although as I type this I am having flashbacks to The Husband dressing them as babies: “Sweetheart? The navy plaid sweater with nautical details like the boat on the pocket doesn’t match the green onesie with orange and green jungle animals.  And don’t ever put the dinosaur shoes on with an outfit like that.”) I love it when my sons look like the darling sweet boys they are; I’m not ready for them to dress like the teen-agers they will too soon become.

Now come over here, Tall, and let me help you with that cute red and tan race car sweater ("How many? uh, I guess that would be three smileys,").

(“Ministry Of Violations”)

Monday, September 20, 2010

141. School Bus

So now Tall and Short are going to the same school. Tall is in first grade and Short is in half-day afternoon Preschool.

When we did the paperwork for Short's initial application and Miss Smythson called to let us know he was accepted into the program, we were very excited because we knew that Tall and Short would have the same basic schedule (as far as days off and holidays). This would simplify my life immeasurably.

"We are delighted to offer Short a spot in our program," she chirped with that sweet sing-song voice they all must learn in Teacher School.  Then, Miss Smythson added a simple caveat, almost an afterthought: “Just so you know, all children attending Crazy Town Preschool ride the school bus.”

I started to hyperventilate. I don’t have to drive him anymore?!? I don’t even technically have to get dressed if I don’t want to? (I should mention to you here that I have dedicated the past three years of my life to driving small people to various preschool classes and related activities.)

“Excuse me? Miss Smythson? What was that, could you repeat that? the part about the school bus?” I asked tentatively.

“The kids ride the bus; it's included in the special fees check you wrote,” she said nonchalantly.  I could almost hear her shrugging through the phone, as if to say, Bus? who cares, what difference does that make?     

It was such a beautiful sentence the-kids-ride-the-bus the-kids-ride-the-bus the-kids-ride-the-bus. I started whispering it to myself, like a mantra.  I wanted to roll the words around in my mouth over and over forever and never have them disappear, like the last Godiva chocolate in the box.  Although she was only a voice on the phone, Miss Smythson was my New Best Friend. I felt like she had called to tell me that I won 10 million dollars in the lottery when I didn’t even remember buying a ticket.

The. Bus. Picks. Him. Up. Truly, it is reminiscent of a private limousine service. I was a bit unclear on the whole tipping concept, however. Do I tip every day? Twice a day? Is a dollar enough? The Husband told me I was being ridiculous, that it was a public school after all; he said to just give her $10 at the end of the week.

No one was more thrilled about this latest development of a yellow bus stopping at our house twice a day as Short himself. He has a new adult to give back-seat driving directions to.

("Mantra Of Vitality")

140. Postcard From Me

(Wherein the bitchy know-it-all 19-year-old Me sends the Current Me a postcard)

“Dear Future Me,

I've had a glimpse of your life, and even though you 'seem' perfectly happy and act like you 'love' your life, I feel compelled to set you straight on a couple things.

Since you run around like a crazy person 'pretending' that you have no time (what a joke), I will attempt to make this brief. In fact, I will put it in a chart format just like we are learning in my Econ 101 class.

  • What You Do……….....................What You SHOULD Do
  • Spend 5 minutes on your looks........Spend one hour on your looks (come on! Would it kill you to blow-dry and curl your hair everyday like I do?)
  • Sleep until kids wake you at 6 AM.....Set alarm for 5 AM and go for a five mile run
  • Act like a maid................................ Hire a maid
  • Travel to Target...............................Travel to Europe
  • Rack up Lego membership points.....Rack up frequent flier miles
  • Shove junk in closets........................Organize your closets
  • Watch kids play...............................Go see a play
  • Pass out in front of TV.....................Go out clubbing all night
  • Eat quickly......................................Eat out
  • Water your lawn.............................Hire a gardener
  • Get kids dressed.............................Buy a new dress
  • Talk to self......................................Talk to therapist
  • Eat lots of chocolate........................Avoid chocolate (it's bad for you!)
Once again, it's obvious that I know what I am talking about.

Check your mail, I'm sending you a mirror.  Now get out there and put on some lipstick!

19-Year-Old You”

Oh, geesh. This girl is getting on my nerves. How can I retaliate? Oh, I know:

“Dear 19-Year-Old Me,

Check your mail. I'm sending you a lovely Jesus CD.  And a box of Godiva.  Enjoy!

Your Future Self”

(“My Old Version”)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

139. The Lunch Date

So the two of us are driving in the car to go out to lunch. It's a rare moment in time that it's just the two of us, so rare in fact, that I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t accompanied by Tall, Short, and The Husband.

Huh, this is kind of weird, I think, back to the old days, when the two of us were first introduced and we were virtually inseparable. 

“Where should we go to lunch do you think?” I query.

“Ummm, well, I know that you love Natalia’s, so I guess that’s fine with me, too.”

“Are you sure?” I ask tentatively. The last time I picked the restaurant, he had a negative experience and I got to hear about it the entire drive home.

“Yeah, I like Natalia’s.”

So it’s decided. I’m stopped at the light and my mind is already wandering to my future dessert choice..... …..mmmmm………panne cotta is really good. Or I could get a piece of chocolate cake, how can you go wrong with cake? I do like her chocolate mousse……… maybe a lemon tarte?

“Hey! The light’s green! Wake up!”

“Geesh, okay, you don’t have to yell at me,” I respond. 

"And will you change the radio station? I don't really like this song." 

"Uh, okay," I relent, fiddling with the dials.  Since when is he so particular about the music selection? 

I drive forward and start to change lanes.

“What are you doing?!? You didn’t even look to make sure there were no cars in that area,” he admonishes.

“What's your problem? I'm a great driver. You don’t need to tell me how to drive,” I reply tensely.

“Looks like I do,” he says under his breath.

“What was that?”

“I said, ‘Looks like I do,’” he repeats, like a bratty child.

“Sweetheart," I begin sarcastically, "You don’t have to talk to me that way.” What's wrong with him, I wonder. Is he stressed out about something?

“Well, it’s just that you’re not paying attention to the other cars and now you’re deaf too?” he baits.

“That’s it. You know what? I don’t even want to have lunch with you now. Let’s just go home.” Now I’m angry.

“I’m sorry,” he says sheepishly. He knows he's in the wrong.

We drive a few more blocks in silence.

“You just ran that stop sign by the way,” he can’t help himself.

“Do you want to drive?” I sneer.

“Yeah, actually, I DO! I WOULD LOVE TO DRIVE! PULL OVER AND LET ME DRIVE!” he smiles for the first time.

“Are you crazy? I’m not letting you drive, and besides we’re almost there now.” I roll my eyes.

“Why did you say I could drive then? Are you playing a game with me?”

“Honestly, Honey, I've had enough of your non-stop critique of my driving. It’s rude. I’m a grown woman who's been driving for many years before you came into my life. How do you think I passed my driver’s test without you sitting there instructing me anyway? Huh?” I'm ranting, which is definitely ruining the whole “happy vibe” I was going for with this lunch plan in the first place.

“Fine.” He looks out the window.

I pull into the parking lot just as another car is pulling out. It’s a tight space to maneuver. Just when I think I'm done with his soundtrack of back-seat driving, he pipes up again.

He shrieks, “You almost hit that car! You are a bad driver. You know what, Mommy? I’m going to have to tell Pop what a bad driver you really are.”

("Missing Other Vehicles")

Friday, September 17, 2010

138. Valedictorian

There are certain people that appear in your life in certain roles, certain functions if you will. For these specific people, you hope with all your might that they got straight A’s in school. They are:

  • Your Pilot
  • Your Brain Surgeon
  • Your Eye Surgeon
  • Your Pharmacist
  • Your Hostage Negotiator
  • Your Contractor
  • Your Car Designer
  • Your Hang-Gliding Instructor
  • Your Mountain Climbing Instructor
  • Your Surfing Instructor
  • Your Divorce Lawyer
You really don’t want someone who wasn’t paying attention that day or who possibly cheated off the “smartest” kid in the class.

Pilot: Damn, were we supposed to go to Paris, France or Paris, Texas? I always get those two confused. Oh, and do we have enough fuel if it is France? I really need some more coffee.  How do they measure fuel in France anyway, is it metric? is that something I need to worry about? you got A’s in Pilot School, didn’t you Co-pilot?

Brain Surgeon: Can you pass me that metal pointy-stick-thing, please? God, I forget the name of it again! No, no, not the one with blood all over it, the other one. Argh, I dropped it. Okay, the one with blood on it is all right I guess. Hurry up! I have a 3:30 tee time reserved.

Eye Surgeon: Nurse, this is such a simple surgery because honestly lasers do just about everything. The only real risk is if the laser is held in one place too long it can cause blindness, but that rarely happens. Hey, do you want to get a beer after work? There is this new brewery that just opened down the street. I tried it last week-end and I just got hammered!  So. Much. Fun.  Yeah, you want to go?  Ooops! (long silence) Well, good thing he has two eyes, huh?

Your Pharmacist: 100 mg, 1000 mg, 10,000 mg—wait, what was the right dosage? I can’t really decipher this doctor’s writing. Hmmm, can’t make that much difference I suppose. Gosh, maybe I should have been a fashion designer like I really wanted instead of going to pharmacy school like my dad wanted. I was never that good at math.

Your Hostage Negotiator: Release him now! What, you’re not going to release him? Fine. We don’t care. Just kill him then. Ha ha! We call your bluff! (loud bang) Uh, what was that noise?

Your Contractor:  They were out of 2 x 4's....... I think these 2 x 1's might work okay.  I hope.  Oh, and that metal I-beam?  It is super-duper expensive, so let's see if we can support the roof without it.  I'm betting we can.

Your Car Designer:  This is a dumb job.  God, I hate this job.  I always wanted to be on Broadway!  I have the voice for it, I just need to get an agent.  Maybe I should move to New York.  Who cares about these stupid petals and if they stick too much when you press them with your feet.   

Your Hang-Gliding Instructor: So the key thing to remember is always keep your chin down and your eyes up……… or, uh, no! eyes down and chin up, that’s it. I think. Anyway, you are securely belted in and you do have a parachute…….. oh, uh, looks like we forgot to fasten your parachute on. Dude, not good.

Your Mountain Climbing Instructor: Just be sure to hold on to this sticky-out piece of rock, just grab it then attach your metal hooky-doodles. Oh, you want to take a picture of that ravine? Nice camera!  Is that the new Nikon?  Yeah, I think that would make a good shot. Might be a tad back-lit, though.  Can you force the flash?  Here, I can hold your hooks for you…….. damn!

Your Surfing Instructor: Dude, it's so great to see older people like yourself taking an interest in surfing!  Hey, do you smoke weed, 'cause I scored some seriously good stuff today.  No?  Well, let me know if you change your mind.  Do you see that dolphin in the distance?  Wow, he's fast!  Look, he's almost to us now!  Uh, I sure hope it's a dolphin.  I've never seen sharks around here before.

Your Divorce Lawyer: He has absolutely zero rights, according to this ironclad pre-nup you had him sign. You'll get everything: the kids, the house, the vacation home, the cars, all the total liquid assets. Oh, wait..... this is the pre-nup YOU signed. That does change things a bit.

On second thought, you don’t want these individuals to have merely earned straight A’s; you pray that they were actually their class valedictorians.

(“Mindless Otherwise Vacant”)

137. Royalty

So it turns out my dear friend Sammi is royalty! All these years (okay, one) that I have known her, and she has never once mentioned it to me.

Frankly, I’m hurt. Truth be told, I found out in a rather awkward way. I just sent her a quick little email, you know, just to be nice, just to say hi and how was her latest trip to London (she typically goes there twice a month…. I guess that should have tipped me off a little sooner). Because you probably won’t believe me, here is the exact transcript of our most recent email exchange:
Hi Sammi,

How was London this time? Did you fly first class again? Anyone famous on board your flight (like Jeff Bridges, ha ha)?

Let me know when you get back and we can meet up at Starbucks (my treat).


We always fly in our private jet, which means the only famous people onboard were us.
I will try to call you if I get a chance, but this trip is pretty booked up with charity galas, etc.
I’ll be in touch.

(not sure if I can get you that poster from the National gallery this trip, maybe you should just order it online)
BTW, I own Starbucks

It is a limited edition signed poster, so it is NOT available online, which is the whole reason I asked you to get it for me. :(   That’s fine. I understand if you are too busy.

Ps—no one “owns” Starbucks, do they? oh, you mean stock

Uh, Sammi?

Haven’t heard back from you in several days, you must be back in Crazy Town, no? There’s a new movie out if you want to go see it with me!


I’m not back yet.

dining with William & Kate.

enough with the interruptions.

Hi Sam-Sam,

Ha ha, you are hilarious! Like “Prince” William and Kate! I can play along! Ok:
Sorry I interrupted your fun night out with William and Kate. (Is he as hot in person as the photos indicate?) I would not have emailed you at such a bad time, but I had no idea because you did not post it on Twitter. Do Will and Kate not do Twitter?

right after dinner we took the polo ponies out for a spin, so no time for twittering.

puh-leez. you think I have time for social networking when I'm with family!?

Lady Samantha
“Lady” Samantha!
Ha ha ha, that’s a good one!
"With family", like Royal Family--hilarious!!  You make me laugh so hard I snort coffee out my nose. 
So, seriously, what day do you get back this time?  Do you need a ride from the airport? 


Thank you for your offer to pick me up, but as I keep reminding you, the limo will be there like always. 

I might as well tell you (I try to keep this under wraps, but I feel I can confide in you):  William is my mother's 3rd cousin twice removed. I am 47th in line for the throne. Did I never mention this to you before? (In England I go by “Duchess” but I truly thought it sounded too pretentious here across the pond, so most people refer to me as "Lady".)

Lady S
S—You are so funny! You crack me up! All that time, I thought your “British” accent was fake! Ha ha ha!

Call me when you’re back.


I’m glad that you think it’s funny, but I was being serious. I try to live a low-key life, and keep things as normal as possible, but are you trying to tell me you honestly had NO IDEA?

I thought that 5 carat diamond ring was fake.
It’s real. So is the matching necklace.  (Did you think I could afford that one a mere writer's salary?!)


As you can well imagine, Reader, I am dumbfounded by the news. I can no longer swear in front of her, and I certainly cannot try to tell her what I-previously-considered-to-be-funny anecdotes, like the time my bikini top fell off when I was in 8th grade.

I will try to look on the bright side: maybe she’ll treat me to Starbucks or at least invite me on her private jet?

(“Mockery Or Valid?”)

136. Bonbons

Dear Diary,

Today was a disaster. Soon after I got Short off to preschool, I realized that we were out of bonbons. As you can imagine, I was devastated. How could this have happened?

(The last time I sent our Errand Boy to the market, I made sure he purchased extra so I would always have enough on hand. It makes me suspicious that he possibly scavenged a few when I wasn’t looking?)

My afternoon was ruined. Imagine: just as I was sitting down at 1 PM with my first glass of Chardonnay to watch Oprah, I reach for the box of bonbons and realize it’s EMPTY.

My mind was racing. What should I do now? I can’t watch Oprah without my bonbons! I started to panic. There was absolutely no laundry to do, the house was immaculate (as usual), the frig was fully stocked (well, other than the bonbons), dinner was made in advance (natch), errands were already done, all bills paid, emails caught up, phone calls returned.


I did not like this disruption in my routine. Finally, I realized that I would have to be more adaptable and try to adjust my schedule accordingly: I took my two-hour nap earlier than usual.

(“Mom’s Our Viticulturist”)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

135. Spell-Check

Deer Readers,

As someone who likes to right, I sea the benefit of a tool like Spell-check. Ewe may have herd that its a grate invention; in fact, every won I no uses it two—I personally use it at leased several times a weak.

(They’re is a lot at steak hear; I don’t wont my writing to embarrass me………. too sum, it might seam trivial, but I halve know patients four people who don’t bother too use Spell-check. Honestly, its knot a waist of time. Better two air on the side of caution.)

Thyme after thyme, if I just weight for Spell-check to scan my hole document, it will correct any errors that I might right. If their is a word I have mist, aisle just due a simple “click-click” of a button, and Spell-check will fined it four me! It will identify witch word is incorrect. (Sum times, I might even have seven oar ate mistakes.) You can’t say know to a feature like that! When you are threw, you are aloud two altar the word.

Next time you our board, wok to the kitchen and get yourself a glass of whine, than pick up a book or magazine to reed. When you stop and paws, yule see that the writer used Spell-check. I’d love to meat the won who invented it—he new the value of this tool.  (Remember that it was me who tolled ewe about it!)

As ewe can sea, eye even used Spell-check hear—I wood be sew lost without it. Of coarse I use it! Weed shed many a tier oar go crazy if we had to correct everything ourselves (how bazaar and what a pane that wood be). You can have piece of mind knowing that Spell-check will never let ewe down; you don't have two just prey that you used the write word.  As weave scene, Spell-check is vary use full; eye mite not be able to right without it!

(“Mist Obligatory Verbiage”)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

134. Brain Candy

I admit that I don't always make the best choices.  I find myself in a continual battle between the Smart Part of my brain (that underused 3%), the math skills part of my brain (17%) and the rest of it (99%).  My internal conflict goes something like this:

The Smart Part of Brain:  I know how we could be smarter and better at math!
The Rest:  Stop pestering me, I'm watching "The Bachelor".
Smart Part:  That's my whole point, we need to read more, or at the very least attempt a simple Soduko puzzle.  They make an "Easy Beginner Level"—I think it's targeted at 5th graders.
The Rest:  Huh?  How about later?  This is a new episode.

The main problem with the Smart Part of my brain is that it likes to make me feel guilty approximately 29 hours per day.  It somehow superimposes a grid of "positive choices" over the blueprint of my regular activities.  Here is a running list of what the Smart Part thinks I "should" be doing vs. what the Lazy Regular Me actually ends up doing:

  • Reading Proust…….. reading "sTori Telling", by Tori Spelling
  • Perusing Newsweek ................perusing People magazine 
  • Learning about Sarah Palin's political aspirations..... learning about Bristol Palin's romantic liaisons
  • Doing the New York Times crossword puzzle... doodling little egg people while I gossip on the phone
  • Learning Italian……...........................ordering pizza
  • Reading Baudelaire (in French)….......eating French fries
  • Studying the philosophy of Descartes ... Googling quotes
  • Reading The Washington Post...............posting on my blog 
  • Watching a French movie with subtitles.... getting a French manicure
  • Writing my novel……..... jotting down novel vacation ideas (snorkeling in Iceland!)
  • Memorizing math formulas.... thanking God that I no longer have to memorize math formulas
  • Learning to sail………...................... hitting Nordstrom’s sale
  • Reading parenting books…....... placing unread parenting books gingerly in the Goodwill donation bag
  • Always being interested in what others (including own children) are saying….....… pretending to be interested in what others are saying
  • Facing a book...................................checking out Facebook
  • Balancing checkbook online….. ordering new skirt from J.Crew online
  • Volunteering at a soup kitchen …… volunteering to host a happy hour
  • Disapproving of commercialism…….watching YouTube

That latest YouTube video was (coincidentally) all about making yourself smarter; I wonder if it started working on me yet? 

(“Malleable Obsequious Virtues”)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

133. Proper Bus-Stop Attire

So it is 8:15 AM and we are all huddling at the school bus-stop under the first light drizzly rain of the season. Annabelle walks her sons across the street and I immediately notice her couture lavender dress embroidered with white stitching at the hem and accompanied by impossibly-high silver stilettos. (The rain instinctively knows to leave Annabelle and her velvet hair ribbons alone.) Yesterday, she wore the smart black linen pantsuit with cherry red suede shoes, chunky Bakelite vintage necklace and sparkly eyeliner. The first day of school was the avocado green skirt with circles and the brown cropped jacket with orange sandals (orange! and it worked!).

I can’t keep up. Unlike me, who rotates between my standard two variations of the momiform (sweats, or actual-pajama-bottoms-masquerading-as-sweats) and considers it a “good day” if I found time to brush my hair, Annabelle consistently wears a different (and professionally ironed) outfit Every. Single. Day.  I have now come to other painful realization that she must own 365 outfits. She is not merely a clothes horse, she is a one-woman Clothes Stable.

The lovely Annabelle radiates elegance. Like fairy dust, you can feel a little wafting your direction if you stand near her. Cars driving by that aren’t even lost stop and ask her for directions: she is that magnetic. The group status is elevated when she is present.

Once I got up the nerve to ask her what her job was.  "Consultant," she smiled broadly, her garnet lipstick framing her blindingly white teeth.  I nodded as if I understood.  Consultant for what I wondered later that evening, Consultant for-giving-your-neighbors-a-complex-because-they-look-like-slobs?  

But honestly, I don’t really care that she is breathtakingly beautiful or that she has a great sassy haircut or that she is a size 2 or even that she has enough money for 365 outfits with coordinating shoes. (Must I admit that she is super-nice and funny and engaging too?) I don’t want to discuss how she manages to pull it all off before most of us have had our morning double-shot espresso.

No. What I want to talk about is her closet.

Annabelle lives a few houses up the street from me, in a 1940’s brick Cape Cod that is the mirror image of my house. The appraiser tells me that my little three-bedroom house is roughly 1600 square feet, with approximately 2 cubic inches of that devoted to closets. Which begs the question: where is Annabelle storing all her clothes?

Did she purge her husband's apparel and now makes him wear the same thing to work every day so that she can have more prime closet real estate? Do they eat standing up in the kitchen so that the dining room can be her de facto dressing area? Are her cars abandoned to brave the elements while the former garage has been converted to a wardrobe and styling Mecca worthy of a Hollywood production?

I finally figured it out: I think her four kids all share one tiny bedroom so that she could convert the other bedroom into a walk-in closet just for her.

Now I really hate her. She is not just well-dressed, but also a genius.

(“Mondays:  Observe Velvet”)

Monday, September 13, 2010

132. Puppet

I vaguely remember what my life was like when I, MOV, was in control of my schedule. I kept my word, showed up to things I'd promised to attend, called people back in a timely manner, returned emails within a few hours, and occasionally went to the gym. In sum, I had a life.

I WAS ALWAYS ON TIME TO EVERYTHING. As a former flight attendant, time was of the utmost importance in my life (as we liked to joke in the Crew Lounge, if you are 5 minutes late, the jetway door is already shut and your airplane has taken off—literally; start looking for a new job, because you just got fired). I became obsessively early.

Six and a half years ago, I found myself thrown violently into a different life, a life ruled by a very short, noisy, demanding person—a person who (inconveniently) spoke not a word of English. He chose to communicate in a primitive way with grunts, cries, and sometimes laughter (in retrospect, I think it might have been the “mocking” kind of laughter). Additionally, he somehow never looked at his watch to determine when he was hungry or tired or happy or sick. It was HIS schedule, not mine.

Two years after that, another noisy interloper joined the ranks, and he had his own ideas about schedules (namely, that they were stupid). We threw all our clocks in the trash. I’m no longer a puppet to United Airlines; I’m a puppet to my sons.

Time morphs in strange ways when you are a mother. It bends and contracts and stretches, never when you want it to. The magic of Christmas morning? over in 2 seconds. Waiting for someone to finish pooping? 45 minutes. Brothers entertaining themselves quietly by drawing? 3 minutes (max). Waiting to pick someone up from swimming lessons when it is 110 degrees out? 4 hours. Being able to fit in the adorable and super-expensive hand-knit airplane sweater? 1 day. Brushing their teeth when you are late and have to leave right-now-this-second? 20 minutes.

The irony is not lost on me that when I say, “Hurry hurry hurry!” to them, it is not for something I necessarily want (like a massage or a sample sale at Barney’s); no. This Hurry Business is so they can get to their soccer game or their playdate or their art camp. All the activities are now kid-centric.

How did this happen I find myself wondering as I distribute juice boxes to thirsty children while standing in the playground for a group playdate on a random Friday afternoon from 4 to 6 PM. When did I downgrade from Pinot Grigio to apple juice? (That’s right, not even my happy hour is mine anymore.) Why are my conversations about Curious George movies instead of George Clooney flicks? (and why have I memorized the prices, release dates, and availability of all StarWars Lego sets?)

It has become abundantly clear to me that I need to reclaim some special MOV time, time that belongs to me and me alone. I would like to officially announce that everyone needs to leave me alone every day from 2—3:30 AM. Thank you.

(“Monologue Of Virtue”)

131. Conversation

We’re in the car driving to go out to dinner when the following exchange between The Husband and our 4-year-old takes place:

Short: You’re not much smart, Pop.
The Husband: But I feel smart!
Short: Well, you don’t look it.

("Might Overhear Variations")

Saturday, September 11, 2010

130. Amusement Parking

We're on this crazy ride, we've been here several times before—the kids love it. The lights go out, they know the good part is coming—they're delirious with anticipation. I remind them to adjust their safety belts super-tight (The Husband smirks—has anyone EVER in the history of the world been injured on this deceptively simple ride?). We're all grinning, especially me, because the last time we came here this ride was inexplicably closed.

Here we go!

Eight thousand giant octopus arms lunge towards us, giving new meaning to the term “3-D”. Even though the rational part of me realizes that we are protected and safe, I feel like I could almost reach out to touch the components of the ride—a feat in engineering. Whoever came up with this concept is a genius (and probably a multi-millionaire to boot).

Thump-thump-thump! Whoooooosh, whirrrrr! Damn, they have great sound effects. (Truth be told, even though I remember this classic from my own childhood, I had blocked out the sounds—was it always this loud? or am I just getting old?) Now the water part (or should I say, the “appearance” of water). It's so life-like, I can practically feel the rain. First a quiet storm builds. Suddenly a Category 3 Hurricane! The ride is bumpy. Metal screeches (is it supposed to sound like that?).

I look at Short’s face: he alternates between having the time of his life and sheer terror. I'm relieved—no tears yet. “Mommy! Listen,” his face nothing but two giant blue orbs reflecting drops of "rain", every time here the first time.

The violent hurricane is over, now we're entering the loud wind tunnel (the sound is deafening, forcing me to contemplate ear plugs for the next adventure here). Tornado! We experience every version of the weather firsthand. I feel like we are being pushed to another dimension.

Like all wonderful amusement park rides, this one's over way too fast. Tall and Short say in unison, “Again!” and The Husband and I both laugh, because we know we'd have to wait in that long line all over again. Once I complete this ride, I don’t feel compelled to go back right away. Maybe another time.

The Husband runs his hand through his hair as if the “water” really did get him. He shakes his head, then reaches for my hand. He leans in to me and says conspiratorially, “Hon, they sure do love that, don’t they?” I nod.

Secretly, this has always been my favorite, too. (I had always hoped the boys would like this even though they were small. I used to try to take them on it, telling myself that this time would be different: please, God, no tantrums! Complete strangers loved to offer their unsolicited opinions—it might scare them, they're not old enough yet. These nosy people would stare at us, judging me for ignoring their well-intentioned warnings—it’s too loud, they’d scowl, or you’ll be sorry—it’ll just make him cry! Ha! If they could see us now. The risk has obviously paid off.)

The Husband whispers, “No one cried this time. I think they might finally be ready for Disney World. They’re old enough now, they could handle Disney, don’t you think?” He is reading my mind. 

Our car wash days are over.

(“Magical Otherworldly Vehicle”)

129. My Past-Tense Future Self

When I was in college, I spent a lazy summer semester “studying” (if you can call it that) in the central Loire Valley, where the vast majority of the historic castles in France are located. Of course, I was impressed by everything: the food, the scenery, the history, the fashion, the architecture, the art, the people. Aaaahh, j’adore toutes les choses Francais.

But the thing that impressed me the most was this random woman I saw on the train: My room-mate April and I are in the middle of our two-hour train journey to Paris, inhaling the typical student diet of chocolate eclairs and Orangina soda, when She steps onboard.

She is in her early forties, tan, petite, slim, with flawless skin and sculptured bone structure, and She is stunningly beautiful (typical French). She’s traveling with her cover-model husband and their two precious children. Her honey-colored hair is long, luxurious, and wavy—She could be an ad for conditioner. She sports a classic outfit: a navy and white striped boat-neck top, khaki capris, crisp white tennies, a Hermes scarf tied around her wrist (wrist? why have I never thought to tie a silk scarf around my wrist? is that even allowed—wrist? The most daring I ever get—if I deviate at all from the standard and quite boring scarf around the neck—is ponytail scarf), pearls around her neck, and big bold silver hoops making their own statement (that would be “bling!”) near her ears.

I also notice that She is carrying a smart chartreuse leather attaché—is she going to do a little work in between sight-seeing? (What fabulous job does she have? Because I know it must be fabulous.) The reason She impresses me so is that She possesses this certain Grace Kelly “air” about her, as if everything is effortless. It takes no exertion on her part to be beautiful—She just is. She is confident and in control. Her husband dotes on her, and her young children exhibit ideal behavior for the duration of our train ride (the adult me now realizes She must’ve Benadryl-ed ‘em up ahead of time).

I nudge April with my elbow.

“Do you see that lady? That’s me,” I whisper with all the certainty of a teen-ager who Has All Life’s Answers.

April rubs her eyes; she must’ve been dozing. “What?”

“That lady. Her! That’s me!”

“I don’t know what you mean, MOV,” April gives me a quizzical look.

“I mean, the Future Me. She is exactly who I want to be. Look at those calves!”

April interjects, “My God, she must run 10 miles a day!”

“Exactly! And look at her outfit. Look at her family. She’s perfect! Mark my words, when I am her age, I will be her. That's my new goal in life.”

“I thought you wanted to be an architect?”

“Nope. Not anymore. I want to be Miss French Model.”

“Well, you’ve got a point: I would take her husband—he’s pretty hot,” my pal grins slyly.

“Not just the husband, though, everything,” I reiterate.

“I’ll bet her apartment is messy,” April adds, trying to console us.

“You mean house,” I correct. “Wait, no, chateau. Yeah, I’ll bet her chateau is tres disorganize.”

This realism gives us a sliver of hope; no one can have everything. She sure as hell seems to. Anyone with eyeballs would describe her with the phrase: “pulled together”.

Flash forward twenty years. Am I She? Do I have everything She had?
  • Husband? Check!
  • Darling kids? Check!
  • Job I love? Check!
  • But am I "pulled together"? Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ho ho hee ha ha! I am the antithesis of “pulled together”; I am “pulled apart”.
And all those lovely adjectives that one could use to describe She? Would anyone apply those words to me?
  • Petite? no.
  • Slim? no.
  • Flawless skin? no.
  • Sculptured bone structure? no.
  • Stunningly beautiful? no.
  • Classic? no.
  • Grace Kelly “air”? no.
  • Effortless? no.
  • Well-behaved children? uh, no.
  • In control? bwa ha ha ha! Perfect? clearly no.
How does She do it? How does this other-worldly Venus manage to exist here on along side us mere mortals on planet Earth? I would still love to be She (her looks, her polish, her ease, her finesse, her confidence), if I only had the magic formula. But I am just too exhausted all the time to be She. Even now, twenty years later, I remember She vividly. I tell myself that I COULD be She, if I really really wanted to. I just have to eat healthier, work out three hours a day, have weekly facials, get nine hours of sleep at night, shop at Neiman’s (and have the budget to match), accessorize my outfits, get my hair high-lighted and cut more than once per year (and maybe get a few behavior-modification classes for the kids). 

Why don’t I do all that? I know why: no one would recognize me.

(“Matriarch On Venus”)

Friday, September 10, 2010

128. Pee

(Letter to the Current Me, From the 19-Year-Old Me)

“Dear Mrs. MOV,

Could you please show a little restraint and common decency by not allowing (or even encouraging) your boys to pee outside?

I am 19 and know everything, and one of the main things I know is that you are embarrassing yourself! Do you think your neighbors like to see your boys peeing by your side bushes or front tree all the time? They are all going to have to buy curtains! Have you never heard of a bathroom?

The thing that bothers me the most is that you act like toddlers and young boys give you no warning ... do you really think that they have no advance notice? Is it even possible that a small child could be that wrapped up in playing that he is completely oblivious to his body's signals? and are you actually that busy that you can’t take them in? Do you think they are going to wet their pants or something? does that even happen?

No, it does not. Once human beings are out of diapers at age 1 ½, then they know to go in the toilet and they give themselves adequate time to get there. And, okay, let's say for argument's sake that they did not get to the bathroom in time. Guess what? You can change their little outfit! It's not a big deal to change their clothes and toss them in the laundry! The maid can wash them later.

Or, if you happen to be in a public place and this happens, I'm sure you must always have an extra change of clothes with you just in case. (Additionally, I should point out that peeing outside must be illegal, too! Have you ever heard of indecent exposure! You are probably setting yourself up for a fine or maybe even a lawsuit!)

What all this boils down to is this: do yourself a favor and take your sons INSIDE the house when they need to use the bathroom.

19-Year-Old You”

Huh. How do I even respond to that? Oh, I know:

“Dear 19-Year-Old MOV,

I hope that words taste good, because you’ll be eating those soon enough.


The Future MOV aka, the mommy-of-two-boys-who-have-to-go-right-this-second-otherwise-have-their-3rd-accident-of-the-day PS—and just so you know, NOTHING embarrasses me anymore.

Best wishes, hon."

(“Meet Our Vandals”)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

127. Ah ah ah

Does anyone else do this? When my kids are doing something bratty and I want them to stop, I make this kooky noise like Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-eh-eh-eh-eh! The Husband says I sound like a parakeet. He says, “Why do you do that? you sound stupid and you should know that if you are trying to get the kids to stop doing something, it’s completely ineffective.” I sound stupid? I don’t think I sound stupid. I think I sound like a mom who is (potentially) going to lose it. Why do I make that weird sound? I think it’s because while the Annoying And Possibly Dangerous Thing is occurring (jumping from furniture piece to furniture piece, swinging cat like a doll, intentionally pouring glass of milk all over steak, etc), I am so flabbergasted by what they’re doing that I’m rendered temporarily speechless. “Ah-ah-ah,” is all that comes out of my pathetic little voice box. Additionally, I DO believe it makes them stop doing the Annoying And Possibly Dangerous Thing. Or at least wonder when the parakeet flew into the room. MOV ("Mom's Our Ventriloquist")

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

126. Vocabulary

Parents use a peculiar brand of vocabulary, one that is unique to their species. Try as they might to remain "hip" and "cool", they fail miserably. Whereas single people with no children have a penchant for saying things like "stay up all night" (when, in fact, they are referring to attending a really great concert and going to the after-party and hanging with the band), that identical phrase when uttered by a parent invokes unhappy images of colicky babies and projectile vomiting. Here are a few key phrases that parents say daily, and childless people never even get to say once a year:
  • Get your feet off him
  • The stove is on, don’t touch it again
  • Do you need to poop?
  • Who put my necklace under the washing machine?
  • Let him get in the car first if it matters that much to him
  • Do we have to cry about everything?
  • His piece of cake is the EXACT same size as your piece
  • Yes, the Lego-invader-tower-rescue-center-for-space you built is really cool!
  • Did you just hit him on the head with that bat on purpose?
  • You sit there and don’t move for 4 minutes until you can say sorry
  • Why are there Rollerblades in the tub?
  • No, you can’t have a sip of my wine
  • Who used green magic marker on the cat?
  • You must eat two bites of peas
  • Do I eat peas? Uh, yes, I love all foods
  • The toy store is closed on Tuesdays
  • I mean Fridays
  • Spit those Lego’s out right now
  • Hold the railing! I said, hold the railing!
  • Don’t try to trip him, that’s mean
  • What if I tried to trip you?
  • Don’t put any more chocolate chips in my purse—they melt
  • Please stop wasting the band-aids
  • Three band-aids is more than enough
  • Don’t touch that! It’s dog poop
  • Yes, I’m sure it’s dog poop
  • I don’t have to touch it to know, I just know
  • Santa knows everything
  • The tooth fairy will not pay for teeth that have not been brushed on a regular basis
  • Did you forget to wear underwear again?
  • Don’t put tape on the cat’s feet, she doesn’t like it
  • I like your pretty drawing of a bus!
  • I mean house….
  • Stop pouring my shampoo in the toilet!
  • When you are the boss you can go to Baskin-Robbins every day for breakfast
  • You may not wear your pajamas to the library
  • I already know my roots are gray, you do not have to point it out

MOV ("Missing Our Vanity")

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

125. Test

So they didn’t tell me that there would be another test. Tomorrow is the first day of school. As usual, I am not Prepared. Even though I thought I was done with school, what, 19 years ago? apparently I was wrong.

So here I sit, facing the first test of the season. Seems innocuous enough, just a couple forms to fill out: your child's address, who has your permission to pick up your child from the bus-stop, does your child have scary allergies, stuff like that. Then why am I having flashbacks to my procrastination-laden college days?

Is it really that crucial that I get these papers filled out the very first day? What is the worst that can happen? I am the parent now, for God’s sake! They can’t do anything to me! I am a grown-up (finally) which means that I get to make the rules!

Oh, why do I wait until the night before to actually read what was in the Important Official Envelope that my son’s school mailed out back in July?

“Dear Parent/ or Guardian,

It has come to our attention that you are a complete loser and never fill out forms. We have dealt with your kind before.



The Principal of Crazy Town Fabulous Elementary”

You have to hand it to them, their scare tactics work.

(“Must Outline Validity”)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

124. Lunch Wars

School starts back in a few days. You have been planning (and rejoicing in advance) for this moment all summer. Why then, are you suddenly getting an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach, a feeling that can only be described as……….. Dread? Because of the Lunch Wars.

All last year, you dealt with The Lunch Wars, and apparently you have them to look forward to for the next 12 years. Have you repressed this fun memory already? Try to think back:

Day 1: You innocently enough pack your child’s lunch into a trim little red Toy Story 2 lunch box that he himself picked out at Target in July (you dragged yourself and your son there way back when it was 100 degrees to get a jump on the “good” lunch boxes before they were sold out and your son might get stuck with—gasp!—a solid navy blue one). Additionally, you went above and beyond by asking him the night before if he had any special food requests (one rice crispy treat, an innocent wish that you did grant). So far, so good. You put some baby carrots in there, some fresh apple slices, and you made a decent sandwich with ham taking the starring role (truth be told, the sandwich was only composed of ham and bread because your child will not tolerate lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mustard, mayonnaise or anything resembling a sauce or topping of any kind). Whew—it took some effort, but you did it! A yummy lunch that he will eat!

Not so fast, sister. When your child gets home, he is in tears. Understandably, you go to comfort him (was he bullied on the playground? ignored by his teacher? did he spill paint on his art project? perhaps he had separation anxiety and missed you terribly?). He wants you to “Get away now!” because, you soon find out, you were the one who (unwittingly?) caused him this distress.

“Today was pizza day!” he bellows, about 6 inches from your face. “I went to use my secret code to buy pizza, but,” (sniffle, sniffle) “my secret code didn’t work because you didn’t sign me up to buy lunch!” (angry glare) “Almost all the other kids bought lunch and I had to eat dumb ol' carrots and apple on the special day: PIZZA DAY!” (again, for emphasis).

Wow, you screwed up. All this time, you (mistakenly) thought that if you packed a healthy lunch with an acceptable treat, you would be home free. Uh, no. You get on the computer that very night. Much clicking of bank codes and restricted passwords and hefty deposits into lunch accounts takes place. You can sleep now and go back to your dreams about cameras and exotic trips to South America.

Day 2: You vow to get this right. Just to confirm that he does in fact prefer to buy lunch today, you wisely show him the school calendar announcing the meal (macaroni and cheese). His face lights up, “Mom! I LOVE macaroni and cheese! I knew this would be a great school for me!” You grab the newspaper, because you now have time to read the Style section, as you have been granted a day’s reprieve from lunch-box-packing duty.

3 PM rolls around. He bounds off the bus. You are watching carefully—was today a Good Day? He hugs you and tells you his favorite part: you guessed it, the delicious macaroni and cheese (“A million times better than the one you make, Mom!”).

Day 3: This is getting easy. You both scan the menu. Today’s offering is deemed Acceptable (chicken nuggets). You are starting to wonder if maybe you can return the Toy Story 2 lunch box and possibly even exchange it for a couple magazines to read when you are through with your lovely newspaper, what with the abundance of free time you now have.

He gets off the bus on Day 3 with an ugly scowl. Someone has done him wrong, and he is looking for her (uh, that would be you). What now? You wonder to yourself if you can do anything right (answer: no). Once in the door (he amazingly has the good sense not to start yelling at you in front of the other Bus-Stop Mommies the very nanosecond his foot hits the pavement stepping off the bus—a favor you will most likely return in his teen-age years when you refrain from criticizing him in front of his peers), he unleashes a torrent of bitterness: “MOMMY! You made me eat a school lunch! And it was spinach pinwheels! Do you know how icky spinach pinwheels are? They are completely green AND they were even covered in a green sauce! I couldn’t eat any of it! Paul had to give me some of his Chips Ahoy cookies so I wouldn’t just fall down and starve! It’s all your fault! You've ruined my life!”

When you recover from the latest episode from Mr. Drama (and shouldn't you be looking into getting that kid an agent in New York or Hollywood at some point in the near future?) you realize that you don’t even know what a spinach pinwheel is. It have to admit that it doesn’t sound appealing.

In a futile attempt to defend yourself, you drag your child to the kitchen and show him the calendar stuck to the refrigerator. For the date in question, in clear black letters it says, “Chicken Nuggets”. See? You say to your child. See, it was not Mommy’s fault this time (you very much need to grasp onto that one little piece of gold you found: “this time”). Then, you catch a glimpse of the bottom of the calendar and you see an asterisk and in teeny tiny writing with a font size of about a 3, “Food Services may make appropriate substitutions on an as-needed basis if supply runs low.”

(“Munching Other Vittles”)