Sunday, February 27, 2011

341. 26.2

So a few years back, The Husband became possessed with the idea of running a marathon. Now, he’s an athletic guy (football, baseball, basketball, bike riding), but I had never known him to be a runner. I having been running my entire life, and it is one thing I can do relatively well … but even I know my limitations. No marathon for this girl. I would be cheering from the sidelines because the furthest I had ever run was 10 miles, and that was about four too many.

Books about training were purchased. Special foods and healthy snacks were procured. The merits of various running shoes were compared on the internet. Fancy charts were printed to explain to me his Training Regime (if you talk to anyone who has run a marathon or is planning to run a marathon, they can talk all day about their special Training Regime). He was quite insistent about how his training of running 10 or 15 miles per day was not going to impact our lives at all. (Did I mention the ages of our children at this point? I didn’t? They were three and one.)

The Husband was getting up at 5 AM to drive to a nearby area with waterfalls and running paths. He was running in the evening after work. I’m not 100% sure, but he was probably running on his lunch break at work.

He liked to drop the fact of his running into casual conversation whenever he could. It was sort of like bragging. The phone would ring, and I would hear him chat merrily for a couple minutes and then he’d say to the caller, “Gosh, you know, I’d really love to, but I can’t. I have to run because I’m training for a marathon. Sorry.” He’d hang up the phone and I’d ask who he was talking to. “I don’t know, it was a salesperson.”

This went on for a good eight or nine months. I was not happy. Remember, I also like to run, but my running suddenly became a lower priority because I was not training-for-a-marathon. If The Husband came home from work at 5 PM and I went to hand him the crying baby and tell him the toddler needed a bath and could he please accomplish all this while I went for a 40 minute run, he would give me that look (you know the one: like you are extremely forgetful?) and say, “Uh, Hon, remember I’m training-for-a-marathon. Today is my ‘on’ day, so I gotta get in a quick eight miles, at least.” End of discussion.

I did the baths, I did the dinner (even though I don’t cook), all the while I could feel my thighs morphing from semi-acceptable to just plain fat. Grrrrrrr.

The day finally came, the day of the actual marathon, and no one was happier than me. I thought that once he ran it, he could finally abandon his Training Regime. Because the marathon he chose happens to be world-famous, the crowds were ridiculous. We agreed that my in-laws would come to our house to babysit the children while I would meet up with The Husband at the finish line. He gave me strict instructions to bring several liters of water with me in case he might be dehydrated after the long race.

I dutifully stood at the finish line looking for him at the appointed time. (He had told me that in all his practice runs, he was able to easily complete the distance in about four hours, so I should be there maybe a few minutes before that.) I cheered on random runners as my eyes scanned the crowd looking for The Husband. I saw young people, old people, military people, handicapped people, but I did not see The Husband. I kept thinking, he will be in this next group for sure.

Two hours went by. I was convinced that I had somehow missed him (had he completed the race in only three hours due to the adrenalin rush?). I was just about to leave, when I finally saw him, limping along to the finish line. I ran over near him and started screaming, “Yay! You can do it! You are almost there! You’re doing great!” as he crawled across the line. I handed him some water and gave him a hug. He seemed in a daze.

“I don’t feel good,” he said, as he drank the last bit of water I handed him. Well, yeah, you did just run a marathon. I don’t think you’re supposed to feel good.

We got on the metro with all the other runners and their families and headed back home. The in-laws handed off the kids and congratulated The Husband for achieving his life-long dream.

The Husband lay in bed for a long time, his marathon medal still around his neck. “Hon?” he called out, “I really don’t feel good. I, uh, I think you might need to call an ambulance for me.”

Since I myself was a runner, I thought The Husband might be overreacting a teensy bit. “Sweetie,” I heard myself say, “Just drink a little more water and I will go Google your symptoms.”

I went to the computer and typed in “marathon” and “feeling sick.” 152,000 results popped up. Seems like it was pretty typical for people to feel ill after their first long race.

In the meantime, The Husband stumbled out of bed and called 911. A fire-truck appeared in front of our house in about two minutes (we had the good fortune of living near a fire station).

Our older son, Tall, was at the window shrieking. At first, I thought he was upset about this nasty turn of events and his father being ill. No. Turns out he was just excited that the fire truck stopped at our house. “Can I see all their equipment?” he asked sweetly, “And will they let me turn on their siren?”

The paramedics were fabulous and quickly loaded The Husband into their vehicle. I phoned the next-door neighbor Helga to come watch our children so I could accompany him to the hospital. Upon arrival at the hospital, the wonderful doctors asked a million questions (which I had to answer because The Husband was so out of it—this should have been a clue for me that something was frighteningly wrong) and ran a million tests. They determined that he had OVER-hydrated and flushed all the crucial electrolytes right out of his system. (All this time I thought I was being helpful by giving him more water, I was actually killing him.)

Five saline solution bags and one overnight stay later, The Husband was back to his old self. The doctor had said she could sign his release papers if he could eat a big breakfast (he ate two) and walk unassisted (he did).

I drove The Husband home, and as we pulled into the driveway he said, “I think that was my last marathon.”

Good, I thought, that makes two of us.

A few weeks later, his special plaque arrived in the mail. There was a lovely photo of The Husband running the marathon, and his name and running time were engraved under the name of the event. I handed it to him when he got home from work that night.

“Wow,” he said, while he lovingly caressed the shiny plaque and a dreamy look came over his face. “You know, the race wasn’t that bad … maybe I’ll do it again.”

("Marathon's Objectionable Victory")

Friday, February 25, 2011

340. How To Plan A Vacation In 18 Easy Steps

  • Step 1: Discuss with husband projected dollar amount anticipated for this year’s tax refund (based on last year). Have that number in mind as overall budget.
  • Step 2: Deem that your sons (four and seven years old) are the “right age” for Disney World, and choose that as your destination.
  • Step 3: Go on Amazon and order two books: “So You Wanna Go To Disney” and “Mouse Magic.”
  • Step 4: Be vaguely irked when “Mouse Magic” arrives first and you realize that it is not, as you had thought, a book about planning a Disney trip, but instead is Michael Eisner’s autobiography. Read anyway. Be impressed and inspired, and vow to become a CEO of some company, somewhere, sometime in the near future.
  • Step 5: Get out a very official 8½ x 14 pad of paper and start writing down Important Notes about crucial aspects of trip. Write down “invite sister” because you would love to treat her and her husband to a dream vacation (plus she could be a built-in babysitter). Write down “buy new camera” because although yours is quite nice, you will need a better one with multiple lenses and F-stops and apertures and flashes and light meters to record every joyous moment of your vacation. Write down “9 days” because you think this would be the ideal amount of time for your vacation. Write down “no connections” and underline it twice because taking connecting flights is really just for people being cheap.
  • Step 6: Lose patience waiting for other book from Amazon and go online to do initial research. Gasp when you type in “Disney vacation” and Google produces 6,030,000 results.
  • Step 7: Decide that you must stay “on site” at the Disney hotel-that-the-monorail-goes-through. Look at prices.
  • Step 8: Decide not to pay for sister and her husband after all.
  • Step 9: Get frustrated and upset when realizing Things Look Expensive.  Decide current camera is fine. Decide 6 days is plenty of time for a nice vacation. Decide that saving $422 by connecting is not “cheap,” it is smart. 
  • Step 10:  Call Disney's 800 number to find out about package deals.  Talk to Carlie-The-Mousecation-Specialist. Tell her what you want (airfare, hotel, tickets to park) and what your budget is. Tell yourself that the muffled laughter you hear from Carlie is just her being positive and cheery.
  • Step 11: Determine that you don’t really “need” to stay at the monorail hotel. Try not to be offended when Carlie recommends Disney’s budget motel outside of Orlando (“located in nearby Lockhart”). Try not to yell “WHAT?!?” when Carlie informs you the room rate for this property is $219 per night.
  • Step 12: Start doodling on paper $219 x 6, + airfare = ? Realize that you don’t know the exact price of park passes. When Carlie tells you passes cost $75 per person per day, consider leaving husband and possibly one son at home (which son will be determined by a coin toss). Decide instead that a Disney vacation is best, really, as a weekend escape.
  • Step 13: Realize that you did not calculate the cost of meals into your budget. Ask Carlie about meal plans.
  • Step 14: Try not to cry when Carlie tells you the cost of meal plans.  Refrain from saying, "PER PERSON?!?"  Try to realize that Carlie is just doing her job when she tells you that you must book the “Character reservations” to join Mickey Mouse for breakfast a full six months in advance.
  • Step 15: Consider hanging up on Carlie, but instead say politely, “You have been very helpful, Carlie, let me think it over and give you a call back.”
  • Step 16: Go to the kitchen to get yourself a (free) glass of orange juice. Gasp when you notice the ancient refrigerator is leaking water (again) in huge puddles all over the glass shelves inside and ruining your strawberries. 
  • Step 17: Go back to the computer and Google “refrigerator prices.”
  • Step 18: Call the husband at work and tell him where you will go for your vacation: Home Depot.
(“My Orlando Vacation”)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

339. Baked

I’m a phenomenal baker. I brag about this (self-taught) skill all the time, especially when I’m working at the high-end kitchen store. I toss out very advanced technical jargon like “spatula,” “whisk,” or even “cookie sheet” with alarming regularity.

So imagine my surprise when I brought home my newest trophy (an enticing cookbook simply entitled “Say Yes To Chocolate”) only to be stopped by the very first recipe I attempted. As I scanned the list of ingredients, I was stunned to see the words “cocoa nibs” typed neatly after eggs, sugar, flour, and cream. Cocoa nibs? What does that even mean? Maybe I could just substitute, uh, cocoa powder, and that would be close enough? As I consider my options, I am disappointed to see yet another mystery ingredient: cream of tartar. Ohmygoodness. Where do they even sell that? Is it next to the half and half, because I don’t remember ever seeing it. Hmm. Is it something I could make at home? (In normal circumstances, I would merely Google the offending ingredients, and figure out my next step. However, in my continual quest to “better” myself, I have already declared this a “computer-free” day—in fact, it is only my second such computer-free day, and I’m not going to cave in this easily, this fast.)

Since there is no time in my day for an excursion to the library (to most likely be directed to the computer) or the specialty grocery store that is a 30 minute drive (surely a normal grocery store would not stock such exotic ingredients, especially if they’re not even sold at the high-end kitchen store), I choose another recipe. I can wait for another day to obtain my PhD in baking.

The recipe for “Easy Heaven Souffle” beckons to me. I begin to spread out all the ingredients (eggs, eggs, and more eggs) when I notice an unwelcome (and apparently necessary) component: a double-boiler. What’s that? I vaguely remember hearing about this item at the high-end kitchen store, but when customers ask about one, I always refer them to The Boss (“She’s worked here a lot longer than me, so she knows all about the really complicated products”). Double-boiler. I’m pretty sure I don’t own one of those. And as an aside, wouldn’t it be nice if the recipes put asterisks next to certain items to indicate they are merely “optional?” As in, deepfryer* (or use something else) or fresh coconut* (maybe substitute sugar?) or cardamom* (yeah, just skip it).

A quick inventory of my kitchen cabinets confirms my dismal fear: no double-boiler (nor triple-boiler, nor quadruple-boiler). Just some good old normal pans that do one thing at a time. Like me.

That’s okay, I reassure myself as I pour a little glass of milk, I can try something a little more basic. I open the freezer and get out the Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies. Easy Heaven, indeed.

(“Mom’s Optional Vanilla”)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

338. What's In A Name?

So when Tall was a baby, I read something somewhere that said if you are talking about your child in what could be perceived as a negative way (paint scene: “Tall was screaming at Target and all the other shoppers were staring at me,”), then you should talk in code so as not to hurt the child’s feelings. Seems reasonable enough. I mean, anytime you hear your name, your ears automatically perk up a little bit because you realize that people are talking about you, and you want to listen intently to find out exactly what they are saying.

That is a lot of pressure on a parent, this whole I-might-be-giving-my-kid-a-complex thing. I told The Husband about this well-researched theory (I think I read it in a magazine at the doctor’s office, so it must’ve been true), and he reluctantly agreed that I might be right. (I think his exact words were, “Huh.”) From that moment on, if we weren’t discussing the merits of teaching Tall baby sign language or his obvious overachiever ability at football (he threw his stuffed panda all the way across his crib!), then we were referring to him by his special top-secret code name.


As in, Fred kicked dirt at another child at the playground today or Fred got into the hidden stash of lollipops and ate five of them when I wasn’t looking.

This worked well for almost three years. Tall was what his pediatrician considered a “late talker”—he could eke out a word or two (think lollipop or dirt), but that was about it. Certainly never phrases or full sentences. Then, one rainy evening, The Husband and I realized that although “Fred” might not say much, he was astutely observing and processing everything. I’d just finished telling The Husband what Fred had done while he was at work all day (uh, that would be ripping up all Mommy’s favorite magazines), when Tall walked in the kitchen and declared

“My name is not Fred! You people need to stop calling me that! And my baby brother is not Klaus, either! His name is Short! Get it together, I am embarrassed to even call you my parents!”

That day was a brutal awakening for us, the feeble-minded mother and father. We have a new code name for parents now: Dummies.

("Morton?  Oliver?  Vladimir?")

337. Field Trip

So Short has a field trip to the Neat Museum in The Big City, and his teacher asked for chaperone volunteers. I jump at the chance to be around Short and all his four-year-old friends (plus I’ve never been to the Neat Museum, and someone else will drive and figure out parking).

The day starts off well. I get to the school early, and check in at the office. The receptionist gives me my special official chaperone name tag, and I walk down the long hall feeling important and needed. I search for my son’s classroom. Everything is so tiny at this school! The bulletin boards come up to my waist; the water fountains are practically on the floor (for a minute I am wondering if they are intended for large dogs instead of short people).

The teacher greets me warmly at the door, and I notice there are about five other parent volunteers already standing around adjusting their special official chaperone name tags. I’m immediately relieved to not be the sole volunteer, as preschool-age children are notorious for their advanced escape/ hiding skills.

We load everyone onto the bus. We settle in for the long drive, and Short snuggles up to me exactly like all those ads showing moms making peanut butter sandwiches or folding laundry. While I chat merrily with two other mothers, the bus bumps along through rush-hour traffic to The Big City.

Right before we arrive at the Neat Museum, the teacher gets out of her seat, and walks through the aisle of the bus giving the parents lists of who is responsible for which children. I mentally calculate how many children I will be assigned, and for a moment I consider asking the teacher not to give me more than four children to watch. I think four might be my absolute limit.

I decide against relaying this little tidbit (for fear of branding myself incompetent), and instead start wondering who the trouble-maker kids are. Short has told me before that he’s not really friends with Tony-the-biter, so I’m praying that Tony will not be in my group. I notice that the teacher’s assistant is sitting with Tony, and reading him a book about museums, so probably Tony will be in his own petite group of two.

The teacher gets to my row. I nod at her, and I look at her pretty sunshine face expectantly. “Oh, and you,” she says, flustered for a moment. She turns and walks away without giving me an assignment.

Wait—what? What just happened here? Was she reading my mind about Tony, and now she has to shuffle things around so that he won’t be in my group after all? Or is Short considered the trouble-maker of the class, and other parents have told the teacher they don’t want their child to be with him? (In his defense, he’s usually a great kid. Sure, he gets excited, and wants to run a bit, but what little boy doesn’t?)

“Uh, excuse me?” I say lamely to the teacher, “Uh, who do you want me to be responsible for?”

She looks at me kindly, benevolently even (I have seen this look before: when I tried out for the singing group in high school and the singing teacher mentioned how important it was to have a “Props Support Team” to help set up the stage for the singers, and maybe that would be a good job for me), and she says

“You can just be responsible for Short.” She might as well have added, “if you think you can handle watching your own child for 45 minutes.”

Next, she leans toward someone’s great-grandmother (who is wearing oversized glasses that make her look like a smart bug), and tells her to watch Isabella, Noah, and Andrew.

My first inclination is to be offended, miffed, and defensive. These are my go-to emotions. I want to get up and shout for all the other parents and kids and even the bus driver to hear, “Hey Teacher! Not only do I have a four-year-old, but I also have a seven-year-old! That’s right—I am responsible for not one child but TWO on an everyday basis! I feed them and bathe them and drive them to soccer practice and help them with their homework, and most days go okay!”

But this is not what I do. Instead, I lean into Short, squeeze his little hand, and say, “Looks like it’s just you and me, kid. Again.”

(“Miffed Or Vindicated?”)

Friday, February 18, 2011

336. Self-Imposed Computer Exile

I have discovered an inviting land (you have probably been there, too), and that land is called: If I Get On My Computer I Will Waste Five Hours. Why why why do I continue to go to this corrupt place? A place where innocently “checking your email” or “updating the blog” can suck irreplaceable hours away from your life (when you could be doing Important Things, things like making dinner for your family or filing your tax return or catching up on TiVo’d episodes of House Hunters).

I have decided to take rash action against this Time Thief: as of right now, today, this instant, I resolve to only be on the computer every other day. You read that right: I’m cutting my computer time in half (if I could just cut my chocolate intake this cavalierly).

This new endeavor is sure to take willpower, willpower that I am confident I possess deep down (should I Google “willpower” to see if the experts have any helpful tips for accessing said willpower?). I used to get up almost every morning at 5 AM to go for a six mile run (well, I did it for about a week or so with my running group); I am sure I can do something as easy as not flipping the power button for the computer.

(Of course, if I need to Mapquest something, then that would be allowed no matter what day it is. Same goes for looking up reviews for a new restaurant. Or what time a movie is playing. Or if I need a recipe for lemon pound cake. Or the phone number for the car repair shop where I get my oil changed.)

Uh, wish me luck.

(“Mom’s Original Vice”)

335. By The Numbers

Have you ever flipped through House Beautiful or some other magazine and stumbled upon one of those inane by-the-number charts? You know the ones: they’ll say “6: Number of gallons of paint used on this project” or “980: Number of square feet added with the new addition.” Those number charts are just plain dumb, that’s all there is to it.

Oh, wait …
  1. Number of times I’ve been to Tahiti
  2. Number of wonderful sons I have
  3. Those very special words I long to hear (“Husband did dishes”)
  4. Hours of uninterrupted sleep I get per night
  5. Minutes of time I get by myself per day
  6. Number of books I’ve read in the past year (Who am I kidding? Decade)
  7. Loads of laundry I do every morning
  8. Size jeans I used to wear before I had kids (Bye-bye, Size 8! I miss you!)
  9. M&Ms I can eat in one mouthful
  10. The rating I give my kooky family (as in, “Perfect 10”)
Random numbers:

4380: approximate number of diapers I’ve changed in the past seven years
2920: number of bottles I’ve made for my sons
236: number of cases of wine The Husband and I have breezed through since having kids
19: number of cases of wine The Husband and I drank in the six years before we had kids
1: number of jobs I quit when I decided to stay at home with my babies
Gazillion: the number of free flights I could no longer go on after I quit flying
Infinity: the scientifically accurate measurement of love I have for my sons
A million: the number of times I’d do it all over again
Too many to count: the number of blessings I have


334. Future Plans

So Charlotte calls up, and I answer the phone. “Do you and The Husband wanna have dinner at a real restaurant with me and Jeff?” Of course we do. We haven’t had real food that someone else cooked since 2006. Charlotte confesses that her brother-in-law is the executive Chef at this hot new restaurant in The Big City, and I’m realizing that I am liking Charlotte more and more, because not only can she get us a reservation at Shimmer, she can also get our entire meal comp’d. Yay, Charlotte! Yay me, for choosing a friend like Charlotte!

Charlotte and I get out our calendars, and there is much discussing of dates and times and babysitting and previous commitments. Sigh. It seems that finding a mutually agreeable time for me and Charlotte and our respective husbands will take more planning than a military coup. (It should be noted that the ghostly boxes that compose my Fridays and Saturdays are pristinely empty, while I picture Charlotte’s calendar to be a cacophony of scribbled plans, vodka, and laughter.)

Finally, a mutually acceptable date is agreed upon. As we’re hanging up, Charlotte throws out one quick caveat: “So, MOV, Shimmer’s menu is online, you might want to check it out in advance.” What does that even mean? Does Shimmer only serve, uh, shimmery foods? Just oysters and beets and frog legs and anything with a reflective quality to it? Does the food at Shimmer cost $200 per person, and now I will “owe” Charlotte some big huge favor, something like babysitting her kids for free for the entire summer?

I log onto Shimmer’s lovely website. I see a gloriously kid-free restaurant that is all sharp angles and glass and mirrors and Dale Chihuly sculptures and soaring ceilings and clean surfaces. If I did not have children, I could easily vacation at Shimmer, or at least move in for the rest of my life. The menu itself is equally inviting. I see lobster, scallops, pasta, and chocolate souffle. The menu could be renamed “MOV’s Ideal Food List.”

I am starting to psyche myself out, and develop a complex. A complex called, “I Don’t Have Any Pretty Clothes to Wear on My Date With Interesting Charlotte in Her Fancy Architectural Experiment of a Restaurant.” I suddenly feel very … out of date. Shimmer’s website doesn’t “say” no jeans or sweatpants, but the photos say it. The photos say, Actually, we’d prefer if you wore taffeta and sequins and diamonds and velvet and lace—preferably all at once. I open my (unworthy) closet, to see if there is an inspiring little black dress that I have forgotten about, or if a helpful fairy godmother has stashed away a new outfit while I was sleeping.

No such luck.

That’s okay, I tell myself, it’s only February and our reservation is not until next October. I might have time to go shopping before then.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

333. Yet Another New Year's Resolution

So I was having this long discussion with my girlfriend Charlotte about New Year’s Resolutions. She was bragging about the fact that even though we were halfway through February, she has kept her primary resolution. Exercise? Stop drinking? Keep a journal? No. Charlotte has resolved to Answer The Phone.

I laugh. What a stupid resolution. How hard can it be to answer the phone? Then, she fills me in on the back story for her resolution. Seems she’d been avoiding answering her phone, like, ever. She would merely let the calls go directly to voicemail, and then listen to all her messages at one specific time: Later. The problem, she tells me, is that she either gets caught up in an endless game of phone tag, or she ends up forgetting to phone people back all together; and, she’s been accused of excessively screening calls.

I stop and think about her revolutionary Answering The Phone Method. Would this be a good technique for me to adopt as well? I decide it wouldn’t. I prefer seeing a number I recognize, and then determining whether or not I want to (and/or have time to) talk to that person right now. Charlotte’s way seems so … accommodating. To the point of giving up control, and allowing the caller to decide when he/ she wants to talk.

But Charlotte is a nice person, a good friend, and basically someone I want to emulate. You know what? Maybe her resolution isn’t so stupid after all.

Just for kicks, I think I’ll answer the phone. Hey, it’s ringing right now!

(Great, a telemarketer. Thanks, Charlotte.)


332. Warning: Sleep Proven Dangerous to Your Health

Back when I was young and pretty, I would injure myself from time to time doing athletic things, things like running nine miles, or parasailing, or bike-riding, or skiing, or lifting weights. Never would I imagine that I would face the chiropractor, and beg for his help with my neck-that-would-not-turn, only to hear him ask me, “What exactly did you do to hurt your neck?” And I would answer: “I was, uh, sleeping.”

That’s right: sleeping. I am now such a skilled Olympic Contender in my sport of choice (sleeping), that I develop related injuries in my sleep. Yes, this takes talent.

It is pretty scary to wake up one day, and attempt to do a simple activity that you have done every day of your life (an activity like glancing slightly to the left) only to have shooting knives of pain zip down your neck and back. As in, I-can’t-move-I-will-lay-here-and-never-move-again.

I would like to say that when this happened, the chiropractor magically cured me in two seconds. No, this is not what happened. First, I had to plead and cry and whimper for an appointment. Next, after I got over to the doctor’s office (I drove myself, all the while cursing the fact that Tylenol did not come in extra extra EXTRA commercial-grade industrial "experimental" strength), the doctor was so quasi-“worried” about me that he insisted I must go for x-rays before he could even touch my back or neck.

In a heroic agony that made childbirth look like a fun day to the spa, I drove (!) to the hospital and got the x-rays.

Nothing broken (except my Tylenol bottle from me clutching it so tightly), so the chiropractor was able to proceed with treatment (treatment that involved a series of hot and cold compresses, and him pressing on my back and neck until I felt like I was about to pass out or at least die). I would like to say that this treatment “worked,” and I guess it did if you can consider laying on the couch for seven days without moving “a success.”

After a week, I was back to my normal (semi-) perky self, and I could even turn my head to the left OR right. Ah, yes, now I am ready to train for my next Olympic event: rolling over.


Monday, February 14, 2011

331. We'll Just Embarrass You Ahead of Time

So we’re sitting at the dinner table trying to extract information out of Tall. “Tall, tell me about your day at school,” begins The Husband innocently enough. “Mommy mentioned that the entire first grade is putting on a play.”

“You’re not invited,” snaps Tall. “I don’t want you to come.”

I suppress a grin. Well, at least I’m not a victim of his wrath today.

“Or you,” he says, redirecting his gaze to me. “Neither of you is invited.”

What? What did we do this time?

“Why not?” asks The Husband. “We want to see you in your special play, and we want to take lots of pictures.”

“That’s why,” mutters Tall, “because you’ll embarrass me.” Now he has a worried look on his face, fast-forwarding to his performance, and his Parents Doing Embarrassing Things, things like taking a few photos of their son.

“Wait, Tall, you’re saying you’d be embarrassed if we took photos? Okay, we won’t take any photos.” This is a promise I can keep, as I know I can ask my freighbor to take shots of Tall when she takes some of her own son. Freighbor is a better photographer than me, anyway.

“Mom, I’m not even talking about just photos. You would do other things to embarrass me.”

“Like what?” queries The Husband.

“You know, like, you might call out when everyone is clapping at the end, you might go, ‘Hey! Tall! Great job!’ or something bad like that.” His little brow furrows, thinking of the devastation that would follow if his friends were to witness us complimenting him.

“I get it,” I say. “That’s fine, Tall. We won’t call out or anything. But we are coming to the play.”

He crosses his arms across his chest deliberately. A pout settles on his little round face.

“I have a good idea,” The Husband offers excitedly, “Mommy and I will say all the embarrassing things now, and get it out of the way! That way, on the day of the play, we won’t embarrass you in front of all your friends.”

Tall’s face registers a new look, one I’ve seen before: skepticism. “No. Don’t do that either,” he says firmly.

Too late. The Husband is out of his chair now, waving and pointing. There is much taking of imaginary photos with the imaginary camera.  “That’s our son! That’s Tall! Hey, Tall, WE LOVE YOU!! Our son is the best actor and the best singer, and he’s the star of the show! Yay, Tall!” Next, manic applauding and foot-stomping.

I’m sucked in by his faux enthusiasm. “Yay! Yay, Tall!” I echo. “Woo-hoo! Go, go, Tall!” I have morphed into a cheerleader at a football game, “Tall is the one! The best! WE LOVE YOU!!”

Tall’s face is a sunset of reds. “Stop it,” he hisses.

The Husband taps me on the arm. “Okay, since we showed him what we won’t do, now let’s show him how we really will act on the actual day of his play.” The Husband is nodding, sending me mental telepathy messages of my lines.

“Do you know anyone in this play?” I stage-whisper to The Husband.

He shrugs. “Nope,” he whispers back. “Why are we here again?”

(“Mom On Vaudeville”)

330. Valentine Starts With "J"

My sister, Oakley, was born on February 14th. I was always secretly envious of her special-celebrated-by-the-world day. Growing up, she typically received gifts with a “heart” theme—heart-shaped candy, sweaters or dresses with embroidered hearts, heart-shaped stationery, heart-shaped picture frames, Lovey-Dove Barbie. If it was pink or red and had hearts on it, someone bought it for her.

While I was sitting there feeling sorry for myself and my stupid September birthday, Oakley was lamenting the fact that her gifts were predictable and cliché. “Oh, socks with a heart design, and heart-shaped barrettes? How original,” she’d mutter without a smidgen of faux gratitude. I never understood why she wasn’t delirious with pink delight that she’d won the Birthday Lottery.

I mentioned my sister’s inexplicable grouchiness to my friend, Sammi. “You’re joking, right?” she said. “You do know when my birthday is—December 25th?” Instead of sympathizing with my jealousy issues, Sammi commiserated with Oakley. “MOV, as a child, every Christmas I received a Christmas-slash-birthday gift from my friends and even some family members. It’s like my birthday was always an afterthought. Even now, as an adult, my girlfriends get to go out and drink margaritas on their birthdays; but on my day, I’m helping my sons open presents from Santa—not that I’m not grateful for my sons and family—it’s just … it’s like my birthday is a wash. Like it doesn’t even exist.”

Eek, I hadn’t meant to open this Pandora’s box. (Do you think Pandora’s birthday fell on Halloween? Or perhaps St. Patrick’s Day?) Why are we so protective of our birthdays? Why do we want the world to recognize and appreciate us once a year, and get grumpy if the specific day is overlooked? Isn’t it better to be noticed the other 364 days with little gestures, tiny moments that remind you that you matter to someone?

I called Oakley to sing “Happy Birthday.” She answered on the second ring. “Oh, I forgot. Today’s my birthday.” How could she forget? (And more to the point: Wouldn’t I have been in big trouble if I’d forgotten?)

"Are you going to do anything special for your birthday?" I asked cautiously, attempting to navigate the bumpy terrain of birthday candles and glittery hearts. 

“Nah. Robert and I went skiing last weekend to celebrate my birthday, and next week we’re going wine-tasting in Napa to celebrate Valentine’s Day. You know I avoid doing anything on the 14th because of the crowds.”

Clever Oakley. Choosing to Not Celebrate with a ski weekend and a trip to Napa. I’m still jealous.

(“Miss Oakley Valentine”)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

329. Happy Took A 10-Minute Break

Sun causes freckles. Sugar causes cavities. Neglect causes weeds. What causes Happy?

I set out to find out. First, I took the boys to the library so I could check out a few books and magazines on the topic while they read Curious George and James and the Giant Peach. When we got back home, I decided to expand my research by Googling “Happiness, causes of.” The general consensus was: Happy comes from within. What kind of garbage was this?

That can’t be right. Unless they meant the chocolate-mint ice cream the boys and I had just eaten five minutes prior (that was still “within” my stomach-ular region), Happy was not within. Maybe I should have a second scoop to rule out the possibility for sure.

One of my dear friends, April, told me that her New Year’s Resolution was to focus on being Happy every day. Huh? How do you do that? She said she was going to give her children her full attention instead of tiny shreds here and there. She also said she was going to try to be more grateful for what she had in her life (family, friends, health, job, her dog) instead of obsessing about what was lacking (material possessions, exotic vacations, a good relationship with her brother).  She even went so far as to buy a "Happiness Journal," so she could record her memories of being Happy every single day. 

I want to be more like April (well, except the owning-of-a-dog part and the New-Agey journal part). I want to be here in the moment, I want to focus on the task at hand instead of being so damn distracted all the time. My brain is like flakes of snow, scattered here and there, blown around by the wind.

I think of things that have made me Happy in the past: Hawaii bolts to the front of the list. Ah, yes, I’ve been Happy in Hawaii, and I’m sure I could find Happy there again. How could anyone not be Happy on a pristine beach with a pineapple margarita in her hand? Also, I’ve noticed when I make the time to exercise, I get Happy (I could combine two Happys—run on the beach in Hawaii!). My sons usually make me Happy (deliriously Happy, actually, when they’re asleep at the end of a long day). The Husband makes me Happy. Sometimes. He’d probably say the same of me: sometimes.

Maybe it’s easier to identify what makes me NOT Happy. When my sons are bickering or shoving each other or interrupting every little thing I try to get done (phone call, load of laundry, dishes, quick email), that makes me not Happy. (Of course, huge injustices/ starvation/ lack of medicine/ political unrest in the world make me not Happy; but right now, I’m examining my tiny shoebox habitat of Crazy Town.) I’m not Happy when our house morphs into a Wasteland of Messiness a mere three minutes after I cleaned it. When I don’t get any “alone time,” any time for just me, MOV, I feel my Happy slink away. Sometimes I am a Greta Garbo mom—“I want to be alone!”

Shhh, I think I hear my Happy right now. The Husband took the boys to the grocery store, and I am by myself.

("Move Over, Valium")

328. Death, Divorce, Drama, Disease

Yesterday was a depressing day (ah, "Depression"—yet another dreaded “D” word). I met a friend for lunch, and talk turned to the very recent death of her friend (age 40) from Cancer. My mom is also fighting Cancer (well, not so much “fight”—it started out sort of like a tiff, and has now progressed to a full-blown feud). Cancer is a scary prospect: you can do everything right—eat healthy, exercise, quit smoking—and still become a victim of this hideous disease.

That afternoon, I stopped by another friend’s house to drop off a book. She’s in the middle of an unwelcome divorce (I’m sure all divorce is unwelcome, but in her case, I mean she was completely blind-sided). I can imagine God dealing out pieces of people’s fates, like playing cards, and her flipping over the one that read, “Divorce.” Crap, I can see her cringing, I don’t want that card! Let me put it back. I’d rather have “Lose Job” or “Mother-in-law Problems,” instead.

Later, I had coffee with yet another dear friend, who has major issues with her father. I’ve never met him, but from her description, he’s controlling, manipulative, and bossy. He wants everyone to do things his way or not at all. She wants to keep him in her life so her children can know their grandfather, but the whole situation is very draining on her. So the card that God dealt her was “Drama.”

I guess my role yesterday was that of Listener. I tried to be a good listener and a good friend to my pals that needed to vent their sadness, their frustration, their anger.  I know many times I am the one complaining, and they are the ones listening.  Our roles are fluid, back and forth, listener/ talker/ helper/ friend. 

As I was driving home, I started thinking about these bad cards we get dealt, these cards that start with the letter “D.” I don’t much care for this letter and all its corrupt family members: Danger, Demons, Dishonest, Dull, Disaster, Deranged, Drugs, Disappointment, Dogmatic, Dismal, Damage, Dissatisfaction, Dump, Dark, Disreputable, Drudgery, Derogatory, Distant, Dizzy, Disdain, Discrimination, Dumb, Defensive, Disgust, Doom, Disorderly, Dismissive, Drunk.

When I was a flight attendant, I shuddered to hear the relatively mild “D” word: “Delayed.” Once in a while, I’d hear the word “Divert,” as in, “The snow in Denver is so bad, we have to divert our plane, and land in Wichita instead.”  Damn. 

Now my mind was spinning, thinking about these “D” words. I walked in my front door, set my keys on the table, and hung up my coat. That’s when I saw it: The Husband playing a card game on the floor with the boys. Oh, yeah, I thought, there is a good “D” word after all:  Dad.


Friday, February 11, 2011

327. Snapshots of Me

My life, if viewed by a stranger, has what you might call (if you were being generous) a certain “sloppiness” factor to it. It wasn’t always this way.

Seven years ago, if you happened to drop by my house unexpectedly, I would most likely have fresh ciabatta bread and some lovely Brie to share with you, and a choice of (chilled) wines, which I would offer to you in a clean glass. You could sit on my (unstained, no-action-figures-lurking-beneath-the-cushions) couch and look out the (fingerprint-free) windows and enjoy the view of the freshly manicured (and not marred by oversized Crayola-colored plastic riding toys) yard. Ah, yes. I remember those days.

(The wine is still here, of course. We find it much cheaper to buy it by the case now.)

We could have a long (uninterrupted by crying/screaming/incessant pestering) conversation and actually find out a thing or two about each other, and what is going on in our respective lives. We would laugh, and we’d never once utter phrases like “potty accident” or “hopefully not lice again” or “fine motor skills” or “bites other children.” No. We would instead invoke such words as “vacation” and “Italy” and “boat” and “expensive shoes.”

You might tell me that my hair looked nice, and I might actually agree. Now if you told me my hair looked nice, I’d know you were lying.

If you looked in my (tiny) purse, you’d find lipstick and my wallet (with money inside!), and maybe movie tickets to a movie that my husband and I just saw the previous night. There would be no crackers, Bank of America lollipops, Pokemon cards, stray LEGO pieces, small rocks, dried-out markers, nor silly bands.

My standards (if you can even call them that anymore) have slipped. If you have ever heard the phrase “She let herself go,” rest assured, they are referring to me.

I didn’t mean to “let myself go” or let my house go or let my yard go or let my job go (Goodbye, United Airlines! I miss those trips to New Zealand!); everything just sort of let go for me. It was never a conscious decision.

First, with a newborn, sleep seemed more important than, say, doing laundry. The laundry will still be there in two hours, I’d rationalize, and I’m exhausted.  (I'd hallucinate about laundry from time to time, thinking I'd already washed that load and folded it, only to find there was triple what I'd thought waiting for me.)

When I finally figured out how to put away all the Target purchases the same week I bought them (this was a huge improvement from just leaving the shampoo and kitty litter in bags next to the front door indefinitely), the second baby arrived. I look back on those several sleep-deprived months of having a (not-yet-potty-trained) toddler and a newborn, and really—it’s just a blur. How did I do it?  This from a girl who NEEDS seven straight hours of sleep every night to be a coherent, functioning human being. 

Today, if people come over, they see a different MOV, a more relaxed “sloppy” version. The bed is not made. There are dishes in the sink. Little piles of chaos (homework, toys, books, abandoned shoes) litter the landscape of every room.

And you know what? It’s okay. I don’t have to be perfect. (Queen Virgo has just stomped out the front door, disgusted.)

Oh, sure, I’d like to be perfect. I flip through the photo albums and I see a thousand pictures of my sons, smiling, laughing, growing, playing. There are about five photos of me. Why? Because I’m always afraid (rightly so) that I look like a mess. My hair is pulled back (yet again) into a ponytail and tucked under baseball hat, my outfit is wrinkled and hopelessly out-of-date, my shoes are worn. “Don’t take my picture!” I hear myself say to The Husband, over again. I don’t want to remember myself looking that way.

What do my sons remember? Will they remember the mess? That mommy looked fat that day? Or will they remember how much I loved them?

(“Memories Of Virgo-ness”)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

326. You Can't Insult Me Like That

So I’m just leaving the library with Short, when I run into my girlfriend Gina and her toddler. We chat for a couple minutes, I’m genuinely happy to see her, and then it happens. The toddler commits an unspeakable transgression. Well, not so much “unspeakable” as “unrepeatable.” He says something so mean, so vile, that Gina immediately grips his little paw, leans down to him, and says sternly, “No, Bryce! That is not okay! We do NOT call Short’s mommy that word!”

Wait—what word? I didn’t hear what Bryce said. Can your repeat the bad word, Bryce? So I can tell if the word is on my List, too, or if Gina is being overly-dramatic?

Gina turns a Valentine's medley of about 12 shades of red, she is so embarrassed, and starts apologizing profusely. “I’m so, so sorry, MOV, I have no idea where he first heard that word, it’s not a word that Steve and I ever say, I’m so sorry.” She looks like she might cry, like she was the one who said The Word.

I lean in to Gina and give her a semi-hug (she’s trying to wrangle Bryce, who’s trying to get away), and I whisper, “It’s okay, Gina, not a big deal.”

But is it a big deal? What was The Word? Was it of the four-letter variety, the kind of word that one could consider “verbal assault,” and actually take someone (okay, not a toddler) to court over? Was I cussed out by a two-year-old?  Or was it something relatively benign, like “poopy-head,” because, let’s be honest, that’s a phrase I've heard bandied around my own house once or twice by a frustrated four-year-old, possibly even as recently as this morning.

Short is grinning, like perhaps he heard The Word in question. Should I ask him what The Word was when we get out to the car? Or would that reinforce the negative connotations of The Word, and now he would run around repeating it at every opportunity?

I decide to go with the three-step approach of Option B: ignore, ignore, ignore. If I simply ignore what Bryce said, maybe everyone (even Gina) will forget it ever happened.

We say goodbye to Gina and Bryce; Short and I pick our books up off the check-out desk, and start to walk out. Short's grin has taken over his little face, he is all Chiclet teeth and chapped lips. He starts giggling to himself.

We get to the car, and I help him with his seatbelt. “I’ve got it, Mommy,” he insists. Then he starts laughing again.

I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help myself. “Short, Short, what is it? What is so funny?”

More laughing. Kicking of the feet to accompany the laughter that is (most likely) at Mommy’s expense. “Bryce said …”

I wait.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.  He won’t tell me.

“Bryce said … Bryce called you … a witch!”  More giggles. “Isn’t that so silly, Mommy? Because you don’t even have a broom!”

That’s okay, Bryce, I’ve been called worse.

(“Mama Or Vulgarity?”)

325. Crazy Like A Fox

There comes a point in every relationship when your very future hinges on three little words. In our case, those words were “Fox on armoire!”

The Husband and I were living in California, renting a tiny apartment across from the beach. One night, I was awakened from a deep deep sleep by The Husband turning the lights on full bright, sitting up straight in bed, and yelling at the top of his lungs, “Fox on armoire!”

As you can imagine, this was slightly disconcerting. Would this wild fox try to bite us, or possibly steal one of my favorite sweaters from the armoire?  And what, exactly, did The Husband expect me to do about this situation?  Shouldn't he be trying to protect me from the fox, instead of the other way 'round?

Yes, I had a job where I dealt with random scenarios every day.  I knew what to do if there was a medical emergency, a fire, or if a plane crashed in water.  But, all my years of flight attendant training had not adequately prepared me for this moment. I had never dealt with a wild animal on the loose (sure, I’d dealt with a drunk passenger or five, but to my knowledge, they never had rabies).

I decided the first order of business was to actually see the fox. Even though The Husband was screaming and pointing to the (supposed) location of said fox, I did not see a fox. Since the armoire was at an angle in the corner of the room, it was quite possible that the fox had hidden behind the armoire.

The logical part of my brain started to thaw. “Sweetie, uh, do you think it is maybe a cat, and not a fox?” This was way before we owned our cat, but perhaps an errant neighbor cat had snuck in our (closed, locked) window.

“It! Is! A! Fox!” he insisted, adamant. “Right there!”

I rubbed my eyes, willing myself to see whatever it was that The Husband was seeing.


Now the truth was apparent.  Not only was there no (mistaken identity) cat, there was no fox either. The Husband was having a nightmare, and as far as I could tell, was actually still asleep even though his (round, crazy) eyes were open and he seemed awake.

“You’re having a nightmare,” I soothed, all the while trying to put my own fast-pumping heart back into my chest. “Go back to sleep, Hon.”

“No, MOV, I’m serious! There’s a fox!” Still pointing.

I got out of bed and turned the light off. “I’m going to bed.”

Four hours later, the alarm went off and the Husband bounded out of bed, cheery and rested. “How’d you sleep, MOV?” he asked sweetly.

“Are you kidding?” I responded tersely. “After you woke me up, screaming ‘A fox! A fox! A fox on the armoire!”

“What are you talking about?” he asked. And then, “You sure have a great imagination.”


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

324. HGTV = Crack Cocaine

So I’m watching yet another episode of Selling New York, when I realize, Oh, I’ve already seen this one. It’s the one where that B-list actor wants to buy a downtown loft, but he hasn’t sold his Malibu property yet. That’s okay, I can watch Divine Design. I click over to my TiVo’d list of programs, and select Candace Olson’s lovely show, only to realize … seen it (the hockey player’s basement-turned-rec room). Color Splash? More repeats (beach cottage retreat inspired by a famous Art Deco hotel).

Designed to Sell? I think I’ve probably seen this one, but I can’t remember. Is this the one where the husband refuses to part with all that baseball memorabilia/ clutter? I fast-forward to the last five minutes of the show for the Big Reveal. Huh, no baseball stuff; his hobby is sailing. I guess it was a new one after all.

I scan through the remainder of my TiVo personal menu. TiVo has obediently taped no fewer than 5288 shows for me, all about Houses. How nice of you TiVo, to help support my nasty little habit. I’m figuring out that I have a teeny tiny problem, some might use the word “addiction,” kinder folks would say “affinity.”

When did this happen? It all started when I became a full-time, stay-at-home mom seven years ago. Before I had children, there had actually been a decade-long segment of my life where I chose not to own a TV (essentially, during all of my 20’s). People would say, Don’t you get bored? What do you do? How can you not have a TV? or the one-size-fits-all, You’re crazy.

Oh, if those former friends/ acquaintances could see me now, they’d be so proud. How the pendulum has swung in the other direction!

In my childless and TVless state, I worked three jobs, worked-out, read books (lots of ‘em), socialized, talked on the phone, wrote letters, went out to eat, shopped, travelled, and didn’t much think about what I was “missing” on television. Then along came my new career Being Home with Baby, and my life was transformed. Oh sure, I waited until he was two years old to expose him to Sesame Street, but the onslaught of decorating shows started beckoning to me way before that.

There is just something so enticing about taking a dreary, uninviting room and transforming it with a bucket of paint, new throw pillows, and a black and white photo of a European city. I watch and think, Hey! I could do that!

My tiny house has become a canvas of (failed?) experiments involving paint colors with names like “Barista” and “Tropicana Cabana” and “Sea Life.” People come over, and ooh and ahh politely as I give them the Grand Tour, complete with Before and After photos, my own personal mini-Reveal. At first, these so-called “friends” were laying it on thick, “This looks amazing! What a dramatic difference!” After about two dozen or so people said the same thing over and over and over (and I found out The Husband was not paying them to flatter me and boost my fragile ego), I realized I had a talent: a talent to copy things from TV.

I’m going cold turkey today. No more House shows. I can think of better uses for my time.

If you’ll excuse me, I just made myself a cappuccino, and I’m going to sit down, and peruse the February issue of Elle Décor. And right after that, Traditional Home. And then maybe, if I have enough time, Coastal Living.

(“Mama’s Obsession, Verified”)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

323. My Very Own Free Piano

So I was driving home from our monthly neighborhood moms’ dinner out when I saw it. A piano covered in plastic, sitting forlornly on a quiet street corner, and boasting the inevitable sign: “Free. Needs work.”

Needs work. Huh. That’s okay, so do my piano-playing skills.

I pulled over, and turned the car off. I gingerly lifted the plastic, and started pressing the keys. Nothing. Upon closer inspection, I noticed a long electrical cord. Oh: it was a plug-in piano.

Just that very evening at dinner, the other moms had been bragging about how they all had pianos, recently bought new pianos, acquired pianos from their homes’ former owners, or were in the process of buying pianos. It was enough to give me an acute case of Piano Envy. Never mind that we have no room to actually put a piano, and that no one in our family shows one iota of budding musical talent (unless you count the cat, and that’s only when she’s hissing at birds through the window). Here was a piano, and it was free. It was obviously meant to be.

I drive a Highlander. We originally bought this SUV with the idea in mind that we could tote around sports equipment for the kids, but now the car’s true purpose in life was coming sharply into focus: my vehicle could easily fit this (small, upright) piano.

I opened the hatchback, and stared at the piano, wondering how I was going to do this by myself. I attempted to lift one side of the piano just to gauge exactly how heavy it was. It was heavy, but not as heavy as a sofa or a refrigerator. I could do this.

I’d only had one (okay, maybe two) margaritas at dinner, and although I was sure I could pass any police-mandated breathalyzer test, in retrospect it is clear that the alcohol had impaired my judgment. I could lift a piano! Why not?

I decided I wasn’t quite close enough to my new found object of desire, so I got back in the car, and slowly backed up until I was mere inches away from the lovely piano. Then, I tossed the two kids’ car-seats into the front seat, and flipped the backseats flat. I huffed and puffed, and got under that piano, and struggled to heave it into my car. It was lighter than you might think, but still heavy enough to realize that it was, indeed, a piano. After two or three failed attempts, I managed to load it.

Do I need to mention that upon completing this fun little exercise, an able-bodied man walking his dog approached me, and asked if I needed help? (Uh, well, it would’ve been nice if you had shown up two minutes prior so you could’ve talked me out of it, Buddy.)

So. Piano in the car. Bruises on the legs. I drove home, and promptly forgot about it.

Like that bad dream that is only remembered hours later when some trivial thing triggers a connection, I remembered the piano right as The Husband was walking out the door for work.

“Wait, Sweetie, wait! I need your help, uh ... getting the piano out of my car.”

“What did you say?” He was hoping I’d want the keys to his truck, or a check for Tall’s school field trip, or even a quick tutorial on how to get our printer to work. No such luck.

“Well, someone was throwing away a piano, and so I took it, and I really need your help getting it out of my car, and into the garage.” I said sweetly, as if I was reminding him to pick up my dry cleaning after work.

“A piano?! Are you insane? I don’t have time for this.” Now he was mad. “Why would you pick up a piano? Who helped you get it into your car in the first place? Geesh. Why would you do this?”

I didn’t want to get into my original motivation for taking the piano (uh, it was free, and we didn't have one; and by the way, how are our children ever going to become child prodigies if we don’t give them the opportunity?).

“Please help me.” I gave him a sad, pitiful look. It was the same look Short gives us when he wants his fifth piece of chocolate cake.

The Husband walked out to my car with me. I was still in my pajamas, with a coat hastily thrown over in a nod to the 35 degree temperature.

The piano was much, much heavier than I had remembered. The feat that I'd accomplished so easily the previous night by myself became an epic struggle with two people. (The Husband is 6’4” and weighs about 235 pounds. I would have thought he could lift two or three pianos at a time, possibly on his head.)

Because he really had no choice, the Husband helped me drag the poor piano out of my vehicle, and toward the garage. He insisted on knowing what had caused me to suddenly want to acquire a piano.

“Well,” I began, “You know Courtney from the bus-stop? She’s a piano teacher, and she’s always badgering me to have the kids take lessons from her.” (Courtney often approached me while we waited for the bus, saying things about music and music lessons. Things like, Hi, how are you? or the equally-weighted, It looks like it might rain again.)

“Fine. Whatever.” Did I mention The Husband is not really a “morning person?”

At last, we were successful in maneuvering the piano into the garage. There was room for it right next to My Very Own Free Rowing Machine.

(“Mozart Or Vivaldi”)

Monday, February 7, 2011

322. It, is, time, for, some, punctuation

It happened again today. Well-meaning Sammi shows up on my doorstep with a small brown bag. I got very excited thinking it might contain vodka or at the very least chocolate but no such luck. “I have something for you MOV something you need.” She unceremoniously opens the bag and dumps some small black specks all over my front table. They look like dots of pepper.

“That is so sweet of you Sammi!” I offer with as much enthusiasm as I can muster. “But remember? I work at the high-end kitchen store so I can buy my own pepper.” I smile a fake smile. Why did she have to dump those all over the place? Queen Virgo will not be happy later.

“It’s not pepper!” she insists. “Why would I buy you pepper? I didn’t think you even knew how to cook anyway. No. They’re commas.”

Oh. Now I get it. Sammi is an editor and she's working on a project I dropped off to her. The last project she did for me came back covered in thick scribbled lines of red—like blood but only a little more vicious and painful.

“MOV I gotta tell you: you seem a little afraid of commas and I don’t know why! You need commas and they're not really that expensive even though they’re so valuable. That’s why I gave you this whole bag full. They’re extra ones that I didn’t really need anymore.” (Sammi is very smart and her latest crazy idea has been to take some night classes in Japanese. Probably Japanese is written without commas. That must be why she has all these extra commas.)

“Uh well okay then I guess.” I say defeated. “I’ll take them. Thank you.”

“Don’t just shove them in a drawer the second I leave …”

“Geesh Sammi I told you thank you. I promise I’ll use them!”

“Okay then good. I gotta run. Good luck with the commas.” She re-ties her scarf and heads out the door and turns back to face me. “I mean it then I want you to use your new commas!”

I scoop up the offending punctuation and take it all over to the dining room table. I spread it out and instantly regret it. Commas are everywhere. I now realize that I should’ve just taken them directly to my desk. A few stray commas have fallen on the floor and now the cat is batting them around playing with them like they were question marks or parenthesis.

Would Sammi really even notice if I decide not to use any of her commas I wonder. Nah. I think commas are dumb.

She should know by now that a lot of times I’m going for a whole stream-of-consciousness vibe and how can you really accomplish that with commas? No. You need “ands” and lots of ‘em.

I don’t want Sammi to think I’m not grateful because obviously her friendship means a lot to me and she is one of those people that will always help you in a pinch (plus I just enjoy her company and she makes me laugh a lot).


I dash off a quick email to her:


I just wanted to say thank you for the lovely commas, it was really, really nice of you to think of me, and I’m very, very grateful. They will come in handy, I’m sure, for a variety of uses, and I can’t wait to work with them!

Just so you know, I have plenty of question marks, apostrophes, semi-colons, and hyphens. It would be great to get my hands on some extra asterisks, though, if you have any, and I could especially use some $ signs. Lots of $ signs, maybe millions.

Your friend,


I know exactly what she’ll say: $ signs cost more, lots more.

MOV (“Money Or Valuables”)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

321. My Imaginary Dog

So there I am at the high-end kitchen store, surrounded by dogs. The Boss has a new dog, as do all my co-friends, Gabriela, Terri, and Lisa. Matt does not have a dog, but he might as well. (“I’m getting one soon, MOV, any day now actually.”) Now we must look at photos of the dogs. Real photos, cell phone photos, and key chain photos (“Isn’t he the cutest? We just wuv him so much!”).

No one wants to hear about my cat. No. Kitty is a dumb topic to bring up now. Kitty doesn’t do any tricks (well, unless you count lounging on the skinny radiator for hours without ever falling off), and Kitty cannot talk (apparently Gabriela’s puppy can talk—“He says, ‘Woooof! Woooof!’ but I swear it sounds just like ‘Treat! Treat!’ He is really smart.”).

Now we have to discuss their cutesie-pie names. Lisa’s dog is named Cake (“Who doesn’t like cake?” she says). The Boss wanted to pick a strong name, so she ended up with “Zeus” (“Such a perfect name for him,” she offers, “because he sure as hell controls our household!”). Terri’s show dog is named Sunny (“Ohmygosh—you’re kidding!” says Gabriela, “We were thisclose to naming our new puppy Sunny, too! What are the chances!”). Even though Sunny is such perfect name, Gabriela ended up naming her new dog Monkey instead.

Gabriela says, “My husband goes around singing ‘Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees!’ and the kids have no idea what he’s talking about, it’s so funny.” We're all laughing at the image of her husband singing, and Monkey running around in circles and barking for a treat.

The Boss says, “Even though we are crazy about Zeus, he’s, uh, a little difficult to manage.”

“What do you mean?” says Terri, owner of mild-mannered summer-day Sunny.

“I think he has Doggy ADD,” she says.

Lisa says, “Dogs can’t have ADD.”

“You obviously haven’t met Zeus!” she laughs.

“Kitty has the opposite of ADD, Kitty can play with the same piece of string for hours!” I offer lamely.

“We don’t know what color collar to buy for Monkey,” says Gabriela, completely ignoring me. “Maybe I can find one on etsy that has pictures of little Monkeys on it … how cute would that be?”

Everyone loves the idea of a Monkey collar for Monkey. The conversation bends to include a collar for Sunny (predictably, one with miniature Suns on it). Maybe Zeus should have a collar with all the astrological symbols on it? Matt even gets in on the act, choosing potential names and corresponding collars for his (future, nonexistent) dog. Daisy is a contender. As is Coco or Dakota or Ginger or Winston. The dogs are named, bandannas are discussed, and now the water bowls must be selected.

That’s right: I work in a high-end kitchen store. Gabriela zips on over to a display of crystal serving bowls and says, “Hey, guys! What about one of these for Monkey?!”

Matt and I exchange a look. As if reading our minds, The Boss says, “Gab! No! Come on, what are you thinking? Monkey will break that bowl in about two seconds!”

I say, “Gabriela, I think that bowl is about $85.”

“But remember, we get a discount.” She is smiling, thinking about Monkey and her husband singing and the crystal water bowl and the embroidered collar.

“You are being so silly,” says Lisa, shaking her head. “That expensive crystal bowl is way too small for your dog. You should get the larger size one instead.”

A customer chooses this moment to walk in and ask about toasters, breaking us out of our Doggy Lovefest.

Lisa is showing her the different choices, and the woman wants her to write down the model number and price. Lisa is very helpful and efficient, walking over to get her business card and a pen. My mind is wandering, and I think about Lisa’s dog Cake, and if Lisa picked that name because she works in a kitchen store or so she can say she’s going on a “Cake walk.”

I whisper to Matt, “Thank God I don’t have a dog, Matt! It would be so much work—all that walking, in snow or rain or whenever!”

He chuckles and says, “MOV, you need to get a dog. Both your kids are in school all day, come on—it will give you something new to focus on!”

I feel like he’s channeling my seven-year-old, who’s been asking for a pet lately (conveniently forgetting that we already own a pet, Kitty—“Oh, her? Yeah, well she doesn’t really count, Mom”).

“Seriously, MOV,” Matt continues, “if you got a puppy, you would have so much to write about for your blog! It could take your blog to a whole new level!  You could even have a little section at the bottom with updates on the dog.”

“I don’t want a dog,” I say firmly. “You have to take them outside for long walks about 500 times a day, and clean up after them. Cats are much more independent.”

He pretends he didn’t hear what I just said, the part about me not getting a dog. “I just thought of the best name for your new dog, MOV. How about ‘The President of the United States of America’ and then you can call it ‘Prez’ for short? How funny would that be?”

I’m laughing politely, but mostly I’m laughing because he’s laughing. “Actually, Matt, that would be a really good name because if I want to get off the phone with someone, I could say, ‘I can’t talk right now because The President of the United States is here.’ Didn’t there used to be a band with that name, though? And also, that would be so long to write on all the forms at the vet’s office.”

“Okay, no President then. Oh! I just thought of another one! How about ‘Elvis Presley’ and then for short you can call him—”

“King!” I interrupt enthusiastically. “Oh, that is perfect! King! I get it!”

“Call the pound, set up an appointment …” Matt prods.

“No. I’m not doing it. No dog for me.”

“Too bad,” he says, “I was really looking forward to whatever you would write in your blog about your new dog.”

(“Mastiff Otterhound Vizsla”)

Friday, February 4, 2011

320. Who Are You Anyway?

So I’m just settling in with my triple latte for a marathon TopChef viewing after getting the boys off to school, when there's a knock at the door. Strange, as the UPS guy normally delivers packages late afternoon.

I walk over to the door, suddenly hyper-conscious of my appearance. Why, oh why, did I forgo a shower on this particular day? Did I at least remember to brush my teeth (thankfully, yes). I glance in the hall mirror, and smooth down my messy hair. Oh, who cares, it’s probably a salesperson or a Jesus converter. He or she will not be concerned with how I look (or, let’s be honest, how I smell).

I close my right eye, and press my left eye up against the peep hole. There was no peep hole here the day we bought the house. I’m silently congratulating myself for insisting on this $25 purchase which The Husband deemed “frivolous” and “unnecessary” at the time.

Some Random Guy is standing there, waiting. I don’t know Random Guy. Now the question becomes: did he notice my car in the driveway (proof that I’m home) or did he perhaps hear my (silent, panther-like) footsteps as I approached the front door? Can I realistically get away with slinking away without opening the door, and having to find out what Random (annoying) Guy wants?

MOV, you are waaaaaay overthinking this. Who cares if you are messy, who cares if the house is messy, just be polite and open the damn door and find out why he is standing there, knocking.

I open the door. Random Guy is about 40, my age, and is dressed nicely in khakis and a leather jacket. He is tall and good-looking and has the clean-cut appeal of a fireman or someone in the military. He’s wearing a black baseball cap and expensive-looking wire-framed glasses. Okay, hand me your dumb flyer for whatever it is you’re selling so I can get back to finding out if Carla wins the “Italian challenge” on TopChef.

“Hi, MOV!” says Random Guy, like he knows me. Huh. Does he know me? I absolutely do not recognize him. I do what I always do in these situations:  panic. I stand there, smiling at Random Guy, while flipping through my mental Rolodex of names and faces. The Rolodex is not flipping fast enough. Neighbor? No. Co-worker? Nope. Dad of one of my son’s friends? Maybe. Teacher from the school? Argh! I don’t know! The pressure is getting to me.

I stand there for what seems like about a million years, but is probably 15 seconds. I have a grin plastered on my face, the type of grin that is the exact equivalent to when a friend hands you a Christmas present and you have nothing for her. A fake grin. A frozen grin. A grin with the corners turned up, like, “I’m happy!” but really, a grin that you are trying to buy time with.

“MOV!” he says again, like I’m deaf, “Don’t you recognize me? It’s me!” He takes a step closer, like he might be potentially going in for the hug. Do I hug the UPS guy? No. Do I hug a friend’s husband? Is he a friend’s husband? Is he my cousin?

Who the hell is this guy? Is there someone else named MOV who lives on my same street and he has us confused?

I manage to finally squeak out, “Hi! How are you?!” I’m using the identical cautious tone as when I answer the phone and I have no idea who I’m talking to (“What’s new?” “Nothing, how ‘bout yourself?”).

Random Guy laughs. He is unaware that this impromptu visit is causing my internal stress levels to peak right now. He does go in for the hug, and I hug him back (if this is my husband’s brother, or my former boss, I would definitely be expected to give a quick hug).

I get a good look at his face, and he takes his glasses off.

“Derek!” I blurt out, as if on a game show and the correct answer has finally come to me in the final two seconds of the contest.

“Yes, yes, it’s me, Derek!” he confirms.

“Wow! I haven’t seen you in such a long time, wow!”

“I just wanted to drop off this check for …”

“Oh, that’s right, he mentioned that you might stop by. Fantasy football, right?”

“Yeah. And I’m hoping I can get the guys together for some poker sometime soon.”

“Geesh, Derek, how’ve you been? Come on in, please, my house is a mess, but come on in,” I step back, pushing Neat-Freak Queen Virgo out of the way, and allowing Derek to walk into the house.

“I’ve never seen your new house,” says Derek, looking around. “It’s very pretty.”

Now Queen Virgo has reappeared, nervous as always. She whispers in my ear, “You absolutely can't give him a tour of the house.  The kids' toys are everywhere, your dirty socks are on the floor next to the bed, which is unmade by the way, and I don’t think you even bothered to do any dishes from last night.” Damn Queen Virgo. Always right.

“I’d give you the full tour,” I hear myself say, “but, uh, the house is kinda messy right now, I’m sorry.” I smile apologetically. My facial expressions have progressed from frozen grins to apologetic smiles, maybe they’ll morph into genuine happiness at some point, if Derek could just tell a joke or something.

As if reading my mind, he does. He launches into some entertaining anecdote about his recent trip to San Diego while his wife was stuck without power in a snow storm here in Crazy Town for three days.

“Wait, you live in Crazy Town?” I interrupt.

“Yes, where did you think I lived?”

“Uh, I thought you lived in The Big City?”

He laughs again, Derek is known for his hearty laugh. He shakes his head, “MOV, I only live about five minutes from here!” He can’t believe that I don’t know that, one of The Husband’s best friends lives practically walking distance away, and we’ve never invited him and his wife over for drinks.

Now I‘m embarrassed not only about my attire (that would be sweats) and my appearance (do we really need to revisit that image) but also my gaping lack of manners and general hospitality.

“We have to have you over!” I hear myself say, while Queen Virgo is reminding me that we will need to be sure to clean the house in that event.

“Absolutely!” he says enthusiastically.

“Okay, great,” I reply, setting the envelope with the check on the front table. I put my hand on his arm, not so subtly ushering him out the door. “I wish you could stay longer, but I totally understand if you have to get back to work.” As soon as the words leave my mouth, I berate myself: is this the friend that just lost his job? please, God, let it be a different friend.

“Work?” he says.

I try to read him. Did he say “work” like, “I am independently wealthy and I don’t need to work”? or did he say “work” like, “I am out of work and looking for a job, thanks for reminding me, you Mean Person.”

“MOV, you know I work for myself, I set my own hours.”

I nod at him, smiling. This time my smile is sincere. He has walked out the front door. “Okay, then, Derek, glad I got to see you. I’ll let The Husband know you stopped by.”

I sit back down to watch my show, and the cat jumps up in my lap. She is oblivious to the dirty dishes and the unmade bed, and she doesn't seem to mind that I’m wearing sweats.

("Me Or Virgo?")

319. Homework Time

Tall’s teacher assigns homework every night. As Tall’s mother, the responsibility falls to me to make sure he gets it done. I take this job very seriously, and I nag him incessantly until he sits down with his pencil and paper.

The high-end kitchen store where I work expects an appearance from me one night per week. On that particular night, The Husband must prod Tall to do his homework. Sadly, I do not have a video-camera set up to film what goes on in my absence. However, I have the next best thing (a vivid imagination), so let’s take a peek:

The Husband: Hey, Tall, your mom mentioned something about homework?

Tall: (silent, watching TV)

The Husband: Whaddya say we order pizza for dinner again tonight?

Tall: Yeah! I love pizza!

The Husband: Uh, wait, there was something your mom asked me to do … what was it?

Tall: Can we play basketball outside for a couple minutes? It’s not snowing that hard.

The Husband: Great idea! Let’s go.

You know what comes next. I come home from work, pour myself a glass of Chardonnay, and watch TopChef. I verify with The Husband that Tall completed his homework. “Yes, we did it first thing.”

The next morning, Tall is scrambling in his typical Before-School-Mad-Dash of getting dressed, and gobbling some breakfast.  As almost an afterthought, I say, “Sweetie, where’s your homework?”

He races over to his backpack and pulls out his homework folder. Six worksheets fall out, none of them touched by human hands.  He scoops them up. “Oh, no!” he panics, “we forgot to do these!”

We now have approximately four minutes before the bus arrives. I help him start scribbling in the answers.

(“Mom’s Our Valedictorian”)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

318. Oakley Knows All About Twitterbook

My sister, Oakley, is at it again. She sends me an oh-so-helpful email, basically telling me that there’s a crucial feature missing from my blog, a feature that, with the click of a mouse, my readers could “share” my blog entries with their other friends via twitter or Facepost or any of those other social sites that I know nothing about.

Message to Oakley: besides all signs to the contrary, I am not a complete idiot. While I do appreciate you offering “technical” help and knowledge, I can get along just fine by myself, thankyouverymuch.

After much consideration, and because she has been right once or twice in the past (or 100 times, I can’t keep up), I decide to check out the link she sent me. Oops! Looks like I accidentally deleted it my computer that is possessed purposely deleted it. 

Time to grovel:

“Hi Oak!
How are you? Great to hear from you.  :) Hey, uh, can you please resend the link on how to set up twitterface and Bookpost features for my blog? I want my readers to know I am ‘hip’ and up on all the latest fads and all, so I think you’re right, that would be good to add. And where would the feature appear? Would it be right on the bottom of each blog, in the lower right corner? I think that would be a good spot.

I hope I don’t delete her next email before I figure out how to do it. Yikes.

("Mom's On Vacebook!")

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

317. Teachable Moments

I’ve been hearing a lot about teachable moments lately. My friends who are mothers (frothers) are always making profound statements like, Every moment is a valuable opportunity to teach an important lesson, and then I witness them say things like, Spencer, why do you think that huge truck driving down our street has such enormous wheels? All the while I’m thinking, Maybe you and Spencer should get out of the road before you get run over.

Frankly, I think these teachable moments are overrated. I understand that I should be quizzing Tall throughout the day (“If we’ve already run three errands, and we have three left, what is that in fractions?”), but I’m mostly preoccupied that I’m almost out of time (and by the way, why isn’t the phrase “walking errands” or even “driving errands” instead of “running errands”? I feel enough pressure without the implied message to hurry up). Tall dutifully replies “99%, Mommy” and I am confident that he's inherited my exceptional math abilities.

I decide I need to be more open to the concept, and therefore, effective immediately I start in on a Teachable Moment Extravaganza (“Teach. Mom. Extra.” for short). When my younger son purposely trips the older one, who retaliates by kicking him in the foot, I say to both, “What did we learn from this experience?” They halt the kicking, and move right along to hitting and punching. (Who said “Teach. Mom. Extra.” would be easy?)

Later, I call them into the living room to teach them yet another crucial lesson.  “Look, boys,” I begin, pointing to the TV, “I forgot to program TiVo to tape my show. Guess what happened?”

“It-didn’t-tape-Top-Chef-again,” they say together in a weary monotone.

“What should I have done instead?” I prompt.

“Taped it,” says Tall.

“Right. I mean, uh, how exactly?” I say, pretending to test his knowledge.

He walks over, takes the remote control out of my hand, and quickly keys in a couple codes, barely masking his exasperation. “There ya’ go, Mom,” he says, handing back the remote, “and try to remember what I did for next time.”

See? Our days are full of teachable moments.

(“Moments Of Value”)

316. JINQY

So Tuesday is Game Night at our house and we’re playing a game called “Bananagrams” (where you essentially try to come up with as many words as possible in a crossword-like configuration), when Short lines up his letters and says, “Is this a word, Mommy?”

(Now, Short is four. He knows all his letters, and he can certainly spell his own name and maybe “cat.” But other than that, he lines up his letters in pretty arrangements, and hopes for the best.)

The word in question is “JINQY.” It looks suspiciously like the name of some new computer program. I am ready to tell Short that no, JINQY is not a real word, when I look into his big blue eyes full of optimism. His brother Tall has already scored about 322 words (including “BAMBOOZLE”).

I hear myself say, “Yes, of course, Short, JINQY is a word.”

I feel three pairs of eyes swivel to me. The Husband and Tall say in unison, “It is?!?”

“Yes,” I confirm nonchalantly, “You know when someone jumps out and scares you and you jump a little and go ‘Agh!’?” (here I pause to demonstrate being scared), “well, that’s JINQY.”

Short is suddenly quite impressed with his newly-discovered word-spelling prowess. “JINQY is a word!” he says to himself, smug.

You know what comes next. The evening quickly deteriorates into a JINQY-fest. Tummy doesn’t feel so good? Must have eaten some bad JINQY. Don’t feel like putting on your pajamas just yet? Nope, you’re too JINQY-ied out. Misplaced your homework? Did you look next to the JINQY?

We finally get Tall and Short into bed (after a bedtime story read by Tall, and full of—you guessed it!—even more JINQY references). I lean over to say prayers with Short and I hear him recite them by heart, adding a sweet little line about, “God, please bless all the JINQYs in the world. Amen.”

Yes, amen to that!

(“Minefield Of Vowels”)